Mark McCandless, seen with his wife, Georgena, was a former...

Mark McCandless, seen with his wife, Georgena, was a former Boy Scouts executive and then a business owner who continued volunteering with the Scouts. He died on Feb. 10 at age 73. Credit: McCandless family

It would have been hard to miss the gentle giant who was Mark McCandless while roaming around Lindenhurst. The only thing bigger than his stature was his heart, and the love it held for his family and community, his family said.

McCandless died on Feb. 10 at age 73, after liver and renal failure.

He was born on June 28, 1949, in Media, Pennsylvania. He played football in high school and attended Temple University, graduating in 1971. After college, McCandless began working as an executive for the Boy Scouts (1971-1980), a job that brought him to Lindenhurst, which he would call home until his death.

After leaving his Boy Scouts job, McCandless worked at Five Towns United Way until about 1985, St. John's Hospital in Smithtown to 1989 and then two years at Long Beach Hospital.

"My father was a Boy Scout as a kid, and his father was a Cub Scout leader his whole life. He loved the camaraderie," said daughter Maureen Marchitto of Holtsville. "When he had the opportunity to work for them as one of the directors, he moved his family to Long Island and stayed on as a volunteer leader well into the 1990s. He then began a second career in 1991 and opened his own promotional advertising business called Perfect Promotional Products in Lindenhurst, and a second business called Lindenline later on."

McCandless met his wife, Georgena, in 1967 when they were teenagers in high school. Coincidentally, the sweethearts' fathers were best friends who fought in a war together, so a friendship was inevitable. They were married in January 1972 and would go on to raise six children: Thomas, Kirsten, Deborah, Maureen, Andrew and Stuart.

Mark McCandless volunteered from 1986 to 2000 for the Junior ROTC program at Lindenhurst High School, where he prepared field trips, helped plan the balls and supported the kids at tournaments. He also was a part of the BNI networking group, a local chapter of business organizations that promotes local businesses. McCandless was a youth baseball coach for the town league.

Remembered as a funny, compassionate and easygoing person, McCandless loved playing cards, board games, attending his grandchildren's concerts, and was a die-hard New York Giants fan.

"Even when he was sick, he wanted to make sure we were all there to watch the playoff games, rooting against his opposing teams," said Marchitto. "Dad was all about spending time with his family and creating memories together. He was a great storyteller and loved telling jokes and making us smile."

"He was the foundation of our family, and he took pride in talking to people about what his children and grandchildren were doing in their lives," added daughter Kirsten McCandless of Florida. "He taught me how to swim, drive my car, and was always there to lend an ear."

The eldest son, Tommy McCandless, said his father's legacy would be his family, including his adopted son, Stuart Rosenthal, the McCandlesses' neighbor and Tommy's best friend.

"At the age of 19, I lost my mother to cancer, who followed my father in death five years prior. Growing up on the next street from the McCandless family, they knew all too well the challenges I faced as an orphaned teen with no close relatives nearby," said Rosenthal. "The McCandless family filled a void in my darkest hour. ‘Mr. M,’ as I would often refer to him, guided me through all of the challenges. The McCandless house [was] my newfound home, where I became their unofficial sixth child. They were there for my wedding, my kids' births, celebrations, etc."

"Some people are lucky enough to have one dad in their life, I had two," said Stuart Rosenthal's wife, Pam. "From the first time Mark and I met, we had an immediate bond. It takes a special man to so willingly and unselfishly open his heart and home as he did to my husband."

In addition to his wife and children, McCandless is survived by his parents, Lawrence and Joan McCandless; siblings, Jill and Paul; and 20 grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

A funeral Mass was celebrated on Feb. 16 at St. Killian Roman Catholic Church in Farmingdale. McCandless, who was cremated, will be interred at St. Charles Cemetery in East Farmingdale on his birthday in June.

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