History is made every day. Although this is not an old story, I feel this story is heartwarming and we all need to record moments when the human spirit triumphs in the face of tragedy through the kindness of family.
Lynell Arnsdorff Andrews was born in 1960 with cerebral palsy and has been confined to a wheelchair most of her life. From a young age, she became an avid Braves fan whether they were winning or losing. Through the years, she had been able to go to a few games in Atlanta and will never forget meeting her favorite player of all time, Dale Murphy. She met Dale first when she was 17 years old at Grayson Stadium in Savannah at a Southern League All Star Game. He was recuperating from knee surgery in the minor leagues and she interacted with him two more times in Atlanta.
Eight years ago, Lynell met her husband to be, Jay Andrews. Jay was born with spina bifida and was not expected to live past the age of 3.
Against all odds, surprising the doctors, he grew into a young adult, enduring surgeries too numerous to count. He was involved as a young adult in a motorcycle accident severing his foot. During this time the doctors found cancer in his leg, resulting in an amputation. Jay’s obstacles, including an artificial limb, did not stop him from starting group meetings and offering online support helping others with disabilities obtain equipment such as ramps, wheelchairs, etc. He took excellent care of Lynell, seeing her through surgery and treatments for breast cancer.
Married in 2006, Lynell and Jay were alike in so many ways including their disabilities and mutual love of the Atlanta Braves. The soulmates made a happy life together.
Lynell will be 50 years old in September and as part of her birthday celebration, Jay planned to take Lynell to a Braves game in the new stadium that she had not seen. He was going to try to arrange for her to meet Bobby Cox and Chipper Jones.
Jay passed away unexpectedly on March 25. Lynell moved back to live with her mother and mourned the loss of her soul mate. Cousin Cheri S. Johnson wrote a letter to the Braves (most of what you have just read copied with her permission). The Braves contacted her and arranged a trip for Lynell that Lynell describes as “incredible.” Cousins Sandra, Cheri and Lynell’s niece Brandi accompanied her to Atlanta. After arriving at their hotel, they informed Lynell they needed to be in the stadium at 3 p.m. and Lynell realized more than a game was in store since the game was at 7 p.m.
Lynell was allowed to go on the field during batting practice. She met players including Brian McCann, David Ross, Martin Prado and others.
Warmly greeted and posing for photographs, she met John Smoltz, former Braves pitcher, and Chip Caray, who are announcers for the televising of the games. The Braves organization treated her to a VIP tour including the Braves Hall of Fame along with gifts including: a cap, tomahawk and Bobby Cox Commemorative Program Book. Although she never got to shake Bobby or Chipper’s hand, the game was great.
They played the Phillies, Lynell reports, with Tim Hudson as starting pitcher. The Braves’ score was a winning 7-4 in the first of a three-game sweep. Lynell can tell you all the history and info on the Braves and its players from memory and even amazed those in the Braves organization when she enthusiastically shared lots of history and statistics while on the tour.
Lynell says, “The Braves organization went above and beyond what you could imagine. What they did for me was done with a lot of class.” She gets teary eyed when telling about her cousin Cheri Johnson’s letter to the Braves and how the whole experience “just shocked me”.
Lynell is very grateful for her niece and cousins who accompanied her. She is very complimentary of the Braves organization and is hopeful of seeing Atlanta once again in the World Series this year.
Although Jay was not here to take Lynell to Atlanta, she knows he was there in spirit. As Lynell awaits her birthday on Sept. 6, she is sure that Jay’s wishes for her trip have been fulfilled. We all wish Lynell well on her 50th birthday.
This was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society with photos and a letter provided by Cheryl Steed Johnson. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Susan Exley at 754-6681 or email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org