One Acre Cafe to celebrate life of cafe volunteer, assistant and friend

Sue Guinn Legg • Dec 10, 2019 at 9:53 PM

Mark Setzer believed no one should go hungry. He believed in working together as a community.

And he believed in the hunger-fighting and community-building work of One Acre Café.

On Sunday, the café will host a celebration of life service for friends and family to come together to remember and honor its late café assistant and passionate supporter on what would have been his 53rd birthday.

One of the first of the hundreds of volunteers who have come to work the nonprofit café over the past six-and-a-half years and one of the first One Acré Cafe staff members, Setzer died unexpectedly Sunday.

Shocked and saddened by his loss, his coworkers closed the café Monday with notice that they would take a few days to come to terms with his death and to prepare for a celebration of his life and all he brought to the “One Acré Cafe community.”

Michelle Watts, One Acre Café executive director and co-founder, said Setzer first showed up at the café in May 2013 in response to a call for volunteers to help in the building’s renovation.

“He just showed up that day. And he showed every day after that,” Watts said. “He was like a brother to me.”

In a tribute to Setzer posted on café’s Facebook page, Jan Orchard, One Acre Café’s founding executive director, wrote that “Mark worked hard helping to restore the building ... He helped set up the kitchen equipment, paint the entire building, train volunteers and fill the shelves and coolers with food. He became the cornerstone of the café and everyone who came through the doors knew Mark.”

While Setzer began work as a volunteer, he was quickly hired as one of the café’s first employees and worked the next six years as “café assistant.”

“Everyone associated with the café felt he was irreplaceable; and he was,” Orchard wrote. A few months after the café opened, Setzer posted on Facebook that “‘One Acre Café had saved his life.’ We see it differently. Mark gave life to One Acre Café,” she said.

Setzer was quoted as saying, “We need to get back to being a community; it’s a requirement of society ... I can see One Acre becoming the real center of the community, and tying everything together, businesses, colleges, neighborhoods and downtown.”

Outside the café, Setzer was an avid bike rider and a member of the U.S. Forest Service Volunteer Bike Patrol for the Virginia Creeper Trail.

A native of Hickory, North Carolina, he grew up in Claremont, North Carolina, where he graduated from Bunker Hill High School in 1985. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and worked as an emergency medical technician with the Catawba Rescue Squad.

Sunday’s Celebration of Life will be held from 2-4 at the café at 603 W. Walnut St. Friends and family are invited to drop in for light food and fellowship. The celebration will be followed by a service officiated by Pastor Brian Orchard, another of the café’s founders. Those who plan to attend are asked to RSVP to 423-483-0517 or [email protected]

In lieu of flowers, donations in Mark’s honor may be made to One Acre Café, 603 W. Walnut Street, Johnson City, TN 37604 or to the Friends of Mt. Rogers, Mark Setzer Memorial Fund for Bike Patrol, PO Box 107, Chilhowie, VA, 24319.

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