Gene and John Mark Stallings
Gene Stallings and his son, John Mark, ride at an event together in this undated photo. "Johnny" Stallings died Aug. 2 of a congenital heart condition associated with Down Syndrome. He was 46.
Services were held Tuesday at the Lamar Avenue church in Paris with Patrick Cannon and Johnny's former minister, George Bailey, officiating. Burial followed at the family's Hike-A-Way Ranch in Powderly, Texas.
"He just had a genuine impact on people, really because he cared," his sister, Laurie Vanderpool of Brentwood, Tenn., told The Dallas Morning News. "He would focus in on the people for who they were and what they were doing for him. He didn't care about their success or their status."
In February 2001, John Mark was one of the first four people to be presented a "Change the World" Award from ACU. ACU President Royce Money made the presentation to John Mark during Lectureship in February 2001, at the time noting the impact of a life lived with Down Syndrome.
"As a young man with Down syndrome, Johnny has been a shining light of love and joy to his family and friends, professional football players, fans and national viewing audiences," Money said at the time. "Whether he was with his dad in a United Way TV ad, serving as the most excited fan on the sidelines or just demonstrating great determination in every task, Johnny has changed the world of everyone he has met."
Johnny Stallings has touched lives in many circles, Money said then. For years, he was his dad's greatest fan and the players' favorite person as Gene Stallings coached at the University of Alabama, Texas A&M, the Dallas Cowboys and the Phoenix Cardinals.
John Mark was born June 11, 1962, in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and later in his life was the subject of a biography of his life, Another Season, written by his father and Sally Cook. He received an honorary high school diploma from Dallas Christian High School before receiving the "Change the World" award from ACU.
He is survived by his parents, Gene and Ruth Ann Stallings; four sisters: Anna Lee Young, Laurie Vanderpol, Jackie Chalk, and Martha Kate Gunn; brothers-in-law Tim Young, David Vanderpool, John Chalk and Keith Gunn; and several nieces and nephews.Memorials may be made to the R.I.S.E. program, at Stallings Center, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487; The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, 9400 North Central Expressway, Suite 1201, Dallas, TX 75231; or to the Lamar Avenue Church of Christ Youth Program, 3535 Lamar Avenue, Paris, TX 75460.
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