Life Stories

Life Stories: Mark Poindexter cherished, protected natural heritage

CorrespondentApril 13, 2014 

Career geologist Mark Poindexter was passionate about his 30 years of work in the field and considered himself a public servant.

COURTESY OF KIM POINDEXTER

  • Samuel Mark Poindexter

    Born May 3, 1956.

    Family: Marries Kim Monk Poindexter in 1982, and they have two daughters, Lauren Peavy and Sarah Vancil. (A son, John Mark Poindexter, died following his premature birth.) They raise their family in Fuquay-Varina, and he becomes a grandfather three weeks before his death.

    Education: Earns a bachelor’s degree in geology from UNC-Wilmington in 1981.

    Career: Begins working with the N.C. Department of Transportation in 1984, and a few years later transfers to the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. He finishes his career as a supervisor in the field operations branch of the solid waste section.

    Dies March 18.

Mark Poindexter, a career geologist with the state, collected fossils, rocks and other pieces of history since his youth. They symbolized strongly what he valued in his life, treasures from both the natural and spiritual worlds.

Diagnosed three years ago with terminal brain cancer, Poindexter held on long enough for the birth of his grandson Samuel Michael Peavy, dying three weeks later at 57. He left his grandson cherished artifacts from his collection – shark teeth, pottery shards from a mission trip to Israel, and a trilobite, a prehistoric sea creature.

Poindexter was passionate about his 30 years of work in the field and considered himself a public servant, friends and family say.

He worked as a supervisor in the field operations branch of the solid waste section of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, leading all solid-waste compliance activities for the state.

The value he placed on a clean environment stemmed from his childhood outside Winston-Salem, where he spent much of his time kayaking and fishing on the Yadkin River. In the summer of 1975, he and a friend rode bicycles to California, often camping in the backyards of kind strangers. He took his family hiking and camping all over the country, once driving to the Grand Canyon, another time to Canada.

After earning a degree in geology from UNC-Wilmington, Poindexter specialized in hydrogeology.

Among his key job responsibilities were inspections of solid waste facilities and investigations of illegal waste disposal activities. One case took him to the mountains where a chemical plant had potentially harmed a water source near a school.

“I remember him saying, ‘Somebody’s got to stand up for these kids. They’ve got to have clean drinking water,’ ” his daughter, Lauren Peavy recalled.

Poindexter was exceptionally devoted to improving the state’s response to storms, said his boss, Michael Scott, a section chief for solid waste management. Poindexter organized debris sites where vegetation, as well as building debris, could be hauled after a disaster.

“Mark was instrumental in ensuring our staff were properly prepared while also assisting local government with the establishment of these sites, preferably before an event occurred,” Scott said.

This focus was informed by his mission work, something he did both locally and internationally throughout his life. The first mission he took to Jamaica followed Hurricane Gilbert. He and his family did multiple missions in Jamaica, once to help build a school for the deaf.

“Regulating solid waste is one of the most important jobs in our society,” said Robert Gelblum, a former state attorney who first met Poindexter while working for DENR. They became friends through their pickup basketball games.

“I came to learn his striking qualities as a human being,” he said. “Rarely have I met someone so competent (among other things, he was probably the best player on our basketball court), yet so humble.”

When it came to his battle with brain cancer, he handled it as he handled all things in life, his family said – with faith.

“Mark always said, ‘This wasn’t a surprise to God.’ And ‘we’ll work through it,’ ” his wife, Kim Poindexter, said. He was an active member of Wake Chapel Christian Church in his hometown of Fuquay-Varina, often welcoming youth members to his home for additional Bible study.

Brian Jones attended Poindexter’s classes and said he provided a fatherly presence for those in need, always ready to listen and encouraging others to be open and honest about their troubles.

“He was open right back. And he was human, and that’s kind of what you need as a kid,” Jones said.

In his memory, Jones founded the Poindexter Fund. Poindexter always lamented that he lacked the resources to do more for those in need, and his friends and family hope this fund will be a way to keep Poindexter’s impact alive.

Poindexter was diagnosed with brain cancer on Valentine’s Day 2011. Doctors did not give him a year to live, but in the time he had left, he was able to walk his younger daughter, Sarah, down the aisle and welcomed a grandchild.

“He was a living testimony to other people of how you trust God when things don’t make sense,” Peavy said.

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