Four souls in a two-man boat

Robin
Robin Short
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Rower Mark Perry always feels the presence of his late parents

When Mark Perry and Brent Payne settle into their rowing shell for the start of Thursday's men's pairs Canada Games final, they'll have more than four hands tugging on their oars.

That's because Roger and Christina Perry will be with their son as he and Payne move up the Southwest River.

Newfoundland and Labradors Brent Payne, who is from Placentia, and Mark Perry of St. Johns (right) have advanced to the final in mens pairs rowing at the Canada Summer Games. Photo by Robin Short/The Telegram

When Mark Perry and Brent Payne settle into their rowing shell for the start of Thursday's men's pairs Canada Games final, they'll have more than four hands tugging on their oars.

That's because Roger and Christina Perry will be with their son as he and Payne move up the Southwest River.

"I know they're with me," said Mark Perry. "Every step of the way. Not just here, but every day, actually."

If there's a feel-good story at these Canada Summer Games, it's Mark Perry, the bright, handsome young man who's a part of Newfoundland and Labrador's rowing contingent.

Stressed that the credit card's racked? The boss is getting on your nerves? Car's in the shop? Meet Mark Perry, any man or woman would be proud to call their own.

Four years ago, a month after Christmas, Perry lost his mother to a rare form of cancer. Two months later, his father died on a snowmobile get-away at the family cabin in Deer Park.

Mark was on that same trip.

"It was Dad, me and my uncle," he recalled after Monday's heats, from which he and Payne advanced to the pairs final.

"We had a real nice snowfall. It was a great skidooing night. We went out on the pond and there was no ice where we went." Mark Perry was 13 at the time.

His sister, Ayla, was 15.

The trio plunged into the icy darkness. Mark and his uncle managed to clamber from the frozen water. The uncle ran for help while Mark was left with his father, still struggling to climb on to the ice.

But each time, it would crack and Roger Perry would slide back into the Deer Park pond.

"He just spent too long in the water."

When help finally arrived, the rescuers managed to pull Roger from the water. He was still alive.

"They got him to the ambulance," Mark recalls, "but he was just so cold and the heat was too high for his body to adjust right away.

That's the reason why ..."

And then his voice trails off.

The children were taken in by their aunt and uncle, Pamela Pippy and Todd Noseworthy.

It wasn't easy at first. Not even close.

Actually, to use Mark's words, it was "brutal." He recalls going into a shell. Trying to concentrate on school and the homework, as you can imagine, was impossible.

"She took it as lot worse than I did," he says of his sister. "It took her a long time to get over it."

But they say time heals all wounds and Mark is a Gonzaga high school student, and an elite athlete whose hard work is paying off so far here at the Games.

His sister, now 19, recently moved to Montreal and, he says, "is doing very well for herself.

"I don't know," he says, responding to perhaps a feeble question of whether one ever recovers from such an ordeal. "You don't, I guess.

"It's pretty hard. You try to keep in good spirits, keep motivated every day, realize it's not the end of your life. You just keep going forward.

"But it's something you never forget. It's something you remember every day of your life."

If Perry fails to win a medal here at the Games, it won't be the end of the world.

But it won't be from a lack of effort.

And maybe a little support along the way.

"I wouldn't be where I am today if not for them," he says. "They've been helping me out for a long time, actually. Way before this."

Robin Short is The Telegram's Sports Editor. He can be reached by email at rshort@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Canada Games

Geographic location: Deer Park, Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador Gonzaga Montreal

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  • Joan
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    And this story has alot of meaning, I know the incident all too well and I know of the families involved..
    On that note bringing home a medal would be nice but you have the heart and the desire to move on and do the things in life that mean everything to you..

    Good Luck

  • R
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    Krissy was a lovely person and I know, would be so proud of her son. He's right, I'm sure both his parents hands are on the oars.

  • Joan
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    And this story has alot of meaning, I know the incident all too well and I know of the families involved..
    On that note bringing home a medal would be nice but you have the heart and the desire to move on and do the things in life that mean everything to you..

    Good Luck

  • R
    July 01, 2010 - 19:58

    Krissy was a lovely person and I know, would be so proud of her son. He's right, I'm sure both his parents hands are on the oars.