Maj. Mordecai “Mawk” Roberts Arnold, USMC (retired)


Maj. Mordecai "Mawk" Roberts Arnold, USMC (retired), left this world on Jan. 15, 2018.

The son of loving parents, John Hawkins Arnold and Mordecai Arnold, he was born in Tyler, Texas, and moved to Baldwin County, Alabama in1931 with his parents and five siblings, traveling in an old Model A truck. Settling in Fairhope, the family had three more children.

Mawk attended the Organic School, Fairhope, where he developed a lifelong love for the school, and a love of dancing, music and going barefoot.

After graduation from Organic, he joined the Marine Corps, heading to the Pacific during WWII, beginning his 34-year career in which he would serve during three wars. He was a radar technician on Guam and Peleliu and served in China. He brought Boo Bob, the dog he found on Peleliu, home with him, sneaking him up a garbage chute onto the ship, and smuggling him off in a duffel bag on arrival in California.

As a reservist he attended Troy State Teachers College. There he met Alice Morrison. At the end of his junior year they married and honeymooned at the Iowa State Juvenile Home where they taught folk dance, swimming and art for the summer. Alice would be his loving wife until her death 42 years later.

Mawk graduated from Troy with a music education degree, and began graduate work at Appalachian State Teachers College, Boone, North Carolina, teaching elementary students in the college demonstration school. Daughter Cindy was born there.

Called back to active duty in 1950 due to the Korean War, he went to Camp Lejune, North Carolina, and then drove his family in their 1940 Buick Special to San Diego for his radar school. When the war ended, and he was released again from active duty, Mawk taught English for three years at Cherokee Indian high school in North Carolina. Daughter Marla was born there.

He immersed himself in the culture and learned Cherokee folksongs when a student took him high up into the mountains to visit her grandmother. He hitchhiked to and from Atlanta for reserve duty until returning to active duty at the Marine Air Reserve Training Detachment in Atlanta where he served five years. Rachel was born there.

In 1960 he went by troop ship to his assignment at Futema, Okinawa, where he was radar technician and Public Information Officer (PIO). He taught English to Okinawans, learned their songs and became a popular Karaoke singer, a skill he enjoyed from then on.

From 1961 to 1966, he was PIO at Camp Lejune, where he was promoted to 2nd lieutenant. Having come up through the ranks, he was older than most 2nd lieutenants. When son Kevin was born, the Navy corpsman expressed surprise that Mawk was 41. Alice responded, "He's a slow learner."

In 1966, Mawk and family flew to Japan for his duty as Far East Network director at Misawa Air Base. He took pleasure in receiving an Air Force Commendation Medal to wear with his Marine Corps medals. After 13 months in Misawa, Mawk felt the call to volunteer for duty in Vietnam. If Marines were at war, Mawk felt that he should be there. In DaNang, Vietnam, he developed lifelong ties to his 1st Marine Division Information Service "Snuffies" (junior rank Marines). He led those Marines in telling the Marine Corps story as journalists, broadcasters, photographers and combat artists.

After Vietnam, he was Public Affairs Officer (PAO) at Parris Island, South Carolina. Two years there were followed by duty as PAO at the 8th Marine District, New Orleans, another tour in Okinawa, and a final tour as PAO for the 6th Marine District in Atlanta. He retired in 1977.

He "failed retirement three times," going on to retire from the Alabama and Florida education systems, and finally from the School of Organic Education where he was Director for five years. He taught public relations and public speaking at Auburn University where he completed his master's degree, taught print and broadcast journalism at Troy University, and debate and public speaking at the University of Miami.

Mawk believed that the worth of an individual to society isn't determined by the position he holds, or field he works in, but by the individual himself. He said, "I know I can be an influence for good wherever I go, in whatever capacity I may serve."

In 1993, he married Laura Turner of Mobile, who died in 2000. On Sept. 11, 2011, as terrorists were crashing planes, he married Alice Schermer Curran of Fairhope (Alice II) who kept him dancing and smiling for the rest of his life.

He was a member of the Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association, which he served as secretary, board member, president and long-time chaplain; an active member of the Jessie Andrews Jr., Marine Corps League, Daphne; a lifetime member of the American Legion and VFW; and an honorary member of the 1st Marine Division ISO Snuffies. He was 2012 Fairhope Veteran of the Year and 2013 Bay Area Veteran of the Year. He was a dedicated advocate for veterans.

As unique as his name, Mawk was articulate, positive, compassionate, exuberant, strong, trusting and loyal. He was an openly loving and supportive father, grandfather, brother and uncle. He was a mentor to many, a stickler for proper grammar, never smoked, cussed, or drank, wore Birkenstocks, his veterans hat, wildly patterned African shirts and was able to wear his original Marine Corps dress blues to special events all of his life.

He hauled gigantic stones in his Toyota truck and lifted huge logs to build a log and stone cabin in Auburn.

He never met a stranger, and befriended most people that he met.

He was a swimmer, dancer, storyteller, singer and choir director. He spoke Spanish, Japanese, some Chinese and Russian.

During his last days he entertained nurses and family, singing Cherokee, Mexican, Okinawan and Lithuanian folk songs. Most importantly, he believed that God is love, and shared unconditional love with his family and friends. As his sister said, "The world feels different without him, but is better for having had him in it."

He is survived by his wife, Alice Schermer Arnold, Daphne; children, Cindy Beasley (Tim), Auburn; Marla Monk (Steve), Birmingham; Rachel Mumford (John), Jacksonville, Florida; and Kevin Arnold, Auburn; stepchildren, Alisa Curran, Oak Park, California; Suzie VeKemans, Antwerp, Belgium; grandchildren, Sean Canaan (Susan), Auburn; Ashleigh Jones (Jonathan), Bay Minette; Tyler Welch (Jena), Birmingham; Spencer Welch (Meagan), Birmingham; Matt Monk (Kim), Birmingham; Mason Mumford (Samantha), Charleston, South Carolina; Leigh Mumford, Jacksonville, Florida; Jack Arnold, Auburn; Will Arnold, Auburn; Billy VeKemans, Antwerp; Angelica VeKemans, Antwerp; siblings, Elsie Butgereit, Fairhope; Jody Cotten (Ed), Pace, Florida; great-grandchildren, Calleigh Canaan, Auburn; Sam Canaan, Auburn; Bennett Jones, Bay Minette; James Welch, Birmingham; Luke Welch, Birmingham; five sisters-in-law and two brothers-in-law; 44 nieces and nephews and their spouses; more great- and great-great-nieces and nephews than we can count; his Marine Corps Snuffies; and many friends.

A Celebration of Life will be held Saturday, Jan. 27, at 2 p.m. at the American Legion in Fairhope, the same building Mawk and his family once lived in when he was a child.