Tyler Plummer was one of those people who was easy to like.
“He was someone who it didn’t matter if you knew him for a little bit of time or a lot of time, he made an impact and people just loved him,” said Annika Plummer, his wife.
Plummer continues to make an impact in people’s lives, almost a year after his untimely death.
The Dickinson State graduate and passionate supporter of the Blue Hawk wrestling team died on Jan. 25 at age 33. The Baker, Mont., native had battled cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disease, since he was diagnosed with a heart infection as a 19-year-old DSU freshman.
In addition to being an avid wrestling fan and a cowboy whose claim to fame was his role as a stunt horse rider in the North Dakota-filmed movie “Wooly Boys,” Plummer was also an organ donor.
After his death, Plummer’s corneas were donated to the Lions Eye Bank of North Dakota. Today, there are two people whom Plummer’s family does not know who can see again because of his gift.
A cowboy through and through, Plummer was the type of man who didn’t say more than needed to be said and was always a person to go out of his way to lend a helping hand.
“It was always about somebody else,” said Susan Plummer, his mother. “It doesn’t surprise me. I was really proud of him.”
In honor of his donation, Plummer is one of 72 American organ donors whose likenesses have been made into floral arrangements on the Donate Life America float that will appear in the Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, Calif., part of the celebration that features the Rose Bowl football game between Wisconsin and Stanford later that day.
On Dec. 18, Plummer’s family took part in the experience of decorating Tyler’s floragraph.
The floragraph, a stunning resemblance to the photo of Tyler the Plummer family submitted, was made in California and shipped to the Lions Eye Bank in Bismarck. There, 10 members of Plummer’s family completed it.
“I had no idea this was going to be like this,” Annika Plummer said. “I thought it was going to be really difficult. It was an emotional experience, but it was such an honor when we got there, we just looked at it and we just thought it was such a neat experience to be able to honor him in this way.”
The floragraph is made of seeds and seasonings, which are dabbed into place by a small paintbrush on top of regular Elmer’s glue.
Plummer’s floragraph was shipped back to California the following day and will be placed on the float along with the likenesses of 71 others who donated organs, eyes or tissue in death during 2012.
He’ll be the first North Dakotan featured on the float, which is in its ninth year.
“It’s amazing thing,” Annika Plummer said.
Plummer’s memory will be kept alive at DSU, where he played multiple roles for coach Thadd O’Donnell’s wrestling team.
On Jan. 19, the Blue Hawk Classic annual wrestling tournament will be renamed the Tyler Plummer Classic in his honor.
It was a decision Annika Plummer, an administrative secretary for the DSU department of agriculture and technology studies, did not know about until the Blue Hawks’ wrestling schedule was emailed to her.
“I was just so overwhelmed with him for doing that,” Plummer said of O’Donnell and the DSU athletic department’s decision to rename the tournament.
“I sobbed at my desk. It came as a surprise.”