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North Fort Myers loses community advocate

January 16, 2019
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

North Fort Myers lost one of its true advocates over the holidays when Mark Lipton died in England on Dec. 28 while visiting the family of his new bride, Candace, whom he had married just six days earlier.

It is believed he fell ill on the plane and his health got progressively worse.

Perhaps the most surprising part about Lipton's death was that he was physically fit, those who knew him said.

Article Photos

Mark Lipton

He played a lot of tennis and walked. During his recent political campaign for state office, he knocked on a lot of doors and spoke to a lot of people.

Just days before his death he posted a Facebook picture of himself in California, where he was visiting his children and grandchildren, on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific. He and Candace had walked those bluffs that day.

Lipton worked 46 years as an attorney for labor unions and as an advocate for the disabled, retiring last year.

Lipton's death left area leaders bereaved as many benefitted from his expertise.

Lipton had been a member of the board of directors for the North Fort Myers Civic Association, writing a regular column in the North Fort Myers Neighbor and working on getting the organization its 501 c 3 status.

President Doug Dailey gave shared the news during Civic's regular meeting last week.

"It puts a big hole in the civic association. We have been trying to gain 501 c 3 status, and Mark being an attorney said he would take care of that," Dailey said. "He was highly respected and people would listen to what he said. When he talked about a problem, he wanted to find a solution. Those are big shoes to fill."

Lipton was also treasurer for the Lee County Arts Center, where he successfully got it 501 c 3 status and was able to convince the owners of Hancock Bridge Square Shopping Center to hold the first Art Walks there.

"He was a wonderful guy who couldn't do enough for you. He had great ideas running for office," said Maryanne Howard, president of the arts center. "The plans he had to try to fix and revitalize the area and knew what he wanted to push the Lee County Commissioners to do."

"He was the first politician I felt attached to. I actually supported his campaign. I'm a registered Republican, but he was an answer for North Fort Myers," said Rudy Berndlmaier, who worked with Lipton with the Arts Center and the civic Association.

Al Giacalone, president of the North Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce, said he didn't know Lipton for long, but learned quickly about his passion for the community.

"He was passionate for what he was doing, loved being in Southwest Florida, and as a politician, listened to all sides of the story. He was very enjoyable to listen to," Giacalone said. "My wife read it to me on Facebook and I was shocked, especially since he wasn't even in the country. He was a good promoter and had the time and vision to see this area get better."

Despite being in the area for a short time, he learned quickly about the inner workings of it.

In 2018, he ran as a Democrat for the State House of Representatives in District 79 against Spencer Roach.

Lipton knew going in the cards were stacked against him as the area is deep red, and indeed, he lost on Election Day.

He and Roach had pledged to keep it a clean campaign, which they did.

Roach said he gained a lot of respect for Lipton. They had different ideologies, but mostly talked about things that had nothing to do with politics.

Roach said when he heard the news he thought they must have been talking about a different Mark Lipton.

"I was stunned; Mark and I were neighbors. We literally saw each other all the time, at the gas station, grocery store, walking, and we had a friendly relationship," Roach said. "In something designed to be so adversarial, we were as close to being friends as you could be in the process. He was very involved in the community and will be missed."

The Lee County Democrats saw his loss as huge, as it was already reeling from the death of April Freeman, who was running for Congress in the 17th District.

"He was a strong advocate for all people. He advocated strongly for Social Security, health care and Medicaid. He wanted people to have a good life and provide those service for the people," said Gabrielle Spuckes, chairperson for the Lee County Democrats. "He was out every day meeting new people, so we were proud of how he handled his campaign. It was a huge loss."



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