John Mark Eberhart, who shepherded The Kansas City Star’s books coverage for more than eight years and made a mark on the city’s literary community, died early Tuesday after a long bout with cancer.
Eberhart, 52, joined The Star’s staff in the 1980s and served as books editor from 2000 to early 2009. He later served as readers' advisory coordinator for the Johnson County Central Resource Library.
As books editor, Eberhart encouraged local writers and brought a variety of reviewers to the pages of The Star’s books section. A poet himself, he gave space and time to many area poets.
“It was wonderful to open up The Star and see a poem of yours, or a poem of one of your friends, or a poet whom you would not have known about if not for John Mark,” said Jo McDougall of Leawood, one of many area poets whose work Eberhart selected for publication.
“He really was an advocate for writers in the community.”
Robert Stewart, editor of New Letters magazine at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, praised Eberhart for the encouragement he gave his friends and colleagues.
“Not only was he a wonderful journalist, he was a very active literary editor,” said Stewart. “John Mark really inspired a lot of local people to pursue writing, to believe in it and believe that it was valuable.”
Eberhart brought a consistent passion to all of his interests, said his brother, Ken Eberhart.
“Whether it was literature or music or art or finding a really great place to have a bite to eat, my brother was committed to making sure the people he loved and cared about were able to bring original flavors to the content of their lives,” he said.
“He was a man who was interested in finding the beauty of the world where he currently lived.”
Eberhart, born in St. Joseph, Mo., graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in 1983, and earned a master of arts degree in English in 1998 from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
His poetry appeared in a variety of publications, and he ultimately published two volumes of verse, “Night Watch” and “Broken Time.”
Eberhart initially was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, his brother said.
He leaves his wife, Michelle Hays Harkness, and many family members and friends.