Mark Sertich, 99, of Duluth, MN died peacefully surrounded by friends and family on August 24th, 2020.Mark was born on July 18th, 1921 in Ashland, WI. A quiet, humble, first generation American, Mark was the son of hard-working Eastern European immigrants, growing up in a family that valued the freedoms that their new home afforded them; most notably, protection from tyranny and oppression. Mark often reminded his children of those human rights, as he would recount his experiences and memories of serving our country in World War II. Mark led an amazing life. As a young lad, he learned the values of hard work and self-sufficiency, traits that formed his personality, and were interwoven into everything he accomplished throughout his 99 years on this planet. As a child, Mark grew up under the watchful eyes of his mother, Josephine, and his father, Marko. He was a 1939 graduate of Denfeld High School, and later attended The Duluth Business School. He struck gold when he met the love of his life, Virginia, and later married her on April 11, 1942. In late 1942, Mark was called to serve his country in the US Army. Mark trained with the 3rd Army, 11th Armored Division at Fort Benning in Georgia, and served under General George Patton’s European command. Mark was a high-speed radio operator in the Armored Division, and saw intense combat, especially during the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes region of Belgium, the last German offensive campaign on the Western Front. Mark was a highly decorated combat veteran, earning many medals and commendations. During the 3 years he spent in World War II, Mark’s unit liberated the Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria. A normally quiet man, Mark passionately spoke of the horrors and injustice of what he saw when a tyrannical dictator attempted to take over the world during those very dark years in world history. He would later remind his children, through photos and his personal eye-witness accounts, that freedom is not free. Mark and Virginia raised seven children in their home in West Duluth. Mark barely had a moment to himself, as he put in his hours at the Board of Trade Building, working as a manager with the Peavey Company, then returning home to seven lively children who craved his playful and energetic spirit, and a beautiful wife who needed to rest a little. His “free time” was spent teaching his children how to skate, play hockey, throw a ball, ride a bike, swim, run, and do homework. He had high expectations and ran a tight ship. Later, he volunteered in youth sports, and his coaching skills enabled many up and coming young hockey and baseball players to realize their potential. As the kids grew up, and child rearing waned, Mark found more free time, and was able to focus on his own needs. An energetic, athletic man, Mark embarked upon many new fitness endeavors. After 42 years with Peavey Company (which later became Con-Agra), Mark retired at age 62, and this would mark the beginning of many years of remarkable, new accomplishments. He didn’t walk, but ran to confront personal challenges. He competed in, and finished 7 Grandma’s Marathons, The Senior Olympics, and 11 in-line marathons. Mark partook in anything that could enable him to move and stay healthy. With his competitive spirit fully engaged, Mark became serious about perfecting his own hockey playing skills, and his notoriety is now a part of history. For over 40 years, Mark traveled every summer to Santa Rosa, CA to participate in the Snoopy Senior World Hockey Tournament. One of his most notable teammates was Charles Schultz. It was at those hockey tournaments that Mark gained his most recent notoriety. As he quietly aged into his 90’s, many people began to notice. Mark achieved local, national, and international recognition, as news outlets clamored for interviews that could possibly explain how this remarkable man could continue to play competitive ice hockey well into his nineties. Always, Mark was a good sport, as he willingly shared his insights and anecdotal stories of ice hockey and general fitness. Frequently, he wondered aloud what all the fuss was about. In 2017, at the age of 96, Mark was certified as the Oldest Living Competitive Ice Hockey Player in The World by the Guinness Book of World Records. The following year, he broke his own record, and was again certified at age 97. Throughout his hockey playing years, Mark enjoyed competing at the Duluth Heritage Ice Arena 3 times/week, where he cultivated lifelong friendships with his teammates in the morning hockey league. One of his favorite post-hockey activities was “coffee in Mark’s kitchen”, where he would gather with his hockey buddies around his table, and in his words, “solve all the world’s problems”. The coffee clutch, comprised of Bob, Butch, Will, Swanny, Mike, Rick, Donny, Craig, Joe, Rick, Doug, Lynn, and Dane, were all instrumental in fueling Mark’s keen debate skills, and keeping him competitive on the ice. Along with Jeannie Schultz in CA, they would later report and verify those observations, submitting proper documentation required to the Guinness Book of World Record certifiers. Mark now has 2 Guinness Book of World Records awards. In May 2019 Mark added to his impressive list of awards when he joined many illustrative, accomplished athletes, as he was inducted into the Duluth Entertainment Center Athletic Hall of Fame. Mark survived the recent COVID-19 lockdown by working out on his stationery bike in his living room, along with daily calisthenics and strength training. He looked forward to lacing up his skates once again and was able to resume his skating once the rink reopened. Mark continued playing ice hockey right up to his 99th birthday in July. From his front porch, Mark was able to safely view the drive-by parade honoring him and savor all the love and enthusiasm surrounding him. Tragically, one week later, Mark was diagnosed with metastatic cancer and later suffered a stroke. His illness was brief. Through it all, Mark maintained his sharp wit and sense of humor, and continued to express his gratification of a life well lived. In true form, Mark was humble and strong right to the very end, sharing his insights about end of life, and how he envisioned his next chapter would be written. With a twinkle in his eye, Mark quipped, “Virginia and the rest of the saints will turn me away at the pearly gates.” Mark, we know that didn’t happen. You have been welcomed home with open arms, and you are now reunited with your one and only true love. Mark’s family and friends are heartbroken but take comfort in knowing that he was at peace and knew how very much he was loved and revered. His legacy will never be forgotten. Mark is survived by his 7 children and their spouses, Carole (Randy) Janke; Mark (Kelly) Sertich; Michael “Mick” (Carol) Sertich; Steven “Steve” (Carol) Sertich; Cynthia (James) Flood; Timothy “Tim” (Patty) Sertich; Patricia “Patty” Sertich, 18 grandchildren, 40 great grandchildren, 17 great-great grandchildren, and his sister, Katherine Gasman. Mark was preceded in death in 2004 by his loving wife of 62 years, Virginia; sister Mary Palovich; brother Drauga Sertich; grandson Jeffrey Blackwood; son-in-law Allan Fosness.Family and friends are welcome to gather for Visitation from 9-11 AM on Monday, August 31 at First Memorial Funeral Chapel, (4100 Grand Ave), and at 12:15 for a Catholic Graveside Service at Oneota Cemetery, (6403 Highland Street). Honor Guards will be present at the cemetery. CDC guidelines for COVID19 will be enforced, and all visitors will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing. In lieu of flowers, Mark’s family requests donations to Essentia Duluth Heritage Center, 120 South N. 30th Ave. W. Duluth, MN 55806, in care of Dane Youngblom. Mark’s family wishes to extend their gratitude to Essentia Hospice for their exceptional home care and guidance.
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