A Friend to Us All: On the Loss of Mark Bennett

Mark and Heather Hahn, from Mark's Facebook page.
Trista di Genova, The Wild East

It happened in the early hours of Saturday, Jan. 22.

Many may have missed the short piece published in the Taipei Times, detailing that: “A 32-year-old British man was hit and killed by a taxi in Taipei City early on Saturday morning. Taipei police said Mark Paul Bennett was hit as he was crossing at the corner of Jilin Road and Minquan E Rd at about 3am …”

Police said the 70-year-old taxi driver of the taxi, Chen Chin-tsang (陳金藏), was driving illegally; by law cabbies must be under the age of 68. Chen was charged with accidental homicide in the workplace and fined for driving a taxi illegally. Police said Chen, as well as his passenger, said the taxi was crossing the junction on a green light…

The case is still ongoing, but the family hopes it can be stressed to people “the importance of checking taxi driver’s license when taking a cab.” They added that the light on that street corner was out for a few months and that it was fixed less than a day after the accident.

I didn’t know Mark personally, but I heard about what happened from a still-stunned Charlie Chang at a Da An Park Sunday picnic a week later. Mark Bennett was “the friendliest chap you ever knew,” Charlie said, shaking his head, “the friendliest I’ve ever met in Taipei, a great guy. Great people die…”

Charlie had just attended the funeral on Friday, Jan. 28th, at a Catholic church on Minsheng E. Rd. At the funeral service were roughly 70 people, he said, mostly foreigners, although many of Mark’s Taiwanese friends and work colleagues were there at his funeral. Mark was equally a friend to the local people, it has been pointed out.

Afterwards, about 30 attendees held a get-together at the Sterling Bar in Mark’s remembrance, and then moved to Revolver, where Mark had spent his last evening…

There was something about the suddenness of Mark’s loss that struck me, and how little public means for his friends to talk about their grief and pay tribute to him. True, traffic accidents are apparently the Number One Killer of foreigners in Taiwan, and everyone needs to be aware of how — er “offensively defensive” I call it — one must be in this chaotic, hyperurbanized environment. But when the tables were turned, when another British national was involved in a hit-and-run accident this past year that took the life of a Taiwanese motorcyclist, an anti-foreigner media circus ensued. So this loss of one of our own in the foreign community by an aged taxi driver seemed to me, at least, so … anticlimactic, treated by authorities as little more than another traffic fatality.

Nevertheless, the sad news of Mark’s loss spread like wildfire through word-of-mouth, Forumosa.com threads, and through the Taiwan football network, since he was an avid footballer. The Taipei Animals described Mark in an announcement as “a member of our Taiwan and football community … a former Taipei Animal, English teacher and good friend to many of us.”

It was very clear to me that Mark is still acutely missed here in Taiwan, not just among his many friends, but his girlfriend, Heather Hahn whom he planned to marry, as well as his shocked parents. I approached Heather to talk more about Mark, his life, his plans and contributions.

Friends of Mark, please feel free to post your tribute and remembrances of him below. As for myself, somehow I feel instinctively that Mark was a friend to all of us, even to those such as myself who unfortunately hadn’t met him yet.

Mark Bennett and Heather Hahn, from Mark's Facebook page...

Trista: Can you tell us about Mark’s background; what were your plans together, and what did he think of Taiwan?

Heather: I met Mark over the summer at a pool party. I’d seen him at a drum’n’bass party the week before and he had seen me. When I showed up at the pool party he walked right up to me and said, “You’re Heather right?” From that moment on we were inseparable. Mark loved Taiwan. He loved the people he met here, the foreigners and locals, too. He felt like Taiwan was a place you could do anything. If you wanted to be a DJ you could, Fashion Designer, go for it. People could do what they wanted and they’d have all the support they needed. We were planning to move down south in the fall, spend another year teaching and saving money. Mark was never shy about telling me or anyone of our friends that he wanted to marry me. The week before the accident Mark had told me that his real reason for wanting to move to the south and save up money was so that he could buy me a ring and pay for a wedding. I was all ready to start my life with him.

Trista: Would you like to share some other remembrances of his life?

Heather: This is what I’ve written: Mark and I liked to spend time out and about the city, just walking. Mark loved to walk, whether it was in nature or through the city. We’d walk from Taipei Main to C.K.S. Memorial or across the bridge between ShiLin and Neihu. If he didn’t have anything else to do he’d just walk. On his first day in Taiwan he walked all across the city, just to acquaint himself with his new home. He made friends easily, was a likable guy, who loved that people in Taiwan were always looking out for each other. He had strong religious and political views, and was planning to give a lecture on his libertarian ideals, and even try his hand at a stand-up comedy routine someday (though he said that he hoped the two weren’t at the same time). He was very caring and romantic. He loved that we could laugh at each other, just have fun and entertain each other. We could get lost in our own little world if we needed to, have hour-long discussions about anything and everything, even if we were in the middle of a crowded room. He was excited to be a father one day, to finally start a family and to love and support his children and show them the world.

And this is from his mother, Viv:
“Mark was a very special person. He was passionate about the things that mattered to him. He was passionate about his family, football, music, culture, Taiwan, his friends in Taiwan and at home and teaching. All his life he tried to make a difference to people, rules, systems, prejudice, and life itself. We were so proud of him. For us, his family, we have not only lost a brother, a son and a friend we have lost the future; the future he and Heather were building together, the wedding, the children, the life they would have led. It is now all gone and all our lives have been changed forever. We are sad and angry, lost and lonely without the special person that was Mark.”

Heather: Mark’s and my friends, Cat, Nicky and Andrew, helped me and Mark’s mom, Viv, and brother, Matt, with all the arrangements. We were also lucky enough to find an English-speaking funeral director. Mark was Catholic and we wanted to have a Catholic service for him so Cat helped us with that part because neither Viv nor I knew what we needed to do for a Catholic funeral. Viv and Matt decided to have the funeral here because they realized that this was where the majority of his friends were, and where his life was now. Mark’s mom took some ashes home to be scattered in a memorial garden where she’s purchased a tree with a plaque in his honor. There will be a Celebration of Life for Mark in England on April 2nd…Approximately 150 of Mark’s friends from when he was a toddler to the present day will be present to remember, reflect and rejoice in the person that was Mark. School friends, teachers, family, work colleagues for his time in London will share their time with Mark-a fitting celebration for such an exceptional guy.”

Trista: Is there some way people can help the family with the funeral costs?

Heather:There is a fund for people to donate with the costs of the funeral arrangements:
Bank of Taiwan’s routing number : 026012470
Account number: 054 004 078892
Name of the account holder: Catherine Thomas
If you are in Taiwan all you need is 004 (Bank of Taiwan code) plus the account number.

As an update, a Chinese report in the Apple Daily, which incidentally misspelled his name, said that Mark moved to Taiwan in May. However, he’d actually lived in Taiwan for a few years before, and had just moved back here in May.

6 thoughts on “A Friend to Us All: On the Loss of Mark Bennett

  • March 15, 2011 at 3:03 am
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    Still so sad that he’s gone. Taipei is a lesser place.

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  • March 15, 2011 at 7:23 am
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    Mark was such a fun, caring, funny, amazing person and it is such a loss to us all that he is no longer here. His presence is missed greatly but he will always be remembered and the memories of him cherished.

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  • March 16, 2011 at 6:04 am
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    Mark was my son and the world is a greyer, sadder place without his energy, enthusiasm and excitement. I loved my boy so much. Heartbroken.

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  • March 16, 2011 at 6:18 am
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    Mark said that he and I had met before, when he was here a few years ago, but I didn’t remember that. I’m just glad that I had a second chance to get to know him, even if only for 8 months. He and I were both libertarians, but we completely disagreed on economic policy, which led to some interesting discussions. I learned a lot from him, and not just about economics.

    Everyone says that Mark was a great guy, and this is true. But somehow just saying that doesn’t convey the whole meaning. After all, that’s what you’d expect people to say… but in Mark’s case, it’s not just rhetoric, it’s the first thing you’d notice about him.

    As Jess puts it above, he was fun, caring, and funny… to an amazing degree on all counts. I’d like to say more, but I just can’t find the words.

    Godspeed on your journey, Mark!

    Reply
  • March 16, 2011 at 7:59 am
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    Mark was one of the first people I met when I arrived in Taipei in 2003. Although I only ran into him now and again I remember him as friendly, warm and full of conversation. My thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family.

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  • March 28, 2011 at 4:08 am
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    From someone who didn’t know Mark as well as I would have liked, when I first came to Taiwan in 2003 and joined the Taipei Animals Football Club the right-back was a gutsy player with ability who everybody automatically looked up to. Mark was a person who always raised his voice and made himself heard for the benefit of the rest of us in the team. His humour and positive attitude was unfailing. He was also obviously extremely intelligent. Once before a game he asked everybody, “Who’s your muse today?” He had undoubted class in everything he did. I didn’t know him very well but I feel his loss.

    Reply

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