Courtney Clifford died Friday morning after a lengthy battle with ovarian cancer. She was 28.
Most of "the family" consists of friends from all over, and the Portsmouth High School community.
"It's a very sad day for the Trojan family," Tom Walker said. "And she was family."
Walker, the director of operations at PHS and Courtney Clifford's former high school principal, said his former student was a fantastic and strong person.
"She is everything anyone would ever want to have in a daughter," Walker said. "She was a tremendous person."
Although Courtney Clifford was young, Joe Albrecht said she did more in her brief time on Earth than most people will do their entire lives.
"She lived her life, and she made ours better," Albrecht said.
Albrecht, athletic director at PHS, coached Courtney Clifford in high school softball and junior high basketball.
"There will never be anyone like her again," Albrecht said.
Courtney Clifford graduated from PHS in 2001 and was class valedictorian. She earned All-State honors in tennis, basketball and softball.
"My gosh, she was a tremendous athlete," Albrecht said. "But as great as she was as an athlete, she was even more a greater person — she gave and gave and that's how we will remember her."
One thing Courtney gave to Albrecht and his family was hope.
Albrecht's wife, Jill, was diagnosed with cancer six years ago. "She was right there with Jill — and six years later Jill was right there for her. They became very close," he said.
Jill Albrecht said she and Courtney were always friends, but became closer after she was diagnosed, and after the death of mutual friend and former PHS athletic director Tom Grashel — who died in February 2008 of cancer.
"We just became very close and started doing fundraising together," Jill Albrecht said. "Courtney was just an extraordinary person who always put everyone else first."
Something else that always came first to Courtney was her academic career.
"She was a great athlete, and I was proud of that," Curt Clifford said. "But I'm more proud that she was valedictorian of her high school class, and she maintained a 4.0 GPA in high school and all throughout college."
Courtney Clifford was president of her senior class at PHS and was a member of the National Honor Society. She was inducted into the PHS Athletic Hall of Fame along with her brother, Tyler, in 2006.
After graduating from Portsmouth, she moved on to the University of North Carolina Charlotte, where she played tennis, and graduated summa cum laude in 2005 with a bachelor's degree in communications and public relations.
While in college, she became involved in community- oriented campaigns. She was the president of the Public Relations Student Society of America and headed up an event for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life at UNCC. She was also involved in the Catholic Youth Ministries.
Courtney Clifford completed coursework in Europe her junior year, where she was able to receive a blessing from Pope John Paul II.
After graduating, she continued her love for tennis by working for the American Tennis Professionals in Florida.
It was not too long after she started working when she was initially diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
It was then she returned home to fight for her life.
"She was a fighter and had determination," Walker said. "The cancer didn't win, she did."
Throughout her ordeal, Courtney Clifford did not give up.
She went to the Lance Armstrong Livestrong Summits in Texas and attended the National Ovarian Cancer Alliance Conferences in Washington, D.C.
She became an advocate in the fight against cancer.
In September 2010, the high school football teams from Portsmouth and Jackson teamed up for ovarian cancer awareness night and raised money to help find a cure.
Courtney Clifford's battle with cancer may be over, but the impact she had on the lives around her will continue to live.
As Joe Albretch put it, "This is just like Courtney — to have made us better people through all of this."
DEL DUDUIT can be reached at at (740) 353 3101, ext. 203, or email@example.com.
Clifford raising awareness for ovarian cancer