Oak Creek It may be a little known fact, but when Mark Littman met his wife, Karrie, they were both living in Denver, doing the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. shifts and wearing business suits.
Mark Littman, a well-known south Routt local who died May 6 while scuba diving in Florida, was known for his love of the outdoors in particular, skiing, hunting and fishing. And Karrie, she was known to be where Mark was and doing the same thing.
In Oak Creek, the Littmans were known as the owners of Big Tuna's, which Karrie is still running.
But in the mid-'80s, they were known as suits. Mark was working in the computer industry and Karrie was a stockbroker.
"We both worked in downtown Denver in suits and I was in heels," Karrie said in an interview last week.
They met in passing through a friend. One day Karrie's van broke down and she asked for Mark's help to fix it. That was their first date, and it ended with dinner and a movie.
"We spent three days together and were never apart after that," Karrie said.
In 1989, Mark and Karrie were married. They also were tired of the city. For their honeymoon, the couple toured the hot springs of Colorado and inevitably drove into Routt County to visit Strawberry Park. They fell in love with the area.
"We were just so impressed in how friendly and helpful everyone was around here," Karrie said.
Without even having a place to live, they moved to Steamboat Springs in October, lived in a tent until November and worked at OK's Meat Market.
But the Littmans did settle in. They found a place on the Hogue Ranch to live, and when summer came, any second guessing about quitting the urban life to live in Routt County was over.
"I'm so thankful we did. After it thawed out, I was real happy we made that decision," Karrie said.
In 1991 they opened Big Tuna's in Oak Creek. At that moment, Mark was back in his element, Karrie said. From his one-of-a-kind chicken fried steak to his special catfish, Mark did have a way with food, part of which he got from his father, George.
Mark was born in September 1954 in North Carolina and grew up in Texarkana, Ark. In 1977, Mark and his parents moved to Memphis, Tenn., and opened up the Hush Puppy restaurant, which specialized in catfish. Mark, 23 years old at the time, was part owner of the restaurant, which is where he got his experience cooking.
But in 1980, it was time for Mark to pursue his real love the outdoors. He moved to Winter Park and lived there for about five years.
"He was ski bum," Karrie said.
From there, he spent some time in North Dakota working in the oil fields until he decided it was time to fulfill a promise he made to his father to finish college.
He moved to Gunnison, and got some turns in at Crested Butte while finishing up a bachelor's degree in computer science at Western State.
After graduating, Mark moved to Denver to work in the city, which lasted only a few years.
"He just loved the outdoors and he loved to fish," Karrie recalled. "He was always out on the lake when he had some spare time."
He also loved to hunt deer, elk, antelope and most game birds.
"Any excuse to get out there, and if there was any time available, he went," Karrie said.
Mark's friend Lou Rabin, who lives in Florida but resides in the Bahamas during the summer, annually invited Karrie and Mark down to go fishing during mud season.
Putting Mark's hobbies and passions aside, Rabin said he respected Mark for his ideals.
"He was righteous a very self-righteous man," Rabin said over the phone.
Karrie said the description was accurate.
"He was a straight-shooter. He treated everybody with respect," she said. "He didn't (mess) around. He was righteous."
Now that he is gone, Karrie said she has realized that the impact he made on other people's lives is evident.
"In the past couple of weeks, I have been overwhelmed with the amount of people Mark touched," Karrie said. "He made an impression on many people and now it's coming back to me many times over."
The community's generosity and warmth has been a helping hand during the past few weeks, she said.
"It's the same warmth that brought us to this county 12 years ago and it's the reason why I will stay and continue to live the dream, how Mark taught me."