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Marco Fonseca

Personnel Profiles

Remembering Marco Fonseca

The CAES family will say "goodbye" to Marco Fonseca this week at a special memorial service set for Thursday, July 21 on the Griffin Campus. Marco passed away July 13.

A native of La Lima, Honduras, Marco was born in the middle of a banana plantation on June 27, 1947. His official birthday was July 2 because the dirt roads and long distance prohibited his father and mother to travel to register his birth.

Marco said his greatest accomplishment was meeting his wife, Terry, having his three children, and providing for his mother. The fourth child of 11 children, Marco was the first to graduate with a university degree. Born into extreme poverty in Central America, he used his first paycheck to buy his family's first home which is their home still today.

He valued education, diversity and cultural understanding and was a very strong advocate for identifying and providing learning opportunities, especially for those with limited resources. Despite his humble start, Marco graduated from Cornell University with an undergraduate degree in agriculture and earned a master's in horticulture from UC Davis.

Through the Peace Corps, he met Terry and spent many years working with volunteers in Honduras. He also worked several years with Honduras Outreach promoting sustainable agriculture in rural areas. He was happiest teaching people about gardening, the joys of pruning and the unending benefits of composting.

He was a "glass half-full" individual with a generous heart and giving spirit.

Marco had been a part of the UGA Cooperative Extension family for 20 years. After serving as a county agent, Marco became the State Master Gardener Program coordinator. In this role he was responsible for managing the training of UGA's Master Gardener volunteers. He assisted county Extension agents in support of their Master Gardener programs, provided guidelines and educational materials for use in the training and management of Master Gardener volunteers, promoted horticultural education and encouraged the appreciation and protection of the environment. His office was on the Griffin Campus and Griffin became his home.

Marco FonsecaEvery person who ever met Marco would say he was always happy, social and generous. His house was a reflection of his life. It is filled with plants, flowers and vegetables all year around — a cornucopia of species somehow fitting in perfectly in his landscape. He enjoyed having his home filled with family and friends on weekends and holidays.

Marco is survived by his wife of 40 years, Terry, his eldest daughter Carolyn, his middle child Susan and son-in-law Bruce, his son Michael and daughter-in-law Amy, his grandkids Isabella and Evan, his 90 year-old mother Trinidad, and his siblings Edgardo, Agusto, Hortencia, Rogelio, Miriam, Henry, Aminta, Armando, and Deysi. He was a beloved husband, father, son and brother.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to fund a student scholarship in his honor. Donations can be made to "The UGA Foundation" for Marco T. Fonseca Scholarship Fund, UGA Griffin Campus Business Office, 1109 Experiment Street, Griffin GA 30223.

Cards and letters of condolence should be sent to Mrs. Terry Fonseca, 827 Maple Drive, Griffin, Ga., 30224.


Memories of Marco

Sharon Dowdy – CAES news editor
"To pull together this article, I decided to rely on Marco's family for the main article. After all, he was their husband, father, brother and grandfather. They loved him best. But we loved him, too. In my minds' eye I still see Marco healthy and happy. He often visited the communications office on the Griffin Campus for support for Master Gardener projects. Whether it was a new brochure or an update to the Master Gardener Handbook, Marco always came with an armful of ideas. Many of his ideas were far-reaching and not attainable on a state budget! While others reach for the stars, Marco tried to lasso the moon.

I will miss the truly unique way he said my name with his Hispanic accent. Growing up being called "Shayron," somehow "Shareen" sounded much less country. I will also remember Marco's smile. It was a constant. I never saw him without it. He also never "walked" into my office. He "danced." It was a combination mambo, cha-cha, macarena walk/dance. I envied his energy. The energy that made him dance instead of walk and have the stamina to play soccer on the lawn of the Redding Building in 100+ degree weather. I will miss my friend. As Vince Gill sings…"Go rest high."

Beverly Sparks – UGA Cooperative Extension Associate Dean
"Our Extension family mourns the loss of a wonderful colleague and friend, Marco Fonseca. Earlier in our Extension careers I worked with Marco while serving as an Extension specialist and as a district director. It was my observation that Marco always had a great understanding of his clientele and their needs and a true talent for communicating with his audience. He took these strengths into his position as coordinator of our state Master Gardener Program and his leadership for the program will be greatly missed. He was a great traveling companion on trips through Honduras and his love for his home and family was always evident. His smile and the sparkle in his eyes whenever he spoke of his children….this is the Marco Fonseca I will always remember."

Bob Westerfield – CAES consumer horticulturist
"Marco had one of the kindest and largest hearts of anyone I have ever met. He had trouble telling anyone 'no' when they asked for something. In some cases, it made his job difficult because Marco had to deal with conflict at times and he didn't have a mean bone in his body. Marco loved his family and often spoke about his kids. He loved to travel and loved the game of soccer. I could always count on Marco to help me when I needed a favor and I often used him to help me understand better my crazy Hispanic mother-in-law! He was a true friend and will be missed."

Wayne Gardner – CAES entomologist/Research and Education Garden Faculty Leader
"I knew Marco since his service in the Fulton County Cooperative Extension Office when I worked with the Center for Urban Agriculture. Marco impressed me then as a very positive person with excellent ideas of better ways to serve his clientele. Once Marco moved to this campus to head up the Master Gardener Program, I learned even more about him and his commitment to service. I learned that he and Terry had always been committed to leadership and service to their communities, wherever they might live. I equate the two of them to the quote that I love, "Bloom where you are planted." To me, they seemed to synergize each other in their projects, volunteerism and service above selves. Marco's energy in undertaking or developing a new project had no limits. His excitement in serving continually showed on his face with a huge smile and his friendly chuckle. I am blessed to have known him, watched him and learned from him. Marco Fonseca is a true tribute to the service ideals of Georgia's Cooperative Extension Service and the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences."

Marilyn Johnson – CAES Academic Program – Griffin Campus
"Marco always put family first, and anyone could be family.
Marco was a wise man. He was a good listener and a great teacher.
Marco was a devoted friend. He was most generous with his time, talents and resources.
Marco was creative, resourceful and level headed.
Marco could navigate the wilds of Olancho, Honduras and the jungles of the UGA work world with equal poise and effectiveness.
Marco was fun loving and a great dancer. He made a humble gathering a celebration. He was so much fun to be around.
Marco was an accomplished water sportsman. He loved to swim and enjoyed teaching others to deep sea dive and snorkel.
Marco was a reliable neighbor. He never forgot to feed your dogs.
Marco always saw the best in people and inspired them to be their best.
Marco asked flowers to grow in the most random places and they remarkably complied.
Marco was a man of integrity. He always chose to do the right thing even when no one was looking.
Marco was a man of peace. He always chose to take the high ground when faced with racism, negativity and petty politics. He saw the bigger picture and consciously made choices that would foster the greater good. 

The world is a better place because Marco lived. This fact is not accidental or coincidental, Marco lived intentionally. He consciously made choices throughout his life to make the lives of others better.

Instead of securing his financial future, Marco chose to use his first paycheck to put a down payment on a home for his mother and younger siblings in Honduras and then proceeded to make the monthly payments (Yes, Terry is a saint).

Instead of working for the same employer for 30 years and grooming his retirement, Marco chose for his children to have the benefits of living their early years in Honduras surrounded by his family and the Honduran culture and living their high school and college years in the United States so they could all have fine educations (Yes, Terry is a saint). Instead of paying off his house, he helped support his children while they were in graduate school…and oh what graduate schools (Yes, Terry is a saint).

With Marco, there were many, many "instead" occasions, where his choices made all the difference to someone else. Marco understood the power of both personal choice and action, and he used both to make a difference in the world around him. And he thoroughly enjoyed it.

This litany of my reflections about Marco could go on and on, but now having reflected on Marco's attributes, I have become suspicious that for some reason, God may have needed Marco to be with Him more than He needed for him to be here with us. It makes me wonder what's up up there. Indeed God chose one of the best and the finest persons I have ever had the privilege of knowing to be with Him. And as we all know and always regret, He has been known to allow that from time to time.

Marco your life was a great example, I hope to make better choices and I hope to be more intentional about my actions. I miss you, I hope to see you soon, but Terry and I need a glass of wine, a stroll through your garden, a trip to the beach…"

Sarah Moon – research technician - USDA – Griffin Campus
"There are those few people that you meet during your life that make such an impression on you that you'll always remember them. Marco Fonseca was one of those people.

I first met Marco while playing with the lunchtime soccer group. I found out he was from Honduras, which is where a dear Army friend of mine was born. It turns out, Marco's brother, who still lives in Honduras, is a friend of my friend's sister and husband. (Confusing, I know.) Marco and I worked together in that I provided him with a plant or an in vitro sweet potato or information he needed for some of his programs.

I also enjoyed working with Marco and other University of Georgia faculty and Extension agents when I traveled, as a visitor, to Marco's native Honduras. Marco told us stories about how he met his wife, Terry, while they were both with the Peace Corps in Honduras. He also told us about how hard he had to work and study to get to the United States, where he went to college. While there, we stopped at a school to drop off backpacks. This school was in an impoverished area that didn't even have running water. Marco and his brother had been working to help the school. While we were in Honduras an earthquake struck not far from where we were lodging. One of the Extension agents described how during the quake the water was sloshing out of his commode. Marco of course stayed calm.

I was always amazed by all the things Marco had done during his life. He was once a master diver and taught diving. I was talking to Marco, once, about my husband, who's in the Army Reserves and Marco said he once flew F-16s in the Air Force. Of course, he was pulling my leg and had a good time with that. But I believed it, because Marco had done so many things, that I thought him perfectly capable of flying an airplane.

Marco never met a stranger. In Honduras, we were all really impressed by how many people knew him. One of my favorite stories happened when our group was walking through the remote countryside. First, we stopped where some little kids were playing ball using a stick for a baseball bat. Marco pushed his hat back a little and got right in there with the kids, hitting the ball and running bases. Then a little further down the road, we met a young man who was driving a wooden cart with huge wooden wheels and a couple of beautiful, strong oxen with their heads in the yoke. Marco was talking to him about his fine oxen. The young man kept looking at Marco and then finally said "Marco Fonseca?" Even out in the middle of nowhere, this young man knew Marco.

Marco always did whatever he could to help the people of his native country of Honduras, as well as people here in the U.S. We Americans had such a great time helping the people there, learning some of the culture, and gaining knowledge about the native plants. There are so many native fruit plants there that are so different from ours. One of Marco's favorites was a fruit berry. I believe it's Synsepalum dulcificum. If you chew it, sour things will taste sweet. So you can chew it, then suck on a lemon and the lemon tastes sweet. Marco loved showing us that.

I will miss our discussions on politics, Latino writers (we would exchange books) and plants.

Some people's lights just shine brighter and Marco was one of those people. He always had a positive attitude and was always smiling. He seemed to get so much more out of life. He was very enthusiastic about his work and wanted to share his knowledge of plants with everyone. When you really have that love of plants, it's a treasure to talk to someone else who is just as enthusiastic. I hope that when my time comes, I will be able to look back with the satisfaction I hope Marco had of knowing that I made such a positive impact on so many people."

Faith Peppers – CAES director of public affairs
"When we got Dr. Arkin's email with the sad news, I immediately got an email from Janet Rodekohr, "What happened? He was one of my most favorite agents ever." I think we all felt that way about Marco. From the first time I met him in new agent training, to when we worked together in the Cherokee County Extension office and later in N. Fulton, I never saw Marco without that smile and that twinkle. He could make you feel good by just walking in the door with that enthusiastic, 'Hello!' I'll miss that."

Krissy Slagle - Georgia Master Gardener Program - program assistant
"Marco was such a genuinely nice man and a terrific man to work for. I feel fortunate to have known him over the last 9 or so years. He and I would talk politics as kindred spirits and speculate as to who here in the building was in the same blue boat with us. We all here in Horticulture will miss seeing his springy walk step — he used to bounce down the hallway. I used to hear his laugh from my office and it always made me smile. Dr. Carol Robacker here in our department said she would ask him "Marco, why are you always so happy?" I'm not sure what his answer was but I think it was because he was thankful for the things he loved. Faculty and staff here on the Griffin Campus who were able to make the trips to Honduras with him for DDDI or other cooperative educational programs that he worked on came back as lifelong friends. He was so proud of both his native Honduras and his adopted country. I wish I had taken the opportunity to go along on one of those trips. It just never seemed to work out. Around the office here he always had a piece of fruit, a banana, an apple or an orange, and his coffee. He loved good coffee. And he loved soccer, and up until a few months ago, coached and even played in the lunchtime campus pickup games. He loved his garden and we would talk about it often; what he had planted and what he wanted to plant next. But what he really loved and was most proud of was his family; Terry and three beautiful children, Carolyn, Susan Michael and his two beautiful grandchildren. We will really miss him."

Gerald Arkin – Assistant Dean – Griffin Campus
"Marco was passionate about learning and teaching, giving of himself to always volunteer and help others, to make the world a better place. All of us who knew Marco, worked with Marco, volunteered with Marco, are or will be Master Gardeners, are better people as a result. He was a humble, wise, charitable, fulfilled friend to all and helpmate to untold scores, never seeking personal notoriety or recognition, caring of and sensitive to others. Marco Fonseca, the trainer of Masters, was himself the Master of Masters. He was the Master Gardener Top Gun. You know the Tom Cruise movie where Tom Cruise was the Top Gun. Marco was the best of the best Master Gardeners. And, Terry, he gets the girl in the end. Unlike Tom Cruise, Marco got his girl in the Peace Corps.

In reminiscing about Marco, I remembered a favorite book of mine, "The Dancing Wu Li Masters," dealing with quantum physics. Its author's definition of "Master" better described Marco for me. To me, Marco was a Wu Li Master. Wu Li means enlightenment of my heart, my mind. A master teaches essence. When the essence is perceived, he teaches what is necessary to expand the perception. The Chinese words Wu Li Master defines a Master as one who teaches, not by rote but by stimulating curiosity. Although the Wu Li Master is a Chinese word, often referring to a spiritual leader, I really don't know Marco's spiritual persuasion, but he possessed the core spirit and values ascribed to every faith. To me, he was a Wu Li Master in the broadest sense.

Terry, thanks for letting us have so much of Marco. And Carolyn, in a very short period of time, it appears to me that the apple fell very close to the proverbial tree. And to the rest of the family, you have our heartfelt sympathies.

We employees of the Griffin Campus were particularly fortunate to have in our family Marco Fonseca. We remember him for what he has given us and taught us by his example and deeds. He is forever a part of us, this place and the Griffin Campus legacy."

Clint Waltz - Extension turfgrass specialist
"Marco always had a vibrant and exuberant personality that we all saw through that infectious smile. He was a respected member of the UGA Turfgrass Team and never hesitated to aid in trainings, translations, and helping make us all better. A couple years ago I traveled with Marco to his beloved Honduras. Seeing his home country through his eyes was an experience I will never forget. He was such a positive person with a gentile spirit. His passing will be felt throughout Georgia and Honduras. He touched so many lives."

Joshua Bell - Office of Communications and Technology Services - Griffin Campus
"I have provided IT service to Marco since I moved to Griffin in 2006. His charming personality and positive attitude will be sorely missed. He tagged along with us to the 2010 computing conference at Rock Eagle and was an absolute pleasure. People like Marco are scarce in the world today. It has been my pleasure to work for him over the years. I will miss him very much."

Jean Fowler – former UGA Extension agent and friend of the college
My friendship with Marco 1998-2011 = A "Passport to Success, AND Happiness"
I'd like to start with a quote from Mark Twain that was on the back of the Orientation 2011 University of Georgia "Passport to Success" brochure they gave parents and students (like my son Nicolas) who are starting at UGA as freshmen in just a few, short weeks.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones that you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover."

I met Marco in 1998, applying for the same job: that of Newton County Extension agriculture agent. Neither of us were selected but we became great friends after that…running our story that as a Latino and a woman (both educated in California of all foreign places!) we didn't fit in because we "weren't from around here."

But, five years later, I found myself behind him in line at the Rock Eagle cafeteria for a meal at UGA Extension Winter School. I was telling Don Hamilton (developer, along with Ed Brown, of our distance diagnostics system) that I had just been to Honduras for the first time on a mission trip with our Methodist church in Covington. We were based at Rancho Paraiso in Olancho which is managed by Honduras Outreach, Inc.

Marco said "WHERE did you say you were?" When I told him, he said "I helped build that ranch for and with Honduras Outreach—and am especially proud of the dairy barn—when I was stationed there with the Peace Corps 20 years ago!" Up until then I thought he was from Puerto Rico or a Caribbean country. But that little conversation turned into a pretty BIG conversation and the next thing you know, we were running all over Honduras, Central America, CUBA: Pan-America! promoting the DDDI system—breezing with presidents, vice-presidents, first- ladies, dictators, ambassadors, ministers of agriculture and, more importantly, farmers struggling to make an existence, and a difference, as they tried to feed their part of the world.

I soon fell in love with Honduras and just about everyone down there, especially the "Olanchanos!" as well as Marco's whole, wonderful familia. Marco was as close to me as any brother (*hermano) I will ever have. And, incidentally, was also the world's best singer, dancer, and instructor plus Spanish language interpreter! Not to mention all that "plant science stuff" he kept trying to teach while I was trying to get EQUAL talking time for animal science - especially equine. When he wasn't doing all THAT, he got Rob and I to watch quite a few soccer games and include soccer field turfgrass maintenance on our DDDI trips.

With Marco's drive and our joint initiative/dream, we succeeded in securing a DDDI contract with OIRSA for seven Central American countries, as well as a very large USAID/UGA grant that brought students and Extension agents to Honduras over three years. We presented papers and posters at almost "too many to mention" international conferences. And I was so happy to hear that this past year, DDDI is being used all over Haiti. So, I know our dream for "affordable, rapid disease diagnosis" will live on.

I close with another quote I saw today at UGA orientation. These words to live by young Miss Mel Baxter** has given to me, truly capture the exceptional essence of this treasure of a friend and colleague: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Howard Thurman

Dear Marco, you may not still be alive on this Earth as we know it, but you are alive in our minds and hearts today. You have truly inspired generations across the universe by catching the wind in your sails, and teaching us all to explore, dream, discover and then share what we have learned-locally and globally.

I love you, and your family, and will make sure that your grandchildren know every little story about you, me, and Rob (the travels of the "Tres Amigos") that I get to show and tell – complete with me interrupting!

**Mel Baxter is a 4th yr student in Communication Studies from Kansas and 2011 Orientation Group Leader

If you would like to honor Marco through your memories, please send an email to Sharon Dowdy at and your thoughts and words will be added here.


(Article by Sharon Dowdy with information provided by the Fonseca family.)

Released July 2011.