Mark Farina loved a full elevator. As the doors closed, he would announce in his signature fashion to his captive audience, “I bet you’re wondering why I called all of you together for this meeting.”
Born with a knack for extemporaneous speaking and an infectious outgoing personality, Farina connected with people in both small and big ways, whether it was complimenting a child to their parent at the grocery store or whipping up excitement as a public address announcer at high school sporting events.
“One of the reasons I married him was that he was so good with other people,” said Farina’s wife, Diane. “I felt like he was an ambassador from God to the people.”
Farina died Nov. 15, 2021 of complications from COVID-19. He was 61 years old.
He grew up on the North Side of Chicago, the son of Louis Farina, who served as 36th Ward alderman, and Rose Farina, who was director of noontime events at The Richard J. Daley Center.
Farina attended Steinmetz High School, where at the age of 15 he saw a shortcoming – the school had no sports P.A. announcer – and ended up behind the microphone. He would remain Steinmetz’s P.A. announcer for more than four decades.
He would add more announcing credits to his resume, calling numerous Chicago Public Schools games, including championship games at Soldier Field, Wrigley Field and the United Center.
After moving to Brookfield in 2012 in order for their son, Louis, to attend Riverside-Brookfield High School’s special education program, Farina soon volunteered his services as a P.A. announcer to call RBHS baseball games, which he did for many years.
He also served as a co-host in 2016 at the Night of Champions, a year-end award program honoring high school athletes at schools covered by the Riverside-Brookfield Landmark and its sister newspaper, Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest.
“I gave Mark a few notes about some award-winning athletes and a show script the day of the show,” said Marty Farmer, former sports editor for the Landmark. “He absorbed all that information quickly and did a wonderful job as a co-host. His knowledge of IHSA sports, particularly the RB area, was evident and he also added a great sense of humor and story-telling ability to Night of Champions.”
The same year Farina began calling games as a teenager at Steinmetz he also joined the Kiwanis Club, becoming the governor of the Illinois-Iowa District by the age of 17, according to Diane Farina. He would remain a loyal and active Kiwanian throughout his life.
“He’s always been a volunteer at heart,” Diane said. “He just always felt the need to give back.”
Farina was deep down an author at heart, said his wife. In 2016, he published the book “Casey and the Flying Fortress” chronicling the wartime experiences of Diane’s father, Casimir “Casey” Paulinski, a B-17 bomber co-pilot who was shot down over Germany in December 1943 and spent the rest of the war as a German POW.
Diane and Mark could not have been more different – he an outgoing North Side guy who worked for the city of Chicago and she a shy South Sider who worked at Michael Reese Hospital before taking a job at Children’s Memorial Hospital. A colleague there set the two up on a blind date “and the rest is history,” Diane said.
The couple lived in Chicago and were parishioners at St. Giles Church in Oak Park, where Mark Farina became known as a ringer at the parish men’s club’s annual sports trivia night.
“Everyone wanted him on their team,” Diane said.
Dominic Scianna, who was the best man at Mark and Diane’s wedding and delivered a eulogy at Farina’s funeral on Nov. 19, said he was at first a little intimidated by Farina’s “big booming voice when the two first met while attending Columbia College.
They would later be longtime softball teammates, with Scianna calling Farina “the softball team’s court jester, keeping us in stitches with his raw and spontaneous sense of humor.”
While life’s circumstances separated teammates physically from one another through the years, the teammates made it a point of gathering each year around Christmas, Scianna said.
“It was important for us to never miss that cherished time together,” Scianna said.
As Farina’s health deteriorated in the days before his death, Scianna would keep their friends informed on Farina’s condition.
“In our friend’s hour of need, we came together as never before,” Scianna said. “It was Mark’s final gift to us.”
Diane Farina said her husband was devoted to their son, Louis, taking him on road trips this year to Tennessee, Texas and Michigan. He also was devoted to his dogs, Bandit, Biscuit and Bella.