Mark Obert, Jr., dreamed big from a very young age. He wore a suit for his first grade photo because he believed he would one day be President. But his love of cars changed all that. He won First Place in a Houston High School competition for work he had proudly done on his 1998 Honda. In fact, he had loved the project so much, that he made plans to own a car shop one day. However, his dreams were divided. In a senior video assignment about the next 10 years of his life, not only did he mention owning a car shop, but he also said he wanted to become a fireman! Further, he said he couldn’t wait to be out on his own and own a home in the future! He was a fun loving guy too. He loved playing with the family border collie, Dude. He even taught Dude to play tag football!
Mark was an active kid and loved sports. But in the 9th grade, he sustained a compound fracture in his left arm that required a metal plate. After the surgery, he was told he would not be able to play football. He was disappointed, but made it a priority to stay active and in top physical shape. When he started attending Middle Tennessee State University, he join a Mixed Martial Arts team. He also pledged for Sigma Nu. He chose them because their creed to be a gentleman really inspired him. He had been confirmed at St. Georges Episcopal Church at a young age. He believed in Christ and always tried to help others. To Mark, everyone was a friend.
Mark’s mom, Connie, says that he was very loving! He was very close to his younger sister, Kim. It had already been decided that, when the time came, Mark would be the one to walk her down the aisle. His grandfather (Jim Boldreghini) was a big part of Mark’s life, as well. He always listened to the advice his grandfather gave him.
On June 27, 2007, Mark was with friends, but had not been drinking. Mark and his girlfriend were on the phone discussing their concern for another girl who had been drinking. Mark’s girlfriend asked him to not let the girl drive home. He wanted to make sure she made it safely, so he got into the car with her. But he was not behind the wheel. Nor was he able to get out of the Mustang she was driving before she t-boned an SUV. The 25 year-old driver of the SUV was killed in the crash. Mark, at age 19, was sent to the hospital where he died on July 4, two days before his sister’s 18th birthday.
A friend of Mark’s who delivered the eulogy at his funeral said that Mark was known “for never holding back. He always challenged people to attempt their dreams.” Sigma Nu was so impressed with Mark’s character that they pursued and acquired approval to initiate him posthumously in a very touching ceremony.
Connie says, “I have always loved July 4th and the patriotism of the USA. But now when I hear fireworks, all I can remember is the fact that this was the last enjoyable thing Mark did from his room at The MED (The Regional Medical Center at Memphis.) It’s a very emotional holiday. I miss him so much and his whole-hearted hugs that were full of so much love. My world was turned upside down when we were told there had been a crash.”
Their whole family was impacted by that crash. Mark’s grandfather (Mr. B.) was so grieved that his health rapidly declined and he died on July 8, 2010, three years after Mark. Mark was not the one to walk his sister, Kim, down the aisle. He gave no toast at her wedding reception.
Today, nine years after the crash, Connie still keeps a photo of him in every room. She speaks at MADD Victim Impact Panels and to driving school students in hopes that at least one person will listen to his story and make the right choice. “I tell the students that Mark is only one of millions and millions of stories that should never have happened.”