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Marching Virginians Remember One of Their Own

"Christopher Neal Osburn - 1975-2011 - Leader to Many, Friend to All, Hokie in Every Way."

by Gary Cope

Mary Osburn had always sat in the stands with her husband as the Hokies stormed the field at Lane Stadium. At the Miami game on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011, however, she was on the field with the Marching Virginians jumping furiously to the Hokies’ iconic entrance song, Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” And she says she knows that’s what Chris would have wanted.

“Being on that field, I believe it was Chris’s way of letting me be a part of Tech football the way he was. It was so much more than I ever thought it would be.”

Chris Osburn, a two-time Virginia Tech alumnus, loved Virginia Tech and he loved the Marching Virginians, for whom he played trumpet during his years in Blacksburg. And when he met his wife, Mary, a Longwood University alumna, it was clear that to love Chris, was to love his alma mater, its marching band, and Virginia Tech football. Chris received his degree in environmental science and engineering from the College of Engineering in 1998 and his MBA from the Pamplin College of Business in 2000.

Chris caught a cold just after Christmas in 2010. It wouldn’t go away, so he went to the doctor and was diagnosed with bronchitis. His symptoms worsened into pneumonia, so he went to the emergency room with his wife and was admitted to the hospital.

“I was sitting there with him,” Mary recalled. “He told me to go home and get some rest and that he’d hopefully be able to come home the next day. His parents were with him, so I left around 7 p.m. that night and told him, ‘I love you!’”

Chris died unexpectedly around 2 a.m., on Jan. 21, 2011. He was only 35 years old.

His wife, his parents, and his friends celebrated Chris’s life the way they thought he would have wanted. At his memorial service, his friends played “Tech Triumph” and when it was over, his mother yelled, “Go Hokies!”

Chris’s family started a memorial fund through the university in his honor. They specifically wanted to do something with the Marching Virginians, so they contacted Dave McKee, senior instructor to the band since 1984, who suggested engraved trumpets.

With the help of Chris’s friends and fellow Hokies Chris Li, Mike Day, and Jason Mirick, the Osburn family agreed on the engraved trumpets, but with a little twist. To help them stand out from the rest, they had elements of the trumpets gold-plated.

At a ceremony before the Oct. 8, Miami game, current Marching Virginian trumpet section leaders Dakota Corbliss, a junior majoring in music within in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and David Peterson, a senior majoring in civil engineering within the College of Engineering were presented with new Yamaha Xeno, gold-plated trumpets engraved with the words:

Christopher Neal Osburn

1975 – 2011

Leader to Many

Friend to All

Hokie in Every Way

“This band really is a family,” McKee told hundreds of Marching Virginians, their families, and the family of Chris Osburn at the dedication ceremony. “Today we celebrate the way Chris served this university and this band, and the way he lived his life, with joy and fun.”

The ceremony and the moment hit home for both Corbliss and Peterson.

“I’ll never forget it,” Corbliss said. “It puts a new perspective on taking advantage of the moment while you still have it.”

“I felt very honored to carry the trumpet in his honor,” Peterson added. “We are all connected through music and when something happens to one of us, we need to respond.”

For Mary, it was her first trip back to campus since Chris died and she was admittedly nervous. But when she saw all the Marching Virginians and their families, all paying their respects to her late husband, she said she was glad she had come back.

“It was such a touching ceremony,” she said. “I didn’t know all the parents would be there. I didn’t know that those trumpets would be played in the [Marching Virginians] forever and that future [members] would know who Chris was. It was so much more than I ever thought it would be.”

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