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Puckett wanted organs donated; services are Sunday

3/8/2006 - Minnesota Twins

Before he suffered a life-ending stroke, Minnesota Twins star
Kirby Puckett was happy and upbeat, still had a love for baseball,
and was a strong supporter of organ donation, according to his
former wife and the woman he planned to marry.

"I do want people to know that Kirby was a very happy man and that retirement gave him the opportunity to do things he always wanted to do," said Jodi Olson, who had planned to marry Puckett. "He was just ready to live the rest of his life."

Puckett, 45, died Monday after suffering a devastating stroke a
day earlier.

His former wife, Tonya Puckett, said the Twins Hall of Famer was
a believer in organ donation, and officials were evaluating whether
that was possible earlier this week.

"I just know there are eight organs, one of which might be a
match for his sister, Jackie," said Tonya Puckett, adding that
Jackie, who lives outside Chicago, has kidney disease.

"I don't know the other organs they have [potentially] found matches for," she said. "It's just amazing. That's how my life
with him was. He always made it happen, found a way to let somebody
benefit; made some good out of everything, even in his death. How
can you top that?"

On Sunday, friends and fans will remember Puckett at a Metrodome memorial service at 7 p.m. Gates will open at 6 p.m., with no reserved seating. The Puckett family will hold a private visitation and memorial service Sunday afternoon.

Even in life Kirby Puckett had tried to help others through
organ donation. Tonya Puckett said that when former Twin Rod
Carew's daughter Michelle needed bone marrow, Kirby went to see if
he was a match.

Kirby Puckett's 12-year baseball career was cut short in 1996 by
glaucoma. In recent years, Puckett had become overweight. Still, he
remained upbeat, Olson said.

Olson, who was to marry Kirby Puckett on June 24, said she and
Puckett were happy and "entering the next chapter in our lives."

Olson said Puckett wasn't bitter or reclusive.

"He certainly didn't give up on baseball. He watched it
constantly," she said.

Olson said Puckett had been working out with a personal trainer
at their house in Scottsdale, Ariz., to prepare for the wedding.

"I know a lot of articles have come out questioning whether his
weight was the reason for this," she said. "And his weight had
absolutely nothing to do with this."

"There were no signs, whatsoever, that this could happen," she
said. "He told me he loved me as soon as he woke up in the morning [Sunday], and it all happened in a split second."

Olson said she called 911 and rode in the ambulance with
Puckett, but was not able to communicate with him. She said he
never regained consciousness.

Olson said she wanted people to know that Puckett loved his
children, Catherine and Kirby Jr., and that he had become close to
her son, Cameron. She said she was thankful for the support of
Tonya Puckett.

"Tonya has been truly wonderful through this," Olson said.
"I'm very close to his siblings. He was very close to my family.
Which, sometimes, people think is uncommon. But it was one big
happy family."

Tonya Puckett said it's been difficult to hear the media rehash
the low points in their relationship.

"I know that I've made peace with Kirby," she said. "I really
have. And for me, that came a long time ago. I can tell you that
I've never loved a man like I loved him."

Tonya Puckett said she is pleased that his memorial service will
bear the imprint of their teenage children.

"There are so many people who love Kirby who are helping making
decisions as far as the funeral goes," she said. "Wherever Kirby
is I want his children's hand prints" on his services. "Because
Kirby's life was about his kids."