Sad News — Mark Himelstein passes (Ethiopia 1)


Mark Himelstein
September 19, 1939 – September 12, 2022

Mark Himelstein died on Monday 12 September, a week before his 83rd birthday. He was battling hereditary issues with his heart when he lost. He is survived by his wife Nancy, his two sons Matt and Sam, his two daughters-in-law Laura and Alicia, and his grandchildren Solomon, Malakai, Meyer and Rhodes. Mark joins his daughter Suzy in the afterlife.

Mark grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He was a fan of baseball and basketball, as is Indiana tradition. Mark graduated from Indiana University with a BA in 1962 and from George Washington University Law School with an LLB in 1967. But if you ever met Mark you would know that he considered his service as a reserve in the Marines (1959-65) and his experience in the Peace Corp (Ethiopia, 1962-64) as the core learning experiences of his life.

Mark found the legal profession satisfying and excelled at being a “country lawyer,” albeit he ended up making oral arguments at the Supreme Court (Smith v. Regents of University of California). Out of Law school he moved to San Francisco, California in 1969 and formed a law firm with his three partners Penrod, Sims and Savinar. Each of the partners took three months off every year – in two and one month increments. Mark moved to San Francisco, California in 1969. He was “tricked” into a double-date evening-dinner in Berkeley by mutual friends Sharon and David where he was introduced to Nancy – whom he would marry in 1978.

In 1980 Mark, Nancy and two other families bought a lot in Serene Lakes, on which they built a traditional log cabin. Mark and Nancy take their 6-month-old Matt on a backpacking trip to Cascade Lake where he is “baptized by the mountain”, formalizing his association with the area. With Serene Lakes as his base, Mark served as President of the Serene Lakes Properties Organization Association (SLPOA), a member of the SLPOA board, a member of the Serene Lakes County Water District Board, and a member of the Donor Summit Association Board. He lobbied for the Serene Lakes to be renamed Ice Lakes several times, but even that was further warmed by the calmness of the area. Mark rarely misses the opportunity to attend the opening and closing of Serene Lakes Beach, BBQs and other events.

Mark not only loved to tell stories, he loved to repeat them. To the point where his friends numbered them – #35 was a cult favorite. One of Mark’s favorite stories was about his quest to enable the building of the snack shack on Lot 1 in Serene Lakes. One of his proof points for the need of a building with bathrooms was that the water in the area around the beach was so much warmer than elsewhere in the lakes. The “very warm water”, he argued, would stop with the advent of bathrooms on Lot 1. Apparently this resonated with the community and a new snack shack was built.

Part of Mark’s caring for others could be seen in his very progressive politics, though tempered with what he’d say was common-sense. Trump so irritated him that he pressed friends to contribute to a full-page ad in the local newspaper telling Trump to take a hike, that the fresh air would be good for his disposition. For him it was a good outlet for frustration when the world was not going in the direction his philosophy of life thought it should go.

In 2010 Mark and Nancy moved up to Serene Lakes full time. Mark loved the people, the community activities, riding his bike, paddling his paddle board, hiking, skiing (downhill, cross country, and skate skiing), in-line skating (until the roads got too rough), and walking his giant chocolate lab named Cuzco.

Mark was a father, a friend, and a husband, in no particular order. He made the world a better place while having a lot of fun. He lived a remarkable life ranging from helping Ethiopian tribes build schools to making expert gin martinis at his home bar. His wit exhilarated (and somewhat antagonized) his wife while his “million megawatt” smile lit up the room. He will be missed greatly. Rest in peace.

Published by the San Francisco Chronicle on September 15, 2022.

From the Ethiopia 1962 Peace Corps “funny book”

Mark received his B.A. in social sciences in 1962, from Indiana University. For sixth months in 1959 he served in the United States Marine Corps. He has done summer construction work and has some skill in carpentry. He can also operate a tractor, and he holds a private pilot’s license and a restricted radio-telephone operator’s permit. He particularly enjoys water sports.


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