Hundreds of firefighters, family members, friends, neighbors and acquaintances gathered Friday morning to remember and say goodbye to a McLean fire technician who died unexpectedly last week.
During the service at Fairfax Memorial Park, they remembered Mark Baban, a Hazardous Materials Specialist, as a great tennis player, a man with "an immortal smile", an immigrant from the Phillipines who yearned to give back to his adopted country.
The chapel at Fairfax Memorial Park brimmed with an crowd that included nearly 30 people standing in the aisles. Hundreds of firefighters gathered outside.
Roy Baban, his oldest brother, said Mark Baban was the youngest of five children -- two sisters and two brothers. All three brothers immigrated to the U.S., while their sisters remained at home in the Philippines.
He was born Maharlika Nicolas, but when he became a U.S. citizen, he changed his first name to Mark. He bestowed his Filipino name on his daughter, his brother Eugenio said.
Mark Baban left school to join the U.S. Air Force. As a naturalized American, he was not to serve overseas, but he was assigned to Lakenheath Air Base in England where he worked as a cargo specialist, brother Roy said.
After the Air Force, he returned to college and earned his degree in Business Administration.
He went to work, met his wife and married. He decided he needed a career and joined the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department.
Fairfax firefighter Sam Devara said that Mark Baban helped organize the Fairfax Chapter of the Asian Association of Firefighters. "He loved the Fire Department. It was a chance to give back to the community," he said.
He also joined his brother Eugenio in a love of bag-piping. Brother Gene recalled they were among "nine Filipino bagpipers in the world."
His son and daughter spoke of his smiles and his love of music as their best memories of their dad.
"For me my dad was a hero," his son said.
McLean resident Ted Smith, a bugler who met Mark Baban, at a Sept. 11 commemoration at the McLean Fire Station in 2011, played Taps at the graveside.
A spokesman for the Fairfax fire department said Mark Baban's colleagues at the McLean Fire station had no comments at the present time.
The Fairfax County Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics said on its website: "In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made in Mark's honor to the following organizations:
*Asian Association of Fire Fighters
(Donations will be used to establish the Mark Baban Memorial Scholarship Fund)
6892 Tanglewood Drive
Warrenton, VA. 20187
*Firefighters Fund of Fairfax County
P.O. Box 401
Fairfax, VA. 22038
*FiRST Firefighter Benevolent Fund
P.O. Box 1481
Fairfax, VA. 22038