Gary’s nephew, Peter Boone, shown in this picture with Gary’s brother, Darrell Boone, and Peter’s mother, Sandra (Overman) Boone, died yesterday at the age of 39. Peter was born with spina bifida and was paralyzed from about mid chest down. He was never able to walk but always had the use of his mind and his hands and arms. He was in and out of hospitals his entire life and endured more than 80 surgeries. One surgery at the age of 11 left him without the ability to swallow, speak, or fully breathe on his own. His nourishment throughout the rest of his life was through a feeding tube. His breathing thereafter always had to be supplemented with oxygen. He could not speak for about 10 years.
You might have thought given all these afflictions that Peter would not have had much of a life -- that he would have drowned in self pity. But Peter had a remarkable faith in God whom he always gave witness to. Peter finished High School (Southwood in Wabash County, Indiana) with a lot of his studies conducted from a hospital bed. The school built ramps so that Peter could cross the stage in his scooter chair to receive his diploma. The entire gymnasium of attendees gave him a thunderous standing ovation.
If you thought Peter would have faded away after graduation, you didn’t know him. Our employer, The Ford Motor Company, gave him some special discounts on a Van which Indiana Vocational Rehabilitation Services paid to have converted to hand controls with a hydraulic lift for wheel chair entry. Peter took driving lessons and at the end of them received his license. He completed an Associate Degree in Business at Ivy Tech – Kokomo, accompanied in the Van most days by one or the other of his two Grand Dads. In and around this same time, a very kind Doctor surfaced who said he thought he could restore a good portion of Peter’s speech. He did and Peter no longer had to write or be lip read to communicate.
After receiving his Degree, Peter secured employment with Southwood High School as a classroom tutor for students who needed further study for their achievement tests. He was proud of his job and that he was supporting himself as much as he could. Peter was a huge fan of Purdue Boilermaker sports and had season tickets for the football games. Peter cheated death a number of times. Before one Purdue football game, he had to be rescued in the parking lot from a choking episode by his sister in law, a Nurse Practitioner who had accompanied him to the game as well as a Doctor who happened by the scene.
Perhaps Peter’s favorite activity was the annual Summer retreats of the organization, Joni and Friends, a ministry dedicated to extending the love and message of Jesus Christ to people who are affected by disability around the world. Over time, Peter didn’t just attend the retreats, he became a Minister at them sharing his love of God with the disabled who needed uplifting by the example of one who always kept a smile on his face through his faith and belief.
Peter was at work yesterday. He was feeling fine. He was tutoring students as he did every school day. He developed a breathing problem that extensive CPR could not overcome. God called for him to come to Heaven. He is walking, dancing, breathing, eating, and still wearing the same smile he always wore. He will continue to be an angel to other disabled individuals, just from a different venue.