1973 was my first significant year after HS. I graduated from OSU with a business degree, got married to my wife Joan, and started work with a new company that had purchased my father’s firm. Then the kids started coming, Frank (’74), Ann (’76), Meg (’79), and finally Tom (’85).
We moved to Upper Arlington in 1978, directly across the street from Saint Agatha church and school. In 1979 I went to work at a new plant that International Paper Co. had just opened on the west side of Columbus.
We enjoyed life for the next 10 years, I continued working at IP and Joan worked part time at OSU hospital as a registered nurse. We bought a 16’ boat and a camper and our family loved taking weekends and vacations at Lake Erie.
Unfortunately our idyllic life was not to last. In 1989 our oldest son, Frank, was diagnosed with leukemia. Now our lives were turned upside down as we battled the disease with our son. To help cope with the stress I took up running (I had gained 40 pounds since high school), and completed my first Columbus Marathon in 1990, with my whole family in attendance. I still remember crying like a baby as I hugged Frank at the finish line.
Frank had been in remission since 1989, but tragically he relapsed in 1991. He went to the University of Minnesota Hospital for a bone marrow transplant. We were devastated when he died there after the transplant.
After grief counseling, our family was starting to get our lives back together when the next misfortune befell us. Joan was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992. This time, however, the cancer was beaten and she recovered.
We were finally able to resume a normal life. I had continued running and had gotten into racing local 5K and 10K events, in addition to still doing marathons. I eventually completed 13 marathons, including 2 Boston Marathons.
By now I had purchased a larger 22’ boat which I kept at a marina on East Harbor, so the family continued boating and camping at the lake.
All this time I still worked at the plant where I started in 1979. After several promotions I was now part of the management team that ran the facility. I eschewed several opportunities that would have meant relocation because I loved Columbus (and still do) and saw no reason to leave.
Fast forward to 2006. Joan and I were empty-nesters, and I was looking eagerly towards my planned retirement at age 60 in 2009. Joan was still working part-time as a nurse, and our golden years looked to be very attractive. Lots of travel (finally to Europe), more boating (now I had a 25’ boat at the lake), and whatever else we wanted to do.
After I stopped running races in 1999, I had gotten more and more into playing hockey (I always loved the game and used to build a backyard rink every year since 1978). So it was that on May 16, 2006 I was playing in a men’s league game when an idiot on the other team blindsided me and threw me headfirst into the boards. I damaged my spinal cord at the C4 and C5 level, and instantly became a quadriplegic.
After rehab, by 2008, with Joan’s love and skills (thank God she is a nurse!) we were finally rebuilding our lives yet again when yep, you guessed it, more misfortune. Joan’s cancer returned!
Now, instead of travel, our lives revolve around chemo and doctor’s appointments, with almost yearly hospital stays for me. Still we enjoy life as best we can. The kids visit often, and we go out as much as possible.
Man, 50 years!! I guess that makes us pretty old, doesn’t it? But we’re all still kickin’ (me not literally) so we deserve to celebrate. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone at the reunion (I’ll be the one in the power wheelchair!).