Heroes and Those I Admire


3 September 2005




Not sure it “politically correct” these days to have heroes or to openly admit one has heroes or admire another person but I do and I am going to.


There is a line in a Joni Mitchell song, which goes “you imitate the best and the rest you memorize” and I think that, that is what I have done over the years. Imitate as best I can, my heroes and those I admire.  So here, in no specific order, is my list.


Jesus Christ.  When I was a kid, I do not remember learning about many specific people in public school other than Christopher Columbus but I got a lot of education about Jesus in Sunday school and for along while I really, really wanted to be like Christ.  From what I was taught, he seemed to be the most perfect, clean, caring, thoughtful, honest soul, which ever walked the earth and I so dearly wanted to be like him.  Still do but realize now that I always doomed to failure because I am human.


Albert Einstein.  I think Albert is recognized as the smartest or at least one of the smartest men to have ever lived. I so admire his ability to see into things, which cannot be seen, and reason out understanding of them.  E=MC2: how more elegant can something get than that. For a short time, when I was just out of college , I so dearly wanted to finish Albert’s work on the unified field theory, which joins all known forces and energies in the universe into one set of equations or model.  Only about as likely as me jumping to the moon.  Funny how sometimes, we can delude ourselves to such an extreme.


Mickey Mantle.  Do not even have to be much of a sports buff to know of this baseball legend. Unlike Babe Ruth or other great Yankee baseball team players, Mantle was actively playing when I was a kid and he was young, very, very good and best of all, was a switch hitter which means he could hit the ball either standing on the left or right side of home plate.  Just a great player and again, I wanted to be like him. A great baseball player.


Dr Dean Foster.  Head of the Psychology, Religion and Philosophy Department at the Virginia Military Institute.  He was my professor for psychology and became my mentor and friend. What I loved the most about him as a professor is that he never asked a question in class that he knew the answer to. He, more than anyone, taught me that I should think. So much of education up until I met him was simply memorization and acceptance of what was spoon-fed me. He insisted, required, demanded, that I think and express myself. He remains my friend today and I try the best I can to report to him my latest thinkings and feelings. At 85 years of age, his mind can still tie a normal person mentally into knots


Edward R. Murrow.  Yes, I know, I am too young to have been influenced much by Edward R. Murrow but I was. When I was a kid, he had a television talk show where he interviewed various people and it was one of the programs my parents actually watched, which had any intellectual content.  Anyway, this man, Murrow, had such a command of the English language and his sentences were so well crafted and his depth of knowledge about any subject so deep and broad, I admired him them and continue to.


The Grateful Dead.  Could write a book about the Grateful Dead and what this rock and roll band has meant to me for 35 years. The concerts, the family gathering of people from all across the country, the tribal drums, how their lyrics and music has become so much of the soul of what I am, think and do. I admire because for 35 years they made it work and they continued to evolve and change and rework their art that whole time.


Bob Dylan.  Simply the most amazing wordsmith that I am aware of. 100 times better than Shakespeare with his poetry of words and music and probably most amazing of all is that he remakes himself, his words, his directions all the time, somehow keeping in the flow of the culture as it constantly changes.  If I were to be a rock star, it would be him.


Joni Mitchell.  The best woman poet that ever lived and when she sings, her voice and her guitar or piano tunings are like nothing else you have ever heard. In love with her for years and still am.


My Dad.  I guess everyone could say that they admire their father or maybe not.  I can’t say that my father was a hero to me, because he wasn’t but I did and do still admire him.  Oh, it was not that he taught me how to do lots of things, which he did from hunting and fishing to how to dig a proper post hole, but rather, that at critical times, he seemed to know exactly what I needed and did it for me. I can’t explain it. We never talked all that much but he had this knack, this sense of where I was in my head and always seemed to be there for me when I need him.  Always interested in electricity, at the age of 11, he gave me an electronics kit from which all sorts of devices could be made, like a radio transmitter or receiver.  This kit came at exactly the right time and from there, I built my own receivers, transmitters and went to school in electrical engineering.  Support exactly at the right time. I also admire him for who he was.  He was an honest, hard working, decent human being with a very clean soul.


My Uncle Glenn.  Master carpenter, strong of character, loving and giving to his family, always helping anyone who asks.  An honest, decent man.


Murray X. Almstead.  My best friend in this life now deceased. What can I say about this man?  He and I were like soul mates in so many dimensions. We both believed in working hard, doing everything ourselves if we possibly could and he was an honest, caring, clean soul who would and did literally give you the shirt off his back if you needed it.  I admired him.


Gregory Peck.  Actor. Strong of character and had a presence. A man of minimal words but when he spoke you knew he meant what he said. Would like to be like him.


Jackson Pollack.  A painter who works I most admire because his style seems to be so organic. I continue to try to understand chaos theory but find it difficult to “see” chaos theory in the tangle of brush, weeds, trees in a forest, yet, Jackson’s paintings reveal chaos perfectly for me.


Mr. Mac McCormick.  Here was a man who lived in the poorest part of Winchester, Virginia, worked 8 hours a day in front of a hot mold machine making rubber shoe heels, had 2 daughters but no sons and yet, gave his time and energy to be Scoutmaster of the Boy Scout troop I was a member of.  A true hero.


Martin Luther King, Jr.  A man who had such a command of the English language and who preached non-violence in a time when violence was all around him. I am ashamed to say that while my parents and others condemned this colored man, nigger, for stirring up trouble and trying to change the way things were, I secretly admired his courage but could not let my parents and others know of my admiration.


Ayn Rand.  The writer of the book “Atlas Shrugged”, the one book, which has must, influenced my political thinking. 


Stephen Hawking.  Although trapped inside his body, which will not move, his mind has explored the universe and asked and answered questions like no other current scientist.  It could have been so easy for him to self-pity but he doesn't.


My Grandfather Vann.  A self-sufficient farmer who might not have had much formal education but could talk politics with anyone.  I admire him in that he could and did so many different things to be self-sufficient.


My Father-in-Law Russell J. Swimley.  Not long after marrying his wife and she becoming pregnant, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and quickly became bed ridden.  To tend his wife, he built his own business in a garage only 100 feet from their home where he repaired wrecked cars he had bought and then resold them.  Although not a great mechanic, he was truly a metal sculpture master as what he could do with car sheet metal was amazing and one has to admire his sticking with his sick wife all those years when he could so easily have run off or become a drunk or otherwise.


My Children.  They are all decent, honest, hardworking people and you have to admire that these days.  One is the best waitress or bartender you will ever run across.  One is so good as a legal secretary she supports 2 attorneys, not just one like most secretaries. One just got her Master’s degree and is a schoolteacher and finally my son is one hell of a guitar player and incredible media arts artist. I admire them all for what they have become and continue to become.


Jackie Gleason.  This guy made me laugh so many times and the ability to make others laugh is a quality I admire in a person. But Jackie was more than a comedian. He could be and was a serious actor and one hell of a pool player. I was deeply saddened when he died too young.


All those WWII GI’s who landed at Normandy Beach.  They were and are real heroes. The courage it took to make that landing is just more than I can imagine. Thank you.


All those WWII Marines, which fought all those bloody, island battles in the Pacific. Fighting fierce battles in such hostile environments, island after island. Heroes and men to be admired. Thank you.


Good Teachers.  I think teaching is one of the most honorable professions, influencing and molding young minds.  Mr. Funkhouser, high school government teacher who created a class room environment, which encouraged open debate and dialogue among students and where I engaged in many heated arguments with girls in my class I had never spoken to because I was so shy.  In that class, some got to know and respect me for my mind. Mr. Sanders, high school chemistry teacher who had been a college professor and first teacher I ever had to grade on a curve and I loved it.  He started science fair at high school and I won overall award for whole school and gave me much needed confidence.


My Wife.  I admire her incredible sewing abilities and their talent as a garment and quilt artist. 


Aircraft Pilots.  Having had pilot lessons and learning that I am not a natural pilot; I admire those who so easily seem to take to 3 dimensional space.


Musicians.  Although I have had opportunities to become a true musician, I never had the discipline for it but I really admire those who can play any instrument so beautifully.  Piano, at times, can bring tears to my eyes, which is saying a lot.


Any One Who is Really Good at What They Do.  Know this is a rather broad statement but it seems there so many people who take no pride in their work today and when I find someone who is good at what they do, I admire them.


So that is it for now.  I know you are probably thinking there should be many more and you have probably thought of many of your own heroes and those that you admire and good for you.  Imitate the best all you can.



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