Sunday, September 23, 2018

V 8 N. 60 Clifton 'Butch' Sower Remembered

Butch Sower in the late 1970s
(Sept. 23, 2018)
A few days ago we talked about the remarkable recovery of Marc Arce, former University of
Findlay (Ohio) track and cross country coach after a devastating bicycle accident.  Today we have to report on another tragic accident that took the life of Clifton 'Butch' Sower of West Liberty, Ohio, also the result of a bicycle crash.  I saw some reference to Butch's accident and passing in a series of emails, but I did not recognize the name.  A little sleuthing on Google led me to Butch's obituary published in the Columbus Post Dispatch. (see below).

In the late 1970's Butch was a standout track and cross country runner in Ohio high school representing West Liberty-Salem HS.  West Liberty (pop. 2000)  is a small town in Logan County northwest of Columbus that has a long history of tough runners.  The Big Orange Shoe Store , affectionately known as BOSS,  in town has  survived for years solely selling running gear in that  small market,  a testimony to the importance of running in West Liberty.  Runners often came from 30 or 40 miles to shop at Big Orange.

Butch had some flaws as you will see if you read his obituary, but there was a lot  more to Butch  than the flaws mentioned, and his good deeds and effort to redeem himself are what is truly  important.

Butch was the man in his high school days.  He didn't run in college, he didn't move on in the sport.  This blog normally only talks about the big names in the sport, but there was a sentence or two in Butch's obituary that told me something about his character.

"In 1977, Sower stopped to help a runner who had fallen, resuming a cross country race to win. The next year, he came in second in the 2-mile state championship, stumbling before the finish and being beaten by the same runner he had helped...."

This is a strong parallel  to the story of John Landy stopping to help a fellow runner, Ron Clarke, then a schoolboy, during a mile race that Landy went on to win.

When we judge people, it should be by these kinds of small, spontaneous acts that tell us more about a person's character than a long thought out act that weighs the pros and cons of what we do in life.  It tells us something about the inner workings of an individual more than what academic credentials in our resumes can say about us.  And for that I choose to honor Butch in this blog.



Butch at the recent BOSS run


He graduated from West Liberty-Salem in 1978.
Butch was All-Ohio in cross country and track.
He helped the Tigers win state titles in cross country in '76 and '77.

Headed home after a long bicycle ride in Logan County last week, Clifton “Butch” Sower might have been trying to avoid a large turtle before he was found thrown from his bike on Route 287.
The animal, which had been dead for some time, was found in the westbound lane near Sower on Aug. 29, according to a State Highway Patrol report.
Sower, 58, of West Liberty, was flown to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, where he died Tuesday. An autopsy will determine the cause of death. He was not wearing a helmet.
His sister, Ann Vogel, called the tragedy a fitting end for her older brother, whom she described as a “tortured, beautiful soul.”

“He loved his animals,” she said. He grew up with pets — chickens, dogs, cats. He built a two-story doghouse with carpet and windows.
Sower was raised in the village, was a standout athlete at West Liberty-Salem High School in the late 1970s and was known for his sportsmanship, his sister said.
In 1977, Sower stopped to help a runner who had fallen, resuming a cross country race to win. The next year, he came in second in the 2-mile state championship, stumbling before the finish and being beaten by the same runner he had helped, said Vogel, 51.
“That’s who he was. He was always fighting the good fight. He was a big tipper; he was a giver. He was an organ donor,” Vogel said.
Sower, a carpenter, also struggled with alcoholism.  He had been charged several times  with drunken driving - landing in jail after the last one three years ago.
After his release in May, he vowed redemption, Vogel said.  He resumed his life
long love of running, up to 40 miles a week.  He bought a bicycle and rode up to 100 
miles weekly with a friend.
As for the turtle: "It's a great mystery." Vogel said.  "We just don't know.  Maybe he 
hit it. Maybe he was going too fast."
His last footrace was 10 days before the crash.  The BOSS Run was to support the 
West Liberty High School cross country team.
I didn't know Butch Sower but I did know his teammates, Corey Frost and Earl Zilles as well as their coach, Ken Lehmann. WLS was an absolute powerhouse during the 1970s.  Nice article.     Bill

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just love this blog! This post is a true testament to athletes in cross country and athletics. I don’t doubt he was probably trying to not hit the turtle. He just seems like that kind of a guy. May he Rest In Peace.

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