“It’s not what you do in life that’s most important, it’s how you live your life.”
Mark I. Hamilton of Walpole, Maine, left this life on Monday, November 26, surrounded by his family in the Intensive Care Unit at Maine Medical Center in Portland. He was 70.
The second child and only son of Geraldine MacLean and The Rev. William John Hamilton, Mark was born on February 11, 1948. He grew up in West Roxbury, Mass., and Benton Harbor, Mich., and spent his summers in Ocean Park, Maine, which became a foundational and lifelong home for him.
In 1969, he graduated from Elmhurst College in Illinois and then spent years avoiding his call to the ministry. He went to graduate school at the University of Rhode Island to earn a master’s in philosophy and, perhaps, become a university professor. Instead after school he worked for Manpower and did construction, lighting, maintenance jobs, moved furniture, was a sexton at a church, and finally became a furniture salesman for Allen Furniture in Needham Heights, Mass.
Mark also served as a youth minister at East Congregational Church in Milton, Mass. While he was on a retreat in western Massachusetts with youth from that church, he discovered he could no longer run from the ministry. He soon enrolled at Andover Newton Theological School in Newton, Mass., where he studied part time for six years and continued to work for Allen Furniture. In 1985, at the age of 37, Mark was ordained as a pastor in the United Church of Christ (UCC).
Over the next 29 years, he served five churches, first as an associate pastor in Storrs, Conn., and then as pastor at churches in Gloucester, Mass.; Methuen, Mass.; Rochester, N.H.; and New Port Richey, Fla. In addition to his ministry in those churches, he held volunteer leadership positions in the Massachusetts and New Hampshire UCC conferences. He retired in September 2014 and moved to Walpole with his wife, Sally. They became members of Second Congregational Church in Newcastle, where Mark served as a deacon and sang in the choir.
Mark’s ministry was anchored in love. It is the basic building block of life, he always said, and without it everything you have can evaporate. Relationships, he believed, are the most important piece of life. His parishoners came to trust that, his open and gentle spirit, his compassion, his loving warmth and kindness, his laughter and positive nature. They knew they were safe with him.
Mark was a peace maker who protested against war and fought social injustices in the communities where he served. He worked with abused women and children, the homeless, in food pantries and on affordable housing for low income people. He believed and practiced in his life that we all are equal. “There is one humanity,” he said. “We are all God’s people. Until the world knows that, we will continue to have wars and injustices committed in the name of a particular God.” This message was not unique to Mark, nevertheless, he viewed himself as a bit of a renegade in the ministry and in life.
In the Damariscotta area, Mark continued his advocacy, serving on the board of the affordable housing group, Stepping Stone Housing, working at the Ecumenical Food Pantry, being a founding member of People United Against Racism and Helping Hands for Immigrants, and as a facilitator for the Restorative Justice Project of the Midcoast.
In his private life, Mark was athletic and passionate. If it included a ball, he played it. He ran two Boston Marathons, rode the 350-mile Tanqueray AIDS bike ride to raise money for AIDS research and care, and the Pan Mass Challenge bike ride to raise funds for cancer research at Dana Farber. He loved flower gardening, the ocean, walking the beach, and reading. He loved to sing in church choirs and in retirement participated in musical theater productions.
Mark was predeceased by his parents and his sister, Susan Hamilton Larson. He is survived by his wife, Sally; his two sons, Justin and his wife Leah and their son Chase, and Nathaniel and his wife Caitlin; his stepson, William Tawney; his former wife, Catherine Hamilton; and cousins, nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held in his honor on Saturday, December 8, at 1 p.m. at the Second Congregational Church in Newcastle, Maine. Burial will be at Oak Grove Cemetery in Gloucester, Mass., in the spring.
Arrangements are under the direction and care of the Strong-Hancock Funeral Home, 612 Main Street, Damariscotta, ME 04543. Condolences, and messages for his family, may be expressed by visiting: www.StrongHancock.com.