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For a Reason

MU graduate John Gilbert of Fairfax has represented the United States internationally playing wheelchair basketball since 2004.

If you looked at John Gilbert’s life on paper a few years back, you might have thought he was going nowhere fast. Gilbert is a paraplegic from a poor, single-parent home in a tiny and economically troubled Missouri town. Sometimes, Gilbert says, things were “skinny” around the house. When most people utter the phrase “Things happen for a reason,” it can sound trite. But coming from Gilbert you believe it. For although he blithely lets fate have its head in some aspects of life, in other realms he is champion of his own future.

Gilbert, BS ’10, a graduate student in MU’s College of Education, has seen London, Paris and Sydney from his wheelchair. Because of his talent and hard work, he has represented the United States internationally playing wheelchair basketball since 2004.

Apparently, Gilbert never looked at his life on paper.

The heart of Fairfax

One of the things that happened for a reason was his family’s move to Fairfax, Mo. When Gilbert’s parents broke up, his grandparents were in Fairfax, and they all came to love the openness of its people. “We stayed because of the heart of Fairfax,” he says.

“It’s a town with more cows than people — all 645 of us,” Gilbert says. He describes the town, bypassed by a highway and buffeted by competition from big-box stores, as economically on the rocks. But the locals are tight, he says. They adopted the Gilberts and made sure they had what they needed. “I love the heart of that place. Everybody knows everybody and waves when you pass. There are no police — the people handle that. If you spit off the bridge, everybody knows before it hits the ground.”

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