The Handy Man
Mark Charette, who worked as an insurance broker at Marsh & McLennan in Morristown, N.J., was handier than the handy man.
Task by task, he was renovating his 120-year- old Victorian house in Millburn, N.J. He redid the heating system, much of the plumbing and put a cathedral ceiling in his bedroom.
Mr. Charette, 38, was at a morning meeting at Marsh's offices in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.
He met his wife, Cheryl Desmarais, at the University of Pennsylvania. They began as engineering majors and finished with business degrees. He was in the Navy R.O.T.C. to save his parents the expense of his college education, his wife said. Then it was five years as an officer on a nuclear submarine, while Ms. Desmarais worked as a consultant in New York.
Even with his work, travel and home renovating, he made his family the center of his life. At home in New Jersey or at their vacation house in Vermont, Mr. Charette spent hours hiking, skiing and swimming with his three children.
He made time on Saturday mornings to take Lauren, 8, Andrew, 6, and Jonathan, 2, to McDonald's for breakfast, giving his wife a break. "This is your time," he would tell his wife. "You are not invited."
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 1, 2001.
Mark Charette, 38, mornings were for kids
On Saturdays, Mark Charette loved to load his three children into the family car and take them to McDonald's for breakfast and playtime with dad.
As a senior vice president at Marsh, the insurance brokerage arm of Marsh McLennan Co., Mr. Charette had to travel often. Whenever possible, he would arrange to be home when it was time to kiss the kids goodnight. If meetings ran late, he'd fly back at midnight rather than miss a morning with his family.
"Mark was the best father in the world," said his wife, Cheryl Desmarais. "The kids were everything to him."
On Sept. 11, Mr. Charette left his Millburn home at 6:45 a.m. for the second half of a two-day meeting at One World Trade Center. He is thought to have been on the 100th floor when the hijacked plane struck the building. He was 38.
Born and raised in Warwick, R.I., Mark Lawrence Charette attended the University of Pennsylvania on a ROTC scholarship.
"Mark felt that it shouldn't be his parents' responsibility to pay for his college education," said Desmarias.
Mr. Charette and Desmarais met in an engineering class, but both switched majors and graduated from The Wharton School.
After college, Mr. Charette was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Navy. He was based in Groton, Conn., and was attached to the nuclear submarine the USS Pasadena. He attained the rank of lieutenant.
With an economics degree and nuclear technology experience, Mr. Charette was a natural hire for Johnson & Higgins, an insurance brokerage firm in New York that worked with energy companies. (J&H was later bought by Marsh McLennan Co.)
"People gravitated to him because he was a professional," said Stanley Jablonowski, head of Marsh's Morristown office, where Mr. Charette was based. "Because of his candor, because he was direct, because there was no nonsense with Mark. He was an honorable man."
Most recently, at Marsh, he handled the insurance end of construction projects for NJ Transit, American Airlines and the Philadelphia Phillies.
Eleven years ago, Mr. Charette and his wife bought a 125-year-old Victorian house in Millburn. Talented with his hands, Mr. Charette did all the fix-it work himself, including the electrical and the plumbing.
"He ripped down the walls in my bedroom and put up a cathedral ceiling," Desmarais said.
He also built a swingset for his children, Lauren, 8; Andrew, 6, and Jonathan, almost 2.
Mr. Charette is also survived by his parents, Lawrence and Donnalee Charette, and a brother, Gregory, all of Warwick, R.I.
Profile by Kimberly Brown published in THE STAR-LEDGER.