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Everyday Greatness: Hero of the Week

Everyday Heroes celebrates ordinary people who do extraordinary things in big and small ways, exhibiting courage, kindness, compassion and selflessness.

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Everyday Greatness celebrates ordinary people who do extraordinary things in big and small ways, exhibiting courage, kindness, compassion and selflessness. We encourage you to click these brief accounts of everyday heroism and invite you to share your own story of an unheralded hero in your community.

Pat Murphy and her husband, Joe, on her 90th birthday

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My mother, Pat Murphy, is a hero. I know most of us feel that way about our mothers, but her heroism helped her embrace one of God’s greatest gifts: prayer.

At 65 years old, doctors diagnosed my mom with bone cancer. The prognosis was grim and she was told she had only a few months to live.

Doctors removed a malignant tumor from her right shoulder, and mom lost the use of that arm.  She went through radiation, chemotherapy, and lost her hair. Still she prayed.

I watched as she gained courage through prayer and after years of treatment, mom beat the bone cancer.

Ten years later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. And she prayed. She endured more painful treatment, and went into remission. Later, mom would encounter more obstacles: hip replacement surgery, my dad’s death after 61 years of marriage, a stroke, and then advanced dementia took her. She passed away at the age of 96.   

It was hard to return to everyday life after that. I was in a fog going through the motions, at work, at home. There was a big hole in my heart. Then I remembered to pray.  I found the strength to write about my grief. Writing helped me recall mom’s battles and how she fought them courageously with prayer.  She left me with that legacy and the firm belief that I can do the same.—Michelene Murphy-Staib


Sherry Goodland's heroic boyfriend, David

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My hero is my boyfriend, David. He overcame a horrible accident back in the 1970s in which he lost his eyesight and almost lost his life. He had to undergo many surgeries and was in a coma for a time.

I met David through a friend in December of 2003, and we have changed each other’s lives. I lived in the Midwest and David was back east. It was a long-distance love, but we knew we would someday meet. We had never seen pictures of each other, but I knew deep in my heart he was (and still is) my soulmate. 

I relocated to Maine and we have made a beautiful life together. Sure, we have our ups and downs–who doesn’t? But almost 15 years later, we are still going strong. David is a determined man; that’s how he has overcome his blindness. When he sets his mind to do something, nothing stops him. Together we make a good team. 

We don’t let my disabilities nor his ever stop us. It’s the ability, not the disability. He is my best friend and my hero. We’ve both had hard lives, but anything is possible when there is true love, acceptance, and understanding.—Sherry Goodland

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Zumba-teaching hero Jeff Still

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I have had the privilege to get to know Jeff Still, who runs an “all abilities” Zumba class, which is free for any special-needs child or young adult. Jeff also spearheads a special Christmas party, with each attendee receiving a shoebox full of gifts.

Jeff dresses up in funny outfits and hats for Zumba classes and puts an emphasis on his clients having fun and socializing while also getting a workout.

Despite the fact that he has had two operations on his knees and is of retirement age, Jeff keeps on leading the Zumba class. He does all this because he cares. Jeff is certainly an everyday hero!—Doris Whitmer


Dianne's daughters, Krystal and Tiffany

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My two daughters (I call them the Military Sisters) have inspired me and many others!

My oldest daughter, Krystal, who is 25, just graduated from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School; on the same day, she moved up in rank to captain in the U.S. Air Force. Krystal is selfless and conscientious in every way. She thinks of the patient first, and giving her all is a constant. 

My youngest daughter, Tiffany, 24, has served five and a half years in the U.S. Army in the Military Police Corps. Inspired by her grandfather, Stephen Karbach, who was a New Jersey State Trooper, she was determined to enlist during her senior year of high school. Currently, Tiffany is a drill sergeant.  She sets a fine example for our future soldiers and is a fair and just leader.

On a daily basis, my daughters are reaching out to others and extending various small acts of kindness and support. My husband, Rich; my son, Michael, who is 21 and attending college, and I are so very proud and thankful for the roles our daughters have chosen.—Dianne Thumann


Tarice's heroic young daughter

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The morning after an evening showdown with my then-three-year-old daughter, I couldn’t wait to get her to school. I was weary from the tantrums, and her inability to communicate because of her slowed language development.

As I ushered her into the car, I felt desperate. Nothing was right with our world. She’d been born around the same time the nation was witnessing the birth of another Great Recession. My job and my house had been casualties. Then this happened. My child’s language delay was identified, but doctors struggled to properly diagnosis her. I felt like we both needed to be rescued. 

I returned that afternoon as disenchanted with the little girl I loved as when I left. Trudging toward the school’s playground gate, I spotted her preschool teacher racing to greet me.  

“You should have seen her today!” His breathy words were supported by excitement. I didn’t interrupt. “See that climber.” He pointed to a wooden piece of playground equipment that resembled a rock wall. I nodded. “Well, every day since she started school, she’s tried and failed to make it to the top.” He gulped a breath. “And today she did it!” 

He rejoiced like he’d witnessed her conquering Mount Everest! “She cheered and celebrated! I wish I’d recorded it!” His words comforted me. My daughter had conquered her mountain.

As she ran toward me, I recognized something I hadn’t before. I saw her perseverance. I saw her strength. I saw a hero.—Tarice L. S. Gray
 


Lloyd Leveridge

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My father has long been my hero. My parents are among my greatest blessings, and my father quietly taught me so many lessons—not just with words, but by the example he set: lessons of decency, fairness, kindness, patience, sacrifice, devotion, faith—the list goes on and on.

But it was during the years that my dear mother was dealing with Alzheimer’s that he truly proved his mettle: As Mom declined over the years, Dad would have been fully justified in placing her in full-time care, but even as her condition deteriorated to the point that she barely spoke and may well not have known who Dad was, he tenderly watched over her day and night. 

And when the time finally came, in her final months, that her doctors told Dad that Mom was no longer safe at home, that she must be placed in full-time care, he sold their home and moved next door to the facility where she was living, so that he could be there for her. He visited her at least once a day for the final months of her life.

That kind of strength, devotion and love is, to me, nothing short of heroic; once again, Dad set an inspiring example to which I aspire.—Brett Leveridge


Pablo R. Diaz

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In the seventies, New York City was a tough place to live. Violence and poverty were everywhere. Sylvia, a young outreach leader and single mom of four, didn’t let hard times prevent her from doing all she could to make “The City” a better place. At fifteen years old, I joined her ministry group not knowing that she would change my life forever.    

Sylvia wasn’t afraid of the drug-infested, crime-ridden neighborhoods of the Lower East Side. She embodied the spirit of Mother Theresa as she cared for the addicts, outcasts, and the poor. And with her loving heart, Sylvia inspired us, a group of kids trying to survive the city, to shine light in some dark places.

Saturday afternoons, the group would gather at church for prayer before heading out to the streets to spread God’s word. We visited the sick, and held street services. We got yelled at, laughed at, and one member got slapped in the face, but Sylvia wouldn’t let us give up.

One Saturday will stay with me forever. 

Before hitting the streets, Sylvia looked at me and said, “You are the preacher for the street service today.” Fear kicked in and my heart raced.  I’d never preached before.  But Sylvia encouraged me. Holding on to my faith, I did it and loved how preaching made me feel. That started my journey to ministry.

A few years later, I left for college and Sylvia moved on to another church. Sadly, I never saw her again, but she will always be my hero.—Pablo R. Diaz

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