Tony’s ‘second wind dream’ | News | The Press and Standard

by | March 24, 2017 5:00 am

Last Updated: March 23, 2017 at 10:08 am

Last year, Tony Stephens came to rehab at PruittHealth-Walterboro. Although he did well, he ended up needing long-term care.
As the staff got to know Tony, they discovered what a great football player he was at Clemson. He always talked about going back one more time to see the campus, field, his coaches and other teammates. So they decided to make Tony’s “second wind dream” come true.
His roommate at the facility, ironically, was a long-time friend and also a huge Clemson fan. Tony and Anthony Frasier were inseparable. They watched sports together, ordered Chinese food, and enjoyed each other’s company. It’s always hard at such a young age to be in a nursing facility, so having a good friend made it much better.
The two grew up together, they played pee wee sports and high school football (Walterboro High School class of 1983.) Tony left to go to Clemson, but he and Anthony never lost touch.
Over the course of planning to take Tony on his second wind dream, he asked if Anthony could go as well. After all, he was his best friend and Tony wanted to share the memory with him. So the plan changed, but the staff was so excited to make an impact on both of their lives.
Personal Care Ambulance was kind enough to provide the transportation and the staff set up a tour of the campus with his old coach. Tony wanted to see his old room and, of course, throw some passes on the field during spring practice. Everything was set in stone and ready to go.
But a week before the trip, Tony developed pneumonia and was unable to travel. Some of his old teammates came to see him, because they knew he wasn’t able to make it to Clemson. That really perked him up and everyone thought he might be able to go the next week. Unfortunately, two days later Tony was taken to the hospital and passed away on July 4, 2016. He was 51.
Anthony was devastated. Tony was loved by everyone. Staff members arranged for Anthony to go to the funeral, and people came from all over the state. It took Anthony a while to get over his best friend’s passing, but everyone continued to encourage him. Then Clemson won the national championship and that turned out to be just what he needed.
So the dream trip plan changed. The staff all decided to make Tony’s dream come true through Anthony. Personal Care Ambulance came and picked him up on March 10. Other staff members followed the ambulance to Clemson, bringing “Tony” t-shirts to wear to honor his memory.
Upon arriving at Clemson, the group was greeted by John Bennett, a tour guide for Clemson. Bennett told them the history of Clemson and Howard’s Rock. They toured the stadium, the new practice facility and got to meet some of the key players on the team. The group was surprised by Dabo Swinney, Clemson’s national championship coach, who posed for pictures with Anthony and presented him with a signed football and a national championship hat.
To finish off the trip, everyone headed to Ruby Tuesday for a great meal before heading home.
To make the dream last even longer, Pruitt Health Walterboro staff made all of the residents a “man” cave, dedicated to the late Tony Stephens, with all types of hats, koozies, and t-shirts, as well as the signed football and t-shirts displayed in a shadow box. And a man cave wouldn’t be complete without a huge American flag and a big screen TV!
“We all enjoyed the opportunity to see a smile on Anthony’s face and to honor a great friend and football player Tony Stephens. May he rest in peace.”

(Christy Drinkard is administrator of PruittHealth-Walterboro.)

(Editor’s note: Stephens was an integral part of the success of Bulldog Football in the early 80’s under Coach Gyles Hall. He was named to the Shrine Bowl in 1993 and received All-State recognition. He was inducted in the Colleton County Hall of Fame on September 20, 2002. As a red-shirt senior at Clemson in 1987, Stephens was situated in the middle of the defensive line. He helped Clemson to a Citrus Bowl win and a No. 10 ranking at the end of the post-season. He amassed 61 tackles, including nine for loss. According to ClemsonTigers.com, “He was a big reason the Tigers ranked second in the nation in rushing defense, fifth in total defense and 13th in scoring defense.”)

comments » 1

  1. Comment by Thelma Ackerman

    March 25, 2017 at 7:04 pm

    Thanks to all who had a part in the making of this article. It brought tears to my eyes and sadness and joy in my heart. Sadness because Tony will be missed and Joy because we have the option to see him again. What a great honor. To know Cousin Tony was to love him.

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