BY MARY KAY SWEIKAR
Marcus Forrest had no plans to move back to town five years ago — that is, until he ran into a childhood acquaintance, Tabatha Hutcherson, at a Danville High School basketball game.
Within 53 days after reuniting, the couple was married, and Marcus found a job locally. Today, they are living happily in Danville with their two grown children, Te’Von Hutcherson, 18, and La’Brea Hutcherson, 20. Marcus also has a daughter — Camille Forrest, 7 — who occasionally comes from Baltimore for an extended visit.
This couple’s whirlwind courtship could be the subject of a Lifetime movie.
“We’ve been together every day since the day we met,” Marcus said. ”Wherever I go, the whole family goes.”
In turn, Marcus follows Tabatha and the kids wherever they go.
What made things unusual was that two weeks into Marcus and Tabatha’s engagement, the children’s father died unexpectedly.
“I had co-parented with him for years,” Tabatha said, “and the kids were very close to their dad.
“Meeting Marcus was definitely God-ordained. He stepped up to the plate during a very emotional time in our lives.”
Tabatha especially appreciates how Marcus, even today, helps keep the memory of her children’s late father alive.
“When I met Marcus, I was satisfied with my place in life, and getting married was the last thing on my mind,” she said, “but within two weeks after we met up, Marcus told me that we should be married — and I said ‘Yes.’”
Work and activities
Tabatha is the administrative assistant at New Life Church of Faith, and she plays a role in most services, weddings, funerals and Bible studies. Marcus is a deacon at the church. Te’Von serves as an usher, and he and La’Brea sing in the choir and help in the nursery. Mother and daughter also are on the praise dance team.
Tabatha also is a licensed cosmetologist and makeup artist, and the owner of Nevaehh Beauty and Makeup Studio in Danville. Her dream is to expand her salon someday.
“Marcus and the kids encouraged me to go to school for my license,” she said. “They are continually helping me to realize my dream.”
Marcus grew up in Danville and attended Vanderbilt University, where he played four years of football on a scholarship. After graduation, he took a job as a pre-school teacher, and then joined the U.S. Navy for nine years, where he was educated in electronics and technology.
When he returned to Danville, he worked for the East Central Illinois Community Action Agency for four years. Then, within the past year he took a job at the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System as a program support assistant for the chief nurse of operations.
But Marcus’ love of working with kids and the game of football led him to take on additional jobs — as Danville High School’s junior varsity coach and assistant coach for the varsity team.
He also is a personal trainer and fitness instructor at the Danville YMCA, and he volunteers for Upward Basketball at Calvary Baptist Church.
Tabatha has watched her husband coach sports since the time she met him.
“Marcus is a great coach, as well as a mentor to the boys both on and off the field,” she said. “He is such a good role model for the boys.”
Marcus said he truly appreciates all the teaching he received from Pastor Thomas Miller at New Life Church of Faith.
“He has helped me be a strong example for my family by showing unconditional love and integrity,” he said.
Te’Von, who is a senior at DHS, is captain of the school’s basketball team. He has played for DHS all four years and is looking to attend college on a basketball scholarship. He works at McDonald’s after school.
La’Brea, a sophomore at Danville Area Community College, works with the YMCA’s after-school program, and she also is an experienced babysitter. She plans to attend Eastern Illinois University, where she will study elementary education.
Tabatha said, “We have good children, and I’m very proud of them. And at the end of the day we all know that we love each other and that God loves us — and that’s all that matters.”
Anyone who visits the Forrest home can’t help noticing all the beautifully framed photos of family members decorating the living room walls.
“We’ve always been a tight-knit family,” Tabatha said, “and we all support each other in everything that we do.”
Tabatha added she learned about unconditional love from her parents, Marcia and Richard Keys.
“Marcus has the same situation with his parents, Cora and Johnny Cook,” she said. “They have been in love and married for 20 years. They all set a good example for us.”
Tabatha also credits her aunt and uncle, Marilyn and George “Spanky” Jimson, for serving as mentors for Te’Von while he was growing up.
“They were always there to help me as a single mom,” she added.
Marcus and La’Brea are the cooks in the family, and they love to try recipes they find on the Food Channel. The whole family watches sports on their wide-screen TV — rooting for Vanderbilt and the Illini, as well as the Bears, Bulls and the Miami Heat.
Marcus and Tabatha also have taken on a little girl and boy through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
“We spend a lot of time with these children,” Tabatha said, “and they come to a lot of the games with us.”
Tabatha said the secret to her family’s happiness is their commitment to each other.
“We have a lot of love going on in this family,” she said. “And even after our children move away, we will always have three bedrooms here waiting for them if they want to come back home again.”