and will to live."
For the last six years, Arnie Futagaki has battled Amyotrophic Lateral
Sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
Although his disease has slowly debilitated his muscles and stolen his
ability to speak, 51-year-old Arnie Futagaki continues to be "a quiet
inspiration" to his former Golden West College football teammates, who
reunited after three decades to organize the fund-raiser for the man who
was once their captain and coach.
"I love the man," Steve Cashdollar, a former running back, said as he
served drinks. "I knew him only four months, but I've mentioned his name
about five times a year, every year, since then because that's what I
think of him."
Humble. Tough. Courageous. Dependable. Futagaki was a rock, said Steve
Farmer, also a former running back, who like many of his teammates, read
about Futagaki's disease in a local newspaper earlier this year and
decided to do something about it.
Seeing Futagaki, once a powerful athlete but now robbed of speech and
movement, forced his friends to "stop and realize how lucky we are to
have each other," said Doug Pricer, a former lineman.
"Everyone on this team has cried about Arnie," he added. "If they say
they haven't, they're lying."
Futagaki cries, too, to show his appreciation for his friends and loved
ones, said his wife, Shirley.
At their Fountain Valley home on Friday, Shirley made a sign that
expressed her husband's feelings. It read: "These are tears of joy, for I
am overwhelmed by everyone's kindness."
"I can basically understand most of what he wants, but I don't understand
all," Shirley said as she shaved Arnie's face Friday in preparation for
Saturday's event. "It's frustrating, and sometimes I just talk to him and
tell him my worries."
The family is not alone.
Futagaki is one of about 100 Lou Gehrig's patients in Orange County and
about 5,000 in the United States, said Cheryl Holt, executive director of
the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Assn.
The organization provides counseling, medical equipment and limited
support for families battling the physical and emotional impacts of the