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'He got called home': Their summer retreat was a place of peace. Until tragedy hit

The couple had been in Minnesota for three weeks at their summer mobile home when a severe storm caused a tree to collapse Monday night.

ALEXANDRIA, Minn. — Minnesota was a refuge for Mark and Debbie Bunney. 

The couple from Miami, Arizona had an annual summer retreat tradition to their mobile home in Alexandria. It was a place the two could get away from the desert's summer heat and relax.

The home became a refuge for more than just extreme temperatures this year after Mark was diagnosed with cancer. Not letting the diagnosis stop them from enjoying life, Mark and Debbie continued their retreat.

The retreat came to an early end on Monday when severe storms caused a tree to rip through the home's ceiling.

“There was this crash, like an angry crash, and then something fell on me,” Debbie said. “I said, ‘What’s happening?’ and then the whole ceiling fell down. I thought we were in a tornado.”

Debbie, who had been sleeping on a recliner in the living room, was pinned under the trunk. She could see Mark about three feet away. He wasn't moving.

"The rest of his body was covered with celling debris… I could tell he wasn’t alive, he wasn’t responding or moving," Debbie said.

It wouldn't be until after the two were transported to the hospital that Debbie's suspicions were confirmed. Her husband of 43 years was dead.

“I had such a sense of joy for him because he took a shortcut through cancer. He got called home and he didn’t have to face a bunch of ugly side effects and losing his beautiful brown hair that he still had,” Debbie said.

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A fighter until the end

Mark's stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis came after doctors looked at his CT scans when he tested positive for COVID at the start of June.

“He struggled the last three weeks,” said Mark’s son, Isaac Bunney. “We were praying for a miracle.”

Mark had his first chemotherapy treatment on Friday.

The family connected on Father’s Day and thought it would be their last because of the aggressive disease, Isaac said.

On Monday, Mark had an oxygen problem and went to the hospital. When he returned home, it was late and windy.

Debbie said her husband chose to sleep on the couch and she followed him and slept on his recliner to keep him company when the tragedy happened.

“I’m sad because I lost my love, but I’m so happy for him,” Debbie said. “Even though he wanted to fight, fight hard, he got to go home first.”

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A loving husband, father, neighbor

Mark Bunney and his wife met at the Maranatha Baptist Church in Globe. They have been members for 44 years.

“He would take donuts to church and some of the little kids started calling him The Donut Man, then those kids forced their parents to bring some too. There were always donuts at church,” Mark’s son said.

The ‘Donut Man’ was also known as ‘coach’, after being involved in their five son’s baseball and football teams through little league, high school, and at the YMCA, Isaac said.

As a grandfather of 10 children, Mark enjoyed playing the piano and composing songs with his guitar for them. A private living room concert was typical, his son said.

“He had a great sense of humor, he loved puns, very witty,” Debbie said.

After growing up on the San Carlos Apache Indian tribe, Isaac said his father held a deep appreciation for the Apache community.

“He always loved us. We were always disciplined with love,” Mark's son said.

The family plans to bury him in the Globe-Miami area.

“[His] keys to life were-- choices and consequences, balance, and God has a plan,” Isaac said. “You can boil him down to those three things.”

VERSIÓN EN ESPAÑOL: Su retiro de verano era un lugar de paz, hasta que llegó la tragedia

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