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Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2007 09:50 am

His secret reasons

Biography of grandfather reveals dirty laundry

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The Show Is on the Podium: The 20th Century Life of Dr. Mark R. Foutch — Eye Doctor, Aviator, Bandleader By Paul R. Foutch, PublishAmerica, 2007, 296 pages, $24.95
Untitled Document Politics beats a big drum in Springfield, and those disinclined to march to that drum often seek more harmonious cadences elsewhere. This was true for Mark Foutch. The Springfield native grew up on Whittier Avenue, went for his first airplane ride at age 4, made a name for himself as a musician before graduating from high school, and later organized and led a brass band bearing his name. The story of his life is revealed intimately in this eloquent eulogy, written by his grandson, a journalist employed by the Dallas Morning News.
The story is not all peaches and cream. It reveals significant dirty laundry — stories that prevailed for decades, hung on the line at the end for all to see.
According to family history, the Foutches came to Sangamon County in 1825. Mark Foutch, the author’s great-grandfather, managed the Springfield Cafeteria on Monroe, east of Fifth. When Lake Springfield was dedicated, in 1935, the subject of the biography, then 13 years old, played the trumpet in the band that performed at the festivities. During World War II he saw action with the U.S. Army’s 33rd Division in the Philippines. Foutch returned home, attended school on the GI Bill, and opened an optometric practice downtown, on Monroe. Between 1954 and 1960, the Mark Foutch Brass Band played at the Illinois State Fair. Well established by the ’60s, Mark purchased a war-surplus P-51 Mustang for himself and a BT-13 trainer for his wife, Joan. He died Nov. 5, 2002, and was buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Champaign. After his death, Paul Foutch discovered a box in the basement that proved a treasure trove of correspondence and documentation of his grandfather’s life and served as the launch pad for this memorable production. The author interviewed and corresponded at length with many who knew his grandfather. Particularly interesting and laudable are the pages in which Mark Foutch’s children (Mark III, born during his father’s first marriage; Tom, Brant, and Marcia from his years with Joan) describe their father. The rose-colored glasses come off for these remembrances. In the final part of The Show Is on the Podium, the author reveals surprising truths previously unknown to his subject’s children. Mark Foutch is revealed as a complex human being who was intensely motivated by people who loved him and people he loved in return.
Paul Foutch will visit Prairie Archives, 522 E. Adams St., at 2 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12, to sign copies of his book.
Springfield writer Job Conger is a frequent contributor.
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