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Former Gazette editor Mark Torinus was passionate about life

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Scott Angus
August 23, 2013

Mark Torinus got three bonus years after suffering a near-fatal heart attack on Valentine's Day 2010, but his time ran out Wednesday.

Torinus, 60, died at his home in Brookfield.

“Mark was a loving husband, a proud father and a rare friend who I will miss very much,” said Sidney “Skip” Bliss, whose company, Bliss Communications, bought a newspaper in Menominee, Mich., owned by Torinus and his two older brothers in 1982.

Torinus went to work for Bliss and eventually became editor of the company's flagship, The Janesville Gazette. He held the position until 1991.

The affable and creative Torinus left his mark in Janesville by helping start The Gazette's Sunday edition in 1988 and by helping found the Janesville Sports Hall of Fame, which inducted its 25th annual class in May.

Torinus also served on Janesville's zoning board of appeals and was campaign director of the United Way of North Rock County.

He and his wife, Maryclaire, and their three children moved to the Milwaukee area in the early 1990s and settled in Brookfield. Torinus worked for the United Way of Milwaukee and then became president of the Wisconsin Foundation for Independent Colleges. Most recently, he was an executive coach.

Torinus escaped death in 2010 while fly-fishing in Iowa. He was alone and suffered a massive heart attack. He passed out several times before crawling up a hill and driving his truck a few hundred yards, where a neighboring farm couple happened upon him. The man was an EMT and performed CPR until emergency crews arrived.

Later, at the hospital, Torinus' heart stopped, and a doctor sliced open his chest and massaged his heart before using a defibrillator to bring Torinus back.

Torinus had triple bypass surgery, but he had continual struggles with his heart and health. Torinus was on a waiting list for a transplant.

Bliss called Torinus “a visionary” and “a humanitarian.” Beyond newspapers, the two shared a love of the outdoors. Torinus wrote a book, “Prairie Pothole Fever,” about annual family trips to Saskatchewan for duck hunting. 

“He was a wonderful guy who loved a good story, a good cigar, a fishing rod, a shotgun and a hunting dog,” Bliss said.

Ron Stegeman became one of Torinus' closest friends when they moved to Janesville about the same time in the mid-1980s. They hunted and fished throughout Wisconsin, and Stegeman remembered Torinus as a man of faith who enjoyed life, always surrounded by family and close friends.

“It was all about camaraderie with Mark. He had such great personal relationships,” Stegeman said.

Nathan Torinus, Mark's 32-year-old son, remembers that his father was about fun, as well, not just for himself but for his family and friends.

“If he wasn't having fun, he was always dreaming up that next fun thing,” Nathan said.

Among Torinus' passions was helping others find their passions, Nathan said. In his work after leaving Janesville, for example, he counseled people about where to go to college, what to study and what careers to pursue.

Stegeman said Torinus probably should have died on that riverbed in Iowa in 2010.

“But he didn't,” Stegeman said, “and we should be grateful for the three extra years we had with him.”



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