On the back of his senior class portrait, Paul Marcum scrawled a note to his mother, Pat:
"You feel these years have gone by quick, but they've all been fun, huh? Time to face the real world. Yes I'm a young man now! But you're still my mom! -- Love, Paul. 1991."
As he wrote those words, Paul Sumpter Marcum, 18, was looking forward to the most exciting times of his life. He was ready to graduate from high school, ready to spend time with his girlfriend, ready to begin studies at Carroll Community College in the fall.
But Paul Marcum lived only two weeks past his graduation from South Carroll High School. At 11:48 p.m. Monday, Paul drowned in the Liberty Reservoir, near the Md. 32 bridge near Sykesville.
State Police said that after an evening of drinking alcohol by the reservoir, Paul and a few of his friends had decided to venture into the water. The teen-agers could hardly see each other in the darkness, they told Pat Marcum afterward, and they were too busy joking around to take seriously a cry from Paul:
Could a star athlete drown? Paul had been a good swimmer in the past. His friends swam back to shore. They did not notice until they climbed out of the water that Paul was missing, according to the police report.
He did not answer when they shrieked his name.
"Paul, where are you? Paul!"
His friends frantically searched the area for help, finally finding a State Police officer at a traffic stop nearby. A police helicopter was rushed to the reservoir, and divers from the Gamber Volunteer Fire Department pulled Paul's body from the water.
At 1:13 a.m., Paul was pronounced dead at Carroll County General Hospital. The state medical examiner is performing an autopsy, as is required in such circumstances.
His mother's eyelids are pink and swollen as she tells of the ever-smiling young man who never again will say to her "You look good, chick!" when she combs her hair in a special way.
She was proud of him. Proud that in his last quarter of high school, he'd made the honor roll for the first time ever. "He was really trying hard," she says.
His father, Ken, stares into the distance as he remembers how proud he felt when he used to watch his son run across football fields, up and down basketball courts. The thought of never again feeling such pride is too much for this man to take: His broad shoulders are slumped in defeat, and his eyes, like his wife's, are swollen from the tears.
They stand on the front porch of their Mount Airy home, looking out at the yard where Paul spent many afternoons working. They stare at the grass that he used to cut by pushing the mower in precise circles, at the orange and yellow flowers that he planted under the mailbox.
In the driveway sits Paul's car, a red Cavalier. The paint is sparkling clean, and the black seats inside are vacuumed of dust and dirt.
"He could not stand to have a dirty car," Ken Marcum says quietly.
Paul took such pride in his work, his mother remembers, but his attitude with people was carefree and jovial.
Even as a child, Paul was sure to let his family know that he loved them. He was always generous with hugs for his parents and his older brother and sister, his mother recalled. He was a happy-go-lucky kid, who loved to draw pictures of nature, and eat Vienna sausages with crackers.
Paul's high school friends remember a pal who made jokes all the time, who could make people smile even when things were going wrong. He was outgoing, funny and "a real sweetheart," they said.
"Paul was just a hell of a friendly kid," said Ted Jump, vice principal of South Carroll High School. "Everyone liked him."
A viewing will be held tomorrow at the Olin L. Molesworth funeral establishment in Damascus from 3 and 5 p.m., and from 7 and 9 p.m. The funeral will be Friday at 2 p.m. at the Calvary Methodist Church in Mount Airy. Burial will be in Pine Grove Cemetery in Mount Airy.