A Tribute to Stacey McInroe Conner

Posted By Bill Baughn

Stacey McInroe Conner, a wonderful volunteer and member of the North Texas Amputee Support Group, died at 4:35 a.m on 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 Stacey’s waist. Something apparently frightened the horse, who bolted, dragging Stacey for a distance and 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, Texas 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.

(Click here to see Stacey on video; click here to see Joyce Baughn's tribute to Stacey)