NB Lions honors Syl Marking with Community Service Award

Lion Don Hartzell presented Lion Syl Marking with the Community Service Award plaque. Both pushing 80, the two are excellent examples of Lions Club members as well as hard-working community members. Photos by MaryHelen Swanson

By MaryHelen Swanson—

It is with passion that the North Branch Lions 2012 Community Service Award recipient attacks life.

He doesn’t just sell tickets for Lions’ events, he sells the most.

He doesn’t just attend church, he is active on many committees, including visitation where he tends to the needs of homebound members.

He doesn’t just hunt, he’s an avid supporter of a hunting organization, especially as it works to get young people involved.

And he can write a compelling story about his hours in the field hunting with his friends and their prize dogs, and not just tell a tall tale about the one that got away.

Syl Marking of North Branch is this year’s honored recipient, passions and all.

“I guess I’ve always been a sucker for good and noble causes,” he has been quoted to say, and he has fervently pursued many of those causes in his 78 years of life.

Number 1, he said, it’s the right thing to do. Second, he added, the Bible teaches that you need to be humble if you are going to serve people.

Serving others comes naturally, taking his cue from his father, his hero. “It’s kind of in our DNA.” he mused.

Growing up on a 160-acre farm in Holmen, Wis., the oldest of 7, Marking believed he was going to continue the family business and be a dairy farmer.

But when he returned from serving in Korea, all the farms in that area were occupied and his parent’s could not support two families. Completing college at the University of Wisconsin, Marking turned to journalism, writing becoming an ever evolving passion.

His career as a journalist began at a daily newspaper in Albert Lea. It was there he became involved in the Jaycees. For 16 years he wrote for agriculture magazines, including “The Farmer.” He also served as editor for the “Soybean Digest” for close to six years.

In his work with these publications, he traveled both nationally and internationally. He worked enthusiastically toward advances in agriculture, at least one attempt resulting in a federal government honor for his work toward elimination of hog cholera.

And he won two national awards from the American Soybean Association for service to the American soybean growers.

Marking has also freelanced stories for outdoor magazines, and continues to do so. He greatly enjoys sharing his hunting experiences with his pen.

Marking assisted with St. Paul’s Helping Hand Club which helped parents of farm kids pay hospital bills when they couldn’t handle them.

Church work began as a church council member and Sunday school teacher at our Redeemer Lutheran Church in St. Paul. While living in Cedar Falls, Iowa, he was an evangelism trainer at Nazareth Lutheran Church.

Here in North Branch, he has been very active at Trinity Lutheran Church, at one time serving on four committees at the same time.

Currently, he is on the visitation committee and provides Holy Communion to homebound members.

“You get back what you give out,” he said in a recent interview, adding that it gives you a certain satisfaction at the end of the day.

His eyes moistened as he recalled giving communion to a community icon, now deceased, while he was nearly drawing his last breath.

Marking and his family have lived in North Branch 23 years, the longest ever in one place in 56 years of marriage.

Lion Syl was deeply honored by the award and shared that with his fellow Lions.

It is here that he has nurtured his passion for community service in the NB Lions Club. In fact, for all 34 years of membership in the Lions, Marking has been an active role model in the organization whose motto is “We Serve.”

Along with other Lions, Marking participated in the Chisago County Food Shelf’s “Stuff a Truck Campaign” by urging shoppers at Nelson’s Market to donate food or cash. That attempt was highly successful, garnering more than 3,000 pounds of food and about $900 in cash.

In the 2008 Bail or Jail Campaign, Marking was the top bail raiser at $540.

In his fundraising efforts for both the Lions and Pheasants Forever, Marking has been called a  “ticket selling machine.”

He says if he really believes in something, he can really sell tickets for the cause. And he really believes in the Lion’s activities. By the way, have you bought your tickets for the Prime Rib dinner yet? No? Then see Syl Marking or better yet, he’ll be seeing you.

Marking also received the highest award in international Lionism when he was named a Melvin Jones Fellow several years ago.

Because of his work as a professional journalist, Marking has been an avid publicity director for the NB Lions, making sure they receive the recognition they deserve for their many service projects throughout the year.

Marking was supported at the awards by several family members. Pictured are, back row: son Robert Marking and his wife Stephanie Gruver, and son-in-law Kevin Todd; front row: Marking and wife Marci and daughter Cindy Todd. Daughters Kim Pomroy and Kathy Marking were unable to attend. Photo by MaryHelen Swanson

Marking has been married 56 years to his wife Marcie. Add the four years they knew each other before that and it’s been quite a journey. They met in high school, actually, they met at the Veterans Memorial Park in West Salem where he was fly fishing for blue gills, a foretaste of their future, you might say.

They have four grown children: Robert, Cindy, Kim and Kathy and six grandchildren.

In 1998, when Marking retired as editor of the Soybean Digest, he wrote, “When my final day on Earth comes, I guess I wish to be remembered as one who gave his very best, or at least tried to – and hoped he made a real difference.”

Reflecting on his over 39 years of deadlines as a professional writer, Marking also noted in that farewell column that, “I have been moved all my life by great stories, great curiosity, great people, great events, great heroes and my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Marking’s passion for great living shows in his service to others and thus he has been given this Lions’ Club honor for 2012.

  • Alicia Fick

    I am so very proud of my grandfather, he has been such an inspiration for me growing up. I recall him giving me self-help books on positive thinking when I was only in Jr. High! I am now 22 years old and as I read this article about my amazing grandpa I feel that much more fortunate to have him in my life…he is completely right about serving people being in our DNA, I’ve followed in his footsteps in several aspects of my life thus far (=

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