By Deb Ploetz
Gregory Paul Ploetz was a Renaissance Man. He was brilliant, clever, and could do most anything. He was not only a gifted teacher and artist, an educated speaker, but he could also change the oil in his car and plumb and wire an entire house.
His success as an athlete was proven by his participation on the 1969 University of Texas National Championship Team. He was a formidable Defensive Tackle and was elected to the All Southwest Conference team twice and 2nd team All-American. Unfortunately, this success caused him to suffer and die from Stage Four CTE after battling the disease for more than ten years. He had no other health issues.
Greg and I were married for 37 years after only dating for five months. It was love/like after the first date. He had his Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Texas and used his talent for sharing his knowledge of art through teaching at the college and high school levels for forty years. He was also a committed and loving father of our two children. We were going to spend our golden years owning and living in an art space/gallery in San Antonio, TX near his family. CTE robbed Greg of fulfilling his dream.
In 2009/2010 the neurological community did not feel comfortable calling it CTE before death and three neurologists kept telling us it was Alzheimer’s. CTE causes dementia, thus, it is the only dementia that is preventable. For Greg, using medical marijuana the last two years of his life helped diminish his suffering and gave him some peace of mind. In 2014, we moved to Colorado, and got him a license to use the oil. I stopped all of his prescribed behavioral drugs and used MMJ.
If he knew he was going to die from this disease, I think he would have chosen not to play. He ended up loving art over football. During his art career he was mostly an abstract painter, but in 2010, with full blown dementia, he tried to execute the realist art form in a naïve football painting. It was one of his last attempts to make art.
Like others that have lost a loved one, my grief and pain is with me every day. It gives me comfort to share his art and journey. He has a very important legacy and story to tell.
Greg's niece, Meg Dudley, directed and produced a short film, "Art of Darkness: A Story of CTE," capturing his decline and its effect on his family. View the film below.
Greg’s work was featured in an art exhibit at Fort Works Art in Fort Worth, TX in September 2017. A portion of the proceeds benefitted the Concussion Legacy Foundation.