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Rodeo Clown “Leon Coffee” Battling Spinal Meningitis

leon coffee
Leon Coffee, CWFR

America’s beloved Rodeo Clown, Luke ‘Leon’ Coffee, remains in a San Antonio, Texas hospital being treated by doctors who say the 57-year-old cowboy protector appears to be improving as he battles a serious bout with bacterial spinal meningitis.

Common causes for meningitis are bacterial or viral infections. Meningitis is inflammation within the lining of the brain and the spinal cord

Fans will remember Leon from the Central Wyoming Fair & Rodeo as well as the CNFR.

Coffee, a native of Blanco, Texas and resident of Wimberley, near Austin, has been a bullfighting, cowboy protecting, “man in the can” since 1969 and a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) since 1973.

A February 1984 Sports Illustrated article predicted Coffee’s time as a rodeo clown was limited and he’s “got only six or seven years left at mos.”  Going on 28 years later, the green cowboy hatted protector continues to entertain crowds, as he did in the AT&T Center for the February during the San Antonia Stock Show & Rodeo.

Common causes for meningitis are bacterial or viral infections. Meningitis is inflammation within the lining of the brain and the spinal cord.

It unknown at this time if Coffee’s illness is bacterial or viral related. If bacterial, the common treatment is intravenous antibiotics and drugs to reduce swelling. If viral, treatment is usually bed rest and treatment of symptoms.

“People who work with domestic animals, including dairy farmers and ranchers have a higher risk of contracting listeria which can lead to meningitis,” according to the Mayo Clinic website.

Coffee, a United States Army veteran, has been featured in such movies as 8 Seconds, My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys and Jericho, 2001.

He has worked the National Finals Rodeo for four decades and has many honors including PRCA Clown of the Year, Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame, and barrel man for many rodeo finals throughout the country.

Coffee is also well known for his charitable visits to children’s wards at local hospitals as he travels to work at nationwide rodeos.

At age nine, he said he started competing in redoes and by his teens it “wasn’t a challenge anymore.”

Coffee started disco dancing to the tune of his trademark I’m Your Boogie Man by  ‘KC & the Sunshine Band’ to taunt the bulls.

Born on October 11, 1954, Coffee is married to wife Traci. They have three children: Leigh Ann, Brandy Lynn, and Luke Anthony

“He has been taking a few calls, seeing visitors, eating more and wanting more to eat, and giving those nurses hell,” said a friend. “Leon and his family are especially thankful for the overwhelming outpour of concern, well wishes and love from across the country.”

The clown, so well known for his charitable visits to children’s wards at local hospitals as Leon travels to work at nationwide rodeos, is receiving well wishes from around the globe.

“With all the responses from everywhere it kind of renews your faith in the kindness of people,” stated Sunnie Deb Backstrom of Arizona. “How wonderful it would be if that caring translated to our whole country.”

Sunnie Deb Backstrom, a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association  also added “he has no insurance” and is asking fans “if Leon has ever entertained you and made you smile” to Luke “Leon” Coffee to S.D. Backstrom, Box 488, Congress, AZ 85332 and she “will get it to him to help pay bills.”

“Be it $1 or $5 or whatever,” says Backstrom. “Times are tough for everybody but we can all spare a couple of bucks. We have to take care of our own. Keep up the prayers, the greatest gift of all.”

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