Stewart Minnick, 82, better to known to Cambridge residents as Stu, spent 40 years coaching baseball. This field is named after him. Polio took away the use of his right arm when he was three but he never let it stop him from doing what he wanted to do. He's had golden labs for about the last 50 years. This is his eight-year-old lab, Jodie.
Story and photo by Bruce Thorson
July 1, 2009, Cambridge, Neb: "If we were way ahead or way behind, I got to run," Stewart Minnick, 82, said as he recalled his track career at University of Nebraska in Lincoln. That was back in 1945 to 1950.
Minnick contracted polio when he was three years old. It affected his right side, similar to what happens to someone who has had a stroke. He never regained the use of his right arm. His right leg he was able to exercise back into shape, enough so that he ran track during his college days. He claims he was able to run 440 yards in about 50 seconds.
He never let his handicap stop him from doing what he wanted to do. He attributes his positive attitude to his father, who was a farmer. About baseball, Minnick said, "He taught me how to hit and play." His father worked with him from the time he was 6 until about 15 Minnick said.
Everyone in Cambridge knows him as Stu. He coached baseball there from 1950 until 1990, and the ball field is named after him. Everywhere I went as I got to know folks in Cambridge, they all said you have to meet Stu.
"Stu was every kids' baseball coach and every kids' confidant," said Eric Eisenhart, a Cambridge attorney.
A Stu-coached player, Bill Shoemaker, now working in insurance, said, "We'd be coming back from an away game, Stu flying down the road, driving with one knee and always turning around to the back, pointing with his finger at a player saying, 'You shudda done this or you shudda done that' all the way back to town."
Stu spent his 42-year-working career as an accountant for the Cambridge Telephone Company, after that he owned an insurance business and was the manager for a loan and building association.
Stu has a warm and friendly smile.
Right now he lives at the Cambridge Manor, a nursing home. He fell a few weeks ago, breaking three ribs. He doesn't think he'll be able to leave the manor. Eisenhart believes Stu's legs are not stable enough for him to walk unassisted.
I sat and talked with him at the manor about his life and that smile would come out a lot as he remembered his past.
I photographed him there at the manor. I liked the photographs I took but thought that for someone this town loves so much, that remembering him there, at the manor, wasn't good enough.
With the help of Eisenhart and others, I was able to photograph Stu at the ball field named after him, where he did his coaching and with his dog, Jodie, an eight-year-old golden lab. He told me for the last 50 years, he's always had a lab.
As Stu was loaded into the car to return to the manor, he motioned for Eisenhart to come over. He had one last comment to make. Eisenhart turned and told me, "Stu wants you to know that, 'My church is as important to me as athletics.'" He attends the the First Congreational Church in Cambridge.