Tyler Shipman, the 18-year-old from tiny Frazee, Minn., who made friends around the world after sending out a plea for help in rebuilding his cherished 1986 Fiero GT, has died.
His CaringBridge website (www.caringbridge.org/visit/tylershipman), filled for months with loving tributes and comforting words for Tyler and his family, offered a simple and immeasurably sad message Sunday:
"Tyler lost his very brave and valiant fight with cancer and went home to be with his heavenly Father at approximately 7:45 tonight." Tyler, who was receiving full-time hospice care, died at home surrounded by family.
The young man had no idea how his story would resonate internationally when he posted a simple message on the popular Pennock's Fiero Forum website Oct. 29, under the heading "Got cancer now and looking for help."
Tyler, "a total Fiero-head" and senior at Frazee High School, began experiencing severe back pain last summer. In early October, he got the diagnosis: synovial sarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer that primarily affects young adults. After receiving two rounds of chemotherapy in Fargo, N.D., he returned home to be with his parents, Jay and Daneele, and his three siblings.
It was then that Tyler panicked about burdening them with his car-restoration project.
"I'm just trying to find some way to get it restored before I pass," he wrote. "I love this car."
Responses flew in from around the country and the world, including from Sgt. Andrew Weigle, a Pennsylvania soldier serving in Iraq with an assault helicopter battalion. All offered money, parts and prayers.
"We are a car community," said Chris Kliewer, a Fiero fan who became a key organizer of a whirlwind weekend project Nov. 21-22 to rebuild Tyler's Fiero and repaint it bright yellow, Tyler's color choice. "But many of us grew to know him. For being 18 years old and going through what he was going through, he was very well-grounded. He was not an I-want kind of person. He was soft-spoken and always helped his friends. There was no better person for what we were doing."
The car community is raising money to buy a floral arrangement in bright yellow to offset the "dull, drab and gray days" of late, Kliewer said. Those who would like to donate may do so via www.paypal.com using the address firstname.lastname@example.org.
All additional proceeds from this account, as well as from the account on the CaringBridge site, will be used to help the family defray medical costs.
Gail Rosenblum • 612-673-7350 • email@example.com