This is the transcript for the remarks that I made at Mark's Memorial Service:
It’s an honor to join everyone here today, and a privilege to talk about my boss and mentor Mark Schwartz.
Mark would often joke with his staff at Nesnadny + Schwartz – I hope he was joking – that one of his favorite movies was "Dirty Dancing." He was especially fond of the final dance scene where Patrick Swayze playing Johnny, sees Jennifer Grey, playing Baby, at the country club talent show sitting off to the side with her parents. He takes her hand and commandingly states, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”
Granted, it’s difficult to deny the emotional impact of that moment, but one has to wonder if the scene resonated with Mark because he identified with Baby. Nobody put him in a corner. I’m not even sure “corner” was in his vocabulary.
Mark was definitely more of a “center-of-the-room” kind of guy…boisterous, armed with a firm handshake or a hug, a thousand stories-at-the-ready, and an infectious laugh that quickly put life’s priorities into perspective. No one could have been further from a corner.
I came to work for Nesnadny + Schwartz nearly 20 years ago. I sought the firm out for the same reason I ended up staying so long. A simple, one word reason. “Perfection.” Perfection in thinking. Perfection in execution. The firm’s reputation was built on the word. And Mark believed in it. Passionately.
Yet ironically Mark was hardly perfect. If anything, he was perfectly imperfect.
He would often define himself as being Nesnadny + Schwartz’s greatest strength, and its greatest weakness. His character and being were painted with a palette of contrasts.
While he was incredibly demanding on his staff and vendors, he could be equally supportive and encouraging.
While he could be a shrewd negotiator, he could also be big-hearted and generous.
Where there was impatience, there was persistence and resolve.
Where there was anger, there was empathy and compassion.
Where there was tension, there was humor.
Intimidating yet approachable. Crass yet tasteful. Opinionated yet open-minded.
He liked his pizza cheesy, his coffee strong, his clothes black, and his language peppered with profanity. He was just as comfortable in a greasy diner as he was in a five-star restaurant.
A lion. A teddy bear. A tough guy. A tender soul.
He was uncompromisingly, and unapologetically, human.
As complex as Mark was, he was as equally simple and direct. There was no sugarcoating in what he said. No fluff. If Mark thought something sucked, you would know that it sucked, because Mark would tell you, “this sucks.” On the other hand, if he thought something was great, he wouldn’t hold back the flattery. You would know, unequivocally, that you had achieved greatness.
This frankness was a very deliberate and well-honed communication tool. Good work was effective and efficient work. Why say something in five words when you can say it in one?
A much-used “Mark-ism,” and there were dozens that he wielded daily, was “Don’t make it into the Sistine Chapel.” Or, to translate, don’t make something into art if it doesn’t need to be.
His efficiency credo permeated our office culture, but never affected our design work. In fact, it was engineered to allow more time for creativity. And creativity was what he thrived on.
Mark fancied himself a master of the big fat idea. The visionary who could see both the forest and the trees…and it was true. He had an uncanny knack for immediately sensing a home run concept, and an equally acute instinct for sensing the stench of a rotten one.
If it “smells bad, it is bad.” (Another Mark-ism). Mark didn’t like cute. Or precious. Or trendy. And he had absolutely no time for mediocrity. Mark would encourage us to go the art museum for inspiration instead of looking through design books. We continually worked toward smart, concentrating on the meat of an idea rather than how to dress it up.
As I look back now I realize that as a mentor, Mark was constantly teaching us whether we knew it or not. If you’ve ever seen "The Karate Kid," you’ll remember how Mr. Miyagi taught his student Daniel martial arts by giving him odd jobs, like waxing his car. Daniel grew frustrated with Mr. Miyagi’s demands of “Wax on. Wax off.” Not realizing the polishing movements were teaching his muscles how to block a punch.
Every day we worked with Mark we were slowly developing our business karate skills without realizing it: how to negotiate contracts, buy printing, develop schedules, sell ideas.
His micromanagement of every aspect of our business sometimes…often…drove us nuts. He even insisted he knew the exact right way to attach a paper clip and tape a box closed. But it was that attention to detail that honed our sensitivities and made us aspire for perfection in every aspect of our work.
Wax on. Wax off.
When I accepted the offer to work with Mark and his then partner Joyce Nesnadny, his last words to me as I walked out of his office were, “Dazzle us.” No pressure there.
Well Mark, as a creative beacon, you dazzled us. Your brilliance was so bright it scarred our collective retinas with an indelible reminder of the fleeting genius that flashed before our eyes.
And as a mentor, you ultimately taught us all how to live with gusto, and die with grace.
As we all probably know, Mark wasn’t religious, although he certainly had opinions about it. But let’s all imagine for a moment that there is a heaven, and Mark’s in it. I’m guessing it’s running more efficiently, with a better profit margin, stronger coffee, lots of off-color humor and blushing angels.
"Dirty Dancing" will be showing 24/7.
And dammit, Baby, will definitely not be in a corner.
Greg Oznowich, Design Director, Nesnadny + Schwartz, 09.23.14
Mark Schwartz hosted some of my best times and worst behavior. It is the many important milestones that we loved sharing, usually involving brunch, cocktails, or both. The first day of school pictures, and the birthdays, New Years Eves, mother's days, father's days, and just a good any day. Our kids know about far more than they should, thanks to Mark. I am so glad for that, for having been welcomed into the Schwartz Katz family. I am going to miss Mark like mad.
Heidi Strean, 08.25.14
This is the transcript for the remarks that I made at a small family & friends gathering following the memorial service:
GOODBYE TO MARCUS FROM SCOTTKINS
For those who don’t know me, I’m Mark’s cousin Scott. Along with my sister Patti & Mark’s sister Cathy, the four of us kind of on-and-off grew up together. Mark and I were born less than 75 days apart from each other, and at various times in our lives, shared bedrooms, childhood dramas, along with many teenage and adult experiences.
From very early on Mark and I were young partners in crime together, at family gatherings, sleepovers at our house, enjoyed teenage & periodic college-years escapades. We became cycling buddies in our 20s, but most of all we became specialists in torturing our younger sisters.
Mark and I had very distinct roles: I was the good cousin, he was the bad cousin, we complemented each other very well…we’d get into trouble together…get busted by our families and Mark would catch all if not the majority of the blame...which seemed pretty equitable to me at the time. It seemed to be understood within our families that Mark was the troublemaker, the instigator. It seemed that I was only capable of doing wrong when in his presence. Not that I’m shy or quiet by nature, it was just that Mark was clearly and unmistakably less shy. Much less shy.
We had nicknames for each other: MARKIE & SCOTTIE / MARCUS & SCOTTKINS BUT MOSTLY WE REFERRED TO EACH OTHER USING THE SAME SOBRIQUET: “YA BASTARD”
As I reflect on Mark’s professional and personal accomplishments, many of which we heard about earlier today – who knew there could be so many of his childhood traits that would develop, morph and shape into Mark’s adult persona…and make him the successful Mensch, Husband and Father that he became?
So here in no special order is my all-star list of remembrances of My Dear Cousin Mark Coffey Schwartz:
1. As I previously noted Mark was a supreme Pot-Stirrer & Trouble-Maker:
• There were us four cousins Mark, Scott, Mark’s sister Cathy, and my sister Patti.
• We gathered frequently for dinner at our Grandmother’s apartment building: she was Grandma Coffey AKA “Grandmere.”
• At the end of the meal, the kids got to take the garbage down to the building’s basement.
• Mark would always make the elevator stop between floors and make the elevator alarm ring.
• If it was the holidays, we’d then end up in the building’s foyer breaking Christmas tree lights.
• Or find ourselves riding the dumb-waiter in the basement.
• The end result was always making our sisters cry & getting us both in trouble.
• And like the now-famous Visa credit card ads…it was priceless!
2. Very early on Mark developed a taste for outrageousness and an eye for the unusual:
• While at going to College at Rutgers in NJ Mark decided to sell exotic birds, I think they were African Grays.
• He ran ads in NY Times (this was well before the internet), took orders and collected the checks.
• The birds were at the port of entry at Kennedy Airport and he had a period of 24 hours to hold & then sell the birds?
• OOPS where to hold the birds? Mark ingeniously created the solution: He brought the birds to his mother Carole’s garage without her knowledge…I believe he sent Carole away for a “paid vacation weekend” so he could consummate the bird sales without her knowledge.
3. Mark proved to be quite a Provocative Risk-Taker:
• Taking pictures at a photo booth at Woolworth's in Athens, OH for a “photo booth” show.
• He brought a naked female model - perhaps a stripper - to join him in the photo booth.
• Unfortunately for Mark, the model’s clothes were left outside the photo booth and spied by a store supervisor and he was thrown out & banned from the local Woolworth's for life!
4. My Cousin Mark was a One-of-a-Kind and Unapologetically Himself:
• I searched old family photos to verify the rumor that he was born wearing an all-black baby outfit, carrying a black hankie, crying and mopping his brow at the same time…an unmistakable SCHWARTZ trait that became his signature look and persona.
• When we turned 17 and got our driver's licenses Mark was very firm that one day he would own and drive an Armored Car. As I look back and realize that was the genesis for what became his signature rolling fortress, his badass Black Range Rover.
5. Many if not all of you know and remember Mark as a Fearless Raconteur, Comedian & Magician:
• As a teenager Mark studied sleight-of-hand & magic, I believe in a correspondence school program.
• He was extraordinarily good at card tricks & coin-in-the-ear tricks and could captivate children and adults with his antics. I remember him honing his skills on the streets of NYC and Times Square.
• Yes, early on in life my Cousin Mark had a unique vision – and as they say in Puerto Rico – large brass cojones.
6. Mark was Doggedly Determined to Succeed:
• Mark’s Parents divorced early and my Dad Joe became a part-time Father / Authority figure, to Mark…to Mark my Dad was always “Uncle Joe” (and "Uncle Joe" is where Sophie got her middle name).
• Ever practical, my Dad was challenged by Mark the Birdman, Mark the Magician, Mark the Artist, Mark the Photographer…who could make a living doing these things?
• Despite the fact that it was clear to all of us that Mark had made a name for himself and had become extraordinarily successful through his partnership with Joyce Nesnadny, my Dad always asked him every time he would see Mark at a family function: ”So Marcus, you finally making any money with that camera of yours?"
• Though my Dad is gone over 20 years, my cousin Mark and I would frequently repeat that line to each other – clearly aware of the irony - and Mark would cackle his signature cackle. Clearly the joke had been on Uncle Joe.
7. Unshakably supportive & Unbelievably Loyal:
• Yes, my cousin was a crazy man…he had to be because he had the Coffey genes, BUT If you were on his side he always had your back…and I knew I had my back covered completely by both my Cousin Mark and his lovely wife Bettina.
8. The Center of His and Many Others’ Universe:
• I’m particularly taken by a N&S Staff comment on Mark’s Memorial site:
“The only way I can describe losing Mark is like living in a world without gravity. He was a force in every room he entered. His energy and passion was palpable and constant. I can’t believe he’s really gone. Somehow we will move forward and find a new way of doing things in this world without gravity.”
• Yes, Shawn, it is difficult to believe that Mark is no longer with us. Very difficult indeed.
# # #
Like me, Mark moved away from the family nest in Northern NJ to make a life far from home. Mark fully embraced his life in Cleveland and Cleveland – along with Tina, Sophie and Emma and his extended Nesnadny + Schwartz Family - fully became the center of his universe.
I guess in many ways Mark was my family’s gift to all of you here and to all of Cleveland.
From all of my family: Thank you for embracing & loving him back so much. I know how much it meant to him.
Mark’s was too short a life. Yet I know it was a life lived so fully and with an enormous amount of life force. Maybe he had to squeeze 100 years’ worth of living life so zestfully into 58 years that made him who he was? I dunno.
But I do know it was a life lived zestfully and to the fullest.
Goodbye Cousin Marcus – may you rest in peace. You touched the lives of each of us in so many wonderful, colorful and outrageous ways and will be sorely missed by all of us…Ya Bastard!
Scott Heller, Cousin & Partner in (many) crimes, 08.13.14
I met Mark almost 30 years ago because he was friends with my sister (Giff) and brother in law Marty. He actually moved into their house for what was to be a week (as his condo was under construction) which turned into 4 months (he even moved with them to their new house!) He relentless teased my sister for looking 'very Presbyterian' and inquired about her childhood china dog collection (I tipped him off to that and he embraced it!). Mark and I rode bikes a few times to Chagrin Falls and all suited up in his gear and gadgets (and of course sweating) would take a break to check his speed and of course smoke a few cigarettes. He made me laugh so much, and often at the most inappropriate times. I hadn't seen him for a few years, but my last memory was standing at a party bent over laughing. RIP Mark. I still can't believe I won't see you again. Carol Gifford (aka Miss Barbara)
Carol Gifford, Friend, 08.11.14
This is the transcript for the remarks that I made at the Memorial Service:
I never imagined that I would be here talking about Mark Schwartz in the past tense. Ever since Tina asked me to speak here, I have been thinking about how difficult this would be for me. It doesn't help that I can still visualize Mark sitting about three rows back rolling his eyes and mouthing, "Oh! Fuck!"
It's an honor to hold this memorial here... surely, the Cleveland Museum of Art was incredibly special to Mark. As a Board member, he was at the vanguard of a new generation of leadership. It will always be with great pride that we can say that our exhibition space for photography is named by Mark Schwartz and Tina Katz.
Today you are going to hear from five different speakers and each one will speak about Mark with a different focus. Yes, you are probably going to hear every photography analogy in the book this morning. Mark's great love was the art of photography. He started his career as a photographer... and he always continued to shoot personal work and it is amazing. Even though Mark was using a digital point and shoot camera, he turned the color off. As with everything in his life, he approached every party pic and vacation snapshot with the same serious aesthetic as if he were Robert Frank shooting The Americans. As he often said: (mainly to piss me off) "There has never been a good color photograph." That's just one example of the way he lived his life... provocatively and without compromise.
I think that we all agree that Mark's persona was larger than life. He filled the frame. Big, loud, self-confident. Laughter mixed with a liberal sprinkling of f-bombs: Mark was hard to ignore. But as he told Laura once, what makes a great photograph is not what is in the center of the frame, it's what is happening at the edges. So let me give you a few pictures of Mark and talk about what I think lies at the edges of each one.
One mental photograph of Mark is his withering disdain for conservative politicians or him telling the hilarious and scathing story of his family visit to the Creationist Museum. At the edges of those pictures is Mark's profound commitment to social justice: racial, gender and economic equality.
Mark was quick to criticize mediocrity in any form and would do so with devastating wit. But the background of that was a courageous commitment to excellence without compromise. His design firm was hired by a major international consumer brand (who shall remain nameless). This was the kind of score that agencies and design firms dream of. But Mark did what few business owners have had the courage to do.... He fired the client as soon as he realized that he would have to compromise his creative standards in order to keep the business. Nesnadny + Schwartz has been showered with awards and is recognized internationally for its work... not for being the biggest... but for being the best.
Mark was notorious for mercilessly and hilariously yanking people's chains. But that was framed by the fact that he only teased the people he was interested in. Personally, I was flattered to have my buttons pushed by Mark.
Mark did loom large, but he was always surrounded by friends and family. To be included in Mark's group portrait was special... he didn't tolerate fools well. But those who were his friends experienced his loyalty and generosity which was limitless. I always knew that if I needed it, Mark would do anything for me... and now I am so devastated that in the end I was able to do so little for Mark.
He has been such a giant influence on my life... we shared a lot of common experiences and interests, but I have always felt that he set the bar just a little bit higher.... So, I have been thinking that I will resolve, no, all of us should resolve: to laugh louder, swear more, say exactly what we think, spend more time with the people we care about and live without compromise. That's the best way we can remember Mark... and, incidentally, the best way make the world a better place.
Fred Bidwell, Friend, 08.06.14
Tina, Sophie and Emma,
I send you all my love and want you to know that yesterday was such a moving, beautiful, happy, sad, amazing experience.
I feel so lucky to have known Mark. I can still remember him dropping you off at school, leaving you with a special thought, a wink in his eye and love in his heart. My thoughts are with all of you.
Joan Moody, teacher/friend, 08.04.14
I've known Mark and the staff at N+S since I took over editing the Zoo Society's magazine in 2001. Two particular memories stand out for me: I couldn't attend when Antiques Roadshow came to town in 2003 but watched with interest when the Cleveland episodes aired that fall. One of the appraisals was a photograph brought in by a man all dressed in black who didn't seem to know that he had an original photo by Margaret Bourke-White. He seemed very interested in learning more (really, Mark??). I never did ask him about being on camera. The other memory is of the last time I talked with Mark. Late in 2013, we had finished another year of Zoo Society publications and I called to say thanks to the staff. Although I rarely spoke to Mark directly, I did that day. For once, he reserved his sarcasm and was genuinely appreciative for thanks on behalf of his staff. I'm glad I called.
PS - the transcript of the Antiques Roadshow interview is here : http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/roadshow/archive/200202A11.html
Mary McMillan, Client, Cleveland Zoological Society, 08.03.14
Kevan and I appreciated the wonderful stories shared in memory of Mark today. Though we didn't know him as well as some, his larger than life personality always drew us to him; anxiously awaiting his next quip or pearl of wisdom which were always delivered with Mark's special brand of humor and offbeat sense of timing.
We found ourselves in Mark's presence mostly at meetings of our homeowners' association which were often held at the Katz/Schwartz stunning home. As he was co-president of the association we found ourselves often siding with Mark on key issues as he had a very persuasive way of presenting his point of view.
We will miss seeing his Range Rover coming down the street, always delivering a friendly smile and wave. Even in his absence, Mark still sets the bar for his exemplary way in which to show love and compassion for others.
JUDY GREENE AND KEVAN GREENE, NEIGHBORS, ADMIRERS, 08.03.14
I want to add briefly to Lee's words below. Lee and I wore black today in Mark's honor because of his love of black and white.
But let's always cherish his colorful use of language. He added the diverse colors of humor, wit, passion, and candor to our lives.
Peggy Zone Fisher, 08.03.14
Tina, Sophie and Emma,
You are such wonderful people and a beautiful legacy. I know you will continue to support one another and use your positive energy for good, helping others, as you always have. I feel lucky our paths have met up. You are true blessings for the world. Please know I am so sorry you must endure this pain and I'm here for you. I cherish the memories of our times together and long to have more.
Elisa Malinovitz (Eliasoph), 08.03.14