Mark Milat, 77, of St. Helena, California, died at Stanford Hospital on April 18, 2020, of complications related to leukemia. Mark was born to Richard and Izetta Milat on December 19, 1942 in San Francisco, California. In 1950, when Mark was in third grade, he moved to St. Helena with his family, which included one older and two younger brothers.
Mark graduated from St. Helena High School in 1960. Known for his self-taught piano skills, he was nicknamed “88” and was voted “Most Talented.” After graduation, he moved to Daly City and worked as a warehouseman in San Francisco. Three years later, he moved back to St. Helena and worked at Foodland and Tripoli Market. In 1968, Mark purchased Keller’s Market, and for the next 10 years, worked long hours seven days a week to establish the market as a centerpiece of the community. He would wake up at 2 am every other morning to drive to the wholesale markets in San Francisco to pick up fresh produce, return to unload in St. Helena, and then drive to Napa to make a pickup from Buttercream Bakery before the store opened. Mark was a wonderful employer and mentor, and treated his employees, including many students from St. Helena High School, like family. In addition to his reputation as a smart, kind and fair boss, he was also known as an excellent landlord. He purchased a small apartment complex in 1970, and always had a waiting list for his units because he treated his tenants so well. In 1978, he sold Keller’s Market and “retired,” which in his case meant continuing to manage his apartments while also working at Tripoli Market and later at Keller’s Market and Ernie’s Meats. In 1998, Mark scaled down to running his apartments, which he continued to do until his death.
Mark was a true gentleman and a gem in the St. Helena community, a person who very quietly helped countless people without ever seeking attention. He closely followed local politics, real estate, and sports, and was known to drive around town every day, collecting the latest information. He loved music and cars (especially classic cars), but above all, he cared about his family and friends. He will be most remembered for his loyalty, reliability, generosity, and great laugh.
Mark is survived by his three brothers, Richard (Cia), Mike (Carolyn) and Bob (Joyce) Milat, his nieces and nephews Vince (Elaine) Milat, Dawn Milat, Maureen (Dale) Chandler, Michelle Duckhorn, Mike B. Milat, Caryn (David) Dombrow, Jessica (Kris) Beswick, and Andrea (Bernie) Millar, and 17 grand-nieces and grand-nephews. He was predeceased by his parents and his nephew, Mike Milat.
A service to celebrate Mark’s life will be held when circumstances allow. Should friends desire, memorial contributions may be made to Wounded Warrior Project (woundedwarriorproject.org) or St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (stjude.org).
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