At a standing room only assembly in the George Mason High School auditorium in Falls Church today celebrating the life of Richard (Jack) Marsh, 16, who died last Wednesday, one of his athletic coaches announced that the annual Thanksgiving youth basketball tournament of the Hoops for Youth Foundation will henceforth be named for Marsh because of the positive impact he had on all who knew him growing up in the Falls Church City School system.
Marsh, who died suddenly from complications of a heart-lung disorder, was the quarterback of the 2009 Mason varsity football team, but grew up in the Falls Church schools and participated in a full range of sports, including Little League, the youth basketball programs of the F.C. Recreation Department and Mason lacrosse.
Present at today’s celebration were about a dozen of his former coaches and scores of his former teammates, along with an auditorium filled with his classmates and teachers over the years in Falls Church.
“Everyone is here because Richard Marsh touched the lives of you all in a positive way,” one tribute noted. Many of the remarks of his former classmates and teammates referred to his infectious smile and positive attitude. “He always put a smile on my face,” said one. “Only a few good people know hoe to make me smile,” said another, reciting a poem. “His smile is the thing that burns inside of you still,” said another. He was described as “a decent, honorable person,” who “recognized the importance of people over things,” who “touched so many lives over such a short period of time,” who “was given to us as a teacher.”
“He could always make one smile. I won’t regret a minute of any time I spent with him,” said one friend. “He was the only one willing to talk to me. He was more than a friend, he was a brother. He taught me how to love people, he strengthened me,” said another. “He would always have your back, he had a huge, positive impact on my life,” said a friend. “Nobody can say he touched their life in anything but a positive way.” He was remembered for his “lviing, happy heart and attitude,” his “welcome smile and genuine interest in others.” He was a “fine young man and a gentleman,” said Danny Leonard, who coached him for five years.
Marsh’s mother, Rena, who was also honored in many of the remarks by Marsh’s friends and co-students, said that she was strengthened by the countless expressions of support she read on her laptop as she sat beside her son’s bed in the hospital. “He was loved, respected, compassionate and a leader,” she said, recalling that he once told her, “I have learned that I am a good friend.”
She noted that her son agreed to have his organs shared following his death, and that all seven possible organs were shared, providing opportunities for life for up to 100 other persons. Noting that only 150 people in all Virginia donated their organs in the past year, she urged everyone to sign the organ donor line on the back of their drivers licenses.
Over $1,100 was raised from Mason students in the two days following the announcement of his death last week, in the form of contributions placed in a jar in the school office. They went to gifts including a football helmet and bat signed by all Marsh’s former classmates, and a special letter jacket that is on order. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Hoops for Youth Foundation are encouraged, c/o 10623 Jones Street, Suite 101-A, Fairfax, Virginia 22030.