Adversity is no match for Margaret

UF senior basketball player has overcome grief more than once

By Alyssa Grevenkamp

As I was watching New Girl on Netflix on a Monday afternoon, there was a loud knock on my door. Most of the time I would be freaking out not knowing who was knocking on my door, but today I knew exactly who it was. It was Margaret Wuebker.

As I opened the door, she had a huge smile on her face and said, “Lyss! What’s up? How are you?” It felt as if a long lost friend had just come to my door after many years of not seeing one another.

She was in scrubs, wearing her badge. She had just come from her clinical down at St. Rita’s hospital in Lima. This was not a familiar sight for me as I was much more used to seeing her in gym shorts and a sweaty T-shirt for basketball practice.

I was used to her being a hard working teammate of mine on the basketball court. That’s the Margaret I’d seen for the past three years and so had her teammates. But there’s more than what meets the eye with Margaret.

Margaret went home many weekends to spend time with her family. Many of us didn’t know the extent of why she was going home so often until one of the first weeks of the fall semester of her freshman year.

One morning at 6 a.m., Coach Cummings had the freshman class show up to the gym for a 20 in 20. A 20 in 20 is 20 suicides in 20 minutes. It’s extremely difficult because you only have about 10-15 seconds of rest time and then you’re right back on the line for another round of sprints.

By the time we were done and made it through the misery, Margaret was leaning on Kelsey and then proceeded to sit down against the gym wall. She called the coaches over to sit down with us. As she tried to catch her breath, she explained what was going on in her life. She told us about her mom and how she had lung cancer, but never smoked a day in her life.

“In the fall of my freshman year it was hard. You’re homesick a lot,” said Wuebker. “I also thought I was terrible at basketball, like every freshman does. I remember my freshman summer thinking, ‘I’m terrible. I don’t know why they wanted me to come here.’ Then season started and I feel like I adjusted better.”

But Margaret was far from terrible. As a freshman, she made 26 starts out of 30 games, averaged 5.5 points and 4 rebounds per game.

Her freshman year wasn’t easy by any means as her mom became sicker and sicker. One thing that wasn’t hard to see was that Margaret got a lot of her drive and courage from her mother.

Her mom tried to make it to all the remaining home games that she could as well as some road games, even though she was very sick. Cancer wasn’t going to stop her.

As our season ended, Margaret had more time to go home on weekends and skip out on some of our spring workouts. As it became closer to the end of the semester, Margaret’s mother became weaker.

On April 26, 2013 Margaret’s mother, Mary Wuebker, passed away at their home in Celina, Ohio.

The team went to the visitation the day before her mother’s funeral.

While I was at the visitation, I got to see Margaret’s father Mike. He gave me a big hug and we talked for about a minute or so. I just remember him joking with me and having a big smile on his face. I had no idea that this would be the last time I would see him as well.

June 8, 2013 was the day her father passed away. Not even two months after her mother had passed, her dad had suddenly passed away of a heart attack.

“I remember thinking, after my mom died, God forbid if something would happen to my dad, there’s just no way I could keep playing. I didn’t think I could keep playing at all. There’s no way. I’d have to quit school and move home. Then it did happen and I just stayed,” said Wuebker.

A lot of her teammates remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they got the news about Margaret’s dad.

“Margaret called me that morning and I was trying to be funny so I answered and said, ‘Buddy the Elf what’s your favorite color?’ I didn’t hear anything from the other line so I said ‘Margaret?’ I could hear her crying and I asked if she was okay. Then she told me that her dad had passed away,” said Gunning. “I remember I was on my couch and I had just started the very first episode of Breaking Bad and the theme song was playing. Every time I see Breaking Bad that song still kind of haunts me, it’s like an eerie feeling.”

Many were unsure if she was going to come back or not. When she came back for the summer after her mom’s death that spoke tremendously about her character and how she persevered. But after her dad passed, having both parents die within about a month of each other, speaks volumes about how Margaret’s strength.

“I was glad I did come back. It wasn’t a chore for me to stay in school. I looked forward to coming back and I think it was good for me,” said Wuebker.

She spoke about all the support she received from family and friends during that traumatic time. Without all the support, it would have been very difficult to get through those tough times.

“I’m glad Margaret has the family that she has because it would have been a lot tougher to go through that without Clara, Marianne, and Bob [her siblings]. They’re a great family and are all very supportive of each other,” said Gunning.

Not only were family and friends supportive, but also the coaching staff.

“The coaches were really understanding saying that family comes first. My sophomore year Clara was playing volleyball and I was able to go to almost all of her games which was really great. I’d get out of practice early or skip some things just to go watch Clara, which I was really grateful they let me do that. If they had been stricter about it I would have been like okay I don’t need this. They were never like that. They were very understanding,” said Wuebker.

After her parents passed, there were plenty of times that were tough to go through.

“If I wasn’t her best friend, I wouldn’t have known that she was going through all that because she never talked about it or asked for sympathy. She doesn’t want people to feel bad for her. She didn’t want attention. She internalized a lot of it and dealt with it herself. It gave me a new perspective with my own personal life not to take things for granted and stuff like that. She’s definitely one of the best people I’ve ever met,” said Gunning.

Even after some time has passed, there are still going to be up and down days for her.

“I know she still has some rough nights, but she’ll never let you see them,” said junior teammate Karli Bonar.

Besides the fact of her persevering through everything, she’s a great person to have as a friend.

“She’s fun to be around,” said Gunning. “She’s someone you can have a serious conversation with, joke around with, or not talk at all and just hang out. Either way, it’s the best conversation that you’ve had. There’s just a presence about her.”

No matter if she’s on or off the court she has a certain presence about her. That presence will always be remembered long after Margaret graduates.

Some think she’ll be remembered for her jump shot. Others believe for the all-around person she is on and off the court. Still others for making it into the 1,000 point club.

As Margaret and I joked about her legacy, she got more serious and knew exactly what she wanted to be remembered for.

“I want to be remembered as a hard worker,” said Wuebker. “I want people to know that I gave the University of Findlay everything that I had. I feel like I was able to give the University a lot and I feel like I got a lot in return as well.”

With her wrapping up her basketball career soon, a new career is starting for her in the nuclear medicine field.

“Right now I’m in the clinical part of my degree. I’m at St. Rita’s every day and I work in their nuclear medicine department. I work from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and then I drive back for practice which is at 3:30 or 3:45 p.m. It’s crazy but I’m enjoying it,” said Wuebker.

As we were wrapping up, she told me about some of her future plans. She wants to move to Columbus after she graduates in August. She’s not too certain of what the future will hold or what she’ll want to be doing quite yet.

“My experience with life so far is when you have a plan it just all seems to go to crap and you have to figure out something else,” said Wuebker. “You have to be able to put things together as you go along.”

Simple, but still unique in her own words. Just like the person she is.

As she was leaving my apartment, I wanted to ask her so much more about basketball, life, her family, but I was very thankful we got to sit and chat for the time that we did. It was like old friends wrapping up the visit and saying goodbye to one another, not knowing when they would see each other next.

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