Stacey Remembered

By Bill Baughn

Stacey McInroe Conner died at 4:35 AM Thursday May 24, 1990. On June 21st she would have been twenty three years old. Her death resulted from head injuries she sustained Wednesday afternoon while working with the horses she loved. Stacey was alone at the time of the accident so just what happened is unclear. A two year old horse was being held by a lead rope tied around her waist. Something apparently frightened the horse that bolted, dragging Stacey for a distance causing fatal head injuries.

Stacey was a unique, important individual and her loss diminishes our organization and me, personally. Stacey was born without arms and used her feet but this fact was just the superficial Stacey, what people noticed, what set her physically apart from most others. What made Stacey truly unique was the person she was. Driving to Stephenville, for Stacey’s funeral, Joyce and I alternated between tears and laughter. Tears for the personal loss we both feel and because we failed to realize how much she meant to us until it was too late. Laughter in recalling the joyous moments she shared with us.

What I remember first about Stacey is laughter. It was impossible to be in her presence and be unhappy. Stacey was very intelligent and had a zest for living that was contagious. She had a talent for fracturing the English language and could be funniest when she didn’t intend to be. When she had an opinion you didn’t have to ask her to clarify it. When she finished speaking you knew how she felt. I remember Joyce mentioning buying an Epilady Hair Removal System. Stacey made it abundantly clear just what she thought of paying good money for something that yanked your hair out by the roots!

When I think of Stacey I remember beauty; physical beauty but also a beauty of spirit. Her smile and bubbly personality illuminated everyone around her.

Less than two years ago she discovered the methods which allowed her to be totally independent for the first time. When she drove to our June meeting last year it was the first time she had been able to travel alone and I remember the pride that was evident when she arrived having made the trip with no problems. From this point on she seemed to blossom. In just the past year she made a parachute jump over San Marcos, TX and went snow skiing in Colorado.

Stacey genuinely liked herself but not in a self-centered way for she was committed to helping others, especially upper extremity amputee children. She found much joy in her independence and was committed to helping children experience it at an earlier age than she had.

In an interview with Jess Williams, Editor of the Stephenville Empire- Tribune Stacey Said: “When I was a kid they sent me to Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas all the time and they kept trying to fit me with artificial arms. I never could get used to them, though, and it took me awhile to decide that I didn’t want to be fixed because I wasn’t broken.”

“I’d like to go back there someday and help kids with no arms learn to use their feet. There’s nothing you can do with your hands that I can’t do with my feet. That’s what they should be teaching those kids. I could teach them that.”

Stacey understood and accepted the public’s curiosity about how she did things and would go out of her way to explain how independent she was. She rejected terms like courageous and amazing. She wanted people to know that using her feet was normal.

“It’s not amazing at all,” she said. “It’s not a miracle. If you didn’t have arms, you’d do it too.”

“I had a choice,” she said. “I could have chosen to be an invalid and have everybody take care of me all the time or I could have chosen to be independent. I chose independence. There are some days I wake up and wonder `why me?’, but I don’t let it get to me. I just do what I have to do. I’m no different from anyone else in my attitudes or my wants and needs. I’m human too.”

“It’s all up here,” she said, pointing to her temple with her big toe. “I can do anything I want to do if I tell myself I can do it and if I really try. God challenged me. He said, `OK, kid. You’ve got a lot of obstacles there.’ But I like to find ways around them. I guess when I die, I kind of hope He’ll pat me on the head and say, `You did a hell of a good job’.”

Indeed you did, Stacey, indeed you did.

Stacey’s Legacy

In the fall of 1987, before there was a North Texas Amputee Support Group, the Baughns received a call from friends in New York about a young girl in Houston who had lost both arms at the shoulders. She and her family needed help. Although we were willing to make the trip to Houston, we didn’t feel qualified to help very much. We had, however, seen a young woman on a telethon that had been born with no arms and lived in Stephenville. Bill was able to locate her and, although she had never met us and knew nothing about us, she readily agreed to the trip to Houston. The fact that a child needed her help was enough — especially a child with the almost the same limitations and potential as herself. This was our introduction to Stacey McInroe Conner.

Since that day, a short two and a half years ago, both Baughns have been completely captivated by this vibrant, energetic, busy and oh-so-happy young lady, who just happened to be missing a couple of extremities that most people consider essential. Those of us who knew Stacey realize that her lack of arms was a minor inconvenience that she seldom even thought about. Armless is one of the things she was. She was also an animal lover — especially horses and dogs, most particularly her Australian Blue Heeler, Honey. She was a student at Tarleton State University. She was a woman in love and engaged to marry Russell Scarborough. She was into LIFE–ready for new experiences and new challenges. This past year she went sky diving and snow skiing for the first time, and she was eager to do both again.

Another thing about Stacey was her commitment to children who are amputees. Of course, she related most to those with no arms like herself, but she was ready to “go anywhere, at any time and do anything to help a child.” In fact, we first learned of Stacey’s death by calling that day to ask her to contact a child in Illinois. Now that Stacey is no longer here to fulfill that commitment, others of us must step in and do so in memory of her. She and her example must not be forgotten.

–Joyce Baughn

These articles were published in the North Texas Amputee Support Group newsletter.