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Boyd undaunted by his disability

As Rob Boyd walked through the golf course, his opponents looked at his leg braces and awkward gait and saw an easy win.

But Boyd never lost a round.

His close friend Teresa McLawhorn traveled up and down the East Coast, playing golf with Boyd.

“Everyone we played, we always shut them down on the 14th hole, and we always took their money,” she remembered.

Boyd died July 1 from a heart attack. He was 59.

He lived his final years in North Carolina, where he was often crippled by pain.

But friends and family remember Boyd as a competitive spirit with a strong will, someone who stayed positive in the face of trials—a man who turned paralysis into an agency that helps hundreds of area residents.

“He was always very positive and upbeat and looking ahead,” said his brother, Scott Boyd.

Rob was paralyzed in 1991, when a chunk of disk (the padding between vertebra) wedged off and lodged in his spine during a racquetball game.

The incident left the athlete and golf enthusiast a paraplegic.

Rob rallied and learned to play tennis in a wheelchair and golf on leg braces. In 1995, he became the U.S. Indoor and Outdoor Champion in wheelchair tennis.

He remained active and social. But nerve pain often interfered. At times, Rob would retreat and spend days by himself when the pain was at its worst.

“I watched him suffer so much. It was hard to watch, but he really did keep his spirits up,” McLawhorn said. “You can’t even comprehend the pain he lived with.”

Rob also tackled a new role—as an advocate for people with disabilities.

Then a Lake of the Woods resident, Rob discovered that most houses were not accessible for people with disabilities and urged builders to embrace universal design techniques.

He also joined forces with another paraplegic, Faith Smith, to create the disAbility Resource Center in 1993. At the time, there wasn’t an agency helping residents with physical or sensory disabilities.

By example, Rob showed others that a disability doesn’t have to slow you down.

He moved to North Carolina, to live in a private community with a golf course. It was a dream come true for a man who was happiest with a golf club in his hand.

But in his last years, the nerve pain was so intense that Rob didn’t get to play as many rounds as he’d have liked.

“I know it just broke his heart,” Scott said.

But Rob remained upbeat for his friends.

“He always just gave great advice,” McLawhorn said. “I can’t believe I’m not going to be able to call him anymore. He was devoted and he was a huge friend.”

Rob didn’t have a history of heart problems, so his family—which includes his mother, Shirley—was surprised when he died of a heart attack.

Friends and family have planned a public memorial service at Trinity Episcopal Church in Fredericksburg, where Rob’s father was a rector.

They hope to honor Rob’s strength and his service to the Fredericksburg community.

“He had quite a spirit, and it’s just all the more amazing when you understand how crushing the pain was,” Scott said. “He had tremendous courage, I admire him so much for that.”

Amy Umble: 540/735-1973