This organization’s chairman, who passed away June 1, was highly thought of by his coworkers, neighbors, friends, family, and PBPA associates.
By Jesse Mullins
In the scant weeks since the last issue of this magazine appeared, the Permian Basin Petroleum Association lost its chairman, who succumbed to cancer. That loss, though it does not in any way compare with the loss that a bereaved family member feels, is nonetheless a difficult occasion for an association such as ours to absorb.
Mark Merritt, chief engineer at Fasken Oil and Ranch and chairman of the PBPA, departed this life on June 1, after several years of battling cancer. He is deeply missed by his PBPA peers, as well as his other friends and, most of all, his family.
As for the PBPA’s loss, it is one that is felt on a multitude of levels: personal, social, professional, organizational, and fraternal. Perhaps there is never any way to quantify, nor to express, the full scope of such ties.
But that doesn’t mean that we don’t want to try, because seeking to express the void that is left by a departed individual seems to be the first step in coming to terms with it.
And so we share some thoughts from PBPA members on what they appreciated most about this much-respected man.
He believed in helping
Mark was a valued friend and peer, according to his friend Steve Castle, PBPA member and president of Cowboys Resources Corp., of Midland.
“Mark had been with Fasken for, I think, around 30 years, and he was a very dedicated, hard worker, with a great reputation in the industry,” Castle said. “He had moved up the ranks in Fasken [to the point where] he was part of the executive team, and he had a powerful position there. It was because of his efforts—and those of others as well—that Fasken was able to go to the next rung. They are a major oil and gas operator and producer here in West Texas.”
Castle said that his friend was very active in industry affairs as chairman of the PBPA. “I sat in that chair some ten, twelve years ago myself, so I know what it entailed,” he said. “Mark did a great job. He was a great leader. And he also was very involved with his church, First Baptist, along with his wife. There was another charity that he was involved with, and one that I helped him with a bit, and that was Habitat for Humanity, here in Midland. He was very involved there in building homes for people. He believed in helping. He had a servant’s heart. And believed in helping others. He got real involved in Habitat for Humanity. “
Calling Mark Merritt “a great guy” and “one who will be missed,” Castle said that his friend died too soon. “A great guy. And he’ll be missed. He had cancer, and battled that for some time, and never complained. Took everything in stride, and we’re certainly going to miss him. He was a strong Christian. A great husband, father, grandfather. We know he is in a better place and he is not suffering. He suffered, obviously, with his cancer.
“I can’t say enough good things about Mark. We knew it was terminal, but you never know what that means—if it is six weeks or six years. But at any rate, he died too soon, but we know he is in a better place.”
Character and Ethics
“I’ve known him for about 15 years,” said Bruce Brady, president of Midland-based Great Western Drilling Company. “I’m a past president [that office is now called ‘chairman’] of PBPA, and I was delighted to have him in that position. You couldn’t have had a more fair, honest person in that role. I wish everybody in the business was of the ilk of Mark Merritt—I wish all had the same character and ethics.”
Brady said he knew the man also from his (Brady’s) company having had past dealings with Fasken Oil and Ranch. “They were always enjoyable to work with, due to Mark and the other employees there,” Brady said.
As a chairman of the PBPA, Mark was quiet, dedicated, and thoughtful, Brady said. “You could not have found a better representative of our industry.”
Kirk Edwards, president of Odessa-based Las Colinas Energy Partners, said that he knows that West Texas, and especially the city of Midland and its energy industry, mourns the loss of a great oil and gas professional, “and, more importantly, just a super individual.”
PBPA had tapped Merritt for its top role years ago, and it is a sad and ironic matter that only some six months or so into his two-year tenure, Mark is gone.
“The executive committee planned for succession probably six to eight years out with PBPA, and we noticed back then that we would love to have Mark as our leader,” Edwards said. “Last year, even though we knew he was sick and was undergoing treatments—and he never once complained about those—we gave him the option whether he wanted to do the chairmanship this year or not, he said he would love to. And even with the legislative session going on, he was always engaged and just really helped us out with some of the strategic decisions that had to be made this year in the legislative session in Austin. Right up until last week [the last week of May], we had a lot of issues going on that he was commenting on, and I just think that that is really amazing how, even with the sickness he had, he was still very engaged with us and always thinking of other people.
“He never complained. The only noticeable thing we could tell was, his voice was weak over the last year. But he never used that as an excuse either.
“It’s been really great getting to know him. And I know the rest of the PBPA board and its members feel the same way. He will be missed. This last year, even though he knew he was sick, and he was undergoing treatments, when we gave him the option if he wanted to do the presidency [chairmanship] or not this year, he said he would love to, and even with the [Legislative] session going on, he was always engaged and just really helped us out with some of the strategic decisions that had to be made this year in the session in Austin. Until last week [last week of May], we had a lot of issues going on that he was commenting on, and I just think that is really amazing how even with the sickness he had, was always thinking of other people.
“He never complained once. The only noticeable thing we could tell is his voice being weak over the last year, but he never used that as an excuse either, and it’s been really great getting to know him better the last few years through his involvement with PBPA, and I know the rest of the PBPA board and members feel the same way. He will be sorely missed.”
The Architect of Fasken’s Expansion
Out in the workaday world, there was probably no one who knew Mark Merritt any better than the general manager at Fasken Oil and Ranch Ltd., Norbert Dickman.
“Mark was our chief engineer and he was also director of all oil and gas operations,” Dickman said. “Everyone involved with the oil and gas part of the business, which is the primary part of the business—although we are involved in real estate and other things—directly reported to Mark. So the land department, the exploration department, the operations department—everybody reported to Mark. He oversaw everything Fasken did in the oil and gas areas.”
Merritt was critically important to their operations, Dickman said. “He was a wonderful individual, and someone whom we trusted and knew well. And we relied on him to operate that [oil and gas] part of the business. He was basically the architect of our recent expansion into the Wolfberry play in the Permian Basin and the Eagle Ford play in Webb County in South Texas. He will be very much missed by Fasken, I can assure you.”
Asked what the PBPA saw in Merritt that led to their trust in him, Dickman said it was the same qualities that the Fasken family of employees saw in him.
“As an engineer, he was very, very competent,” Dickman said. “One engineer that we’ve worked with on valuation issues remarked to us one time that Mark was the most intelligent and best engineer that he had ever worked with. And that’s saying quite a bit. He was very important to the [PBPA] organization. He rose to the leadership of the organization, and I think he was instrumental in helping the organization to determine the direction it should go with the Legislature and other issues—regulatory issues, and others that were important to our oil and gas industry.
And what did he think of Merritt as a person, Dickman was asked.
“He was just a marvelous person—somebody who was very approachable. He was good in dealing with people. He was very smart but he was also a very good listener and that enabled him to make good judgments on how to proceed on issues. He was able to talk to people, and, being able to listen, he was able to get their input. Then he was able to form good judgments. I would characterize Mark as a very wise person. In this day and age, we oftentimes think we have a lot of technology, and a lot of knowledge. But I think that the critical factor today is being able to use that knowledge in a good, judicious way. Mark had that talent. And he really was an extraordinary, unique individual.
“It is a tremendous loss for us. And it is such a loss for his family for him to have passed away so young. He was only 54. Had two grown children. And he had grandchildren already. Just such a tragedy, but he fought such a valiant battle against his cancer for four years.”
His last days were marked by a quick downturn that caught everyone by surprise.
Dickman recalls that Mark was active and focused on work as he entered what would be the last week of his life.
“The day after Memorial Day, a Tuesday, Mark came into the office and shortly thereafter I saw an email from him saying that he was not feeling well and that he was going home,” Dickman said. “Then that afternoon he and I talked by telephone and he said he was going to get a scan of his lungs at the hospital the next day, which would have been Wednesday, to determine why he was having trouble breathing. So they did that on Wednesday and, based on the results of that scan, they decided to put him in the hospital. At that time, they had determined that there was liquid on his lungs that they would be able to remove, and that that would help him to breathe. On that same day, he had made plans to go back to M.D. Anderson. And they were going to do some more radiation treatment on a particular tumor that was affecting his lungs. So all those plans were in place that Wednesday evening. And I saw him at the hospital that Wednesday evening, and he wanted to talk business, so he and I were talking business. Well, [later] that night, in the middle of the night, his health took a bad turn. He became critical at that point, and they put him on a respirator. The next day they took him off the respirator but they found, from what I understand, that he really couldn’t breathe on his own. And at that point—again, from what I’m told—Mark himself made the determination that he not be left on a respirator. So on Friday they waited until other members of his family could arrive, and I believe it was Saturday, probably morning, that they took him off the respirator, and he passed away that evening.
“He was very much on top of things until he became critical. And then it was just toward the very end. We will sorely miss him and it is a tragedy but he had a very long fight and he fought cancer courageously. He never complained and it never really set him back, as far as keeping his activities going.
“He was an inspirational individual,” Dickman said.
Lastly, in case you missed it, we direct you to PBPA president Ben Shepperd’s tribute to Mark, which is also on this site.
Rest in peace, Mark Merritt.