An article from the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier. Alex Lemons was a friend and classmate of mine. I will be visiting the lemon tree that was planted in his memory at our middle school soon because a new school has been built nearby. Our old elementary school has been torn down. The last time I remember seeing Alex was when he was playing basketball with his brother and I was walking around with my friend who didn’t go to our school, it was in the summer.
POSTED: Friday, May 7, 1999
Friends, family honor victim of brain tumor
By JIM STANTON
Alex Lemons loved baseball and loved riding bikes. He was happiest outdoors, always in search of fun.
Beneath it all was his affection for his family and his close-knit friends. He loved being around them.
Thursday afternoon, those people gathered outside Logan Middle School with only memories of the boy, who died after battling a type of brain tumor that almost never strikes children.
Alex died at age 12 in September — eight months and seven surgeries after hearing the diagnosis.
At the 15-minute ceremony Thursday, a teacher read a poem and a close friend recalled playing baseball with Alex. Classmates sang “The Lemon Song,” a 1962 hit whose lyrics had been revised for Alex.
Asked for a few words, his mother, Colleen, 36, mentioned how caring and thoughtful his friends had been through the ordeal. Some still come by the house.
“That means a lot,” she said.
Then, people shoveled dirt on the roots of a young linden tree planted next to the school in Alex’s memory.
Family members were the first to take the shovels. Then classmate Ashley Remetch asked close friends if they wanted to add some dirt. Many of the most emotional students, with teary eyes and red cheeks, picked up the shovel as Colleen held the tree trunk in place.
“This is a perfect tribute to Alex because he loved the outdoors,” she said.
Even kids who didn’t know Alex well seemed touched by the outpouring. “This is sad,” one girl whispered.
After the ceremony, when others left, Alex’s friends stayed to hug and cry some more. A number of them had known Alex since his years at Lincoln Elementary School.
“He was fun and caring,” classmate Ashley Rossin said. “He loved everything. He was always happy. The sunshine was always on him.”
Other students said the death had prompted them to consider how precious and short life is.
“It makes me think you should respect the person for who they are,” said Clayton Hoffman, a close friend of Alex since kindergarten.
The sickness came on suddenly, Alex’s dad, Gordon, 36, said. Alex had been healthy all his life when he started reporting intense headaches around Halloween 1997.
One episode came at a movie with friends, when the pain was so intense he was forced to leave the theater.
He was taken for an examination. And since Colleen’s family has a history of migraines, physicians first tried migraine medicine, but that didn’t work long.
With more headaches, doctors ran tests and by mid-January 1998 found the real culprit: a fast-growing tumor in the middle of his brain. It was already grapefruit-size, despite starting only six months earlier, doctors said.
Alex spent much of the spring and summer in Iowa City hospitals undergoing surgeries and treatments, but his friends stood by him.
“They came by the house, they came by the hospital,” Gordon said. “Even though he was sick, they would talk to him and visit with him like it was nothing.”
With word of imminent death, the family brought Alex back to Waterloo, where he died Sept. 3 in his home.
“Nobody would think about it happening to your kids,” Gordon said. “It’s bad to say, but with cancer, everybody thinks it’s going to happen to somebody else. It’s unreal.”
Colleen said next week is Brain Tumor Awareness Week. She hopes the event will raise awareness of the problem and spur the search for a cure.