Remembering Mark Shoreen

by Jeffery Smith

I was born in Los Angeles and spent most of my childhood in Chula Vista. After graduating from Hilltop High in 1968, I received my bachelor’s degree at San Diego State (Zoology). In 1974, I moved to New Orleans to attend Tulane University for my graduate degrees (MS and PhD in Parasitology), and am currently the Executive Dean and Campus Provost at Delgado Community College in New Orleans.

I met Mark Shoreen in 1968 when we were taking French classes at San Diego State. While the homework and fondness for classical music brought us together as friends, it was his loyalty that kept us in contact for three decades. No question, Mark was a square peg in a round hole: an English major who favored James Joyce but worked as a deck hand on tugs and excursion boats. His closet was filled with clothes that all looked exactly the same. Perhaps a bit overcritical of others, he was most overcritical of himself. But when he knew that you accepted him in spite of his idiosyncrasies, he was a friend for life. His patience and temper could be abrupt, but never more than a few seconds long and always resolved by a smile followed by a laugh. He was an accomplished cartoonist with a wry sense of humor and an ability to poke fun at himself.

I moved to New Orleans to attend Tulane University but kept in contact with Mark whenever coming back to San Diego to visit my parents. As the years went by, my trips became less frequent and we saw less of one another. I believe that he did complete his master's degree in English, but never put it to use professionally. The last time I saw him in the late-1990s, he seemed tired, much older, depressed, and unfocused, but managed to keep me entertained for the day.

In late December, personal anecdotes about Mark made their way into several of my conversations with friends in New Orleans. I decided that it was time to look in on him and see if he had pulled himself out of the melancholy. I found Mark’s name on a web page John Fry had posted with the ominous title "Class of 1964 Lost Members". I contacted John who assured me that "lost" simply meant that the post office had returned a mailing.

John was kind enough to do some additional searching for Mark. He contacted me several days later with the sad news that Mark was in the hospital with terminal cancer. John was able to get me in touch with Mark's older sister, and I called Mark just before the New Year. He was in good spirits and humor, but knew that he had only days to live. His regret was that he had not done anything substantial with his life, and now his life was over. I continued calling for a few days, but on the third day there was no answer. He had passed several hours after the last time I spoke to him, on January 3, 2002. I am most grateful to John for having made it possible for me to talk to Mark during his last few days.

Somewhere in my attic is a thick bundle of cartoons, mostly inside jokes of our misfortunes during our college years. I probably won't get up there until I retire, but I look forward to reading them again, and laughing again.

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