Mark Hansen Keffer
Mark Hansen Keffer died on Friday, October 11, 2019, in Puerto Rico, along with his girlfriend, Maya Robinson. They were celebrating their four-year anniversary when they were caught in a flash flood at the Espíritu Santo river, the river of the Holy Spirit, at El Yunque National Rainforest.
Mark was born in Houston, Texas, on January 25, 1997. He is the brother of Peter and the youngest son of John and Debbie Keffer. When Mark was five, the Keffers moved from Houston to London, and he developed the only British accent in the family. Although it was hotly contested who was taller, Mark was about 6' 3", like Peter. When Mark walked together with his father and brother, you could see that they all shared the same gentle and ambling walk.
Mark was unfailingly sensitive and affectionate. He was also fiercely creative, like his mother, Debbie. He honed his musical talent in the Byron Consort Choir at Harrow School in London, where he learned to arrange and compose music, as well as to sing. He toured the world, including Rome, Milan, Moscow, New York, Washington D.C., and Chicago. Mark sang with the Byron Consort many times at St. Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, and Westminster Cathedral in London. His voice had a soft and warm quality that he commanded with confidence, even at a young age, and he was always happy to perform.
At Harrow, Mark discovered that he was a gifted visual artist, and he continued to paint throughout his life. Mark learned to paint from photographs so that he could follow shapes as closely as possible. Mark's paintings were never small—he repeatedly chose large formats—and his work was always deliberate, ambitious, and thoughtful.
But Mark's style was never predictable. In his 22 years, he produced a vast collection of works that range from photorealistic self-portraits, bright abstracts inspired by Roman marble, and imagined woodland landscapes that seem lit from within. Many of his works are featured on his website, www.markkeffer.co.uk
Mark attended Georgetown University, his father's alma mater. He graduated with a double major in Art and Psychology and a minor in Economics in 2019. In his senior year he was co-author of a peer-reviewed academic paper on psychology, titled "Using Matching 'Smarts' and Interest to Successfully Address Depression Caused by Existential Crisis."
At Georgetown, for some time he was part of the rowing team. His crewmates said he was always easy to talk to, smiling and funny, even when they had to wake up before sunrise. "If it weren't for people like Mark then the other guys wouldn't have found the motivation to get up at 5 A.M. and work out," his former roommate Will Thacher said.
He used his musical skills as a leader of the musical group the Capitol Gs, where he arranged many of their pieces as musical director. A recent president of the group, Marie Merveilleux du Vignaux, said that Mark's musical arrangements were some of the most challenging that they sang, but they were always rewarding and beautiful.
At Georgetown, Mark kept painting. His paintings reveal his growing wisdom and imagination. He thought deeply about the passage of time—a theme of many of his paintings—the environment, and racial injustice in America.
A professor of art history at Georgetown, Elizabeth Prelinger, bought one of his paintings when he was a student, and hung it in her dining room. "My breath was taken away when I first saw Mark's painting, 'Urban Infection,'" she said. "I cannot imagine being without it. Mark and I talked many times about his work and his plans. He was a remarkable young man."
Georgetown was where Mark met Maya. He became enthralled with her from the moment they met, only a few weeks into their freshman year. They did almost everything together from that point on. They were on the rowing team together, they sang together in the Capitol Gs, they ate most of their meals together, and they studied together. They had a lot of fun together—they liked to watch horror movies, seek out quirky ice cream flavors and hang out. Mark could often be seen in a Hawaiian shirt, probably given to him by Maya. They were ambitious, always talking about what their futures might look like. They were considering graduate school and possibly founding a startup.
"All of us only knew Mark and Maya as one," a classmate said. "They genuinely loved each other and you could feel that love just by being around them."
In 2019, after graduating from Georgetown, Mark moved into an apartment in Brooklyn, New York. He wanted to live close to his brother, Peter, and Peter found the apartment for him and his college roommate Matt Giangiordano. Mark loved his first grown up home, which he decorated by trawling nearby thrift stores with his interior designer mother, Debbie. Maya had moved into an apartment nearby, in Manhattan, and in the summer of 2019 they both started their first graduate jobs. Mark was an analyst at Ion Group, and Maya worked in finance at BlackRock. Mark was to be the best man at Peter's wedding in July, 2020, and talked about how much he looked forward to giving his speech.
Mark will be remembered as a sweet and bright young man; a brother, son, nephew, grandson, friend, musician, and artist. He is survived by his mother Debbie, father John, brother Peter, soon to be sister-in-law Eloise Blondiau, aunt Cheryl Vogel and her husband, his uncle, Kevin, and grandmother Barbara Westgard.
In a painting he completed in 2015, when he was 18, he depicted shards of glass suspended before an orb of light. He called the painting "Persistence." He wrote: "I wanted to depict the idea of someone's spirit never being truly crushed and the importance of persistence." He explained that even though one's spirit can be "fragmented into hundreds of pieces (depicted by the broken glass) one's spirit will remain untouched and whole."
This leaves "the individual with an option to persist," Mark wrote. "An option which they must choose."
There will be a funeral Mass for Mark Keffer on Monday, October 21st at 4:30 pm at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church, 1801 Sage Road, Houston, Texas. All are welcome.
In lieu of flowers, the Keffer family requests donations in the names of Mark Keffer and Maya Robinson to the charity "El Toque del Maestro" in Puerto Rico. You can donate on Venmo by searching for @Mark-And-Maya on the app.
You can mail checks payable to Hogar Alma Inc. to the following address:
Government Chaplain Corps
El Toque del Maestro
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00919
The Keffer family is grateful for the kindness, help and support shown to them by the authorities in Puerto Rico, including Eric Cintron (Negociado de Manejo de Emergencias) and his search team that found Mark; the acting Secretary of State of Puerto Rico, Maria Marcano; Eric Rios (Government Chaplain Corps); Madeline Santiago (Tourism department of Puerto Rico); and Agent Christian Lopez (Puerto Rico police department).