Full Obituary for Nate Waters

Full Obituary for Nate Waters
The 12 hours that Nate Waters lay on the apartment floor, unable to move, his cries so weak that nobody could hear, were the most frightening of his young life by far. 

But from there it was only going to get scarier. 

After the fight with his mother's boyfriend that left him in that state, the 19-year-old Tulsan soon learned that his spinal cord had been severed. He was paralyzed, likely for life. 

Depressed and suicidal, Waters spent the next year in a hospital. 

From there, he was moved into a nursing home. But it wasn't the dead end that it had first appeared to be. 

With all that followed, Waters soon came to look at his circumstances and injury differently. 

In helping him break free from the family cycle of poverty and crime that had undoubtedly been his destiny, it had, in fact, saved his life, he would say. 

And for Waters, this new chance at life meant new purpose. 

Nathaniel Sylvester "Nate" Waters, a volunteer, activist and advocate for the disabled whose fight to overcome his own disabilities inspired a community, died Saturday. He was 35. 

A visitation will be held from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. May 1 at Moore's Southlawn Funeral Home, and a memorial service is set for 3 p.m. May 2 at the First United Methodist Church. 

"I was filled with rage about what had happened to me. I felt sorry for myself. I couldn't forgive," Waters said in a 2003 Tulsa World article, retelling the story he had told to many audiences. 

Critical to his conquering all of that, he added, was his faith. 

"God has blessed me, has helped me all the way with this. ... But it's been a choice. You've got to take the initiative to receive God's blessing. You've got to get out there and work hard for it." 

Waters, who grew up in Chicago, talked often of the poverty, drugs and crime that characterized his tumultuous childhood. At age 19, it had all come to a head. 

Having moved by then to Tulsa, where he'd dropped out of Edison High School, he struggled to survive in the wake of his paralysis. His story began attracting attention. Coming forward in support, people and companies helped spur Waters in his rehabilitation and efforts to build a new life. 

First he got his GED. Next, he obtained an associate's degree from Tulsa Community College, and from there he received a bachelor's from Oklahoma State University. 

In 2008, Waters was hired to work in accounting for the Williams Cos. More recently, he had moved to Williams' spinoff WPX Energy. 

"Nate really inspired our employees," said Alison Anthony, Williams' director of strategic outreach. "He truly believed that people could do better, be better, work hard and achieve greatness. He helped us believe in the possibilities and taught us lessons in graciousness and making the choice to be positive." 

Waters continued to look ahead and dreamed of becoming a certified financial planner and starting businesses of his own. 

Another recent milestone for Waters: He was living in his own house and making his own payments, something in which he took great pride, friends say. 

A member of the Center for Individuals With Physical Challenges since 1998, Waters became a board member in 2006 and was active with countless local programs and initiatives on behalf of disabled people and those with life-threatening illnesses, as well as being an advocate nationally for spinal-cord research. 

Center Executive Director Lori Long praised Waters, calling him "an example of what we should all aspire to be in life - a friend to all, an advocate for those in need, a giver to our community and (a reminder) that we all should follow our dreams with tenacity." 

Among myriad honors, Waters in 2009 was named the inaugural recipient of the Tulsa Area United Way's Live United Spirit Award, which honors a local volunteer from a United Way partner agency. 
Becky Frank, the 2013 United Way campaign chairwoman, had recently recruited Waters to co-lead the campaign's nonprofit division. 

"Nate was so sweet and so excited," she said. "He had such a passion for fundraising and was really good at it." 

Frank said Waters spoke to the board last week. 

"Everyone was glued to their seat," she said. "He was so giving in being able to tell us about his life and relive the bad parts like that. Nate was just a selfless, gentle soul who wanted to do what he could." 

Through all the ups and downs of the last few years, Waters never stopped talking. He often gave motivational speeches at schools and for other groups. 

"I want people to hear my story and to say to themselves, 'If this guy can make it from nothing, then I can make it,' " he said. "All things are possible with determination and faith." Nate Waters, a longtime advocate for the physically challenged and community volunteer and activist, has died. He was 35. 

Services are pending. 

Waters, whose struggle with being paralyzed and eventual rise from living in a nursing home to obtaining a GED and bachelor's degree was chronicled in the Tulsa World over many years, died Sunday, an official with a nonprofit on which he served said. 

"The Tulsa community has lost a dear friend in Nate Waters," said Lori Long, executive director of the Center for Individuals With Physical Challenges. 

"Nate was truly larger than life and never met a stranger. He inspired people to live better. He was the epitome of forgiveness. Nate is an example of what we should all aspire to be in life - a friend to all, an advocate for those in need, a giver to our community and that we all should follow our dreams with tenacity." 

Waters' spinal cord was severed during a domestic altercation with his mother's boyfriend, leaving him paralyzed when he was 19. He was living in a nursing home when individuals and companies began coming forward to support him after he was featured in the World. 

Waters earned a GED and an associates degree from TCC, and went on to earn a bachelor's from OSU and became an accounting assistant at Williams Cos. He was a member of the Center since 1998, and became a board member in 2006. 

He was active in Tulsa Sports Charities, the Mayor's Commission on the Concerns of the Disabled, Transit Matters, The Bridges Foundation, American Cancer Society, The DREAM Institute, DVIS, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and 3D Confidence. 

Services are pending. 


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