GREENFIELD — “Businessman” doesn’t quite cut it.
Leader, supporter, father, friend — those come closer.
Those who knew Mark Lee had trouble putting into words the man who spent his life and career giving back to the community he so loved.
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Lee, owner of Mozzi’s Pizza in Greenfield, collapsed and died Monday at his restaurant. He was 56. He left behind a wife and three children.
Lee and his wife, Chris, have owned the popular eatery for more than 30 years and have dedicated much of that time finding ways to use the business to support the community and connect its members to one another. Fundraisers to benefit local charities at the pizzeria are frequent, with the Lee family donating a portion of the day’s proceeds to worthy causes.
The first Mozzi’s location opened in 1982 on Main Street in Greenfield, and the venture grew to include five locations.
While many knew Lee as the face behind the pizza business, he served the community in a number of ways. He served on the county’s tourism bureau and the board of directors for a local acting troupe for kids. He also was a loyal supporter of local athletics programs, friends said.
By early Tuesday morning, news of Lee’s death had spread across social media, with friends sharing memories about the man who had an effect on those he met.
Friends changed their Facebook profile pictures to the Mozzi’s logo as a tribute to the man who built the restaurant and gave many in the community their first jobs.
None of it made sense, they said; the fitness fanatic who never missed a day at the gym couldn’t have seemed healthier, friends say.
An autopsy was being performed Tuesday to determine a cause of death.
Monica Holden, a former fitness instructor at Hancock Wellness Center, remembers Lee’s dogged determination at the gym; staying in shape was not a hobby for him but a lifestyle.
He was the kind of customer who felt more like a member of the staff some days, Holden said.
Lee didn’t hesitate to approach a newcomer, offer a hand or just a friendly hello. He took it upon himself to give tours of the gym and helpful advice — anything, Holden said, to make a person feel welcome.
He knew the regulars, staff and members alike, by first name and made it a point to talk to each person he saw.
It was genuine, Holden said. Lee listened; he remembered people’s stories, asked about their kids.
Her husband, Josh Holden, former Greenfield-Central wrestling coach, bonded with Lee over their mutual love of fitness and support of youth athletics.
Lee always knew the names of each year’s wrestlers, asked about their progress and wished them luck in the season.
Eastern Hancock athletics director Aaron Spaulding, who coached Lee’s sons, Austin and Garrett, in basketball from elementary leagues to the high school varsity team, said Lee was a huge asset to the athletic program and Eastern Hancock schools, supporting them both financially and personally. All three of his children attended the schools.
“He was a great leader in our community,” Spaulding said. “He will truly be missed, both at Eastern Hancock and through the county. We appreciate his and his family’s efforts, and our thoughts and prayers are going out to his family.”
Lee was committed to helping aspiring entrepreneurs as well. When Chris Baggott, founder of ExactTarget, was struggling to get his company off the ground in 2000, Lee was eager to lend a hand.
Baggott credits that assistance with his company’s ultimate success — the company sold for $2.5 billion in 2013.
“He never quit on us,” Baggott said. “Without Mark, who knows how we would’ve wound up.”
Lee often worked behind the scenes to help others, but he also wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty when he spotted a need on the front lines.
When Lee was short-staffed at Mozzi’s, he didn’t hesitate to fill in, whether by washing dishes or waiting tables, said Wes Bremer, 21, who started working at Mozzi’s when he was 17.
He went out of his way to establish friendships with his employees, Bremer said. Lee and his wife hosted an annual holiday party, inviting hundreds of employees — past and present — to their home.
On Bremer’s 21st birthday, Lee and his wife invited him and several other employees to their house to celebrate. Bremer expected to stop briefly by his boss’s home before heading to Indianapolis with friends but had such a good time at the Lees’, he decided to stick with the group.
The Lees took him to a casino and celebrated with him ’til the wee hours, then offered up their couch at the end of a long night.
“They just wanted to show me a good time,” Bremer said. “Mark just made you feel important.”
The businessman was also a motivator, said Dennis Cole, who served on the KidsPlay children’s theater board of directors alongside Lee for three years.
When Lee joined the board in 2007, he had a vision for how to help the organization gain traction in the community, Cole said. He held countless fundraisers at Mozzi’s locations, raising thousands of dollars over the years that helped pay for rental space, costumes and set designs for the kids acting troupe.
Even after Lee stepped down from the KidsPlay board in 2010, he and his wife remained committed supporters, hosting cast parties and donating concessions to sell at productions, Cole said.
“All you ever had to do was ask,” he said. “If they could make it happen, they’d do it.”
Though plans for a funeral service haven’t yet been announced, Cole said he anticipates seeing an outpouring of support.
“When the memorial happens, just be ready to see some very long lines.”