Donald C. Thiry, a Town of Hamburg recreation worker who inspired many as he battled neurofibromatosis, died unexpectedly Friday. He was 29.
"He was an inspiration to his fellow workers," said Hamburg Recreation Director Marty Denecke. "He was very determined to live as normal a life as he could. While he was somewhat limited because of what he could do physically, what he did he did that very well."
Mr. Thiry was also an attendant at the Buffalo Bills Fieldhouse, said his mother, Bonnie.
Neurofibromatosis is a disease that causes tumors to grow on nerves and produces bone and skin abnormalities. Mr. Thiry had undergone 38 surgeries over the years.
"Our son had a ton of friends because he was so courageous with everything he had to battle with," his mother said. "My son was disabled, but he never thought he had a disability. He went on thinking there was nothing wrong with him, and he did the most he could with his life."
Mr. Thiry was 5 feet tall and weighed 92 pounds, she said. He stopped growing after suffering cardiac arrest and going into a coma at age 12. He carried oxygen with him wherever he went.
He was known for working the tables at basketball games, helping with flag football games and working as a counselor at summer camps.
He received the Human Spirit Award from the Hamburg Recreation Department in 2002. In 1995, a "Donald Carl Thiry Day" was declared in Hamburg in his honor for his courage and inspiration in the face of the disease while at Frontier High School.
He was a Frontier graduate and also had two associate degrees from Erie Community College.
Mr. Thiry and his family also also helped raise more than $100,000 toward research on neurofibromatosis, primarily through charity golf tournaments.
In addition to his mother, he is survived by his father, Donald J., and two sisters, Kimberly Cook and Shelly.
Services will be at 10 a.m. Thursday in Wayside Presbyterian Church, S5017 Lake Shore Road, Hamburg.