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Location: Montgomery Area, Alabama, United States

Former BUFF driver; self-styled military historian; paid (a lot) to write about beating plowshares into swords; NOT Foamy the Squirrel, contrary to all appearances. Wesleyan Jihadi Name: Sibling Railgun of Reasoned Discourse

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


It is very sad to have to report the death of another young hero. Zachary Sisson, the son of Lyle and Lois Sisson, passed away on 15 Dec. at the age of ten, after battling brain cancer for a couple of years. The story below shows how and why Zach was a hero.

Lyle, his father, was best man at my wedding to KANH many moons ago and Lois, his mom, has also been a great friend over the years. Lyle and I were squadron mates for years, flew together, and shared many...uh...interesting...experiences. I knew vaugely that Zach had been ill on and off for some time, but we had no idea of the specifics, or the severity, until a mutual friend told us of Zach's death five days ago. I remember Zach as an infant and only wish I had known the fine young man he had grown into. I deeply regret that I slipped in the last few years as both a friend and a correspondent, and so lost the opportunity.

The Rocky Mountain News (which has been a stalwart in reporting the highjinx of Ward Churchill) had a very fine story on his ordeal, reprinted in full:

Fifth-grader Zachary Sisson, 10, displayed a buoyant spirit
By Todd Hartman, Rocky Mountain News
December 26, 2006

Sisson endured the hell of cancer and died from it Dec. 15 at age 10. But he moved through his trials with staggering goodwill, only rare complaints and an adaptability that saw him swap rambunctious outdoor playfulness with quieter indoor hobbies better suited to so many rest days.

Grown-ups who knew Zach were baffled by his buoyant nature. Joanne Szuch, a 39-year- old family friend, said she was surprised to hear Zach tell her he was "good" when she called his hospital room one day.

Answering her confusion, Zach said, "What, I can't be good when I'm in the hospital?"

About two weeks before he died, Zach asked his parents whether he could go for a bike ride. They did, on a gorgeous Colorado day.

Only a few times, recalled Zach's father, Lyle, did Zach state what was so obvious to everyone else: "This isn't fair."

The rest of the time, he busied himself with a mishmash of interests: a fledgling effort to learn viola, slapstick comedy, fireworks, arts and crafts, and a fascination with all things mechanical and electrical. His dad started calling him Sparky.

Zach was diagnosed with stage IV brain cancer in mid-2005. Nicholas Foreman, a pediatric neural oncologist at Children's Hospital in Denver, helped beat it back using chemotherapy, radiation and - as it refused to go away - high-dose chemo. That last attack worked for a while. In March, the family, who lives in Arvada, had a party to celebrate the end of cancer therapy.

About two months ago, though, the cancer returned. "It came back angry. It was mad. It moved very fast," Lyle Sisson said.

His son had pain when he walked; he limped. Tumor growth was discovered in his pelvis and femur. Foreman turned the family over to his colleague at Children's, Dr. Lia Gore, for experimental chemotherapy.

"In the end, that didn't end up working too well for us," said Lyle Sisson, who had high praise for the doctors. "It was a good try."

Help poured in from the community. A spaghetti dinner for fifth-grader Zach at his school, Vanderhoof Elementary in Arvada, raised $8,000. Martial arts master Dan Klenda brought in $4,000 in pledges by doing 700 consecutive sit-ups, and pilots at United Airlines donated days off so their colleague Lyle could spend time with his son.

On Zach's last evening at home, he overcame a coughing fit with a stiff dose of pain meds. Freshly articulate and with a little surge in energy, he left his parents laughing as he instructed them meticulously on how to properly arrange his sheets and blankets so he could rest more comfortably.

They laid down for bed, one parent on each side of Zach. They said their goodnights like the Waltons on TV. Zach slipped into unconsciousness and passed away in his sleep.

"He had a bunch of life and energy, and he wanted to give us one last burst of it," said his father of that Friday evening. "That was his last gift to us."

In addition to his father and mother, Lois, Zach is survived by his brother, Lyle. Services were held Friday.

The family prefers that donations be made to cancer doctors and researchers at Children's. The address: Children's Hospital Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders c/o Marylou Houston, Children's Hospital Foundation, 1245 E. Colfax Ave., Suite 400, Denver, CO 80218.

We offer our heartfelt love and condolences to Lyle, Lois, and Lyle IV.

Monk & KANH

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