art of darkness: a story of CTE
this is the story of Greg Ploetz
Gregory Paul Ploetz
1949 - 2015
Greg Ploetz, former Sherman resident, passed away on May 11, 2015 while in hospice care in Little Rock, Arkansas. The cause of death was long term effects of frontal lobe dementia.
Greg was born on February 11, 1949 in Buffalo, New York. His father was an officer in the Air Force and the family moved frequently, from New York to Okinawa; Mobile, Alabama; and Colorado Springs. In 1964, the family relocated to Sherman where Greg's father was stationed at Perrin Air Force Base.
Greg starred on the gridiron for the Bearcats, playing guard and linebacker and in 1966 was selected as a team captain his senior year. He attended the University of Texas on a football scholarship and was a mainstay on the defense for the Longhorns memorable 1969 National Championship team, playing in the much heralded "Game of the Century" between Texas and Arkansas. Texas famously took the lead for good late in the fourth quarter in a game attended by President Nixon that cemented the Longhorns hold on their No. 1 national ranking.
After sitting out the 1970 football season, Ploetz was heavily recruited by the Texas coaches to rejoin the team. In spite of the one year layoff, Greg starred at defensive tackle and was selected All-Southwest Conference for the 1971 Longhorns. His final game as a Longhorn was the 1972 Cotton Bowl.
With multiple interests both on and off the playing field, Ploetz received his Bachelor of Arts from UT and in 1975 earned a Master of Fine Arts. This led to a successful career as an artist, football coach and a teacher. Early in his career he was a professor at San Antonio College, the University of Arkansas/Little Rock and Art Director at the Ft. Worth Country Day School
After his marriage to the former Debra Hardin (a graduate of the University of Arkansas!) in 1978, Greg and Deb traveled in Europe, he worked at a London art gallery and for several years they managed an art house movie theater in San Antonio.
In 1995, Ploetz began an eleven year stint teaching art and coaching football at Ft. Worth's inner city high school, Trimble Tech. He was extremely dedicated to exposing his students to art and creative expression, most of whom had few opportunities otherwise.
The exact cause of Greg's death may not be determined until research can be done at Boston University where the family has donated his brain for a study on chronic traumatic encephalopathy and the effects of athletic related brain injuries. He and his family struggled with his condition for years, and the last two years were particularly difficult as Greg endured extreme pain while attempts to find a medical solution were unsuccessful.
Those who knew Greg were aware of his vast and eclectic curiosity and his many skills – as adept with his hands as he was scholastically. He was equally at ease with teachers, students, artists, athletes, photographers, construction workers and film makers.
Throughout most of his adult life, Greg maintained a studio and showed his art work at exhibits and art galleries, often selling his work to collectors.
Greg is survived by the joy of his life, Deb, who tirelessly advocated and cared for him in the last years of his life, and their two adult children, Erin Marie and Frederick Beausarge (Beau). Erin lives in Dallas with her husband, Dan Cherkassky, and their son, Lukas Gregory, born in 2013. Beau resides in Colorado with longtime friend Casey Thomsen. Chris Fry, Greg's eldest son from a former marriage has two sons, Keelan and Kason, with wife, Crystal. Chris' godfather was legendary UT football player Freddie Steinmark.
Other surviving family include Greg's sisters Sherry Burns, Susie Dudley, Gail Baker and his brothers Charlie, Jim, Gary and their families, and Deb's two sisters along with their families.
A memorial service is scheduled for 4 p.m., May 24th, at the Botanical Gardens Restaurant in Ft. Worth. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Greg Ploetz Art Scholarship at the University of Texas at Austin. Donation can be mailed to: Andrea Keene, The University of Texas at Austin, Department of Art and Art History, 2301 San Jacinto Blvd., D1300, 78712.
Published in The Herald Democrat on May 20, 2015