Reflecting on Mark Scarborough

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Greg Peck
June 12, 2013

I learned Tuesday of Mark Scarborough’s death at age 53 in a way I wouldn’t have expected. A friend, a former Janesville resident who lives in Brookfield and is deeply involved in his family’s genealogy, had been contacting Mark from time to time for assistance. I didn’t know that this friend even knew Mark. But that Mark was helping him does not surprise me.

Mark is a former newspaper colleague. I believe we last spoke perhaps a year ago. My wife and I had a lengthy, congenial chat with him before a Wisconsin Newspaper Association banquet began in Middleton. If he told me he was writing a book about Edgerton’s history, I had forgotten that. But that, too, doesn’t surprise me.

Mark was different, and anyone who ever met him likely understands that when I say it. He was a character, and in my book a loveable one, even if some of those who locked horns with him in his reporting days might not think so. He had a passion for many things, including the Edgerton Book and Film Festival, and poured his heart and soul into whatever he did.

We worked together in the mid-1980s at the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune. I worked for the Trib less than two years before coming to Janesville, but Mark spent about two decades there. When I worked with him, he was the lone male on a staff of four reporters, and I was their direct supervisor as city editor.

Mark wasn’t slim when I worked with him and had gained considerable weight since then. He suffered a seizure while taking a break Monday at the Edgerton Reporter, where he worked the past several years. When I heard about it, I tweeted the news. One woman responded that Mark was a "loveable man" who taught her to drive a truck at age 18. A fellow writer obviously had met Mark in poetry circles and called his death a “great loss.” I emailed another former colleague to inform him of “Scarbie’s” death.

I was delighted to read Neil Johnson’s story on Mark in today’s Gazette. It gave me more insight into the man. Johnson described the cluttered desk suddenly left in quiet at the Edgerton newspaper office. That, too, doesn’t surprise me. At one point Mark's desk at the Daily Tribune was such a mess that our cops and courts reporter got yellow police tape, and she and the other female reporters wrapped his desk in it. Mark got the point, if only temporarily.

In his story, Johnson pointed out that when covering local government or a crime scene, Mark could test the limits like a pit bull on a leash. He would even stand up in the middle of a government meeting and voice objections if he believed officials were violating the state’s open meeting or records laws. Johnson had seen that, and the fact that Mark would do it doesn’t surprise me either.

I was glad to read that Edgerton Reporter Publisher Diane Everson said her newspaper will do all it can to see that Mark’s book on his hometown’s history gets published posthumously.

That would be a fitting legacy for a life lost too soon.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook

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