Peter J. Marrack '86 - In Memory
deceased October 24, 2012 (view alumni profile-log in required)

Read obituary

 In Memory

I only recently learned of the passing of my former classmate Peter Marrack in his homeland of Hawaii in October 2012.  I want to express my deepest sympathies to the members of Peter’s family, including his brother Alex, who is also an Amherst alumnus.  I know I can speak for many of Peter’s classmates at Amherst when I say that Peter Marrack will be missed, but his memory will live on. 

The news and the thought of how many years have passed since I saw him last was a stark reminder of how fleeting life really is.  But it also provided a wonderful moment of reflection upon what made Amherst so unique, poignant and memorable.

Often a man of few words, once you came to know Peter, you soon realized that he was one of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet.  And although I didn’t spend too much time with him after our freshman year, he literally brought a lifetime of laughter during that one year alone. In fact, when I told my wife of Peter’s passing and started to regale her with some of his tales, she smiled and reminded me that they were stories she already knew.  The memories of Peter have brought joy to those who never even met him.  And that is a wonderful thing, indeed.

Peter was there when I was first introduced to Amherst in the early days of freshman year and he helped to make Amherst a very special place. So although I hadn’t seen or heard from Peter in nearly 30 years, I can’t think of anyone I knew at Amherst who caused more belly laughs for the entire crew of the Stearns freshman dorm in the fall of 1981 than Peter did.  In fact, I probably cannot adequately convey the ancient stories at this point; but the feelings and fond memories the attempt will evoke will force me to try.

There was a day during freshman year when Pete, who had gone out for the football team, was standing on the sidelines with a group of us while a practice intra-squad scrimmage ensued.  It had poured down rain for several days.  About 50 yards away down the sidelines was a giant rain puddle. It must have been a foot deep.  Now, the mood for football practices under Coach Ed Ostendarp was usually pretty serious.  But on the sidelines there were always some kind of antics going on.  I said to Peter:  “Pete, I know you want to run down there and jump in that puddle!”  Peter shook his head.  Not a chance.  But I jokingly kept after him, “Peter, I dare you to run down the sidelines right now, and dive head first into that puddle.” Pete smiled. We all laughed.  Then Peter shook his head again. “Nope. No way.  The coaches would probably kick me off the team.  Nope.  Not going to do it.”  But while his voice was saying no, there was something about his response that left an opening:  By now several other teammates had joined us on the sidelines, and all of them were now coaxing and cajoling Peter too, joking with him and playfully slapping him on the shoulder pads.  But Peter wouldn’t budge.  Finally, I said “Pete, I double-dog dare you to do it”.  His eyes literally lit up with a twinkle and he said, “Double-dog dare?”  And without another word, Peter took off like a shot down the sidelines.  He hit that giant puddle going at full tilt, careening thru it on his belly and making a wake that looked like a small speedboat.  His sprint from where he was originally standing to the puddle was so far that his extended jolt caught the attention of everyone on the field, including the coaches.  They momentarily stopped what they were doing to watch Peter, incredulous, as he sprinted headlong toward the puddle, which made it all the funnier.  With a full head of steam, he slid through 10-15 yards of foot-deep water. Then he got up and jogged slowly back to where we were standing.  By now, everyone on the sidelines was literally on the ground doubled over with laughter. Even the coaches on the field were left totally speechless.  There was absolutely nothing to say, not to Peter.  It was as if they knew there was no way to stop his free spirit.  It was one of the funniest things I have ever seen, before or since.  When he finally got back over to the group that had egged him on, he simply said “You know, you just cannot ever turn down a double-dog dare.”  And another round of raucous laughter erupted and so did the legend of Punahou Pete Marrack.

I do have to admit, when I first met Peter, I didn’t understand him. Perhaps no one did. But by the end of the 1981-82 school year, I don’t believe there was a resident of the Stearns dorm who didn’t know and truly love Punahou Pete.  He took on the nickname of his hometown Punahou, Hawaii, and he seemed intent to spend every day living up to the free-spirited nature of his island homeland.  I remember one day coming back to the dorm early in our freshman year, and there was Pete, up on the ceiling!  He had somehow crawled all the way up to the ceiling in the hallway.  He had his arms spread from wall to wall across the very narrow hall in order to hold himself up, and he was just up there, hanging out … waiting.  When we saw him, we asked “What in the world are you doing up there, Pete?”  He cracked that one of a kind Punahou smile and responded without missing a beat, “I am the lizard man!”  We all laughed out loud, and so did he.

I remember taking a political science course called ”War” with Peter.  We had a final paper due in which we were tasked to analyze and discuss man’s innate propensity for aggression. I saw Pete at one point before our papers were due and asked him how his had come out.  He pulled it out and showed it to me. It was a title I will never forget: “Man’s Innate Propensity for Aggression:  Big Words That Mean Absolutely Nothing.”   Yes, there may have never been a freer spirit on the campus of Amherst College.

The beauty of it all was that he knew he was funny.  It was never laughing at Peter, so much as it was laughing alongside of him as one of Amherst’s true comedic geniuses. His physical comedy and timing was our campus’ version of Jim Carey and Steve Martin, combined.

We are all going to miss you, Lizard Man.  Underneath that comedic exterior there was  a very smart, gentle, very kind and big-hearted guy, one who was always willing to give of himself and his talents, whenever he could.  Yes Peter, you will be missed.  But for the rest of our days, when any of us who were standing there on that fall day think of the image of you standing on that sidelines soaking wet after taking that immortal sprint, still harboring a silent smirk on your face and with mud and dirt dripping off of your helmet, the good times will keep on rolling for all of us!  You gave us all the precious gift of laughter for a lifetime. And while I know it will be hard for such a vibrant soul as you, please rest in peace.  I double-dog dare you.

Blair Hamilton Taylor ’85

(Note: Peter started Amherst with the Class of 1985 but graduated with the Class of 1986.)