Christiansburg athlete’s smile and spirit remembered
Whether they met him for five minutes or knew him his entire life, it is by far the most common response given when people are asked for their first thought of Marcus Ford.
It will also likely be the topic of many discussions as family and friends from around the country gather today to remember, celebrate and say goodbye to the 22-year-old Christiansburg High School graduate who died March 17.
After graduating from CHS in 2007, Ford earned a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems and management from James Madison University and took a job as a consultant with Grant Thornton LTD in Alexandria.
Ford was playing for his company’s flag football team March 17 when he suffered from cardiac arrest, lost consciousness and never recovered.
According to his mother, Donna Ford, the attack was the result of a heart condition her son had been officially diagnosed with just a year earlier.
Donna Ford said her son first became aware of the condition during the summer of 2010, when he lost consciousness during a kickball game. Though he appeared to have quickly fully recovered, she said, over the next six months Marcus Ford had two more similar spells, prompting her to insist he get checked out.
Marcus Ford had a full examination during his 2010 winter break from James Madison University, which prompted a string of different tests and examinations and left many answers unclear throughout the next year.
The final answer came in the spring of 2011 from the University of Virginia medical center, where he was diagnosed with a genetic condition, ventricular tachycardia.
At one point, a heart defibrillator was suggested as a possible solution, but Donna Ford said her son quickly shot it down.
“He looked us straight in the eye and said he did not want to live his life in a bubble,” Donna Ford said.
They decided, instead, to put Marcus Ford on medication, and he was told he should limit himself to about half his normal exertion during physical activities.
Christiansburg High classmate William Shorter said that for Marcus, not going all out at anything was difficult.
“The fact that he did everything at 120 percent, and they told him he could only do things at 50 percent with his heart, he just couldn’t do that,” Shorter said.
Giving all that he had is also what helped solidify his legacy in Blue Demon athletics, his family, friends and coaches agreed.
At CHS, Marcus Ford won an indoor state title as a member of the 2007 boys’ 1,600-meter relay team. He also played a key role on the Blue Demon basketball team which halted the school’s 29-game River Ridge losing streak with a dramatic 50-49 victory over Cave Spring.
Christiansburg High track coach Shane Guynn said Ford still holds the school record in the 200-meter at 22.40.
Despite his athletic ability, it was his on-track persona that Guynn said was always most impressive.
“He could step onto the track and without saying a word, inspire the whole team,” Guynn said.
Former Christiansburg basketball coach Doug Hylton said Ford had a positive influence on others, calling him “the measuring stick” for any future players he recruited.
Marcus Ford may also be the measuring stick Grant Thornton LTD uses to recruit new employees.
Family members recalled Thursday the time Marcus Ford’s former employer gave him 30 minutes to solve a math problem during his 2011 job interview.
They said he answered it in five minutes and was hired on the spot.
Marcus Ford was also remembered for the relationships he formed.
“Marcus was a person that whether you knew him 12 years or five minutes, he could make you feel like he cared about everything you thought and was hanging on every word you said,” said friend Jared Alcorn.
It was that instant impression that family and friends said made Ford a people magnet.
Fellow Christiansburg High alumnus Preston Harrington attended Bridgewater College while Ford was at James Madison and recalled introducing him to new people during weekend visits.
“The very next weekend, every one of them wanted to know what Marcus was up to that weekend,” Harrington said. “Anyone that met him was hooked.”
Marcus Ford had this affect on many people, including his mother’s co‑workers.
“Someone once told me [after meeting Marcus for the first time] he had a very sweet spirit about him. … They could feel it almost immediately.”
His kind spirit carried with him as he moved to Arlington to begin his career with Grant Thornton.
Donna Ford said the company has hired buses to help the multitude of co-workers make the more than four-hour trip to attend her son’s funeral.
She added that they had also supplied Marcus’ father, Waverly, with hotel arrangements and $500 when he traveled Thursday to retrieve his son’s belongings and had sent catered meals to her home on a daily basis.
Donna Ford described the outpouring of support the family has received since her son’s passing as incredible. Marcus Ford’s JMU fraternity Phi Chi Theta took a moment of silence in his honor at a recent event.
She said each night, many of Marcus’ friends would come and spend time with her, and she loved to she them smile as they recalled the many memories of her son.
Despite the sadness she has endured, Donna Ford said she believes many positive things can result from it.
She said she hoped Marcus’ condition would bring a higher level of awareness to the heart health of young people and that more strenuous measures would be taken to check out young athletes.
A memorial fund in Marcus’ name has been set up, and family and friends are planning to give an annual scholarship to a Christiansburg High School student who exemplifies Marcus’ character.
Most of all, Donna Ford, the mother of the boy with the “million-dollar smile,” believes he leaves behind an extremely positive legacy and example.
“He loved everyone,” Donna Ford said. “And everyone loved him.”
The visitation for Marcus Ford will be held at Auburn Baptist Church in Riner Saturday from 1 to 7 p.m., with funeral services beginning at 7 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked donations be considered for the Marcus Ford Memorial Fund, which is located at National Bank in Christiansburg.
A website in Marcus Ford’s honor has also been set up. Visit it here.
The Roanoke Times | 381-1643
Other thoughts shared on Marcus Ford:
Christiansburg track coach Shane Guynn:
“Marcus could step into a room and his smile lit it up.”
“He was naturally just built.”
“He was without a doubt the most influential leader of anyone to be around. His persona and who he was.”
“He never had to say anything, but you knew you needed to up your game.”
“He just had this aroma where you just felt better.”
“It didn’t matter if he just met you, or if he had known you for years, he treated you the same. It’s a tribute to how his parents.”
“What stood out the most, is how selfless he was. He would do anything for anyone. He took every friendship as it was the most meaning friendship he had. He would drop anything to come hang out with you for a weekend. “
“Whatever we were doing, we could count Marcus in.”
“He always made us laugh.”
“He was very charismatic, even if it was a stranger, he was always just acting like himself.”
“Marcus was basically one of the best people. He was always the most athletic guy in the room.”
“I never saw him mad and I always saw him smiling.”
Jared Alcorn :
“ Marcus was a person that whether you knew him for 12 years or 5 minutes, he could make you feel like he cared about what you thought and hung onto your every single word.
“He had the ability to bring everybody together in a way very similar to a family.”
“You never had to worry about whether or not he would care.”
“He had the ability to take me away from all the negativity in my life.”
“He brought a lot of humor into my life.”
“You knew he wanted you to be the best person you could be.”
Patrick Asconi :
“His smile was ridiculous, you can’t explain it. It just made you feel like you wanted to go up and talk to him.”
“He made you feel like whatever you had to say was important to him, even it had nothing to do with him.”
“He was real quiet on the track, unless he was mad, he was real quiet. He never really had to say anything to us. I felt like he was the heart of that team. He was our lead leg, everyone just feed off him. We just saw how ready he was, how relaxed he was, and just feed off of it.”
“Every single day, I would just try to stick on his hip, because I knew he was working harder than anyone.”
“Anybody that met him was hooked”
“He made you feel like you meant the world to him too.”
“He was guy who was always smiling, that’s like all he ever did was smile.”
“He never said anything, we all just knew that he was going to go out there and give it all he had. He was our fastest leg, so we knew he was going to get us off to a good start and we just had to follow suit.”
“He had a positive influence on everyone.”
“Everyone talks about his smile.”