In the little community of Fairview, Ga., Marcus Hulsey grew up with a blended family. His grandmother was a Jackson and her family created the Catnapper brand recliner. They owned Cleveland chair manufacturing and Gay Manufacturing.
Sony and Peggy had two children each before they met and married and together they have five more children. Marcus and his twin brother Matthew were the youngest.
Marcus’ father was shot and killed when he and Matt were only six years old. “He was murdered in Walker County at his car lot. That case just got solved this year; it was part of Walker County Cold Case. The guy lived between my sister and my brother the whole time and we didn’t know it. He committed suicide before they could put him on trial, but two people were with him in the car when he did it - one of them came forward,” Marcus states.
“We went our whole lives without any closure. My dad died on my sister’s birthday. He was a sweet man, but he was an alcoholic. He was like ‘Hooper’ of Smokey and the Bandit and loved anything ‘adrenaline’. That was all I knew about my daddy when I was little,” he says.
“I am more like my mom being a caregiver of my family, but Matt is the caregiver of me,” Marcus insists. “If you want to do something Matt is very supportive and he will buy into your dreams. We were yin and yang, but we were a team together,” he says.
“A graduate student did a study on us; we are both ambidextrous but we are different. Like - anything he does right, I do left, and vice versa. She gave my mom the study results and my mom said, ‘it’s because they go to the bathroom at the same time. When they wash their hands or brush their teeth – whatever they do; they have their roles and they make room for the other’,” Marcus relates.
Marcus had a best friend named Jeremy Godfrey. Jeremy’s family, Buddy and Dianne Godfrey, took Marcus in and began mentoring him in a sort of adopting way. “They took me to church and that is where that began, I really got involved,” Marcus says.
Buddy Godfrey told Marcus, ‘God just led me to be your dad’. When Marcus was just 21 years old he lost his mother to cancer.
“I lived at the Godfrey’s house and joined the Marines. I was in the Marines when she died. They gave me mandatory discharge and sent me home. People pulled together around us, I lived with a buddy in Flintstone and then went back to the Godfreys, just trying to reclaim some innocence of my childhood,” Marcus admits.
He went to Paducah, Ky., to work for his sister for awhile and he said he had reached a point where he asked God to show him what He wanted him to do and He would give it everything he had.
“It was like God said, ‘All the tragedy that you have been through and everything that you have done; you went through this because I want you to take care of my children’ and I thought, ‘Why would you want me?’ and He said, ‘Because you know what it is to have that fire put out. I trust you to relight that flame,’” Marcus relays.
Marcus worked as an electrician some and then worked at Daryl’s Sandwich shop on and off for a number of years. He became good friends with Daryl Lane and found him to also be a great influence in his life. Marcus began working at the Metropolitan YMCA fulltime while going to Chattanooga State before heading off to Kansas to go to school in Garden City where a sister lived.
“I was helping wrestling Coach Mark Leen and he got a job offer at UTC. I came with him to help in the wrestling program and went to UTC for school and went back to work at the Y,” Marcus states.
“When I got back, I was still trying to figure out what I was going to do for a living. I met Ron Nelson at UTC - one of my greatest Christian mentors - and I started pursuing a degree in leisure studies,” he says.
While Marcus was cleaning out his closet preparing to donate clothes, Dianne Godfrey had told him to take them to Bethel Bible Village. Marcus asked, “What is that?” and she had told him that it was a Christian group home.
“I donated the clothes, got an application had an interview the next day and was hired within a week!” Marcus said. He continued to work as a house parent for the next six years.
“Then I worked for Chattanooga Out Venture - which is now Outdoor Chattanooga, across the street from Bethel,” Marcus says.
He met his wife Janet at Venture Tracks through Partnership for Families, Children and Adults.
“I worked for Daryl’s on and off for 20 years and got to eat free. That’s where I took Janet and a girl who introduced us and I made them both a sandwich. Daryl gets credit for my ‘first date’ with my wife,” Marcus jokes.
Not having parents during his early adulthood, Marcus was left with somewhat of a void. “Mom didn’t see me get married and didn’t see me have kids, but after we had our first child, Janet was asleep and I was just watching Sawyer Grace sleeping. I noticed that she looked so much like my mom. Janet woke up and I was crying. I just thought how awesome God is when you can see your lineage. That has been really sweet to see that,” Marcus discloses.
“Janet grew up privileged but is very practical and smart. When I asked her parents about marrying her, I said, ‘You understand what I am asking you, don’t you? I don’t have my parents…so when you accept me in your family you are accepting that role,’ and they said they wouldn’t have it any other way,” Marcus beams.
While his twin brother had married much earlier and began his family, Marcus had waited. “God was healing me from a lot of things first. I was aware of those things and didn’t want to pass them onto my kids,” he acknowledges.
Between brothers and sisters support and the support of the Godfreys and other mentors, Marcus feels the need to give back.
“I had many job offers from business people, but I knew what God was calling me to do. Before Janet and I got married, we had a lot of conversations. I wanted her to know who I was. I didn’t do that freaky thing where I put it out there all at once, I waited until we got closer, but I wanted her to know all of what I went through with suffering and loss, and that I worked really hard to get through it… but that when Satan comes after me… that is the stronghold he has. When I shared this with her she accepted me,” Marcus says.
“My wife didn’t grow up sheltered but she was raised to make choices. That’s what I wanted to figure out - how her parents taught her to do that and how she didn’t break those absolute rules. Her parents taught her so well. I wanted someone like that, but I also wanted someone that I knew could deal with me. It was hard the first few years of marriage because we had night and day backgrounds.
Marcus and Janet have been married now for six years. They have another daughter and they named her Carolina.
Marcus is currently running the Northwest Georgia Young Life. “That is the ministry I am involved in. I am also a TREK case manager for foster families for Lookout Mountain Community Services. I cover the Northwest Georgia region and I am the advocate for foster kids. I really enjoy the mentor side of it, but hate the paperwork,” Marcus confesses.
“I never have taken my hands out of any place I have been, I still help these places. I do design work, consulting work and work with Jackson Kayaking Company. God taught me to work with rural community kids because that is the most underserved community in Chattanooga and the surrounding area.
“I grew up in a rural community. They are the forgotten children. I want to love those kids so that they have a fighting chance. I love people as much as they will let me love them. I am building relationships with those kids. Henry Henegar is one of my elders and brought Young Life to Chattanooga. When I told him that I felt this is what God was calling me to do he said, ‘You have been doing Young Life your whole life; we just found you’,” Marcus says.
While he keeps his focus on Young life, his wife Janet is director of academic support at Covenant College. Marcus also is involved with Youth Trust at the Y.
“At a benefit, fundraiser, I was talking to Sam Payne. He mentored me a lot in playing guitar and he wanted me to sit down and talk with him and Dalton Roberts. He said, “Marcus, who taught you how to play guitar and where did you fall in love with it?’ and I said, ‘I had this special-ed teacher and she wanted me to be a part of the glee club. She wanted me to play guitar. She was a beautiful, sweet lady’. He asked, ‘What’s her name?’ and I said, ‘Ms. Lewis - she got married and we could never pronounce her name’. Hugh Huffaker (Jr.) was with us and he had tears rolling down his face and said, “You are talking about my wife.”
Hugh went home and told his wife about Marcus. Marcus had invited the Huffakers to his graduation and his former teacher had written him a nice letter and also gave him a substantial gift. “She told me that it was a gift from God and you can’t give it back. It’s hard to accept when people give you gifts, but it is to prepare you for what He has for you to give."
Marcus was in need of being mentored as a child and God had placed many in his pathway. Humbly, Marcus accepted their support and advice and has turned around to mentor others today.
He says, “When we accept God’s gift through others, we can give so much more in our serving. It has taught me to have more faith. I had to learn to stop taking things personally and learn to take God personally.”