Watching Missouri Game Was Last Wish For Lifelong Husker Fan
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This amazing story is true. A lifelong Husker football fan woke up from a six-day coma last Wednesday in Lincoln and announced that his one last wish was to watch Nebraska beat Missouri Thursday night in Columbia.
Hours after making that announcement, he went back into a comatose state, only to wake up on Thursday and fulfill his dream.
Rex Plock, 89, died late Sunday morning at Lincoln's Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital, where one of his daughters is a registered nurse. Coincidentally, she specializes in caring for patients in the same condition as her father, who spent seven of the last 10 days of his life on a ventilator.
Deb Kapperman, the R.N. and one of Plock's two daughters, and Jim Miller, the pastor at his church, have seen a lot of cases like his, but can't remember anyone who was so determined to make his last wish come true.
Plock, you see, had been so deep in a coma for six straight days that no one, not his doctors, his caretakers or his family, expected him to wake up.
But when he did last Wednesday, he made it perfectly clear that he wanted to see, or at least listen to, Thursday night's game, even if it killed him.
Against all odds, Plock watched the game in his room at Lincoln's Bryan East Hospital after he'd come out of that second comatose state. Before going back into it, he spelled out what he wanted if his eyes could not open - a radio right next to his ear, tuned into the game.
"He wasn't leaving without watching or listening to that last game," Kapperman said, choking back a tear, even though she is confident that her dad was at peace with his life, his family, and yes, the football team that he has followed so fervently for so long . . . his beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers.
You need to understand how extraordinary Rex Plock was - as a man and as a fan.
A Veteran, a Farmer, a Business Owner, a Fan
"Believe it or not, he was still riding his bicycle six days a week just two months ago," Kapperman said. "He may have been 89, but he looked 69, and he acted even younger."
"He was very ambitious, very energetic and very kind," said Ina, his longtime wife, who pointed out that Plock, a one-time master sergeant in the Army, packed a full life into a body that was shot up three times in three different campaigns in World War II.
Plock was at Utah Beach on the right flank anchor of the allied offensive during the D-Day invasion of Normandy, and he still had the shrapnel in his head to prove it.
Growing up on a farm he still owned, Plock spent his first 55 non-military years on that 240-acre spread near Fairmont, Nebraska. For the next 18 years, he owned a Dairy Queen in Crete, Nebraska.
His decision to retire and move to Lincoln was an easy one. All three of his children and all three of his grandchildren lived in Lincoln, and it is, after all, also the home of his favorite football team.
For decades, the Huskers were Plock's pride and his passion. They had his attention the first thing every morning. He would read the newspapers, listen to the radio and watch TV to keep up with the team he followed religiously. A season ticket-holder for nearly 30 years, he finally gave up his precious seats because, at age 83, it wasn't all that safe to climb the stairs anymore.
If Plock couldn't get enough opinions from the media about Nebraska football, he got more than he could ever want from the men's coffee club that met six mornings a week at a McDonald's restaurant in Southeast Lincoln.
That stop was as much a part of his daily regimen as the bike rides, which kept Plock's mind sharp, his body fit and his attitude as good as you'll find anywhere.
One Amazing Story Means More Are Out There
"He loved life. He loved to make the rounds, and he loved to talk about Nebraska football," said Kathy Cane, his other daughter. "He'd take his daily bike rides in the mornings, and he'd walk around Gateway Shopping Center in the afternoons where my mom owned a cosmetics store. When Tom Osborne was the coach, people would ask him why he was always moving."
Rex Plock had the same answer for everyone who asked that question: "Because you never know when Coach Osborne is going to need another quarterback, and I still have eligibility left," he would say.
Miller, who will conduct Plock's funeral Friday morning at Lincoln's Christ United Methodist Church and will officiate at his burial in Fairmont Friday afternoon, believes one fan's story might inspire other stories from Nebraska fans across the country and maybe even around the world.
"We all know people who are so dedicated to this football team that sometimes it almost defies your imagination," Miller said. "Rex is one of those amazing stories, but I'm sure there are countless others out there because there is a certain connectedness among Nebraska fans everywhere. They have so much loyalty for the program that sometimes you wonder if 18, 19 or 20-year-old players can possibly understand the depth of passion that football brings to this state, and that's true even for those who have moved out of the state and still have that passion and connectedness."
We agree with Plock's pastor and invite N-sider readers to share their own amazing stories about Husker fans past, present and future. Use the respond button at the top or the bottom of this column to describe your favorite fan story as succinctly as possible.
While Plock took his son, Doug, a Lincoln mailman, to most Nebraska football games, his daughters and their families became Nebraska fans as well.
"I'm a Nebraska alum and a longtime Big Red fan myself," Miller said. "As a pastor, I know there's another world out there even on football Saturdays because I was involved in three weddings and a funeral during our first four games this fall and didn't see any of them."
Miller isn't the only one taken aback by Plock's loyalty and resilience.
Just Like a Player, He Had a Goal to Meet
Dr. Lisa Mansur couldn't believe how Plock could be so sick and yet so upbeat last Thursday. "He told Dr. Mansur that his goal that day was to watch the game and watch Nebraska beat Missouri," his daughter, Kathy, said. "Of course, he also told her that he wanted to go home, too, but he was afraid she might not let him. She saw what we've always seen in my dad - an unbelievably positive attitude, even on his deathbed."
"Rex always believed in taking what life gives you and doing the best you can one day at a time, and that's what he did," his longtime wife said. "Nebraska football was a big part of his life, that's for sure. I think it's what kept him so young for so long."
"We were all shocked when he got sick," his daughter Deb said. "We couldn't remember him being sick a day in his life, but found out later that he'd had a lung issue before."
Fighting back another tear, Deb Kapperman thought it was important to make one more observation about her father.
"If he was here," she said, "he would tell you that Nebraska football was a passion for him, but it wasn't his top priority. The No. 1 thing in his life was being a good Christian and a family man, and he was."
Editor's note - If you have a favorite story about a passionate Nebraska football fan - past, present or future - please feel free to share it with us.
Thank you so much for the fantastic story about my father. He was an amazing man, and your kind words would have made him very happy. He was first and foremost a good Christian man, but he loved those Huskers. I can still hear him say Go Huskers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! on that Thursday morning when he woke up, and the first thing he asked was: "When are the Huskers playing?" Thank you all for your kind words, and please thank the coaches and the team for making a dying man so happy on his last days on this earth. Deborah Kapperman, Lincoln, Nebraska
Incredible story. And I'm a MIZZOU Grad (oxymoron, I know). Had I known you had that man in your corner, I might've skipped the game. Luke Ungashick
As a Mizzou fan and alum, I read your piece on Mr. Rex Plock with great pleasure and a tug or two on the heart strings. Mr. Plock, first and foremost, is a great American and his family, and Nebraskans as a whole, should be incredibly proud of his great service to the country and his Nebraska community. There's that last little wish that I could've done without, but it just goes to show the intense passion and love that college football stirs in all of us. And finally, I hope that my little note will show that we Mizzou fans are, at the very least, one step above Sooners! Devin Benton
One of my favorite Aunts passed away 10 years ago or so. She was a Husker fan to the max. Her kids had placed Husker memorabilia at the funeral. It was the typical service with different ones telling good memories etc. When the service was over and we began to file out the organist began playing a song softly and slowly...all of us, at the same time, realized what the song was...it was the Nebraska Corn Husker song...we all left laughing. Barbara L. Root
That's awesome. That's how I wanna go out. Kyle Riley
What a fantastic story. This man showed what the Big Red Heart can do. Buck Pope, Chandler, Arizona
Go Rex!! My thoughts and prayers go out to the family! I have been a Husker fan all my life. I grew up in Columbus, and I now live in Kansas. I remember every Saturday when my parents would have the game on the TV muted and have all the radios in the whole house on the game, and we would clean house during the game. Now that I have my own house I still do that to this day! I have been to a few KU vs NU games in Lawrence and one in Lincoln when I was younger, so any chance I get, I go to the games! I love our fans and am so proud to be a HUSKER! Shauna Schepler
This article should be sent to ESPN. This is a heart-warming and amazing story for any fan anywhere, not just Nebraska. I have lived in South Dakota for 38 years now, but I still get back to many games, and every week we can't be there live, we go to a local hang-out to watch the Huskers, and the place is always full. The story of Mr. Plock is amazing, and it should be told on a national stage. Thanks again for always finding a way to remind us that there really is 'no place like Nebraska'. Tom Gunlicks
I read with great interest the story of Rex Plock and his true love for the crimson and cream that helped sustain him for all of his 89 years. And while the boys at McDonald's will miss him, he now sip's his joe with the likes of Bob Devaney and God almighty himself. When my time comes, I hope to join them and you can bet, though no longer a part of this world, come game day, Rex and all the Cornhusker faithful who passed before him will be listening. GO BIG RED! Chuck Harris
God bless Rex Plock and his "burning support" for the Huskers. Rest in peace and listen to the radio from above. Rex reminds me of my wife's Grandpa, Fred Meade, who lived and breathed Kentucky basketball. He lived to be 102. Sports is a medicine for life. That is why I am a Husker for Life!! Outstanding story!! Dan Larsen, Class of 1971.
What a great testimony from a great Nebraska football fan. Mr. Rex Plock should be given an honorary letter along with the team members this year. I have always been so proud of fans at NU, not only in sports, but also the University itself for the academic success it has shown. It is good to be included with fans of NU football and to know that Mr. Plock enjoyed his last day savoring a Husker victory over Mizzou. David Poole, Bayard, Iowa
I am a loyal Nebraska fan who married and moved to California in 1978. I couldn't find a radio station that carried Nebraska games and because there was little mention of the Huskers in the San Jose papers, my parents would record every game from the radio broadcast in Nebraska send me the tape. I would listen to every one of them as I worked outside in the yard. They would also send me the Sunday sports section from the Omaha Word Herald. Sixteen years ago, I moved back to Nebraska ... and finally could listen to the game every week! I've never had season tickets, so I still listen to every game on the radio. People who know me well know never to call me during a game because I'll just say "Call me back after the game". I've been fortunate enough to attend a few games at Memorial Stadium, and I can still recall every single moment of those games. Kathy Lewis Lencki, Humboldt, Nebraska
My favorite fan story is about my dad. He was a huge Husker fan, and he gave me my first lessons in the game of football. He followed every game religiously and always supported his favorite team even through those non-championship years. We never had much money, but I do know that he won tickets from a radio show, so he got to see at least one game. My dad died in mid-October when I was 13, and we were just 2½ months shy of our 1994 National Championship. I've always considered that championship as belonging in some way to my dad because I think Dr. Tom and the boys had a "little" help from an armchair quarterback in the clouds. Liz Tuttle
What a great story, sure to be written again and again over the years for future Huskers all across this great nation. I am thankful the family knows their dad and his priorities are consistent with what Husker coaches and staff continue to instill in our great football program. I am a proud Husker fan. Jeff Parriott
This article articulates the very essence of what it is to be a fan, a father and a Nebraskan. Thanks for looking into the soul of Nebraska football. Jeff Malooley
Very nice article on Mr. Plock. May he rest in peace with my brother, Steve, and all the other great Huskers in heaven. Larry Brew (aka Husker Elvis), Alliance, Nebraska
My mother from Fremont is 88, and she still attends every home game ... rain, sleet or snow. Jeff Christensen
My wife and I have had season tickets for 20 years, and every year we include my wife's dad (age 89) in at least one game. We took him to Ames last year and to Lawrence the year before that. He was last in Lincoln when he was 87. We are going to take him to Lincoln next year when he is 90. We are all native Iowans who grew up in Mapleton, Iowa, but our hearts belong to Nebraska. And yes, we got soaked in Columbia last week, but it was well worth it. Go Big Red! Bruce Burton, Manly, Iowa
My grandfather bought 10 tickets back in 1926 before the end zones were closed! Good Ol' Ed Kuhl never missed a game in 30 years! He used to listen to the radio on all away games as well. Even though my dad attended many Husker games in the late '40s, he started going to every game when granddad left his tickets to him! Football Saturdays were always special occasions in our household! Mom and dad would dress up and leave early to join the throng of cars headed down highway 6 to another Husker win! Once in a while, dad would take one of his 11 children and my chance finally came in 1974. NU pasted Northwestern, 49-7, in my first game at Memorial Stadium. To say I was hooked is an understatement! I used to listen to Lyell Bremser paint the picture for Johnny the Jet running another kick return back as I played football in our backyard on Saturday afternoons. Now that my father and mother have passed on to Memorial Stadium in the sky, 1 of my 5 brothers or sisters attend the Husker games! Husker football has always been a positive thing in our lives, and it has helped me personally get through the worst of times -- from my wife's cancer to my current job loss! It was great to see the Huskers pull out a win last week over dreaded Mizzou! While watching the game, I told my boys not to worry! Bo will make adjustments, and the Huskers will win! My father always told me the same thing. "Don't worry, Bob (or Tom) will make adjustments, and the Huskers will prevail." Our Husker pride, tradition and Rex Plock teach valuable lessons!! Stay positive in all things you do, especially when the chips are down. Make adjustments, and you shall prevail! Hope to catch a game when I'm back in Nebraska this November! Color me an Arizona Red Husker. Steven Kuhl
Awesome story! Wish I could have met Mr. Plock and my deepest sympathy to his family. I'm a transplanted Husker in Arizona headed to Lincoln to watch the Huskers take down Texas Tech this year. Terri Fisher
Thanks so much for sending out the story about Rex. What a wonderful thing to read before I go to bed. God is good! GBR!! Joan Oetken
Wow. Great story. You get some good ones, but this one about Rex Plock beats everything! Jon Johnston
Rex Plock is a Super Fan, and I know another Super Fan! My grandson, Jordan Sis, has been a Husker fan since early on in his grade school years. He always said he would attend Nebraska, and he's here now, set to graduate in 2011. When he was a young student, he had a teacher friend that always gave him a tough time about the Huskers, but Jordan never backed away. When he came to NU his first year, he always came to our home to do his laundry on the weekend, and that's when I really had my eyes opened because he had red bedsheets, red towels, a Husker wastebasket, and in his laundry each week was probably 10 to 15 t-shirts - all Husker shirts. I doubt he has more than five or six t-shirts that are not Husker Red. He even bought tickets (knowing what the weather forecast was) and he and two friends drove to Columbia to sit outside in the rain and watch the Huskers win yet one more time. Jordan is a top-notch son, grandson and student, and a BIGGGGGGGGGGG Husker fan. Theresa Sis