Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Everybody has a story to tell

Wilma Lee in Hawaii.

Celebrities are always interesting, but some of the best stories I've had the opportunity to tell are about everyday people. 

Like the grandfather in Chesterfield Township who shot the hole in the American flag raised by Marines following the battle over Iwo Jima - yes, the famous flag photographed by Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press.

Then there's the prosthesis doctor who built a titanium limb for a three-legged pony and the woman who raised the money for it.

Most recently I had the good fortune of interviewing Wilma Lee.

Talk about inspiring. As an adventurous teen with a passion for traveling, Lee made a promise to herself to visit every state in America. That was her bucket list.
Just before Valentine's Day, she was packing for a trip to Hawaii where she would celebrate her 90th birthday. It was also the last state on her list. 

After Lee's story ran, she was contacted by WJR-AM (760), and Hawaii Public Radio in Honolulu, both looking to interview her for a show. She also heard from the director of public affairs for Navy Region Hawaii, who said she was looking for a "Rosie the Riveter" kind of person to honor during Women's History Month and take her on a visit to Pearl Harbor. She thought Lee was that kind of person.

"Gram is one of those people who never says 'never.' I know that she's passed that on to my mom and to me. I'm so proud to be her granddaughter. Not just because she's seen all 50 states, but because she accomplished something she had always dreamed of doing. I'm not surprised she did it. That's just who she is," said Lee's granddaughter, Melissa Gerety, a former Michigan native, who now resides in Maine. One of the phrases Gerety remembers her grandmother saying is that you can do anything you want to do, except scratch your ear with your elbow. "When I was little it made me laugh. Now I realize that it was a guide for my own life. Gram is one of those people who never says 'never.' She's passed that on to my mom and to me."

Got an interesting story?  gina.joseph@macombdaily.com; <a href="http://bit.ly/wwIwMi">@gljoseph</a>

We are the hero of our own story -- Mary McCarthy

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