Mark Hibbert, 62, died while loading music equipment in his driveway. The multi-instrumentalist and recording wizard was planning a concert Saturday evening to celebrate the release of a new recording by Nomad Fish, one of five bands in which he played at the time of his sudden death.
Hibbert could be heard playing guitar almost weekly somewhere in the county. Whiskey Ridge Recording Studio, his home recording suite, forever captured more than 20 bands' musical legacy, friends said.
"Mark just knew that his calling was music," said Gale Prouty, his partner of more than 15 years. "His brain was amazing. His way with words was incredible. When you read his lyrics, it moved you in whatever direction he wanted to take you."
Hibbert pursued music with a passion few could match, making a career of writing songs and playing bass, guitar and other instruments with bands, his friend Greg Elwood said. The two met when they were little boys. They played together in the streets of Everett, just a block from Everett High School.
Later, they forged their friendship around bands. Elwood went on to become a commercial fisherman and Hibbert chased his dream of making music.
"He had enormous creativity in the way he approached his life, to pursue his love," Elwood said.
When money from gigs wasn't paying the bills, Hibbert became a recording engineer, Elwood said.
"He made us all better," Hibbert's friend and bandmate, Everett City Councilman Paul Roberts said. "Everything he touched, he just made it better."
Hibbert started playing bass guitar, inspired by the British Invasion and The Beatles. His early bands included Axis Drive, Superband and Merrilee Rush and the Turnabouts.
"Mark was a wonderful musician," Merrilee Rush said. "He was one of the sweetest, dearest people that we've ever known."
Rush's husband, pianist Bill Mac, roomed with Hibbert in the '70s, and the two men remained close friends.
Last summer, they played The Beatles' "One After 909," and "I Saw Her Standing There" at a picnic, Mac said.
"When we sang those songs together, we were wrapped up in the joy," Mac said. "The joy is to a performer, it's what a mother's arms are to an infant. It's the love we feel from what we do."
Over time, Hibbert learned to play an array of instruments and took up several genres.
In 2007, Beckye Randall asked Hibbert if he'd help start a new, local country music review, the Hometown Hootenanny.
"It was a bit of a stretch for him, but he really embraced it," Randall said. "He was just a real wonderful partner to have for the show."
Hibbert took on the role of music director. He put together the Hometown Band, the Hootenanny's house band, and recruited guest acts, Randall said.
Like everyone in Hibbert's extended community, the Hootenanny's organizers still are in shock over the tragedy, Randall said.
"Mark would want the show to go on and for the band to continue," she said.
She plans to honor him at the Hootenanny's Nov. 18 show at the Historic Everett Theatre.
He'll be remembered as a charismatic "performer's performer," said his sister, Renee Greenleaf. He was always up, always on and never phony.
"He just loves to make the air move," Greenleaf said. "And he did."
In addition to Prouty and his sister, Hibbert is survived by his mother, Dolores Hibbert, three children, two brothers and his ex-wife, Donna Hibbert.
Other relatives and friends packed his home recording studio Saturday night for an impromptu wake.
Among the songs he would have played at the canceled concert was, "Don't Take It So Hard."
"It was probably for all us," Gale Prouty said. "He was talking to us and he didn't even know it yet."
During an interview with a music magazine, Hibbert said, "Don't let a step back keep you from taking the next step forward."
Those words have provided comfort to the people who knew him, his sister said.
"That pretty well sums up who he was," she said.
Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3447; email@example.com.
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