Simon Chang never had any difficulty getting along with other people.
When he was a freshman at Virginia Tech, Chang quickly won over the other students in the university’s Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, fellow Virginia Tech alumnus and longtime friend Gregory Lee remembers.
“Simon’s the guy who could fit into anybody’s Bible study and bring everybody together; bring a lot of laughter and enthusiasm,” Lee said. “…He was that guy that you could put anywhere with anybody, because he was just easy to get along with and just so full of life and energy.”
Chang’s exuberance made his sudden death in a motorcycle crash on Aug. 22 just that much more devastating to those who knew him.
The Fairfax County Police Department identified the 39-year-old Chang as the victim of a fatal motorcycle crash on Aug. 24.
A family member reported that Chang was missing on Aug. 16 after he was last in contact with a friend on Aug. 9, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office said in an Aug. 19 alert seeking the public’s assistance in locating him.
Loudoun County sheriffs believed he had left his Fellowship Square residence riding a blue 2012 Ducati motorcycle.
Around 1:56 p.m. on Aug. 22, Fairfax County police responded to a report from a groundskeeper who had discovered a dead body and the wreckage of an apparent motorcycle crash at the 4900 block of Alliance Drive.
Crash reconstruction unit detectives believe, at least preliminarily, that Chang was riding the motorcycle from Lee Highway to northbound Fairfax County Parkway when the vehicle ran off the right shoulder of the ramp.
The motorcycle stopped in a wooded area adjacent to a nearby runoff pond.
Detectives found no indication that any other vehicles were involved and had not determined whether speed or alcohol were factors in the crash, according to the FCPD.
Chang worked as an emotional disabilities teacher for South Lakes High School, where he also served as an assistant coach for the boys’ junior varsity basketball team.
“Mr. Chang was a beloved member of the Seahawk family,” South Lakes principal Kim Brophy Retzer said in a letter to families. “He will be remembered for his positivity and dedication to our staff and students. He will be greatly missed.”
The school had been in contact with Chang’s family to offer condolences and support, according to Retzer.
Counselors and a Fairfax County Public Schools crisis team were also made available on Aug. 26 to provide assistance to students and staff.
The South Lakes High School boys’ basketball program commemorated Chang’s death with photos on Instagram of the coach cutting down a basketball net and talking to a player while on the court sidelines, a clipboard over his knee.
“Our coaching staff, administrators and players were left with heavy hearts this weekend following the passing of one of our own,” sl_boysbasketball said on an Instagram post. “…His contributions to our school, community, staff and players will never be forgotten. While he may not be with us physically, he will be with us eternally in spirit.”
Prior to working in education, Chang focused his energy on Christian ministry work.
After graduating from Virginia Tech, Chang became a staff member for Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, Virginia Tech’s campus fellowship.
He then spent several years working as a staff missionary for the International House of Prayer, an evangelical mission organization based in Kansas City, Mo. His work there included helping victims of sex trafficking, according to Lee.
Lee says that faith remained an important aspect of his friend’s life even after he completed his work with the International House of Prayer and returned to Virginia.
In addition to working out together, Lee and Chang met once a week for dinner or just to talk over the past year as accountability partners, a concept used in Christianity for people who help each other stay true to their faith or to accomplish a particular goal.
“His reward is in Heaven,” Lee said. “He just has endless love, joy, no more pain, no more suffering, so while I’m heartbroken and sad, I have inner joy and peace knowing that he has an abundance of inner joy and peace.”
At the request of Chang’s brother, Lee established a Gofundme page to raise funds to support his son, Benaiah, in lieu of gifts or flowers.
As of 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, 87 donors had contributed $12,550 that will all go to Benaiah’s mother “for the benefit of Benaiah’s healthy growth and development throughout his childhood and into adulthood.”
Chang will not have a memorial service, a “very difficult decision” made by those close to him, Lee says.
“Simon was a thoughtful student, a teacher who cared, and most importantly, a proud father who loved his son,” one donor to the Gofundme page says.
Other donors describe Chang as “a breath of fresh air” and compliment his faith and “awesome enthusiastic personality.”
“Simon will be remembered for his spirited energy and enthusiasm,” Lee said. “He had a gift of blessing those around him with his encouraging words and humor. His laugh was contagious and brought people together…He was dearly loved by those who knew him.”