Mark Edward Farnen, 63, of Columbia died Sept. 24, 2020.
Born Jan. 11, 1957, in San Antonio, Texas, he was the eldest son of the late Kevin and Jane C. Farnen of Mexico, Missouri. He attended Mexico High School and MU.
He was a lifelong Democrat who was actively involved in national and state politics. Organizing grassroots efforts for the Iowa caucuses and traveling from Texas to Maine representing the candidates, he held positions on the presidential campaign staffs of Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale and Richard Gephardt. He was a key organizer of the Democratic National Convention in 1984 in San Francisco. In 1976, he was a part of a campaign team that led Missouri Congressperson Jerry Litton to victory in a contentious Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate.
Mark would go on to manage a series of congressional campaigns in Virginia and Missouri and a U.S. Senate campaign race in Iowa. He proudly voted in every election since reaching his majority.
In 1988, Mark permanently settled back in Missouri. He served as economic development director in Mexico for several years. He was part of an aggressive effort to attract and retain new businesses that strengthened and diversified the local economy after the loss of jobs in the fire brick industry.
In 1993, he was appointed by Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan as executive director of the Hawthorn Foundation, a quasi-public group that fosters economic development for the state. In this position, Mark worked with numerous state and national economic development directors, Missouri businesses and elected officials to promote Missouri at home and oversees. He organized trade missions to China, Japan, Mexico, Canada, England and throughout South America and the Caribbean.
In 2002, Mark, in partnership with his wife, Eleanor, founded Strategists LLC, a consulting firm specializing in providing media, marketing and public affairs counseling. As a partner in Strategists LLC, he represented corporate clients, including Verizon Wireless, Walmart and Southwest Greens. He also counseled and represented local associations including the Columbia Board of Realtors and Missouri Association of Area Agencies on Aging. Strategists also worked with local news organizations, including the Columbia Daily Tribune and the Missouri Press Association, to advance the mission and importance of community newspapers.
In 2015, Strategists, under Mark’s direction, founded City Watch Columbia, a subscription-based news service that serves as a comprehensive, authoritative resource for the business and financial communities on Columbia government and planning and zoning issues, including the Unified Development Code.
Mark was a past president and member of the board of directors of the Enterprise Development Corporation for 23 years. He also served on the boards of Job Point and Columbia Independent School. Known for his stand-up comedic talents, Mark performed for several Job Point Comedy Nights. He also co-hosted the Sunday Morning Business Times on KFRU/98.9 FM for seven years and then frequented The Morning Meeting as a substitute host.
He had an extensive collection of political buttons, dating back to the presidencies of the late 1800s. The collection included a prized set of former President Harry Truman buttons. He was more than a private collector, often visiting schools and organizations with his buttons to share his knowledge of American history and presidential politics.
He is survived by his wife and business partner, Eleanor V. Farnen and daughter, Elizabeth J. (Lily) Farnen of Columbia; sisters, Kathy Christian (Jeff) of Brooklyn, New York, Ann Fisher (Max) of Jefferson City and Julie Farnen Feldman (Craig) of Arlington, Virginia; brothers, Pat Farnen (Melody) of Mexico, Missouri.; Dan Farnen (Allison) of Riverton, New Jersey, Ted Farnen of Columbia, Steven Farnen of Glendale, Missouri, and Tom Farnen of Frederick, Maryland.
Mark was a wonderful mix of intelligence, good humor and kindness. He firmly believed in giving everyone a chance. Even in the most contentious situations, he could score points for his arguments, clients and candidates and make people laugh at the same time. He understood people and enjoyed building friendships that encompassed every walk of life and in almost every corner of the world. He dearly loved his immediate and very large extended family of siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews. Most of all he loved being Lily’s dad (and telling bad dad jokes).
He was devoted to making Columbia a better place for everyone. He was a citizen in the finest sense of the word.
A private family service will be held in Mexico with arrangements under the direction of Arnold Funeral Home.
The family asks friends, neighbors, business associates, Democrats and Republicans to send donations in his memory to Job Point, 400 Wilkes Boulevard, Columbia, MO 65203, or through the Job Point website at jobpointmo.com/donate.
Condolences at arnoldfh.com.