On Jesse Garrison: “To an Athlete Dying Young”

by Paul McQuien
To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town. (A.E. Housman, 1896)

SAN ANTONIO — Roy Bragg is a sportswriter for the “San Antonio Express-News.” He writes mainly sports-related human interest stories that are a pleasure to read. Back in late November, 2017, he wrote a column on one of our own, Jesse Garrison, whose family attends the MacArthur Park Church of Christ here.
Jesse was a student at Northeast Lakeview Community College but joined the Nighthawks, one of the Texas Collegiate Club League’s basketball teams, when a former coach “noticed the 6-foot-4 former Johnson [High School] football player walking across campus, head and shoulders above the students.” Jesse wasn’t a superstar, according to Bragg, but his coach was so impressed with the youth’s unselfish spirit that he made Jesse the team captain. The Nighthawks went on to win the Texas Collegiate Club League championship that season.
In addition to his basketball participation, Jesse was working toward a nursing degree and held a “part-time” job at the popular Alamo Cafe, working 50 hours on the weekends! “Customers loved him,” his mother commented. “They became real friends. They’d buy him gifts. They’d invite him over to their homes for supper.”
On one of Jesse’s days off from working double shifts, he drove up to Austin for a party. While heading back to San Antonio around 3 a.m., Bragg writes, “he probably fell asleep at the wheel near the intersection of Loop 410 and I-35. The SUV veered off the highway and fell onto the service road. He died instantly.”
The funeral was held on June 17, 2017, at the MacArthur Park Church of Christ. In addition to Jesse’s family, teammates, and friends, among the 700 mourners who filled the auditorium, were numerous Alamo Cafe diners, who had come to pay their last respects.
His teammates dedicated their season to Jesse. They wore his number, 24, on game jerseys and practice uniforms. According to Roy Bragg, “Jesse Garrison had a unique salutation whenever he left work, home, school, church or basketball practice: ‘I’ll always be there with y’all.’ ”
These farewell words turned out to be sadly prescient.

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