Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
FAIRFIELD — A plaque was recently unveiled in the Jefferson County Courthouse honoring Chuck Myers for his organ and tissue donations that have helped 57 people.
Myers was a lifelong Fairfield resident who worked at Dexter and Iowa Malleable. Though his family didn’t know it, he was an organ donor, and when he died suddenly in 2014 at the age of 61, his organs and tissue went to hospital patients who needed them most.
The Iowa Department of Transportation honored Myers’s gift with a plaque outside the treasurer’s office in the Jefferson County Courthouse, where Myers’ son Mark works as the county’s treasurer. The DOT is teaming up with the Iowa Donor Network to honor organ donors with a permanent plaque in each of Iowa’s 99 counties. Jefferson County is the seventh county to receive a plaque.
Mark said it is a great honor to see his father recognized on a plaque, but added, “He’d whip me if he were still around to see this,” because his dad did not want to be in the limelight.
“He was always asking how he could help and never worried about getting recognition,” Mark said.
Chuck was active in the local Little League organization, Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, and was one of the founders of the Challenger League, a baseball league for people with disabilities. The ball diamond formerly located on the west end of the Jefferson County Fairgrounds was named after him.
Lindsay Adam, a former employee in the Jefferson County Treasurer’s Office who is now the deputy treasurer for Washington County, nominated Chuck Myers to receive this honor. When Mark Myers was elected Jefferson County treasurer in 2018, he began a practice of having his employees wear organ donor T-shirts.
Mark said he got the idea while attending a high school basketball game where Iowa State Bank was promoting organ donation. He asked bank President Aaron Kness if he could use the same organ donor logo the bank used on T-shirts he wanted to order for his staff. Kness agreed.
Mark had the shirts printed at Fairfield Line and asked his employees to wear them on the last Thursday of every month. The Iowa Donor Network gave his office organ donor knickknacks and informational pamphlets to hand out to encourage organ donation.
After Chuck’s death, the family received letters from the recipients of Chuck’s organs and tissue, grateful for his donation. Mark said the recipients do not know who they receive organs from, but the Iowa Donor Network shares these letters with the donor’s family.
The campaign to promote organ donation on T-shirts started with Mark and his staff in Jefferson County, but it quickly grew. A photo of the staff wearing their T-shirts was posted to the DOT’s Facebook page in 2018.
The campaign really took off when the family of Drew Lienemann heard about what Jefferson County was doing and purchased organ donor T-shirts for every driver’s license office in the state. Drew Lienemann was a senior at Waukee High School when he died in 2016. His organs and tissue have helped 194 people.
“The Lienemann family took my idea and blew it up,” Mark said. “Never in a million years did I think it would get this big.”
Heather Butterfield, director of strategic communications for the Iowa Donor Network, said a person who donates their organs can help others in myriad ways. Corneas can help restore vision for up to two people; bones and tendons can be used to replace tissue destroyed by tumors, saving limbs that would otherwise be amputated; veins can be used in patients who need coronary artery bypass surgery; and skin can be given to burn victims as a temporary covering to protect the body from infection.
“Iowa Donor Network’s strong partnership the Iowa Department of Transportation and driver’s license service centers across Iowa is vital to growing Iowa’s donor registry and saving lives,” Butterfield said. “A single organ donor can save up to eight lives and a single tissue donor can heal 50-300 people. It is our hope that one day every Iowan will be inspired to donate life.”
There are more than 107,000 people waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant in the United States, including nearly 600 in Iowa. Iowans can register to save lives at their local driver’s license service station or at IowaDonorNetwork.org.
The DOT and Iowa Donor Network hope the plaques honoring local organ and tissue donors will inspire more Iowans to say “yes” to becoming an organ, eye and tissue donor when obtaining their driver’s license. All the plaques honor a deceased donor, living donor or recipient from the community in which the plaque is installed. According to the Iowa Donor Network, more than 1.58 million Iowans are registered to be organ, eye, and tissue donors and 97 percent have registered when getting a driver’s license.