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Manny remembered in emotional halftime tribute

There were tears and cheers Saturday evening during the first college football game played at the new Joel H. Wiens Stadium, a contest between Tabor College and Bethany College.

Spectators on both sides of the field paid tribute to the late Tabor football player Marcus Manny in an emotional halftime ceremony, which honored his family and announced the creation of the new Marcus Manny Memorial Prayer Garden.

Tears flowed as the Tabor community remembered the transformed life of the 23-year-old senior, who died in a one-car accident Feb. 22, near the Oklahoma-Kansas border — an inexplicable tragedy that still continues to be felt deeply on campus.

Narrating the student-led ceremony on the stadium’s loudspeakers, Wendell Loewen, dean of spiritual formation and campus pastor, said, “Marcus was a treasured part of almost every friend circle as he daily made it a point to show kindness and equality to everyone he met. He was well known for his contagious smile, notable laugh, and his signature apparel choice of a white hat and white T-shirt.

“While the campus recognizes a gaping hole where his love used to be, it realizes the importance of transforming the grief into an outpouring of the love of Jesus,” he said. “Tragedy happens, and to it meaning and purpose must be affixed. The love of God flowed through Marcus, and those touched by his life should not go unchanged.”

On the field were Manny’s family, Roland and Trisha Miranda, and his brother, Alex, who traveled from Dallas, Texas. Representing the college were former teammates Tex Rogers, Mario Nava, and Jason Aubry; fellow students and friends Joanna Chapa, Jenny Gaskell, and Katie Mount; and Tabor College President Dr. Jules Glanzer.

“This was a wonderful time of healing for Marcus’ family,” Glanzer said afterward. “Tabor has become a new home for their family and a place where they can experience healing and process the grief of their great loss. We were honored to have them be here for this wonderful tribute, which was the highlight of our first game in the new stadium.”

As the family received bouquets of flowers, a basket of gifts, and an autographed football signed by Manny’s former teammates, announcer Loewen continued.

“Roland, Trisha, and Alex, we, the Tabor College community want to continue to come alongside you, support you, and show Christ’s love to you. We want to let you know we are still with you, remembering Marcus and his impact on our campus. Together we serve a loving God who is mighty to save, comfort, and empower.”

Loewen announced that to honor and bless Manny’s memory, the Tabor College community, together with his family, would be creating the Marcus Manny Memorial Prayer Garden to be located west of the Campus Recreation Center, next to the stadium.

A place for student fellowship and quiet reflection, the garden will include a tree planted in memory of Manny provided by the Tabor College Student Senate.

Inscribed on the accompanying plaque will be a quote from the book of Zephaniah, “The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

“This prayer garden is to serve as a tangible display of God’s passionate love,” Loewen said. “It is our intention that this garden be a way for Jesus to meet those who enter, through the beauty of God’s creation.”

According to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Manny was northbound about 6:15 p.m. Feb. 22, when he ran off the road, over-corrected, hit an embankment, and flipped his 2002 Mitsubishi Eclipse. Manny, who was driving from his home in Dallas to the Tabor campus, was pinned beneath the wreckage and died at the scene.

Funeral services were Feb. 28, in Dallas. Tabor College football coaches, players, students, and administration officials — nearly 100 in all — traveled to the service on chartered buses. The chapel, which seats about 200, was filled to capacity, with as many as 50 additional mourners standing in the back of the sanctuary. Manny’s white jersey, No. 1, was framed and presented to the family, and prominently displayed on the platform.

A campus memorial service was held a few days earlier. The theme of the event was “A Celebration of Marcus’ Life,” and was planned and orchestrated by Manny’s friends.

While the accident report indicated that Manny was wearing his seat belt, his mother confirmed that her son was text messaging on his cell phone and might have been distracted at the time of the accident. The family urged Tabor students to stop texting while driving.

In closing, Loewen asked the crowd to “applaud the family’s on-going strength through these times.”

Bluejays fans, many dressed in white, stood for an ovation, as Manny’s family smiled, waved, and wept on the 50-yard line. Across the field, Bethany College fans stood and applauded as well.

Donations in Manny’s name may be sent to Dallas Academy, 950 Tiffany Way, Dallas TX 75218 or Tabor College, 400 S Jefferson St, Hillsboro KS 67063.

Last modified Sept. 23, 2009

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