I’m writing this with a heavy heart…

I received a terrible phone call this evening to let me know that Mark Havery, one of my very best friends, and my partner in pursuing the dream that has been the subject of this blog, had passed away.

We last spoke on Sunday about shortening the axles and the Schneider camshaft I had researched for our combo. We were getting ready to order the engine and transmission in the next week or two, and as I had alluded to in my previous post, things were happening fast and furious and boxes were showing up on my doorstep almost daily with the goodies we needed to move forward. We spoke about the next step of fabrication and how we were going to do the cockpit layout. Our conversation ended with Mark telling me to call or email after I talked to Mike at Alkydigger about the Hilborn fuel pump he found for us, and after I called Schneider to get their opinion about the cam we wanted to put in the engine.

I made those calls Tuesday morning, and then emailed Mark. I didn’t hear anything back- which seemed odd- but Mark worked the swing/graveyard shift as a machinist and with the floating days on/days off, I could never keep track of what his schedule was. So I figured he must be sleeping in preparation for his shift later that evening. I kept checking email today during work, and still no reply. When I got home I called and left a message just asking if he got the email and making sure everything was okay.

Turns out nothing was okay.

Mark was supposed to touch base with a friend on Monday, but never called. This friend tried calling on Tuesday to no response either. When he called the plant later that night and they told him that Mark hadn’t shown up for his shift, he knew something was wrong and he drove over to his house. After getting no response at the door, he called the police and they discovered the awful truth. If there is any consolation, the coroner said that he was sure that Mark didn’t suffer or even know what hit him.

I got the phone call about 7:30 tonight, and I just feel completely heartbroken and devestated.

You see, as much as Mark liked the idea of building the dragster, I don’t think Mark had been to the drags since about 1974. Mark did this project because he knew it was a dream I’d had since I was a little kid, and I didn’t have any way possible make it happen on my own. He was that kind of friend. That’s a big reason the dragster means so much to me – because it exists as a testement and tribute to a sincere friendship. Mark saw that I’d been going through a rough 5 or 6 years, where it just seemed that life kept kicking me when I was down, and this was something he could do to help a buddy get through them and find a reason to get up in the morning and to keep on keeping on.

Mark never suffered fools kindly, and after getting to know him, I learned that he had a lot of good reasons to be guarded. We became friendly through vintage kart racing, but there was a sitution where Mark got roped into putting out a club magazine and the help he was supposed to get with it bailed on him. I had done some of this kind of work before, so I volunteered and we worked hard at putting out a great bi-monthly magazine, and we had to do most of the writing, editing, build the projects for the “how-to” articles and so forth. That’s how we came to be really, really good friends. I think Mark appreciated that someone had his back, so when this opportunity presented itself almost on a whim, I think he figured he’d return the favor…100-fold. That’s the kind of friend he was. He wouldn’t let many people in, but once you were his friend, you were his friend for life.

If I have any peace right now, it is two things:

The last day we hung out was on Sunday the 18th when we drove down to Roger Lee’s place to buy the fiberglass body he’d originally purchased for his Masters and Richter recreation. Now that he had a Dave Tuttle-crafted chutepack tail created, the fiberglass version was surplus, and he gave us a good deal on it. Mark had never been through the delta, and I’d been told about a great mom n’ pop restaurant along the river, so we took the long way home. Had lunch and Mark raved about how cool Giusti’s was and how he’s going to bring some other friends there, and then we drove through all the small delta towns on our way back. He was amazed. By the time we’d made it back to my place in Sacramento, he was talking about looking at real estate because he wanted to retire to Walnut Grove or Isleton in a few years. I felt happy that I’d been able to introduce him to something that brought such obvious joy. 

Secondly, I had discovered a video of Gene Krueger’s dragster on you tube last week and was really, really excited because he’s doing EXACTLY what we are trying to do. The same era, look, and approach (and even ETs). I forwarded this to Mark, and once again he shared in my giddiness. In our back and forth email exchange over how cool this all was and how we were setting the stage to make a big push on the dragster in the next few months, I just happed to write that I was so grateful that he is so instrumental in making this dream a reality, and that I would never be able to thank him enough.

So especially now, I am so glad that I was able to express my gratitude. I know that Mark knew, but he was never one for talking about feelings much (and if you are reading this, you can see that I don’t have quite the same filter) but at the time, I just felt the need to put it in plain English. So I am glad that I don’t have to wonder if he knew how much this all meant to me.

What will happen to the dragster now? I honestly don’t know.

This is all so fresh, and I know that now is not the time to make any kind of decision. There is a huge part of me that so badly wants to press on and finish this car as a tribute to our friendship, and to see this thing through in order to honor Mark.  But I am at a loss as to how to make it happen, and while I am confident in my mechanical abilities, I am no weldor, machinist, or fabricator, and so much of that work still needs to be done. I also wonder if working on the car without Mark will just make me sad, or if it will bring a sense of peace.  

So for the time being, I will not make any decision,. I will grieve and mourn the loss of my friend and wait and see if some kind of answer about the car presents itself in time.

Godspeed Mark Havery, you were one of the choice ones and I will miss you terribly.


One Response to “I’m writing this with a heavy heart…”

  1. Russ Smith Says:

    Well said Dean………….well said!


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