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Two rival families -- one Elder, one St. X -- are of one school of thought following organ donation

'I'm proud that I've got some Elder purple in me'
Posted: 5:00 AM, Oct 01, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-02 00:57:35-04

CINCINNATI -- John Mock doesn't allow a waking hour to pass without reflecting upon Clete Schnieders III.

Mock never met the late Schnieders. In fact, they lived on opposite sides of town. And 15 years separated the men.

However, they grew up attending Catholic schools and played sports early in their high school careers at rival Greater Catholic League programs. There are more similarities than differences.

Family has always been a significant part of that. A love for others and a zest for life would've bonded the Meijer food clerk and the regional director of a wheelchair manufacturer as friends.

Little could the men know that life and death would connect them in late June.

Schnieders was an organ donor. In death, he offered life. As a result, he became a hero.

Friends and family of Clete Schnieders III, as well as hospital staff, lined the halls of the hospital for an "Honor Walk." The walk is held for a hero who chose to be an organ donor as they make their way down the hall to save lives. (Photo provided by Carrie Schnieders)

And through his selfless act, Schnieders helped to foster a new hope for his own family and for a family he never met.

"I think they would've gotten along really well," said Carrie Schnieders, Clete's widow. "John is a huge family man and that's how Clete was. I think Clete would be extremely pleased that John wants to be a part our lives as much we want to be a part of his."

Schnieders, a 1995 Elder High School graduate and father of three, died June 21 after he choked during a steak dinner with his family in Green Township two days earlier. He was 41.

Several hours after his death, Schnieders' liver was successfully transplanted to Mock, a 56-year-old Sycamore Township husband of 33-plus years, father of four and grandfather of five, who had been on the waiting list for just 4½ hours.

Mock, a 1980 St. Xavier graduate, had non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) as a result of a genetic deficiency.

Yet, 90 days after the transplant, doctors told Mock his health had improved drastically; he could have another 25-35 years ahead of him.

Tears well up when he describes the unique journey with his wife, Sarah.

"There was definitely divine intervention," Sarah said.

Clete's kidneys were transplanted to two other individuals outside the Cincinnati area, which saved their lives, according to LifeCenter .

Clete Schnieders Jr., (left) the father of Clete III, met with John Mock at The Pit during the Sept. 7 football game against Clarkson North. (Provided photo)

Carrie wrote a letter to the three recipients the day of Clete's funeral. Only Mock has come forward thus far.

"The whole process has been so uplifting and amazing," said Carrie Schnieders. "It's helped us with the grieving process."

That process continues for Carrie and her three children. But they are not alone, with the support of family and friends . That includes the Mock family.

"It's a strange feeling," said Carrie about reuniting with Mock. "You just feel a connection that is indescribable. It's a very strange feeling, but it's humbling, too, because it's nice knowing that although I don't have my husband here physically, he's living on through other people."

The families have met a handful or so times since mid-July. This past Friday at The Pit was the latest reunion during the St. X-Elder football game. Nine-year-old Trent Schnieders, Carrie's son, was an honorary captain and conducted the coin toss. GCL rivalries were put aside for what was truly important.

"Just a touching moment to have that happen and have the story continue in such a positive way," Elder Athletic Director Kevin Espelage said.

It was the second time the families had met at The Pit, a stadium that represented so much to lifelong Elder fan Clete III.

Mock wore an Elder polo shirt and a wide grin with the Schnieders family Sept. 7.

"While I hate to admit, or I never would've believed it, I actually am proud that I've got some Elder purple in me right now," Mock said. "I just think it's a great story of how two GCL schools have come together to continue this Long Blue Line of mine and the Elder Pride."

Clete III's funeral procession went through Elder's campus this past summer. Approximately 110 cars went past the stadium.

"He loved Elder more than you can imagine," said his father, Clete Schnieders Jr.

Schnieders III worked at Meijer and enjoyed Elder and Notre Dame football. He was quiet and could be very sarcastic while having fun. Clete and Carrie had their first date at the The Dent Haunted Schoolhouse. They would've been married five years Sept. 21.

Family meant everything to them. Carrie and their three children, Trent, 9, Clete IV, 4, and Sammie, 2, who has Down syndrome, could count on Clete.

"He was seriously the most hard-working father that I could've ever asked for," Carrie said. "He worked 40 hours a week and he would come home, help with homework, take our oldest to practice and take our youngest to therapies if I needed him to. He was awesome."

Mock learned plenty about Clete III through a photo album that Carrie made. As Mock wakes up each morning and before his head hits the pillow at night, he thinks about the Schnieders family. He also feels a responsibility.

"Even though Clete's not here, I feel like this is John's chance to really pump it into high gear and help more people," Sarah said.

In turn, Carrie has started the process of becoming Catholic.

"John's whole story has really opened my eyes with my faith," Carrie said. "I was never big into religion, but it has really opened my eyes with everything. Just believing that there's more to this life than just being here physically."

A day after the Elder game Sept. 7, Mock and his family attended the National Down Syndrome Society's Buddy Walk as part of Super Sammie's Squad for Carrie's daughter. Mock's interest is genuine.

Clete Schnieders III and his wife, Carrie, and their three children at the 2017 National Down Syndrome Society's Buddy Walk. (Provided photo)

"I would've never dreamed of that," Carrie said. "I thought we might have been pen pals for maybe once or twice and that was it. I never imagined that he would want to meet or go to this extent of wanting to be in our lives. It's not just him; it's his whole family."

Mock, a LifeCenter Ambassador, continues to spread the word about organ and tissue donation through social media while helping the Schnieders family. He likes to live by the mantra "Men for others," in the Jesuit tradition. But he can't help wear the Elder purple with pride.

"Psychiatrists or therapists would call it survivor's guilt," Mock said. "It sucks that somebody had to die so that I could live. But, at the same time, I believe there is a reason. His job here was done and it's my job to continue to inspire people, and I have to finish my life's work, which I am aware but now also carry on his."

Seven years ago, 9 On Your Side Anchor Tanya O'Rourke became a living organ donor. She posted about her experience on Instagram .

To identify yourself as an organ donor, visit the Donate Life America website at donatelife.net and choose your state of residence to learn about the options in your area.