Thursday, July 07, 2011

Tribute To Mark

My cousin, Mark Wheeler, passed away yesterday  at age 48 after a long fight with cancer. He is the latest victim in a line of those taken from my family by cancer. His mom passed just a month ago.

Mark was a police officer for many years with the Livonia Police Department in suburban Detroit. I think that's what he was born to do. As a kid he was always interested in law enforcement. I remember listening to his mom and my mom talking around the kitchen table once when I was quite young (maybe in junior high). She remarked how he was never much interested in sports. She related an incident to my mom where some kids from the neighborhood came to the door to see if Mark wanted to get in on a game of pickup baseball.

"No, he's watching T.V. and doesn't want to play."

"Oh, yeah, the Tigers are playing today. Is he watching the game?"

"No, he's watching 'Emergency.'"

That was Mark. When we were kids, his sister Cheryl and I sometimes would get angry at him because he was often bossy and (to us as kids) rather overbearing. Looking back on that now, I can see it's just the way he was wired. That part of his personality is what helped make him a good cop. He was a police officer, not by career but because that was what he just was. It's a kind of a zen thing which my brother-in-law Chad used to say was why he was a firefighter. Perhaps this is a common trait amongst those who aspire to public service.

Don't get me wrong, he wasn't mean or hateful. He was, however, tough and didn't tolerate nonsense very well. He was certainly a "take charge" kind of guy.

And he was good at what he did. Although we didn't keep in close touch, I did follow his career through letters and conversations with my mom and others. Although we didn't serve in the same way, I respected him greatly for being a part of a uniformed service. Police and military are somewhat similar in many ways.

Although he may not have been interested in team sports, he was an avid sportsman. He was always out hunting and fishing. I remember as a kid he and his dad used to go elk hunting in Canada. He always had a good retriever dog, too. Shadow was the one I remember most.

Once when I was home on leave while stationed in Germany with the Army, Mark and I made arrangements to have lunch with our Uncle Dennis in Downtown Detroit. Since Mark knew where we were going, he agreed to drive. I remember we were blasting down I-96 toward Detroit at a high rate of speed, Mark expertly weaving in and out of traffic. "Mark, we're going to be early, you can slow down a bit." "Hey, this is just the way I drive. Force of habit." I still chuckle at that.

Mark, you will be remembered by those who love you. Rest in peace.


  1. Robert Boutin7/07/2011 5:08 PM

    Even after Mark retired and had back problems he still acted like a cop. We had a family party at my moms house. Some drunk guy on a bike hit our uncle Tims car. Mark and Bobby ( our cousins) ran the guy down. Pull him off his bike. Then Mark got an old pair of hand cuffs and cuffed the guy. Bobby and Mark lift the guy up pit him on the curb while we all waited for the cops. Ahhh family

  2. Yes he did. I guess it's like the Marine Corp - once a cop always a cop.

    I think he was still on "active duty" when we went to have dinner with Uncle Dennis. We had a great time that day.