June 26, 2012

David Phillip Vetter (1971-1984)

David Vetter, also known as the "Boy in the Plastic Bubble" was a prominent sufferer of severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), a hereditary disease which dramatically weakens the immune system. His parents, David Joseph and Carol Ann Vetter, were advised by physicians that any male children they might conceive would have a 50% chance of inheriting the disease after their first son, David, was also born with SCID and died at 7 months of age. They  At the time, the only management available for children born with SCID was isolation in a sterile environment until a successful bone marrow transplant could be performed. The Vetters, who already had a daughter, Katherine, decided to proceed with another pregnancy. Their third child, David Phillip, was born on September 21, 1971.

A special sterilized cocoon bed was prepared for David at his birth. Immediately after being removed from his mother's womb, he entered the plastic germ-free environment that would be his home for most of his life. He was baptized a Roman Catholic with sterilized holy water once he had entered the bubble. Initial plans to proceed with a bone marrow transplant came to a halt after it was determined that the prospective donor, his sister, Katherine, was not a match. Water, air, food, diapers and clothes were sterilized before entering the chamber. After being placed in the sterile chamber, David was touched only through special plastic gloves attached to the walls of the chamber. The chamber was kept inflated by air compressors that were very loud, making communications with the boy very difficult. His parents and medical team sought to provide him as normal a life as possible, including a formal education, and a television and playroom inside the sterile chamber. About three years after David's birth, the treatment team built an additional sterile chamber in his parents' home in Conroe, Texas, and a transport chamber so that he could spend periods of two to three weeks at home, where he could have his sister and friends for company.

When he was four years old, he discovered that he could poke holes in his bubble using a butterfly syringe that was left inside the chamber by mistake. At this point, the treatment team explained to him what germs were and how they affected his condition. As he grew older, he became aware of the world outside his chamber, and expressed an interest in participating in what he could see outside the windows of the hospital and via television. In 1977, researchers from NASA used their experience with the fabrication of space suits to develop a special suit that would allow him to get out of his bubble and walk in the outside world. The suit was connected to his bubble via an eight-foot long cloth tube and although cumbersome, it allowed him to venture outside without serious risk of contamination. Vetter was initially resistant to the suit, and although he later became more comfortable wearing it, he used it only seven times. He outgrew the suit and never used the replacement one provided for him by NASA. In 1984, David received a bone marrow transplant from his sister, Katherine, and, while his body didn't reject the transplant, he became ill with infectious mononucleosis after a few months. He died fifteen days later on February 22, 1984, from Burkitt's lymphoma at age 12. The autopsy revealed that Katherine's bone marrow contained traces of a dormant virus, Epstein-Barr, which had been undetectable in the pre-transplant screening. He was buried at Conroe Memorial Park, Conroe, Montgomery County, Texas on February 25, 1984. His parents later divorced. His father went on to become the mayor of Shenandoah, Texas. His mother married a magazine reporter who had written about her son. Vetter's psychologist, Mary Murphy, wrote a book about Vetter's case that was to be published in 1995; however, its publication was blocked by his parents. An elementary school which opened in 1990 in The Woodlands in unincorporated Montgomery County, Texas, was named David Elementary after him.

30° 17.772
-095° 25.635

Section 12
Conroe Memorial Park

June 19, 2012

Huey Purvis Meaux (1929-2011)

H. P. Meaux was the son of Cajun sharecroppers who worked in the cotton and rice fields around Kaplan near Lafayette, Louisiana. When Huey was twelve, the family moved to Winnie, Texas, near Port Arthur. He grew up in an atmosphere of hard field work during the week, punctuated by lively Saturday night dances. His father Stanislaus, also an accordionist, headed a band for which Huey played drums when he was a teenager. By the 1950s, after serving in the Army, Meaux opened a barbershop in Winnie and worked at night as a disc jockey for KPAC radio in Port Arthur. In this capacity he got to know other deejays and musicians in the business, such as Moon Mullican, J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, and George Jones. Meaux was riding in a car with Richardson to Houston’s Gold Star Studios when the Bopper penned his hit Chantilly Lace. He also learned the ins and outs of the music business from Bill Hall, a local record producer and manager of the Bopper. In 1959, Meaux produced his first hit - Jivin’ Gene Bourgeois’s swamp-pop classic, Breaking Up is Hard to Do - in his own barbershop. He was on his way to pioneering the Gulf Coast “swamp pop” sound.

In 1962 he produced Barbara Lynn’s You’ll Lose a Good Thing, which hit Number 8 on the charts. He also produced regional hits, such as Joe Barry’s I’m a Fool to Care, while working with other artists, including Lightnin’ Hopkins and Archie Bell. He found success with acts such as Sunny and the Sunliners, Roy Head and the Traits and Dale & Grace, whose song I’m Leaving It Up to You reached Number 1 on Billboard in October 1963. When the British Invasion landed in Texas in the early 1960s, Meaux, by this time based out of Houston, dissected the sound of the Beatles and other groups. In response he persuaded Doug Sahm and his group of Tex-Mex musicians from San Antonio’s West Side to pretend to be British, and the Crazy Cajun dubbed them the Sir Douglas Quintet. In 1965 the group’s She’s About a Mover became a hit. Later, when the Sir Douglas Quintet appeared on television with its Hispanic members, the truth was revealed. Meaux made use of the diverse array of ethnic music and musicians in Texas and the Gulf Coast to seek out stand-out sounds for the recording industry. According to writer Joe Nick Patoski, “For two generations of Gulf Coast rock and rollers - or any musicians from Baton Rouge to San Antonio - he was the pipeline to the big time.” Despite Meaux’s successes in the music business, the hedonistic Cajun also had the shady reputation of shortchanging his artists as well as womanizing. Around the end of the 1960s, he was prosecuted for violation of the Mann Act (driving a prostitute across state lines) and was sentenced to the state penitentiary.

By late 1971 Meaux was out of prison and purchased the former Gold Star Studios at a bankruptcy auction. He now owned the Houston studio where he had produced many of his artists through his years of turning out hits, and he renamed the facility SugarHill Studios and set about remaking it as his own. Meaux also entertained listeners on his Friday night radio show on KPFT-FM in Houston. He regained success in 1974 with Freddy Fender’s comeback. Meaux released Fender’s Before the Last Teardrop Falls on his Crazy Cajun label. The song became a Number 1 country single and a pop crossover success along with his follow-up Wasted Days and Wasted Nights. After a successful run with Fender in the 1970s, Meaux scored one more hit with Rockin’ Sidney Simien’s novelty song (Don’t Mess With) My Toot-Toot in 1985. Meaux sold SugarHill Studios in 1986 but still leased an office there. In 1996 he was arrested and eventually plead guilty to two counts of sexual assault of a child, cocaine possession, child pornography, and bond jumping. He was sentenced to fifteen years in prison. He was released from prison in 2007 and lived out the remainder of his life in Winnie, Texas. Source

29° 48.115
-094° 23.356

Fairview Cemetery

June 12, 2012

Robert Lee "Big Robert" Smith (1939-2006)

Robert Lee Smith, known as "Big Robert" on the blues circuit, was born on Dec. 28, 1939 to Charles and Mable Smith in Houston. Raised in the famous Third Ward, Smith started his music career by singing in the choir at Jordan Grove Missionary Baptist Church. While still a student a Jack Yates High School, he started attending the now-legendary Blue Monday jam sessions led by Joe "Guitar" Hughes at Shady's Playhouse, where he cultivated his early education in Texas blues. After first working professionally as a drummer in a group led by Carl Campbell, Smith gradually emerged as a singer in Houston clubs during the early 1960s. A band led by eventual blues superstar Albert Collins was one of the first to feature Smith's vocal prowess on a regular basis, especially at a Sunnyside neighborhood establishment called the Big Apple. The amiable 300-plus pound singer was best known locally, nationally, and internationally for his show-stealing featured role with Grady Gaines and the Texas Upsetters. That 35-year affiliation is highlighted for posterity by Smith's contributions to the group's later recordings, including the albums Full Gain, Horn of Plenty and Jump Start. During the 1990s he fronted his own band, Big Robert and the Ravens, on local stages. Over the years Smith also collaborated with various major blues and R&B artists, including Bobby Bland, Ernie K-Doe, Travis Phillips, Millie Jackson and Joe Hinton. He died in Houston on April 6, 2006 at the young age of sixty-seven. His service was highlighted by music performed by many of his former bandmates in the Texas Upsetters, including Grady Gaines, Yvette Busby, Patrick Harris, and Earlie Lewis.

29° 50.217
-095° 19.422

Block C
Golden Gate Cemetery

June 5, 2012

Dean Arnold Corll (1939-1973)

Corll was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, to Mary Robinson and Arnold Corll. After his parents divorced, Dean and his brother Stanley moved with their mother to Houston, Texas. In 1964, Corll was drafted into the military, but he was released on a hardship discharge a year later so that he could return home to help his mother with her growing candy business. It was there that he earned the name, The Candy Man, because he would often treat children to free candy. He developed a sexual relationship with David Brooks, one of the many kids who hung around the candy company, and the two stayed in Corll's apartment. After the candy business closed, his mother moved to Colorado and Corll began training to become an electrician. In 1970, Brooks walked into Corll's house while Corll was in the midst of assaulting two teenage boys. Corll bought Brooks' silence with a car and was then offered $200 for each boy he was willing to lure into Corll's home. Two years later, Brooks introduced Corll to Elmer Henley.

Corll gave Henley the same offer per victim and told him that they were sold into a sex slave ring in Houston. Henley refused the offer initially, but took it up in 1973 when his family fell into financial trouble. In late summer 1973, Henley invited fellow teenagers Tim Kerley and Rhonda Williams to Corll's home. There, Corll scolded Henley for bringing a girl into his home. The teenagers then smoked, drank, and huffed fumes until they passed out. Henley woke to find himself tied up along with Williams and Kerley. Corll and Henley argued, with Henley managing to convince Corll to untie him by promising to participate in the murder of Williams and Kerley. Corll had brought a pistol for the murders and placed it down when he began ripping Kerley's clothes. Seeing an opportunity, Henley took the gun and attempted to ward Corll off. Corll stepped forward though, forcing Henley to fire five shots at him and killing him. At the trial, it was revealed that Corll had raped, tortured, and murdered at least twenty-eight boys during 1970-1973, all of them between 13 and 20 years old. Many of them were associated with Henley and Brooks, who both ended up with life sentences due to their parts in the murders.

29° 39.853
-095° 06.411

Garden of Devotion
Grand View Memorial Park