The Last Bad Act: Choosing to Remember Love in a Time of Loss

Mario Simoes: Choosing to Remember Love in a Time of Loss | The Champagne Supernova

This picture of Mario Simoes personifies his spirit. Antisana, Ecuador, February 20, 2016.

How often have we judged someone by the last bad act they committed?

Remembered their life ending in an act of rage?

Rolled our eyes as we read newspaper articles or watched TV shows about someone who “snapped” and dismissed them as being crazy?

Labeled that person for the one last despicable thing they did in their otherwise extremely rich life?

My law school classmate and friend, Mario Simoes, recently died following a shootout with police.

These events happened in my hometown of DeLand, Florida.

According to news reports, Mario drove to his wife’s law firm in his Mercedes-Benz and, intoxicated, began shooting at the building. When police arrived in response to a 911 call, Mario embarked on a high-speed chase with the police on DeLand’s back roads, reaching speeds of 100 m.p.h. His vehicle became disabled after he struck a couple who was leaving a Lowe’s home improvement store (luckily, neither of these individuals were injured).

Police purportedly advised Mario to “drop the gun, drop the gun, drop the gun” for two minutes until they opened fire, as they believed he was reloading his gun in the vehicle. He was killed.

Mario was 45 years old.

I have known Mario for over a decade and, while we lost touch over the years, he was not the type of person I ever imagined would do something like this.

He’s actually one of the last people.

The shooting was all over the local news.

Just another crazy man with a gun who appeared to be on a murder-suicide mission.

Newspaper articles claim Mario and his wife, also an attorney, were having marital problems and she moved out of their home the week before. Engulfed in despair, he showed up at their shared law practice with a gun and began shooting at the exterior windows from his vehicle.

These events are shocking.

I have been emotionally tied to Mario and his wife, Kim, since mid 2006 when they adopted my family dog, Scout.

Mario wasn’t just someguyIwenttolawschoolwith.

He was special and we were connected.

As background, my parents got divorced when I was in law school and moved to places where they could not have pets. My sister and I were students and unable to care for a dog. This left us with needing to find a new home for our family dog, a rat terrier named Scout.

Mario Simoes: Choosing to Remember Love in a Time of Loss | The Champagne Supernova

Scout when he was roughly ten years old.

We got Scout in 1998 when he was ten weeks old. It was the summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school and we put in all the work and training that comes with having a puppy.

Scout was a great dog and we loved him. When deciding on his new living situation, we thought long and hard about who would take him. One of my best friends, who was living in New York City, offered to adopt him. Like most young and ambitious New Yorkers, she worked long hours and my gut told me that she and Scout would not work out. Another friend asked her mother to take him, but the mother was having health issues and it was not the perfect fit. None of our options felt right, but dropping him off at the Humane Society was never an option because we wanted to maintain control over where he would go.

One day after my law school contracts class was over, I ran into Mario in the outdoor study area. Knowing that he was a huge dog lover, I went out on a limb and blabbered: “Hey Mario, do you and Kim want another dog?”

Whatever, all he can do is say no, I thought to myself.

I explained the situation with needing to re-home Scout and Mario immediately took an interest, despite already having four dogs at home and despite that he never laid his eyes on Scout.

This worked out perfectly. Mario and his wife lived in my hometown and Mario coordinated a time for my dad to bring Scout to their house to meet Kim. She would decide whether Scout could stay there, as Mario was away at law school in Gainesville and she would be Scout’s primary caretaker until Mario graduated.

In sum, Mario and Kim ended up adopting Scout and they gave him a wonderful life. In fact, they gave Scout a better life than my family would have given him if he never needed to leave our home in the first place. Mario and Kim lived in a beautiful house on a large piece of property where Scout had plenty of room to run around. He had four new doggie brothers and sisters to keep him company while Kim was working during the day. He had a swimming pool and an air conditioned dog house that was fancier than some peoples’ real houses. He got to travel to cool places like the Bahamas on the Simoes’ private plane.

Scout had it made.

Mario Simoes: Choosing to Remember Love in a Time of Loss | The Champagne Supernova

Flight tickets Mario made with Scout’s picture. He nicknamed Scout “Nubby” because his short tail resembled a nub.

After graduation, Mario and I kept in touch. He constantly updated me about Scout and how much he, Kim, and the other dogs were all enjoying him. Then, in August of 2014, Mario informed me that Scout passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 16. He had a long and fulfilling life, and Mario and Kim were sure going to miss him.

Mario Simoes: Choosing to Remember Love in a Time of Loss | The Champagne Supernova

Mario and me at law school graduation in December of 2007.

When reading Mario’s message of Scout’s death, I felt a mix of sadness and gratitude. Sadness about the loss, but gratitude about Mario and Kim’s kindness in welcoming Scout into their home during my family’s own time of grief over the end of my parents’ marriage.

As the years passed, Mario and I would occasionally touch base with each other on social media. I followed his adventures that included flying his plane to exotic cities and embarking on high-stakes adventures.

Mario was more than an attorney, husband, and friend. His story is remarkable.

Born in Venezuela, Mario relocated to Portugal with his family as a child and eventually graduated 1st in his class at the Portuguese Air Force Academy. He began his career as a military pilot and, later, as a commercial pilot for a major airline. He graduated 2nd in our law school class of 208 graduates at the University of Florida. He was an exceptional writer, which was especially impressive considering English was not his first language. He was a member of The Florida Bar and the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

Mario was also an accomplished mountain climber. He recently completed the “Seven Summits Challenge” by climbing to the top of the seven highest places on Earth. In addition to Mt. Everest, Mario climbed to the top of the highest mountain in each of the six other continents: Puncak Jaya in New Guinea, Vinson in Antarctica, Elbrus in Europe, Aconcagua in South America, Denali in North America, and Kilimanjaro in Africa.

Mario Simoes: Choosing to Remember Love in a Time of Loss | The Champagne Supernova

Mario and his guide at The Matterhorn.

His next adventure was going to be the Explorers Grand Slam, which involved skiing to both the North and South Poles. He was supposed to start this challenge in April of 2017, when he would be flown to a block of ice in Norway, 70 miles from the North Pole, where he would ski over difficult terrain until he reached the pole.

Mario didn’t make it to April.

In the week preceding his death, Mario published a series of daunting status updates on his Facebook account.

March 14, 2017, at 5:24 p.m.:

It’s scary what a smile can hide.

March 14, 2017, at 8:11 p.m.:

I have descended to a very dark place. 

I believe Mario’s last status updates were cries for help.

I did not reach out to him because I did not see the status updates until after he died, but I am not sure whether or how I would have responded if I would have seen them before it was too late.

I can tell you how I will respond in the future.

I will reach out to people who need it. I will not be deterred by the fear of prying into someone’s personal life. I will show people who I love that I love them. I will tell them that I care. I will give them compassion even if it is not convenient.

Mario Simoes: Choosing to Remember Love in a Time of Loss | The Champagne Supernova

Mario and law school friends getting ready for a pre-dinner flight.

People are people. We all have struggles. I haven’t seen Mario or Kim in nearly a decade and certainly don’t know the inner workings of their marriage but, based on my own experience, marriage can be really hard.

Life can be hard.

Love can be hard.

It is painful to think that Mario, despite all of his worldly experiences and possessions, spent the last days of his life in, as he described it, “a very dark place.”

Mario Simoes: Choosing to Remember Love in a Time of Loss | The Champagne Supernova

Photograph of Mario’s dogs that he uploaded to Facebook six days before he died.

I don’t know the man who shot up his wife’s law firm and fled from police.

Nobody knows that man.

It wasn’t Mario.

The Mario I love and remember adopted and cared for my dog in my family’s time of crisis. He was a true friend who was respected among our peers. He was adventurous, kind, smart, ambitious and authentic.

That is the man I will choose to remember.

The Mario I knew was not the man who shot at his wife’s law office and he was not the man who was killed by police officers.

That is not the man I will remember.

I refuse to remember him by his last bad act.

Mario made his final ascent into the clouds on March 19, 2017. I hope that flight was more beautiful than the view from Mt. Everest, more satisfying than time with his beloved dogs, and filled him with all the love and warmth he ever lacked.

Mario Simoes: Choosing to Remember Love in a Time of Loss | The Champagne Supernova

This picture of Mario is hauntingly beautiful and is exactly how I envision him entering the light.

Godspeed, Mario. You were a treasure who will be missed.

Cheers to you.


    22 Comments on The Last Bad Act: Choosing to Remember Love in a Time of Loss

    1. Christine Poe
      March 19, 2018 at 5:05 pm (2 years ago)

      Jennifer, your blog made me cry. This is exactly how I will always remember Mario. He was the most beautiful soul. I still feel him around me. I’m an “intuitive” so I connect with those on the other side. He was such an important person to myself and my son Dorian who lives with Autism. Mario was our very special “Tikko Ambassador”. Tikko is my son’s polar bear who travels the world for Autism Awareness. You’ve probably seen a pic of Tikko on top of Mount Everest along with Mario. Mario went above and beyond for my son’s campaign – for complete strangers! I still feel him around me, and I feel, it’s no coincidence, that he’s been on my mind all day…and that I did a search to see if his anniversary was coming up, and saw by your blog it was today. I KNOW Mario brought me to your blog, just as I know he’s still here in spirit. A light such as his cannot be extinguished by anyone.

      I miss him so much…and we miss him travelling with Tikko. He left a huge void behind, not only for us, but for everyone who loves him. Bless you for this wonderful blog. I shall share it on Tikko’s Facebook page. xox

    2. Laura
      October 24, 2017 at 7:34 am (3 years ago)

      Thank you for posting this. I climbed Elbrus with Mario a few years ago, and was shocked and saddened by the circumstances surrounding his death–your post helps me to make sense of how I want to remember him: passionate, intelligent, giving, an animal lover beyond compare.

    3. Monica D.
      April 9, 2017 at 11:39 pm (3 years ago)

      I met Mario in the U.S. Air Force over 20 years ago. He was very close to my friend, but as things go, they both moved on. He always remained in her heart, and in our conversations when we reminisced. She had a dream about him a few nights ago and looked him up, only to discover this horrendous news. Thank you for writing this tribute to wonderful, sweet Mario.

    4. Luis Monteiro
      April 6, 2017 at 8:39 am (3 years ago)

      Thank you so much for revealing the great person Mario was. We were friends since primary school. He was my row model, the kind of person you’d like to be. And i don’t mean financially …
      we spoke many times when i was in Angola three years ago. I was planning to visit him soon…
      I only hope he’s in a much better place now, where he certainly deserves to be. I also refuse to remember his last days as a standard for who he was for half a life-time. I only wish i could have helped in some way…
      Once again thank You for remembering our friend in such honesty and care.

    5. Glenn Ignazio
      April 5, 2017 at 3:10 am (3 years ago)

      Mario and I went to US Air Force pilot training together. We lost toich for some time as i was always deployed and he went back to Portugal. Some time later i discovered he came back to the US and his accomplishments were astounding. I knew him well as we spent 12 hours a day together for a year flying jets. Everytime we talked, I would be surprised on something else he was doing. I didnt know he was such a mountaineer. My son is now in the Air Force and he thoight about taking him when he went to Bolivia in Feb. Mario was a friend, a good one and there are only a few that we mutually would stay connected with from the military. Now that he is gone, a large pertcentage of my friends are not here anymore. I am still in shock about the loss. I will always wish he could have reached out or I could have been there. His final actions will be remembered by those who don’t know him. However we know how this world lost a great man. I hope that Kim is okay during this wretched time and that Mario will always be remembered for the good things, regardless of the bad.

    6. Tammy
      April 2, 2017 at 2:40 pm (3 years ago)

      Thank you so much, I met Mario in the Himalayas and his love was abounding towards the people andthe place I followed him through the seven summits and was looking forward to April. I’m a recovering alcoholic and I know what alcohol did to me and the person that made me the polar opposite of who I am. This is so sad I write the ending out so different I have so many ways to finish the book Mario I was looking forward to him writing about his adventures outside and inside of himself . He would’ve made it through remarkably and continue to do good things . Emotions alcohol and guns don’t mix.

    7. Allison Arnone
      April 2, 2017 at 12:53 pm (3 years ago)

      Wow, it’s all about perspective, right? You were able to show the other side to a situation where most people would be quick to judge and make assumptions about a person’s life. Definitely makes you think – well-written as always! Sorry for your loss.

    8. Christine
      March 29, 2017 at 5:52 pm (3 years ago)

      I didnt know Mario either, but I live walking distance to where this happened in DeLand. Its true we tend to hang onto the negative. But your story is very important to put out there. I have an acquaintance whose father, mother and two siblings were recently lost in a situation somewhat similar to this one. Point is, you never know what someone is going through and there usually is way more to the story. Sometimes the situation is out of their control. My friend has also chosen to remember her family member how she always knew him to be…a wonderful, caring person. 15 minutes of someone’s life doesn’t define them. Anyone can have issues, demons and other things they are struggling with.

    9. Sandy
      March 29, 2017 at 1:49 pm (3 years ago)

      I didn’t know Mario. I only know what the media has shown us but I do believe that he was a wonderful man that was in need of help. I don’t think he was a horrible person. In my heart anyone that loves animals as much as he loved his dogs isn’t a bad person. When I hear his name I will remember his love for his dogs. Beautiful article.

    10. Julie
      March 29, 2017 at 1:11 pm (3 years ago)

      Wow, Mario does sound like a wonderful man and I am deeply sorry for your loss. You did an incredible job of memorializing the important parts of his life in this beautiful post!

    11. Danielle
      March 29, 2017 at 11:38 am (3 years ago)

      This is beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your story of him and how you knew him.

      • jenniferdaku
        March 29, 2017 at 12:15 pm (3 years ago)

        Thanks for the feedback and for following along, Danielle. Mario was a beautiful person and his passing is a shame.

    12. Drew S
      March 28, 2017 at 10:55 pm (3 years ago)

      Nice article, Jen. Hope you are well.

      • jenniferdaku
        March 29, 2017 at 12:16 pm (3 years ago)

        Thanks, Drew. Right back ‘atcha. How has it already been nearly ten years since graduation?!

    13. Kim
      March 28, 2017 at 9:41 pm (3 years ago)

      I am so sorry for the loss your friend. Depression can do terrible things to the mind, heart and soul. Thank you for sharing this and I pray that you, as well as his family and friends will find comfort and peace.

      • jenniferdaku
        March 29, 2017 at 12:16 pm (3 years ago)

        Thanks so much, Kim! I appreciate your kind words.

    14. shelly
      March 28, 2017 at 11:01 am (3 years ago)

      You always know what to blog when someone needs them the most. I will share this with a dear friend whose brother and a long time friend, actually we were childhood sweethearts… lol, but he was your Mario, just in another state, and a day later. thank you for the lovely message, I know it will comfort many of your readers.

      • jenniferdaku
        March 28, 2017 at 12:41 pm (3 years ago)

        Thanks so much for the kind words and for following my blog, Shelly! (I miss seeing you, BTW). Much luck and love to your friend who needs it.

      • Michelle A
        August 19, 2019 at 9:49 pm (12 months ago)

        Thank you for writing all of these kind words about Mario. I’ve known Mario and Kim since 1999. They both have been very dear to myself, my husband, and two sons. The newspapers do not have the entire story and do not bother to tell the truth. Mario was an amazing, loving, adventurous, and loyal friend. The world is less without him.

        • jenniferdaku
          September 6, 2019 at 10:40 am (11 months ago)

          Thanks for the feedback and for reading the blog. Mario was a special person who was the victim of his own mental illness. God bless him and his family. I’m so grateful he showed kindness to my family when we needed a home for our dog.

    15. Judy
      March 28, 2017 at 8:27 am (3 years ago)

      That is so lovely. If what you wrote encourages just one person to think about expressing love and kindness, or to reach out by letting someone know they are thought of and valued, your words have had an impact. Cheers and blessings to you, Mario, his family and anyone that reads this blog and embraces the message.

      • jenniferdaku
        March 28, 2017 at 12:41 pm (3 years ago)

        Thank you- I totally agree!


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