Decorated Army Lt. Col. Mark Weber, the Rosemount husband and father whose poignant and unvarnished book “Tell My Sons: A Father’s Last Letters” details a challenging childhood as well as his recent battle with cancer, died Thursday.
Weber, who is to appear on the cover of this weekend’s Parade magazine for Father’s Day, died at home after fighting Stage IV gastrointestinal cancer for three years. He was 41. Funeral arrangements are pending.
“Mark passed away surrounded by family [Thursday] afternoon at 4:14 PM (or 1614 in military time as Mark would say),” reads the family’s latest entry on his CaringBridge Web page. “Mark’s wish to die at home, embraced by love, and a view of his beloved garden was granted to him.”
On Memorial Day, Weber was strong enough to address thousands gathered for ceremonies at Fort Snelling National Cemetery, but soon after was moved into hospice care.
In August 2012, Weber received the Legion of Merit from Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the National Guard center in Rosemount. Weber, a career military man who served as a go-between with Dempsey and Gen. Babakir Zibari, chief of defense for Iraq, said that Dempsey “wants to pin it on me while I’m upright.” The Legion of Merit is typically awarded to military general officers and colonels who have occupied command or very senior staff positions.
Weber and his wife, Kristin, have been raising three sons, a high schooler and younger twin brothers. The self-published “Tell My Sons” is based on more than 20 years of Mark Weber’s journals and reflections he wanted to share with his boys. That included the bullying he endured in high school, his early years in the Army, marital struggles from the strains of military life and professional and personal challenges that included exhaustive cancer treatments — surgery, chemotherapy — and the extreme toll they took.
The book sold about 10,000 copies in its first three months and has since been picked up by Random House.
“There are very few moments in my life that have struck me as profoundly as when I realized my parents were not perfect,” Weber said last year in an interview with the Star Tribune. “I wanted my kids to see I’m not perfect. I want them to see that in my life, I’ve learned there is virtue in failure. Hard things are not something to be ashamed of. They are part of the deal.”
On telling his sons about the cancer diagnosis: “Because of my job, we knew too many people would find out quickly, and we didn’t want the kids to hear it from someone else. … When we told them, it was important for me to tell them what they needed to know and what we were going to do about it. We said they would see people crying and angry, but that I’m still here. I’m still me.”
Weber added that he had mixed feelings about his story being an inspiration, but said, “Every time I speak to a group, there are a good number of audience members who come up to me, usually through tears, and tell me someone they loved passed away from cancer. They say, ‘I could hear them in your voice.’ They are reaching out to make a connection, and I always want to affirm that.”