ST. PETERSBURG — Peter Wesdorp decorated his room with life-sized posters of Mike Alstott and Cadillac Williams and fantasized about being a running back in the NFL. As with his delight in Harry Potter and the Twilight series, Mr. Wesdorp knew the dream could never become reality.
Mr. Wesdorp had Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a rapidly worsening form of MD. Since being diagnosed at age 5, he had watched his body degenerate even as it grew.
By all accounts, Mr. Wesdorp never complained.
"He was always grateful for what he had, which wasn't a whole lot," said Laurie Jackson, Mr. Wesdorp's second- and third-grade teacher at Tyrone Elementary School.
She liked young Peter's big brown eyes with long lashes, and his helpful demeanor. "I hate to say this, but in 25 years of teaching, he was one of my favorites," said Jackson, 47.
Middle and high school years were marked by academic achievement. He graduated from Pinellas Park High School in 2004 with a 4.0 GPA.
Mr. Wesdorp worked as a greeter at the 34th Street S Walmart, smiling at shoppers from a motorized wheelchair.
"Welcome to Walmart! Have a nice day."
Some shoppers were blown away. They raved about Mr. Wesdorp's attitude. Others just stared or made rude comments.
It bothered him some — but never for long. Mr. Wesdorp stayed on the job for three years.
"It's all good," he said habitually. He applied the saying to everything, including surgeries to straighten his spine or slice his shrinking Achilles' tendons: all good.
His mother made sure of that. Evalene Driemel was there to buy his books, take him to Rays games (where he met ex-Buccaneer Alstott and wrestler Hulk Hogan), and play his favorite video games with him.
Eventually, she was there to scratch his nose when it itched.
Mr. Wesdorp did not want to die. He said he was not ready. Duchenne MD usually enters its final stages with respiratory and heart problems by the time boys reach their late teens or early 20s.
At Mr. Wesdorp's request, a minister recently visited to talk about death. He stayed two hours.
"He did not want to abandon me," said Driemel, 43. Two days before he died, his mother told him it was okay to go now, that she would be fine and so would his family.
"I told him there are a bunch of people up there waiting for him," she said. "And we'll all be up there someday."
Mr. Wesdorp died Monday, at home. He was 25.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or firstname.lastname@example.org.