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Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Saturday, January 22, 2000

Wedemeyer saga
keeps getting better

FOR someone given only one year to live, Charlie Wedemeyer continues to astound friends and supporters as he enters a new millennium he never thought he would see.

The former Punahou and Michigan State star, stricken by "Lou Gehrig's Disease" (amyotropic lateral sclerosis) 22 years ago, is alive and doing well as can be.

Charlie remains an unflagging source of inspiration to those who feel life is not worth living.

Despite being immobilized, unable to speak and having to breathe with a respirator, Wedemeyer refuses to give in to adversity.

Thinking about what he has to go through daily, our own problems seem petty indeed.

More than 600 friends attended "A Celebration of Life" for Charlie and Lucy Wedemeyer at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Tapa Ballroom Wednesday night.

It was supposed to be a "roast" and three of Charlie's Punahou football teammates - Fred Hemmings, Wayne Sterling and Pal Eldredge - got in some good-natured digs. But as Hemmings pointed out, "How can you roast 'Mr. Perfect?' "

The common theme they related was that Charlie was a fastidious dresser. His shirt, well starched, was always neatly tucked in, his hair Seventeen-Brilliantined perfectly in place, and his shoes immaculately spit-polished.

"He even ironed his uniform," Sterling added.

Then along came his high school sweetheart, Lucy Dangler, who loved gardenias.

In the first game of their senior year at Punahou, Sterling recalled, Wedemeyer dropped his helmet and out fell a gardenia given to him by Lucy. "The smell of the gardenia, his pomade and a steaming helmet. I'll never forget it."

The evening, was also a night to retell one of the greatest love stories of our time, that of Charlie and Lucy, and their love of God and his Son.

In his inimitable way, Charlie's ministry is as strong as ever. He'll reach even more people when a documentary produced by Don Mapes called "The Courage to Live: A Message of Love and Hope" is finished.

The Wedemeyer story has been well-documented in "One More Season" and in the TV movie "Quiet Victory." But the new 44-minute film, a culling of more than 90 hours of tape, deals with Charlie and Lucy's life over the past 10 years.

So much has happened that an updated story needed to be told.

Charlie, who communicates with his lips and a wink of an eye to make sure Lucy gets it right, told the Hilton audience that when he learned in 1977 that those afflicted with "Lou Gehrig's Disease" have a life expectancy of less than two years, "I could have felt sorry for myself. I chose not to give up but I chose to fight until God says it's over."

Oh, by the way, Charlie got back at one of his roasters, Pal Eldredge: "Pal discussed a new diet with Sam Choy and gained 20 pounds."

Sense of humor?

Charlie hasn't lost it.

This is the same guy who said he was sorry President Bush couldn't attend the ceremony when he was named the Disabled American of the Year in 1992.

"I wanted to tell him, 'Read my Lips.' "

Bill Kwon has been writing about
sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

E-mail to Sports Editor

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