For those unfortunate readers familiar with my writing, you know that, as a rule, I don't get sentimental in this space -- save for a somber column on the passing of my father-in-law in 2002 and his patient attempts to coach his all-thumbs son-in-law on home improvement projects.

At that time, the point I was trying to -- and hopefully did -- make was that mentors come in all shapes, sizes, and, as I eventually have learned, backgrounds.

Sadly, last weekend I lost another close friend and mentor.

Only this time, he was a contemporary, two years younger than me chronologically but light years ahead in more areas than I care to admit to.

Mark was a walking contradiction, a chain-smoking 300-pound brute in a Harley Davidson T-shirt, with a 500-pound bench press and a genius-level IQ. His thirst for knowledge and his appetite for reading rivaled his legendary exploits with a knife and fork or in the weight room.

His Civil War archive exceeded 500 books, while his record -- and later CD collection -- nearly required a Quonset hut for storage.

He could converse as easily with a university professor on the works of Milton as he could with a Broadway producer on the merits of Sweet Charity, and possessed enough of a singing voice and acting presence to land him bit parts in several movies. A true Renaissance man.

He motivated me to escalate what had to that point in my life been a decidedly lazy pace with regard to reading, just to maintain a lucid conversation. At a time when I shamefully didn't know General A.P. Hill from the A&P, he lent me several books that chronicled his exploits.

He unquestionably could have utilized his God-given toolkit to amass a fortune, but he eschewed most material caprices and viewed the corporate world through a veneer of cynicism. More than two decades ago, he said it wouldn't surprise him if many companies literally imploded due to greed.

Ironically his heart -- which those who knew him often remarked was literally and figuratively the biggest part of his body -- ultimately betrayed him, leaving a large void in many lives -- including mine.

We're now in a time when the accounting profession has become revitalized in terms of a career path and competitive salaries and having veteran CPAs mentor both entry-level enthusiasts and those with their eye on the partner and management track has become crucial to long-term retention.

But as I have learned over the years, mentors don't necessarily wear suits or guide you on revenue recognition standards.

But when they're gone, you miss them all the same.

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