**Updated 2 p.m. Oct. 11
Dozens of past and present students turned out Friday night wearing pink for a candlelight vigil to “mourn the loss and celebrate the life” of beloved Washington Park High School teacher and coach Marilyn “Mrk” Mrkvicka.
Mrkvicka died Friday morning after a years-long battle with breast cancer. She was a fixture at Park for almost 40 years and touched the lives of hundreds of students.
The vigil was marked by a mixture of laughter, tears and story after story of phrases that will forever be connected to Mrkvicka, jokes she told, and the difference she made at Park and beyond. Several students wore “Werk4Mrk” sweatshirts in her honor.
Dorothy Golden, Park Class of 1985, and her daughter, Kayla, Class of 2012, were both taught by Mrkvicka and they remembered her spirit and connection with students.
“She could always relate to everyone, no matter where they came from,” Dorothy said.
Kayla talked about how Mrk encouraged her to try out for the Poms team despite her scoliosis.
“She told me not to let it stand in my way and that I could do it,” she said, wiping away tears. “And I did, thanks to her.”
Mrkvicka’s ever-present smile and relentlessly positive attitude struck and stuck with her students.
“I learned to stay positive and never give up,” Park Junior Mariah Franklin said. “She was always so nice and so happy. I never saw her without a smile or say a mean thing to anyone.”
Park graduate Ashley Kautzmann said Mrkvicka was the first person to notice when something wasn’t quite right with her.
“I was going through some things, and Mrk was the first one to notice and to step in to ask if I was okay,” Kautzmann continued. “That’s just who she was. Mrk was always there for us, always available to talk.”
Alejandra Gutierrez is a senior at Walden III who participates in Park Poms, and she said she will always remember Mrkvicka’s strength.
“We could see she was in pain, but she never complained,” she explained. “If you didn’t know already, you would never have guessed she was going through cancer treatments.”
Services for Mrkvicka are scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Holy Communion Lutheran Church, 2000 W. 6th Street. Visitation will take place before the service, from 4 to 7 p.m. For those who wish to attend the interment, please meet at 11 a.m. at the entrance to West Lawn Memorial Park, 9000 Washington Avenue.
In lieu of flowers, Mrk’s family requests that memorials be sent to Holy Communion or the American Cancer Society, 234 W. Florida St., Milwaukee, WI, 53204.