Dear Colleagues,

For some of you, the name “Tiger” John Cleek may be familiar. He was the owner of Cleek’s Home Furnishings for almost 50 years, and his father owned it before Tiger did. He was an avid, lifetime supporter of Mizzou football who recently passed away peacefully from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Tiger John was the ultimate Mizzou Tiger fan.

The Cleek family at an MU Football game
The Cleek family was recognized on the field during the Nov. 20 Mizzou football game.

Tiger only missed three home football games from 1958 to 2021. He gave his predictions on the score of every home and away game. The Mizzou football team never lost a game in his predictions. In his opinion, the team should always be undefeated. Tiger faced ALS the same way.

I was honored to know Tiger, and my colleagues and I had the privilege of caring for him in our multidisciplinary ALS clinic. He was an inspirational patient, willing to not only take some of the approved medications for ALS, but also to participate in clinical research trials available here at MU Health Care.

He was passionate about furthering research for ALS. Last August, during the annual ALS Association walk, Tiger Team came out in full force and raised $83,000 to fight ALS.

When we were hit with winter weather in February, the snow and ice caused many of our outpatient clinics to be canceled, including the ALS clinic. Unfortunately, ALS does not take a snow day, and Tiger John, his wife Ann and I had some major medical decisions to discuss.

Rick Barohn, MD, “Tiger” John Cleek and Brian Ghafari, RN
Brian Ghafari, RN, joined me to make a house call to visit “Tiger” John Cleek when his appointment was canceled due to weather.

Along with Brian Ghafari, RN, our ALS clinic nurse, I made a house call to visit the Cleeks. Tiger, Ann and their son “Tiger” John Cleek Jr. greeted us along with one of their home health aides. It was great to see Tiger at home in his element, although he did tell me how much he missed some things he really enjoyed, such as hunting and fishing.

I attended Tiger’s funeral and a celebration of life in his memory at the Walsworth Family Columns Club. Tiger has had a lasting impact not only on our community and on our university, but also on our ALS health care team. I in particular developed an especially close relationship with this larger-than-life man.

It is a privilege for all of us who are health care providers to serve patients in our community. Caring for ALS patients and families is especially difficult. At MU Health Care, we have an amazing ALS health care team of nurses, social workers, physical, occupational and speech therapists, nutritionists, equipment specialists, and physicians from Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Neurology and Palliative Care who each provide a unique perspective. We still do not know the cause of ALS or have a treatment that stops or reverses the disease. But we have many ways to improve the lives of patients with ALS and to help families.

MU Faurot Field with John Cleek's Memorial message
The screens at Faurot Field paid tribute to Tiger during a celebration of his life attended by Tiger's family, friends and other football fans.

Tiger John faced ALS like a champion, and his care team loved interacting with him. Cheers to Tiger John Cleek, his family and Team Tiger. He was the ultimate Mizzou Tiger. We are glad to have been part of his life, and we will continue to honor his legacy while continuing to fight the battle against ALS.


Rick Barohn, MD

Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs
University of Missouri

*Tiger John’s family provided permission for me to share his story with you.