The “Mayor of DAP.” That is one way that Mark Lancaster will be remembered by the staff at the Association. Another is that he was the youngest son of Merv and Winona Lancaster, their “little man.” The Lancasters describe Mark as a “happy guy, his eyes were bright.” They envisioned a full and happy life for Mark and worked hard as a family to achieve that for him.
One of the first tasks Mark’s family took on was to teach him how to move safely and independently. When Mark was first mobile, at two or three years old, he would move around on his back. One time Mark slid himself under a bed and Winona could not find him for a time. She decided that it was time to teach Mark to “scoot.” So she and Merv sat him up and “got his good foot and good arm working” and taught him to scoot in an upright position. He would get off his chair, sit down and “hitch” himself along. The family had to make sure nothing was left in his way because he could only scoot in straight lines.
Mark couldn’t speak. He wore braces on both legs, so he didn’t walk very far. We could hear him “stumping” around the house. He had a chair in a special corner in the house (near the front window) and if he came in and somebody was sitting in his chair he would make loud noises to let them know he wanted them to move. He even had his grandmother move out of his spot.
Car rides and music were a great joy for Mark. He would laugh when the car went fast.
The bridge of his nose would be so white and he couldn’t stop laughing.
Here he was locked in that body and he had no way of telling you …well, he had a few ways...if you shut his music off, there was the biggest commotion.
We used to play tapes in the van. Mark loved the quad sound and he would know before anyone else when the tape was about to end. He would signal to the family to change the tape. He liked loud music and fast driving.
The Lancasters took Mark everywhere with them; on holidays, to the cafes, to church, out shopping and to visit with friends. Mrs. Miller’s dances were popular and Mark loved to attend. Mark couldn’t dance but he would just move his head back and forth to the music.
Mark’s grandfather built him 4’x 8’ platform with a canopy on it in the backyard so that he could move around outside in his walker. For a learning wheel, he built Mark a half moon table top with a support for his back so that could stand and play with toys.
Strangers were not strangers to Mark. He was never shy. Once, at the doctor’s office, he wanted attention from one of the women in the waiting room. He took his good hand and startled her by grabbing at her neck. He loved to meet people he knew. When Mark would spot friends at church, he would vocalize loudly until they got up out of their pews to say hello to him.
The Lancasters know that the best time in Mark’s life was when he went to the Developmental Activity Program (DAP); but not at the beginning. The program was delivered in a way that “suited the child to the program instead of the program to the child.” The kids were not all capable of accomplishing the given tasks. It was production work and that did not interest Mark.
The program moved on to focus on life skills and fun mixed with learning skills. Eventually DAP was fitting a program to each of the children and Mark was having fun. Trena Bruce was working at DAP during Mark’s time there. She recalls that all she had to do was mention what the next activity was going to be and Mark would be off his chair and “scooting” to get started on it.
At DAP, Mark and Gerald Miller were known as “Mutt and Jeff.” For the Lancaster family, it provided a chance for Mark to get out, make friends and try to lead as normal a life as possible. DAP also provided a program and staff that helped the kids to learn. The staff was also learning as they went because back then there were few resources to learn from.
In 1995 Mark passed away and the Lancasters mourned the loss of their “little man.” Mark was also remembered in the following tributes:
Tribute to Markwritten by MJ Rigler and Trena Bruce
From dawn’s early light you came to us as a bright ray of sunshine,
someone whom over we could fuss.
Depending upon the mood of the day,
You’d either work hard or want to play.
It was on outings you’d love to go
to the park or to the mall
We’d take you to and fro
You were awfully fond of teasing and why I’ll never know
How you always won our boxing fights while putting on a show.
You loved the girls and liked the guys but what we never told you
Was that you were very wise.
You knew how to handle staff and have them bid your wishes
And somehow you managed to have never had to do the dishes.
You had a special lady friend from her side you would not stray
But let some guy come near her, you’d do your best to shove him away
You brought to us laughter, you brought to us love
You taught us patience brought down from above.
You have touched so many lives Mark, in a very special way.
That s why we’re all here on this, oh so wondrous day.
You were born into a family that loved you beyond reason,
They loved you through thick and thin, no matter what the season.
They loved you through the good times,
They nursed you through the bad,
You were very lucky, Mark
They are the best parents one could ever have.
Now the time has come
For us to say farewell,
We loved you, “Our Little Man”
We know that you were swell.
So to our friend, “Rickety”
We fondly bid adieu,
Say hi to our friends in heaven,
And put the coffee on, we’ll be there to visit you.
Tribute to Markby Trena Bruce
Mark Lancaster. When I hear that name I could laugh and cry and talk for a very long time. But I will just share a few moments with you.
Mark was a little man with a big heart, who touched a lot of people in his life. Mark had no words to let us know what he was thinking, but that never stopped Mark. He had his own “definite” ways of telling you exactly what he did or did not want!
Mark loved people! At work we called him our “social butterfly.” He gave his love freely and without bias, and was very easy to love in return.
He had a great sense of humour, even if it was a bit warped a times. With his great right hook, he got more people in an “unexpected’ head lock than most wrestlers. Sometimes I think he missed his calling.
Mark was happiest when he was on the go, often letting you know what direction he had in mind.
As I said, Mark had no words but I think I know what Mark would have said had he had those words...
Mom and Dad:
I loved you, thank you for all the years of care unconditional love. You were always there for me. I was grateful even if I didn’t appreciate some of the things at the time; you know Mom, like the nose! And Dad, those winter boots every morning and night all winter; the Alberta winters can be long.
You were the big brother everyone should have and one I could look up to – literally! And yes, I do remember those speedway rides in my chair, once we were out of sight of the house. What fun we had. Pam, I was happy when you joined our family and the family began to grow.
Everyone should have a big sister and you were the perfect one for me, even if your clarinet was a bit hard to take in the beginning. I thought if you were really so interested in those books you would have learned not to lie on the floor to read them. But that was okay, I loved to bug you. Vern, when you joined our family you became my big brother and our family grew more.
Nicole, Josh, Andre, Meagan and Matthew:
It was great being your uncle. I enjoyed our times together. It was fun, even when you got the “attention."
And to all my relatives, you know I enjoyed the family reunions and times together.
Yes, each of you added something special to my life. God knew what he was doing when he made me a Lancaster.
Mark was one of my special “buds” and I am glad I was given the chance to be part of his life too.
Mark will always be loved, remembered and missed by more people than you can imagine.
Thanks for the memories,