Associate Spotlight – Father, Protector, Painter

Mark Van Deusen took on many roles during COVID-19 response

Family posing for prom pictures

Mark Van Deusen is a humble guy.

The married father of two daughters has served as a regional painter for the Plant Operations Department for the past five years, loves his work and enjoys making sourdough bread in his free time – “before it was trendy,” he’s quick to note.

So when the pandemic hit Benchmark, the laid back North Haven, Conn., resident didn’t think twice about springing into action.

Every day, Mark suited up in Tyvek, a respirator, face shield and backpack sprayer, and traveled between communities in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York to sanitize doorknobs, handrails and other high touchpoint areas.

“Everywhere I went, everybody said I looked like a Ghostbuster,” he laughed.

Mark worked for long stretches at a time, often spending late nights and early mornings in communities that were hardest hit by the virus. The labor didn’t faze him much, though.

“I’m a worker, that’s what I do,” he said. “I would rather fix a broken shovel so that I could work than to break a shovel so I couldn’t work.”

Allyson Sweeney, executive director of The Atrium at Rocky Hill, gives him more credit than that.

“During the pandemic, Mark’s role changed into one that was most critical – and one that many of us would have been terrified to do,” she said.

Man in spacesuitMaking Connections 
Mark said the experience, though challenging at times, afforded him the chance to really get to know communities.

“I really like being with the residents,” he said. “Everybody calls me the Pied Piper because I form such good relationships with the residents. I just enjoy talking with them and getting to know them.”

Allyson said Mark wears a smile to work every day and is adored by residents and associates alike.

“Mark never complained and never failed to show up, even when he was called in the tenth hour,” she said. “Mark is a husband, a father of two girls, an amazing sourdough bread maker and a hero in our eyes.”

Staying Strong 
Like most families, Mark’s was worried he might catch the virus – or bring it home with him.

Even though he’d shed his clothing immediately upon returning home, he was quietly anxious himself.

“My family was worried, especially my wife. I was a little afraid, but I never really let that on to my family. I wanted to protect them from that,” he said.  “If they knew I was scared, they’d be scared. So I went on like it was no big deal.”

Fortunately, nobody in Mark’s family caught the virus, but a father’s worry is always there.

His older daughter, 22, spent her senior year of college at home due to the pandemic, while his younger daughter, 19, was still away at school.

“My older daughter was working at Target, and that really bugged me,” he said, worried that she might get sick. “I really didn’t want her to go back to work. But she ended up being ok.”

He said he’s looking forward to spending Father’s Day with the family, as both his daughters are home.

“We’re going to have family over for a cookout. Of course, I do all the cooking for Father’s Day, and for Mother’s Day, and for Christmas,” he joked. “We’re going to have fun.”