Golf tournament continues to remember local humanitarian Skip McDermott

By Calla Vassilopoulos - Staff Writer
Windsor - posted Thu., Aug. 15, 2013
Francis 'Skip' McDermott wearing a t-shirt representing the Connecticut 'Transplant Games' team. Courtesy photo. - Contributed Photo

Whether it was for Cub Scouts, Little League, the Democratic Town Committee or the Elks Lodge, Francis “Skip” McDermott never hesitated to serve the Windsor community. Aside from his work around town, McDermott - who passed away in 2001 - was also active in raising money for the Connecticut Kidney Transplantation Research and Organ Donor Awareness Fund, which he founded. The upcoming Skip McDermott Golf Tournament continues his legacy.

“He was a very caring person,” said his wife, Betty McDermott. “He had a plaque that someone gave him and there was a poem or a reading engraved. The very first sentence hit me every time I read it. It said, 'That man is a success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much,' and that kind of describes him a little bit.”

After losing two brothers to kidney disease, McDermott became ill in 1972. Fortunately, his only surviving brother, Jim, was able to donate one of his kidneys. McDermott was one of the first 10 patients to receive the surgery at Hartford Hospital, because at the time transplantation was a new procedure.

Following the operation, McDermott decided to become an advocate for the cause by raising funds for his doctor, who was starting a kidney transplantation research lab at Hartford Hospital. Betty said much of the money they earned went to the cause.

As a member of the Elks Lodge and former exalted ruler, McDermott would hold golf tournaments and dances to help raise money for the research. As time went on, the lab evolved and began research for other transplantation, including lung, heart, bone marrow and liver transplants. He also participated in the “Transplant Games of America,” which was created to bring awareness to the need for organ donors.

“It is just like the Olympics,” said Betty. “They all had to have uniforms and they did the big march around the arena with a torch.” McDermott participated in golf and basketball, but there were several other sports including track, tennis, swimming and ping pong. Betty said he always enjoyed watching and participating in sports, especially golf.

Though raising awareness for kidney disease was an important part of McDermott's adult life, he also continued to work full-time and was a parent of four children. As a father of two sons, McDermott became involved with Cub Scouts as a scout master, as well as coaching and refereeing for the Little League.

“He was a friend to a lot of people, and when he had his wake and funeral, there was certainly hundreds of people there,” said his brother-in-law, Tom Arcari. “It really showed that he did a lot for the community and he had a lot of friends.”

Arcari is also one of the annual Skip McDermott Golf Tournament committee members. The tournament was created in memory of McDermott. According to his wife, McDermott talked about having a golf tournament for his 30th year as a kidney transplant recipient, which would have been in 2003.

This year's tournament, which commemorates what would have been McDermott's 40th year, will be held Aug. 24 at Blue Fox Run Golf Course in Avon. Aside from golf, there will be dinner, awards and raffles. For more information, contact Tom Arcari 860-688-3417 or Betty McDermott at 860-688-9213.

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