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“He was my best friend”

Tue, 17 Oct 2017 22:09:28 GMT

Meeting Mary Jo in Birmingham was one of those moments that stuck with me from the tour - a reminder of the extend of logical family and the power of connection. I don't have all the details of this brief encounter, but I’m hoping others can help fill in the story. It was Wednesday morning and had just finished singing the Interfaith Service at the Highlands Methodist Church. As usual after a performance, the reception room was a very loud cacophony of performers and audience smiling trying to talk to each other (though the ice team and perfectly cut yummy sandwiches made it clear that we were in the South). As I walked through the crowd, I overheard Carl Pantle chatting with two women and saying something like “I’m sorry, I don’t know him”. One of them, Mary Jo, was likely in her 60s and impeccably dressed from head to toe. She was smiling and gushing about the performance, but also seemed a bit anxious. As I joined them, they introduced themselves and Mary Jo asked me – “Did you know Mark ___? He was my best friend and he sang in the chorus.” There were other detail s that I tried to make out from the noise in the room: he had moved to San Francisco looking for a better life in his early 20s and likely sang with SFGMC in the first seasons. “I went to visit him once in San Francisco and came to your rehearsal.” He died while living in the city. “I miss him so much!” I told her I was sorry I didn’t know Mark, and then started looking around for members that usually remain standing when Tim does the exercise asking how long we’ve sang in the chorus. I spotted Robert Ruffo and called him over to introduce him to Mary Jo. She re-started the list of details, with polite urgency in her voice. Robert thought for a second, and said– “Mark- the doctor who also played the piano?” Mary Jo’s eyes opened up as they confirmed small details and shared stories of their mutual friend. Her friend teared up in disbelief. Mary Jo repeated several times with a smile and the joy of finding a lost treasure– “I miss him so much, he was my best friend”.

Thu, 19 Oct 2017 20:46:33 GMT

That sounds like Mark Whiting. He and Rick Slavsky were close friends. We all sang together in a sub group known as Chamber Singers. I attended Mark's Memorial Service in 1988 (or perhaps 1989).