A gifted writer, he was most familiar to the world for his many years at The Press-Enterprise of Riverside, covering the Inland Empire in all of its glory — especially all of its food-related glory. My favorite of Mark’s many foodie pieces is his behind-the-scenes look at making the family’s Easter Bread.
Of course, he wrote about much more than food; his ability to crystallize any moment in time was best evidenced in his multi-part series following an Army Reservist from Riverside around Bosnia in 1999.
His easy-going charm and wit translated well to the page, but to see the mischievous glint in his eyes and wry smile on his face as he spun his stories was a privilege given to those who knew him personally. He was the kind of guy everyone genuinely liked being around because he always made you feel good, always made you laugh, and always made you hungry as he talked about something yummy.
A few weeks ago, he began to complain of back pain, so he and his lovely wife, Tena, saw a doctor to find out what was troubling him. To their shock, they learned that Mark was suffering from cancer in a very advanced stage that had spread throughout his body. With Tena’s loving support, he tried his best to fight it, but being the pragmatist that he was, knew that he didn’t have much time.
Yesterday afternoon, Mark passed away in his own home, surrounded by family and friends. He was only 57 years old.
I am proud to have known Mark as a member of his family. I married into that family, mind you, but he always treated me as if he had known me all my life. In fact, I first met Mark at his and Tena’s wedding; at the time, Mrs. CKDH and I had been dating for just a few months. Between that day and yesterday, we shared many bottles of wine and many plates of food, lots of laughs and a few tears.
There was only one time that he was less than happy with me: I had mentioned, somewhat off-handedly, that I had used some pretty good jarred pasta sauce, and all of a sudden, he looked at me with a combined sense of confusion and disappointment.
“Why would you do that?!” he asked. “Sauce is SO easy to make, and it tastes so . . . much . . . better . . . .”
We never spoke of it again.
(BTW: Thanks to the blog, kleph’s kitchen, the recipe for the Petix Family red sauce, as well as meatballs and lasagna, is available online for to all to enjoy).
Mark was one of the first people to encourage me to write for public consumption, and it’s one of the many things for which I’ll always be grateful to him. When I had created a little family blog a few years back to share with everyone back home the goings-on of our European vacation, Mark said he really liked it. “You should write more.” As nice a guy as he was, he was also honest, and if my writing sucked, I had no doubts that he would have found a loving way to tell me so; that he actually thought well enough of it to say something when he didn’t have to was a pretty big deal (to me, at least). Every so often after that, he’d smile and prod, “So when are you gonna write more?” When All is Yar finally became a reality, Mark and Tena were among of the first people I told.
One final thought: my dear father-in-law passed away a few years ago. At the time, Mark re-assured me and my wife that his own dad, along with his brother, Steve, grandmother, and aunt were all ready and waiting for him so that they could have a fifth person for some good poker in heaven. I have no doubts that as of yesterday, the celestial card game just added a sixth chair, getting a lot livelier and even more fun.
Deal him in, Aunt Connie. Grandma and Uncle Pete, you’ve a couple extra hands to help you make sauce.
We love you, Mark, and we’ll miss you, but you’re in a better place now. Look out for all of us down here in between hands.
P.S. I searched on The Press-Enterprise’s own website to find some of the best examples of Mark’s writing, but alas, there’s practically none of his stuff there. I tried digging all around the interwebs too, but came up empty again, so I took it upon myself to republish some of his works. Don’t ask me how, just know that I’m doing it. Click on the “Mark Petix” link on the menu bar above, or if you’re too lazy, just click HERE. It’ll be an ongoing project, so check back every now and then to see what I’ve added to the list. If you would like to contribute, please use the “Contact CKDH” link above.
Photo credit: CK Dexter Haven’s personal archives