Mark Nicholson '85 September 21, 2022 11:31 AM updated: September 21, 2022 11:41 AM
Mark Kent Nicholson
February 19, 1962 - March 3, 2022
Heaven rejoiced Thursday, March 3rd, 2022 when Mark K. Nicholson was welcomed into the pearly gates. Mark went home following an incredibly courageous 14 ½ month long battle with Glioblastoma Multiforme, a rare terminal brain cancer. He took on this battle as he took on every other aspect of his life- with determination, charisma, humor, love and concern for those around him. In typical Mark fashion, he made sure to squeeze in one last party prior to his departure- celebrating his 60th birthday with his family and close friends just 12 days prior. He passed peacefully at home, embraced by his loving wife, comfortable and surrounded in love.
How does one even begin to summarize Mark in a brief eulogy? It’s an impossible feat. Mark brought with him an energy and a charm that drew in everyone around him.
Mark was born on February 19, 1962 in Dallas, TX to Mary Frances and Richard Glenn Nicholson- the third of four, and first boy. Rising to this occasion, Mark proved to be a dare devil from a very young age. He was an active and inquisitive child, curious as to how everything works. His oldest sister, Sandra, recalls coming home from leave one time in the 70s to find that Mark had disassembled the motor of the family fishing boat to understand how it worked. She was impressed- their father was less so. This curiosity and adrenaline drew him to a deep love of airplanes at a young age. Mark would watch planes fly over his childhood home in Mesquite, TX to figure out what they were so he could jot them down in a notebook. As a youngster, he played peewee football and loved music. On top of being energetic and curious, he also had a sharp mind that lead to young entrepreneurial skills. At the age of 11, he began a paper route. Seeing the business opportunity in that, he went on to build his paper route into a small entrepreneurial empire that allowed him to buy a motorcycle for transportation as well as flight lessons.
Mark attended North Mesquite High School where he was a member of the National Honor Society, president of student council, member of science, Spanish, and math clubs. He sang in choir, and was in a high school musical. All who knew him would say one hobby was never enough for Mark- and he explored all interests. After Mark graduated high school in 1980, he went on to study at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX, earning his Bachelor’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering in 1985. While studying for his degree, Mark and his dear friend and business partner, Chris Sadler, owned and operated a couple of businesses. The first being a lawn care company and the second a t-shirt design company, MC Designs. It was this entrepreneurialism that earned Mark and Chris a trip to New York, NY to be interviewed by Kathie Lee Gifford on Good Morning America, as well as a letter of commendation from then President of the United States, Ronald Reagan.
Mark was also a very spiritual man, and grew up in the Baptist faith. He used his ability to connect with people and faith to go on to become very involved in his local church as a youth group leader, as well as a member of the men’s choir and a member of a men’s quartet in the 1990s. In the early 2000s, he was a member of the worship team at Evergreen Baptist Church in Evergreen, CO.
Even with all of these accomplishments, Mark couldn’t turn from his true dream of becoming a pilot. The work towards this dream began after making his first solo flight at the age of 14, and acquiring his pilot’s license at age 20. Although he was busy studying and running a business with his partner, Mark still found time to take additional flight lessons and ultimately obtained his airline transport pilot’s license in the late 1980s. He was a flight instructor for a couple years before being hired as a first officer at Lone Star Airlines in 1993. A few years later he was promoted to captain where he continued flying for Lone Star until 1997. In 1997, Mark landed his dream job as a pilot for United Airlines where he worked until his diagnosis in December 2020. Mark was able to live out his pilot dreams until the very end of his life.
Mark lived vibrantly, and Mark lived passionately. He loved living life on the edge and pushing the limits of pretty much everything. He greatly enjoyed travelling, and his hobbies were numerous and included hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, camping, RVing, adventure racing, fantasy football, and anything outdoors. He and his siblings got to enjoy many of these activities together taking trips together. But as is the theme- those things weren’t enough to still him. Always learning and growing, he taught himself how to install tile floors and counters, becoming well versed in DIY home renovations. That entrepreneurial side again kicked in with this hobby, and he began buying houses, renovating them and selling them. He had an amazingly green thumb and loved gardening, often bringing in 25 to 50 pounds of tomatoes to his wife so she could can them so they could enjoy the fruits of his labor all year long. The last five years of his life he revived and tended a 2 1/2 acre vineyard that he and Tina owned that they lovingly named TiMar Vines. The renovations and stories and love that bloomed from this adventure are nothing less of a Hollywood story.
Following the unexpected discovery of three tumors in his brain, Mark met his diagnosis of Glioblastoma on December 15th 2020. Mark faced one of the greatest obstacles anyone could imagine with faith, strength, and his joyous spirit. His sense of humor never wavered even though his daily challenges were enormous. Despite these huge hurdles, Mark’s priority remained caring for the love of his life, Tina, and being a stable force to those who loved him and worried for him. He showed us all how to live life to the fullest with grace, kindness and dignity.
Mark’s greatest joy was the family that he and Tina built in their 22 years together and 18 years of marriage, including their fur babies Piper and Jet. He dearly loved his family and was immensely proud of his stepson Justin Paquet of Tolleson, AZ. Besides Tina and Justin, Mark leaves behind his loving siblings, sister Sandra Burke and her husband Bill of Nashville, TN, sister Cynthia Coker and husband Alex of Lavon, TX, and brother Shane Nicholson and wife Shannon of Rhome, TX, as well as a plethora of nieces, nephews, cousins, and chosen family he collected over his lifetime.
Mark is preceded in death by his parents, Mary Frances and Richard Glenn and stepmother, Jeanette “Nettie”.
Mark had a gentle soul and will be remembered by everyone who knew him as an adventurous, athletic, fun loving, hardworking, dedicated, intelligent, determined, generous, genuine, and loving force to be reckoned with, as well as a doting husband, stepfather, sibling, crazy uncle, cousin, co-worker and friend. He will be deeply missed by all who knew and loved him. The hole left behind will be second only to the legacy he leaves behind. To say we were blessed to have this special man in our lives is an understatement, but it is the truth.
Rest Easy. Thank you for the lifetime of cherished memories.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in Mark’s memory to the UCSF Brain Tumor Center, c/o Dr. Bukowski, 400 Parnassus Ave #0372, San Francisco CA 94143 or online at https://braintumorcenter.ucsf.edu/how-to-help/adopt-lab (scroll to find Aghi Lab or Butowski Lab to donate).
A celebration of life will be planned for a later date.