Nolan understood the challenges of blindness and the miracle of organ donation. For 11 years, his mother, who lost her eyesight to glaucoma, lived with Nolan and his wife, Wanda. He also had a cousin whose life was saved thanks to a liver transplant.
When Nolan passed away in 2009, Wanda and their children made the decision to donate his eyes for corneal transplantation through Saving Sight. Remarked Wanda, “We had talked about organ donation, but he didn’t think he could donate because he had different things wrong with him. When we learned he could donate his eyes, it was a blessing. I thought about the eye problems his mother had, and knew he could help someone else out with his gift.”
Though he left this world too early, Nolan had lived a full life in Missouri. After serving in the army as a paratrooper, he went on to work as a door-to-door milkman, manager of a gas company, and eventually owner of his own heating and cooling business. He enjoyed fishing, hunting and woodworking, and held the years, from Sunday school superintendent to song leader to deacon. Nolan was also a talented musician, playing in several bands, including one with his two children.
Nolan was especially known for his wonderful sense of humor. “We never went without laughter in our home,” said Wanda. “He had a big booming laugh that you could hear from the front door to the back of the house. He found humor in almost every aspect of life, and people really enjoyed being with him because of it. He genuinely cared for others, and they knew that.”
A few months after his passing, Wanda was introduced to Nolan’s recipient through a heartfelt thank you letter. The family received the letter at Christmastime, telling them of the recipient’s transplant journey and touching the family in a way they couldn’t have imagined.
“Nolan was a great blessing to the recipient’s life. This man was so thankful. He is only 52 with lots of time to be able to do something good in the world, so it helps a lot that he can see.”
Because of Wanda’s donation experience, she encourages others to register as eye, organ and tissue donors in Missouri and has made the pledge herself to give the gift of sight. “I told my kids, because I gave Nolan’s eyes, you have to give my eyes too. I can’t hold mine back. Donation makes such a difference in someone’s life.”