Mark Kevin Haldorson - Life Story
Although Mark Haldorson will be remembered for his amazing musical abilities, it was his quick wit, his vibrant personality, and his fun-loving spirit that brought the harmony to the everyday melody of life. He was the ultimate teaser who never forgot a good joke with a courageous and fearless soul that was a true inspiration to all he met. Mark’s greatest treasure was his family, and it was when gathered with his loved ones that he was filled with unspeakable joy. Although he accomplished so much of which to be proud, he was a humble man whose greatest achievements were found in the selfless ways he generously gave to those around him. Mark will be deeply missed while his memory is forever cherished by those too numerous to count.
It seems only fitting that Mark’s journey began during a time in our nation’s history that was as colorful as he was. It was the Nifty Fifties when Elvis Presley took the music world by storm and televisions were becoming part of our living rooms like never before. The United States and the Soviet Union were striving to dominate space exploration while civil rights came to the forefront when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on an Alabama bus. It was on February 2, 1954, that John and Phyllis (Hannum) Haldorson were pleased to announce the birth of their son, Mark Kevin, in Joliet, Illinois. Right from the time he was born his parents noted his long fingers and joked that they had a piano player on their hands. They had no idea how right they would actually be. Along with his sister, Mary Jo, Mark was raised in the family home in Ritchie.
When he was only three, Mark began playing a toy piano, and he started officially taking real lessons in kindergarten. His first public performance took place during the wedding of his aunt and uncle when he was just five. Mark lived and breathed piano as his mother often had to get him dressed on the piano bench since he refused to stop playing in the middle of a song. Since he wasn’t tall enough to reach the pedals during his earliest years he often stood at the piano in order to reach them. Mark sometimes accompanied his sister to her dance class, and he enjoyed learning the songs so that he could play along with her while dancing at home. He had the most amazing memory and was able to recite the Lord’s Prayer flawlessly after hearing it only once when he wasn’t even old enough to read yet.
As a young boy Mark’s amazing personality was already emerging. Everything seemed to come easy to him, which made it frustrating for him when trying to teach his sister to play the piano and didn’t “get it” during the first lesson. Mark loved spending time with his family, and it was a regular occurrence as well. Some of his favorite times were spent pitching tents made of blankets in the living room with his sister and cousins. Mark was ever mindful of others as he crossed the train trestle in Custer Park to bring flowers to his aunt on one occasion. He befriended the kids who never seemed to have any friends and generously gave his coat to a boy who didn’t have one. In fact, it was Mark who could account for the missing meat from the freezer as he was taking it to a family in the neighborhood - and cooking it for them, too! For his education Mark attended local schools including Wilmington High School. He was part of the choir there and uncovered his love for cooking as a teen. Mark loved spicy food and was known to make gourmet meals even if only for himself. He was also involved in acrobatics and performed in the “Gym Circus.” As a high school student Mark was in both the band and the choir, and he went on to graduate in 1972.
Mark’s exceptional musical abilities paved the way for a rewarding career doing something he loved. Shortly after high school he was in a band called “Hard Reign” and later a band called “Red Eye.” Mark also played in a band in Oklahoma. In the 1980s he began competing in Monticello on the back of a train. Mark was the Ragtime World Champion for three consecutive years, which allowed him to perform, but disqualified him to compete again - quite an accomplishment. He played in various nightclubs including in Wyoming and Kitty O’Shea’s in Florida as well as in Jumer’s Hotel in Peoria, on The Spirit of Peoria Riverboat for 12 years, at The Broom Corn Festival in Arcola for 15 years, The Irish Villa in Peoria for 20 years, the Elks Club in Joliet, Silver Dollar City, Peachtree Plaza in Georgia, and Sully’s and the Homestead in Kankakee. Mark also played at the Kentucky Derby for five years in addition to countless other venues. He regularly played the piano and organ for countless family weddings and funerals. In addition, Mark was a member of the Musicians Union. He was quite an entertainer as he could play backwards and even with his feet. During recent years he had been writing music and rarely used sheet music himself.
Although his life revolved around music, Mark’s days were enriched in other ways as well. He looked forward to family poker night when the games would last until dawn. Mark loved flowers and gardening in addition to shopping and his lifelong love for the culinary arts. He loved scary movies and was a huge fan of the Three Stooges. Mark had an extensive collection of watches, clocks, and Three Stooges memorabilia.
All who knew Mark Haldorson would agree that he was an extraordinary man to know and love. He was loving and tender, caring for his mother for an entire year while she was sick, and giving to those in need. Mark had an unmatched sense of humor and a courageous spirit. He will never be forgotten.
Mark Kevin Haldorson died on Tuesday, February 18, 2014. Mark’s family includes his mother, Phyllis, and his sister, Mary Jo (Dave) Morgan, both of Wilmington; aunts and uncles: Vivian Hannum of Ft. Worth, Texas, Fran Hannum of Hot Springs Village, Arkansas, Alice Wills of Coal City, Helen Jensen of Reddick, Lucille Quayle of Coal City, Betty Panish of Morris, June (Leroy) Hedgecock of Momence, Ralph (Lela) Haldorson of Wilmington, Margaret Haldorson of Joliet and Betty Haldorson of Elwood; best friend, Eric Crosiar of Peoria; and numerous cousins and friends.
Mark was preceded in death by his father, John in 1993; grandparents: Otto and Peggy Hannum and Charles and Gertrude Haldorson; and aunts and uncles: Jack Hannum, Michael Hannum, Donald Hannum, Elsie and Joe Skubic, Charles Haldorson, Raymond Haldorson, Harold Jensen, Royce Quayle, Joe Panish, Bob and Gen Haldorson, Elmer Wills, Clyde Haldorson, George Haldorson and Howard Haldorson.
Visitation and video tribute will be held on Friday, February 21, 2014, from 4:00-8:00 p.m. at Baskerville Funeral Home, 700 East Kahler Road in Wilmington. The family will then again receive friends on Saturday, February 22, 2014, at the First United Methodist Church, 401 East Kahler Road in Wilmington from 10:00 a.m. until time of funeral service 11:00 a.m. Pastors Hyujae Lee and Mi-Sook Yoo will officiate.
Burial will follow in Wesley Cemetery, Wilmington and pallbearers will be: Mickey Hannum, Eric Crosiar, Jack Brownlee, Ed Pacchetti, Billy Haldorson , Mike Noffsinger, Billy Wills and Dennis Hiller.
Preferred memorials may be made as gifts in Mark’s memory to his family for distribution to charities of the families choosing.
Friends may sign the online guest book, send private condolences to the family or read Mark’s Life Story by logging onto: www.BaskervilleFuneral.com.
Funeral services and arrangements have been made under the direction and care of Baskerville Funeral Home in Wilmington. (815/476-2181)