Coach Mark Combs, 53, Succumbs to Cancer



Mark Combs worked in the auto business for much of his career, including owning an auto detailing firm in Plymouth Meeting, but sports was one of his greatest passions.

Despite being diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma in November, he didn't let his illness get in the way of coaching the Bux-Mont girls basketball team last month at the Kaiserman JCC's Mid-Atlantic Junior Games. The team, which included his 12-year-old daughter Gaby, won the gold medal.

That experience, relayed his longtime friend, Craig Fox, was huge, in part because it brought together so many different elements of Combs' life — Judaism, family and his favorite sport.

His widow, Jill Combs, said "that was like his swan song."

Combs, 53, died June 18 after a seven-month battle with melanoma. Hundreds attended his June 21 funeral at Congregation Or Ami in Lafayette Hill, and about 50 cars drove after the service to Haym Solomon Memorial Park in Malvern.

Combs grew up attending what is now Main Line Reform Temple, Beth Elohim in Wynnewood, and joined another Reform synagogue, Or Ami, when he and his wife married and began raising their family. His brother Wes recalled him as a committed Jew who always took part in major Jewish holidays.

"His values were rooted in being Jewish," said his wife.

Combs is survived by two other children — Allison, 14, and Andrew, 7 — and another brother, Stephen Combs.

Gaby, who is training to become a Bat Mitzvah, had already scheduled her mitzvah project to take place on Sunday, June 27. The timing is particularly fitting: She and the rest of the family will take part in a melanoma walk-a-thon and 5K run at the Wachovia Center.

The day would also have been Mark and Jill's 18th wedding anniversary. And it holds another significance.

The family's rabbi, Kenneth Carr, observed that "since the tradition of shivah includes staying around the house, one of the customs to mark the end of shivah is to get up, and go out of the house and take a walk." Since the mourning period ends on Sunday, the timing, said Carr, "is really kind of remarkable."

So far, the family has raised more than $8,000 in pledges, said Jill Combs, "to make a mark for Mark."

Donations can also be made to the Melanoma Program at Penn's Abramson Cancer Center, 3535 Market St., Suite 750, Philadelphia, PA 19104. 



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