|Birth: ||Nov. 5, 1981|
|Death: ||May 1, 2010|
Sleep well, little brother
In April 1999, Dustin Stovall gave one of the best performances I'd ever seen from a teenage actor when he played the lead role in Neil Simon's "Brighton Beach Memoirs" at Salina Community Theatre.
In January 2000, I shared the stage with this teenage acting prodigy in "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged." While cracking up each other during rehearsals, Dustin, Shawn Nyberg and I formed an unbreakable bond that can come only from psychically linked comic minds. Dustin became the kid brother I never had.
On Dec. 5th of the same year, exactly a month after his 19th birthday, Dustin was driving to Manhattan during a winter storm when his Honda Accord hit a patch of black ice and careened down an embankment. Dustin wasn't wearing a seatbelt. If a couple who had been driving close behind hadn't witnessed the crash, he likely would have died that night.
As it was, Dustin sustained what doctors call a TBI: traumatic brain injury.
He remained in a comatose state for nearly three months at Via Christi hospital in Wichita before being sent to Ottawa County Health Center in Minneapolis, known for its long-term traumatic brain injury rehabilitation unit. Initially, doctors thought Dustin would remain in a vegetative state the rest of his life.
But on March 15, 2001, a light seemed to switch on behind Dustin's eyes. He looked up at his mother, Debra, and said, "Hi, Mom."
Dustin had beaten the odds, but he was far from all right. He not only had to deal with memory loss and emotional problems, but the brain injury had left him with a pronounced limp on his right side, a slight slur in his speech, and nerve damage that caused the muscles of his right arm to pull in and contract.
Although he was well aware of how much he'd lost, Dustin was determined to recover from his injuries as best he could and return to what he loved doing best -- performing. In April 2004, just three years and four months after his traumatic accident, he was cast -- by director Bill Weaver -- in the role of young Billy Bibbit in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" at SCT. Dustin gave a moving performance in which his disabilities didn't distract from but enhanced his character.
I had never seen Dustin happier than when he took his curtain call and basked in the audience's warm ovation. That is, until the next year, when he played one of the poker players in "The Odd Couple." It was during that production that he worked with a young lady named Christen Pantle, who played one of the Pigeon sisters. They fell in love during the run of the show and married on Oct. 26, 2008. There wasn't a day after that that Dustin didn't tell his bride he loved her.
That should be the happily-ever-after ending of the story. But life doesn't always end like a fairy tale. For Dustin never fully recovered from his injuries, either physically or mentally. Nearly 10 years after his accident, he still suffered from severe depression and constantly was racked with pain and unbearable wrenching spasms. No matter how much medication he took, the pain never completely went away.
Last weekend, it appeared Dustin had had enough. He didn't show up for work. His car was found parked and abandoned at Bill Burke Park. He had turned off his cell phone.
On Sunday morning, Dustin's body was found in the Smoky Hill River in a channel between Bill Burke and Indian Rock parks. He apparently had taken his own life. He was just 28.
No one should blame themselves for this tragedy. No matter how much family and friends tried to help, love and support Dustin, in the end no one could alleviate the overwhelming intensity of the pain that had devastated him both physically and mentally.
I hope his family and friends can take comfort that he's finally not hurting anymore. But it's difficult not to feel selfish -- we want more of Dustin's infectious smile, caustic sense of humor, probing intellect, performing talent and generous soul. But it's not to be.
As Shakespeare wrote, "Our revels now are ended. These our actors, as I foretold you, were all spirits and are melted into air, into thin air ... . We are such stuff as dreams are made of, and our little life is rounded with a sleep."
Sleep well, little brother.
Dustin W. Stovall, 28, died Saturday, May 1, 2010.
Born Nov. 5, 1981, at K.U. Medical Center, Dustin's early school years were completed in Salina. In 2000, he graduated from Salina Central, attended K-State University and was married on Oct. 26, 2008.
A "Quote from Dustin": "All I'm here to do is to help others enjoy life. If I can enjoy it in the process, I've reached a Godly state."
Dustin was working towards creating a theatre company, "Boundless," inclusive of individuals with special needs. He was also a frequent performer at Salina Community Theatre, which also is where he met his beloved wife. Dustin's courage and love of people was something his family admired about him the most. His wish for those left behind would be that they spread Boundless love and joy in every aspect of their lives and others. He was loved by many... may his Shining Light never fade!
He is survived by his wife, Christen Stovall, of the home; his parents, Glen and Debra Stovall; siblings, Allen Stovall and wife Melanie, Cristy Negus and husband Slade, and James Walle; maternal grandparents, Walt and Jenette Clark; and paternal grandmother, Arlene Stovall. Dustin also is survived by his wife's family, parents, David and Carol Pantle; and siblings, Chelsea Penner and
husband Mike, and Rachel, David and Matthew Pantle.
Funeral services will be at 1:30 p.m. Friday, May 7, at First Presbyterian Church, Salina.
Visitation will be Thursday at Ryan Mortuary, Salina, where the family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m.
Memorial contributions are suggested to help defray the funeral expenses or to the Salina Community Theatre.
Gypsum Hill Cemetery
GPS (lat/lon): 38.83684, -97.58147
Created by: Audrae Turner Mathis
Record added: May 06, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 52074628