He was a high school student with a promising wrestling career ahead of him, but an accident during a football scrimmage on September 4, 1976, changed all that. He would be paralyzed and wheelchair bound the remainder of his life as a result.
However, Bob McPhee has always made courage his trademark. Through family, friends, and wrestling, McPhee proved that he would never be limited in what he could accomplish.
Just prior to his football accident, McPhee had pinned a European junior champion from Austria when the Austrian team was competing in an exchange program in the United States. He was named Outstanding Wrestler for his efforts.
Three weeks after the international wrestling competition, McPhee suffered a spinal injury that limited his movement to only his head and right arm. Today, he is wheelchair bound and can only speak through a talking machine.
But that did not stop McPhee from telling his story. He chronicled his journey in a book called It Could Be Worse; the Rest of the Story, about his life in detail: from the day he was paralyzed to his life-saving operation, and, ultimately, his rehabilitation after his life was saved.
“I remembered him as a scrappy, intense wrestler unafraid to experiment with new techniques,” said Ted Reese, coach of the Maine team. “There is no one I have ever met that has more courage, day-in-and-day-out, than Bob McPhee.”
Despite the odds, McPhee graduated from high school and went on to get his bachelor’s degree from the University of Maine at Orono. All of this was during a time when handicapped accessible buildings were not common.
McPhee continues to exemplify courage through his work in journalism. He is a sports reporter for several newspapers, and is considered the best wrestling reporter in the state of Maine. His wrestling awards include State Editor of the Year by Wrestling USA Magazine in 1996 and induction into the Maine Amateur Wrestling Hall of Fame as both a wrestler and a writer in 2000.
In 2009, McPhee was given a special recognition ceremony by the Maine State Legislature and Governor.
Medal of Courage