Michigan Radio lost a member of our family last week. Mark Brush was our director of digital media. He passed away at age 49 from brain cancer.
The colleagues that worked the longest with Mark, Rebecca Williams and Lester Graham, sat down to talk about their memories of him, which you can hear above.
But Mark was beloved by everyone who worked with him, whether it was for six months as an intern or 10 years as a friend, and so many wanted to pay tribute to the man who changed their lives for the better.
Below, you can read and listen to some members of the Michigan Radio family say goodbye to Mark Brush:
“Kindness and joy. Those are the words that always come to my mind when I think about Mark. He was one of the most kind people I’ve ever known. He was kind with no expectation of applause or recognition. It’s just who he was. He was also filled with an irrepressible joy. We were desk mates for several years and every day was better because he was there with his smile and humor. I’ll miss him. Always.” - Jenn White, former Michigan Radio All Things Considered host, current WBEZ host
“Mark’s the only one I know of who would take his headphones off every time — and I mean every time — someone came up to ask him a question. As the head of digital and a reporter, he was crazy busy, working on multiple projects at once. And yet if someone needed his help, he’d stop what he was working on, take his headphones off all the way, turn to the person, and listen. I can’t highlight enough how rare that is. Many of us stay facing our screens, maybe pop off one side of our headphones to give a quick listen and then get back to our work. Not Mark. He was fully present, patient, and generous with his time. Removing his headphones may seem like an insignificant detail, but it speaks volumes.” - Jennifer Guerra, Michigan Radio senior reporter
"I met Mark when I was an intern. Years later, I become his boss. The idea of being Mark's boss is silly because Mark taught me every day how to be a better journalist. And how to be a better person. No one has ever made me want to be a better human than Mark Brush." - Zoe Clark, Michigan Radio programming director
“I’ve felt like I’m at a total loss for words. Maybe that’s grief. Maybe it’s that everybody has already said so beautifully everything I’ve felt. But here’s something that I keep coming back to in my thoughts about him.
Mark was never a big, bold, grandstanding, grab attention kind of guy and because he wasn’t, I think he was noticed. Kind of like if you want to be heard, whisper. I’ve been truly touched by the number of my colleagues at NPR who have sought me out to say how much they liked working with Mark, how he was always encouraging people to do the right thing for the right reasons, and how even in trying situations he gently worked to get everyone to a good outcome. They were impressed by how much he cared. And it didn’t take folks many interactions with him to see this is why he shined.” - Tamar Charney, former Michigan Radio programming director, current NPR One managing editor
“Mark really took care of people. For a man with a remarkable career, that is what stands out to me: his kindness. Mark’s curiosity, empathy, and intellect made him a talented journalist, of course. But I will remember him as someone who went out of his way to make me smile or laugh when I needed it. Mark Brush and his family have shown me what grace really looks like. I will always admire him.” - Alli Billings, Stateside producer
“I’ve known Mark since 2003. He was one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met…in the midst of all he was going through, he didn’t hesitate to check in on me and others to make sure that we’re doing alright. He always had a ready smile or a quick ‘hi Kim, how you doing?’ as we passed in the halls; and he had the best laugh! I remember years ago the first time I heard his phone go off and it was the cricket noise – which I thought was hysterical being that he is with The Environment Report – and we both just started laughing. Michigan Radio and March Madness won’t be the same without him…the hole Mark has left is deep. He is already greatly missed. Thank you to his family for sharing him with us.” - Kim Myers, Business Manager at Michigan Radio
“I was lucky enough to call Mark my boss. As bosses go, Mark was smart, adventurous, and encouraging of your sky-high ideas. But he was also a quiet, helpful presence who ultimately made your work better. He was incredibly collaborative and recognized the talent of those on his team, which helped mold many thoughtful, young journalists. His laugh was infectious and could instantly brighten your day when you heard it across the office. Mark was kind to everyone and set a great example of what to aspire to both professionally and personally. He is deeply missed.” - Jodi Westrick, Michigan Radio social media producer
“Sadly, I did not know Mark all that well, though it was clear to me that his infectious energy and good humor could light up any room. But when I heard that we'd lost him, I thought of the conversation between Mary McGrory and Daniel Patrick Moynihan when President Kennedy was assassinated. ‘We'll never laugh again,’ she said. ‘Sure we will, Mary,’ Moynihan said. ‘But we'll never be young again.’” - Jack Lessenberry
“I have so many great memories of Mark but one thing I will always associate with him has nothing to do with public radio. It was his love for his VW camper van (The Vanagon). Mark owned a 1991 (I think) Vanagon that he would often drive to work or take on family vacations…when it was running properly. Mark and I would often share stories about our mutual love for these iconic and idiosyncratic vehicles.
VW stopped selling these vans in the U.S. more than 20 years ago so anyone who still has one needs to be handy with repairs. Pretty much every spring Mark would tell me about the repairs he had to make to his VW’s “wasserboxer” engine to keep it running. And every January, around the time of the Detroit Auto Show, we would discuss the latest concept van that VW was showing off and rumors that they were going to start selling them again. These concept vans always turned out to just be a big tease, created for PR buzz, and were never actually built. Being an intrepid reporter, a few years ago Mark decided to interview a top VW exec about it and created this story.
I’m hoping Mark gets to spend some time behind the wheel of a Vanagon in heaven…minus the repairs.” - Steve Chrypinski, Michigan Radio marketing director
“Mark had one of the kindest hearts I have ever encountered. Although I did not work closely with him, he was a joy to work with when I did. I loved talking to him about anything, but especially the environment. He was always interested in what I saw/encountered on my annual elk ‘hunt.’ Every day that we had with Mark was a gift.” - Jackie Stickney, Michigan Radio Sustainer Memberships and Customer Service
“There are so many memories I have of Mark’s brilliance, humor, and wisdom. Like many at Michigan Radio, I turned to him often for advice or a laugh and gladly followed his lead. But one story keeps popping up in my head. One afternoon, during a moment of high stress, I went on a short rant to Mark (he was so patient) that ended with one of my dark-joke retirement dreams to one day leave this deadline stress behind, start smoking again, and captain an old ferry boat back and forth across the Great Lakes. ‘Me too,’ Mark said, only he wasn’t joking. ‘Except for probably the cigarettes.’ (See Mark’s ferry captain video.) His response did more than make me guffaw, it made me feel like I wasn’t as alone in this world. That was Mark’s power, and among his many gifts and contributions, it’s what I’ll miss and remember most.” - Joe Linstroth, Stateside executive producer
“I have had the honor of working with Mark as an intern this semester. From my very first day, he was dedicated to helping me develop my own story pitches and report on the things I’m passionate about. His own passion for journalism was inspiring to be around, and in the short time I worked with him, I learned so much about what it means to be a reporter. His positive attitude and sense of humor made him the kind of boss you could only hope to get the chance to work for. I want to thank Mark so much for believing in me and adding me to his team. I graduate in just a few weeks, and I know I will take what I learned from him these past few months with me throughout the rest of my career.” - Lara Moehlman, Michigan Radio intern
“Mark was one of the best men I’ve ever known in my life. He was compassionate, brilliant, positive, generous, and creative. I especially loved his Halloween costumes each year: They were clever, unique, timely, and often last minute. They included the city of Oz’s Emergency Manager, an Ann Arbor deer, and my absolute favorite: right before the election in 2014, he dressed as Democratic Gubernatorial candidate, Mark Schauer. (His costume was himself, Mark, in a shower curtain that he had rigged up to wear around.) I’ll miss so much more than just his costumes. He was a shining light of a human being, and I am better for having known him.” - Andrea Lahodny, Michigan Radio grants accountant
“From the minute I met Mark, he believed in me. It was the best thing he ever did for me. And Mark did a lot of amazing things for me. The very long list includes: buying me cheesy bread, encouraging my probably-overly-ambitious story ideas (a complete accounting of Michigan’s bottled water industry, anyone?), and being quite kind when I did ridiculous novice things like recording an interview via speakerphone (yikes). As a young professional, having somebody who sees your value and goes to bat for you is EVERYTHING. I know Mark did this for a lot of people. But I gotta say, he came into my life at a point when I really, really needed him.
For a split second, I have the thought….what will become of me without my advocate? But Mark is still with me, telling me to remember what he taught me about my own value, and to charge ahead with story ideas that I think matter.” - Kaye LaFond, Michigan Radio intern
“I started at Michigan Radio right around the time Mark first received his diagnosis. It was a tough time for the staff, but Mark remained upbeat and always entered the office with a smile and the patience to answer all my (and my colleagues) questions regarding our complex and clunky content management system. I still have those questions, and I still look to old email exchanges with Mark for guidance. He wasn’t just a great web guy, he was a great guy. I only wish I could’ve known him for longer.” - Lauren Talley, Michigan Radio Morning Edition producer
"This photo is special to me because the baby he’s holding is my oldest daughter. I know there’s a whole army of Michigan Radio babies now, but that wasn’t always the case. Mark was one of the first in our era to become a parent, and I remember when Eli and Cece [Mark's kids] were born. He was a great dad. And when I became a dad, I listened to him for advice.
So I guess when we talk about the people you work with being like family, this photo reminds me of that. It wasn’t just about doing journalism or producing stories. He helped show me how to be a dad." - Dustin Dwyer, Michigan Radio reporter/producer
“I have worked with Mark for almost 12 years. Even though I didn't work closely with Mark, he was always the nicest, most kindest person when I did have questions or needed help with something. Very patient, and always wanted to help.
A few years ago, I helped with organizing our Holiday Party and came up with a 'Riddle Game.' The object of the game was to guess the name of the staff person by the clues given and a picture of the staff person. The riddle I gave Mark was, ‘I will show no harm; because I'm filled with lots of charm.’ I don't think anyone missed guessing who this was!
I will miss seeing his smile and hearing his laughter! He has left a footprint on my heart that I will never forget. I feel very honored to say that I knew him and was able to work with him.” - Cindy Payne, Michigan Radio senior business assistant
“Mark was one of the kindest, brightest people I have ever met. I know everyone feels the same way I do. We will all remember his laughter, his warmth, his wit – these big, bright things are unquestionably Mark. We know this, we can clearly hear his voice, we miss this. But there’s also a quiet steadiness that’s gone now, something even less tangible. I’ll miss how he listened to me, and offered calm guidance and support when I felt lost. I want to hold on to that part of him, too. I am lucky to have known him, I’ll be luckier if I can be just like him.” - Lucy Perkins, former Michigan Radio intern, current NPR’s All Things Considered producer
“I hadn’t yet put in my contact lenses and I was overdue for a haircut, but it didn’t matter to Mark — Michigan Radio was hosting a party to celebrate Garrison Keillor’s final episode on A Prairie Home Companion, and to promote it, he and I were going to take a picture next to the life-size cardboard Keillor cutout sitting feet from my desk.
There were more shenanigans than normal that day, but no matter my schedule, I looked forward to getting to the newsroom so I could trade story ideas with Mark and mix in a bit of NBA banter too. My summer at Michigan Radio solidified my desire to pursue journalism professionally, in large part due to Mark’s unfailing positivity, his calmness even as news broke left and right, and his brilliance as an editor. He is so, so missed.” - Lev Facher, former Michigan Radio intern, current STAT Washington Correspondent
“Mark Brush was genuinely kind, remarkably selfless and admirably driven. But as an intern of his in early 2016, I found he was also an inspirational force for young, aspiring journalists like myself. My first day at Michigan Radio came as I grappled with my impending graduation; I felt pessimistic and anxious about entering an industry undergoing serious and irrevocable change. But Mark eased my concerns. Day by day, I observed his passion and excitement for journalism — particularly when filing FOIAs related to the Flint water crisis or encouraging me to pursue creative and investigative stories as an intern. His enthusiasm was infectious, and I’ve been trying to follow his lead ever since. I’m grateful for so much Mark has given me — but most of all, I’m thankful for the enormous opportunities he gave other aspiring college journalists that helped catapult their careers.” - Jen Calfas, former Michigan Radio intern, current Time Magazine and Money Magazine reporter
"To say Mark changed my life would be an understatement. Working without him remains a daunting concept, but I could not have had a better mentor to prepare me for this insane life. Mark gave me so much, and I strive to have a fraction of the positive influence he had on the world.
I hope that by reading and listening to these remembrances, you can begin to understand the power of his joy, compassion, and love." - Emma Winowiecki, Michigan Radio multimedia producer/reporter