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Irish Insights


From the archives: Asaph Schwapp

Former Journal Gazette Notre Dame beat writer Michael Rothsten wrote this story about Asaph Schwapp in 2006. Schwapp, 26, died after a yearlong battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma on Wednesday.

Aug. 31, 2006: Family helps Irish back deal with loss of mother

By Mihchael Rothstein

They gave him support, like family is supposed to in a situation like this.

They rallied around the two boys, ages 8 and 10, who could barely comprehend what was going on with their mother, let alone feel the jolt of sadness the loss of a friend, a mother, a sister brings.

Asaph Schwapp was 8 years old when his mother, Evelyn, died at age 48 of colon cancer in his childhood home on the west side of Hartford, Conn.

She didn't want doctors with her at the end and since two of Evelyn's sisters are nurses, they cared for her. Her youngest sons, Asaph and Andrew, stayed at home until the final days, when they moved in with one of Evelyn's sisters.

It's what family does when tragedy comes - bonds together and doesn't allow those left behind to fall.

This is Asaph Schwapp's life, having his mother in memories and a photograph in his Notre Dame dorm room which he kisses every time he leaves.

"It was rough," Schwapp, a sophomore fullback, says now, almost a decade later. "She was in the hospital for a little bit, and they said they had taken care of it and it was in remission.

"But I guess she died from complications. Probably a year after she got out of the hospital, she started getting sick again."

The death of his mother could have forced Schwapp to act out or misbehave.

Clark and Loretta King made sure none of that happened. Loretta, a nurse, is Evelyn's sister. The Kings took Asaph and his brother, Andrew, in after Evelyn's death, raised them as their own on the northeast side of Hartford.

"It was not really a problem because they visited here all the time," Loretta said. "My mother lives on the first floor and they were over here quite a bit during the week or at least every weekend.

"We have a big family, a lot of those family get-togethers. It wasn't like they were strangers."

Still, the Kings and Schwapp's oldest brother, Alvin Jr., made sure Asaph remembered his mother. They brought her up in conversation as much as possible in high school.

Schwapp wouldn't forget. His mother loved to go to church, loved being in the choir at Glory Chapel in Hartford. She'd sing all the time, leaving Schwapp to wonder why his voice is bad.

"Those are my fondest memories of her," Schwapp said.

It's the Kings who helped him through it, and Clark who continued the interest in sports for both Schwapp boys.

They are trivia nuts, he said, so much so that they constantly correct the man who received custody over them. Sometimes, the brothers will call Clark to ask him about something. Then, they'd tell him he's wrong.

"He knew every statistic of every football player," Clark said. "It made me mad sometimes.

"Don't tell them nothing about statistics. I know who played the game but what year and all this, they could tell you in a minute."

Schwapp's statistics at Notre Dame are easy. He carried the ball 27 times for 67 yards last year, although one game still haunts him - Michigan State.

He had become the first member of his class to start and play meaningful minutes. He fumbled on the Michigan State 1-yard-line, costing Notre Dame a touchdown in a game they lost.

He uses the game as motivation, a reason to improve and get even stronger than his current 6-foot, 255 pound frame looks.

"Pound-for-pound, he might be the strongest guy on this team," Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said. "He's a 500-plus pound bencher."

There is another motivation, too: Mom.

Her name is tattooed on his left bicep - a tattoo he paid for himself and the Kings said they forbid him to get at first. They didn't want him to have any tattoos.

But the 19-year-old got one so he's going for more. His next one also has to do with his mother and the picture he kisses.

He never wants to forget so he's saving up his money - he's got $250 of a possible $450 thus far - to have it done at season's end.

"The portrait that I want is a family portrait of me, my brother and her when we were younger," Schwapp said.

That way, he'll never be without his mother again.