When I became a libertarian two decades ago, one of the first people I met was Mark Bodenhausen. Back in the days when Jimmy Blake was chair of the Alabama Libertarian Party, Mark was one of the small group who would gather regularly at Jimmy’s house for discussion and planning about how to spread our gospel of small government.
Over the years, I came to know Mark as a brilliant nerd, a principled libertarian, a pragmatic political thinker and as a caring human being. He went on to serve the Alabama Libertarian Party as its chair and as a candidate for a variety of offices. I was very saddened to learn that Mark died Thursday after a long illness.
I knew that Mark was sick, but I had no idea how serious the problem was. Last Sunday, former Alabama Libertarian Party vice chair Mike Rster posted a note on Facebook updating us about Mark. It sounded very serious, but I assumed it meant good news.
“The past 19 days have been trying,” Mike wrote. “Due to an aneurysm that caused two catastrophic bleeds in Mark’s brain, the doctors inserted a tube into his brain to relieve the pressure. In the course of the Mark’s treatment his liver failed and then his kidneys. He remained unresponsive for the 17 days.
“Two days ago he nodded yes and no for the first time since the initial bleed. His kidneys have stabilized although he still might require further dialysis. His liver is causing a problem with blood clotting. He has had multiple units of blood and blood products. Once his blood platelet count is sufficient he is scheduled for three surgeries….
“We anticipate a lengthy recovery and rehabilitation period for Mark. He still has a long way to go.”
So I felt a terribly sick feeling Thursday when another friend posted news of Mark’s death.
If you didn’t know Mark, you don’t have much reason to note his death. He was a good husband and a good friend and a good colleague to those who knew him, but hardly any of you knew him. Please take my word, though, that Mark was one of those rare people whose names you might see connected to politics who was genuinely decent and honest and and worthy of respect as a person, completely outside of his political work.
Mark was quiet and he shied away from the spotlight. At a social event, he was more likely to be talking quietly in a corner about the German language or economics or his faith than anything else. He cared deeply about people and he was strongly committed to living in the most principled ways that he could.
After I made my short film, “We’re the Government — and You’re Not,” I went to a local Libertarian Party gathering on Southside right after copies of my DVD were being seen for the first time by local libertarians. I was a little nervous about whether people would like it.
Mark met me on the front porch of the building as I arrived and he was gracious in his praise of my film, which made me feel much more relaxed. Then he pulled out his billfold and got out a 10-dollar bill, which he handed to me.
“I want to be the first one to contribute toward your next film,” Mark said. “I believe in what you’re doing and I want to support you.”
I ended up selling hundreds of copies of the DVD for that film, but no money I received meant as much to me as Mark’s $10. He wasn’t just saying, “Hey, I like what you’ve done,” but he was saying, “I believe in you and I’m putting my money where my mouth is.”
I still haven’t made that next film, but no matter what else I do, I have to make at least one more film that reflects the libertarian beliefs we shared — because Mark has already made the down payment on that film. I still owe it to him.
Mark’s funeral will be Monday, Nov. 10, 2014, at 2 p.m. at Bessemer-Brown Funeral Home in Bessemer, Ala., with burial to follow in Elmwood Cemetery in Birmingham. His friends will gather afterward at Jim ’n’ Nick’s Barbecue in Homewood.