David McElroy: A Tribute to Alabama Libertarian Mark Bodenhausen

When I became a libertarian two decades ago, one of the first people I met was Mark Bodenhausen. Back in the days when Jimmy Blake was chair of the Alabama Libertarian Party , Mark was one of the small group who would gather regularly at Jimmy’s house for discussion and planning about how to spread our gospel of small government.

Over the years, I came to know Mark as a brilliant nerd, a principled libertarian, a pragmatic political thinker and as a caring human being. He went on to serve the Alabama Libertarian Party as its chair and as a candidate for a variety of offices. I was very saddened to learn that Mark died Thursday after a long illness.

I knew that Mark was sick, but I had no idea how serious the problem was. Last Sunday, former Alabama Libertarian Party vice chair Mike Rster posted a note on Facebook updating us about Mark. It sounded very serious, but I assumed it meant good news.

“The past 19 days have been trying,” Mike wrote. “Due to an aneurysm that caused two catastrophic bleeds in Mark’s brain, the doctors inserted a tube into his brain to relieve the pressure. In the course of the Mark’s treatment his liver failed and then his kidneys. He remained unresponsive for the 17 days.

“Two days ago he nodded yes and no for the first time since the initial bleed. His kidneys have stabilized although he still might require further dialysis. His liver is causing a problem with blood clotting. He has had multiple units of blood and blood products. Once his blood platelet count is sufficient he is scheduled for three surgeries….

“We anticipate a lengthy recovery and rehabilitation period for Mark. He still has a long way to go.”

So I felt a terribly sick feeling Thursday when another friend posted news of Mark’s death.

If you didn’t know Mark, you don’t have much reason to note his death. He was a good husband and a good friend and a good colleague to those who knew him, but hardly any of you knew him. Please take my word, though, that Mark was one of those rare people whose names you might see connected to politics who was genuinely decent and honest and and worthy of respect as a person, completely outside of his political work.

Mark was quiet and he shied away from the spotlight. At a social event, he was more likely to be talking quietly in a corner about the German language or economics or his faith than anything else. He cared deeply about people and he was strongly committed to living in the most principled ways that he could.

After I made my short film, “We’re the Government — and You’re Not,” I went to a local Libertarian Party gathering on Southside right after copies of my DVD were being seen for the first time by local libertarians. I was a little nervous about whether people would like it.

Mark met me on the front porch of the building as I arrived and he was gracious in his praise of my film, which made me feel much more relaxed. Then he pulled out his billfold and got out a 10-dollar bill, which he handed to me.

“I want to be the first one to contribute toward your next film,” Mark said. “I believe in what you’re doing and I want to support you.”

I ended up selling hundreds of copies of the DVD for that film, but no money I received meant as much to me as Mark’s $10. He wasn’t just saying, “Hey, I like what you’ve done,” but he was saying, “I believe in you and I’m putting my money where my mouth is.”

I still haven’t made that next film, but no matter what else I do, I have to make at least one more film that reflects the libertarian beliefs we shared — because Mark has already made the down payment on that film. I still owe it to him.

Mark’s funeral will be Monday, Nov. 10, 2014, at 2 p.m. at Bessemer-Brown Funeral Home in Bessemer, Ala., with burial to follow in Elmwood Cemetery in Birmingham. His friends will gather afterward at Jim ’n’ Nick’s Barbecue in Homewood.

12 thoughts on “David McElroy: A Tribute to Alabama Libertarian Mark Bodenhausen

  1. Jill Pyeatt Post author

    “Mark Bodenhausen was principled Libertarian, but even better person”

    I can only hope to have someone say something like that at my passing. It’s powerful praise.

  2. paulie

    “Mark Bodenhausen was principled Libertarian, but even better person”

    It’s very true. I’ve known Mark since the 1990s. He was one of the first Libertarians I voted for, for US House in 1992. I went to visit him a couple of weeks ago, but he didn’t wake up. We sat with his wife Lynn for a little while. That was the last time I saw him.

    Mark knew Lynn from college, just reconnected with her a couple of years ago after 30 years. They were only married about a year. She moved up from Mobile for him and doesn’t have a job in Birmingham. He didn’t have health insurance. A couple of days befor the aneurysm his house burned down; total loss. Then he had a bunch of other things go wrong including liver failure and stomach problems.

    Mike Rster wrote on November 7:

    Dear friends:

    Thank you for an incredible outpouring of support. Facebook and my email box have been filled with the appreciation and the kind words of many friends.

    Independent Alabama Founder and my dear friend Mark Bodenhausen passed away peacefully yesterday at about 4:40pm. His wife Lynn and many friends were by his side.

    I hope to implore the many people that Mark impacted over the years to help his wife through these difficult times.

    Mark and his new bride Lynn had suffered a house fire that was a total loss just two days before Mark suffered his stroke. Although there were many health issues, we had held out hope that Mark could recover as he had beaten the odds so many times before! But yesterday morning he suffered another catastrophic event and died later that day.

    Mark was without health insurance and he and his new wife were just getting established as a couple. This unbelievable tragedy has devastated them.

    Please follow the link below to help Lynn pay for medical expenses and the funeral.

    (Lynn Bodenhausen’s maiden name is Elana Lynn Hudson)

    https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr…

    If you have any trouble with the link just contact me.

    Thank you all for your many kindnesses over the years.

    Sincerely,

    Mike Rster
    gallatin76@aol.com

    And from Charles Kennedy via FB:

    Rest in peace, Mark Bodenhausen. Mark was a tireless champion for the cause of liberty, with his activism in the Libertarian Party of Alabama, having served for a number of years as chairman of the party, and serving up to the present time as a regional representative for the party. Some weeks ago, he and his wife Lynn were devastated by a house fire, which was a total loss, and a few days later he suffered a pair of hemorrhagic strokes caused by an aneurysm, leaving him in critical condition in the hospital. He passed away peacefully late Thursday afternoon, around 4:40 or so. Our thoughts, prayers and condolences are with Lynn for strength, comfort and peace as she faces a very difficult road ahead, and of course for both Mark and Lynn’s family. I count myself among many who are very thankful and fortunate to have known Mark, and are thankful for all he has done for the great cause of liberty. He will be greatly missed.

    I didn’t know the funeral is tomorrow til I read David’s article above. I’ll have to try to figure out a way to get there.

  3. Andy

    I interacted with Mark Bodenhausen several times. Sometimes during Libertarian Party petition drives in Alabama. Sometimes at Libertarian Party meetings while passing through or visiting Alabama. Sometimes at Libertarian Party National Conventions or LNC meetings.

    Mark Bodenhausen was one of a very small handful of people that helped hold the Libertarian Party of Alabama together through some difficult times which were primarily caused by the Libertarian Party losing ballot access in Alabama. Alabama has some of the worst ballot access laws in the country, so the Libertarian Party has not been able to get that many candidates on the ballot in Alabama over the last 12 years. Fewer candidates on the ballot in a state means that the party goes down hill in that state. If it had not been for a few dedicated people, like Mark Bodenhausen, the Libertarian Party of Alabama would have likely gone defunct (which would have had a detrimental effect on fund raising for LP national, and for Presidential vote totals). The LP of Alabama was able to rent an office back in the 1990’s or early 2000’s, and they had a really good deal on the office. It was in a part of Birmingham which Mark Bodenhausen described as being like having an office on Park Ave, or Madison Ave. in New York City. The office was inside a law office (which was an old house that had been converted into a law office), and it also included a storage area in the basement, and the LP was able to use the big rooms in the front to hold party meetings (after the law office was closed of course). I can’t recall how much the rent was, but it was pretty cheap. The ballot access problems they had in Alabama caused their state party membership to decline, and less members meant less money coming in to their state party. It got to the point where the state party was not bringing in enough money to cover the office rent, so they were going to have to get rid of the office. This would have meant that they’d have lost their meeting place, and that they’d have to move all of the office equipment and supplies that they had to somebody’s house. This would have been a major inconvenience, and they apparently had a bad experience back in the 1990’s leaving party equipment/supplies at somebodies house, as I was told a story about how they had printing press that a party member said they would store for them at their house, and the person left the printing press in their backyard, which caused it to rust and become useless. Anyway, Mark Bodenhausen believed that it was important for the party to maintain the office, so he dipped into his own pocket to make up the difference in the rent. I don’t know how long he did this, but I know it was for a while, probably several months, maybe a year, maybe longer. I think that he kicked in something like an extra $100 a month, or something like that. It is not like Mark Bodenhausen was rich, he was just a regular middle class working guy.

    Mark Bodenhausen also spent a lot of time on lobbying efforts and law suits to try to make ballot access more reasonable in Alabama. He was also one of the main people that pushed to do the petition drive to gain ballot access in several counties in Alabama for this past election, and this was the first time that the LP of Alabama had gotten any candidates on the ballot other than President since 2006, and this past election was also the most candidates that the LP of Alabama has had on the ballot since 2002 (which was the last election for which they were able to have party state in Alabama).

    It is a shame when the Libertarian Party loses warriors like Mark Bodenhausen, David Nolan, Jim Burns, etc… These are people who dedicated a big portion of their lives to the struggle for individual liberty, and it is too bad they had to go before they got to see any big victories.

    Mark Bodenhausen was a good guy. He deserved better than this.

  4. Andy

    “were able to have party state in Alabama”

    Should read, “were able to have party status in Alabama…”

  5. David Blau

    My deepest condolences to Mark’s family and friends. I met Mark only a few times, but he struck me as someone who was deeply passionate and yet modest, as a Southern gentleman should be. I am shocked and saddened by this devastating loss.

  6. Andy

    David Blau said: ” as a Southern gentleman should be.”

    Interesting tidbit about Mark Bodenhausen. Although he was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, and he lived there all of – or for the majority of – his life, he did not have a Southern accent. I asked him about this, and he said that since both of his parents were German immigrants, he only spoke German at home until he attended elementary school. He said that he learned English from an elementary school teacher who was originally from Ohio, and he just maintained that speaking style after that.

  7. Stewart Flood

    I noticed that also. I asked him if he was from Ohio. He laughed and told me why he had his accent. I’d forgotten about that until you wrote about him telling you.

  8. paulie

    I spent about 15 hours yesterday at Mark’s funeral reception, burial and having dinner and drinks with his friends and family afterwards, and getting there and back on the bus. There were probably about 50-100 people at the funeral home, and still a dozen or more left at the restaurant well past dark. Mark touched a lot of lives.

  9. Lynn Bodenhausen

    Thank you for all the kind comments and love shown for Mark. I want you all to know that I did my best to get him treated as quickly as possible. I had to strike a balance between being a nurse and a wife. Not only did I feel that his life and mine hung in the balance, but, I had a strong sense that this world, and Alabama wouldn’t be the same.
    Mark had every possibility for recovery until he developed a blood clot that further damaged his liver, and made the normal interventions for liver problems impossible. Then, 5 days later, he had a large fluctuation in his blood pressure that could have come from anything from a cardiac event or another neuro event, or possibly both. From the lab work, it appears to have been both. And to think that just two days prior to this, he opened his eyes and gave me a big smile, not once, but, three times in a row.
    Unfortunately, right now, there is still no way to detect an Arterio-Venous Malformation until something happens. Maybe one day, this will change. But, I want everyone to know, should an AVM be found early, it can be treated with Gamma knife radiation. While each case is different and outcomes can be the worst, as in Mark’s case, it doesn’t have to be that way for everyone.
    Mark’s influence on me and others was far more reaching than even I realized. I want to try to be more like him.
    He was an ornament to Liberty and to our home state.
    I cry everyday.
    Lynn

  10. Jill Pyeatt Post author

    I only met Mark once, Lynn (at the 20012 convention in Las Vegas), but I know his loss is a tragic one for the LP and for you. I’m so sorry–he was much too young to go.

    I also understand you had a serious house fire. I’d like to offer my help, if you feel you need some, sorting out fire insurance information. That’s the field I work in, and, although CA’s rules are undoubtedly different in some areas than Alabama’s, I’ll be happy to help if you need it.

    You can email me at stone@altrionet,com.

    Take care of yourself, Lynn. .

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