Mark Stranahan

January 30, 1957December 30, 2020

The world is more dimly lit since Mark Stranahan, the middle child of George and Betsy Stranahan, left this place on December 30, 2020 at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, as a result of complications of septic necrotizing pancreatitis. He was 63.

Mark’s was a remarkable life, well lived. He was an extraordinary man and his loss leaves a great emptiness in the hearts of many.

Mark’s journey began in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on January 30, 1957. He grew up as the third of five siblings. His father had a sixth child in a later marriage. Because of his father’s career as a physicist, the Stranahan family lived in West Lafayette, Indiana, and Okemos, Michigan, during the school year. They spent summers in Woody Creek, Colorado, while his father started the Aspen Center for Physics. As a young boy, Mark enjoyed reading, camping, campfires, hiking, fishing, time in the wilderness and building things. His first love came at the age of 12 in the shape of a Springer Spaniel named Stonewall. She lived until Mark was 23, and their connection was as deep and profound as a human-animal bond can be. They were constant companions and her portrait graces Mark’s home to this day. Mark also had a fondness for springtime desert camping and old Jeeps. After graduating from Colorado Rocky Mountain School in 1975, he took his Korean War-era ¾ ton Dodge M-43 Army ambulance, fitted with colossal Boeing 707 tires to tour the west at 45 mph, ultimately enrolling at the University of Oregon. During this time of his life, he purchased a former turkey farm in Elmira, Oregon, and hatched great adventures and developed many lifelong friendships.

He left Oregon to finish his education in Ann Arbor while starting a family of his own with his new wife, Julie Freuhauf (now Mariouw). He earned both a B.S. degree in Architecture (1987) and M.S. in Architecture (with high distinction, 1998) from the University of Michigan. In 1985, he had the opportunity to work in China, which led to a lifelong friendship with visionary architect Richard Britz of Vashon Island, Washington. Undoubtedly the most significant milestone of this time was becoming the father of Laine and Stephen, then known as Gus. Mark’s proudest accomplishments were his cherished children, and being a father was the role he most valued. When Laine and Gus were students at Emerson, he became an enthusiastic advocate for progressive independent education.

In 2005, Mark married Karen Prochnow, a lifelong friend with whom he fathered Mason and Max, now middle school students at Summers-Knoll in Ann Arbor.

As part of Mark’s early professional life in Ann Arbor, he worked as an architectural intern at Archetype. He used his organizational and design skills to advance the projects of the firm, providing reliable leadership, camaraderie and friendship to all in the small group. Mark created human-centered, beautiful spaces, whether renovating a home or designing a school layout. Later, while running his own home inspection business, his meticulous eye for detail, encyclopedic knowledge of structures and personal integrity made him highly respected.

Mark appreciated human-crafted beauty in the form of music, literature, art and architecture. He was a guitarist, writer, photographer and visual artist. He flew airplanes, skied, mountain-biked and paddled canoes on the beloved waters of the Au Sable River. Mark’s many international travels took him to Mexico, Nepal, China, Italy, France, Australia and the Adriatic.

Mark loved cars and speed, and won a regional formula Mazda championship in 1996. He was an inveterate learner and a deep thinker. His many and varied interests included pottery, machinery, natural history and leatherwork. He was extraordinarily well-read and enjoyed long conversations about diverse topics, including political and economic theory, art history, anthropology, sociology, systems theory and critical theory.

Mark was an autodidact and was never without a book or two on his person. There was never a topic of conversation to which he couldn’t lend some wit or thoughtful commentary. He was a good listener, a caring friend, had a wicked sense of humor and enjoyed practical jokes. Mark will be remembered by many for his helpfulness, kindness, generosity, friendship, curiosity and wisdom.

Because Mark’s heart was always west of the Mississippi, he yearned to ultimately settle west of the Continental Divide. Towards this end, he purchased a second home on Vashon Island, Washington, and designed a Russian Stove decorated with Motawi tile. It is a work of art and energy efficiency. Mark advocated for sustainable design and green development, environmental responsibility and progressive education. Mark’s remaining family are grieving the loss of this unique star from their family constellation. They include his four children, Elaine Fruehauf Stranahan (Laine), of Berlin, Germany; Stephen August Stranahan (Gus), of Garden City, Michigan; Mason Duane Stranahan and Maxwell Quinn Stranahan (Max) who reside with their mother, Karen Prochnow, in Ann Arbor. He is also survived by his partner, Gaia Swan of Detroit, Michigan, as well as his father, George and stepmother Patti, of Carbondale, Colorado; siblings Molly and her husband, Tom Curtin, of Tucson, Arizona; Patrick of Bozeman, Montana; Stuart and his wife Linda of Bainbridge Island, Washington; Brie of Nederland, Colorado; and Ben of Los Angeles, California; along with nieces Madison Stranahan of Bozeman, Rayna Miller of Lake Tahoe, California, and nephews Austin Stranahan of Santa Barbara, California; Taig Miller of Nederland, and Francisco Stranahan of Bainbridge Island. Mark was predeceased by his mother, Betsy Lamb Stranahan, of Ann Arbor.

Mark was a consummate volunteer, working passionately at many levels to advance the causes he cared about which included Summers-Knoll School, Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley, the Neutral Zone and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. At the time of his death Mark was serving on the board of MLCV. If you are drawn to make a contribution in his memory, Mark would have appreciated the support of an organization whose work was close to his heart. An online memorial is planned for January 30, 2021, which would have been Mark’s 64th birthday. The family intends to host an in-person gathering, perhaps in Colorado during the summer, to continue to honor Mark’s life.


30 January

Online Celebration Of Life



  • Visitation

    Friday, January 8, 2021


Mark Stranahan

have a memory or condolence to add?

Anne Caudill Goertzen

January 9, 2021

Remembering all the precious memories growing up spent with the Stranahan family camping up Lincoln Creek, and family get togethers in Woody Creek. I am so sorry to hear of Marks passing. He will be dearly missed!
Hugs and love to all the Stranahan’s❤️

Susan Green

January 8, 2021

Hell Stranahan family, Even though I didn’t personally know Mark, I know much of the family well. Please know I am thinking of all of you with love in my heart for each of you grieving his loss.

With love, Susie Root Green

Salah Ali

January 7, 2021

I am so surprised and sadden by Mark's passing. It seems just like yesterday we were together sharing stories at our Michigan LCV retreat. Great deal of respect to him and what he brought to the organization. He will be greatly missed. My deepest condolences and sincerest prayers go out to his family and friends. May he rest in peace!

Salah Ali

Phil Roos

January 6, 2021

My deepest condolences to Mark's family and friends. I have served with Mark on the MLCV board for the past ~9 years. I have such deep respect for Mark's passion, intelligence, and commitment to try to make the world a better place. Our discussions over the years about just about any issue you can imagine have been inspiring. I will miss him a great deal, but his impact and his spirit are everywhere to see and experience. What a great man.

Gaia Swan

January 5, 2021

I'm dedicating this poem to my devoted Mark. We shared three years savoring life's adventures as partners. My dear... we had more things to do.

Julie Mariouw

January 4, 2021

I am so very sad that we have lost Mark. Thank you, Mark, for the gift of our two beautiful children—Laine and Gus. You were a dedicated father to them always, and a loving soul, and you will be greatly missed.

Much love, Julie

John K. Gardiner

January 3, 2021

As I Read All These Grand Tributes To Mark Stranahan I Think YES! This Is So Right On The Money Mark Always Kept It REAL and Was So Funny and Brilliant His PHENOMENAL Family Is This Way as Well ....Our Family On The Banks Of The AuSable East Of Grayling Michigan Ran Their Family Lodge Camp Wa Wa Sum Our History goes Back Five GENERATIONS Mark's Grandmother Virginia "Did" Secor Stranahan and Frank Suydam Bell Gave Camp Wa Wa Sum To Michigan State Forty Years Ago Thanksgiving 1980 and Grand Move To Be Used For Education Meetings and Interns Research Forestry/Fisheries and Wildlife .....Mark Would Have Yearly Meetings In May With The Classic Montessori School I Recognize Many Of You.... With Your Grand Tributes...... Mark Was Thee Best...... Rest In Peace My Dear Friend John "KEVIN" Gardiner @ MSU's Camp Wa Wa Sum

Chris Matthews

January 3, 2021

I was stunned to hear of Mark's death, and am still stunned. I'd like to think I can call Mark a friend: he was always a joy to run into when we were dropping off our kids at SK any given morning, one of the people I really hoped I might be able to hunker down into a conversation with at our kids' respective birthday parties, school picnics, etc. Mark was such a smart and funny man, such a wry and sharp observer of everything, from huge historical conundrums to the odd little foibles and cliches and comedies of daily life. He was kind enough to give me, once, some of his essays to read, and I learned a lot from them, not least how you might fashion a passionate intellectualism that's hot to the touch, and delightfully disgusted with the complacencies of modern politics and capitalism. I wish I had known him longer and better, but I will treasure up the ways in which Mark showed me how to be alive. Which is a hard thing, but he showed how it could be done; it was so clear whenever you talked to him: he was a person who was absolutely alive. Man, I will miss him.

I'm so sorry, Mason, Max, & Karen.

Wesley Drent

January 3, 2021

I am saddened to hear of Mark's passing. He was a fun, funny, and brilliant man. To the family he's left behind, I extend you all my deepest sympathies and condolences. Love to all.

Alex Anest

January 3, 2021

It was a privilege getting to know Mark. He took guitar lessons from me for many years, and as a result we spent hours together playing music, talking about music, and learning together. In that time he also became a friend. He was funny, highly intelligent, kind, and irreverent. I'll never forget the way he would say, "Well, it's funny you should mention that..." before launching into a hilarious tale from his past. He was a lovely, compassionate person and I'll miss him.