A Tribute to Mark Deal

February 21, 2002
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A look at the life of Mark Deal to commemorate a wonderful man and surveyor.

On January 9, 2002 at 6:23 p.m., the surveying profession lost a great man. Mark Eugene Deal passed away at his home in Edmond, Oklahoma, after a courageous, year-long battle with melanoma. He was 38. He was surrounded by friends and family and went peacefully. Many members of the surveying industry got to know Mark over the years, admiring “his wisdom, his droll wit, and his unbounded enthusiasm,” as Jerry McGray, RPLS, said upon hearing the news. His passing has saddened many. POB hopes this tribute—a look at “The Life of Mark Deal”—will help to commemorate a wonderful man and surveyor.

Born December 23, 1963 in Oklahoma City, Mark grew up in Moore, Okla., and lived in Edmond for most of his adult life. His younger years were spent conducting his own personal experiments and quests for knowledge. He was a private investigator, a gun enthusiast and had a real passion for dog training, in which he gained worldwide recognition as an excellent trainer and breeder.

Later, he looked to the surveying profession where his dedication and determination led to three surveying licenses: Oklahoma (2/11/94); Texas (6/6/97); and Kansas (12/15/99). Mark worked for the city of Edmond and then moved onto Smith-Roberts Inc., a full-service surveying and engineering consulting firm, in May of 1993. There he met Dave Anderson, PLS, current executive director of the Oklahoma Society of Land Surveyors, and Shaun Axton, PLS. Mark and Shaun learned to work together well, later becoming business partners in 1999 for Mark Deal & Associates, P.C., a garage-grown surveying and mapping business Mark established in 1997.

Mark’s thought was that if he could do two ALTA surveys a week, he’d be set. And with Mark’s always evolving relationships, that was not a problem.

“Mark always had a good reputation,” Axton says. “He was eloquent with a strong business mind. He put forth a clear argument and made a real name for himself on solving complex projects.”

Always the student, Mark attended Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City (OSU-OCU), where he earned an Associate’s Degree in Civil Surveying in 1992. He later earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in 1998 from OSU. Through his time of illness, Mark worked on his Master’s of Business Administration at the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO).

Mark’s dedication in school and in his work gained him much recognition, including the Oklahoma Society of Land Surveyors’ (OSLS) Golden Plumb Bob Award in 1999 and Surveyor of the Year in 2001. The National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS), in which he acted as National Governor for the state of Oklahoma also awarded Mark a Certificate of Presidential Recognition.

“At a time when only a handful of OSLS members participated with ACSM, Mark took a stand that a national organization should have an important place in the professional lives of Oklahoma surveyors,” Anderson says. “He single-handedly changed the minds of a multitude of Oklahoma surveyors in advocating the importance of a strong national voice.”

OSLS reeped benefit from Mark’s expertise of all things computer-related when Mark created the OSLS website, www.osls.org.

“While most of us were driving down the information dirt road, Mark was creating a superhighway for the Oklahoma members,” Anderson says.

As time became more limited for him, Mark passed the website onto other OSLS members, who are carrying on this day on a foundation built by Mark.

In the meantime came www.rpls.com, the most valued bulletin board for surveyors and one of Mark’s best known contributions to the surveying profession. Mark’s vision for a worldwide venue for surveyors was instantly accepted within a month of its launch in 1996.

“The board offers a tremendous potential for learning,” Mark said of the board in 2000. “Often, surveyors in small firms don’t get the opportunity to discuss issues with other surveyors. The board provides that opportunity. That’s its greatest value.”

Today that valued board acts as a monument to Mark’s thoughtfulness and perseverance. Rpls.com has grown ever since; days with more than 200 posted messages are not uncommon. A “poll” taken on rpls.com rendered replies from surveyors in all 50 states in just a couple of days, signifying that Mark really did bring people together from all over the country.

“He didn’t half do something,” Axton says. “Mark jumped in with both feet and took four other people with him.”

And he never backed down, either, a true testimony of his diligence and confidence. He was the kind of guy who was always liked, no matter what.

“People who even had friction with him had respect for him,” Axton says.

“He would attentively listen to your arguments, but only rarely could you persuade him to change his mind once he had decided upon something,” says Bob Manley, LSI, a Mark Deal & Associates employee. “That is not to say [that] you could not change his mind, only that it required a very solid and persuasive argument to do so.”

“He just wanted things to be done right,” Axton says. “With Mark, it was either right or wrong.”

“Mark was one of those people who put enormous effort into analyzing and planning for the future,” Manley says. “It seemed those gears in his head never stopped spinning.”

Mark was married to his lovely wife, Velia and had three children: twin daughters, Andrea Jean and Cora Lee, and a son Matthew Gene of Broken Arrow, Okla. A terrific father and husband, a great surveyor, businessman and student, and a devoted man of life, Mark Deal will forever be remembered.

Condolences can be sent to:

The Family of Mark Deal

2209 Henderson Drive

Edmond, OK 73013<

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