SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — William Linder is a family man, a Jeopardy! lover, and as competitive as they come, which is fitting considering his favorite pastime.
“He can tell you about any sports team,” his granddaughter Nickole Wolfkiel explained. William’s daughter Linda Claven describes her father as a “sports fanatic.”
Linder first heard about Joseph Girard III when he lived in Endicott, N.Y. Four years ago, after moving to Johnstown, his fandom grew with every newspaper article he read about the Glens Falls sharp shooter, and every sports highlight he watched on the news. He constantly told his family how much he wanted to see the local basketball star play in person.
That wish didn’t come true until Saturday, when Nickole surprised her grandfather at the nursing home in Gloversville with a Syracuse T-shirt and tickets.
“Today?” he asked her in shock. When she assured him that she was taking him to the game, he looked up to the sky and uttered, “beautiful.” He followed it up quickly with, “I want to see that kid play.”
Linder has stage four prostate cancer and is living out his final days in hospice care. His health is declining rapidly. Even though he knew the day would be long and hard on his body, he never hesitated. He didn’t take his usual naps in the car; he was too excited. Like a child would, he asked Nickole and her three sons from time to time if they were there yet.
Once they were settled into their seats, Linder was in his glory. Girard scored 12 points and dished out six assists in Syracuse’s 97-46 win over Bucknell.
After the game, they waited for the Syracuse players to emerge from the tunnel. Linder didn’t know why, until Girard came up to him and shook his hand. The freshman thanked his longtime fan for coming, to which Linder responded, “keep up your career.”
Girard’s own grandfather died of cancer. When he was alive, he taught Joe that “it’s the little people who make you big.”
Through setting New York’s all-time scoring record and winning a state championship his senior year, Girard has stayed grounded, making time for the fans whenever he can. This encounter is one that will never be forgotten.
Wolfkiel said she couldn’t have done anything more special for her grandfather. When they left, Linder looked back and said, “I can’t say I’ve never been to the Carrier Dome before.” His wish had come true.