Jeffrey M. Boynton, a promising Plum High School football player who was paralyzed during a 1978 all-star game, died Wednesday from injuries he suffered in a car accident Sept. 29. He was 54.
Mr. Boynton’s gridiron accomplishments at Plum earned him offers from the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Miami, Arizona State University and West Virginia University, where he signed a letter of intent. He also earned an invitation to play in the Big 33 Football Classic, an annual all-star game featuring Pennsylvania’s best high school players.
But shortly before the Big 33 game, Mr. Boynton broke his neck making a tackle in an all-star game for Pittsburgh-area players in Mt. Lebanon.
“I think the Big 33 was the following week. He didn’t make that,” recalled his sister, Sharon Boynton Silvio of Plum.
Ms. Silvio said her brother was always upbeat despite being a quadriplegic.
“He never thought of himself as handicapped. He just lived his life the way he played football. He was never depressed,” she said.
Mr. Boynton remained that way even after the Sept. 29 accident. It happened on Interstate 79 near Greenville, Mercer County, and also injured his father, Alan, who was driving. Ms. Silvio said her brother had two broken femurs and a ruptured spleen and was flown to UPMC Presbyterian. He went into cardiac arrest when doctors removed his spleen but appeared to be recovering, she said.
“We thought everything was going to be fine,” Ms. Silvio said. “We had a lot of hope because he is such a fighter.”
After four weeks, he was transferred to LifeCare Hospital in Monroeville, an acute, long-term care facility. Patricia Foutz-Baird, a former classmate and nurse practitioner, visited him there regularly, helping him to exercise.
“He just wanted to go home. That was his goal,” Ms. Foutz-Baird said. “He would exercise as much as possible in that bed. He was so sick, but he just wanted to go home.”
Ms. Silvio said complications developed, causing her brother’s health to slowly deteriorate. Three days before his death, $12,000 was raised at a benefit for a college scholarship fund in his name that was held at Johnny’s Restaurant in Wilmerding. Ron Zummo, the restaurant owner and a former classmate of Mr. Boynton, said the event was successful because Mr. Boynton’s positive, upbeat attitude inspired people to want to help and support him.
The scholarship will go to a college-bound Plum High graduate who, like Mr. Boynton, overcomes adversity, Ms. Foutz-Baird said. “He just persevered. Quadriplegics don’t live 35 years. He just persevered and pushed and pushed and pushed,” she said.
In addition to his sister and father, who is recovering from the car accident, Mr. Boynton is survived by two brothers, Chris of Ashburn, Va., and Alan of Mechanicsburg.
Visitation is today at Maurice L. Knee Funeral Home, 7663 Saltsburg Road, Plum, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Monday at St. John the Baptist Church, 444 Saint John St., Plum. Burial will follow at Plum Creek Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to the Jeff Boynton Scholarship Fund, 5134 Harvest Drive, Murrysville, PA 15668.
Len Boselovic: email@example.com or 412-263-1941. First Published January 4, 2014 11:37 PM