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An athletic scholarship at Missouri State University-West Plains has just been fully endowed. KSMU’s Jennifer Davidson has this remembrance of the woman whose memory the scholarship honors.
Lisa Crumpley was born in Springfield in 1962 to a young pastor and his wife. Her parents noticed that she had the physical characteristics of a child with Down Syndrome, so they had her tested. But they were told that Lisa’s intelligence was just fine.
Her father took a job at a church in West Plains. Although the family would move again, Lisa declared upon graduating from high school in Texas that she would move back, alone, to the only place she considered home: West Plains.
She discovered that her family’s old parsonage had become a duplex, so she rented half of it. She began attending her father’s former church. And she went to work earning the title that her community would eventually bestow upon her: The Number One Fan.
“I knew Lisa well. We all knew Lisa well. I think everybody in town knew Lisa,” said Dr. Herb Lunday, dean of student services at Missouri State University-West Plains, home of the Grizzlies.
“Grizzly athletics meant everything to her. She came to everything. Every Grizzly volleyball match, and every basketball game, she was there on the front row, often by herself,” Lunday said.
Lisa Crumpley walked everywhere. Rain, snow, and freezing temperatures were no match for her. If there were an athletic event that could use her cheering, she was there, Lunday said.
“The thing we admired most about her, perhaps, is that she faced challenges every single day that I know would have defeated me early on, and most other people. But she just flew right through every day,” Lunday said.
Lisa had behavioral disabilities, and her physical disabilities intensified as she aged. No one I talked to knew what her disabilities were, exactly, or whether she was ever diagnosed.
Lisa would cuss out a ref for a bad call, then turn right around and tell a group of teenagers off for making fun of her.
And she attended virtually every local high school sporting event, too. I know, because I was one of the young athletes she cheered on. As we warmed up before every volleyball game, Lisa was there retrieving the balls for us. At a couple of our soccer matches, we joked that “Crazy Lisa” might actually end up getting us a red card.
Most kids, including me, didn’t think twice about labeling her with that derogatory term: “crazy.”
About seven years after I graduated from high school, I ran into Lisa in Wal-Mart. I approached her with the intention of thanking her for coming to all of my games. I began by saying, “Hi, Lisa. You probably don’t remember me…”
And she interrupted me with a cheerful, “Of course I do! You’re Jenny Moore! You were number seven on the volleyball team. You were a setter!”
I was speechless. Then, she asked about each of my teammates by name—and where they were now.
Birthdays, names, numbers, statistics; Lisa Crumpley’s memory was magnificent.
She attended community forums, crashed several wedding receptions and fundraisers, and showed up at nearly every Chamber of Commerce luncheon. If the conversation turned to local sports, she’d rattle off what a great season it was going to be, and why. She snuck past the admissions table at so many ball games that the school district eventually gave her a free, lifetime pass.
Lisa Crumpley knew the law, and knew her rights: once, when a counselor did something she didn’t approve of, she marched out of that office, walked to the nearest pay phone, and reported it to the state.
With her unkempt hair, her short, plump arms raised above her head, and her blue eyes full of fire, The Number One Fan cheered her heart out for this town. And she usually did it alone, in her old, high-mileage tennis shoes.
But one day, Lisa Crumpley had a heart attack. And then, a while later, another. Those episodes were interlaced with bouts of pneumonia. Lisa moved into subsidized housing, and began using a motorized wheelchair. Even when she didn’t feel well, she got out of bed, and “scooted” to her beloved ball games. And she continued to live independently.
While attending her church’s district conference in St. Louis, she was admitted to the hospital. She returned to the conference with bandages on her arms, but didn’t say anything.
Last July, Lisa Crumpley collapsed at her apartment from renal failure. She passed away shortly thereafter. She didn’t have anyone cheering her on into her next quarter. She was 50 (although she had told her church on her most recent birthday that she was only turning 49).
“I knew Lisa from Cornerstone Church of the Nazarene. She attended our church regularly,” said Anglela Survillo. Survillo says Lisa had known that her kidneys were failing.
“She needed an operation that she refused to have. And they told her, ‘If you don’t get it, you’re going to die.’ And she still refused to have it. So, she knew. She knew what was going on. But we didn’t,” Survillo said.
Survillo called the local funeral home to ask when Lisa’s funeral would be.
“And I found out that there weren’t going to be any services. The family did not live here in town. And they did not even realize that she had friends here in town,” Survillo said.
Lisa Crumpley’s family had her remains cremated, and held a private, graveside service an hour and a half away in Hartville, where Lisa’s elderly mother lives. But Lisa didn’t even have an obituary in the West Plains paper—just a two-line announcement, and a handful of comments on facebook.
And something about that just didn’t sit right with Angela Survillo.
So she contacted MSU-West Plains, which promptly set up an athletic scholarship in Lisa’s name. But it didn’t generate much funding…until now.
“We thought that this would be a good example of being sort of a tribute for her, not only for someone with a disability, but the fact that she was out there. She was going forward. She did what she wanted to do. She was involved. And nothing slowed her down,” said Cindy Moore, executive director of Ozark Independent Living, a resource center for people with disabilities. Her agency just donated nearly $10,000 so that Lisa’s memorial scholarship would be fully endowed.
Moore says everyone can learn from Lisa’s loyalty and perseverance, and from the fact that she did things differently.
“We sometimes champion people who do that who don’t have a disability, [saying], ‘Oh, they did it their way,’ and ‘Oh, they came in sliding,’ and ‘full of vim and vigor and bling,’ and everything else. Well, [Lisa] didn’t have all that. But she still did it her way. And she still arrived at the same goal,” Moore said.
Now that the fund is fully endowed, a scholarship in Crumpley’s name will be awarded every year, “in perpetuity,” to an athlete whom The Number One Fan would most certainly have been rooting for.
For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Davidson in West Plains.