Students gather to remember senior who died after heart surgery
“I love the man that can smile at trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection.”
— Thomas Paine
By Shavonne Potts
If anyone could smile and show strength despite his circumstances, East Rowan classmates say Cody Ludwick could.
Cody, 17, a senior at the school, died Saturday just weeks following his second heart surgery in a year.
On Monday, hundreds of students and faculty — nearly all wearing red in his honor — gathered at an after-school assembly to remember the student who “always had a smile.”
MacKenzie Fisher read the quote from Thomas Paine that she felt epitomized Cody.
Cody’s girlfriend of nearly a year, Amy Shank, was with him on Saturday when he had a seizure and stopped breathing.
“I did resuscitation until an ambulance came,” Amy said.
Cody took a breath and his color began to return, she said. But he died at Rowan Regional Medical Center. Amy said a patch on his aorta had detached.
When the sun started shining Monday, Amy’s thoughts turned to Cody, as any day with sunshine was his favorite.
He spent many days at his family’s lake house and in the water. One of his last activities was fishing.
Cody taught Amy how to ski, even though she admits she wasn’t very good.
“He made me go down the diamond slope,” she said clutching a sweatshirt surrounded by friends.
On New Year’s Day when Amy wasn’t feeling well, the only thing she wanted was for her boyfriend to sing to her.
“He had one key and that was loud,” she said, laughing.
Even in the hospital, Cody was happy, Amy said, even cracking jokes with the nurses.
Cody was prepared to return to school and regular activity.
“I’m going to miss him,” Amy said.
Summer Curlee, Cody’s cousin, recalled his smile.
“Cody had the best smile,” she said wiping away tears.
He was an outdoors type of guy, Summer said.
Cody joked about inking a zipper tattoo over the scar from his first heart surgery.
Summer recalled how nervous her cousin was when it came time to ask Amy to last year’s prom. Cody asked Amy during a track meet.
“It was the sweetest thing,” Summer said.
He was worried he wouldn’t be able to match Amy’s baby blue dress, she said.
Summer said Cody’s younger brother, Dalton, who everyone at the gathering agreed looks just like Cody, was coping well.
The night Cody died, Summer said she saw shooting stars flash across the sky, which gave her comfort.
Thomas Green found solace in a song he wrote in memory of his friend. Green posted the song, in which he sang and played the guitar, on YouTube. The song can be found by searching for “Cody’s Song (Spread Your Wings) by Thomas Green.”
He said the song was something God placed on his heart to write.
“Spread your wings and fly … another angel’s home tonight,” the lyrics say.
Thomas met Cody his 10th grade year.
“He struck me as such a kind hearted guy,” he said.
A Facebook event page, titled Wear Red in Honor of Cody Ludwick, drew numerous comments, condolences and commitments from people as far away as Los Angeles and Ohio to wear red on Monday.
Students and faculty wore red Monday in honor of Cody. News spread via word of mouth, texts, Facebook messages and many more phone calls. Later in the week, students will wear white, also in honor of Cody.
Jordan McSwain, one of Cody’s longtime friends, helped plan a tribute to remember the teen.
Wearing a red bandanna that seemed to tame his locks, Jordan ushered students on the football field into forming the initials “CNL,” for Cody Nathaniel Ludwick.
“You could see his faith in his actions,” Jordan said.
Students met Saturday at the school parking lot a few hours after word spread of Cody’s death.
In an e-mail to the Post, Jordan wrote: “Everyone there had one thing in common; they had been touched by the kind heart of Cody Ludwick.”
Students shared memories of Cody as a child and even things that happened merely days ago, Jordan wrote.
Cody was a member of Young Life, a nondenominational Christian club at school. Young Life Leader Peter Mathias called Cody the type of guy who attracted others.
“He didn’t care what you looked like or who you were,” Mathias said.
Cody’s legacy, he said, is that he loved God and loved people.
“When you have an interaction with people, you leave an impression. He impacted so many. He had a certain light about him,” Mathias said.
Guidance Counselor Laura Marlow, along with other guidance counselors, encouraged the students to talk about their feelings.
Cody’s track coach, Rick Roseman, used the better part of Monday’s track practice to let the students talk.
He encouraged them to “live every second of your life like it was special.”
Roseman had just written Cody college recommendation letters.
Just last year, track Assistant Coach Jamey Ledbetter died of cancer.
“These kids came to share in the most unbelievable way. They pull for each other,” Roseman said.
Cody was a member of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, an East Scout, a member of the National Honor Society, captain of the soccer team and a member of the track team.
Cody’s funeral will be at 5 p.m. Wednesday at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church.
Students have organized a community-wide candlelight vigil in honor of Cody at 8 p.m. tonight at the East Rowan High School football stadium.
The students have decided to dedicate the upcoming yearbook to Cody and place a memorial brick on a walkway at the school.
On YouTube,Thomas Greene, a friend of Cody Ludwick’s posted a song he wrote and sang in Cody’s honor.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.