CHESAPEAKE, Ohio — Tanner Harr didn't lose his battle with cancer.
Harr won that fight. As the beloved late Chesapeake High School basketball player walks the streets of heaven, his cancer lies defeated, never to affect him again.
Osteosarcoma that began in his knee and later appeared in his lungs tortured Tanner for two years. It stole from him the game he loved and was good at playing, but did not take him from his team. Tanner Harr's name and No. 23 was in the scorebook during every game the Panthers played. Coach Ryan Davis saw to that.
Chesapeake's players were Tanner's teammates in a deeper sense than merely sharing the same roster. They were family. They were his brothers, proudly wearing his name and number on the back of their purple warm-up shirts in each game.
Tanner was there for them. He hobbled on crutches across the court on which he once sprinted. Tanner provided inspiration no one could match. His encouragement brought tears to their eyes and stoked a fire in their bellies. Chesapeake did not win every game, but the Panthers fought to the final buzzer. They played for Tanner.
Chesapeake overachieved. Twice in the last three years, the Panthers played further into the postseason than any other team in the Ohio Valley Conference. Last March in the tournament in Jackson, Chesapeake upset an Eastern-Brown squad many thought capable of winning the state championship.
How did the Panthers do it? They played the way Tanner lived. Relentless. Never giving up. Not listening to why they couldn't, but showing that they could. In the end, victory.
Tanner, 19, is savoring his triumph over the brutal disease that on Wednesday killed his body but not his soul. Tanner won. Everyone can be assured of that.
Everyone. Mike and Angie, Tanner's parents who instilled in him a fighter's attitude and a loving heart. His brother Eric, also a standout athlete, who opted for homeschooling so that he could be by his brother's side. His sisters Taylor and Elizabeth, grandparents, aunts, uncles and family members who prayed for Tanner to be healed.
Their prayers were answered. Tanner is healthier than he has ever been. Today, he leaps with joy. He runs to his Savior.
Tanner's friends can rest easy knowing he is at peace, his victory won. Death held no sting.
Karli Davis, coach Davis' daughter and Tanner's best friend, quoted Jeremiah 31:25, "For I have given rest to the weary and joy to the sorrowing." She's right. The weeping over Tanner's passing is temporary, replaced with joy at the thought of his future and smiles in remembering his past.
Tanner brought together rivals. Fairland played a fundraiser volleyball game to help with Tanner's expenses. Symmes Valley helped, too, with a dinner at the school. Other schools pitched in as well, and genuine well wishes, prayers, money and concerns came from Coal Grove, Gallia Academy, Ironton, Ironton St. Joe, Portsmouth, Rock Hill and South Point, among others.
People felt for Tanner, but they did not pity him. His broad smile and cheery attitude wouldn't allow for that. Tanner did not feel sorry for himself and he certainly wasn't going to allow anyone else to fall into despondency on his account. He was too much of a competitor for that. Cancer was not a foe to fear, but to be beaten.
Beat it he did.
Tim Stephens is a sports writer for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-526-2759.