Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The love of my life

I haven't written on this blog since Nov. 5. That was the day my husband, Mark, stopped working.  He thought he had injured his back in late October, and after toughing it out for a couple weeks on Oxycodone and Advil, he finally gave in to the pain.  On Nov. 5, he had the first of many tests. He was in horrible pain and couldn't lie down or walk. He lived the next two months on our living room couch.  He had to give up playing music, give up teaching, give up driving, give up his life.  We stayed at home, isolated and focused on how to help him get better. Between Christmas and New Year's Eve, he learned he didn't have just a back injury.  He had a broken vertebrate caused by cancer that was moving through his bones and weakening them.  "I'm going to fight this thing," he said. On Jan. 5, he started fighting, sitting through a five-hour session of chemotherapy. But the cancer was vicious and fast-moving. It was mean, dark, sadistic, and it took a piece of him away every day.  Still, he endured more tests, one after another, week after week.  They all offered more answers, but they didn't offer hope.  On Feb. 2, I took him to the hospital. He was weak and had lost nearly half his body weight.  After three days, he was a little stronger, and we came home.  A hospice nurse arrived the next morning.  "I'm going to fight this thing," he told her. Still, the cancer continued on his rampage, and on Feb. 14, Valentine's Day, at 3:17 p.m., he took a final breath. Our daughter, Alexa, and I were there by his side, holding his hand. 
We were married for 33 years and together for 36 - the whole of our adult lives.  We were one heart, two halves of a whole person. When one of us faced a hardship, the other one helped. When I lost my job in 2007, he helped me see the opportunities that lay ahead. When he had open-chest surgery later that year, I helped him get back on the forest trail we often walked by our house.  Since 2007, we have both worked at home, and were together every day and every night.
I can't believe I couldn't help him this time. We both tried. We both believed.  But we couldn't do it.
Now my heart is broken.  My friends are holding me and Alexa in a fierce embrace.  "Write about it," they say.  So I am. 

Mark Acord, July 4, 1954-Feb. 14, 2010
Mark Acord, 55, died at home in Woodland Park on Sunday, Feb. 14, with his wife, his daughter, his sister and his friends at his side.

Mark was born July 4, 1954, in Moline, Ill. He fell in love with music at an early age, and by the time he was 14, he was playing trumpet in a funk band in the Quad Cities. He went to the University of Northern Iowa, and received his degree in music education in 1976.

He played trumpet in a jazz trio, but when he picked up a bass guitar a few years later, he was hooked. The bass was the perfect instrument for him – he liked to say it was the brains of a band, while the drums provided the heartbeat.

Mark and his wife Deb started their first rock band in 1983, playing clubs and concerts throughout Iowa and Minnesota. In their most popular band, Hero, Mark was the front man and bass player.

Mark and Deb were married in 1976, and when they honeymooned in Colorado, they vowed to relocate here. In 1986, Mark and Deb made their move to the mountains and Mark continued his musical career. He played with local bands Beauty and the Beasts, Cadillac Jack, and the Rhythm Method. At the same time, he began teaching in a studio at Rice Music. His students were important to him – he often used part of the lesson time to talk. But he also wanted his students to excel, and when any of them won scholarships to colleges or honors or awards, he was thrilled. He developed an innovative approach to the bass guitar, teaching theory and improvisation and encouraging his students to play Bach as well as Metallica. In recent years, he moved his studio several times, ending at ProSound Music, and with each move, his students followed him.

In recent years, Mark was the bass player for the Channel Cats, a blues band that played clubs throughout the Front Range and hosted a blues jam session at downtown clubs. He also began working at Woodland Park Middle School, leading sectional practices for trumpet and French horn players. He designed a blues jam session for beginning players, and placed his youngest students next to area pros on stage

Mark loved music. He met his wife, Deb, in college, and she quickly learned that a day wasn’t complete for him until he practiced three or four hours. Mark also loved the mountains. With Deb and their daughter, Alexa, he explored Colorado’s wilderness. He named his favorite place – a hidden backcountry campsite in the Lost Creek Wilderness – “heaven.” He was a dedicated weightlifter, an accomplished fisherman and a strong hiker and backpacker and he carried Alexa and her backpack until she was old enough to manage on her own. He often said that preparing for a backpacking trip was the most fun part – he was a self-professed “gearhead” and he loved knives. He often read about world religions, mysticism and physics and was a champion campfire builder – a skill he demonstrated on his last camping trip last summer with Deb. He was a relentless supporter of his wife and he idolized his daughter, whom he called “Leca.”

In the end, he was still thinking about music, and even asked Dale Creel, his friend and fellow Channel Cat to help build a stand for his bass guitar so he could play it sitting down. On the day before Mark died, he was humming a blues tune.

Mark is survived by his wife, Deb; his daughter, Alexa; his parents, Merle and Marilyn Acord of Princeton, Iowa; his sister, Marsha Acord of Mount Vernon, Iowa, and nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his grandparents.

A celebration of Mark’s life is being planned for a later date. Donations may be made for his daughter’s continuing education at Acord Education Fund, ENT, PO Box 15819, Colorado Springs, CO 80935.


  1. My heart aches for you. I am without words. You are in my prayers.


  2. My heart is broken for you. I miss Mark. He was friend, mentor, teacher, and someone I could share anything with and not be judged. We had the best conversations with bass guitars in our laps. He led many students (teens) out of paths of destruction and into the journey to life. He wasn't a teacher to his students. He was a life coach with a walking bass line. I remember him telling me about helping kids to get off drugs, get a vision about doing something with their lives (that usually included a passion for bass) and seeing them off to college and onto the greater mission of living a life worth living. He selflessly dontated his time and energy to helping kids to learn the bass. I "cut my teeth" at the blues jams he hosted around town. I think of him every day. When I play. When I talk to others. There really isn't a time that his words don't come to mind. He influenced me and I miss him. My love to you and Alexa. Mark Wallick

  3. Deb,
    I am so very sorry to hear this news. Thoughts and prayers from Tennessee to you.
    Leslie Navarro-Walker

  4. Deb,
    I remember oh so many great times we all had from the polka band to moving to Colorado around the same time. I really just stumbled upon your facebook/blog this week and am so very saddened by this news. Coworker, bandmate, but most of all a friend. I still tell people about the time we hiked up in the mountains, caught fish and ate them right along the stream. Thinking of you. Sid Bigelow

  5. So sorry for your loss. Your tribute to Mark is beautiful. You're in our thoughts and prayers. Debbie Kelley

  6. That was absolutely beautiful Deb. I hope it helps heal the pain. I am here for you and Alexa. Love, Jody Conditt and family

  7. I'm so sorry, Deb. Best to you and your daughter. Eric Gorski and family, Denver, Colo.

  8. Mark taught my son bass lessons. He was one of the few people that saw through the exterior and really spoke to the interior! He spoke of him as a "good kid". My son loved Mark and daily is dealing with a lot of sorrow.
    Mark believed in Ian. When I lost my job and called to cancel lessons, Mark insisted that I keep bringing Ian and told me not to worry about it. What a giving heart!
    We've been talking about how he can carry a part of Mark with him.
    Thank you Mark for reminding us to live life for all it's worth! You are missed...
    Todd Williams

  9. Wow, I'm so sorry to hear that. You have my sincerest condolences.


  10. Reading your words, I can feel your strength. All my best to you and Alexa in this trying time.
    Tim Bergsten

  11. I'm glad you wrote this, Deb. It has been a few years since I've seen Mark play, and you in the audience. I'm glad to have had the chance to play with him. He was so powerful. I'm sorry for your loss. --Dave Therault, in Connecticut

  12. Deb and Alexa,

    My heart goes out to you both during this painful time. Rembember that the depth of your sorrow is a reflection of the depth of your love for Mark and that says something beautiful about the bond you shared... so don't ever hide your tears... they honor the love you shared!

    There will be fleeting moments you will undoubtedly experience that give you a sense of "knowing" that Mark is there with you. It might be hearing a certain song on the radio that had a special meaning for you two, coupled with some other random thing that brings him to mind, that when combined will give you a chill up your spine! These things happen and know that you are not crazy! Just be open to them with your mind and all your senses, and Mark will come through. I have had some amazing experiences like this after losing my parents, as well as each beloved pet that I've said goodbye to. It's as if they know when we need another nudge to keep on keeping on. Talk to Mark and ask him for a sign...

    May you find some comfort knowing that when we lose our loved ones, our bond of love with them never dies but continues from the other side :)

    luv & hugs,

    Michele Hoisington & family
    from Southern California

  13. Hey Deb...

    I am so sorry to hear this. While browsing the Independent online, your name crossed my mind and I decided to Google you and find out where you had been. I had no idea. I wish you and Alexa the very best. Peace to you both. You have another friend in Woodland Park. -- Bryan Kochis

  14. Jesus Christ Deb - I am SO sorry. I have had many losses in my life since July of 2010, and I count the loss of Mark as one of those. I wish I could help ease your pain.

  15. Deb,
    So sorry to hear about Mark's passing. I was just thinking about all the good times we had together in Hero and Cruise back in Iowa playing at all the hot spots. Mark was a funny guy but serious about his music. I'm glad he was able to enjoy his life in Colorado and do all the things he loved to do. Hope all is well with you and your daughter. Dan Boss, drummer guy

  16. I took lessons with mark for six years as a young man. I feel like knowing him and learning from him was one of the best things in my life. Lessons were the only place where i knew i could be myself, and that being different, thinking different, being "one of our types" (as mark put it) was something to cherish. He taught me music, but that was just a vehicle for a whole philosophy that kept myself and so many other young people from going down a very dark path. The last time I saw mark was right before my daughter was born, He gave me a big mark hug and a bit of fatherly advice just reassuring me that i would be a good dad, and then made a crude joke and an obscure reference to music theory. Thats how i will always remember him.
    I would say that the world has lost an amazing person, but Mark is with all of us, and I remember what he told me when i took my last lesson "we are all one, we dont ever leave, we just move on, as long as we are in each-others thoughts then I am there."

    I love you man

    -Dylan Montanio

  17. Deb, you may or not remember me, but I'll never forget my good friend and guru Mark. My name is Mike Strausbaugh, and I taught with Mark at Rice/Fall River for several years. I'm absolutely heartbroken. I just happened to be thinking about home (I'm in Missouri now), Google'd Mark and discovered his passing. As you know better than any, Mark was more profoundly 'hip' than I could explain. If I needed some 'depth,' nobody was more able to provide it than Mark, and if I wanted to share a horribly crass yet hilarious joke with Mark, we would giggle like school kids together. I truly loved him, and though I haven't seen him in almost six years, I'm in tears. Take care.

    Mike Strausbaugh

  18. Dale and I continue to celebrate the unique individual that was Mark Acord. What's in a name? Mark struck a deep chord with us, disintegrating into fits of laughter, finding the joke in the ridiculous (real stuff) all around us, lamenting the lack of thoughtfulness by certain individuals sometimes, poking fun at the arcane and ordinary...

    Mark was anything but ordinary. The sound of his laughter bubbles up in my consciousness daily, and I am better able to sort thru it all because of thought provoking conversations with him.

    He will be forever missed, and NEVER forgotten. We got the blues, Oh Yeah!

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