Families remember their loved ones in different ways, by continuing a family tradition, posting photos on a wall, or placing flowers on a gravesite. The O. Rex Story family is honoring their loved one in a way that provides life-sustaining help to others.
Twenty-five years ago this Saint Patrick’s Day, Carol Story lost her husband, Rex, a father of four and only 58 years old, to a rare blood disease. For 12 years preceding his death, Rex received life-sustaining blood transfusions, sometimes as often as every two weeks.
It was late 2016 when Carol’s son-in-law and Fort Collins philanthropist Rod Rice told the Story family about the PVH and MCR Foundation’s fundraising efforts to buy two new blood donation buses for the UCHealth Garth Englund Blood Donation Center. It was such a perfect opportunity, Carol recalled.
So an O. Rex Story family fund was set up at the foundation, and word went out to Rex’s surviving family and close friends. Together, they made a commitment of $100,000 toward the purchase of the buses. In return, one bus would be named in honor of Rex.
“I think Rex would be very humbled and gratified to know, first, that we were able to do this, but mainly because it will help others who find themselves in situations like we found ourselves in,” said Carol Story. “There were so many people who put their heart and soul into helping Rex. This is a tribute and thank you to all those people who worked so hard to keep him alive — the doctors, nurses and blood bank staff, but also the donors.”
Jamie Rice, Rex’s daughter, said her dad was an extraordinary man.
“He was such a great dad who loved Mom and his kids more than anything,” she said.
Rex grew up on a Wyoming ranch, and his work ethic and kind, cowboy nature never altered, Carol said. He met Carol, a Fort Collins native, at a barn dance when they attended Colorado State University. They were married six months later and eventually had four children: Rexann (Frank), Justin, Jamie and Mindy.
Jamie recalled her father’s unwavering patience, the laugh lines on his face and how he would always hold her mother’s hand and walk closest to the street.
“I wasn’t done learning all he had to teach,” she said. “The years I did have with him, I learned a lot, but it was his character that was the best lesson and his greatest gift to all of us.”
A rarity in most cases, Carol and all four of her children were a blood match to Rex, so they all donated blood for him through the Garth Englund Blood Donation Center. Another 50 community members and friends also donated on his behalf.
“The blood bank was amazing, and I’m sure that’s why Rex lived as long as he did,” Carol said.
Garth Englund Blood Donation Center collects approximately 8,500 blood products each year through donors and hosts about 180 blood drives. All the blood that is donated stays in northern Colorado to help patients.
For many years, a blood donation bus allowed the center to host blood drives on-site for businesses and community events. But the old bus was on its last legs, often spending more time in the shop than out in the community.
“The capability for the blood center to be mobile is critical to their success, as 75 percent of the blood they collect comes from mobile drives,” said Annette Geiselman, development manager for the PVH and MCR Foundation.
The older bus has now been replaced with the two new buses, increasing the reach of the blood center and allowing blood collection at more locations. Currently plain white, the buses’ exteriors will soon be painted with graphics and lettering identifying them as blood donation buses, and one will carry forward the memory of O. Rex Story.
“These donors, through their support, make possible consequential acts of kindness and generosity that change and save lives,” Geiselman said. “And at times, this philanthropic expression of gratitude is also part of a meaningful healing process for them.”
For the Story family, it also was a way to thank those who helped during a very trying time.
“A lot of people — extended family members and friends — helped us so much,” Carol said. “Imagine living through this for 12 years. It was catastrophic — there’s just no other word to describe it, as our finances were just dire. We had hit rock bottom. And that’s when everyone stepped in, again.
“It worked out, and we did the best we could but with the help of many, many people,” she continued. “Now, to come together 25 years later — and to have the resources even — to be able to do the naming of this bus is amazing. It’s really a once-in-a-lifetime chance to thank people, make the community aware and appreciative of what we have here through the blood center, and to remember Rex.”