Palo Alto Online - Lasting Memories - Mark Britton Hancock's memorial

Mark Britton Hancock
June 4, 1951-May 26, 2024
Renton, WA

When death is sudden, shock sets in, and then awareness of all the unfinished business left behind emerges. Mark Hancock, always prepared, a master of “Punch Lists,” documentation, accurate and factual, was not prepared, he was not finished.

His sudden unexpected death, on Sunday, May 26, 2024, is a shock that has been felt around the world. It is nearly impossible to grasp how a vital, seemingly healthy, “Energizer Bunny” man could be gone. A heart attack. The Silent Killer.

Mark often reflected on his exciting and eventful life, and he was clear that he had no regrets. He said he had lived a full life. Many who know him know that it would take a book to detail that life. Among his many lists he had countless “Chronologies” (as he called them), the list of his life events, historic concerts, and extensive global travels. Mark was born June 4, 1951, at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, California. His parents settled in South Palo Alto, where subdivisions of post-WWII homes suddenly sprung up from the pasturelands. Palo Alto was evolving around him, becoming the center of the universe for many extraordinary lives; discoveries that shaped our world, and new economies emerging that continue to form the world today. Mark’s life has left an indelible mark, a legacy that has changed many lives.

And to say that this trajectory of experience shaped Mark would miss many dimensions of who he was and his limitless curiosity. Mark loved birds, he carried a bird caller, could identify them by sound, and talk to them. He built places for them to nest and rejoiced as they returned to his yard each year. All creatures were precious to him. Whenever he found a spider or other crawling creature in the house, he captured them gently and took them outside to their habitat. He loved and cherished his parents (both educators), who immersed him in an environment of opportunities and provided him with a broad spectrum of life. They provided a rich education, which included: global travel, the arts, political activism, and vast experiences that would guide and shape his life. His inherited passion for world travel inspired him to take each parent to Norway, Alaska, Australia, and more, in their later years.

Space fascinated Mark. He would get up in the middle of the night to watch a rocket launch. He chased many space events, from Cape Canaveral to the path of totality for a recent eclipse. He was tapped into the universe and its movements. Mark’s heart belonged to the communities where he lived and worked, and so many long-term personal relationships. He had a unique gift for recognizing humanity. When a friend’s husband was killed by a drunk driver Mark attended the trial and witnessed the guilty verdict. When the families of the driver and the victim emerged from the courtroom, Mark realized the despair experienced in each group, separately grieving in the lobby. He seized the opportunity to introduce the families and in his gifted style created an introduction that brought them together in love and forgiveness.

At planning commissions or city council meetings, it was said that he was always present and prepared, forever pushing for the right thing, and although it could be distracting, or intense at times, his input and guidance created progress, advanced growth, and assured important outcomes. These stories flowed from Los Angeles to Fort Collins, to St Louis, and the Pacific Northwest.

Mark was quirky to the point of distraction and fascinating in a way that he could carry an audience through his endless stories, especially about his 1967 classroom experience known as The Wave. When he accessed his memory, it was like opening a folder in a computer directory. He could uncannily sort and recall an event. And once a folder opened the stories flowed and flowed. And equally uncanny, he had documentation to support the stories he told.

He was always proud to share that he had an architecture degree from UC Berkeley. Having lived through burning buildings and protests of the ‘60s, he took his degree into a proper career in land development. He managed large projects, including shopping malls and subdivisions throughout the Western US. Representing owners and developers of these parcels, he interfaced with governments and communities to successfully create complex and enduring projects for which he was very proud. He returned time and again to the developers and the projects to reflect upon their achievements.

His development career ended when the 2008 financial meltdown shifted the economy. This transition allowed Mark to reconsider his life and realize that he could transform his passion for community activism into the social justice nonprofit world. At the age of 60, he organized his resources, did his research, and returned to school to earn a Master Nonprofit Leadership degree at Seattle University, believing that he would make a difference in what was becoming the center of the nonprofit universe.

Mark was an artist and a visionary, and so became an avid photographer inspired by the work of Ansel Adams. He still has cameras, lenses, film, and light room equipment that he used to create work that hangs on the walls of his home. His photographs have been published in magazines, on rock music websites, and featured as the CD art for his friend, a legendary guitarist.

On the adventurous side of life, Mark took on ballooning in the ‘70s in partnership with his best friend and advisor. Mark participated in rallies, crewing, and chasing balloons at events all over the country; eventually earning his official FAA Balloon Pilot license. Mark’s participation in the early growth of the sport will be commemorated with a tile on the “Forever Wall,” at the world-famous international balloon museum in Albuquerque.

A driving force in Mark’s adult life was to leave a legacy of the student’s lessons learned in the Cubberley Contemporary World History Class of 1967, now known as The Wave. The Wave story was, by then a story that had been told globally, published in books, seen on TV, performed on stage, and in movies. He and his classmates produced a documentary called “Lesson Plan” in 2010. The documentary became the platform from which he finally dedicated his life, telling the story in local, national, and international speaking engagements. He was asked to speak at the UN; was interviewed many times by international news media; and had spoken in theaters and schools around the world.

Prior to the pandemic, Mark began to realize a new potential for telling his story. He enrolled in the Holocaust and Genocide Studies program at Gratz College and will be awarded an Honorary PhD. The premise of the dissertation was to create a curriculum tool to support schools in educating students on the potential and significance of extremism. The unfinished story will be completed and published to honor Mark’s life work.

Mark is survived by his life partner, Lisa Goldsmith, and his sisters Gaye and Autumn Hancock. He will be interred at Alta Mesa Memorial Park in Palo Alto, near his father and other family members. Memorial services are being held in Palo Alto and in the Pacific Northwest.

Tags: arts/media, teacher/educator, business, public service

0 entries Submit a remembrance
Upload a video
Memorial service
To be announced - after Labor Day.
Make a donation
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that a donation be made to the charity of your choice in Mark’s name.

About this site     Contact us