Former Green Hornets football commissioner Mark Gibson always asked himself a simple but profound question: “Have I made a difference?”
Since Mark passed away from a heart attack on November 8 in his home in Lufkin, Texas, people who knew him throughout his life have answered that question with a resounding “yes.”
“He swore my daughter into the Marine Corps and my kids call him dad,” said Veronica Gibson, Mark’s wife since 2004. “He was the love of my life.”
A 59-year-old father, grandfather, husband, coach and mentor, Mark was born in Abington, Pennsylvania, and was a member of the United States Naval Academy class of 1987. He started as an assistant coach in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, and later coached in Virginia, Indiana and California upon relocating for work related to his duties in the Navy.
In 2015, Mark was recognized as a Severna Park Voice Volunteer of the Month, and he reflected on his military service.
“It was every bit of an adventure,” said Mark, who was a surface warfare officer in the Navy. “I did most of it while I was single. I deployed four times for six months or greater. And during that time, I got to go to about 35 different countries. So I’ve been all over the world.”
Mark’s oldest daughter, Elizabeth, called him an “amazing, unbelievable, strong, loving man.”
He shared that love with Elizabeth and later with Veronica, who had three children — Victoria, Jessica and Ari — who became his own kids.
Mark and Veronica moved to Severna Park in 2003. They had a son, Nate. Around 2005-2006, Mark became a Green Hornets coach, and by 2010, he was the football commissioner.
Veronica said Mark wanted to teach kids the love of football and not just how to win, a sentiment he expressed to the Voice during a 2011 interview.
“We have some really good coaches in the Green Hornets' football organization,” Mark said. “They are committed to teaching the players the game, they are committed to building successful teams — both on and off the field — and they keep the Green Hornets competitive without taking away the fun of the game for the players.”
Mark was recognized with many honors, including the Vince De Pasquale Youth Football Services Award by the Touchdown Club of Annapolis in 2015. The award recognized his years of dedication and commitment to youth football.
While Mark knew he was appreciated, he did not know how widespread the affection was for him, not only from former players but also from parents, former classmates and Navy brothers.
Robert Biever was Mark’s shipmate in the Navy for three years.
“Mark was a great man and great soul who always had a big smile and a story to tell,” Biever wrote in a Facebook post. “He used to brag about the large bank of miscellaneous trivia that he possessed, long before the Internet and Google and Wikipedia came along. He was a kind man and always willing to step in and help you.”
Scott Anderson wrote how Mark was a “kind, sincere and genuine person all of his life.” Anderson and Mark shared fond memories playing football together during youth, watching Army-Navy games, and later in life, competing in pickup football games each year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
“He was a gentleman, a patriot, and just an all-around good and decent person,” Anderson said. “I will miss him and consider myself very lucky to have had many memories with him and for his friendship.”
Karen Fox volunteered as a team mom during Mark’s tenure as Green Hornets commissioner, since all four of her sons played the sport. She partnered with Mark on fundraisers, equipment handouts and turn-ins, and whatever else the program needed.
“He was always so kind, and his commitment to his volunteer position was unparalleled,” Fox said. “It truly was a labor of love for him. The only thing he loved more than football was his family. He beamed whenever he would talk about his wife or children. He always called Veronica his ‘much better half.’
“There are not many people in my history with the Hornets who did more or worked harder than Mark. I will miss him.”
Green Hornets football assistant coach Ryan Keegan said, “He would go out of his way to do anything for anybody. For someone to give that much of their time as commissioner and then to come and be our coach, the commitment was huge.”
Mark and Veronica moved to Texas two years ago, and Mark was in charge of grant-writing for the Lufkin Youth Football League.
Veronica said Mark went to see a cardiologist just two days before the “widowmaker” heart attack claimed his life. The family was stunned, but Veronica takes comfort in seeing the outpouring of love people have shared for Mark.
“I wish he knew how much of an impact he made on everybody,” Veronica said.