Mother Nature lost one of her biggest fans last week. Mark Stephen Nissen died Friday, March 20, 2020, of causes related to alcoholic liver disease at his Moscow home. He was 62.
Mark was born in Spokane, the eldest son of Greta and Bruce Nissen. He grew up in Spokane, except for a short period in Pennsylvania. He graduated from St. George’s School in Spokane and then earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Washington State University.
He spent his entire career working in chemistry and biochemistry labs at WSU and University of Idaho as a research associate. He mentored dozens of grad students over the years, and always cautioned them to not “get too cocky” when they finally got a good research result. He had a deep love of and respect for science. He had a keen intellect and was a voracious reader. He was knowledgeable about physics, astronomy, the elements, the chemical structures of pharmaceuticals, crystallography and ballistics.
Mark married Karen Jensen in 1978; they divorced in 1988. He married his true love, Traci Topping, in 1990, and the couple shared many adventures in their time together. Together, they raised five felines, including, currently, Gromit and Fafnir.
He loved the outdoors, especially rafting. He skillfully rowed himself and Traci through numerous rapids, including Lava North on the Alsek River in the Yukon, Lava on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon (four times), and Lava South on the Biobio River in Chile. Mark loved hiking, camping and being alone in the wilderness.
Mark loved rock music, especially Pink Floyd, and appreciated good stereo. He was a fantastic and adventurous cook who enjoyed working with local and homegrown ingredients. Some of his more unique creations included kidney, tripe and tongue.
Mark was preceded in death by his stepfather, Stanley Rizzuti; his father, Bruce Nissen; and his younger brother, John Nissen. Survivors include his wife, Traci Topping, of Moscow; his mother, Greta Rizzuti, of Spokane; his two nephews, Jahmai Auvil, of Spokane, and Ty Auvil, of Denver; his sister-in-law, Catherine Auvil, of Sandpoint, Idaho; and numerous Topping family relatives.
At Mark’s request, there will be no service. Donations may be made in his name to Northwest Public Broadcasting, Palouse Clearwater Environmental Institute or your local library.