SAVANNAH, Ga. — Tom Seipel, who got to see the Cleveland Browns reach the postseason in person as he battled kidney cancer, died Saturday. He was 39.
“Thank you for loving and supporting my friend and his family through this trying ordeal. #Seipelstrong forever,” the friend, Phil, wrote on Instagram.
Seipel, 39, was told by his doctor in early December that the cancer he had been fighting since 2018 was winning, and that he only had “a few weeks left,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported.
Thanks to the Dawgs of War podcast, Browns fans raised more than $10,000 for Seipel to fly with his father to Cleveland to watch the Browns face the Pittsburgh Steelers, their divisional rival, WEWS reported. The Browns, who needed a victory to advance to the postseason, won 24-22, clinching their first postseason berth in 18 years.
Emily Mayfield, the wife of Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, invited Seipel and his father to sit in the Mayfields’ suite at the stadium for the game. Seipel got to watch Baker Mayfield and the Browns earn their first trip to the playoffs since January 2003.
“What an adventure. That was the word,” Seipel said in a YouTube video he posted Monday when he returned to Savannah. “I told my wife, ‘You know, it’s not like it wasn’t the best day of my life, you know, because that was when I married you, or you know, when I had my daughter.
“But it was definitely the best adventure. So cool.”
On Saturday, Baker Mayfield paid tribute on his Instagram story feed, WKYC reported. He wrote that Tom is now “smiling down on us.”
Seipel was a dedicated missionary worker. He attended Ohio State and began working at a church in Columbus, The Plain Dealer reported. He then spent a year in Korea teaching English to kindergartners.
Moving to Murray, Kentucky, Seipel was working at a church in 2010 when the pastor told him about a mission trip to Nicaragua, the newspaper reported.
Seipel immersed himself in the culture of the school, according to his friend and fellow missionary, Mike Rumley-Wells of Wenatchee, Washington.
Seipel did more than that. He lived in a barrio in a poorer section of the town and met his future wife, Margarita.
“He saw the country from a perspective most didn’t,” Rumley-Wells said. “It’s a different world when you’re living there and not in a gated community. So he was really part of his barrio there.”
Seipel had met his wife through Margarita’s sister, who was a psychologist at the girls’ section of the missionary, The Plain Dealer reported. He got a Facebook request from her and they began talking on social media, and Seipel would translate her messages into English.
Seipel married Margarita in 2013, and their daughter, Mia Isabella, was born the following year, the newspaper reported.
Rumley-Wells said Seipel had a “huge heart.”
“Loud laugh. Cheerful. Almost jolly. And a bit of a diva,” Rumley-Wells told Cox Media News in January.
Seipel said he learned about his cancer while he was in Nicaragua. After going through several treatments, he returned to the United States for good in 2018, moving in with his parents, WEWS reported.
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