LA VISTA — Virgil Patro wanted to meet Cornhusker Football Coach Ron Brown.
Butch, his preferred name, is impressed by Brown’s way with the players. A former longtime T-ball and soccer coach himself, he admires how NU’s Senior Offensive Analyst leads his team in prayer.
The 81-year-old is all about the Huskers, and has been for a long time. There’s a Big Red room in the basement with all the memorabilia; the customized wooden Herbie Huskers he creates and gives as gifts, made in his scarlet and cream workshop; and the large “N” on his house that lights up the night.
In an interview with the Times, Butch’s wife, Marletta, talked about her strong husband who ran maintenance at Midlands Hospital; the master woodworker who owned a remodeling company; and the children’s guardian who raised foster kids and helped her run Tiniest Angel Daycare out of their home.
“He loves this community and he loves the people he was around,” Marletta said.
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However, Butch is not doing so well these days. He has had back issues for years, and was preparing for another surgery this spring. A blood test revealed his hemoglobin was low and he was hospitalized in March.
When Butch came home, his legs started getting weak. Doctors found a staph infection in his spine and bones, and it is spreading. “Terminal stuff,” Marletta said. He is paralyzed to the upper chest now and receives hospice care at home.
His nurse submitted Butch’s case to the Dreamweaver Foundation in Omaha. Similar to the better-known Make-A-Wish, the Dreamweavers help terminally ill seniors fulfill their heart’s desire. More than 300 seniors in Nebraska and Iowa have been served by the organization.
When the Dreamweaver staff interviewed Butch, his request was obvious.
“He told us how much he would like to meet Coach Brown and shake his hand,” wrote the Dreamweavers in a story to be posted on their website, dreamweaver.org. “Coach Brown was so touched by this request that he carved out time in his schedule and two days later he met us at Butch’s La Vista Home to fulfil his dream.”
Marletta said the family was surprised by the quick response. They teased Butch about a special guest coming to a party they were throwing for him, but he wasn’t buying it.
“’No, no, no’ he said, there’s nobody coming here,” Marletta recounted.
The Dreamweaver story says, “When Coach Brown pulled up to the home, he was greeted in the driveway with a hug from Butch’s son, who told him how much the meeting meant to Butch and the entire family. A smile spread across Butch’s face as Coach Brown entered, and he welcomed the coach as he would an old friend with a big, ‘How’s it going?’”
Marletta said Butch was “ecstatic.”
“His face lit up like a kid at Christmas time,” she said. “He couldn’t believe that.”
With the family gathered, Brown presented Butch with a football signed by Coach Scott Frost and himself. An even bigger surprise, Brown called Frost to have a FaceTime video chat with Butch.
“His first words were ‘Okay, coach, how are we going to do this year?’” Marletta said. “It was glorious.”
After talking with the family about faith, football and life, Brown thanked the couple for their commitment to raising foster children, a cause close to his heart.
“Before he left, Coach Brown offered his thanks for Butch’s loyalty to the Huskers and joined hands with the family in prayer around Butch. Though they had never met before, Butch and his family connected with Coach Brown on so many levels that they felt as though he was a member of the family,” the Dreamweavers story said.
“Sometimes, dreams do come true,” Marletta said.