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Remembering All About Jazz's Mark Barnett: 1932-2022


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Mark Barnett of Gaithersburg, Maryland passed away peacefully on the morning of September 26, 2022 after a long life of accomplishment, love, and laughter. Born on Easter Sunday 27 March 1932, Mark grew up in a three-level house in Newark, NJ filled with an extended Jewish family, good food, and a series of beloved turtles. After graduating Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Pharmacy from Rutgers University in 1950, he joined the Public Health Service in the Radiological Health Unit, returning to graduate school in 1960 at the University of Pittsburgh, where he graduated first in his class with a Masters of Public Health in Radiation Science.

Over the following 35 years, Mark developed programs to educate consumers, health professionals, and the industry on minimizing radiation exposure from electronic products, as well as on the safe use of medical devices; he administered a nationwide program to measure how safely medical radiation was being used; and as the Assistant Director for Education and Communication for the Center of Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), he became the primary contact for the news media, working with senior staff on how to best communicate scientific and technical information. After retiring from the Public Health Service as a Captain in 1995, Mark worked for another 20 years as a Senior Staff Fellow for the CDRH, finally retiring altogether in 2015 with a FDA Distinguished Career Service Award, one of the numerous awards he received over the course of a 61-year career. In short, Mark’s public health knowledge, judgment, and ability to communicate clearly were professionally valued for decades.

Mark’s life was filled with a variety of other passions as well, including photography, basketball, food, and above all, jazz. His photographs, always in black and white and often taken with an old box camera mounted on a tripod, look closely at texture and design in nature and architecture. Mark played basketball regularly, four seasons per year, until he was over 70. And for almost 10 years, Mark reviewed restaurants for the Washington Post Magazine and the paper’s weekly Maryland section.

But Mark’s love of jazz endured longest of all, beginning in high school and lasting a lifetime. He listened to, admired, and finally wrote about many favorites on his online column “Getting Into Jazz”–vocalists from Mel Torme to Maxine Sullivan; horn players from Chet Baker (whose trumpet playing Mark described as one of “gorgeous improvisation”) to “cool” saxophonist Stan Getz and the “incendiary cornet playing” of Wild Bill Davison, both honorary members of the Eddie Condon gang Mark admired so much. Mark’s columns about jazz were brought together in Getting Into Jazz (2020), a collection especially useful for “when you’d like to listen to jazz but are not sure where to start.”

Mark is survived by his wife and best friend of twelve years, Cathy Oliveri Barnett. He also leaves behind two children, Daniel and Mary Jane Barnett, children of his first wife, Gail Barnett, who died in 2007; and three grandchildren, Lula, Jackie, and Katie–all of whom will miss him terribly.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Doctors Without Borders or to the jazz site that hosted Mark’s column, All About Jazz.

Memorial Service

Friday, October 07, 2022, 6:00PM

Church of the Ascension
205 S. Summit Ave.
Gaithersburg, MD 20877

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