Mark Bennett Hertlein passed away Thursday September 5 in Mount Dora, Florida, at the age of 64. He was born in Champaign, Illinois in April of 1955 to Elizabeth Gable and Bernhard Hertlein. He is survived by Becky, his wife of 33 years, and his sister Beth. Mark grew up in the Midwest and California. In 1986, he earned a PhD in Entomology from the University of California at Davis, and had a successful career working as a global bio-expert for Dow AgroSciences in Indianapolis, IN. He felt he had found his dream job because he was able to travel all over the world, making life-long friends with Dow employees in other countries. His favorite pastime on and off the job was traveling, visiting historical sights and collecting small treasures to remind him of his adventures. Although he left us too early, Mark was able to retire early and realize another dream of building a home on a lake and spending his time fishing and golfing. We are grateful he was able to pack in more years of fun and relaxation after he retired.
Anyone who knew Mark would agree that Mark was just a wonderful person. What made him so special was that he was fair, non-judgemental and treated everyone with respect. He valued his relationships with the women in his life. He was devoted to his mother and considered her his “hero” for her uncomplaining endurance while suffering from multiple sclerosis and being confined to a nursing home for years. Mark visited her every Sunday even while working and going to school. Mark was equally devoted and patient with his grandmother Florence, whom he described as “voted most likely to move” because she did not stay long in any one place. He would often tease her that she was styling her hair like Elvis. His sister Beth was his best friend through all the ups and downs of his childhood, and he loved her for the strength of her support as he worked at school and jobs. He was a wonderful husband to Becky; faithful, stable and always thinking of her happiness.
He was sunny, even-tempered and interested in everything. He was very smart, but very modest. He was also a very loyal friend, would do anything for his special buddies, and often did. Friendships that began in grade school lasted his entire life. New friends felt like they had known him a long time. Another personality trait was his incredible discipline. His goal, he said, was to “dominate” anything in his way. He singlehandedly scraped the paint from a two-story brick home, brick by brick, taking 5 years to complete the job. He finished every project he started and did not procrastinate. He would have an idea of something he wanted to achieve and then he would work methodically and tirelessly to make it happen. Mark was also not afraid of anything. He was willing to try anything that looked fun and would go at it without hesitation or self-consciousness. He insisted on taking on the most advanced trails on the ski slopes, even as a novice. He spent hours in freezing water trying to learn to water ski. He loved beer and sausage of any kind, a nod to his German heritage. In the 1990’s he was able to visit and enjoy a real Octoberfest in Munich, Germany. He noticed the crowd was drinking huge steins of beer at 11 in the morning. He opened his arms wide and said with a big smile, “these are my people!”. His niece and nephew will never forget his signature dish: “Cajun blackened burrito-dogs”, basically hot dogs stuffed into frozen burritos, smothered in salsa and microwaved too long.
He had a great sense of humor and most often saw the positive side of things. He said he lived his life according to his own “Philosophy of Shallow Living”, meaning that one should not waste precious time feeling sad or regretful, but to live life, to have fun and enjoy yourself to the fullest. For those of you who knew him, he would want you to remember how he made you laugh and pushed you to join him on his adventures. He would tell anyone who was grieving to “cowboy up” and think of the good times you had with him. He will be missed more than he’ll ever know.