Mark Seeley's widow, Laura Seeley reacts to her first meeting with Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson and Lt. Tony Plott.
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And in a losing effort--but one of the city's most efficient campaign returns--Seeley spent $18 to secure 7,121 votes. Seeley said Bisterfeldt spent more than $5,000 on his winning campaign, securing 24,611 votes.
The following year, on Christmas Eve 2006, Seeley and Laura took a stroll across their old campus.
"It was cold. We stood there at Morrison Hall, our old dormitory at Boise State," she said. "That's when Mark asked me to marry him. We got married the next February."
But love couldn't cure Seeley of his illness, and 2008 was a particularly bad year.
"He was formally diagnosed as bipolar. And it completely changed his personality. He got very little sleep, combative, and his language would become a bit vulgar. There was a full eight months when his meds stopped working altogether. He talked about killing himself," said Laura. "But he had enough love and respect for me that he would try to stay away. He would wander downtown and even sleep in his car. The downtown was his world."
But going downtown also meant that Seeley would have more run-ins with the police.
A Framed Piece of Paper
"I would go to briefings each morning, and I kept hearing about someone named Mark Seeley," Masterson told BW. "I would hear stories about him running around in his car, purportedly flipping the bird to attract the attention of officers so that they would pull him over. He was pretty agitated."
Masterson said he continually heard about Seeley and his occasional arrest or citation; Masterson said he also began to sense that Seeley might have been struggling with mental illness.
"In a city of 210,000 people, we have thousands of people who suffer from mental illness," Masterson said. "But instead of dealing with Mark tactically, we chose to deal with him strategically to determine what his needs were."
What came next was a strategy that can't be found in any police manual.
Plott reached out to Seeley, offering to sit down over a cup of coffee and asking to bring along a guest: Masterson.
"Mark was pretty happy about that," Plott remembered. "There was no way in the world that he was going to miss that meeting."
The three agreed to meet at the Starbucks on Franklin Road, not far from the Boise Towne Square. The weather was nice on March 26, 2008, so they sat outside.
"Mark said, 'Hi chief,' but then he started right into it," remembered Plott with a laugh. "Mark was a bit on the spicy side. He was ready to pick a bone. He said, 'Listen, here are my concerns.' The chief let him go for a bit. But after a while, the chief said, 'Hey, Mark, this is why we're here.'"
Masterson smiled when BW asked him if he had to think twice before meeting with Seeley.
"Only in that the chief of police had to meet with an angry man and the possibility of arresting him. Believe me, it would not have been the way I wanted to be welcomed to Boise," he said with a laugh. "I think Mark was geared up and ready to fight. But then we told him we were there to apologize."
And that's when Masterson revealed a framed certificate with the seal of the Boise Police Department above the words Certificate of Appreciation:
"The Boise Police Department recognizes the sacrifice of your father, Captain John S. Seeley, on June 27, 1966, in the service and defense of his country while serving as a pilot in Vietnam. He is a true American hero to those of us in law enforcement who understand the dangerous work and risks inherent in our professions while protecting our great nation and city."
"Mark was speechless," remembered Masterson.
A healthy amount of silence marked the next few minutes. Eventually, Masterson and Plott said they had to return to their respective offices, said their goodbyes and shook Seeley's hand. Almost 40 minutes later, Masterson and Plott separately drove by the Starbucks to see if Seeley had left. And there he was, at the same outside table, staring at the framed certificate.
"My relationship as an individual with Mark and the department's relationship [with him] improved dramatically," said Plott, who added that he began hearing from Seeley more than ever, but the conversations were pleasant and engaging. "He would talk about his marriage or a new job. And then there was his mom's birthday."
Plott said that he received an invitation to attend a birthday barbecue for Seeley's mother, a unique request for an officer to step inside such a personal circle.
"That was a good day. Mark told me he thought he had his illness under control on that day," said Plott. "And I know that my being there meant a lot to Mark's mother, too."
In 2008, Seeley sat down to write his ultimate tribute to his dad. A Most Fortunate Man is a full chronicle of Seeley's own journey, while featuring 55 letters his father wrote from Vietnam. Seeley dedicated the book to the memory of 2,207 helicopter pilots who gave their lives during the Vietnam War, and gave special acknowledgement to his wife Laura and even Boise Weekly, which Seeley said "gave me a voice when I had none."
The Rev. Bill Roscoe, executive director of Boise Rescue Mission, told BW that the mission possesses the final 200 copies of A Most Fortunate Man, and any proceeds from the sale of the book go to the River of Life's veterans outreach program.
"Mark asked me once to place a copy of his book at the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., near where his father's name is written," said Roscoe, himself a Vietnam vet. "I told him I would be honored. Come to think of it, it was Father's Day when I was at the wall. I had someone take a photo of the book right next to John Seeley's name."
Roscoe added that when the River of Life designed a special wing to serve homeless vets, it dedicated a room to John Seeley. Hanging next to the door is a photo of the book at the Vietnam Memorial Wall.
A Short Goodbye
Masterson told BW that he considered his ongoing relationship with Seeley as "tremendous," and stayed in touch for the next four years.
"And then one day, last December, I came into the office and my assistant tells me, 'Mark Seeley called to say, you're on his bucket list,'" said Masterson. "I said, 'What? Bucket list?'"
Laura said that her husband wasn't feeling well that Thanksgiving, complaining of flu-like symptoms.
"We kept going back to a family clinic, and finally one day, they gave him an IV and his ankles started swelling up," she said. "They took a chest X Ray and immediately put him into St. Al's on Dec. 19, 2012. His lungs were filled with cancer."
That same evening, an MRI revealed that the cancer had metastasized to his brain.
"They estimated that he had over 30 tumors. He was in and out of the hospital twice. Mark had seen what chemotherapy had done to his stepdad and he didn't want that."
Making matters worse was that the Seeley's had no insurance.
"But they were amazing. Medicaid picked up the bill. I think it was $89,000," said Laura.
On Dec. 27, one day after his 52nd birthday, Seeley called Plott and asked to go for a drive. Seeley crawled into the passenger side of the police vehicle when Plott pulled up at his doorstep.
"And you know what? He lit up a cigarette... in a police car! I thought, 'What the heck,' and cracked a window open," said Plott with a huge laugh. "We talked about everything that day, all that he had been through with the police department. Later, we came back to my office [at the Boise State police substation], and he was sitting right where you're sitting and looked up on my wall."
And there, right next to Plott's photos of his own family was a piece of stone-rubbed paper, with the name John Seeley. When Plott visited the Vietnam Memorial Wall the previous year, he used a pencil to rub John Seeley's name onto a piece of paper, but he had never told Seeley.
"His eyes caught that and a big old tear starting coming out of his eye," said Plott, whose own voice cracked as he remembered the day.
"Mark died three days later," he said.
Laura said her husband's last wish took even her by surprise. Seeley, a lifelong agnostic, wanted to visit a local church.
"By the time we got to the church, the service was over but he just sat there for a few minutes and said it was a great visit," she said.
"What?" Roscoe said with incredulity when BW told the reverend about Seeley's final wish. "Mark and I would talk about faith quite often, and Mark was always inquisitive and respectful, but to the end, he contended that he was an agnostic. I always tried to assure him that at any point, he could invite God into his life. But now, you're telling me he went to church? Oh man..."
Roscoe said he needed a moment.
"Oh, wow; he always had a way. Even when he's gone, he still stirs me up."