Dan Marcum (1947 - 2009)
Tribute by Larry Mann
Daniel Woodrow Marcum, JD, passed away unexpectedly of natural causes in his sleep at the home of his youngest sister Shawn in West Virginia on Sunday, July 26, 2009.
Dan was born near Mt. Gay, WV, on November 19, 1947. He spent his childhood in a place he fondly referred to as Dempsey Branch Holler in the coal mining country. He joined the LDS church as a teenager, as did one other sibling in his large family, partly under the tutelage of a maternal aunt who had been an early convert to Mormonism in that area.
He attended John Marshall University, and later BYU, graduating there in 1971. He served as a missionary in the West German Mission (Frankfurt) from 1967 to 1969. He attended law school at the University of Utah, graduating in the class of 1974. He practiced law in Salt Lake City for a number of years before moving to southern California and then later to Ypsilanti, Michigan where he has resided for the last decade or so with his sister Donna. He was visiting in West Virginia for family and school reunions at the time of his death.
According to his wishes, Dan's body will be cremated. The family has arranged a small memorial service to be held in Dempsey Branch Holler on Thursday, July 30, 2009.
Dan began coming out to friends and family in 1983 and found the going not always easy in those early years. The trauma took a considerable toll on him before he left Utah in 1991. In recent years he has been an avid supporter of Affirmation and a very frequent contributor to q-saints. His rants on political topics are legion, but those who knew him personally will probably remember him most for his wonderful story-telling ability and the acuity of memory he could bring to bear on incidents and events of long ago.
My own first acquaintance with Dan happened at an Affirmation Conference in Portland, Oregon in the mid 1990s. He began talking with me in what I soon discovered was his typical, very humorous, friendly style. The story he shared with me then is one that still makes me laugh.
Because my own missionary service had been in Austria, he knew I would appreciate its inherent humor. He said that one day he was on a bus along with some other missionaries, one of whom was a sister missionary - and a somewhat ditzy one at that. The sister missionary decided to do some "bus tracting," trying to engage the people around her in conversations about what they did for a living, and then where they went to church, which would, of course, lead to conversations about Mormonism. She wasn't having much success, but undaunted, she turned to the bus driver and in her own mechanical approach, asked him what he did for a living.
"Ich bin Fahrer," he responed, ("I'm a driver") somewhat perplexed that this American woman would fail to notice the obvious.
But the sister missionary, in her determination to hear what she wanted to hear - or perhaps only because of her somewhat limited grasp of German - thought he said "Ich bin Pfarrer" ("I'm a pastor"). Delighted, she responded, "Wirklich?! Bei welcher Kirche?" ("Really - for which church?") - which left the bus driver totally dismayed - and the other missionaries in hysterics.
My second story about Dan was told me not by Dan himself, but by a friend of his, Doryl Jensen, who also used to be active on Q-Saints and who has become one of my own good friends. After Dan had returned to Utah from his mission in Germany, he and Doryl - who had been an Austrian missionary - spent a summer traveling around Europe. At that time, neither Dan nor Doryl were out to themselves or to anyone else. But they had an experience together that they have both since recalled with chuckles and smiles.
Noticing all the hitchhikers, and feeling like they ought to at least try and help someone out and do some good in the world, they determined to pick one up. But picking up hitch hikers could be risky, they thought, and consequently agreed that they would try to be guided by the Spirit in their choice. So as they drove along, they passed hitch hikers one after another, not feeling particularly inspired to stop for them. But then they both noticed a hunky blond Dutch fellow, and simultaneously turned to one another and said, "THAT ONE!" The Dutch fellow proved to be an agreeable and friendly traveling companion with whom they spent a couple of pleasant days before parting. I can only suspect that both Dan and Doryl might have been slightly disappointed that the fellow was a great guy but straight.
On the occasions Dan and I have met for dinner when he was in DC on business, he was a steady spring of good humor and ready wit. Dinner with Dan was an event that never ceased to leave me aching with laughter; his humor was rich and unceasing.
As we know from our acquaintance with him here on Q-Saints, Dan took a keen delight in exposing the hypocrisy and foibles of the religious right. But his views were always conveyed with wit and wisdom - and with his irresistible smile of enlightenment.
I'll miss Dan profoundly,
PS: For those of you who knew Dan and who will be attending the Affirmation Conference in Salt Lake City, we'd like to host a little get together to recall his friendship and celebrate his life.