Ho-Chunk staff offer memorial observance for Mark Gawron

By Ken Luchterhand

Mark Gawron touched many lives with the Ho-Chunk Nation, having worked with the Ho-Chunk Nation’s Department of Natural Resources.
Mark, 55, was called to his heavenly home on Monday, August 20, 2018.
In honor of him, a memorial observance was held on Wednesday, Dec. 12 at the Tribal Office Building.
His wife, Jody, was present for the ceremony, along with Jody’s father.
“Thank you all for this wonderful memorial for Mark. It’s been tough. He was ill for about a year and we really appreciate everything you’ve done for him,” Jody said.
“He loved working here. He loved the people, he loved the land and he loved trees, so it’s just a wonderful place. Thank you so much,” she said.
She accepted gifts, including a Pendleton blanket, string art in the shape of a tree, a plaque, and a set of wind chimes.
DNR Director Greg Blackdeer offered words of highest regards for Mark.
“Mark started working for the Ho-Chunk Nation as the Forestry Technician 1 in September 2007. During that time, some changes took place and in September 2008, a Forestry position was created. Mark interviewed for that position along with one other individual and I’d like to go on to say that was, I sat in on the interview panel and Mark did a lot of studying,” Blackdeer said.
“I think that was one of the longest interviews I sat on. Each question took probably about 10 minutes to answer. He had everything written out just so, learned a little bit about other tribes, forestry programs, incorporated that into the Ho-Chunk Nation,” he said.
In February 2017, another title change occurred and then his position was titled as the Rural Lands Forester, dealing with all the properties outside of the communities. Again, another change occurred in July 2017, that’s when the Ho-Chunk Nation Legislative resolution Executive Department of Natural Resources was born. He kept his title as the Rural Lands Forester up until his time of retirement.
“It was just so hard to come up with things to say for Mark. In the time that I hired Mark and worked with Mark, I noticed that he was very passionate about his job. As I mentioned earlier in his interview for the Forestry position, he took a lot of time to study tribally cultural-sensitive topics and he incorporated those into his position,” Blackdeer said.
“Over the years, working in the Division of Natural Resources with Mark and working in the Legislative office over here, I had an office on that side of the building. I’d go over to sign checks and I’d look outside and there would be Mark outside with his bird feeders and a little bird house. Every now and then I’d see him out there, cleaning the bird feeder, putting more seed in it. I’d like to think that he enjoyed birdwatching,” Blackdeer said.
“Mark was well liked by a lot of his coworkers within the department. He touched a lot of lives in this building, just from his amazing personality, his happiness. He was willing to sit down and listen to each and every one of us. I’m sure that some of the guys who worked with him have stories,” he said.
“I was trying to think of snacks, refreshments for afterwards. The one thing that he always – I always got a chuckle out of is his – he’d bring yogurt in to work and I’d be sitting in my office. I’d say, ‘What in heck is that noise?’ You could hear him taking his spoon, going around in that yogurt container, trying to get every last drop of that yogurt out. That’s Mark,” Blackdeer said.
In the Spring of 2019, the Department of Natural Resources, President Cleveland, and anyone who would like to partake, plan to plant a tree on the campus in honor of Mark for his years of service, for his compassion, and for forestry. A plaque will be placed by that tree.
President Wilfrid Cleveland offered his words of praise for Mark.
“He was passionate with the work that he did and I feel that Ho-Chunk Nation was quite fortunate to be able to have someone of Mark’s caliber and Mark’s love for nature, for the environment,” Cleveland said.
“It seems like that is one of the things that was meant to be because, over the years, we as Ho-Chunk people our elders showed us to be that way and he comes along and works within our forestry department and he had that compassion for all of God’s creation. He demonstrated it, like some examples that Greg was talking about and how he did and what he did with our lands and how he took care of them for us with all of his expertise with his love that he had for the environment,” Cleveland said.
“I thought it was fitting that we would do something for him. We talked about it and the Nation was at a loss when he left his walk of life and we knew he was going to a good place. We, as human beings, we have that heaviness within our hearts and our spirits for him being gone from our midst,” Cleveland said.
Blackdeer thanked his wife Jody and Jody’s father for coming to the ceremony.
“On behalf of the Ho-Chunk nation, on behalf of a fabulous, great employee that we had over the years that he was here with us, I’d like to express this and I appreciate you and your father coming in to accept what we want to do on behalf of Mark,” Blackdeer said.