22 June 2008

A Man Is Dead

The story leaves me stunned even today.

It involves a good friend from my high school days, whose name made the news around the nation late last week. But I will not have the same reaction as many others. For I knew who the victim was, and what he believed in.

I met Mark McCalla some 34 years ago in a study hall when we were sophomores in high school. We kept in touch on and off since graduation 30 years ago this month. Mark and I had exchanged emails in a flurry over a period of days last weekend because he was planning to be back in Columbus to see his mom and dad for Father's Day. I half expected him to knock on my door that day after a bike ride took him through my neighborhood.

I never heard from him and I never will again.

On Friday, I received the sad news that my friend, Pastor Mark McCalla, just hours after serving breakfast to more than 150 young people at a church camp sponsored by his Highlawn Presbyterian Church, had been brutally murdered.

Killed with a single gunshot to the head, his body was dragged some 100 feet away from where he was shot, and dumped in the brush in West Virginia's Beech Fork State Park. The sheriff says there is no question it was a homicide. He is speculating that Mark may have been the victim of a robbery as his wallet is missing. Two of Mark's firearms are missing.

The church community is stunned. The people in the area in which he lived are stunned. My classmates and I from high school are stunned. In fact, Mark had been badgering me about my lack of interest in attending a reunion next month.

He hunted when I knew him 30 years ago. The incident took place at the state park rifle range, a place Mark visited often. He was an avid outdoorsman who had bicycled competitively in the U.S. and Europe, and had taught kayaking at Marshall University. He still loved to jump on a bike or paddle a rough river.

He was a family man, a pastor who loved his job. He loved his four kids. His son, Ben, has been keeping Mark's friends back in Columbus informed about what is going on with memorial services. I knew Mark as someone who had the gift of gab. He could talk about anything. His friends at Highlawn Presbyterian say he had a way of weaving different ideas in a dynamic way to make a point, rather than just simply preach. He didn't just lecture, he taught.

Yes, I can say I have now been touched by "gun violence." That is such a trite phrase. Do you know what "trite" means? Among other definitions, it means "hackneyed," and "stale." Here is the best one: "lacking in freshness or effectiveness because of constant use or excessive repetition." THAT describes this tired, overused, meaningless two-word phrase better than any other definition.

It is bandied about by gun control extremists and apparently sympathetic "victims" more than anyone else. But they say it hoping that the public will feel empathy. Yet, both the antis and the uninformed public, or the general public for that matter, would think it odd to use a phrase such as "knife violence," or "baseball bat violence," or "fist violence." But we don't, do we?

This phrase is most often trotted out to advocate more draconian restrictions -- not on criminals -- but on an inanimate object.

And yet, despite my devastation at the loss of a classmate, a good man, a good parent, a man of God, I do not blame the gun. I worry for his wife, his parents, and his children. I worry for his parents, who have lost a child. I wonder if they will blame the gun -- instead of blaming the violent scum who preyed upon an individual who spent the past 30 years "helping" people. Helping friends and strangers, alike.

I want criminals hauled in and punished, just like anyone else. In a case like this, perhaps I want the guilty party or parties brutally punished . . . I don't know for sure what I think. I'm still numb . . .

A man is dead.

Today, there is a debate over whether lethal injection should be abolished. It is "inhumane," people say. I don't know where Mark was on the death penalty. I supported it for decades, but have had reservations recently -- mostly because DNA testing is proving that a lot of people on Death Row do not belong there.

But for Mark's killers, I think, a firing squad is in order.

Just my personal opinion, in the heat of the moment, after having been touched by violence (gun or otherwise).

For what it's worth . . .


Anonymous said...

jesus dude...sorry to hear about your friend.

who does this sort of thing? i agree its not about the gun, it is about the deed and not a firearm.

Anonymous said...

What a shame - an man that was truly a benefit to society taken away.........
As far as punishment for the killer(s) of a fine man - forget the firing squad, let's bring back public hangings in the town square.

Anonymous said...

So sorry for your loss, Brent.

A., Esq.

kaveman said...

His punishment should be 5 minutes alone with Mark's friends and family.

Whatever they decide gets done.

jonathan said...

i am sorry for your loss.

but i'd like you to consider this: if this cretin were caught, tried, and executed by the federal government, it would be done on my behalf as well, as a taxpayer myself.

i cannot accept that.

i also suggest that, should the cretin come to trial on a more local level, you would still likely be able to find someone much like me, who cannot morally accept such a killing on their behalf at the hands of the state.

this cretin is guilty, but one day, an innocent man will be put to death by the state, and on that day we will all be murderers. perhaps it has already come to pass, but like any crime, that does not make it right, nor justifiable.

Brent Greer said...

jonathan...thanks for your note, but did you read everything I wrote?

DJK said...


I'm sorry for your loss...and the family's loss. This is horrible. I hope they catch the scum and he gets what's coming to him. If that's death by the feds....cool by me.

JIm Taylor said...

I am distressed at this news and am extremely saddened by your loss. While I never met him, he was brother in many ways. May the Lord comfort his family and friends.

Jim Taylor

Anonymous said...

Mark was a good man and friend, although I lost contact with him when he left Corry, Pa. I still have my kayak and haven't paddled it since Mark left. I am still in shock having just learned of his death. I am sorry that I lost contact, but it was Mark's decision to cut ties with members of his former church. I respected that as much as I disagreed with it. I can not even imagine what Pam is going through. My heart goes out to Mark's family.
As for the use of the death penalty against Mark's murderer(s), the decision belongs to the prosecutor in the District Attorney's Office. Personally, I hope the prosecutor looks at Mark's life for inspiration when making the decision.
This is hard to understand. Why someone would want to harm Mark. He has been at gun point before in South America, when his vehicle was taken from him. He knew how to keep his cool and survive.
It is now up to the men and women investigating Mark's homicide to find and prosecute the person or people responsible. He was my friend and a friend to the Thin Blue Line.
Peter Schaefer

Gary said...


I was researching Mark's death and came across your blog and enjoyed
the article. Mark and I played football, biked, and hiked together, and both of us went through the criminology program at OSU and had plans to get on CPD for few years then maybe go to Belfast for a while. We ended up taking different paths, the couple of years with CPD have turned into 24 and Mark ended up obviously in the ministry.

I was kind of numbed when Jens Munk, another classmate of ours, called and told me about Mark getting shot and killed, even though I've been on both ends of "gun violence" you mentioned. After all these years seeing this kind of violence it becomes surreal. I've had friends
gunned down on the force and just this past April, my partner and
another team member where shot during one of our search warrants and don't get me wrong it doesn't get any closer to home than that, but you kind of expect it when we've done over 4'000 tactical entries and other high risk missions.

Mark's death was different; definitely not expected, and especially not in that manner. I went to the visitation down in WV and his dad said that he would have accepted his child's death if it were a cycling or kayaking accident, but getting shot was
unfathomable. I couldn't agree more.

Again, nice article and keep up the good fight.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I remember Mark when we rode/raced bikes a bit back in the early 80's at OSU (he was always alot faster than me!!!). I lost touch with Mark after graduating and moving to Dayton.

It was interesting to read about the direction Mark's life took and I'm sure he was very happy and found his calling to be rewarding. How much more sad this makes the tragic circumstances surrounding his death.

My thoughts and prayers are with his family.


Brent Greer said...

Yes, he was one of the good guys!