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Mike Cash

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A dear friend and well respected and loved member of our JREF family, Mars Man, passed away December 18, 2015 at about 10:30 p.m. at the age of fifty-nine. While he hadn't been active with us for a couple of years, in the past he not only was a very active and valued contributor to discussions on JREF he was also the host to several annual JREF meetups over the Golden Week holidays. Many of us had a chance to visit his home in the beautiful mountains of Shiga-mura, in the rural outskirts of Matsumoto City.

Mars Man's real name was Oliver Carter, formerly of Alabama by way of Arizona. For the last 30+ years he was a resident of the Matsumoto area. Oliver was a talented artist and chef and an enthusiastic music lover, being not too bad a guitar picker himself. In addition to hosting barbeque parties for JREF members at his spacious home he also held such events every summer for the students he taught at a local university, with many graduated students traveling quite a distance to come participate long after their school days were over. I was a frequent guest at the Carter house, usually making two or three trips a year and staying from one to three nights with the family each time. I had many occasions to go to town with Oliver to one place or another. You literally couldn't go anywhere without people coming up to him and talking to him. He was known, loved, and respected by lots of people in lots of places throughout that area. I witnessed many scenes that I wish I could have videotaped to play for the people who always drag out the tired old "no mater how long you live here the Japanese will never accept you" lie. He refuted it and did it easily and without ever having meant to do so. All Oliver had to do was to be Oliver...an outgoing, warm, vibrant, energetic, enthusiastic, intelligent, and genuinely caring man.

In late 2013 Oliver had some pain in a lower left molar. The tooth ended up cracking, which through one thing and another ended up with a diagnosis of cancer in his jaw in the area of the molar. This led to a surgical procedure lasting about 24 hours, during which part of his jaw was removed and replaced with some bone harvested from his shoulder blade. This was followed by a round of radiation therapy. Between the removal of certain tissues during the surgery and collateral damage due to the radiation therapy, Oliver's ability to swallow and to speak clearly was compromised. Although his initial prospects seemed good, eating had become an arduous chore and he gradually lost weight. By spring of 2015 it became clear that the cancer had returned. Sadly, neither further surgery, additional radiation treatment, nor chemotherapy were available options at this point. He was essentially given medication for pain management and sent home to await further developments.

I went and spent Golden Week with Oliver and his family, as had become my custom. We had a small barbeque party with just us and a few guests. At the end of the barbeque the normal pattern was for the diehards to go up to his ultra-cool converted 100+ year old barn "man cave", drink beer, shoot the breeze, and play darts until the wee hours of the morning. Anyone who has ever visited can attest to his enthusiasm for throwing some darts all night long....but this time he sadly and regretfully asked to be excused. That's when I first knew that things were coming to an end and that we were merely counting down the days. At this point he still had enough energy to drive himself around, work on preparations for the barbeque, do yard work (he had a HUGE yard to cut), but had to take some breaks. He could still talk, but not at length. He did come up to the man cave and share a beer with me (he could only drink a few sips, and only from a certain beer that didn't sting his damaged throat). I never asked, but I think it may have been the last time he was ever up there.

I went back in August to attend his barbeque for his students, riding my motorcycle up as soon as I finished work and arriving near midnight. He came outside to meet me, we talked for a while under his garage and shared a beer. He had lost considerable weight and energy since May; the change was stark and alarming. Still, he got around a bit and did some of the preparations for the barbeque but with much more frequent and much longer breaks. Fortunately, by this time I had been to enough barbeques at his house that I knew where he stored most of the stuff so I was able to do much of the setup work. His wife and I put up the sun awnings, something he had always done by himself before. Many current and former students came, some with their small children. We all knew it would be Oliver's last party. Sadly, Oliver only had enough energy to make two or three rather brief face-checks at the party and had to spend most of it inside, lying down. It wasn't that he was sleepy...he just didn't have the energy even to sit up for long. During the party a couple of the former students slipped away to a camera shop and quickly printed up some photos from the party and together with some other messages and things they put together a very nice cork board collage for him to show their love and appreciation for him.

As we had a Silver Week in September of 2015 I promised Oliver that I would come back and keep him company during it. Just a month before he had scraped together enough energy to come outside and greet me, but this time he just feebly raised a hand in greeting from his position lying on the couch. His ability to speak was almost entirely gone. He could only manage to whisper a few short words at a time. I've never seen anyone so thin, weak, and fragile who wasn't in a hospital and couldn't understand why he wasn't already in one with somebody trying to get some nourishment into him. He had a scheduled hospital visit for the day after Silver Week ended. He went and was immediately admitted as an inpatient. A few days later he had a feeding tube installed and at the same time had a tracheotomy done. (He didn't actually need the tracheotomy at that point, but there was a fear the growing tumor would eventually impinge on his throat to the point he could no longer breath naturally and it would be less stressful to do both procedures in a single surgery). He stayed in the hospital a couple of weeks, I think it was. He was able to come back home in October for a couple of weeks, with visits from a home health care nurse. But his condition wasn't getting any better and for a while he was back to being in the hospital full time, with maybe a visit home on the weekend or something. His ability to speak was effectively gone by now, although I must stress that his mind remained sharp and unaffected by his physical travails.

I was at work on Saturday, the 19th of December when early in the morning I received a message from one of Oliver's former students that Oliver had passed away the previous evening. Oliver's wake was held at his home, old school style, and I was able to finish up my work and manage to make it to Matsumoto to visit Oliver one last time. I could only stay a couple of hours, but during that time there was a steady flow of people coming by to pay their respects, many weeping inconsolably, men and women alike.

Oliver cared about people and was cared about in return. Oliver loved and was loved in return. He shared unstintingly and asked nothing in return. He spoke ill of no one and as far as I am aware, no one had an ill word to say about him.

We have lost a friend. I have lost a brother.


 

thomas

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'Loved by everyone' is indeed the best way to describe how people felt about Oli. He was an example to each of us on the JREF team, teaching us - unintendedly - a lesson in humanity, humility and in wittiness whenever he dealt with those unruly we would have just banned with a click. He was an avid poster; the sheer number and the titles of his threads attest to his wide range of interests. The volumes of printed JREF threads on his shelves were astounding. We were very glad we could attend the Shiga meeting in 2012, an unforgettable event with good friends, barbecue, whisky and darts - if I remember correctly. It was the last time in my life I suffered from a serious hangover.

Mars Man, I hope you have found an answer to one of the last threads you posted to the forum:

When a Human Being Dies: The truth of the Matter

Rest in peace!
 

Jericho Desu

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I haven't been on Jref that much lately, but I found out that Oli aka Mars Man had passed away via a posting his son made on facebook. I'm not going to pretend I knew him that well, but I remember constantly seeing his name on Jref around the time I first registered to this site. It always saddens me when I find out that a fellow human being has passed on, but reading what Mike and Thomas has made me regret that I never got to meet Oliver personally. It goes without me saying that he will be greatly missed. May he rest in peace.
 

mdchachi

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Sounds like a great guy who made a difference. Thank you for the loving writeup.
 

Uncle Frank

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There was a time on JREF when it seemed we were all a big family. Mars Man was a big part of that feeling. I always thought of Mars Man as a sort of human Thesaurus who could write words like they were music. The thought of the pain and suffering his illness must have caused him really broke my heart. A kind & gentle soul , I'm sure he is welcomed to his place in heaven.
 

WonkoTheSane

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My condolences to all of his friends and loved ones, and to the community that has experienced this loss.
 

Toritoribe

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I joined this form almost the same time as Jericho-san, so I, too, read Mars Man-san's post frequently at that time. I have seen his pictures in a meeting probably via Mike-san's post. It's always sad to hear these kind of news. May his soul rest in peace.
 

nice gaijin

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Thank you for the write-up, @Mike Cash ... I first heard through a facebook post as well, but it was very nice of you to put this up in his memory. I enjoyed Oli's presence here immensely and it was very noticeable when his activity here dropped off. I've always regretted not being able to make it to any of the meetups, sounds like he was quite the host...
 

Hezam

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just now after a very long time i wanted to check JREF and... knowing that a great person who left love and peace behind him passed away ! It's indeed a big loss to his beloved ones and to everyone who learned from him.

my condolences to his family and friends
Rest in Peace Oliver
 

Petaris

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It is such a loss. I had always planned that I would attend one of his famous BBQs once we moved to Japan. I really wish I could have met him in person. His posts here were always interesting and I always had the feeling that he was the most even keeled person on JREF. He never seemed to loose his temper in threads even when there were others seemingly wanting to start an argument.

My thoughts go out to his family and friends.
 

Dotanbatan

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Mike.
That's a moving and inspiring tribute to your good friend. My condolences.
He sounds like a guy I would have liked to have met and known.
 

cocoichi

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Personally I have never spoken to Mars Man, but he must have been a pretty special guy if this is how people remember and speak about him. My condolences to all that hold him dearly.
 

Kirirao

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Rest in Peace Oli. I will always remember the good times you showed me at your home and made my life in Japan bearable. I will always remember the uplifting conversation that we had when you picked me up at the train station. I was in pain and you were there lending a hand, and I'm sorry to not be able to be there when you were in pain.

I'm just sad that this is the first thing I saw after coming back here after so long.
 

Mike Cash

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I'm just sad that this is the first thing I saw after coming back here after so long.

It's nice to see you again. Whenever I visited, Oliver would ask me if you had been posting and if I knew how you are doing.

This is the first year since about 2007 that I didn't spend Golden Week at Oliver's house....
 

Kirirao

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It's nice to see you again. Whenever I visited, Oliver would ask me if you had been posting and if I knew how you are doing.

This is the first year since about 2007 that I didn't spend Golden Week at Oliver's house....
Hello Mike, its been a long while. I wish I had reach out a lot sooner. I was here to see if Oli was still doing the gathering and see If I can get on it this year or the next. But was curious why he didn't post since 2013. Until I see this.

That time with Oli was the best of times I had in all those years I was in Japan. His cheerfulness and his kindness help me through some tough times, I would've done something stupid if he didn't talked me into coming to Shiga. I was such a downer but you guys treat me like a friend. God I want to curse so bad.

I'm so honored to had the chance to meet a person with a beautiful heart such as him.

Maybe one day we all can meet up again and have another badminton match and BBQ in the next life.
 

Mitsuo

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It's been a very long time since I visited this forum, and I came back to say hi to him. I'm shocked and deeply saddened by this news. Oli was the first person who contacted and befriended me. He was so warm and personable. I regret not sticking around longer. His posts and PMs were so thoughtful and always kept me engaged. I wish I got to meet him in person. I am sorry for the loss.
 

Mikawa Ossan

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Mars Man certainly was an interesting fellow. I had a great time at his first JREF barbecue, and he was a really nice guy. It's sad to hear he passed away so young.

I've heard it said,
"Don't be sad because it's over;
Be happy it happened."

To paraphrase,
"Don't be sad because he's gone;
Be happy you knew him."
 

BamaBoy

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Thanks for all the memories of Oliver! I knew him back in Alabama. We had what he called "our motorcycle summer". We simply rode our motorcycles to various places, just to ride...

He was one of the most intelligent people I have ever met and I regret every day that I did not keep in touch with him. My best wishes to his family.
 

Mike Cash

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Thanks for all the memories of Oliver! I knew him back in Alabama. We had what he called "our motorcycle summer". We simply rode our motorcycles to various places, just to ride...

He was one of the most intelligent people I have ever met and I regret every day that I did not keep in touch with him. My best wishes to his family.

I can't imagine there was anywhere he ever went that he didn't inspire such sentiments.
 

BamaBoy

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I have only known one person who could do that. Oliver was special. He never belittled anyone, but always had his own questions about reality, existence and consciousness. He understood it better than I.

Even way back in 1984-1986 (one of those summers we rode our motorcyles), and before that... Oliver had a drive to live and experience people and the world (especially Japan for some reason... wanted to open a Mexican restaurant in Japan. He was an excellent cook/chef back then for Mexican food)

I have not met many and none as eager to experience life, philosophy and people in such a positive way as much as Oliver. And from what I read here and other places on the net, he really had not changed in over 30 years. Eyes burning... emotions churning...

Dang... tears....
 
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BamaBoy

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For those who never met or heard Oliver talk... here is an interview on Japanofiles:

"Shiga-mura, formerly a small village to the north of Matsumoto city, became a part of Matsumoto during the 2005 amalgamation campaign. Today's guest, Oliver Carter, explains why he came to Japan and settled in Nagano Prefecture, and he also talks about life in the Shiga District of Matsumoto."

http://traffic.libsyn.com/japanofiles/Japanofiles_49.mp3

Even after over 30 years... I knew my old friend. He really had not changed.... at least not much... just got older like we all do.

And, yes... my avatar is really me.
 

Nuala

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He made so many good, insightful posts on this board. I'm saddened that's he has passed away. I'm glad he was able to touch so many hearts. One can only hope to be so meaningful to so many in their lives, and it appears he succeeded in droves. May he rest in peace.
 

nice gaijin

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I'm totally ok with this necropost, I don't mind at all to be reminded of Mars Man, and I hadn't seen that link that @BamaBoy had posted, I'm listening to it now. Hope he's smiling down on us.

Anyone interested in a JREF meetup in his honor?
 

Majestic

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Seemed like a very nice man. I joined too late to ever interact with him, but I think he would have put on an amazing barbecue.
I would also like to shout out to Mike Cash, who was a tireless contributor here. I listened to an interview that Mike gave a couple of years ago. Hope he's doing well. He had a style of "tough love" that was not for everybody, but behind that was a sincere, selfless desire to help other people. Hope Mike is doing well.
 
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