Blogs > From The Bleacher Seats

A roundup of news on sporting events, people and places in Southeast Michigan by columnist Jim Evans.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Saying goodbye to a good friend

Mark Fresch (left) and Mike Greening relax prior to coaching a soccer match against Royal Oak Dondero. (Submitted photo)

The sighing time was growing near. Angels had filed their flight patterns. The family had gathered at Mark and Chris Fresch’s house in Royal Oak.
Only with a small herd of young grandchildren, gathered adheres to a very loose definition. Sometimes a lasso is necessary parenting equipment.
A couple of the kids will be in the pool. A couple more will be playing with toys. Somebody is always racing someone, and every mom and dad, grandma and grandpa, knows how that goes.
One of the grand kids who had been swimming, came running inside the house. Wet as a sloppy kiss, he hugged grandpa and said I love you.
With that, he ran back out and dove into the pool.
Mark Fresch died the next day.
So how do you say goodbye to a grandpa, a husband, a father and a friend anyway?
That is what Mike Greening struggled with.
“I’d seen Mark a couple of times during the year. I knew he had pancreatic cancer. Demir gave me a call. He told me I had to go over to see Mark,” said Greening. “I’m a coward. I didn’t want to go, knowing the situation, but I had to go because Mark was my friend.”
Both Fresch and Demir Muftari coached soccer with Fresch at Royal Oak Kimball High School.
“Mark started coaching at Kimball in the early 90s,” said Greening. “Both of his daughters were at Kimball and both played soccer. He was a real student of the game. He was Mr. Inspiration. He could really reach kids.
“While Demir and I probably knew the intricacies of the game better because we had played, Mark could really get through to the kids.
“He had the same halftime speech. He delivered it in varying decibels, but it always got the kids worked up. About once a season he would not give the speech, and the players would come up to me afterwards and ask what was wrong with Coach,” said Greening, smiling.
Following games, the coaching staff would convene at the Mt. Chalet Inn on Woodward “for a few pops.”
“People called Mark `Mario’ because he bore a distinct resemblance to the video game character, but I knew him as Pops. He was from the Pittsburgh area and was a huge fan of both the Steelers and Pirates. Remember Willie Stargell? He was called Pops and that is where Mark’s nickname came from,” said Greening.
“He had a passion for life. We’d meet at the Chalet after most games and there were about 10 to 12 of us. All of us were soccer coaches and everybody loved Mark. He might not have known as much about the game as most of the other guys, but he knew about people,” said Greening.
Here’s some of what the death notice said: Mark C. Fresch died peacefully at his home in Royal Oak, August 9, 2011. He was 61 years old. Mark was born February 4, 1950, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Mary Jane (nee Macerrelli) and Harry Fresch.
Mark is survived by his beloved wife, Christine, and children, Carrie (Greg) Irwin, Jami Fresch, and Nicholas (Amy) Fresch. He is also survived by his grandchildren, Marcus, Cecilia, Lucy, William, and Blake, and siblings, Jeff, Charlie, Debbie, and P.J.
Memorials appreciated to Beaumont Hospice, P.O. Box 5802, Troy, Michigan 48007-9620 or The V Foundation for Cancer Research, 106 Towerview Court, Cary, North Carolina 27513.
He is buried at the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly.
“Did you know that Mark was a Vietnam vet?” asked Greening. “I always told him that with his personality and the way people were drawn to him that he would make a great teacher. I taught history and I always wanted Mark to come in and talk to my class about the war in Vietnam, but he never would.”
Interestingly enough, after Fresch had gotten sick, he did go talk to the class of one of his grandkids. He told the kids about how he worked with dogs in Vietnam. It was their job to locate tunnels in the vicinity of the Ho Chi Minh Trail
The Ho Chi Minh trail was a network of roads built from North Vietnam to South Vietnam used by the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese Army during the war. It was a series of truck routes and paths for foot and bicycle traffic. There were also tunnels.
Whenever Fresch and his dog located a tunnel, he’d call in an air strike. He had, said Greening, exactly one hour to clear the premises.
“He had some very close calls,” said Greening.
Greening was a new teacher and coach back then. He is the principal at Royal Oak High School now.
He lost a friend. He lost a mentor. He lost an inspiration and he just wanted to talk about it.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home