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I’d like to share a story with all of you. When I’m not spending time with my incredible wife and amazing kids, or obsessing over the Buckeyes, I work as an ER physician. This is the true story of an encounter I had with a patient in September of 2010 just as it happened.
In the middle of a typically busy ER shift, I signed up to see the next patient. When I entered the exam room, I found an older man sitting in a wheelchair and immediately noticed his hat: a gray hat with red and white lettering that read, “Ohio State Buckeyes 2002 National Champions”. I asked him, “Are you a Buckeye, sir?” He responded proudly, “You bet I am.”
Maury and I were in Washington State, some 2415 miles and an estimated 36 hours from Columbus, Ohio, according to MapQuest. Maury was 78 years old, 34 years older than I was, which also happened to be the number of years between Ohio State’s last two consensus national championships in 1968 and 2002. Buckeye fans tend to remember such facts.
We immediately began to talk Ohio State football, as any two Buckeyes who still had a pulse would. I listened in amazement as Maury told me he had attended The Ohio State University from 1950-1954: back when it was known simply as OSU! As the dates registered in my mind, I had to ask.
“Maury, that would mean you were a student at Ohio State during the Snow Bowl…”
I didn’t even get the question out before he told me, “I was there.”
I was officially in awe. As far as I was concerned, Maury was a rock star.
His mind was razor sharp and filled with facts and details.
“It was the 25th of November, 1950. You know, Thanksgiving is on the 25th this year.” He proceeded to tell me about barely being able to see Vic Janowicz’ field goal that gave Ohio State its first and only points. You could hear the melancholy in his voice when he said, “I decided to leave my seat and get to the restroom right before the half. I heard the crowd groaning and discovered that I had missed Michigan blocking our punt for a touchdown, the only one of the game.” Michigan won the Snow Bowl, and six decades later Maury was still sore about it: now that’s a Buckeye.
During Maury’s sophomore year Ohio State got a new football coach. If you’re reading this, I’ll assume you’ve heard of him. His name was Wayne Woodrow “Woody” Hayes.
Maury graduated from Ohio State in 1954 with a degree in foreign languages, having studied Russian, French and German while enrolled in ROTC. He became an officer in the Infantry and began a long career in the U.S. Army, serving in Germany and Korea as well as a stint in Viet Nam.
What was Maury’s favorite war story? He was in Viet Nam in 1968 when Woody Hayes was visiting the troops there. Maury met and shook hands with Coach Hayes, and asked him how good the Bucks were going to be that year. Woody told him, “If we can get by Purdue we might be pretty good.” He asked Coach Hayes who the quarterback was going to be. “A young man named Rex Kern,” Woody informed him. As it turned out the Buckeyes beat Purdue 13-0 that season and Woody was right: the 1968 team was pretty good, beating USC in the Rose Bowl to win the national championship.
Maury had the good fortune to see Woody again in 1969, this time in Columbus. Woody Hayes deeply admired and respected those who fought and died to defend this country, and Maury was military through and through. The night we met in the emergency room he was wearing fatigues, having survived both a career in the Army and the ten-year war between Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler.
Military service was a cornerstone of Maury’s family. Maury’s father, Maurice Sr., was a career Army officer who served in the Pacific in World War II. His brother Bill was a student at Ohio State for a quarter before attending the Naval Academy and serving a career as a Naval officer, commanding four warships and a large destroyer squadron. His other brother Fritz (OSU Class of ’57) served in the Army before embarking on a career in television and radio in Columbus, achieving notoriety as “Fritz the Nite Owl” while hosting Nite Owl Theater on WBNS-TV from 1974-1991. His work can be enjoyed even today at fritzlives.com.
I was taken aback at the connection I instantly felt with Maury. He was an engaging man with a magnetic personality who could tell stories all night. Our encounter seemed richer and more meaningful than such a brief patient encounter typically would.
While I have been a Buckeye all my life, my short time with Maury demonstrated to me just how strong the bond among all Buckeyes is.
Maury was also a tough old guy, so he very matter-of-factly told me that he was dying. Maury had cancer and was in hospice. As we talked about the upcoming Miami game he acknowledged that this football season would be his last. He said, “It’s kind of a tough deal, but I’m man enough to take it.”
Our visit lasted all too briefly, and Maury went home.
As his caregiver wheeled him out of the emergency room Maury said goodbye the only way that seemed appropriate, by pumping his fist into the air and shouting:
A couple of weeks later I was thinking about Maury and decided to pay him a visit. We spent a couple of hours talking about everything from his long military career to my short one to, of course, the Buckeyes. I asked Maury if he’d mind if I brought my sons to watch the Penn State game with him, as my daughter was still a bit young. We were both excited about the idea but had to wait a few weeks. When I called a few days before the game to firm up plans, I learned that on November 7, 2010, Maury died as only a hardcore Buckeye like him would: on a bye week.
I know he would have loved to see Ohio State earn their seventh pair of gold pants in a row a few weeks later.
I had the opportunity to meet his brothers, who were with him at the end. They were warm and gracious, and gave me a few things of Maury’s to give to my kids that they still treasure. From time to time when some minor adversity comes up my now-teenage son will say, “It’s OK, I’m man enough to take it.” Maury taught my kids a valuable lesson in life without ever meeting them.
So wherever you are this evening, do me a favor. Raise your glass, whether it’s filled with milk, juice or something a bit stronger, and drink a toast to Maury, a good man and a true Buckeye.
"Tonight, my butt's sore." - Mike Krzyzewski 11-29-11
Great stuff!!! Thanks for sharing. GO BUCKS
Fascinating stuff...I've gotta bump this.
Truly Awesome!! What a great story! Thanks for sharing!
True Buckeye Pride!
Great story! If there's a sticky function on these boards, I nominate this one to be stickied - reminds us of the common thread we all share.
Badger Alumni, Lifelong Buckeye.
Excellent story, thanks for sharing it.
Cheers to Maury.... Go Bucks!!!!
I'm too old to feel the wetness in my eyes you've caused...but I surely appreciate your story...My earliest recollection was at the ' 54 Wisconsin game when Hoppy led the Bucks to a big win and on to a National championship. It's still nice to hear great stories like this...glad you took the time to let us in on it!
Doc in SoCal
Dan the mushroom hunter, the deer slayer, and diehard Buckeye fan!
Great story, thanks for sharing!
Thank you for sharing a wonderful story. Cheers Maury
Good days, bad days --- always a Buckeye. Time to begin the assault on the 2014 BCS National Championship
Thanks for sharing doc. What a great story and thanks for taking the time to listen to a veteran and buckeye I'm sure it helped him through the last few weeks of his life.
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