My Eight Heroes

George Burns has been George Burnsone of my heroes for years. As a small boy I heard him and Gracie on the radio. Then later, I watched their TV show. I always admired the way he so effortlessly made me laugh. Grade did all the work and he made me laugh. One of my favorite lines was when he was asked what his doctor thought about him smoking all those cigars. His reply was: “I don’t know, my doctor died years ago.”

In our library we have a poster that George signed. I hold that dearly. But the real reason George Burns holds a special place in my heart has to do with growing old. He made a living out of it while making it look easy.  That is what I want to do, grow old easily.


Muhammond AliMuhammad Ali became a hero of mine when he stepped away from all that he had accomplished. He gave up his heavy weight championship,  the best years of his boxing career and losing the respect of so many people. He did it all to stand up for something he believed in. For that he has all my respect.

“A controversial and polarizing figure during his early career, Ali is today widely regarded for not only the skills he displayed in the ring but also the values he exemplified outside of it: religious freedom, racial justice and the triumph of principle over expedience.”


Pat Tillman was aPat Tillmann NFL football player who left his professional career and enlisted in the Army in June 2002 in the aftermath of the September 11, 1999 attacks. He joined the Army Rangers and served several tours in combat before he died in the mountains of Afghanistan. The Army at first reported that Tillman had been killed by enemy fire, and he was awarded the Silver Star. Pat Tillman remains my hero for giving up everything to join his brother defending his country with his life.

Dick and Shirley Jacobsen were the ideal couple, in my mind. Their long term marriage has been a model for both Sharon and I. We have enjoyed a relationship with this couple that will never be erased, even with the passing of Shirley. We enjoyed spring baseball, attendance at the Phoenix Open Golf Tournament, dinner theater, concerts at the Arizona State Fair, the Ten Tenors Concert, putting on the course at Vi, or a cruise through the Panama Canal. Their love and respect for each other continues to be an image of admiration for us.

Sharon & Wanda - Version 2



How do I explain how and why Sharon Spahr is and always will be my hero? As of this writing, we are a few days away from celebrating our 51st wedding anniversary. Perhaps one quick story will sum up our relationship and why I believe that we really are soul mates.

Three years ago in July/August I was in the hospital for quite some time. Sharon stayed there with me sleeping in a window sill just big enough for her to lay down in. She stayed with me for 24 days and nights. About every third day she would drive home, do some laundry, take a shower, get some clean clothes and return within two or three hours. Other than that she was with me every second of every day for the entire 24 days and nights. Yes, Sharon is and always will be my hero.

IMG_2551Dr. Samad Hashimi, MD, is a cardiothoracic surgeon in the Heart and Lung Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ. Dr. Hashimi is board certified in cardiothoracic and general surgery. I give him credit for me being here today. He performed an  Esophagectomy on me when I was diagnosed with esophogeal cancer. Not only did he extend my life, he has become a friend. This is a picture of Dr. Hashimi and his lovely wife Aryan.

1.26.15Dr. Shtivelband - Version 3

Dr. Mikhail I. Shtivelband, MD, PhD is my oncologist. My life depends on his decisions about my health. I knew from the very start that he was the doctor for me. The first time I met him, he sat on one of those little rolling scooter chairs, came up close to me, put both his hands on my arm and looked me in the eyes and said, “The first thing that you need to know is that you are going to be alright.” Now that’s my kind of doctor. Dr. Shtivelband heads up the Ironwood Cancer & Research Center’s research program. He is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Hematology and Medical Oncology. Plus he is a friend of mine of FaceBook.



Another hero of mine is my general practitioner, Dr. Matthew Upshaw, D.O. Here he is with his wife Cindy. Dr. Upshaw is like the quarterback of my medical team. He looks out for my overall health. With his guidance, I am able to keep my blood pressure under control and hopefully keep all that crap out of my blood vessels. If I need anything or guidance, Dr. Upshaw is but a text away and a person cannot ask for anything better than that.

My hero list is always subject to change. The more time I spend on this earth and the more people I meet and interact with the more likely this list will grow. Perhaps you have a suggestion for me. If you do, do not hesitate to let me know. Suggestion