I was privileged to meet Wade Stooksberry only once. It was at a fundraiser for his brother, Wilson, in 2012.
Wilson had decided to challenge Steve Cohen for the 9th Congressional seat. He enlisted his brother as his campaign manager and they held a fund raiser at Flight one spring evening. I had heard good things about Wilson and when we got an invitation, jumped at the chance to go and meet him.
It took place after Wade had had his first encounter with the brain tumor. Quite recent, if I recall correctly. He was introduced as his brother’s campaign manager and was happy to discuss Wilson’s challenge. But you would not know from Wade’s demeanor that he was facing a terrible thing, the same kind of tumor that had killed their mother. Only 36, he was upbeat, friendly, and concentrating on helping his brother.
Pretty difficult stuff, but they were fiercely brave in facing it.
Through Caring Bridge I read his progress in the battle. Wade would always make fun of himself and treat it lightly although you could read the concern for his wife and two young children in his essays.
After the first treatments, there was some success. The tumor seemed to diminish. I hope it gave him some days to enjoy life, something he seemed determined to do in his Caring Bridge updates.
Then the tumor returned. Wade did not wallow in self pity. He didn’t question God. He didn’t lose his faith. He persevered. He sought treatment at Duke University in an innovative use of polio to retard the tumor’s progress. He and his family fought to get him in the program, contacting governors, senators and congressmen. They were successful and he had it done.
It was devastating to read that the tumor quickly returned.
Reading about the woman in Oregon with a similar tumor who decided she’d kill herself, I couldn’t help but think of the difference between the two. She was giving up. Her example must have been a terrible one for fellow sufferers like Wade. Yet she was hailed as the hero in the media.
Wade was the hero. Wade was the one who made a difference in the world. Wade’s valor will be remembered long after she is forgotten.
I didn’t really know Wade and perhaps have no right to comment on his death. I won’t be grieving for the loss of a brother, son, father, husband.
But I know and all of us know that we have lost a patriot, a good American, a fine Memphian, a hero, an upstanding person. For that, I feel the loss and grieve, too.