Michael McGuirk was a star football player whose talents earned him a scholarship to play for East Carolina University. From a young age, he learned to give back to his community and did so all throughout his life, whether through coaching or starting his own foundation. Starting in his early 60s, he began to show mental decline. McGuirk passed away on August 8, 2022, at the age of 74. His brain was later donated to the UNITE Brain Bank, where researchers diagnosed him with stage 4 (of 4) CTE. Below, his wife Victoria shares the Legacy of a beloved husband, father, and friend.
By Victoria McGuirk
Michael George McGuirk was born on July 19, 1948, to Myrtle and George McGuirk of Arlington, Virginia. He attended St. Thomas Moore Elementary and played on the Arlington County Black Nights football team through his grade school years. He then went to O’Connell Catholic High School where he became a star football player and captain of the team. In his senior year, he transferred to and played football for Flynt Hill Preparatory School where he graduated in 1966. Mike then received a football scholarship to play for East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, and received his business degree in 1970. Mike was on the 1970 ECU team that played Marshall University, in which ECU won the game. But Mike’s exhilaration of victory was short-lived. The flight returning the Marshall players and coaches to Huntington, West Virginia crashed with all 75 souls onboard. This event at such a young age cemented Mike’s instincts to make a positive contribution to the community while you can.
Throughout his college career, Mike spent his summers in Ocean City, Maryland. He started as a lifeguard on 7th Street Beach and finished his beach patrol career five years later as a crew chief. Skiing was another passion of Mike’s. After graduating from college, he spent his winters with some of his Ocean City friends working at New England ski resorts.
In 1974, Mike married his sweetheart Victoria, a Phillips Crab House girl. They moved to Port Orange, Florida to open and manage a Pappy’s restaurant with another Ocean City friend. Not satisfied with his career, Mike took postgraduate courses in computer science and applied for a job with Computer Science Corporation at the Kennedy Space Center in 1981. Over the course of a 31-year career, he rose to be a manager for Firing Rooms 1 and 2 of the Space Shuttle Program. He liked to joke that on launch day, he was the one to “light the fuse” and run. He also worked for Grumman and United Space Alliance before retiring in 2012. For several years after he retired, Mike coached football at Spruce Creek High School and then Father Lopez Catholic High School.
In 1977 and 1980 respectively, Mike and Victoria’s daughter Kristine and son Matthew were born. During this period, the couple became very involved in the community. They were co-founders of the Port Orange Pop Warner football league. Mike was a coach and Football Commissioner for years and watched the Pop Warner Program grow and flourish. Mike and Victoria’s biggest joy in their later years was Kristine’s marriage to Jon Reed in 2010 and then the birth of their granddaughter, Mia Mattison in 2012 and grandson, Clyde Michael in 2014!
Throughout his life, Mike was always a positive force in his community. Whether in football or Beach Patrol, he stayed in contact and participated in reunions and events. He always took the initiative to keep his Ocean City friends and East Carolina friends close. He found a legendary lifeguard from the '50s, living in Titusville – Lucky Jordan, and brought him back to Ocean City for reunions. Mike also belonged to the Port Orange Ship Modelers Club for years.
Mike and Victoria also dealt with personal tragedy. Their son Matt struggled with addiction after being sexually abused as a young boy by his teacher. He testified in 1989 to put his predator in prison for 150 years. Sadly, Matt passed away from an accidental drug overdose in 2011. Mike and Victoria overcame their grief by starting the Straight Up SolGier Foundation to help others in situations like Matt's. Straight Up SolGier Foundation has helped hundreds of local kids and adults get FREE counseling. Recently, Mike and Victoria handed the reins over to a new board of directors who will continue the amazing work the McGuirk family started.
Along with the posthumous contribution to the community through the SolGier foundation, Mike is still contributing to the football community as well. His brain was studied at the UNITE Brain Bank where researchers diagnosed him with stage 4 (of 4) CTE. Although Mike loved football, it probably contributed to his mental decline about a decade ago. He is survived by his wife, Victoria, daughter Kristine Reed, her husband Jon Reed, and their children Mia and Clyde Reed.
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