Cross-country families connect in hospital

Josh Speidel’s Columbus family joined with his Vermont family as his college coach arrived at Methodist Hospital to offer his support.

University of Vermont Coach John Becker gave a heartfelt hug to Josh’s parents, David and Lisa Speidel, as he entered the hospital front lobby Wednesday night.

“He’s family to us,” Becker said of his 18-year-old basketball recruit.

Becker and the Vermont team have followed Josh Speidel’s progress through social media, but the coach said he thought it was important to convey the university’s support in person.

Visibly emotional, Becker said the call from Lisa Speidel telling him about the Columbus North student’s Sunday night car accident was hard to take.

“I’m a parent,” he said. “It’s every parent’s nightmare.”

In the time since Josh Speidel was critically injured in the car accident near Taylorsville, more than 100 people have stopped by the hospital each day to convey their support and hope for Josh’s recovery, Lisa Speidel said.

Josh Speidel remained in critical but stable condition Wednesday night in Methodist Hospital’s intensive care unit.

The doctors are doing a good job, his mother said, but she wanted to see her son’s condition showing more improvement, making the family’s vigil a difficult one.

“I want to see his eyes,” she said, talking through tears. “I want him to squeeze my hand.”

The Speidel family listened to the start of Tuesday night’s Columbus North-Hamilton Southeastern game and have received some videos of the game from friends.

“But it’s really bigger than basketball,” she said of how Josh’s car accident has affected people not only in Columbus but throughout the basketball community nationwide.

“This is really about life, and I think people realize that,” she said.

Columbus Clerk-Treasurer LuAnn Welmer and her husband David were also at Methodist Wednesday night, explaining that their son Elliott and Josh played basketball together on several teams while growing up in Columbus.

Elliott Welmer has committed to play at St. Louis, and he and Josh recently traveled there to watch Vermont play St. Louis, she said.

She smiled at the memory of Elliott heading to the St. Louis side, Josh to the Vermont side, and the photos they took after the game in their college shirts.

“He’s everybody’s best friend,” LuAnn Welmer said of Josh.

“My heart just hurts for them,” she said of the Speidels. “They are just such special people.”

Lisa Speidel described her son as a person who eats, sleeps and breathes basketball.

“It’s his passion,” she said. “He’ll be back. We believe that.”

Becker said he first saw Josh Speidel two years ago playing on an Indiana Elite Team in an AAU league. He immediately was taken by Josh’s basketball skills, his work ethic and that he was tough.

He couldn’t explain why Josh chose Vermont over several Big Ten schools, saying only that the university was thrilled he made the commitment.

As a coach, Becker said this is the first time he has had a player so seriously injured and in critical condition.

“We want Josh to know his home community, and his future home community, has been touched,” he said.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.