Mark King

Mark King, a Ukiah firefighter, handyman and father of 14 children, died in Ukiah after having a stroke Tuesday. He was 91.

"He worked sometimes three jobs. He was a very busy man," said Nanci Williams, his daughter. "But he still had time to be a presence in the household."

King was born in King City in Monterey County in 1922, and his family moved to Ukiah when he was 1. After graduating from Ukiah High School, he served in the Army in the Philippines and in Korea.

Returning to Ukiah, he married his wife Nancy and started their large family, which included 11 girls.

King joined the Ukiah Fire Department in 1957 and worked his way up to engineer during a career that spanned 27 years. He was remembered as a hard-working firefighter who liked to share a laugh around the firehouse.

"He was serious about the job," said Mark Hilliker, who retired from the Ukiah Fire Department in 2007. "He had a good sense of humor, and he enjoyed a good joke or prank from time to time."

King also worked as an independent contractor and a carpet layer.

Once, while on a job tearing down a rectory, King found a trapdoor under some floorboards that led to a small, empty cellar. He spray painted some bricks with gold paint and planted them under the trapdoor, then called the priest who owned the rectory.

Everyone had a good laugh when the priest arrived and thought he had found gold bars, according to Matt King, Mark King's son.

"My dad had a great laugh," Matt King said. "The poor priest was the only one not laughing."

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