Mark Beach, 65, of East Petersburg, passed away Thursday evening, September 17, 2020 at Hospice & Community Care in Mount Joy.
He was born in Darby, PA on April 1, a fitting date, probably, as he had a keenly developed sense of the sublime and the ridiculous.
The fourth of seven children, he was preceded in death by his parents, Bob and Edna Beach, and older brother, John Beach.
He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Naomi; children, Audrey and Wesley; brothers, Bob, David and Chip; sisters, Deborah and Grace, as well as several nieces and nephews.
Mark was a globe-circling photographer, writer and videographer and a nonprofit communications manager and strategic planner.
He was a loving family guy and a loyal friend with a bear hug, an irresistible laugh and a creative soul. He would always stop whatever he was doing to get the perfect shot.
There is an old picture of Mark from southern Africa; he's leaning casually on a railing, sleeves rolled, mountains rising up behind. He might be just starting to grin. Some cool vista lay ahead. Some unsung, poignant narrative.
It was his formula.
Travel, art and social justice were Mark's lifeblood. Raised in Warminster, he spent several formative years (1967-69) in Thailand, where his dad had been transferred. The Vietnam War was burning. Mark's heroes were photographers, historians, reporters – the people who held the power brokers to account.
He snapped away at first with a Brownie fixed lens camera. Back home and graduated from Messiah College and Temple University with a degree in radio, TV and film, he launched a freelance photography business. He went on to show his work in fine art galleries in Lancaster.
Mennonite Central Committee brought Mark to Lancaster in the 1970s -- and dispatched him to document its ministries around the world. He packed light, carried a small camera and got in close.
He employed this same intimate MO as a freelance Lancaster Newspapers "photog" in the 1980s, and as a staff writer for the former Sunday News in the early 1990s. At the Sunday News, he penned sensitive, compelling stories on just about everything under the Lancaster County sun.
In 1992 this dedicated news junkie reinvented himself. He studied international journalism at Baylor University and flew to South Africa to complete his master's. Most happily, life reinvented him right back.
Letters home mentioned a "dear friend." Mark and Naomi Vlok Beach, now a teacher, met in an exchange student program in 1993. The couple married in 1995.
Audrey was born five years later and Wesley in 2003, coincidentally the same time period when Mark's hair started to gray.
The family settled in Lancaster, where Mark became MCC director of communications in 2000. Mark kept moving, sometimes filing reports from earthquake zones and remote African villages where he slept on the ground. A journalist buddy who favored five-star hotels joked: ‘Mark Beach never travels anywhere there's indoor plumbing.'
But in 2006, the Beaches relocated to the geopolitical epicenter of Europe -- Geneva, Switzerland. Mark, the new director of communications for the World Council of Churches, now moved in a rarefied milieu --Pope Benedict XVI, for example – and enjoyed an epic view of Mark's beloved Alps from his apartment balcony in Genthod.
The Beaches explored Europe before returning to Lancaster County at the end of 2014. Mark served three and a half years as communications director for Mennonite Disaster Service.
Art remained his passion, inside and outside of the job.
A Mark Beach picture or a Mark Beach story was a thing of grace, said retired LNP photographer Dan Marschka. "He was an early adopter of using video at MCC." He had rare talents for visualizing scenes, listening patiently and "seeing deeper inside you than you might see inside yourself."
And he moved people to action, including Marschka, whom he recruited for numerous MCC trips in the early 2000s. "I became something I hadn't been" before experiencing the "unpredictability" and beauty of the Developing World, Marschka said. "A citizen of the earth. It was a gift he gave me."
An avowed pacifist, Mark was eternally boyish, insatiably curious and widely read. He cared deeply about his family, the world's dispossessed and the menace of climate warming, which he documented a few years ago amidst slowly drowning islands in the Pacific.
Mark played a mean Gordon Lightfoot on his guitar. He began writing a novel.
Near the end of his life his mantra was "Eat, walk, love."
One afternoon this past summer, he made the best cheesesteaks anyone has ever tasted.
Goofy humor was another of Mark's strong suits.
"It's good to laugh," he often said, after relating some hilarious incident he'd experienced or witnessed.
It was. And when remembering this gentle, one-of-a-kind man and his stories from the road, it always will be.
Because of Covid-19 restrictions, a Celebration of Life will not be held at this time.
In lieu of flowers, the family kindly requests that memorial contributions be made in Mark's honor to Hospice & Community Care, 4705 Old Harrisburg Pike, Mount Joy, PA 17552 or the Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute, 2102 Harrisburg Pike, Lancaster, PA 17601.
To send a condolence, please visit Mark's Memorial Page at www.CremationPA.com.