I hold those who serve in our military and our first responders in very high regard. They are our national heroes, in the broad, social sense. But, there are our personal heroes. Those individuals that shape us, whether we know it at the time or not and they do it in positive ways. For surely I think most of us have our villains as well, who to often shape us in ways it can take years of therapy to understand and deal with.
If heroes can be those that inspire us, I have my 4 (two well known and two very personal). Sadly, all taken from me and the world before their time. They were really the ones that were/are my shining beacons.
Joey Ramone: You taught me the courage needed when taking something in a bold, new direction.
Gianni Versace: You taught me that design is art.
Merle Long: You taught me to be who I was. (Merle was a gay man in the 1970’s. Not the easiest of times. Yet, he embraced who he was and lived life with tremendous joy, even as he felt often ostracized by those he’d known growing up. He was a dancer and a good one at that. Often making his living by that profession. Tragically he contracted HIV which in turn gave way to AIDS, at the time when they hadn’t even determined that AIDS existed. He went into the hospital with pneumonia, and never got better. How could a man in his late 20’s, in fantastic shape, not recover from pneumonia. Nobody had any answers. It was heartbreaking.)
Scott Holmes: You taught me to believe in myself. (Scottie was the sweetest, kindest, most giving person I’ve ever known. Talk about the embodiment of “Pay it forward.” That was Scottie. I came from a highly…dysfunctional family, to frame that in the politest way possible. As I always tell people, my father was my genetic father, but Scottie was “my dad”. He was a “gear head” at heart and in his early 30’s finally scored a job as a mechanic on the pit crew of drag racer Don Prudhomme. He had been with the team about six months and they were at the Winter Nationals, he was walking down pit lane and had a cerebral hemorrhage. He was dead before he hit the ground, but he went out quick and living his dream. For that, I have always been grateful.)
Those are my heroes. A motley group to be sure, which seems only fitting for me, I suppose.