Mark Dees

By: Ed Niles

Our dear friend Mark Dees died in a head-on collision December 23, 1996.

I first met Mark almost 40 years ago, when we were both young Deputies in the L.A. City Attorney's Office. One of our mutual friends introduced us, saying, "You guys should get acquainted; you both like cars". In Mark's case, that was an understatement. Mark's taste in rolling stock was eclectic, to say the least. At the time of his death, he owned somewhere between 35 and 40 cars, ranging from Buick Hot Rods, through Indy cars, Bonneville speedsters, to his 308 GT4 "Project", which of course he never completed.

Mark was bright, witty, and well educated (Stanford). He selected his parents well, and as a result never really had to work for a living, although he practiced law for a number of years. One would think that he would travel in certain elite circles. He did, but he was just as friendly with anybody who had any interest in things automotive, no matter their station in life. In fact, he loved to be surrounded by his friends, who are legion.

Most of us in the Ferrari world restrict our interest to only the one type of car. Mark was not only interested in everything automotive, but was a great train enthusiast as well. At the time of his death, he owned three rail cars, the most famous of which was the "San Marino", the private rail car originally built for Henry E. Huntington. His other interests included horses and horse racing, and in particular long distance horse racing, a peculiarly punishing test of man and beast.

In addition to owning several interesting Ferraris, Mark made himself known to club members by sponsoring, for many years, an annual picnic at his family ranch in Santa Paula. He was an extraordinarily entertaining story-teller, and one memorable example is when he spoke to the Ferrari Owner's Club about his exploits in the "Baja 1000" in a Citroen(!). When he told that story, I started laughing so hard that I was in danger of having "an accident", and as I ran to the men's room I could still hear the laughter of the crowd after every sentence.

Mark had a penchant for biting off more than he could chew. He had always hoped to create a new estate on his property in Santa Paula, so that he could reinstate the annual picnics. Sadly, it was another dream that will go unrealized.

Mark was such a strong presence in the lives of so many, that it is hard to believe that he is gone. Our sympathies go to his family, but those of us who knew him well must also give each other sympathy.