“A teacher takes a hand, opens a mind, and touches a heart.”
Former Howard educator, Vernon “Buck” Eggert was no exception, touching the lives of many students and community members in his 41 years as a teacher and assistant coach. He especially touched the lives of one individual – who never had the opportunity to have him in the classroom, but still learned from him every day since she was a child; his granddaughter, Taylor Eggert.
Just over a year ago, Taylor lost her role model and her favorite teacher to a hard-fought battle with lung cancer. Buck was a man his granddaughter describes as hardworking, caring, and who would help anyone.
“We were very close. I would go to their house after school and enjoyed hearing him tell stories about when he was younger,” Taylor fondly recalls. “He would pick us up after school and we would drive to the dump with him. He loved going to the dump and finding treasures, as he called them. Then, grandma would have to go through and fill up the garbage bag!”
In the fall of 2012, it was a typical Friday night attending a Howard Tigers football game in Mount Vernon, when Buck fell and broke his hip. When having x-rays done for his injury, the medical team found a spot on his lungs. After further tests, Buck was diagnosed with lung cancer. A 7th grader at the time, Taylor remembers her dad telling her and her two older brothers that their grandpa had been diagnosed with cancer. She understood what cancer was, but was in denial – how could this happen to her beloved grandfather? Following his diagnosis, Buck began going through chemotherapy and radiation. During that time, he still kept a positive attitude and felt pretty optimistic about his battle. “He didn’t have much hair to lose though,” Taylor joked. A year and a half after his initial diagnosis, Buck entered remission until Taylor’s 10th grade year, when the tumor started growing again. This time his family knew it would be different, as his body wasn’t nearly as strong as it had been prior to his last cancer treatments.
Just as Buck had influenced so many lives throughout the years, there were many people in the community who supported the Eggert family throughout his battle with cancer. “Friends and family would offer to drive him to his doctor appointments and several people would stop by to visit,” said Taylor. “There were also people who would help take care of the lawn and snow removal.”
After losing Buck, Taylor can recall many times her friends, classmates, and teachers at HHS supported her through the painful first days. “My friends and classmates were all very supportive that morning [when he passed away]. Mr. Wiese also had a moment of silence in class for him and had a lot of great things to say, which meant a lot.”
Next Spring, Taylor will be graduating from Howard High School – a day her grandpa would have surely been proud to see. “He always talked about my graduation and thought I was the smartest kid.” Following graduation, Taylor plans to attend a four-year college to earn a degree in Clinical Science and eventually hopes to go to law school. She would like to one day return to a rural community, knowing how grateful she has been for the small-town atmosphere and support when she needed it most.
As the Howard High School students join together for the second year to raise money and awareness through “Tigers Step Up 2 Cancer”, Taylor is just one of the many students who has experienced the wrath of cancer first hand and understands the importance of coming together as a community to support those fighting this disease. “Living in Howard, you have to drive to get cancer treatment, which can be a strain on families’ financials,” said Taylor. “I know there are other kids who have had their experiences with cancer and this is an opportunity for us to grow together and help this great cause.”