6:01pm | Wednesday, March 16, 2011, may very well go down in city history as one of Long Beach’s darkest days.
It is on this date that a private twin-engine passenger plane carrying six men headed for a leisurely skiing trip in Utah took off from Long Beach Municipal Airport and only moments later crashed during a landing attempt and erupted into flames.
Only one of those men made it out alive.
Though only one of the deceased was a Long Beach resident, two others were heavily involved in the local community and were relatively well-known.
Mark Llewellyn Bixby, 44, was a prominent community member who was active in various nonprofit and volunteer organizations. A bicycle advocate, he was the founding director of the Long Beach Bicycle Festival. He served as past president of the Long Beach Rotary and YMCA Camping Services Board and remained active in both organizations. He formerly worked for Bixby Land Company and was currently employed at Pacific Retail Partners as a broker. The Bixby family is well-known citywide as one of the founding families of the city of Long Beach. He leaves behind a wife, Theresa, and three children, Ryan, Kirra and Jessica.
Jeff Berger, 49, of Manhattan Beach, and Tom Dean, 50, of Laguna Beach, did not live in Long Beach, but both were longtime associates at Long Beach-based real estate development firm Bergerdean. Most recently, the two were involved in a controversial deal with the city of Long Beach in which city land was swapped for a portion of the Los Cerritos Wetlands.
The outpouring of sympathy and condolences from officials, organizations and those who knew any or all three of these men has been voluminous. Below is a selection of unedited reactions that have been submitted to the Long Beach Post.
These families and the entire Long Beach community have suffered a great loss. The men we lost devoted their lives to making Long Beach a more beautiful place to live, and it will now be up to those who similarly care about this community to carry that torch. My heart goes out to the loved ones who are having to endure this tragedy.
Sen. Roderick D. Wright
25th Senate District
State of California
We carry a very heavy heart following today’s tragic accident. These were charismatic men that believed in Long Beach, made a real contribution and worked towards a better community. Our thoughts and prayers go to their children and their families in this time of unspeakable sadness.”
Mayor Bob Foster
City of Long Beach
Today is a very sad day here in Long Beach for so many families, friends and our community. My thoughts and prayers are with them all. I knew Mark and always loved seeing him at events taking his beautiful photographs especially at the biking events. My thoughts and prayers are with Theresa… so unbelievably sad… for all of the families.
Wife of Mayor Bob Foster
My heartfelt sympathies and prayers go out to the family members and friends of those who lost their lives or were injured in today’s plane crash. We lost a part of what makes Long Beach such a special place to live, but we are definitely the better for knowing them.
I had been working with Mark Bixby to ensure bicycle and pedestrian access to the new Gerald Desmond Bridge. Among his many ideas to improve our community, I know this was very important to him, so I will work tirelessly toward the fulfillment of his vision as a fitting legacy for a person so committed to advocating for cyclists.
Dr. Suja Lowenthal
City of Long Beach
Yesterday was a terrible day for our city, and for the family and friends of those who lost their lives in the plane crash at the Long Beach Airport. When I first heard about the accident and those that were on board, I was stunned and saddened. We lost some great friends and community leaders. As you know, Long Beach residents Mark Bixby and Tom Dean did not survive the crash. Mike Jensen, also a Long Beach resident, was on board and survived, but is still in critical condition at Long Beach Memorial Hospital.
I knew Mark Bixby well. He was a good friend, advisor, supporter and all around great guy. I got to know Mark through his loving and wonderful wife, Theresa Bixby, who I have sat on the board with of Children Today for 5 years. Mark and I were in constant communication, usually about his plans to make Long Beach America’s Most Bike Friendly City. He was an avid cyclist, and was the leading city voice on bike policy, advocacy and community engagement. The progress we have made on bike infrastructure and bike policy would not have been possible without Mark’s leadership. Mark has left an incredible and lasting legacy in our city. He, Theresa, and his family have my commitment that I will do everything I can to continue and advance his work and his projects. Additionally, Mark was a community leader and philanthropist. He and his wife Theresa are part of our Children Today family, and have donated both their resources and time to help our city’s vulnerable homeless population.
We love you Mark, you will be missed.
Mike Jensen, who miraculously survived the crash, is also a friend. Most recently, Mike and I spent time at Crema Coffee in Downtown Long Beach talking about the future of development and the local economy. Mike is also a mentor and one of the first people to support me when I ran for the City Council. My prayers are with him and his family, and I look forward to many more great conversations once he makes a full recovery.
I did not know the other men who died in the crash very well, but their deaths are equally tragic. They were Tom Dean of Long Beach, Jeff Berger and Bruce Krall.
We lost family, friends and community leaders. Yet we will move forward, be stronger, and never forget their contributions and love for their families and for Long Beach. In the next couple days, please say a prayer for Mike, and for the families of Mark, Tom, Jeff and Bruce.
God Bless their families and Long Beach,
Long Beach City Councilman
Earlier today several members of the Long Beach community were tragically involved in a plane crash at Long Beach Airport. Mark Bixby and Tom Dean did not survive the crash, and Mike Jensen was critically injured.
I have had the good fortune to know each of these individuals and their families. Their children were always their No. 1 priority and every conversation always included a story about one of their kid’s accomplishments.
Mark Bixby was a terrific leader. Mark was president of the Long Beach Rotary a few years ago, and as a fellow member, it was a privilege to be led by someone who demonstrated such charismatic leadership. He was one of the most creative individuals I have known and an outstanding photographer. Some years ago Mark called me and offered his professional assistance. He commented “Gary, you don’t look very good in your campaign pictures — let me take some of you.” At the end of session, he said “You’re right — you’re not very photogenic.”
Tom Dean made many gifts to our community, in a quiet way. There were numerous occasions when a board member of a non-profit mentioned to me about a project that was made possible by Tom, without any desired recognition for his generosity. On a more public level, Tom and his partner Jeff Berger made possible the transfer of portions of the Los Cerritos Wetlands to the public domain. They were the first owners of the Wetlands property to have an earnest desire to see the land transferred to the public for future generations to enjoy.
I spent much of today at Long Beach Memorial Hospital with Mike Jensen’s wife, family and friends. The Long Beach community is very fortunate to have such a wonderful medical facility in our City. The physician’s are topnotch, the staff is unbelievably supportive of the patient and the family, and Mike’s family and I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Jim Normandin, President of the Memorial Medical Center Foundation. Jim went above and beyond the call of duty to do anything and everything that could be done to make the best of a bad situation.
And thank you Fire Chief Alan Patalano and the Long Beach Fire Department for your quick response and outstanding professionalism.
I will greatly miss my friends Mark Bixby and Tom Dean, and ask you to keep Mike Jensen and his family in your thoughts and prayers over the next few days.
Long Beach City Councilman
I extend my deepest condolences to the family and friends of those who died or were injured in today’s tragic plane crash at the Long Beach Airport. I also commend the Long Beach Fire Department and the Long Beach Airport staff for their quick response to the scene and for their continued professionalism in handling the news regarding this horrible event.
Long Beach City Councilwoman
On behalf of the Board of Directors and Staff of Children Today, I want to offer our sincere condolences to all the families impacted by yesterday’s tragedy at the Long Beach Airport. A small plane carrying six passengers crashed shortly after take-off, claiming the life of Mark Bixby, husband of Children Today Co-Founder and Board Member Theresa Bixby. To try and reduce to words the feelings of sorrow, heartache and loss we feel for our fallen friends is truly an impossible task.
What is possible, even in this time of grieving, is to share with you how integral the entire Bixby family is to the Children Today organization and how deeply Mark’s passing will be felt. Our hearts go out to Theresa, the soul of our Board, and the Bixby children and larger family.
Every day and in countless ways, Mark reminded us of why it is that we love our community. The example he set as a community leader, however, is second only to the example he set as a husband and father. In fact, as I recall the conversations I had with Mark over the last few weeks — whether about the bike lanes on the Gerald Desmond Bridge or his work in real estate — our talks always started and ended with his family. He’d discuss the score of the recent soccer game, how school was going, or upcoming family trips. Mark had both a perspective and sense of priority in life that would make any of us envious. And it is precisely those qualities that he brought to Children Today — qualities that will be dearly missed and from a man who we will miss even more.
At the right time Children Today will find a way to honor Mark and the legacy he leaves behind. In the meantime please join me in showing our love and support to the entire Bixby family. You may pass your condolences directly via the organization:
Through Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1535052742
On our website: http://childrentoday.org/
Or by mail: PO Box 16004, Long Beach, CA 90806
Again, I am so sorry to be the bearer of such news, and offer my condolences to all of you for your loss. In Mark’s honor we will push ahead with the work he encouraged us to do, knowing he would want us to seize every moment by doing as much as we can whenever we can.
Children Today Board President
An open letter to Mark Bixby from the Downtown Long Beach Associates
A wise man once said that “To live in the hearts of those we leave behind is not to die.” There isn’t a more fitting sentiment as we reflect on the life that you led and the lasting impact you will have on those of us who had the honor of calling you a friend.
There are few people in this world who carry with them such passion and dedication to the things they hold dear. Your contagious energy and vigor for life were part of that Mark Bixby charm that so many enjoyed, but it was your commitment to this community, your allegiance to friends and your incredible love of family that will continue to be an inspiration to us all.
It was such an honor to work side-by-side with you and to see your vision come to fruition with the Long Beach Bicycle Festival and Tour of Long Beach. We were all awed by your excitement and enthusiasm and unrivaled ability to rally support for a cause. Your leadership and can-do attitude helped create an event that will raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the patients of Miller Children’s Hospital of Long Beach in the coming years.
Your contributions as a DLBA Board member were just the tip of the iceberg when it came to the generosity you showed in giving your time to make a difference for good of the community. You quietly supported so many organizations that help make Long Beach a great city and your smiling face and gentle spirit lit up the room wherever you went.
We honor you, Mark, not only for the extraordinary man that you were, but for the lasting impression you made on the world around you. Your life was short, but made an immeasurable difference. Thank you for giving us so much of yourself and for making us laugh and smile along with you as you did. And thank you for reminding us that it is not how a man dies that is important, but rather how a man lives. May your next adventure be as fulfilling as the one you shared with us.
With love and admiration.
It was with deep sadness that we learned of the tragic passing of our friends and neighbors, including our beloved friend and YMCA volunteer, Mark Bixby. Mark began his involvement with the YMCA as a camper at Camp Fox while in elementary school. As an adult, he continued his involvement as a member of the Los Altos Family YMCA, and as a Board Member with YMCA Camp Oakes.
While his children were elementary school aged, Mark was highly involved in the Adventure Guides program through the Los Altos Family YMCA. Each year, Mark and his children would join others for the annual Camp Oakes winter camp. Mark developed a love for camp, and soon after joined the camp Board of Managers.
As a member of the YMCA Camp Oakes Board of Managers, Mark served in a variety of capacities including Board Chairman, and also Chairman of the Strategic Planning Committee. While a part of the Board, Mark spearheaded several building projects at camp. He is largely responsible for the construction of Bose Lodge, the Dining Hall Annex, the Clair Johnson Campfire, and the sand volleyball courts, all of which are strategic parts of camp operation. Mark was also instrumental in the negotiation of several important contracts between the camp and county and city officials.
Along with Mark’s passion for his family, and camp, he also had a passion for seeing youth develop skills that would help them succeed in life. Mark was very involved in Rotary’s Camp Enterprise Program, held annually at YMCA Camp Oakes. Mark’s presentations and mentoring were always a highlight of this week-long event focused on teaching high school students basic business skills and leadership development. Mark was truly dedicated to serving his community and our youth.
There will be a candle light vigil in memory of those who lost their lives in Wednesday’s plane crash and for crash survivor Mike Jensen (who came out of surgery very early this morning in stable condition) on Friday, March 18th at 6:00 pm on the sand in front of 45 Dana Place. This is on the bay side of the peninsula, and we understand it is where Mark’s grandmother lived. Candles will be provided and it is suggested that attendees park at the Sailing Center end of the peninsula and walk to Dana Place, which is four streets into the peninsula.
Please continue to pray for all those lost in this tragic accident, and keep their families and loved ones in your thoughts. No announcement of Memorial Services has been received yet but will be shared as a soon as they are made available to us.
With a very heavy heart.
Interim President and Chief Executive Officer
YMCA of Greater Long Beach
Very sad and tragic news in the Leadership Long Beach family today as Mark Bixby (EQS ’95, LLBI ’96) was one of those killed in the small airplane crash at Long Beach Airport this morning. Mark is the husband of Theresa Bixby (LLBI ’99) and nephew of Jean Bixby-Smith (HBOG).
Mark was in the very first Executive Quick Start class in 1995 and then went through the full Leadership Institute class the next year. He served the organization in numerous ways over the last 15 years — Board of Directors and Executive Board, Retreat Teams, Curriculum Team, Chairing Alumni Committee events and as a class presenter on many occasions. He spoke to the class as recently as last year, when he spoke at the Closing Retreat on the final class day for the Class of 2010, where he inspired the group with his stories and thoughts on serving the community.
Mark and his family truly exemplified community trusteeship and he was a model of community leadership. Along with his LLB involvement, Mark was among other things President of Rotary, Board Chair for YMCA, served for Young Professionals Against Cancer and most recently headed up the Long Beach Bicycle Festival.
We were able to speak to several of Mark’s 1996 classmates, including Rich Archbold, Pam Spoo and Janey Roeder. All of them commented that the work Mark did in the community was extraordinary, but foremost he was a devoted husband and terrific father and always prioritized family first. Pam Spoo commented, “I don’t use the terms remarkable or exemplary very often, but Mark truly was those things.”
Mark is survived by his wife Theresa, co-founder of Children Today, and their three children Ryan, Kirra and Jessica.
Interim Executive Director
Leadership Long Beach
LLB Board President