Mark Hayden Willig, 64, died at home, surrounded by family, on Dec. 30, 2016.
Born in Newton, N.J., Mark was a freethinker, union man, and beloved teacher, father, grandfather, and mentor to many. Though known locally as a teacher, he carried skills from an eclectic past and travels throughout the U.S. and Central and South America. Always independent, he left home at 16 to strike out on his own. Mark sold hot dogs on the streets of New Orleans, worked with his hands in the forests and towns of Northern California, and was on the crew of the original Renaissance Faire.
In 1982, he met his future wife, Maura Lee Quinn, in a college geology class. They were married in 1983 in his parents’ backyard in Agoura Hills, Calif. Mark worked for several years as an insurance adjuster, a job made more lively by his desire to advocate for working families. But never a man meant for an office job, he imagined a life for his family far from the L.A. freeways. In 1989, he persuaded Maura to move to what he always called “the great state of Montana,” where he had hiked in Glacier National Park as a young man.
Mark completed his degree in geology at the University of Montana in 1992. He taught middle and high school sciences in Arlee, Mont., and Idaho Falls, Idaho, before moving to Grangeville, Idaho, in 1993. Mark’s creative teaching style and infamous stories reached generations of students. His goal was never just to teach the subject at hand, but to help students learn how to think. He set high expectations for his students and himself, completing his masters in education from the University of Idaho in 2003.
Mark was known for walking the Camas Prairie in all weather, challenging his students in and outside of the classroom, and having an extensive library of books and music. He never turned down a friendly debate about the state of the world or chance to gaze at the stars and discuss the nature of the infinite.
He is survived by Maura, his wife of 33 years; daughters: Julia (Ben), Erin (Mark), and Lily; grandchildren: Kaya, Kingston, and Jakoda; parents, Anne and Warren; siblings: Chris (Victoria), Kate, Evan (Lori), and Kurt (Kai); and many beloved nieces and nephews.
In his own words: “Life is about freedom. Freedom to love whomever you wish; freedom to think as your mind goes; freedom to be the person you desire to be.”
An open house celebration of his life will be held at The Gallery (107 W. North St, Grangeville, ID 83530) on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2016, from 3 to 6 p.m., with a program at 4 p.m.
A scholarship fund is being established in his honor. Arrangements are under the direction of Blackmer Funeral Home, Grangeville. Send condolences to the family at Blackmerfuneralhome.com.