I have to admit I felt a bit funny traveling to my hometown for the funeral of a friend I knew for over thirty years, Mark “Biff” Fitting.  After all, it’s not like we were an everyday part of each other’s lives.  I worked for him for a couple summers in the early ’80s, and saw him maybe every year or two or three since then.  Why did I feel so compelled to send him off in person?

Judge Roy Gotham was a very dear friend of Mark’s, and he erased any feelings I had of being out of place at Mark’s funeral.  He pointed out that in attendance were grade school friends of Mark’s from LaCrosse, Wisconsin, people he had farmed with in North Dakota decades ago, friends from all over from Mark’s whole life, along with his devastated family and local friends.

The entire focus of the service, as well as comments I heard from numerous friends I chatted with around town during my hometown visit this week, explained why I was drawn to be there.  Mark was one of those amazing people who is just genuinely your friend, no matter how close or distant, no matter how long it’s been since you’ve seen one another.  He cared about people.  That’s one reason he was such a successful businessman.  That’s why I always went to his shop when I visited my parents.  That’s why my brother Rich and I still regularly share fond memories of our summers together working for Mark at the Hobby Wheel, and why we still jokingly use goofy expressions he used all those years ago.

That’s why so very many people in Ironwood and far beyond are heartbroken, and why my hometown will never, ever be the same again.