“One More Happy Christmas”

“You have Bright’s Disease. If you quit boxing, you might live another five years.”

He was only 24 years old. The year was 1918.

Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Billy Miske was one of the best prize fighters of his day. Billed as the “St. Paul Thunderbolt,” the only man to ever knock him out was “The Manassa Mauler” Jack Dempsey.

After his diagnosis, in an attempt to set his family up financially for the future, Miske ploughed his savings into an automobile dealership. He ended up with debts of around $100,000 instead. He kept boxing and paid off every last penny.

After a fight in January of 1923 where, despite his deteriorating condition he managed a first-round knockout, his doctor gave him strict orders: stay home and rest.

Christmas approached. If he didn’t come up with some money fast, December 25th was going to be a bleak day.

He went to his manager, Jack Reddy (who knew about his condition, even though Miske had chosen not to tell his wife) and begged him to get him a fight. After a number of refusals, Reddy finally relented and set up a fight against Bill Brennan. Brennan had battled Jack Dempsey in New York and was ahead on points until Dempsey knocked him out in the 12th.

November 7, 1923. For 12 and a half minutes, the St. Paul Thunderbolt was not a dying man. His footwork was nimble, his punches were aggressive.

In the third round, Miske hooked Brennan with a left. Brennan went down. Only the bell saved him. Next round Miske caught the dazed Brennan with a hard right to the jaw. This time no bell would save him.

Miske received $2,400 for the fight. The furniture he and his wife Marie had sold to make ends meet was replaced. He bought Marie, an aspiring singer, a piano. A bicycle and a red coaster for his two boys, and doll and a teddy bear for his young daughter.

Miske had done it. He’d given his family “one more happy Christmas.”

The day after Christmas, in constant pain, he phoned up his manager and asked him to take him to the hospital. On the way to hospital, he came clean to Marie about his condition.

Billy Miske died six days later on New Year’s Day.

Now, while you might look at Miske’s story as a sad one, there’s still a lot to take away from it.

Particularly the importance of living your life with a sense of purpose.

What exactly is a sense of purpose?

It means having something in your life so meaningful to you that you don’t want to give it up. It’s something that, without you, might not be achieved or accomplished. Something that inspires you to a greater level of achievement. Something that gives you increased motivation to achieve, fuels your confidence, and gives you the drive you need to take on and conquer any obstacles that fall in your path.

As a freelancer writer, your sense of purpose might be to make the world a better place, provide a great life for your family, or provide a solid example of what someone can accomplish if he puts his mind to it. Or a combination of all three.

For more information about living your life with a sense of purpose, read my article, “Be Happier and Accomplish More by Living Your Life With a Sense of Purpose …

What is your sense of purpose? Please share your comments here.

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Published: November 20, 2013

2 Responses to ““One More Happy Christmas””

  1. Ah, the Manassa Mauler. My parents lived in Manassa when I was born (small town, one mile square, in South Central Colorado). I attended school there, 4th through 12th grades while living on a farm just north of Romeo.

    Jack Dempsey is widely considered the best sportsman who ever boxed.

    My father was a young widower and a goat rancher when he met my mother. They married a month later. He was uneducated, she a college graduate (fine arts/music) and school teacher. She was cultured, he wasn't, but he read a lot. I marvel at his wisdom decades after his death at age 80.

    He was determined that I get a good education so I wouldn't have to work hard all my life like he did. He raised two families, 3 children in each. Hard worker. Impeccably honest. A good man, though we didn't always get along -- not surprising with teenagers.

    Some want a life of ease. Others want to leave a legacy. The greatest legacy one can leave is a good reputation and a life lived making life be

    Clarke EcholsNovember 20, 2013 at 12:36 pm

  2. At first I wanted to be a freelance writer because I was unhappy at work and wanted to earn more. The usual. Then something happened. While studying & preparing I've discovered that I have a purpose. Prove that I can be successful not DESPITE being over 60 but BECAUSE I'm over 60 & have a whole lot to offer. And sure I want to earn more-so I travel and explore and experience new things and provide for my family. I too want to leave with a good reputation & life well lived (thanks, Clarke).

    JudyB-RaleighNovember 21, 2013 at 11:26 am


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