The Student News Site of St. Mark's School of Texas

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St. Mark's School of Texas
10600 Preston Road Dallas, TX 75230
The Student News Site of St. Mark's School of Texas

ReMarker

The Student News Site of St. Mark's School of Texas

ReMarker

A devastating void

With the holidays prioritizing time spent with family, this part of the year can be especially hard for those who have lost a loved one.
A+devastating+void
PHOTO / NOAH CATHEY

Note to reader: The following stories discuss deaths of loved ones.

 

An empty seat at a family dinner.

Taking family photos for a holiday card.

Decorating a Christmas tree.

During the holidays, these activities are poignant reminders for those who have lost a loved one.

Two juniors — Gage Fojtasek and Oliver Rubarth — reflect on their experiences losing a parent in high school and the effect the tragedy has had on their lives.

 

For Gage Fojtasek, there was no warning.

In Italy for a water polo camp with the Dallas club team Thunder, his summer vacation was spent playing a sport he loves. On the night of June 25, 2022, Gage was walking with his father, Russell Fojtasek, to a team dinner at a restaurant owned by the camp organizer.

While traversing the winding streets of the Italian town they were staying in, observing the nightlife around them, Gage’s dad suddenly flinched.

Then he fell.

At first glance, Gage didn’t think anything was wrong.

“I wasn’t too concerned at first because he was older and had been through some issues with his knee. Whenever he [fell] at home, he would start stretching,” Gage said. “I would always ask him if he was ok and he was always like ‘Yeah, I’m fine.’”

But this time was different. After laying on the ground unmoving, Mr. Fojtasek was rushed to a hospital, and in the operating room, doctors spent nearly 20 minutes trying to restart his heart. Their efforts were in vain, and they pronounced him dead. The camp organizer translated a nurse’s words and told Gage the news, the gravity of the situation setting in.

“My immediate reaction: shock,” Gage said. “When the nurse came in and said ‘He’s dead,’ it was just disbelief. I had my uncle on the phone crying. My mom and I were crying. It was just a genuinely sad time.”

At Mr. Fojtasek’s funeral, students and alumni banded together to support their fellow Marksman.

“It was a shock to see how many St. Mark’s guys  were there,” Gage said. “Lots of water polo guys and lots of my classmates were there as well. I also received texts from Miki Ghosh ‘22 and Brett Honaker ‘21 just checking on me and seeing if I was okay, which was nice.”

Mr. Fojtasek was an alum, and Gage had learned about what it meant to be a Marksman from him. Now, not having him to continue was hard. Not only had his father’s passing shifted Gage’s outlook on life, but also his outlook on the rest of high school.

“It just makes me want to get to [graduation] more than ever, and to do it to the best of my ability,” Gage said. “I want to make sure I honor him in the best way possible by being the best student I can be and graduating at the highest level I can.”

Today, Gage continues to uphold his promise to his father. Now, he drives his father’s car to school every day, which serves as a time capsule of memories and a constant reminder of the passage of responsibility and the loving bond the two shared.

 

All his life, Oliver Rubarth knew it was a possibility, so when it happened there was no explo sion of emotion or rapid release of hate in his heart. Instead, a candle had blown out with the wind, leaving behind the words, ‘I love you boys.’

“My mother [Katy Rubarth] had breast cancer ever since I was a kid,” Oliver said, “but there was a six-month period where [the cancer] spread to her brain. A couple weeks before her passing, she was in bed, so I had time to come to terms with it a little…those were her last words, ‘I love you boys.’”

Amidst the cold stillness and the black skies of a February night, Oliver walked with his brothers, reflecting on what he thought he knew was coming.

“I was experiencing a lot of derealization,” Oliver said. “I didn’t really believe it.”

In the quiet, he reflected on his mother’s legacy. Mrs. Rubarth was a hard worker and someone committed to treating everyone equally and with fairness, no matter who you were — traits she exhibited for years during her tenure as the school’s Director of Communications, helping the school redesign its website and host commencement and homecoming.

Since then, life hasn’t been the same.

“Before, my parents were divorced and my mom had sole custody [of me],” Oliver said, “so I had to stay with my father, which I wasn’t accustomed to doing for long periods of time; normally, it was every other weekend.”

Oliver shifted his attention, spending more of his time on the things that gave him satisfaction.

“I started focusing on school and playing the piano a lot more,” Oliver said. “I was just trying to grind it out.”

Away from home, Oliver discovered on-campus life was relatively unchanged, something he appreciated.

“My close friends told me they were trying to pretend [my mother’s passing] didn’t happen,” Oliver said, which is honestly what I wanted most people to do. [Director of Marksmen Wellness Gabby Reed] also didn’t pressure me with meetings or anything, and I talked to [history instructor Michele Santosuosso] — she was very helpful to talk to.”

Oliver has found ways to keep his mother’s memory strong. He has kept notes on all of her favorite things and a Spotify playlist with her favorite songs.

“I’m going to honor her and just pretend she’s still here because I believe she’s in Heaven looking at me,” Oliver said.

Not only does Oliver continue to honor her every day, but the school has honored her as well.

In 2020, a year before her passing, Mrs. Rubarth received the Marksmen yearbook dedication: a direct result of her impact on the community. Even today, she continues to help her son take steps towards achieving his goals.

“Now, I’m just trying to go to a good college, be a good person and make her proud,” Oliver said. “It’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”

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Zack Goforth, Print Editor-In-Chief
Matthew Hofmann, Life Editor
Noah Cathey, Design Director