Wacoan granted dying wish to see football game

By Emma King, Staff Writer

At age 70, Howard Johnson has already spent over 20 years stuck at home because of his health. His dying wish to watch a Baylor football game in the new stadium has been granted.

“Ever since I was a kid I’ve been watching Baylor, when they were down and when they were up,” Johnson said.

Johnson grew up in Waco, and has lived here his entire life. After high school, he spent 26-year working for the city as a backhoe operator and a foreman before retiring due to health complications.

His health decline began with a skin cancer diagnosis. Johnson then had a stroke about 10 years ago, which paralyzed his right side. Now, after multiple operations and a kidney cancer diagnosis, he has been admitted to a Hospice program.

“I try to do the best I can. What I can’t do, I just can’t do,” Johnson said.

Johnson lives with his son, Kenneth, who cooks, cleans and takes care of him. They get regular visits from Johnson’s Hospice chaplain, Sarah Miller. She began working with Johnson in February.

“In the early spring, I asked him… if there’s something you could do before you die, anything in the world, what would it be,” Miller said. “He said, ‘I want to go to a Baylor football game at the stadium.’”

Miller said she took to Facebook and immediately started trying to get tickets that would meet their needs.

“All these people said, ‘Oh yeah, we have tickets we’ll give you,’ but none of them were wheelchair accessible,” Miller said.

She said someone suggested Tom Hill, Baylor’s associate athletic director for community relations and special projects. He then called Miller and told her he had two tickets with her name on them.

“I’m in a very fortunate position, to be able to play a small part in this,” Hill said.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he has only been to one Baylor game in his lifetime, when he was about 10 years old. He doesn’t even remember if the Bears won or lost.

Now, thanks to Hill, Johnson and Miller will be in the stands this Saturday to watch Baylor continue its 2015 football season against Lamar University.

“I’m still excited now,” Johnson said. “[I] might not show it but I am.”

Johnson said he has supported Baylor for years, no matter if the Bears were winning or losing, but the thing he is looking forward to most is a victory on Saturday.

“It’s good to be a winner sometimes,” Johnson said.

Miller said Johnson even got a new Baylor shirt for the occasion.

Johnson said he hopes to still be around for another decade, but he is thankful for this gift now.

“We appreciate everything y’all are doing for us,” Johnson said. “This is a dream come true.”