MVSKOKE RESERVATION, Okla. – On Monday, Feb. 5 Oklahoma country singer Toby Keith passed away from stomach cancer at the age of 62. Keith was revered for his vocal and performance talents around the world, especially his native town of Moore. Songs like “Should’ve Been a Cowboy”, “Don’t Let the Old Man In” and “Red Solo Cup” were among the many Keith was known for throughout his career. During his travels the legendary singer would meet many fans, including Mvskoke artist Bill McCulley and his wife, Roberta McCulley.
It was the spring of 2011 when the McCulleys would happen to see Keith at a youth football camp in Norman. Likely trying to keep a low profile, Keith was spotted in a hat and sunglasses. Bill McCulley first caught a glimpse of the singer, however Roberta McCulley was unsure whether it was actually him. Although Keith was dressed very casually, this did not fool Bill McCulley.
“I kept looking and looking. I told her I said ‘That’s him!’,” Bill McCulley said.
At the time no one at the camp seemed to notice that they were in the presence of a country superstar. Bill McCulley admitted he did not know much about Keith, however he was familiar with his celebrity status. When encountering a celebrity in public, many may find themselves apprehensive about approaching a larger-than-life personality. However, seeing Keith in public did not phase Bill McCulley. According to Bill McCulley, he approached Keith and struck up a conversation, as if he was just another person someone would encounter on the street.
“Bill was just talking to him (Keith) like he usually does,” Roberta McCulley said. “I couldn’t believe it, I called my daughter-in-law and told her ‘we just met Toby Keith!’ and she just started screaming. He was her favorite singer.”
According to the McCulleys, Keith was a very bashful and quiet person. However, they reported that he was kind and friendly. Keith even posed for a couple of pictures. After their conversation ended, Bill McCulley felt moved to give Keith something special. That something special was one of Bill’s signature painted black slate rocks with a white buffalo design. According to Bill McCulley, Keith absolutely loved it.
After Bill McCulley had walked away he unintentionally uncovered the inconspicuous singer’s identity to the crowd at the camp. That is when other spectators started to notice that the casually-dressed man was indeed Keith.
“When we got through, all the other people just started running over to him!” Bill McCulley said with a chuckle. “Everyone went crazy, they just wanted to talk to him and say hi.”
Bill McCulley would go on to see Keith on another occasion during the singer’s lifetime. However nothing would compare to the initial moment when Bill McCulley approached the inconspicuous singer at the youth football camp all those years ago.
Keith was not the only superstar Bill McCulley has met. He has also met Michael Martin Murphy and Leon Russell. Roberta McCulley remarked that her favorite song of Keith’s is “Should’ve Been a Cowboy”. Bill McCulley said that while he is not too familiar with the names of each track from Keith’s discography, he enjoys all of his music.
Stomach Cancer Awareness
Upon hearing about Keith’s recent passing, the McCulleys were saddened by the news. Bill McCulley remarked that Keith was a good person and that it is never easy to lose someone.
In light of Keith’s passing, it has brought awareness for stomach cancer. The National Cancer Institute reports that stomach cancer can be caused by a multitude of factors including family history, nutrient-lacking diets, and environmental factors. Worldwide it is the fifth most common cancer, however it is less common in North America compared to Europe, Asia and South America.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Native American men are 30 percent more likely to develop stomach cancer than non-Hispanic white men. They are also twice as likely to die from the same disease. There are currently no standard screening tests for stomach cancer in the United States, however it is recommended patients speak with their doctors about screenings based on their risk factors.