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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Mack Chase: A man of few words but infinite action

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Artesia has lost one of its greatest superstars. Would he hate to be called that? Most certainly.

As the community, family and friends mourn the loss of Mack Chase, we are hearing and reading about his accomplishments — the wealth he built, honors he received, contributions he made to the oil & gas and agriculture industries, and the donations he made to the community.

His successes are emblematic of the type of person he was – hard working and generous beyond measure.

Anyone familiar with the name knows Mack Chase built up enough riches to go anywhere and do anything he wanted. Yet, he chose to stay right here in Artesia his entire life. “All of his friends are here and that’s what it’s all about – friends and family,” son Robert Chase explains when asked why his father never left.

It wasn’t just about his family and childhood friends. Former employee Johnny Knorr says, “He absolutely made the company a family. He asked about our kids and we knew he cared about our families. Mack instilled that outlook in his children, and they treat people the same way. He led by example and they paid attention.”

Mr. Chase spent much of his youth in Loco Hills, right in the middle of the oilfields east of Artesia. He loved to hunt and fish, and he spent a lot of time getting into some mischief with his friends. His sister, Nona Brewer, recalls, “he would get put off the bus quite a bit; he wasn’t always just perfect,” she said with a smile. She added that he certainly had a mischievous side and liked to pull little pranks. He also liked to sit on the back of the bus and holds hands with his sweetheart, Marilyn.

Although he had plenty of fun in Loco Hills, he also learned the value of hard work. Growing up poor, he knew how important it was. After high school, he served in the military. Upon his return from the Korean War, he married Marilyn, began raising a family and dedicating a lot of time to the oilfield.

Mack’s daughter, who he lovingly nicknamed DiKan, recalls that the family got used to eating a lot of burnt food. “That’s the way he liked it,” she said. He always intended to get home by supper time, but work kept him sidetracked, so dinner was often overcooked while waiting on dad to get home. “Sidetracked,” his family laughed, “is a common family trait.” But so is hard work, and that is another quality he instilled in his children.

Robert recalls a time as a young man when he was working for his dad. When Mack asked him for some information, Robert told him: “that’s not my job.” His dad gave him overtime duties for about a month. “It didn’t take me long to learn that lesson! Next thing I knew, it was my job, and I always knew the answers after that. He would teach us that way – by putting us to work.” He always made sure no one was above any amount of hard work, himself included.

Fellow oil & gas businessman, Peyton Yates explains that Mack always knew how to find a deal, build relationships, and take big risks. “From the beginning of Mack’s career, he was a real risk-taker. Most people wouldn’t do what he did, but he succeeded. We couldn’t do anything but cheer for him. In the oilfield, if you heard Mack was involved your interest would go way up.” Yates would marvel at his “good gut instinct.”

But, more than his ability to find a good opportunity, Yates notes that Mack believed in a simple, but meaningful handshake. He didn’t worry about the details because he built a trusted team around him, and people always knew he was good for anything he said. “He was a man of his word.”

Longtime employee Staci Sanders recalls Mack saying, “I just can’t believe what the world’s coming to,” as the art of the hand-shake deal began to fade away to lengthy contracts and legal documents. But, even as his company grew and the rigors of deal-making became more challenging, he never got too busy to talk to his employees.

Staci says, “He wasn’t just a boss, he was a caring friend.” She remembers him walking around the building going office-to-office to visit with employees after his morning meetings just to make sure everyone was doing well. Johnny noted that, even when times got tough in the oilpatch, he would not lay off employees. “He just didn’t want to give up on people when times were tough,” he said.

That kindness extended to his whole community. As his wealth grew, he and Marilyn established the Chase Foundation to ensure young people who wanted to go to college could do it without being financially overburdened.

“The youth were strong in his heart,” Chase Foundation director Richard Price says. “It’s just incredible.” Richard notes that of the 2,000 students who have received scholarships from Chase, Mack may have personally known only a handful, but he believed in helping people he didn’t even know. He knew how important it could be in changing a life. He never forgot how people had taken risks on him, and he was willing to do the same for others. Richard recalls, “he would always ask, ‘how my kids doing?’” referring to the numerous Chase scholars.

Anyone who spent any time with him will say despite his gruff exterior and tough stance on pushing people to work, he was very tender-hearted. “Every time the Chase scholars would recognize him, he wouldn’t have a dry eye,” Richard says.

Sandy Van Der Veen Vigil was in the first class of Chase scholars. “The opportunity to be a Chase scholar shaped how I am as an adult.” Now a teacher, Sandy says, “Maybe I can’t help someone financially, but I can help someone feel supported in other ways the way the Chase Foundation made me feel supported in pursuing my education. I always knew we in Artesia were especially fortunate to have Mack Chase, but as an adult raising children of my own, I really understand the impact he’s had on so many lives.”

Through it all, he never wanted the recognition. His “signature” can be seen all over town on school facilities, downtown, and through the Chase Foundation, but he did so much more than most of us will ever know. Robert noted that since his passing, the family has heard many stories of Mack helping people they never knew about.

Richard recalls a recent hospital stay Mack had. When the nurse came in to see to her patient, she saw his name on the paperwork and took the time to tell him, “I am here working in this hospital today because of the opportunity you gave me to go to college.” That’s all the recognition he ever wanted – just to know that he helped another person succeed.

To nearly his last day, he never stopped supporting his community. He went to every home football game, including the last Homecoming game, going to the office to see the employees when he could,

and giving his time to his family. He never stopped asking, “You need anything?” And, he never stopped caring about “his kids” – the Chase scholars.

Grandson Chance Chase says time at Papa’s house was the best. “As a kid, this place was the best,” he recalls. Mack had a lot of animals at his house and Chance said it sometimes felt like a little zoo. “He would take us grandkids by hand and walk around with us outside to see the animals.” As the family sits together at Mack’s house, they laugh and reminisce about all the time they had with him in the most endearing way. He lived a long full life and gave so much of himself to his family, friends, countless people he never even met. He treated everyone the same, from the guy on the rig out in the oilfield to the president of the United States. “Chase is my name,” he would say to them all.

It is so difficult to express to those who haven’t lived in Artesia just how generous a man he was. He set a tone for this community to be the best. He did everything he could to make this a great place to live and enrich the lives of Artesians so they could be part of making the world a better place.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Hayley Klein is the executive director of the Artesia Chamber of Commerce.)

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