“I never made a lot of money, I’m not famous, and I’m not a baseball player… The only thing we have in common is that I have his disease.”
As a young boy, Buzz Haws enjoyed following Lou Gehrig’s professional baseball career with the New York Yankees, and his admiration for the legendary first baseman went well beyond the baseball diamond. Buzz always looked up to Gehrig saying, “he was a kind man and a family man.”
On November 17, 1999, Buzz and his wife Annamarie sat in a doctor’s office, waiting to hear the results of some tests that had been run earlier in the day. As the doctor entered the room, Annamarie looked at him and said, “This is our 52nd wedding anniversary, and I hope you have good news for us.” The doctor’s response changed their lives forever, “Buzz has Lou Gehrig’s disease and it is fatal.”
While the diagnosis helped explain his increased fatigue, it also brought a lot of questions, fear and uncertainty to the whole family. The next nine months were filled with various tests and medical procedures, numerous trips from the White Mountains to the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, and countless prayers on Buzz’s behalf. Wheelchair ramps were added to the house, safety bars installed in the bathrooms, oxygen machines positioned around the home, and a hospital-style bed was brought in to help him feel more comfortable. Simple tasks like bathing, getting dressed, eating meals, and even breathing, became increasingly more difficult and wore him out.
Buzz’s battle with ALS also included many visits from friends and neighbors. He loved playing Scrabble with his kids and grandkids. Some visits were short and some lasted hours, but Buzz cherished every single moment. Nearly every person who stopped by the house expressed gratitude for him and his many acts of service. Whether it was the freshly-picked veggies he delivered to a sick friend’s home or the early morning irrigation route he would handle for the elderly neighbor down the street, all were grateful for his generosity and kindness. Always one to serve and help others, life with ALS frustrated Buzz because he now needed so much care and attention.
When Buzz was diagnosed, the doctor said he would probably live another 2-5 years. Buzz and Annamarie never got the chance to celebrate their 53rd wedding anniversary. The disease moved quickly through his body, and he passed away nine months after diagnosis.
Just as Buzz described Lou Gehrig as “a kind man and a family man,” the same can be said about my grandpa. He was kind to everyone, he enjoyed helping others, and he loved his family in countless ways.
I was only 13 when Grandpa Haws passed away, and while there wasn’t much I could do to help at such a young age, I’ve now started Tossin’ Away ALS in his honor. Our annual cornhole tournament is a fitting way to bring friends, families, and strangers together and help families currently fighting this debilitating disease. Please join the fight against ALS and help make a difference in the lives of these wonderful families.