November 28, 1946 ~ June 25, 2021 (age 74)
John David McCleskey, passed away unexpectedly on Friday night, June 25, 2021.
For years before his family and friends knew, at John’s request to protect his privacy, John had courageously fought to live. He had survived for years the harshest and cruelest diseases beyond medical expectation. Even being told that he might not survive his last surgery for a plethora of reasons, he wanted to live longer. He knew that the only way for him to get stronger, since he could not safely swallow following a stroke, was to have an exceptionally skilled surgeon lower John’s stomach from under his rib cage where it was inaccessible in other attempts to put in a feeding tube. This 6’4″ tall man whose average weight had been approximately 226 pounds, could not have weighed more than 158 pounds that day he sat propped up on the hospital bed on which he would be rolled into what could be John’s last surgery.
As the anesthesiologist said to the person who knew him best and loved him most, and whom John had entrusted to always know and carry out his wishes and have his back, “You do not have to sign these consents. We can tear these up and not do this surgery.”
Confirming with the anesthesiologist that John had not been given any preoperative sedation, his eyes locked on the eyes of the woman with whom he first danced over 27 years prior, she asked John if he heard everything that was said, to which he nodded. “Sweetheart, do you understand that you could die and that they might not be able to bring you back this time?”
John had “coded” repeatedly during and after other surgeries. One’s hearing being the last sense to go, John heard doctors and nurses in recovery rooms, and ICUs state, “He’s gone! I don’t know if we can bring him back!” It was John’s choice and decision to not have a DNR order. John’s choice was to have every opportunity to live. Otherwise, he would have died years before when he almost bled out from a high GI bleed in Canada when he was within seconds of dying, as he would be time and time again after that. He was always “Full Code.”
There, in that curtained, pre-op area, the anesthesiologist and the nurse still present and a female minister waiting to pray, John nodded.
“Sweetheart, knowing you could die, do you still want to go ahead with the surgery to get a feeding tube?”
“Yes,” he nodded, resolute and clearly firm in his courageous decision. And, one more time, with all the care and expertise of the good doctors, surgeons and medical staff who heard his heart and kept it going, John survived.
In his decision to have that surgery, after so many other surgeries and the horrific pain and suffering he had endured, John David McCleskey evidenced a strength and courage and depth of faith and trust in God’s will and belief in His promises.
He wanted to come home. And so he did…for however long he had left to live.
John so loved being a part of our beautiful community, going out to dinner almost every night, people making room for him, giving up their seats, embracing him, loving him, keeping him safe. John was always justifiably expectant of the goodness and joy he would be gifted by his friends, both those who worked at his favorite restaurants and those who were their customers. He loved going to SMU football and basketball games his finding that same sense of safety and greeting from SMU Police Officers, EMTs, Security and ushers and attendees who became friends. Often John would see old friends and customers he had known for decades before he retired from Nordstrom.
When asked what he did for a living, he would always say, “I was in the retail business for over 44 years! I sold men’s suits for a living. I managed the James K. Wilson store at Northpark and then opened the Nordstrom store at the Galleria.” What he did not say was that he had over 3,000 customers, that he was one of the top sellers that the Nordstrom family would honor year after year. He loved what he did. Before a sale, he would go into the store and seclude himself in the basement and personally call over five hundred of his customers, either speaking to them directly or leaving them voicemails. He never talked numbers or about his awards or accomplishments or bragged. He loved to travel and did so throughout the world mentioning to others the destinations, but seldom, if ever, the exquisite hotels and romantic adventures and surprises he would plan and have such delight in sharing with his wife.
It was his hope and prayer that he be remembered as the person he was. He would say to Linda, when he had exhibited the effects of the rare, misunderstood diseases he had, “This is not who I am.”
He was more than anyone else ever knew.
Being from Stephenville, Texas, John hoped to grow strong enough to safely swallow and go have dinner one more time at Jake and Dorothy’s for Chicken Fried Steak and Waffle Fries and to other Tarleton football games with long-cherished friends, some of whom he knew from childhood having played Little League Baseball, basketball at Stephenville High School and in college with his friends during his time at UT in Austin and at Tarleton University from which he earned his Bachelor’s degree in business. He so loved his heritage and has followed in his parents’ spirit of giving, both known and unknown, to enrich the the lives of those in their community and those who will follow them long after they last drew breath.
Asked if he was close to his parents, Fred W. and Lucile Poe McCleskey, John responded, “Of course. They were my best friends! ” To this day, John keeps flowers on their graves.
Torn as to where he wanted to be buried, he was at peace and relieved that part of what remains of him – after his decision to be cremated – could be interred in the plot long held and maintained beside his parents’ graves with a matching monument bearing his name in honor of his parents so it not be forgotten how important and blessed he felt to be their son – their only child who was so long wanted. It was on November 28, 1946 that John was born and, as he would tell you, his “perfect childhood” began. He so loved his parents and being born into a family of faith that has celebrated for almost every Labor Day Weekend for nearly 70 years their McCleskey Family Reunion at Lakeview, a Methodist Camp near Lake Palestine.
It was John’s desire that what remains of him that could further research and understanding of the rare diseases he had be studied for insight into Lewy Body Dementia (LBD), Frontal-Temporal Dementia (FTD) and Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) that might save other people from the horrific pain and suffering he endured.
SERVICES IN STEPHENVILLE, TEXAS
Celebration of His Life
Wednesday, July 14
Stephenville Funeral Home, Stephenvillle, TX,
Visitation from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Thursday, July 15
Funeral at First United Methodist Church in Stephenville with Reception to follow at the church and for those who want, lunch at Jake and Dorothy’s after the service.