April 3, 1998
Clifton and Maudine McKoy will return to Perry for a few hours this weekend to greet old friends and acquaintances at the United Methodist church, where he formerly served as pastor. I know they'll be glad to greet each one who stops by to chat about anything, especially his brand new book, The Real McKoy, an inspirational story drawn from the family's real-life abundance of heartbreaks, successes and enough drama to provide the basis for a season of good theatre. The book title is borrowed from the old TV series that starred Walter Brennan and Richard Crenna.
The book, which has just been published, is sub-titled A Biography About a Boys' Ministry and a Man's Fight for Health. Those few words pretty well summarize the recent past for Clifton, who served the Perry church for a few years until 1970 when he was called to become superintendent of the Boys' Ranch at Gore. He spent seven years there working with troubled boys. He describes the experience as "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat," borrowing the familiar television sports quote as he recalls some of the individuals he worked with there.
His personal struggles brought him to a low point a little more than a year ago when he lost the feeling in both legs due to an infection of unknown origin in his spine. At the age of 70, he is now paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair. But that was not the first time Clifton McKoy believed he was at the nadir of his existence.
Clifton and Maudine were married in 1946 and had two children. George was an All-State football player at Pawhuska and Patricia was an active and vivacious child until a mishap at age 12 left her seriously disabled. It happened while Clifton served a Methodist church in Ryan, OK Patricia jumped from the back of a pickup truck and was struck by an oncoming vehicle, leaving her paralyzed. Numerous complications through the years made her entire life a struggle. Both legs were amputated and she developed multiple sclerosis. Pat died at the age of 48.
Clifton battled inward uncertainties after taking the superintendent's post at Gore in 1970. His work there was successful and he was later promoted to executive director over not only the Boys' Ranch but the Children's Home in Tahlequah, Frances Willard Home for Girls in Tulsa and an Oklahoma City counseling agency. Though lauded for his work, he never felt that he performed adequately. During the 1980s he began to suffer from depression and in 1982 he was hospitalized twice. He requested a leave of absence from his job and concentrated on getting better. Two things are credited with bringing relief. "I quit taking the medication for depression and began uttering breath prayers," he relates. The prayers were from Psalms: "restore unto me the joy of your salvation." Clifton believes he uttered that prayer a hundred millions times, and he began "coming out of the fog."
Clifton's story, and there is much more to it, is detailed in his autobiography. With Maudine at his side, he will be at the church Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. to visit with anyone who can drop in. It will be good to see both of them back in Perry, if only for a short time.