LUCKEY, Ohio - Ron S. DeFalco, 24, who lived with muscular dystrophy and was named the poster child for the degenerative muscle disease by the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Northwest Ohio in 1992, died Sunday at Toledo Hospital from complications of the disease.
Mr. DeFalco, a longtime member of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, enjoyed the year he spent as an ambassador for the disease, family members said.
"He loved it. He did a number of fund-raising events and he gave a lot of people in the area a chance to get to know him," his brother Chad said.
Born in Oregon, his mother said he was a sprightly boy, even when he started feeling the effects of the disease that kept him in a wheelchair for 16 years of his life.
"He loved life," said Karla McKenzie, his mother. "He always had a smile on his face, and he was such a sports enthusiast."
He attended St. Jerome Elementary School in Walbridge, which was "the best place for him," his mother said. "He loved it there because the students and the teachers involved him in everything they did."
His mother recalled that playing T-ball at the school was one of his favorite things. "He played every time, even when he couldn't walk anymore," she said. "The coach would carry him around the bases and he loved it."
He was the team manager of his elementary school basketball team and went on to become the Lake Flyers' football team manager at Lake High School, from which he graduated in 2001.
"He had a great personality," his brother recalled. And even though he had a debilitating disease, "he never had to stay home for anything. He liked to be treated like anybody else even though he was in a wheelchair."
A sports fan who could rattle off historic statistics in many sports, his mother said that he was an especially big fan of the University of Michigan Wolverines.
Surviving are his mother, Karla McKenzie; father, Ralph DeFalco; sisters, Angelina, Dawn, and Marissa DeFalco, Nicole Carey, Amber Ankney, and Alexis and Alyssa Cooper; brothers, Chad, Michael, and Anthony Cooper, and a grandmother, Korinne Pasqualone.
Visitation will be after 5 p.m. today in the Witzler-Shank Funeral Home, where the Rosary will be recited at 7 p.m. tomorrow. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Thursday in St. Jerome Catholic Church, Walbridge.
The family suggests tributes to the church.