by Daniel Frye
From the Editor: Mark Noble was the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma from 1983 to 1985. I remember him as a fun-loving and humorous fellow but with a very warm and serious side. I also remember that he assumed affiliate leadership when Oklahoma really needed him, and the fact that we have a thriving affiliate there is in no small part due to his work.
Here are the memories of a dear friend who is no stranger to these pages. Thank you to Dan for these remembrances:
A world without Mark Noble feels impossible and absurd today. Our dear friend, partner, mentor, colleague, and activist is no longer among us, and we’re all keenly aware of the void created by his absence. It will be our obligation to comfort and care for one another as we remember, mourn, and celebrate the fact that Mark Noble made an impression on all of us and the world.
When I was ten years old, living in Georgetown, Texas, my mother was killed in an automobile accident. Through networks and contacts that remain vague to me, Mark was found while working on his graduate studies in social work, and he agreed to act as my “big brother.” Both of us blind, and Mark with newly acquired counseling skills, my father and others rightly concluded that Mark could intervene and play a part in my life that would make the transition for our entire family easier to handle. As a result of his generous gesture of time and talent, I managed to navigate the grieving process, come to understand my potential as a blind person, and more effectively integrate into the world. This initial mentorship developed into the foundation for a flourishing friendship that has spanned our lifetime.
Mostly, Mark would simply visit our family home, and we’d talk about school, what I wanted to become as I grew up, and how I felt about living without my mother. Mark managed to offer comfort and care without overtly seeming to do anything other than being an older influence.
In these early years, I took my first Greyhound visit alone from Georgetown to Austin, confident that I’d be fine because Mark would be at the station to meet me. But this brief journey was what gave me the understanding that I could travel alone. While he lived in Oklahoma, he invited me to visit him for a week or so in the summer, and he treated me to a week of humor and hospitality.
As I matured and prepared to enter law school after college, we found ourselves sharing a more adult relationship in the same city, Seattle. As adults, I was then able to reciprocate and offer to Mark guidance and counsel in his life. We shared evenings discussing politics, history, and public policy. We worked together in the civil rights movement of the blind as members and leaders alike in the National Federation of the Blind. In time, we became colleagues for a while at the Social Security Administration.
When I was lonely, Mark was there; when he needed an ear, mine was open. In the absence of biological family on my part, Mark became my beloved and valued older brother, and I hope that I was able to offer him similar solace once I reached maturity.
In addition to our consequential relationship, Mark was a man of animated principle. He participated in local, state, and national civic life. He contributed as a leader to the deliberations of the National Federation of the Blind, serving as president of the National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma and as a member of the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington. His efforts, generally and on behalf of the blind community, resulted in true reform.
Mark was loyal—to his spouses, his son, his friends, and his family. Mark was funny, witty, and generally optimistic. Mark was a voracious reader. Mark was a man who drew comfort and wisdom from his Jewish faith. Mark lit up a room with his potent personality. Mark was an astute follower of the news and the events of the world; he did what he was able to do to make his part of the world a better place. Mark loved and encouraged us all.
With tongue firmly planted in cheek, Mark always told me to “send money.” Here’s my metaphorical checkbook, my friend. I am but one person in the world to whom you gave yourself, and I’m so incredibly grateful and fortunate to have known and loved you.
Mark, as you know, I’m a Unitarian, and I don’t really know what happens after we die. But here’s hoping that you’re happy, healthy, and surrounded by all the things in life that brought you comfort and joy. And if you simply cease to exist, know that you made a dynamic difference for me, your friends, family, and the world.