Bill Pekarski with Mark Jackson.
Day 147, Living life on my terms.
Everybody has at least one friend in life that you feel very close to, but you just don’t get together as often as you would like. In my case, I have many friends who would fit that description, including a special one who lives right here in Coudersport.
He was a 1978 graduate from Coudersport High School and has been working in our area ever since. Aside from being a cook in the Cafeteria at Charles Cole Memorial Hospital, he is a faithful school bus driver. In fact, he even used to drive my school bus.
We were firefighters together for many years as well as working together on ambulance crews. Whenever I needed help or someone to talk to, he was there for me. His name is Mark Jackson.
When I joined the fire hall, Mark was always just “one of the guys.” On emergency calls he usually would drive and operate one of the trucks. He was certified to drive everything from the little rescue all of the way up to the big engines and the aerial truck. He was outstanding at his job and you always felt safe knowing Mark was at the pump supplying you with water.
Aside from the emergencies, Mark was always up for a group trip to Perkins or whatever hair-brained idea we had. Most of the time, we just enjoyed cruising around town and talking.
Of course when you were with Mark, you cruised in style. He always kept his cars and trucks absolutely immaculate. He took a great sense of pride in taking care of his vehicles.
Since my father had passed away while I was in high school, Mark was one of those older guys I could look up to. He was there to take me to college for my first day at IUP. I remember it well as we pulled in front of my future dormitory and the greeter in the parking lot told Mark that he could drop his son off here and pull around to the lot out back. I immediately started laughing and said; “see you later dad!” Mark replied in turn; “ok son.”
Another time a little later in the semester, Mark and Kenny Rogers both took me back to school after a short break. I was walking around showing them the campus when someone on a bicycle went flying down the hill beside us. Kenny barely got out the words “I hope she can stop” when we heard a loud tire screech and crash. There was the bicyclist, sprawled out in the middle of the road. Here we are, 130 miles from home and I am doing emergency medical care while they both direct traffic until the police and ambulance get there. It was kind of cool.
The end of my junior year actually coincided with the Pennsylvania Fire Expo in Harrisburg. Although I really could not afford the trip, Mark took care of the major expenses, picked me up at IUP and we took the Turnpike to the Expo. Luckily, I think that was my last long trip on that road as it is something straight out of Hell.
Mark and I always enjoyed those long trips and spending time together. He said one time that it made him feel young. I joked with him that he had worn a beard ever since I first met him. If he wanted to feel young, maybe he should shave his beard. Finally, I got my razor and my shaving cream out and put them on the table and actually dared him to take it off.
Well, after over 20 years of wearing well-groomed facial hair, Mark shaved it all off in a Harrisburg hotel room. Believe me, it took 15 years off of his face in an instant and he looked great. The real fun was walking around the expo where we always had many friends from Coudersport and the surrounding towns in attendance. When we ran into someone we knew, they would stare at him not knowing who he was. Then when it hit them, the gasps were priceless. He has stayed shaved ever since that day and I love to take credit for that.
We enjoyed doing so many fun things. One day after the expo we thought it would be fun to tour Hershey Chocolate world. Mark and I were in the little tour car and the image was one of those priceless moments. Mark with his freshly shaved, boyish face sitting next to me, the man mountain who was twice his size. It was like he was a little kid.
One of my greatest honors was being the best man for Mark’s wedding with Kathy. I was proud to stand next to a man I consider my best friend.
Today I am dedicating my progress to my friend Mark Jackson. Oh the stories I could tell, but I have to try and keep these things a little under control.