In July 2009, Sgt. Mark Gallagher left the comfort of his Maritime home for a nine-month stint in Haiti. He was involved with the training of police officers there, as part of the UN’s international peacekeeping mission.
While spending the Christmas holidays at home with his family in Northampton, N.B., Mark had a difficult time reconciling his Canadian lifestyle with the misery and poverty he had witnessed in Haiti.
He had just returned to Port-au-Prince to complete his mission when the quake hit on Jan. 12. Mark died in the rubble of his rented apartment.
The Saint John Telegraph-Journal described Mark as "one of New Brunswick's most beloved Mounties." He had been with the RCMP since 1998, working primarily in community and media relations. Before that, he had spent 14 years as a police officer in Moncton.
"Mark was a very personable individual," remembers long-time friend and RCMP Chaplain Karl Ingersoll. "He was just genuinely interested in other people, how they thought, their outlooks and opinions. And people can't fake that."
Working in community and media relations, Mark was often featured in stories about the RCMP.
Mark was an avid member of the “6 a.m. Running Club” in Moncton, where he earned the unlikely nickname of "Puddles."
Karl Ingersoll — a fellow runner — laughs as he remembers the origin of that moniker: "Mark would always try to get to know the new runners who were just starting. He would look for the first rainy morning, when there would be standing water on the pavement, and then discreetly run beside the new person. When he got near a puddle he would just jump up in the air and land flat-footed with both feet in that puddle; he could soak the person next to him without getting wet himself. Everyone knew it was going to happen, except the new person. We all felt that after Mark had done his thing, the new runner was officially part of our group. He was like our baptizer."
Working with the UN in Haiti
At the time of his death, Mark was helping with the training of police officers in Haiti.
"He had long talked about wanting to do a UN mission of some sort, some humanitarian mission where he could use his training as a police officer to help out," says Karl Ingersoll. "For Mark, there always had to be greater meaning — a job was never just a job, a friendship was never just a friendship. Nothing was superficial in his world."
Mark's funeral was held on Jan. 28 at St. Gertrude's Roman Catholic Church in Woodstock, N.B. The service was broadcast live to the Carleton Civic Centre in Woodstock and the Wesleyan Church in Moncton.
Mark was remembered as someone devoted to helping and inspiring others.
At the service, Mark's wife Lisa remembered his love of sailing: "I'm quite convinced that Mark Charles is at the helm today of a 40-foot Pacific Seacraft. He's in 20 knots of wind with all of his sails up including the spinnaker and he’s on a beam reach. His cellphone is on one hip, his BlackBerry is on the other, one hand is on the wheel and the other is holding a huge bag of Lay's potato chips."
"Mark is with each of us, encouraging us to dig deeper for patience, to dig deeper for strength and for the determination to make a difference."
Mark is survived by his wife Lisa and their two children, Shane and Heather.
Courtesy of CBC