Mark William Van Gasken passes away; memorial will be this Saturday, Jan. 13


Mark William Van Gasken

Mark was born on November 29, 1928 to Gladys and Mark E. Van Gasken, both long-time residents of Des Moines. (His grandparents’ home, overlooking the marina, was recently purchased by the city of Des Moines and is named “Van Gasken Park!”) Mark joined his brothers, Robert and Steve, and the three of them, through the magic of nicknames, became known as “Bob, Bud, and Bill.” Mark attended Des Moines Elementary and Highline High School. His family was active in the Des Moines United Methodist Church, and as a youth, he attended Epworth League (MYF), lit the furnace, rang the church bell for services, and directed the Senior Choir as a college student! He also played drums in a dance band with his brother, Steve.

Mark attended the College of Puget Sound, currently known as UPS, and upon graduation was hired as band director at Castle Rock High School. He became reacquainted with Margaret, the cute, young music teacher at Kelso Jr. High (and a classmate from Highline High). They married in 1952 and made beautiful music together for 65 years!

Mark transferred to Stanwood High for four years and then moved back into the area to teach at Evergreen High. He finished his teaching career at Mt. Rainier High School, directing band (as well as stage band, and sometimes choir, music theory, and guitar) for 18 years. There he had the pleasure of directing all three of his children (Dan, Kathy, and Kris), as well as his future son-in-law (Larry)! Upon “retirement,” he worked as custodian at the church for 10 years. He finally retired as church choir director after 40 years! Over the years, Mark supplemented his teacher’s salary with a variety of jobs: working at a milk factory, painting houses, giving private drum lessons, playing in dance bands, and directing summer music programs.

Mark enjoyed camping and traveling with his family. He was an avid gardener and experimented with seedlings in his self-made greenhouse. He was an all-around handyman and mechanic. Mark was an artist and a creative problem solver, leading to the invention of unique contraptions to solve everyday problems. A few can still be seen around the church!

Starting in 1970, Mark and Margaret were hosts to 13 foreign exchange students over the years. They were loving parents to students from Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Austria, Indonesia, and Japan. They kept in touch with many of them, even visiting some in their home countries, and these “students” still address them as “Mom and Dad.”

In recent years, Mark remained very active. At the church, he sang in the choir, sometimes played in bell choirs, helped with the Handypersons Group, and volunteered at the Food Bank. He attended the Des Moines Historical Society meetings. Mark was a marathon concert-goer, with season tickets for the Seattle Symphony, the Opera, and 5th Avenue Musical Theatre. He was also a big supporter of his grandchildren’s music careers.

Most of all, Mark will be remembered for his kindness. He was patient and caring, always giving of his time and efforts to others. He had a sharp mind and a funny, corny sense of humor, which, as he might say, will be remembered for posterity, and “ma-sterity” too! He was beloved by all and will be greatly missed!

A memorial service is being held at 1:00 this Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018 at the Des Moines United Methodist Church, located at 22225 9th Ave. S., Des Moines, WA.

Remembrances can be made to Des Moines UMC.


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