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Cancer patient honored by Iowa men's basketball team

BY BEN ROSS | MAY 17, 2013 5:00 AM

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On the morning of Feb. 18. Bob Weber found Alice, his wife of 52 years, in a helpless position, sprawled on the floor of the bathroom in their Dyersville home.

Alice Weber, who family members say was relatively healthy leading up to the incident, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on March 3. Weber passed away less than a month later, on Easter, but not before seeing her beloved Hawkeye basketball team make an improbable run to its first NIT championship game in school history.

Despite the crippling illness, the Webers — who have been season-ticket holders to Iowa basketball for around a decade — along with one of their daughters, Nancy Henn, attended Iowa’s first-round tournament game against Indiana State — a 68-52 Hawkeye victory.

“We had just found out she got the cancer diagnosis a week before that,” Henn said. “I called to see if we could get handicap tickets so she could go. They gave us tickets in the top row.”

And despite the illness, Henn said there was no question that her mother would attend the game.

“There was only hesitation because her stomach was collecting fluid,” Henn said. “She was supposed to go in and get it drained. She decided, ‘Nope.’ Dad asked her if she wanted to go to the hospital or go see the Hawkeyes, and she said the Hawkeyes.”

Coincidentally, camera crews were in the stands near the Weber family, filming another piece.

“I tapped a Channel 2 person, and I whispered it would probably be the last game for my mother,” Henn recalled. “From there it took a life of its own. [Director of men’s basketball operations Jerry] Strom saw the clip, and tears ran down his face; the next day he called my dad and it all transpired.”
What transpired was an act of kindness from the basketball program, one that made a lasting impression on the entire family.

The Iowa basketball team invited Weber and her family to be honorary guests at the March 22 contest against Stony Brook. Members of the team signed a basketball and gave it to Alice Weber. Each player greeted her in the locker room as they returned from warm-ups. Weber and her family even got to sit in on the team meeting before the contest.

“To have a woman, who essentially has about a week to live say she wants to spend her time with the Hawkeyes … it’s an overwhelming feeling,” Iowa head basketball coach Fran McCaffery told The Daily Iowan. “What was so special to me — we can set those things up, but the key is how the players respond to her and her family.”

When Weber passed away, the squad was in New York preparing to compete in the NIT semifinals. Because no members of the Iowa team were available to make it to the ceremony, John Streif, the now-retired assistant athletic trainer and travel coordinator at the University of Iowa, attended the funeral at the Dyersville Basilica as an ambassador for the entire program.

“It was an honor for me to be there to represent the team and staff at funeral services,” he said. “She was a true Hawkeye.”

Today, the ball signed by the team sits on the mantle above the fireplace in the Weber home. Bob Weber said it ranks as one of his most prized possessions as a memento of the good deeds given him and his wife by the Iowa basketball program.

Weber also said he was surprised by the service provided to him and his family and reflected on what that moment meant to his wife.

“I don’t know how to explain it,” he said. “I couldn’t believe they did something like that; they are top-of-the-line people. We would like to thank them some way for what they have done. I could not believe what they did for her. It’s not something I think a place like that would do for anybody.

“It was wonderful, She was really happy. It made her life, I think.”


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