Where Hope Lives

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

The story of the incredible man behind the world’s most popular superheroes ended on Monday, November 12, 2018, when the world-famous Stan Lee died at the age of 95. The cause of Lee’s death has yet to be released, but he was rushed to the emergency room earlier in the morning and had his death confirmed later in the afternoon.

Stan Lee was born Stanley Martin Lieber on December 28, 1922. He began working in the comic book business in 1939 and created many of the best known comic book heroes around today. Captain America, Iron Man, the X-Men, Black Panther, the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the Hulk, Thor and Doctor Strange all owe their creation to Lee. These characters would go on to become multi-media powerhouses, but when Lee began working in comic, he wrote under the pseudonym “Stan Lee” in order to preserve his actual name for more serious work. Comic work at the time was looked down upon. Lee noted that people would “avoid me like I had the plague.” Eventually, however, Marvel took flight and Lee changed his name legally to Stan Lee.

The heroes of Marvel made their name by being what no one believed readers wanted, human and flawed. D.C. comics, at the time, was focused on macho, perfect characters like Superman. Lee, however, gave Spider-Man dandruff and dating problems. Suddenly, superheroes were real in a way they never had been, and Marvel roared ahead almost overnight. People wanted more characters they could relate to with romantic issues, insecurities and irritating quirks. They wanted imperfect heroes, and Lee delivered.

In addition to the heroes that would go on to become the stars of the largest and most successful superhero film saga of all time, Lee gave readers insider updates on Marvel publications through editorials that he signed with his now-famous signature “Excelsior!” His enthusiasm was initially dismissed, but Marvel comics were steadily becoming more sophisticated and reaching wider and older audiences through a medium once dismissed as only being suitable for children. As such, Lee once again broke barriers by giving characters not only human flaws, but vices and serious problems such as Harry Osborn’s habit of popping pills and Tony Stark’s alcoholism. Rather than mindless entertainment, comics suddenly had deeper, more meaningful messages, and heroes were not just battling evil space aliens but the demons that readers themselves might face. Lee faced professional backlash over his decision, but the more serious comics were so popular that the Comics Code Authority actually relaxed its guidelines in response.

Lee eventually gave up the reigns at Marvel, but he remained a behemoth in the comic world and was all but deified by his fans. As such, when Marvel Studios took off with the speed of Tony Stark’s repulsors following the success of “Iron Man” in 2008, Lee had a cameo in every Marvel movie, and fans delighted in trying to figure out where he would pop up next.

Lee is survived by his daughter, J.C., and by the legions of heroes he brought to life. Lee once said, “I used to think what I did was not very important. People are building bridges and engaging in medical research, and here I was doing stories about fictional people who do extraordinary, crazy things and wear costumes. But I suppose I have come to realize that entertainment is not easily dismissed.” His heroes inspired millions and continue to remind people that “with great power, comes great responsibility.” Today, both caped heroes and pre-teen fans are mourning the loss of a giant as they say to Mr. Lee one last time, “Excelsior!”

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Paul G. Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, died in the afternoon of Monday, October 15, 2018, at the age of 65. The cause of death was complications associated with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The disease returned recently after Allen was in remission for many years following his first brush with cancer in the early 1980’s. He left Microsoft shortly after learning that he had cancer.

Allen was a force to be reckoned with during the first seven years of Microsoft’s existence, and it was actually Allen who came up with the name Micro-Soft, a play on the fact that the company made software for small computers. When Microsoft promised to deliver the operating system for IBM’s entry into the personal computer business, Allen was instrumental in putting together a deal that would allow Microsoft to buy an early operating system from a Seattle programmer to use as a base for what would later become the most widely used operating system in the world. The system was introduced in 1981 as Microsoft Disk Operating System, or MS-DOS, and would later be transformed into the Windows operating system.

Bill Gates, who co-founded Microsoft with Allen, began working with Allen when they were teenagers and continued to do so into their adult lives. Gates said, “From our early days together at Lakeside School, through our partnership in the creation of Microsoft, to some of our joint philanthropic projects over the years, Paul was a true partner and dear friend. Personal computing would not have existed without him.”

After leaving Microsoft, Allen focused on philanthropy work in Seattle. He restored the old Cinerama movie theater and bought both the Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle Seahawks in order to keep the teams in his home city of Seattle. Bill Hilf said on behalf of the Seahawks and Trailblazers, “Paul loved Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. The impact of Paul’s efforts can be seen here at every turn. But the true impact of his vision and generosity is evident around the globe.”

Allen is survived by his sister, Jody Allen. He is remembered for his extraordinary accomplishments and for “[the] wit, warmth, [the] generosity and deep concern” he displayed around his family and friends. There is no doubt the world has lost a giant.



George Taliaferro passed away on Monday, October 8, 2018, at the age of 91. He was considered to be a football legend, a status many athletes aspire to earn. Taliaferro, however, did not make history because he was a once in a lifetime ball player. Instead, he earned his sports immortality by being the first African-American player to be drafted by an NFL team.

Called the “Jackie Robinson of Football,” Taliaferro was drafted in 1949 during the 13th round of the draft by the Chicago Bears. He had been a three time All American at Indiana University prior to the draft. Taliaferro was a huge Bears fan, but he never ended up playing for the team that drafted him. Roughly a week before the NFL draft, Taliaferro had signed with the Los Angeles Dons of the All America Football Conference.

“I knew everybody who ever played with the Bears,” Taliaferro said. “That was my team.”

Taliaferro made his entrance into the NFL in 1950 after the All America Football Conference folded. He spent six seasons in the NFL and played for four teams. He was with the New York Yanks from 1950 to 1951 before he joined the Dallas Texans for the 1952 season. After that, Taliaferro played for the Baltimore Colts in the 1953 and 1954 seasons before finishing his NFL run with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1955.

During his time in the NFL, Taliaferro played quarterback, running back, wide receiver, punter, kick returner, punt returner and defensive back. He was only the second African-American to play quarterback, and he remains the only person in NFL history to play seven positions.

I’m the one person in the history of the NFL to play seven positions,” Taliaferro said. “When I went on the field, the game was over when I came off.”

Taliaferro was selected to play in the Pro Bowl for the three consecutive seasons between 1951 and 1953 and was a starter on the 1945 Hoosiers team that went 9-0-1. They were the only team in school history to finish undefeated, and during that season, Taliaferro became the first African-American player to lead the Big 10 in rushing yards. In 1981, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Taliaferro was a football legend. According to Colts owner Jim Irsay, that was not all he was. Irsay described Taliaferro as “a trailblazer and a true gentleman … [as well as] one of our last connections to the pro football of the ‘40s [and] ‘50s.” There is no doubt that he will be missed.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Burt Reynolds, the star of “Smokey and the Bandit” and “Deliverance,” died from a heart attack on Thursday, September 6, 2018. He was 82 years old.

Reynolds had heart problems for a number of years and underwent major heart surgery in February 2010. The surgery was a success that left Reynolds with “a great motor with brand new pipes.” Unfortunately, that motor eventually ran out of gas. He was transported to a Florida hospital after going into cardiac arrest and died surrounded by his family in Jupiter, Florida.

Burt Reynolds got his first big break in “Deliverance” in 1972, and continued to build up his credentials as a rising start with “The Longest Yard” in 1974 and “Smokey and the Bandit” in 1977. His popularity soared, and he became well known for his mix of post-modern macho posture and wry self-awareness. Both of these traits were put to good effect repeatedly in both action films and comedies. Unfortunately, he also had a streak of bad films which led to the decline of his career. Reynolds also turned down several roles that could have ended up defining his career such as the ex-astronaut in “Terms of Endearment.” The role was eventually taken by Jack Nicholson.

Acting was not always Reynold’s first choice of career. He originally attended Florida State University on a scholarship as a running back. A car crash, however, cut his promising career short when his knee was injured. Unable to play football, Reynolds turned his attention to acting. He appeared in films, TV shows and on Broadway.

In the early 1990’s Reynold’s popularity was a shadow of what it once was. A messy, public divorce, custody battle and tell all autobiography titled “My Life” finally pushed away all but the most fanatical of fans. He did, however, get one brief comeback with his performance in “Boogie Nights.” The role earned him an Oscar nomination for supporting actor.

Fans of both his movies and his work on TV will miss Reynolds greatly. The star is survived by his adopted son, Quinton, from his second marriage.