Heroes: Mike & Debbie Cliatt

December 12, 2006

Allison Cliatt has nominated her mom, Debbie Cliatt, for our Hall of Heroes. Debbie passed away while in Atlanta for the 2006 Dome games. We're also including her father Mike, a true Red Devil fan.

Here's Allison's nomination, dated December 10, 2006:

This time last week, I was contemplating sending in a nomination for the next “hero,” but with final exams going on, I never got around to doing it. Originally, I wanted to nominate my dad, Mike. His loyalty to Lincoln County has been instilled in me since before I was even old enough to walk. (Keep in mind that I’m what has been dubbed as an NFL, or Not From Lincolnton.)

Lincoln County football has been in his blood for generations. He used to make it to nearly every game before my mom’s medical problems. Even then, he made it to most games. My dad is probably one of the loudest people in Buddy Bufford Stadium on Friday nights. From horns powered by 12-volt batteries to his yellow flag in his back pocket (just in case the referees forget theirs…), he’s known as a die-hard fan. Ask him about road trips to Homerville, Folkston, Monticello, Miller County, and he can tell you all about how many times he’s been there, how cold it was, who was on the bus, and what kind of hell he gave the referees that night. He may not remember much these days, but he ALWAYS remembers Lincoln County games.

This past week, he asked me about going back to the Dome. Let me tell you, this is one devoted man…He wants to be the first one in line every year, even if it means being there at 5am in the freezing cold. He gets there early so he can get “his” seats. Front row, 50-yard line, no exceptions. I figured I might need to give him a little help this year and join him in this ritual for an unprecedented EIGHTH time. As it turned out, he didn’t need my help. For a 55-year-old, he’s still got what it takes, even if it means cheering for another team in the first game.

I can’t tell you how ecstatic he was that Lincoln County would be in the title game once again, but as you know, it was a very bittersweet day after finding out that my mom passed away in the hotel room while we were gone. In talking with friends and family, it became very obvious to me that I had omitted one very important nominee…

My dad could not possibly have found a more devoted Red Devil fan in my mom (also a NFL). When I was a child, she picked me up early every Friday afternoon from school in Augusta, and we would drive to Lincolnton. She always made signs for the big games or bought Red Devil paraphernalia. She always made sure to have a noisemaker or two on hand. Come Saturday morning, her hands would have blisters from cow bells and noisemakers and have little or no voice from all the yelling she’d done.

Over the last six and a half years, she hasn’t made it to many games. Her health problems made it impossible most of the time, but when she felt strong enough to walk, she always insisted on going to the game. The only way we could have kept her home would have been to lock her up and throw away the key. Just several weeks ago, she was in the hospital in a coma for nine days and on a ventilator for 18. One of the first things she asked after being taken off the ventilator was if my dad had made reservations at the Omni for another trip to the Dome. It didn’t matter to her that she was still sick. She just knew that Lincoln County was headed back for another trip and that she was going, even if it was only to watch the game on TV at the hotel. She simply wanted a change of scenery and a chance to show her support.

She managed to make it just one game this year. She was determined to make it to the Hawkinsville-Lincoln County match-up. With her oxygen tank handy and lots of blankets, she was able to sit through most of the game before having to be helped to the car early in the fourth quarter. It wore her out, but she wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Even on the way to Atlanta, she asked if we brought her new red sweatshirt, her blinking Red Devil pin, and her noisemakers even though she knew she’d be watching the game from the hotel. It was a rough weekend, and we offered to cut it short so that we could take her to the hospital. She refused. When Saturday morning rolled around, she appeared to be doing much better and insisted we still go to the game. When we’d set out that morning, we never knew that would be the last time we’d see her alive. She was a fighter and a miracle. Most importantly, I know that she didn’t suffer and that she died doing what she loved, and that was being a part of a Lincoln County tradition.

She has touched so many people, and not a game goes by that people don’t ask about her. Their thoughts and prayers have meant so much to all of us the last few years. I know that my mom will be with us in spirit Saturday night against Clinch County, and I imagine she’ll have a much better seat than the rest of us.


Allison Cliatt

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