Mark Wandall: 2/4/73 – 10/24/03

By Joe St. Onge –

The phone rang late Friday night, October 24th, but we didn’t get up.  We just let it go. A minute later, the phone rang again.  I reluctantly answered the phone (no caller ID then).  I will never forget Mark’s dad saying somberly, “we lost Mark tonight.” I don’t remember if I dropped the phone or set it on the bed.  I just sank.  My wife picked up the phone and listened to the horrific details of what had just happened.  Before I knew it, my wife was driving us to the hospital, to see Melissa, Mark’s parents, and Phil (Melissa’s brother, who was in critical condition). I vividly remember walking up and Melissa meeting me outside the hospital.  Here is this woman, 9 months pregnant, having just lost her husband and father to her unborn child.  She asks me how I am doing?  What an extraordinary human being…

Mark and I lived together after college when both of us eventually met our future wives.  He was such a great guy, so full of life.  I was so incredibly happy for Mark & Melissa when they got married. The one thing I admired about Mark, more than anything, was his ability to just let things go.  To Mark, there were far worse things in life, to let the little things bother him.  Not to say he didn’t occasionally get frustrated with the computer at work or the AC at the house, but most of the time LIFE just didn’t get to him.

Although I will say, his limitless confidence made me laugh when they got pregnant.  He was so adamant that their lives wouldn’t change one bit.  As a father of a 1-year old, I had an ongoing debate with Mark, knowing that sleepless nights were ahead and what the throws of a newborn would bring to their life. Who knows, I could have been wrong. As laid back as Mark was, he would have been the one guy to figure it out.  Unfortunately, we will never know.  That is my biggest struggle with his death and the timing of it.

Melissa was 9 months pregnant when a reckless driver barreled through a blatant red light, taking away Mark’s chance to prove me wrong. More importantly, he lost the chance to hold his daughter, Madisyn Grace, who would come into this world just two weeks later.  I lost my mom when I was 2 years old, so I could relate to the pain, at least more than most.  To this day, almost 15 years later, I still wish that Mark could have had the chance to hold his daughter, just once.

My dad told me that there will always be a hole in your heart, but it gets smaller over time.  It will always be there.  While he is right about that, I still think about Mark almost every time I go through an intersection, catch a road marker out of the corner of my eye, sit at a red light, or hear about an accident, even though his was definitely no accident.

Through his devoted wife, Melissa, The Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act  has made a lasting “mark” on our roads.  I hope and pray that his life will save others, many others.  We can help save lives, too. So let’s all drive, as if our lives depended on it…because they do.


1 thought on “Mark Wandall: 2/4/73 – 10/24/03”

  1. George Murphy

    I have read Mark’s tragic preventable death many times , and listened to Melissa describe this fateful night, but I still get chills, sorrow, anger and disbelief as I read the post by Joe St. Onge. Having met Melissa many years ago, shortly after her tragic loss of Mark, we have become close friends, even though many miles (1200) separate us from our home in South Jacksonville, Illinois. We spend some winter months in Venice so close to Melissa and Madisyn and try and keep up with her many life-saving activities.
    Careless and impaired driving take a toll on our roads and highways; Nearly 11,000 Americans are killed each year in preventable crashes across our great country in alcohol-related crashes. Having been involved in MADD since 1984, the year the town drunk ran over and killed our 24 year-old daughter, we have seen the progress made by MADD and great individuals like Melissa Wandall but, how do we tell moms and dads it’s getting better when a knock on their door tells them their son or daughter has been killed by as impaired driver, or a red light runner?
    If we in MADD are to reach our goal of “NO MORE VICTIMS” and Melissa’s goal of “DRIVING DOWN HEARTACHE” we have to educate and make everyone aware of the tragedies on our highways. When we see preventable crimes day after day we must give more support to law enforcement and push for our justice system to view preventable crimes as just that…CRIMES!
    George & Marilyn Murphy
    MADD Morgan County
    South Jacksonville, Illinois

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