June 30, 2016 The world has lost a great man today, and Heaven has gained an angel, a bull dog of an angel. My Dad passed away today, after fighting so many years with the complications of being shot in the chest while in his dorm room at Concordia College in Nebraska on January 23, 1958, for no fault of his own. He was the victim of a drunken man making noise in the hallway of the dorm, and when my Dad opened the door to see what was going on, he was shot in the chest with a .38 bullet that pierced his lung and lodged in his spine, paralyzing him from the waist down. Doctors said at the time that he wouldn’t live to be 50 years old due to the complications from his injury.
So a life changed in the instant of a gunshot. A promising athlete on scholarship for track, who was also a stellar football and basketball player, lost the use of his legs in a moment of drunken confusion, through no fault of his own. But that moment would influence the lives of so many others as the future would unfold.
After being shot, Dad never wanted to be treated any differently than anyone else. He never wanted anyone to take care of him; he was determined to make a life of his own, which he did. Dad went to school to be a stenographer (court reporter), and he had a very successful career, he was a well-known figure in the law circles in the state of Kansas. He was a very determined man, determined to succeed in life.
It is because of that determination that he came into my life. My Mom’s Dad coached a wheelchair basketball team, mostly for Vietnam Vets who had been injured in that war. Somehow my Dad found a way to that team, and that is when he met my Mom, when I was about two years old I think, but I can’t confirm the time line at this point. Anyhow, my Dad came into my life at a very early age.
Fast forward to the future, Dad married my Mom, and he was the father figure in my life from then on. My birth Father was still around and influenced my life, but my Dad was the one that was there every day, and the man that raised me. Despite his disability, Dad taught me to be a great athlete in many sports. And despite being shot, he encouraged me to be a hunter and taught me how to shoot firearms.
But Dad taught me so much more than those things; what he really taught me in life is to be courageous, to be fearless, to help other people, and to be strong. Dad never wanted anyone to help him, and I can remember how much I wanted to help him put his wheel chair into the trunk of the car, but he would always do it himself, with his leg braces and one wrist crutch. I remember the day when I was 8 years old that he finally let me try to put his wheel chair into the trunk by myself, it felt like such an accomplishment for me. That is a perfect example of what he instilled in me; the want to help other people, even though he never wanted any help in his life.
I could go on for a long time about the great man that he was, but my Dad is gone now. He struggled for a long time with the complications of being shot, and the Parkinson’s disease that really affected him in the last ten years of his life. He was an incredible man, and his traits will be carried on through me, my children, and my grandchildren.
A good friend of mine told me today that even though she had only talked to him once, she was sorry that she never got to know him. I told her that she does know him, through me.
Rest in peace Dad, I love you.