Boomer’s day: Friends stage ;br; bowling benefit for Austin man

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 24, 1999

Robert "Boomer" Scott still bowls.

Friday, September 24, 1999

Robert "Boomer" Scott still bowls.

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Despite suffering two heart attacks since July and being diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer, he joins his teammates each week on a team sponsored by Charley’s Lounge at Echo Lanes.

Bob Day, his best friend, is on the team. So are Brian Butts, Gary Butts and Mike Bednar.

When he stumbles and falls down on the lanes, everybody laughs. Even Boomer.

There may be a momentary gasp from his wife, Mert, but even she can’t help but laugh.

Boomer is that kind of guy. Laughter becomes him. He loves life and wants to enjoy it to the fullest. If the "big C" is going to take him, he’ll go down smiling at the gutter ball of fate he rolled this summer.

Echo Lanes is hosting the "Bowling For Boomer" fund-raising benefit Sunday. Registration for the 3-games of 9 pin with no tap begins at noon with the bowling starting at 1 p.m.

There will be drawings throughout the afternoon, a baked goods and crafts sale, door prizes and "grab for cash."

There will be a pool challenge in the game room and a silent auction of items donated by merchants and friends. Among the items are dinner for two at Chanhassen Dinner Theater, a 2-hour limousine ride anywhere, a room overnight at the Holiday Inn of Austin and certificates for three days and two nights in the winner’s choice of six cities in Nevada.

When the Echo Lanes events conclude, the activities will move to the Austin Eagles Club, where a chili feed will be held.

Proceeds from the free-will offering up to $500 will be matched by the St. Olaf Lutheran Church AAL branch.

Donations can also be left at Sterling State Bank in Austin made out to the "Bowling for Boomer Fund."

Official "Boomer" T-shirts are being sold for $5 each to also help raise money for the family. Three of every five dollars goes to the Bowling for Boomer Fund. Over 400 of the T-shirts have already been sold.

Boomer and his wife, Mert, are both on their second marriages. They have six children between them: daughters Stephanie, Jenna, Brooke and Laurella and sons Dean and Ted.

The Scott family’s lives changed this summer, when Boomer suffered a heart attack at work, the Farmland Industries plant at Albert Lea. First rushed to Naeve Hospital in Albert Lea, he was treated and released. He drove himself home to Austin to tell his wife, a Mower County sheriff’s jailer, the news personally.

She ordered him to visit Austin Medical Center, where tests, including an angiogram were done.

He was sent to St. Mary’s Hospital at Rochester, where he suffered a second heart attack. Doctors ordered a CT scan after he complained of severe headaches. At first, it was thought it was a reaction to the blood thinners he was given to treat his heart attack, but the CT scan didn’t lie.

Three tumors were found on his brain, which was "leaking" or bleeding because, doctors said, of the blood thinners.

There was more. Eight other cancerous tumors were found in his lungs and kidneys.

On a scale of one-to-four, four is the worst and that’s how doctors rated his cancer. It was inoperable.

A week later, another CT scan only confirmed the results of the first one.

Radiation was done, but even the doctors held little hope because of the way the cancers had spread in the man’s body.

Boomer was sent home to wait for the end. He lost his job after 36 years as a meatpacker, saw his driver’s license taken from him because of his disabled condition, watched insurance benefits dwindle, saw the family’s savings exhausted and endured stroke-like symptoms to his already pain-racked body.

He was told to continue taking the steroids prescribed at the Rochester hospital and the heart medicine.

Terese Gullickson, called "Aunt Terese" by Boomer’s children, calls all of the activities being planned for Sunday "an act of friendship." When Boomer’s and Mert’s daughter, Brooke, the youngest of the six children in the extended family, suggested her parents needed help, Gullickson rallied other friends to plan Boomer’s day in the spotlight.

Other friends quickly volunteered to help. Kathy Gunderson, Connie Schaeffer, Linda Miller, Lori Scott and Beth Petersen, to name a few.

It took some convincing, but Boomer and Mert agreed to allow it to be done.

The way Mert describes her relationship with Boomer is as much that of a unique friendship as a romantic relationship.

"We’re really close," she said. "When he had the heart attack on July 28, his concern was ‘If my wife gets a call and wakes up and hears I had a heart attack, she’ll have a heart attack.’ that’s why he drove home from Albert Lea to tell me himself he had a heart attack."

So close is this couple that their friends call them Peanut Butter and Jelly, because, the wife said, "We stick together."

Boomer, one of five children born to Max and Liz Scott, has watched five Scott family members die, including two brothers, ages 56 and 33, in the last three years. He’s 53 years old and described, affectionately, as short and stocky by his wife and youngest daughter Brooke.

"Everybody knows the Scott family. Mention Boomer’s name and people know him. He umpired and coached youth baseball and when I ran a day care in my home, the kids just loved him. They clung to him whenever he was around," his wife said.

When he learned the bad news, actually the worst news a doctor can tell a patient, "He handled it better than I did," admitted his wife. "He’s really not an emotional guy or he doesn’t show his emotions. He’s always kidding and teasing everybody, but he’s real protective of me," she said.

Stephanie, Jenna and Brooke are Mert’s children by her first marriage. Laurella, Ted and Dean are Boomer’s by his first marriage.

Brooke, 19 and a 1998 graduate of Austin High School, is currently attending Riverland Community College with plans to become a registered nurse. She is the youngest of the six children. "Now, that Brooke is on her own and living away from home, this was to be our time. We had even planned a second honeymoon and to do things together, but all that has been snatched away," said the wife.

"He is my father," said Brooke, "I’m not a step-daughter. He is a father in every way to me. He’s a very caring man."

Boomer has spent much of this week "up north" with relatives fishing and enjoying the Indian summer weather that came with the arrival of fall. He will be at Sunday’s fund-raising benefit for him at Echo Lanes.

"We’re all so grateful to my friends, to Aunt Terese and all the others and to everyone who is helping make this benefit possible," said the wife. "I am also grateful to the children for being so wonderful through all of this. I’m really having a hard time dealing with all of this, but they’re making it easier."

Both Mert and Boomer regularly bowl in leagues at Echo Lanes. Since the benefit was planned, they have heard the constant reminders, necessary, but unsettling nonetheless, announced amidst the cacophony of bowling alley noise.

Mert and Brooke have watched Boomer bowl and take an unintended pratfall to the floor, his equilibrium continually weakening due to the ravages of cancer inside him.

"He falls, he gets up, he laughs and then he bowls again. He’s just that kind of guy," said the wife.

Brooke, the daughter, said she has learned not to take one moment of her life for granted after watching what happened to Boomer this summer.

Boomer has had to learn that lesson the hardest of ways. The cancer he has, to be sure, is terminal.

But, strangers will have to look to find this man called "Boomer" Sunday afternoon. The bald head may be a giveaway. Otherwise, he will do what he enjoys doing best of all and that is bowl.

He will throw the ball down the alley, hoping for a strike or at least a spare. And, yes, he may stumble and fall.

Chances are the first laugh spectators hear will be his own, because, surely, he wants to have the last laugh to himself no matter what lies ahead.