Greely High School athlete-turned-activist killed during cross-country walk

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CUMBERLAND — A 2002 Greely High School graduate was struck and killed by an SUV last Saturday in Florida while he was walking barefoot across the country to raise awareness about climate change.

Mark Baumer, 33, formerly of Durham, also set a fundraising goal of $10,000 last October. As of Monday morning, as news of Baumer’s cause and his death spread internationally, the donations on YouCaring.com had doubled in a day, to $17,000.

Also Monday, high school staff who had both taught and coached Baumer recalled his work ethic and devotion to causes.

“I had the privilege of coaching him for four years,” history teacher Derek Soule recalled. “He was a standout. He was a two-time All-Conference (baseball) player, and a First Team All-Conference player.”

Inducted last spring into Greely’s baseball hall of fame, Baumer was unable to attend due to participation in a protest, Soule said.

Baumer’s trek across the country was his third, Soule said – the first without shoes.

“He was very active in supporting causes that he felt passionate about, which I loved about Mark,” Soule added. “… He was a free spirit for sure. … He loved everyone unconditionally unless you discriminated, and then he’d call you on it.”

According to a Florida Highway Patrol press release, the driver of a 2015 Buick SUV was eastbound on U.S. Route 90, near Laird Road in Walton County, Florida, at 1:15 p.m. Jan. 21 when she “failed to maintain her lane and entered the south shoulder.” The SUV struck Baumer, who was walking in the opposite direction.

Walton County Fire Rescue workers pronounced Baumer dead at the scene, the report stated.

Charges against the driver, Sonja Moore Siglar of Westville, Florida, are pending as the investigation proceeds, Lt. William Berger of Florida Highway Patrol said Monday.

Baumer attended Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, and then Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where had worked as a web content specialist since 2012, according to his LinkedIn page.

“Climate change is humanity’s greatest threat,” Baumer wrote on his YouCaring page. “Every day corporations continue to profit from earth’s destruction. I decided (to) cross America barefoot to see if I could save earth. I know this is a lofty goal, but I hope through my walk I can raise awareness about climate change. If we are ever going to overcome climate change we all need to do everything we can to stop it.”

Soule recalled meeting Baumer at 5:30 a.m. three days a week to lift weights; no small feat considering Baumer’s commute to Cumberland from his Durham home.

Barry Mothes, an English teacher, was Baumer’s hockey coach. They met when Baumer was in eighth grade, watching the team play.

Voted by his teammates and coaches the hardest-working player and most valuable player, Baumer “was such a thoughtful young guy, and just really sincere about high school sports,” Mothes said. “… I always admired his thoughtfulness, and he was a strong young guy mentally and also physically.”

Baumer was also “a very individual person in the best of ways, even as a high school student,” Mothes added. “When he got committed to something, there was no stopping him or no swaying him.”

“I admire the zeal,” Mothes said, “and the commitment, and the passion to do what he was doing.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Mark Baumer, a 2002 graduate of Greely High School in Cumberland, was killed Saturday when an SUV struck him on a Florida road. Baumer, as shown in this photo from his Instagram account, was undertaking a barefoot walk across the country to raise money and awareness for climate change.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.