On Wednesday afternoon, October 17, 1973, John McClamrock played his last junior varsity football game for the Hillcrest High School Panthers of Dallas, Texas. Charging at the Spruce High School ball carrier on the opening kickoff, the 17-year-old junior broke his neck when his face struck the opponent's thigh. The tackle left John paralyzed from the neck down, unable to lie with his head elevated off a flat bed, or even sit in a wheel chair, for the rest of his life.
Doctors initially were unsure whether John would survive the trauma, but his mother, Ann McClamrock, rejected suggestions that the family place him in a nursing home or other institution for quadriplegia victims. Instead she brought her son home and devoted the rest of her life to his daily care in his own bedroom. She remained by John's bedside day and night for the next 35 years, reading and watching television with him, feeding him, and tending to his health and hygiene needs. When she left the room or went outside for church or shopping, it was only for an hour or two at a time. It was "a wonderful life together," mother and son agreed.
For more than three decades, Ann never thought of herself as a hero. "I'm just a mother," she would say to friends, struck by her devotion.
A wish comes true
Ann's greatest wish was that she would live at least one day longer than John so that he would never be without her care. John died on March 18, 2008, at the age of 51 from respiratory problems arising from his paralysis. His 89-year-old mother collapsed on the morning of his funeral, and died eight weeks later. The McClamrocks' younger son, Henry, buried her ashes directly above John's grave because John's care had been "her entire life." Finally, Henry told The Dallas Morning News, his mother "came to the conclusion that her job was finished."
The lesson of this story: saying thank you
Immediately after my youth hockey team's final game each season, I hold a brief locker room meeting with the players and their parents. Many of the players have already thanked me and the other coaches, and the youngsters will soon express their appreciation with the customary memento at the league banquet.
But only a few hands go up when I ask the players how many have yet looked their parents in the eye and said thank you for paying the registration fees, buying the equipment, preparing for each practice session and game, spending evenings and weekends traveling, and rooting for the team every game. I remind the players that the season is not over until they say thank you at home because their parents will continue doing much more for them than their coaches, teachers or any other adult ever will.
Ann McClamrock provides any proof the players need.
Douglas E. Abrams is a child and family law professor at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri, long-time youth hockey coach, and a nationally recognized expert on youth sports.
Each month, Prof. Abrams will salute a youth sports parent, coach, player or team for inspiring us by doing something special. Some of the stories will be quite recent and others may be a few years old, but each "youth sports hero" will motivate readers with values that set an example on and off the field.
Sources: The McClamrocks' story is told in Steve Blow, Mother's Love a Lifeline For a Quadriplegic Son, Dallas Morning News, May 8, 2005, p. 1B; Joe Simnacher, John McClamrock - Paralysis From a Football Injury Didn't Keep Former Player Down, Dallas Morning News, Mar. 22, 2008, p. 7B; Kevin Sherrington, A Wonderful Life - McClamrock Story Is One of Love, Devotion and Inspiration, Dallas Morning News, May 25, 2008, p. 2C; and Skip Hollandsworth, (Still) Life, Texas Monthly, May 2009, p. 118.
Created November 7, 2010