I spent part of Saturday in Richfield learning new things about a man I thought I had known very well. The fact that I learned those things at his funeral makes me very sad.
Mark Fullenbach was the publisher of the Richfield Reaper for the last 32 years, taking over the reins of the then family publication from a father that had met an untimely and early death. Mark died last week here in Price while he was here for some corporate meetings with two members of senior management of Brehm Communications and myself. At the time of his death I thought I knew a lot about this man that I had talked with at least weekly, often much more frequently, over the past five years. Mark was the senior publisher for the company in Utah and he often spoke with me about our paper, how things were going and what he could do to help me.
Through those conversations, as well as through meetings we have each year and just getting together I thought I had learned a lot about the man. But I found on Saturday, as a huge crowd gathered in the Richfield Tabernacle, that my knowledge was very incomplete. I knew him as a newspaper publisher, a man who loved the outdoors, his ATV's, his wife of four years, his kids and one who could give great support in times of trouble. What I didn't know is how much he had affected so many lives in his community and around the state.
He came to the publishers job when he was in his late 20's and therefore giving up his dream of being an architect. He was in the Utah National Guard, rising to the rank of full colonel. He retired from that fighting force only a few years go. Mark liked to make things out of wood; he had his own wood shop. He took very good care of his elderly mother; checking on her every day, buying groceries for her and fixing everything around the house. As a young man he had been fairly crazy doing such things as hood surfing (pulling an old car hood behind a jeep with someone riding in the hood), tractor seat stealing, canal water skiing (behind that same jeep) and various other kinds of trouble making antics.
Mark was someone that, if you mentioned you were putting a roof on your house on Saturday, would show up with tools to help install the shingles. He never went anywhere where he didn't make a new friend, or found an old one.
Mark was an amazing person in many ways I didn't know about. I had failed to really get to know this man, who I had spent countless hours talking too, and it was all my fault. I never asked the questions that I should have asked; I never took the time to really get to know him, and I regret it. It seemed there would always be more time for that later, but as it turned out, there wasn't.
Unfortunately life's lessons sometimes come too late for those who wait, but that doesn't mean we can't learn from them. People often think they know someone from a vary narrow set of facts and experiences, yet they really don't know them at all.
Next time you have the chance get to know someone well, do it. You may find pleasant surprises you never expected.
Afterall, people are almost always more than you know.