By Carol South
Special to the Record-Eagle
TRAVERSE CITY — Family and friends will celebrate Matthew Noble Marker's 33rd birthday this Sunday in style: attempting to break the Guinness World Record for the longest parade of Subarus. A veteran rally driver and Elk Rapids native, Marker died 16 months ago during the third event of a Rally America National Championship.
Marker, a driver for the SubaRoots Rally team, was killed in an accident during the Olympus Rally in Washington on April 30, 2011. Well-known and very popular on the circuit, Marker lived his life 100 percent, said his sister Kali Vasquez of Kewadin.
Severe attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder prompted his love of cars as a child — working on cars helped him focus — and he pursued that dream with a passion. He was known as the "organic mechanic" because of his magic touch with cars.
"Matthew lived every single day like he was going to die tomorrow, and he died doing what he loved," she said. "He was a very happy person."
Marker's magnetic personality helped him make friends everywhere he went; he had a knack of making each person he met feel special.
"The one story I heard most: 'I met him for five minutes and felt like I knew him forever,'" Vasquez said.
To honor his memory, the goal is to bring together hundreds of Subarus this Sunday for a parade more than two miles long through the small village of Elk Rapids. Marker was a 1998 graduate of Elk Rapids High School.
With more than 477 people pledged by last week to participate, organizers hope to soundly beat the record of 339 cars set in Itasca, Ill., three years ago.
The festive event bringing together so many people from all over and different walks of life is classic Matt, Vasquez said. She has registrations from all over the state and country, reflecting her brother's many connections during nearly a decade of racing.
"He's definitely enjoying every minute of this," she said.
Matthew's parents, Michelle and Don, are also nurturing their son's dream through a nonprofit foundation. The mission is to support other grass roots drivers and provide a rally and training ground as close to home as possible. Donations to help bring this idea to life will be accepted Sunday.
Sunday's parade of Subarus will include many rally cars and drivers coming to honor Marker. Numerous strangers are also participating, thanks to devoted publicity efforts.
"It's gone viral," Vasquez said. "People are putting the ad on Craigslist and others are printing out flyers and putting them on Subarus they see."
The parade, which will begin at Marker's childhood home on River Street, his parents' current home, must be meticulously documented. Driving in a continuous stream, every car must be no more than one-car length from the car in front of it. Volunteer videographers and photographers will provide the images needed by Guinness World Records to certify the event. Vasquez said additional videographers are needed.
Marker's first rally car will lead the event. When the current owner learned of Marker's death, he offered to sell it back to the family and even donated $500 from the sale to the scholarship fund.
"The rally family and everyone who knew Matt have just been extremely supportive," Vasquez said.