Mark Payne


John “Mark” Payne, beloved son, grandson, brother, nephew, cousin, uncle and friend, died Monday, July 19, 2021, at Mission Hospital in Asheville, N.C., of cancer-related complications. He was just three weeks shy of his 41st birthday.

Mark was born at Haywood Hospital in Waynesville, N.C., on Aug. 6, 1980, the second child of Margaret (Payne) Varner and the late Jerry Payne. He grew up in a home on Spring Street and later moved to Galbreath Creek in Bryson City. He graduated from Smoky Mountain High School in 1998.

Mark majored in computer science at UNC-Asheville, and later graduated from A-B Tech with an associates degree in computer science.

After college, he stayed in Asheville and worked as an IT support specialist at Asheville Cardiology. Mark later moved back to Bryson City to be closer to family and accepted a role as a customer service specialist at Drake Software, a provider of professional tax preparation software.

During sales trips for Drake, Mark took full advantage of the opportunity to explore the cities and towns he visited. He admired the monuments in Washington D.C., ate the best BBQ across Texas, explored art exhibits in New Mexico and learned about architecture in Chicago.

Mark was genuine to a fault, tender-hearted and yet he sugar-coated nothing.

He will be sorely missed and survived by his mother, Margaret Varner of Bryson City, N.C., sister, Nicole Payne Baker, brother-in-law, Jeff Baker, and their daughter, Madison of Weston Fla., aunt, Roberta Means and her husband Gary Means of Whittier, N.C.; and cousin, Lauren Arsuffi, her husband, Joshua Marr, and their son, Jory of Asheville, N.C.

A family greeting will be held on Saturday, Aug. 7, from 10-11:30 a.m. at Bryson City United Methodist Church, 76 Main St., Bryson City, followed by a remembrance service from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Following the remembrance service, the family would like to invite those in attendance to lunch at the Fellowship Hall at the Bryson City United Methodist Church. We will enjoy Mark’s favorite food he ever ate – pulled pork BBQ from the Bar-B-Que Wagon in Bryson City. There will be options for non-meat eaters as well.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Swain Cancer Support, P.O. Box 812, Bryson City, NC, 28713; or you can visit the GoFundMe page ( the family set up to make an online donation to Swain Cancer Support.

The family would also like to encourage everyone to prioritize an early colorectal cancer screening. For more information, please visit the CDC website.