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Saw God on the Walk

Ann Arbor – James Burns walked 600 miles over five weeks from Philadelphia to Michigan Stadium to honor the memory of a 5-year-old boy he never met.

Burns, 49, was so moved by Chad Carr’s story after seeing an ESPN feature on Chad and his family that aired the morning of the Michigan-Ohio State game, that he immediately knew he had something to do.

“When I saw you on TV,” Burns said Monday to Tammi Carr, Chad’s mother, “I started bawling my eyes out, and I told my wife, “Well, I know what I’m doing now. I’m walking to Michigan for them.’”

Chad was the 5-year old son of Tammi and Jason Carr, a former quarterback at Michigan, and the grandson of former U-M All-American Tom Curtis and of longtime Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr. He died last November from an inoperable brain tumor.

The Carrs created the ChadTough Foundation ( to raise money for research to cure Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), a tumor located in a small area of the brain stem. The median survival rate is nine months from diagnosis.

Burns, who said he never endured bad weather on his journey, walked to raise awareness for ChadTough and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Burns lives in Souderton, Pa., but began his walk in Philadelphia.

He arrived in Ann Arbor on Thursday, and on Monday he formally met the Carrs at Michigan Stadium.

“I can’t even put into words – it’s been the best experience of my life other than the birth of my children,” Burns told Tammi and Jason. “I’m changed forever. People I don’t even know were picking up hotel tabs for me. I’d sit down to eat and people would hear my story and next thing you know they’re buying my dinner.

“People would say, ‘Why would you do this for a kid you didn’t know?’ And I thought that’s immaterial to me. I want to make sure other kids don’t have this happen to them. I told my one son I could be walking for one of my grandchildren someday, you never know. I don’t think anyone should go at 5 years old. That shouldn’t happen.”
James Burns talks to former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr about training for his 600-mile walk that raised funds and awareness for DIPG. Angelique Chengelis, The Detroit News

Burns said he felt Chad’s presence during his 600-mile walk.

“He was with me every step, I firmly believe that,” Burns said. “I’d talk to him a lot. I’d be in the middle of nowhere, it would be dark, and I’d be like, ‘All right, buddy, help me out here.’ I was just following my GPS and I don’t even know where I was stepping next, and he took care of me every step, and I know he’s going to be part of me forever. It’s just the greatest feeling you have when you go beyond any level you have, thinking, ‘I can’t do this,’ and you keep doing it.”

Tammi Carr presented Burns with a special ChadTough mini helmet and khakis signed by Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.

He spent some time chatting with Lloyd Carr, who told him, “You send a message all across America.”

Pat–Scottsdale, AZ

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Saw God in Rosie

This is a wonderful story about an amazing little girl:

Coming up Roses means everything is turning out okay. Even though Rosie is sometimes sad about her hair loss, she teaches us that everything is “Coming up Rosies.”

We noticed the first handful of soft brown curls on Rosie’s pink-princess pillow on a sunny Saturday morning in October. Rosie was already up and out of bed by then, a proud two-and-a-half year-old excited to help “dress” her new baby sister. Maybe she’s stressed about the new baby? we thought. We made a note to Google it later, but forgot about it until the next morning when even more curls appeared on her pillow. Maybe she’s allergic to her shampoo?, we wondered. We replaced her shampoo with another brand the next time we bathed her. When Monday brought more of the same — this time with twice as many curls — we called the pediatrician.

Over the phone, the pediatrician assured us it was probably just stress from the newest addition to our family, but he offered to see her to ease our minds. We’ll never forget the look on his face when he first saw Rosie waiting on the exam bed, and how his usual, pleasant chit-chat stopped as he carefully examined her patchy-haired scalp. “I don’t think this is stress.”, he finally said, “I think it’s Alopecia, so I’m referring you to the best specialist as quickly as possible.” By Thursday, Rosie’s hair was all but gone. The following week a specialist diagnosed Rosie with Alopecia, an autoimmune disorder wherein the body mistakenly attacks the hair follicle, causing the hair to fall out. “There is no cure,” the specialist said, before correcting himself to soften the impact, “– At least, not yet.”

As we struggled to understand the diagnosis and what it might mean for our sweet Rosie, the last of her remaining hair fell out. In the following months we relied on hats to shield Rosie from unwanted stares as we held onto hope that her hair loss would be temporary. We hoped that as long as we kept her happy and healthy, we’d soon begin to see those lovely brown curls poking out from her scalp, like flowers in the spring.

In the meantime we sought answers from books, from second (and third) opinions, and genetic testing. We read medical journal articles, sometimes in the middle of the night when we were up with Rosie’s little sister, looking for signs of hope that a cure was just around the corner. We scoured the Internet for miracles and success stories, for the magic bullet that would return those soft brown curls back to Rosie’s smiling face. We tried countless treatments; ointments, creams, steroids, herbal medicines, special diets, and even lifestyle changes designed to reduce any stress a two-and-a-half year-old might feel. We searched Rosie’s scalp daily, sometimes with a flashlight, for any sign of new hair growth. Our hope that this would be a temporary condition, even a funny story someday, slowly faded.

It soon grew harder to convince Rosie to wear a hat everywhere. Our strategy of hiding Rosie’s baldness until we could fix it became less realistic. We were still wrapping our minds around the the diagnosis itself, let alone the enormity of a potentially permanent diagnosis. But life doesn’t always wait for us to catch up, so we were forced to decide whether to double-down on Rosie’s privacy by making it seem fun to wear a hat during the summer and indoors, or whether to choose the path of “no secret, no shame.” We made our decision on a warm Saturday in late May when we left the house for the local park. For the first time since receiving her diagnosis, we left Rosie’s pink hat behind. Rosie charged ahead toward the slide, the sun shining directly on her bald little head, oblivious to the significance of the day, while we steeled our will:

We have a bald three year-old and we are embracing her difference.

The next few months were filled with ups and downs. Sympathetic smiles were far rarer than stares, and the stares were often paired with inquisitive finger-pointing from younger children. Parents would shush their children, “Shhh – don’t stare. Stop pointing. It’s not polite.” while grocery shopping or waiting in line at Starbucks. When Rosie asked why they were pointing, we’d explain they were simply curious, all the while whisking her away from the Pointers with a pit in our stomach. Over time, the unwanted attention began to seem normal. We stopped retreating from the stares and went about our business normally. We were surprised the first time a stranger reached out in sympathy about our child’s cancer, but we soon honed our response, “Thankfully our little girl is very healthy. She has an auto-immune condition called Alopecia which makes her bald.” Eventually we began encouraging Rosie to wave and say hello to the “curious people”, even to introduce herself.
Rosie’s “Forever Rainbow” and “Crazy Colors” paintings that were the inspiration for our first head scarves.
Rosie’s “Forever Rainbow” and “Crazy Colors” paintings that were the inspiration for our first head scarves.
When people – usually children – asked Rosie about her hair – Rosie gave them the creative answers, “My hair is on vacation.” Sometimes she’d say, “My hair is just taking a break, it might come back soon.” Other days she’d get right to the point, “I’m just bald and I have Alopecia.” If she was feeling especially gregarious, she’d seek out other bald people, approaching them to ask, “Did you know you are bald like me? We’re twins, we match!” Her confidence caught people off guard and left everyone with a smile.

It wasn’t all sunshine and roses. One particular type of public comment bothered Rosie more than any other; “Hey little guy, how are you today?”or, “Great scootering, buddy!” She’d frown and tell people she wasn’t a boy, and usually she’d be too annoyed to explain further. She began to ask, “Why do they think I’m a boy, I’m wearing pink? Boys don’t wear pink!” Of all the answers we’d had to provide, this one was the toughest. By the end of the discussion, we found ourselves explaining to our teary-eyed Rosie that sometimes things happen to us that we can’t control. That night, after Rosie fell asleep we decided that instead of rehashing the unfairness of it all, we’d focus on controlling what we could about her diagnosis: Rosie’s emotional development and self esteem.

Instead of focusing on fixing her baldness, we shifted to raising a little girl who loves herself unconditionally, hair or no hair. We spent more time with friends who loved Rosie for Rosie. We doubled-down on activities like painting, where she bubbled with pride in her natural ability. Every time she’d thrust a still-wet painting at us — “Look at my flower!” — we wished we could bottle up that pride and sprinkle it over her during the bad days, or the boy-comments.

The idea came to me out of the blue: why not transfer some of her most-prized paintings onto a head scarf? Not only would she have a beautiful head scarf to wear on days she didn’t feel like inviting comments, but the scarf would be her own work. People would be commenting on Rosie’s scarf – her art — instead of her loss. Best of all, by wearing her own beautiful artwork we could truly “sprinkle” Rosie with a reminder of her abilities all day long. We surprised her with a head scarf we’d had made using one of her more favored paintings. She was overjoyed, and quickly blurted out, “What about the other bald kids? We should make these for all the bald kids who look like me. Can we do that?”

Just like that, she changed a little gift to our daughter into an inspiration and a mission, something I never would have dreamed up myself.

These days, if you happen to look in our direction, you’ll see a beautiful little girl wearing an exuberantly colorful headscarf. If Rosie happens to catch your glance, you’ll get a wave and a hello along with an earful about her plan to “make scarves to help all of the bald kids.” She campaigned for me to leave my corporate job and sell the scarves to the “bald kids.” We debated whether this was just a phase, but eventually it became clear that her conviction would not be shaken, and I was persuaded. I have left Google to join Rosie in her incredible journey to make all of the bald kids smile. Rosie has shown me how to make lemonade out of lemons, and now I know, after all, that everything is Coming Up Rosies.





Carrie-Chicago, IL

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Saw God Under the Umbrella


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Saw God in Mother Goose


On Monday, Givens was sitting in his patrol car in a parking lot when he was accosted by one very unexpected visitor who seemed dead set on getting his attention.
“This goose came up and started pecking on the side of the car,” Givens told The Dodo. “I threw some food out for her, but she didn’t take it. She just kept pecking and quacking. Then she walked away, stopped and looked back. Then came over again and pecked some more.”
When the goose walked away a second time, and again looked back, Givens decided to follow her. And it’s a good thing that he did.

“She led me about 100 yards away to this grassy area near a creek. That’s when I saw one of her babies all tangled up in some string from a balloon. His little feet were kicking,” said Givens. “She led me straight to him.”
Though stunned by what just happened, Givens was wary of approaching the trapped gosling, fearing that the goose might attack if he did. So instead he radioed the SPCA, but no wildlife rescuers were immediately available.
Givens’ colleague, Officer Cecilia Charron, heard the call and volunteered to help.
“She showed up on her own,” he said. “I told her to be careful, but she just walked over and untangled the baby. The mother goose just watched, like she knew. It was amazing.”
Once the baby was untangled, Givens and Charron looked on as he rejoined his mom and swam away safely. Not surprisingly, the officers were in disbelief about how it all played out from start to finish.
Charron even started to tear up, telling Givens it was the highlight of her 24 years on the force.
“It seems like something made up. It was just incredible,” said Givens. “I honestly don’t know why I decided to follow her, but I did. It makes me wonder — do they know to turn to humans when they need help?”

Though we’ll never be sure if the desperate mother goose did indeed approach the officer knowing he would help, what is certain is that he did — and that’s what made the difference.
“I don’t know what it all means,” Givens said, “but I hope it might inspire more compassion in other people.”

Carolyn–Rochester Hills, MI

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Saw God in a Pack of Gum


John & Annie Glenn –

For half a century, the world has applauded John Glenn as a heart- stirring
American hero. He lifted the nation’s spirits when, as one of the original
Mercury 7 astronauts, he was blasted alone into orbit around the Earth;
the enduring affection for him is so powerful that even now people find
themselves misting up at the sight of his face or the sound of his voice.

But for all these years, Glenn has had a hero of his own, someone who
he has seen display endless courage of a different kind:

Annie Glenn.

They have been married for 68 years.

He is 90; she turned 92 on Friday.

This weekend there has been news coverage of the 50th anniversary of
Glenn’s flight into orbit. We are being reminded that, half a century down
the line, he remains America ‘s unforgettable hero.

He has never really bought that.

Because the heroism he most cherishes is of a sort that is seldom
cheered. It belongs to the person he has known longer than he has known
anyone else in the world.

John Glenn and Annie Castor first knew each other when — literally —
they shared a playpen.

In New Concord , Ohio , his parents and hers were friends. When the
families got together, their children played.

John — the future Marine fighter pilot, the future test-pilot ace,
the future astronaut — was pure gold from the start. He would end up having
what it took to rise to the absolute pinnacle of American regard during the
space race; imagine what it meant to be the young John Glenn in the small
confines of New Concord .

Three-sport varsity athlete, most admired boy in town, Mr. Everything.

Annie Castor was bright, was caring, was talented, was generous of
spirit. But she could talk only with the most excruciating of difficulty. It
haunted her.

Her stuttering was so severe that it was categorized as an “85%”
disability — 85% of the time, she could not manage to make words come out.

When she tried to recite a poem in elementary school, she was laughed
at. She was not able to speak on the telephone. She could not have a regular
conversation with a friend.

And John Glenn loved her.

Even as a boy he was wise enough to understand that people who could
not see past her stutter were missing out on knowing a rare and wonderful

They married on April 6, 1943. As a military wife, she found that life
as she and John moved around the country could be quite hurtful. She has
written: “I can remember some very painful experiences — especially the

In department stores, she would wander unfamiliar aisles trying to
find the right section, embarrassed to attempt to ask the salesclerks for
help. In taxis, she would have to write requests to the driver, because she
couldn’t speak the destination out loud. In restaurants, she would point to
the items on the menu.

A fine musician, Annie, in every community where she and John moved,
would play the organ in church as a way to make new friends. She and John
had two children; she has written: “Can you imagine living in the modern
world and being afraid to use the telephone? ‘Hello’ used to be so hard for
me to say. I worried that my children would be injured and need a doctor.
Could I somehow find the words to get the information across on the phone?”

John, as a Marine aviator, flew 59 combat missions in World War II and
90 during the Korean War. Every time he was deployed, he and Annie said
goodbye the same way. His last words to her before leaving were:

“I’m just going down to the corner store to get a pack of gum.”

And, with just the two of them there, she was able to always reply:

“Don’t be long.”

On that February day in 1962 when the world held its breath and the
Atlas rocket was about to propel him toward space, those were their words,
once again. And in 1998, when, at 77, he went back to space aboard the
shuttle Discovery, it was an understandably tense time for them. What if
something happened to end their life together?

She knew what he would say to her before boarding the shuttle. He
did — and this time he gave her a present to hold onto:

A pack of gum.

She carried it in a pocket next to her heart until he was safely home.

Many times in her life she attempted various treatments to cure her
stutter. None worked.

But in 1973, she found a doctor in Virginia who ran an intensive
program she and John hoped would help her. She traveled there to enroll and
to give it her best effort. The miracle she and John had always waited for
at last, as miracles will do, arrived. At age 53, she was able to talk
fluidly, and not in brief, anxiety-ridden, agonizing bursts.

John has said that on the first day he heard her speak to him with
confidence and clarity, he dropped to his knees to offer a prayer of

He has written: “I saw Annie’s perseverance and strength through the
years and it just made me admire her and love her even more.” He has heard
roaring ovations in countries around the globe for his own valor, but his
awe is reserved for Annie, and what she accomplished: “I don’t know if I
would have had the courage.”

Her voice is so clear and steady now that she regularly gives public
talks. If you are lucky enough to know the Glenns, the sight and sound of
them bantering and joking with each other and playfully finishing each
others’ sentences is something that warms you and makes you thankful just to
be in the same room.

Monday will be the anniversary of the Mercury space shot, and once
again, people will remember, and will speak of the heroism of Glenn the

But if you ever find yourself at an event where the Glenns are
appearing, and you want to see someone so brimming with pride and love that
you may feel your own tears start to well up, wait until the moment that
Annie stands to say a few words to the audience.

And as she begins, take a look at her husband’s eyes.

Carolyn–Rochester, MI

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Saw God at 96!

George Etzweiler, 96, of State College, Pennsylvania, is getting older, but he’s also getting better. On Saturday, he completed the Mount Washington Road Race in New Hampshire for the second year in a row and 11th time overall. He broke his own record for being the race’s oldest finisher, but he also ran faster with less effort than he did a year ago.
Etzweiler covered the 7.6-mile course, which has an elevation change of 4,727 feet and an average grade of 12 percent, in 3:23:15, compared to 3:28:41 in 2015. He told Runner’s World by phone Tuesday that he probably should have pushed himself a little harder.

“I apparently didn’t trust the trainer or myself, so I didn’t push hard at the beginning,” Etzweiler said. “Well I didn’t really push hard anywhere and ended up finishing feeling pretty good—too good for Mount Washington.”

Etzweiler attributes his improvement this year to putting in more running training—he runs up and down a Mount Washington-like climb three days a week—and the addition of strength training to his workout routine. Etzweiler recently finished up 12 weeks of strength training, under the guidance of a trainer, to help correct some stability problems.

ALSO SEE: 80-year-olds finish marathon holding hands

Etzweiler apparently recovered well from the race, too, because he spent the following three days hiking on climbs steeper than that of Mount Washington while vacationing in New Hampshire.

“It’s amazing I’m still alive—I have two kids here who made me go hiking Sunday, Monday, and today,” Etzweiler said.

“While I’m hiking, I’m running this over in my mind and seeing what I can do to get another couple minutes off next year,” he added.

Three generations of Etzweilers completed Saturday’s race together. George’s son, Larry, 70, and grandson, Robert, age 40, who have been the driving force behind George’s participation in the race in recent years, accompanied him up the mountain.
Etzweiler ran his first Mount Washington Road Race at age 69, in 1989, at his son’s urging. He’s won his age group seven out of the 11 years he’s run the race, though in recent years, that’s been an age category of one.

Before retiring, Etzweiler was an electrical engineering professor at Pennsylvania State University for 37 years. He never ran a mile without stopping until he was 49 years old. Upon taking up running, he lost 15 to 20 pounds, a loss that he has maintained since. He lost a few additional pounds when he became a vegan five years ago.

ALSO SEE: Ida Keeling, 100, sets record at Penn Relays

But he mainly attributes his success to good luck.

“The thing I’m doing right is really having very good fortune,” Etzweiler said. “I feel I’ve been extremely fortunate all my life. Good things just seem to happen to me.”

Etzweiler plans to keep running Mount Washington until he’s 100 years old, then he jokes that he’d like to go out with a bang.

“When I’m 100, in 2020, when I cross the finish line, I’m going to drop dead,” he said. “I told the race director to remember to order a hearse that year.”

Pat–Scottsdale, AZ

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Saw God at Vacation Bible School

Two of my three kids are at Vacation Bible School this week. For my daughter, this is year number four at this special camp. For my son, it is his second. Each day at camp begins and ends with all 200+ campers gathering with more than 50 volunteers in the church gym. They talk about many things including how much they’ve raised during the week–each penny of which will be used to fill backpacks for kids who wouldn’t otherwise have one come fall. Then every single person in the gym rises to their feet and together rocks out to powerful, upbeat faith-based songs. Three women stand on stage and use American Sign Language to translate the songs. The campers have picked up the signs during the week and use them too–all this for the one camper who is hearing impaired! Over the years, I’ve realized if I get to camp pick-up 15 minutes early, I can come into the gym and witness the powerful experience of kids, who are mostly strangers, coming together to celebrate their faith in song. I am glassy-eyed each day. This song sticks with me today.

Jacquie–Bloomfield Hills, MI

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Saw God in Goodbye to Mr. Hockey

Detroit — Gordie Howe was square-jawed, authentic and credible.

There was not a splinter of pretense about him.

The great Red Wings player was also humble and capable of enormous grace. He was, off the ice, what other men used to like to call “a true gentleman.”

In his era, for men now of a certain age, he established an archetype of masculinity: Physical strength paired with kindliness, significant accomplishment with unpretentiousness, mastery with respect, aggression with compassion.

It was what fathers and mothers wanted to see in their sons.

For a post-World War II generation of baby boomers, he was a role model worthy of emulating.

To watch him on and off the ice was to learn important lessons in life, especially for boys growing towards manhood in Detroit in the 1950s and 1960s.

Howe was partly like the Marlboro Man, that silent, rough-hewn pitchman for cigarettes in television commercials that catapulted the brand to the top of sales by 1972. He was also a bit like Gary Cooper, the late movie actor of the 1930s through the 1960s who contributed to a paradigm for the American male, the strong, silent type.

Howe lived a hard life on the Canadian prairie of the Great Depression. He was the toughest guy in a hard-hitting, dangerous sport.

When he took to the ice, it was as if one of Cooper’s characters, perhaps Will Kane, the marshal “High Noon,” showed up on a dusty main street of some Old West town with a badge on his chest, a long-barreled revolver in the holster at his side. A man capable of handling whatever the situation required, a look of restrained danger in his eyes.

Like Cooper, Howe was natural and genuine.

But it was how Howe was different that evidenced his greatness as a man, a height he achieved coincident with his greatness on the ice.

Deflecting praise

Howe had a mischievous sense of humor, which he sometimes inflicted on himself, especially in response to the praise he so justly deserved for his domination of the National Hockey League from just after the end of World War II through the 1960s.

Sometimes self-deprecating and almost always self-effacing, Howe acted as though one might have accomplishments worthy of boasting, but to do so was ignoble.

In receiving praise, he deflected it gently to those who helped with the achievement that engendered it, or made a humorous reference to some recent failing to help restrain the ego and show the world a greater understanding of humanity.

He was the doting, successful father, who raised offspring of accomplishment and character.

The son of famous men sometimes have it rough. But one of Howe’s, Mark, is in the Hockey Hall of Fame, among the few greatest defensemen of his era.

Another, Marty, played the game to considerable effect. The third, Murray, is a doctor.

He was a husband so loyal that he pushed his wife Colleen’s strengths to the fore, whether as his agent, his business partner or a candidate for Congress.

She spurred no insecurity in him because Howe knew himself.

He also was the guy who after scoring a milestone goal in his career posed with a puck with “700” painted on it, later handing the puck that actually went into the net to a longtime season ticket customer who struggled with his sight and other complications of diabetes.

Upon hearing of his death Friday, Allen Moore of Northville, the nephew of the man who received the puck, e-mailed, “A true gentleman off the ice and a legendary player on it.”

Encounter to remember

In the early 1960s, my brother had a chance encounter with Howe, while playing hockey at the old outdoor rink that used be part of the Butzel parks and recreation facility on the West Side.

As my brother Tim leaned over lacing his skates, he recalls seeing two large men’s shoes suddenly in front of him and hearing a voice.

“Excuse me, young man.”

It was a different era and my brother rose immediately to greet an adult, making his mother proud.

“It was Gordie Howe and he was speaking to me,” my brother said.

“Do you know where the Lamplighters are?” he recalled Howe asking.

“I was awestruck, simultaneously stunned by my hero’s voice and the softness and the gentlemanliness of that voice and his demeanor. This was Gordie Howe and I guess I was not expecting such a gentleman.

“It was a Saturday morning and I was 11 years old and was getting ready to play a pee-wee game. It was snowing at Butzel rink that day.

“ ‘The Lamplighters, do you know where they are?’

“ ‘They are on the ice, Mr. Howe. They are playing now, sir.’

“ ‘Thank you, young man.’ ”

We later learned Marty and Mark Howe were playing for the Lamplighters.

“In one move, he put out his hand and shook mine and with his other hand grabbed my forearm,” my brother said. “He turned to the rink and stepped out into the snow.

“He was gone. That quick.

“My hand, hell, the lower part of my arm had disappeared into his huge hands. They were bigger than my Dad’s!

“Gordie Howe had spoken to me. Gordie Howe had been nice to me!

“I don’t recall the name of my Pee-Wee team, but that meeting of my hero, my Gordie, is as crystal clear as if it just happened. I can hear the voice, I can feel that grip.

“I remember the niceness of our encounter.”

Lesson learned by an 11-year-old. No matter how big you get, how formidable you are or the loftiness of your accomplishments, kindness and compassion are key elements of life.

It was Howe’s expression of manhood, and his singular gift to many young men who are no longer young.

Pat–Scottsdale, AZ

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Saw God Slow Down

Jacquie–Bloomfield Hills, MI

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Saw God Saved in the Mud

Carolyn–Rochester, MI

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