Former Queen’s basketball player killed in Madagascar

Alessio played for the men’s varsity team from 1986 to 1989

Mark Alessio (33) drives towards the Carleton basket on January 26, 1988. Alessio was killed in Madagascar Monday.
Mark Alessio (33) drives towards the Carleton basket on January 26, 1988. Alessio was killed in Madagascar Monday.
Journal File Photo

Mark Alessio, ArtSci ’89, was killed in Antananarivo, Madagascar on Monday. Alessio, who had taught computer classes in Hong Kong, Mexico and Spain, was on vacation on the island when he was shot twice during what may have been an attempted robbery. Alessio played varsity basketball for Queen’s from 1986 to 1989.

Teammate Bruce Caughill, who played with Alessio for two years, told the Journal Alessio meant a lot to the team.

“I would describe him as a real character in every sense of the word, with character in every sense of the word,” he said. “For us and our team, he was a great personality to have. He was a great athlete.”

Caughill said Alessio’s death is a blow to many of his former teammates who have kept in touch over the years.

“Our team at the time was quite close, so this is hitting us pretty hard.”

Caughill said Alessio will be missed by everyone who knew him.“He was an incredible guy that since Queen’s had gone all over the world teaching,” he said. “He certainly cut a pretty broad swathe across the world and touched a lot of people. The special position he played in our hearts is certainly not unique to us here or to anyone on the team; he touched people all over the world.”

Barry Smith, who was the Gaels’ head coach at the time, told the Kingston Whig-Standard that Alessio is fondly remembered by many of his coaches and teammates.

“We’ve been calling each other and e-mailing each other for three days,” he said. “Today was Day 3 [since his death] and the theme of the e-mails was memories: ‘Do you remember this?’ or, ‘Do you remember that?’” Smith said the Gaels’ teams Alessio played on were especially close.

“They were a very tight-knit group of guys, about 15 of them, and that they would stay friends after all these years wouldn’t surprise anyone who knew them back then,” he said. “They all came through together and they’ve maintained very close friendships ever since.” Alessio attended Queen’s from 1984 to 1989 and graduated with an honours degree in psychology. He played on the junior varsity team for two years before jumping to the senior team in 1986. He later played another year at McGill University while doing graduate studies.

Queen’s assistant basketball coach Duncan Cowan said several basketball alumni have contacted him and head coach Rob Smart about how much Alessio meant to the program.

“I personally didn’t know him but I’ve had a couple conversations from alumni from that group,” he said. “The comment that comes from all of them is that he was a real free spirit and loved Queen’s and all that Queen’s did for him.”

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.