The Greatest Love Note Ever Was From Johnny Cash

In 1968, many years after they first met backstage at the Grand Ole Opry, legendary singer Johnny Cash proposed to June Carter on stage during a performance in front of an audience of 7,000 in London, Ontario. June urged him to keep singing, but Johnny refused to continue the show until he received an answer.

June said yes and the couple married on March 1, 1968, in Franklin, Kentucky.

Through thick and thin, they were married until June’s death in 2003. Johnny dedicated his final live performance to her, and passed away within four months after her.

The results of a British poll designated a note, written to June by Johnny, as the “Greatest Love Letter of All Time.”

Here is the letter in its entirety:

Happy Birthday Princess,We get old and get use to each other. We think alike. We read each others minds. We know what the other wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit. Maybe sometimes take each other for granted.

 But once in awhile, like today, I meditate on it and realize how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met. You still fascinate and inspire me.You influence me for the better. You’re the object of my desire, the #1 Earthly reason for my existence. I love you very much. Happy Birthday Princess.


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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.
Visit the Johnny Cash Museum


CleverJourneys 2nd Anniversary: Thanks to Our Readers

Loralyn “Dodie” and Jack Dennis wish to thank all of our faithful readers for your support. On the eve of our second anniversary for our CleverJourneys blog, we reached 1,110,011 unique viewers. Our best yet.

We began on May 1, 2020. Although I previously wrote articles for Examiner, AXS Entertainment, The Rowdy and my own News Legit, CleverJourneys is my dream come true (well, one of many thanks to God).

This is not too bad for two young seniors that have known each other since our first year of school way back when. To celebrate, we hope you enjoy these:

Here are some our regular features in leadership popularity order.

JackNotes: Summaries of books, classes, conferences, speeches and knowledge of over 40 years.

Another of our most popular articles series are JackNotes, executive summaries of books, articles, speeches and other useful information that may save you the expense and trouble of reading the entire publication….or it may spur you on to seek more information from the original source.


Another feature, Accounts of the Old West is a tribute to Jack’s great, great uncle Charlie Bassett, the first marshall of Dodge City, Kansas…and James Allison Morgan–a cattle driver and cowboy, Jack’s great grandfather. (You thought TV’s ‘Marshal Matt Dillon’ was the first didn’t you?) We feature tales and history of the Old West.

Travel, Road Trips, Destinations, Tips
Food, recipes, restaurants, cooking

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

The Dolphin Cried, Then Enzo Dived

The famous Italian diver Enzo Mallorca recalled “when I first started thinking about setting freediving records, the medical experts kept saying that a man could not stay alive diving deeper than 165ft [50m] because his lungs would not make it.”

“Doctors were creating barriers for us and I admit that at the time it worried me,” he admitted. “Even Aristotle claimed a man could dive no deeper than 30 ft.”

In September 1960, he successfully descended to a depth of 45m, in the process setting the first of 17 wworld records in the variable buoyancy category.

Two months later, he extended this to 49m.

Enzo Mallorca died at 86 in 2016.

In August 1961 he set a new record of 50m in the “constant weight” category, in which there are no additional buoyancy aids and the diver must descend and ascend with their own fin power. The Italian media dubbed him Lord of the Abysses.

Years later, Enzo dove into the sea of Syracuse and was talking to his daughter Rosanna who was aboard the boat. Ready to go in, he felt something slightly hit his back.

He turned and saw a dolphin. Then he realized that the dolphin did not want to play but to express something.

The animal dove and Enzo followed.

At a depth of about 12 meters, trapped in an abandoned net, there was another dolphin. Enzo quickly asked his daughter to grab the diving knives. Soon, the two of them managed to free the dolphin, which, at the end of the ordeal, emerged, issued an “almost human cry” (describes Enzo).

(A dolphin can stay under water for up to 10 minutes, then it drowns.)

The released dolphin was helped to the surface by Enzo, Rosanna and the other dolphin. That’s when the surprise came: she was pregnant!

The male circled them, and then stopped in front of Enzo, touched his cheek (like a kiss), in a gesture of gratitude and then they both swam off.

Enzo Mallorca once said, “Until man learns to respect and speak to the animal world, he can never know his true role on Earth.”

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Twice the Hero, This Olympic Swimmer Saved Many Lives

In 1976, Shavarsh Karapetyan, an Armenian Olympic swimmer who earned eight gold medals and broke several world records at European championships for finswimming, had just completed a 12-mile run with his brother Kamo when they saw a trolley bus crash into a dam reservoir. The trolley bus sank 80 feet offshore at a depth of 33 feet.

It was September 16, 1976 when Karapetyan risked his own life to save over three dozen people from drowning in the reservoir Yerevan, the capital of Armenia.

Despite zero visibility, he managed to kick in the back window, injuring himself in the process. He proceeded to save 37 people trapped in the bus, one at a time, for hours.

Using the routine he had developed from his swimming training, Karapetyan fell into a rhythm. He took five breaths, dove down for two passengers, and kicked against the top of the bus for momentum as he returned to the surface with the people in both arms.

He had instructed Kamo to stay at the surface and ferry passengers to the bank of the reservoir, as he dove again and again. Karapetyan’s own legs were bleeding, sliced open by broken glass, but that did not deter him.

The two-man lifesaving effort lasted about 20 minutes, before a rescue crew arrived, some of whom moved in on kayaks.

Because of the flurry of action and lack of clear government records, it’s unknown how many people the Karapetyan brothers saved; they estimate about 30. Some survivors freed themselves. Forty-six people died.

Karapetyan after rescuing about 37 people, is shirtless at the bottom center.

The combined effect of the cold water and his inquiries from breaking the glass window led to his hospitalization for 45 days after the incident, during which time he developed pneumonia, sepsis, and lung damage which ended his athletic career.

For years, his story wasn’t known, until an article about the event identified him by name in 1982. In 1985, he happened to pass by the Sports and Concert Arena when he witnessed a fire break out and rushed inside, again saving people trapped inside one at a time until he collapsed. He was again hospitalized with severe burns and lung damage.

He retired at the age of 24, having set 11 world records. Karapetyan held 17 world championship titles, 13 European championship titles, and seven Soviet championship titles.

He was born in 1953. As of 2022, Karapetyan says that he wouldn’t change a thing. Diving into Yerevan Lake that day cost him his athletic career. But he would do it again.

“There was no other choice,” he said. “I knew that it wouldn’t be right if the world’s fastest underwater swimmer was there and didn’t even try to help. Nature and humanity would have judged me. God probably would have judged me.”

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Fun of the Beach?

An ocean breeze puts a mind at ease.

Sunshine is the best medicine.

Life is simple: just add water.

Painted rock.

Time wasted at the beach is time well spent.

Stingray City.
Check out the woman behind them.
Wet on the beach from behind.
Attack of the seagulls.

May you always have a shell in your pocket and sand in your shoes.


Feeling stressed? There’s a beach for that.

B.E.A.C.H.: Best Escape Anyone Can Have.

Sand dollar.

Never give up for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.

I followed my heart, and it led me to the beach.

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The Incredible True Story of the ‘Miracle Girl’

Believing in miracles, coincidences, and serendipity can be a stunning endeavor. Many people consider them a lucky break, a fluke, or happenstance. But it only takes a second, an eighth of an inch, or some other instance to stumble upon a blessing or make a difference in life.

Linda Morgan

At any given moment, at any location, by any given person, lives can be moved and shaped by our decisions, actions, or circumstances.  

Job 9:10
“He does great things too marvelous to understand. He performs countless miracles.”

It’s been 65 years ago this month. ABC Radio Network’s Peabody Award winner, Edward P. Morgan maintained his professional composure while broadcasting the most challenging newscast of his life. Based in New York City, Morgan reported the collision of two ocean liners in the Atlantic Ocean off the Massachusetts coast.

Edward P. Morgan

Later, Morgan would become known as an anchor with Howard K. Smith on ABC television covering the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, a press panelist between the campaign debates of Kennedy and Vice President Richard Nixon, and a hands on reporter at presidential nominating conventions. But on the night of July 25, 1956 as he announced the details of the disaster at sea, his listeners had no knowledge that his 14-year-old daughter was on one of the vessels.

During the broadcast, Morgan was handed a list of 52 dead passengers from the crashing of the S.S. Stockholm into the luxury liner S.S. Andrea Doria.

As the ships separated and the Andrea Doria started to sink, rescue and first aid efforts began almost immediately. Passengers were escorted to lifeboats while six vessels in the area closed in.

Morgan had announced that among those survivors were Hollywood actresses Ruth Roman and Betsy Drake (wife of Cary Grant).  Also on board were Philadelphia mayor Richard Dilworth and a man named Mike Stoller, who later wrote many Elvis Presley hits such as “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “Treat Me Nice.”

Mike Stoller and Elvis Presley

This was the last night at sea of their Trans-Atlantic trip from Naples, Italy to New York.

“It was a very foggy night and the fog horns had been sounding regularly for hours,” Anna Maria Conti, who was traveling with her mother Lucia, explained. “The ship was due to dock at 9:00 a.m. the next morning… we proceeded to the ballroom and listened to the band for a while before retiring for the night.”

“About an hour later, we were startled from our sleep by people screaming and yelling outside our cabin and opened the door to see what was going on. People were scrambling around trying to find other family members in other cabins. Someone shouted that we were sinking, others thought there was a fire.”

S.S. Andrea Doria

“Many of the passengers were barefooted, in their nightclothes, and panic stricken. My mother and I decided to get dressed quickly, put on our life jackets and report to our muster station as we had practiced on our second day out to sea. Our muster station was located in the main ballroom of the cabin class section of the ship.”

“We had difficulty getting dressed as we were staggering and trying to stand upright and assumed it was the rough ocean. When we left our cabin, we noticed the floor was no longer level and we could not close the door. I know now the ship was listing. It was difficult to walk and stand upright while trying to get to our muster station. We had to hold on to the railings in the corridors to move. There was panic, confusion and chaos. There were no announcements on the intercom.”

Andrea Doria listing

The Contis eventually reached the main ballroom where they found many passengers assembled.

They waited for “instructions or information on the intercom but it was silent. The only sounds we heard were those of distant screams, broken glass and furniture sliding across the room as the ship continued to list. We still did not know what was happening. Tables, chairs, and musical instruments slid across the room while we waited and prayed. Two nuns that were in the room with us left. A priest came in and gave general absolution to everyone and also left. Where were they going? For sure we thought this was the end.”

“Thinking we had nothing to lose, we decided to go up the stairs and on deck. Some passengers had gone before us and others after us. To reach the upper deck on the starboard side of the ship we were forced to crawl up the stairs on our hands and knees due to the severely listing ship. It was impossible to stand up. While crawling, we had to dodge sliding furniture and broken glass which was all over the floors and stairs.”

“We finally reached the upper deck and couldn’t believe what we saw. Passengers were leaving the ship. If we had not ventured up on deck from the main ballroom, we might never have known that the ship was sinking and that passengers were being evacuated.”

Thinking death was imminent, Conti cherishes the next moments, in her eyes, a miracle. Suddenly, the dense fog lifted. In the distance they could see the bright welcoming lights of the luxury liner, Ile de France, which was traveling outbound from New York.

Andrea Doria and Ile de France

When the Andrea Doria sent the SOS, the captain of the Ile de France,  Raul De Beauden, immediately ordered that the ship reverse her course.

Captain Beauden and his crew would soon be rescuing the Contis and 751 other passengers, “many half-naked,” from the doomed Andrea Doria. He kept the Ile de France a safe 500 feet away and lowered his desperately needed lifeboats for the sinking ship’s passengers.

“It seemed like a mirage in the middle of the ocean,” Conti said. “The lifeboats were evacuating the passengers of the Andrea Doria to the Ile de France with the assistance of other smaller boats. Crew members and some of the passengers helped women and children to climb up over the side of the ship to rope ladders and descend to waiting life boats. It was a long way down and many people fell into the ocean screaming. My mother urged me to go first and she would follow. As terrified as I was, I knew that at 19 I could physically climb down that rope ladder.”

“I had doubts that my 56 year old mother would follow or be able to climb down,” Conti remembered. “I couldn’t take the chance that she would not and the crew was rushing us to move quickly as time was running out. I refused to climb over until my mother did first and with the aid of others we helped her over the side of the ship. I remember yelling down to her to ‘hold tight’ reassuring her that I was right behind her. We made it to a waiting lifeboat safely. Praise the Lord!”

S.S. Stockholm postcard

But on the list of those who did not survive  were radio news broadcaster Edward P. Morgan’s daughter, Linda, along with her half-sister, 8-year-old Joan.

Linda’s  mother and stepfather had bedded down in the upper deck of Cabin 54, while she and Joan slept in Cabin 52.

While others onboard heard the crash, Linda’s family directly experienced the terror when the Stockholm smashed 30 feet into their side of the ship. At 11:11 p.m. the two ships began pulling apart as scraping sparks showered the water.  

Prior to the voyage, Andrea Doria Captain Piero Calamai sought a trip postponement due to steering and stability problems. Because it was the height of the summer travel season and the ship was completely booked, his request to place the vessel into drydock for repairs was denied.

While Andrea Doria started her 230-plus feet descent to the ocean bed, Stockholm somehow remained afloat. One of the crew members, thirty-six year old Bernabe Polanco Garcia, surveying the damages, heard a familiar language above him.

Someone was calling in Spanish among the mangled steel of the Stockholm’s bow. He walked up and toward the call to hear the words “Madre! Madre! Dónde esta Mama” (“Mother! Mother! Where is my mother?”).  On his hands and knees he crawled forward and found a young teenage girl in yellow pajamas. She looked up from the mattress she was still on. It was Linda Morgan.

Miraculously, as Stockholm’s bow crushed through the Andrea Doria, it lodged just under  Linda’s bed in such a way that it  hurled her at least 80 feet onto its own front deck. She landed just behind a 30-inch  sea breaker that spanned the full width of the ship. Below her were crew quarters in the forward section where five crew members were killed and others injured.

Captain John Shea, commander of the USNS Pvt. William H. Thomas, directed rescue operations for almost six hours. He classified the cause of so many people being saved was due to  “a miracle.” With over 30 years of experience Shea said he had never seen a rescue operation proceed so smoothly.

Captain John Shea

“It is certainly unusual to get so many survivors off a sinking ship safely,” he observed. “If this happened four months from now it would be a different story. In cold weather there would be lives lost. You could bet on it.”

“A thing like that would happen once in a lifetime,” he continued. “If the fog hadn’t lifted when it did it would have been bad, very bad.”

Ile de France at New York harbor.

Naturally, Linda’s  name was not on the register of persons rescued from Andrea Doria lifeboats. She was assumed dead or missing at sea. Upon the Stockholm’s arrival at New York, she was taken to St. Vincent Hospital with a broken arm, kneecaps, and minor injuries. Around the world, the press reported her as the “Miracle Girl.”

Stockholm arrives in New York

During his broadcast the following day, Morgan, whose credo was “to be as fair as possible but as critical as possible,” revealed he had just returned from meeting his daughter at the dock. She had survived the collision, and was indeed the “Miracle Girl.” This emotional announcement became one of the most memorable in radio news history.

“To all those, of whatever nationality, who participated in the rescue operations following the tragic collision between the Andrea Doria and the Stockholm I extend personal congratulations and admiration,” President Dwight D. Eisenhower extended his “personal congratulations and admiration” to those involved in rescue operations.

President Eisenhower

When her Spanish-speaking rescuer, Polanco, went to the hospital the next weekend to pay her a visit, administrator Sister Loretta Bernard presented him with a Miraculous Medal Of Our Lady.

Mr. Morgan, who had worked in Mexico City where Linda was born, greeted him with an enthusiastic squeeze. “Hombre, hombre,” Mr. Morgan reacted. “Man, man how can I ever thank you?”

Linda grew up graduating from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, moved to Washington D.C and met a coworker named Phillip at the Office of Economic Opportunity. Phillip had been a captain piloting B-47 bombers in the United States Air Force and later became the executive secretary of the Peace Corps during the Kennedy administration. When he met Linda, Phillip was a special assistant to the director of the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity under President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Her mother, Jane Cianfarra painfully survived on the Andrea Doria, but on each anniversary of the July 25th disaster she would sink into depression thinking of her daughter Joan and the remembrance of seeing her husband take his last breath.. It was on a  July 25th in 1967 that she died. The following year Linda and Phillip were married and moved to San Antonio in 1970, where she became active in civic affairs. 

Linda, then and now.

“At 14, you think you live forever,” she said in 1997. “I learned otherwise earlier than most. The accident made me more cautious in the physical things, but less afraid of growing old and more adventurous in the mental things. I was pleased when we moved from Washington, where people live such public lives, to Texas, where people accept you for what you are and do.”

“I never understood the attention I got because I didn’t do anything, I just survived,” she continued. “I was once given a life-saving award, but I didn’t save any lives. I just survived. I couldn’t take credit for anything.”

“My husband’s a pilot,” Linda was quoted in the book “Saved!” by William Hoffer. “We fly all over. We hike and canoe and climb. I feel life is to be lived to the fullest. Life is precious. There’s a very thin line between when you’re living and when you’re not.”

Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum

Linda earned a master’s degree in Library Science from Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio, and master’s degree in Art History from the University of Texas, Austin. She worked for seven years at the San Antonio Art Museum and later became the chief curator of the highly respected Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum.

She was the founding curator of the Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts and has authored books on the history of stage design in Europe, Russia and the United States. She’s been a member of the Historic Review Board and the San Antonio Conservation Society. Recently a permanent endowment fund in her name was formally announced to provide support to grow community gardens, harvest stations, water catchment systems and training opportunities throughout the city.

 As for husband Phillip, he became Chief Justice of the 4th Court of Appeals and a future respected mayor of San Antonio–the Honorable Phil Hardberger.

Linda and Phil Hardberger

In 1977, he piloted a single-engine plane to re-create Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic on the event’s 50th anniversary. In 2007, Hardberger was honored by the Federal Aviation Administration with the Wright Brothers “Master Pilot” Award for 50 years of piloting planes safely.

The most popular mayor in San Antonio history (approval rating of 86%), he expanded the River Walk, brought integrity back to city leadership and led the acquisitions of more parks.

A signature Voelcker dairy farm and homestead was acquired in 2007 and turned into a park. In recognition, the City Council in late 2009 named it Phil Hardberger Park.

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What Lies Beneath Texas?

New and interesting book by award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

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The Three Rescue Encounters of Becky Taylor by Angels

In 1980, driving north near the San Antonio Union Stockyards on Interstate 35, traffic stopped both directions on the overpass. Forward and to my left, was the cab of a jack-knifed 18-wheeler. It was literally hanging, perhaps 40 feet above a drainage creek that flows west of downtown parellel to the expressway.

Spurred by adrenaline, I jumped out of my car to join several others who ran toward the dangling truck.

The driver was mostly laying on his steering wheel looking down below. Of course, he was in near shock. We coaxed him to roll his door window down and try to climb out so we could reach him.

With some older men holding me and my belt, I stretched downward until the man and I locked arms. As we all struggled, someone yelled, “watch out. It’s gonna fall.”

I can only remember a woman screaming and a then a blaring, shattering crash as the side rail went down.

Three of us were able to get the trucker over the mangled guardrail and onto the asphalt with us.

Frank Cantu, the driver, clutched both arms around me in sheer relief.

“Thank you,” he cried out and hugged us each. “Thank you all. Thank God. YOU ARE MY ANGELS!”

Over the years, I know I have crossed paths with living “angels” and thought about those intense moments involving Mr. Cantu.

Often, we watch the news or hear about the evil and bad in people. It doesn’t seem to be as easy to notice the good that is constantly around us. But it’s true, there are human angels all around.

Police, fire, emergency responders, and ordinary people go to help others everyday in some of the most tense and trying moments of our lives. Hurricanes, floods and disasters cause us to step in and help those in need. There are heroes and angels abound.

Dodie is a devoted Bible reader and spends daily time with her devotionals and study guides. Her heart flourishes with kindness and care for others. Maybe that’s one reason she was a registered nurse since the late 1970s.

A very sweet friend from our youth, Becky Taylor–who also takes care of others with health care needs– recently enjoyed a good meal with us in the John Wayne Dining Room at the OST (Old Spanish Trail) Restaurant in Bandera, Texas.

Dodie and Becky had not seen each other in over 45 years since our days at McCollum High School in south San Antonio.

After the meal we went outside to a bench to chat and watch tourists, shoppers and cowpokes (Bandera is the Cowboy Capitol of the World) stroll by. It was almost midnight by the time we left.

Dodie, Becky, & Jack at OST in Bandera.

Becky had recently sent me an email about her three encounters with angels during her life. We wanted her to share these with us in person. They are included in this article.

When I was in the third grade, I escaped an attempted abduction by a sex predator who tried to get me in his station wagon. At the same age, Dodie also ran from a man who invited her into his car and when she refused, he stopped and started coming after her in her neighborhood when she was walking home from elementary school. She ran to a nearby neighbor who let her in.

In my case, I distinctly heard a voice or message tell me to run. I did run! Even today I wonder where the voice in my head came from.

Hearing Becky’s experiences prompted a search about angels.

“Angels are certainly real; the Bible repeatedly tells us about them and the work God has given them to do,” wrote Billy Graham. “They are spiritual beings, the Bible says, who were created by God to do His will. The Bible says, ‘Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?’ (Hebrews 1:14).

Graham said “one of heaven’s joys, I believe, will be the joy of looking back over our lives and discovering just how often the angels intervened to save us or bless us — although we weren’t even aware of it at the time. The Psalmist said that God ‘will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways’ (Psalm 91:11).”

The following are Becky’s three encounters with angels.

Angel Encounter 1

“The first one was when I was 4 years old.  We were raised in the church, and I remember Mama asking for prayer for me as I had to have surgery on my thyroid, but all I could comprehend was the anxiety of my parents and that I was going to be away, alone and I would not feel well.”  

“I was so afraid the night before I was to be admitted, I couldn’t sleep.”

“The way my bedroom I shared with my two sisters was arranged, the door to the bedroom was directly at the foot of my bed leading into the kitchen.”

“As I was lying on my back, worrying and being scared, I saw the sweetest lady, dressed all in white, whom I’d never seen before, walk from the right side of my bed to the left, looked at me and smiled, then walked through the door and into the kitchen.”

“It startled me but did not scare me. I jumped up and went into the kitchen but she was gone.  In my heart, I knew it was an angel to calm me.  (My subsequent surgery went well and I was home I think in about two weeks.)”

Angel Encounter 2

“The second one is rather sensitive as you know the husband here in this story.  But this one also has stuck with me through many hard times with and about him.”  

“We were still very young, in our 20’s, taking our first (and only) family vacation with our two small children.”

“My husband had recently received his pilot’s license so we were flying to Arlington, Texas for a few days to visit Six Flags Over Texas there.”

“We had already gotten the rental car and checked in to our motel room before heading out to the park. Even with the rental car, we had quite a distance to walk before being able to enter.”

“The youngest son was very fussy and would not settle down which frustrated his father so much so that he demanded we leave the park just after we had finally arrived.” 

“After pleading not to give up yet and try to salvage the day, an argument ensued.”

“And the argument continued.”

“To make a long story short, he then decided the vacation was over and we were to fly home that night.  He was very angry by that time, blamed everything on me, and I remember being very afraid of what would happen to me once we were home.”

“As we sat there in silence the whole flight home, I remember how I felt – scared, sad, confused, angry, disappointed, and praying.  Praying to just be happy and not be so afraid all the time (of his anger and subsequent demonstration of it), and just needing God’s help in what to do with this situation and my life.”  

“The little Cessna we flew home in only sat four people.  We had decided the best seating arrangements were for me to sit in the back with the youngest son and the older son sat in the front next to him as he piloted the plane back to San Antonio’s Stinson Field Airport.”

“I am sitting behind and to the right of my husband with only the window to my very immediate right (those planes are small and loud) and I distinctly and quite clearly heard a female voice I did not recognize, say to me in my right ear, “You will never be happy with this man.”  

“At the time I heard this, it really startled me. I looked around and even asked him if there was a radio on or something and if he heard anything.”

“There wasn’t.  And he didn’t hear anything.  But I knew what I had heard and through the years, that advice continued to help me.”

Angel Encounter 3

“Third time, was the morning of December 5, 2019. As you know I work overnights and I was driving home when a van pulled out in front of me and I T-boned him.”

“Standing close to the road and to the driveway was the nicest human angel.  As soon as my car came to a rolling stop, and I started to assess everything, he runs up to my car door and starts to help me.” 

“He was very excited and shook up saying he witnessed it all, and kept repeating “are you all right?”  He helped me get out of my car, my right foot was hurt and my shoe was stuck at the brake pedal, then he grabbed my shoe, helped me put it back on and helped me hobble a few feet away to safety.”

“Then he took an extra t-shirt he had and tied a tourniquet on my right forearm as I was bleeding.  He said a few different things that really stood out to me and that I’ve replayed in my head many times: he said he’s seen that type accident before and it killed the person and he was praising God I was alive.”

“He said he then understood why he was there at that time because he had been standing at a different gas station across the highway telling people about God and got run off, where he was waiting for his ride to take him to work, but this was where he was meant to be.”

“He said he was a new Christian and prayed over me. He gave me his name but didn’t have a phone or any contact info so he gave me a postcard/flyer from his church to try to contact him there.”

“But the one thing that really stood out to me and I remember being surprised and distracted from everything else going on, was his eyes.  They looked exactly like my daddy’s.”

“My earthly daddy, who passed in December of 1995.  He told me he would stay to talk to the police and be a witness for me because I was taken away in an ambulance.  But his name wasn’t on the police report and I was never able to find him calling the church.  Frank, and I can’t believe I’ve forgotten his last name.” 

“Do angels still appear?” wrote Rev. Graham. “I’m convinced they do on occasion — although sometimes we may not even be aware of them, because they have chosen to appear as ordinary human beings.”

“We should thank God for His angels, but at the same time, we shouldn’t become overly preoccupied with them,” Graham noted. “Nor should we worship them, for only God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — is worthy of our worship.”

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How Friendship Between Adams and Jefferson Led to Independence Day

On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee delivered the all-important resolution of the founding era, before the assembled delegates of the 2nd Continental Congress: 

 “Resolved, that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States...”

Congress appointed three overlapping committees to draft a formal declaration of independence, a model treaty for the conduct of international relations and a document by which this confederation of states, was to be governed.

Already appointed to the Committee of Confederation, Lee was urged to join Declaration committee, as well.  Believing that two such committees were too much and burdened with the care of a critically ill wife, Lee demurred.

So a committee of five was appointed to write the Declaration of Independence, including Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Robert R. Livingston of New York, Massachusetts attorney John Adams and a young Virginia delegate named Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson had no interest in writing the Declaration of Independence and suggested that Adams pen the first draft. Adams declined, and described the following conversation, in a letter to Massachusetts politician Timothy Pickering:

“Jefferson proposed to me to make the draft. I said, ‘I will not,’ ‘You should do it.’ ‘Oh! no.’ ‘Why will you not? You ought to do it.’ ‘I will not.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Reasons enough.’ ‘What can be your reasons?’ ‘Reason first, you are a Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. Reason second, I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reason third, you can write ten times better than I can.’ ‘Well,’ said Jefferson, ‘if you are decided, I will do as well as I can.’ ‘Very well. When you have drawn it up, we will have a meeting.”

Fellow committee members agreed. Thomas Jefferson spent the following seventeen days, writing the first draft. 

He and Adams had only just met during the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.  The two would develop a close personal friendship which would last for the rest of their lives.

To be more precise, the friendship between the two men would last, for most of their lives.

That all came to an ugly end during the Presidential election of 1800, in which mudslinging and personal attacks from both sides rose to levels never before witnessed in a national election.

Jefferson defeated one-term incumbent Adams and went on to serve two terms as President of the United States.  Upon Jefferson’s retirement in 1809, Dr. Benjamin Rush, one of the Declaration’s signers, took it upon himself to patch up the broken friendship between the two founding fathers.

For two years Dr. Rush worked on this personal diplomatic mission.  In 1811, he succeeded.

Jefferson Seal

There followed a series of letters between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, which together constitute one of the most comprehensive historical and philosophical assessments ever written about the American founding.

The correspondence between the pair touched on a variety of topics, from the birth of a self-governing Constitutional Republic, to then-current political issues to matters of philosophy, religion and personal issues related to the advancement, of years.

Both men understood. They were writing not only to one another, but to generations yet unborn.  Each went to great lengths to explain the philosophical underpinnings of his views. Adams was the firm believer in strong, centralized government, while Jefferson advocated a small federal government, deferential to the states.

By 1826, Jefferson and Adams were among the last survivors among the founding generation.  Only a handful still remained.

No fiction writer, no Hollywood screenwriter would dare put to paper an ending so unlikely, so unbelievable, as that which then took place.

These two men, central among the hundreds who gave us this self governing Republic, died on the same day. July 4, 1826.  It was fifty years to the day from the birth of the Republic, they had helped to create. 

Adams was 90 as he lay on his deathbed, suffering from congestive heart failure.  His last words were “Thomas Jefferson still survives”.

Adams had no way to know.  The author of the Declaration of Independence had died of a fever that morning, at his Monticello home.  Jefferson was 82.

John Adams’ son John Quincy was himself President at the time of the two men’s passing, and remarked that the coincidence was among the “visible and palpable remarks of Divine Favor”.

A month after the two men died, Daniel Webster spoke of these two men at Faneuil Hall, in Boston.

“No two men now live, (or) any two men have ever lived, in one age, who (have) given a more lasting direction to the current of human thought. No age will come, in which the American Revolution will appear less than it is, one of the greatest events in human history. No age will come, in which it will cease to be seen and felt, on either continent, that a mighty step, a great advance, not only in American affairs, but in human affairs, was made on the 4th of July 1776″.

God Bless America. Wishing a Blessed Independence, to you and yours.

Jack and Dodie Dennis


Click for Green Pasture Website

25 Things Most People Don’t Know About Me

by Jack Dennis

Ok. I’ll bite. Per request, here are 25 things most people don’t know about me. #20 is unexplainable.


1.  In August 1989 three men sat at a table in downtown San Antonio and flipped a quarter each. I was the odd man (I flipped ‘heads”) against the other two. I won a 15-day trip to Switzerland and visited the Matterhorn, France and Italy while there in October 1989.

2. Not long after I turned 50, I walked on stage at a motivation conference at the Alamodome in San Antonio and competed in a dance contest against 21 others. The crowd of 18,000+ decided the winner by applause. I won a free trip, with lodging, etc. to Disney World in Florida for my family the following September. 

3. When I had to go back stage after winning the dance contest at the Alamodome in 2006, I met and talked with comedian Jerry Lewis and former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani. I asked them both what makes them happy in life. They were kind enough to visit with me a few moments and their answers were outstanding.

Kidnap Attempt

4. We lived about halfway down W. Ansley Blvd. in South San Antonio when I was eight. One summer day I was down the street playing with a friend, Steven Price, when his mother told me my Mom had called and I was to go home for lunch. Mom was going to meet me half way.

Steven and I were in his back yard and I walked down their drive way to the street when a white station wagon drove up. The man in the car had his passenger window down and asked me if I knew “where the Hamners live?” I told him I didn’t. He got out of his car and had a piece of paper in his hand. As he walked around the back of his car he said, “Well, they left me a map and…”  

I don’t know what it was but instantaneously something in my mind told me to scream and run.

I ran back to the Price’s house yelling as loud as I could. Mrs. Price and Steven came out the front door and onto their porch. The man quickly jumped back in his vehicle and sped off.

The reason my Mother had called was not so much for me to go home for lunch, but because my Dad, a policeman had called her and told her they were looking for a man who had been trying to abduct children on our side of town driving a white station wagon.

Vegas, San Diego & More

5. My son Jack and I went to Las Vegas in June 2010. He was very interested in magic so we saw David Copperfield, Chris Angel, Lance Burton, Mac King, and Nathan Burton perform. Jack was able to meet the latter two. We went to the old International Hotel (now the Las Vegas Hilton) because I wanted to see the showroom where Elvis Presley performed in the 1970s. 

We opened an entrance door and saw a band rehearsing. They sounded familiar to both of us. We started to walk out and looked at a poster on the veranda wall by the doors. It was Aerosmith. We turned back around and reentered. No one stopped us.

We sat down and had our own private mini-concert for a few songs.
Ironically a few years prior I was able to meet them at a special Susan Komen Cancer fundraising event at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay totally by accident.

6. In the late 1990’s, I was a founder and first elected president of the PRSM, the Professional Retail Maintenance Association (now CONNEX). Because of this role, I had the honor of dining with such notable businessmen as Stanley Marcus (Neimann & Marcus founder), Norman Brinker (Brinker International: Jack in the Box, Steak n Ale, Bennigan’s, and Chili’s), Fred Meijer and Hank Meijer, CEO’s of the regional American hypermarket chain in Michigan.

I also dined with Fred Gandy while at a PRSM convention in San Diego. Gandy was an actor in the role of “Gopher” in the TV sitcom “The Love Boat.” When I met him he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from the state of Iowa.

“Why Don’t You?”

7. My earliest memory is being with my grandfather, Jack L. Dennis, Sr. and my father, Walter Dennis, at the Boerne, Texas Fairgrounds and Race Track  in the late 1950s. A horse kicked a door of a horse trailer and it scared me. I ran to my grandfather who picked me up for safety. They tell me I was a little over two years old. Many years later I would live in Boerne.

8. In the early spring of 1976, my journalism professor Jeff Henderson, asked his class to write down the names of two people we would like to interview if we could.  When he called on me to reveal my answers, embarrassingly, I said “Elvis Presley and Clint Eastwood.”

When my classmates laughed, he held his hand up and looked straight at me and asked, “Why don’t you?”

Superbowl & Astronauts

I thought of scores of reasons why I couldn’t. The question had profound impact. Within eight months I interviewed Presley and Eastwood.

9. I was fortunate to attend the first-half of Super Bowl XXI on January 25, 1987 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. I had a plane to catch at LAX, but had the opportunity to attend the game, which included over 101,000 other spectators. I compromised by attending most of the first half before I had to leave in a cab. Neil Diamond sang the National Anthem and by the time I had to leave the score was very close: Denver 10 and New York Giants 9. 

The quarterbacks were John Elway (Denver) and Phil Simms (New York). I also recall seeing famed Defensive End Willie Davis of the Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers toss the coin, as well as future Hall of Famers Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson and Bill Parcells. 

When I was on the plane returning back to Texas, the captain announced the results: NY Giants 39, Denver 20.

10. I was showing my son Jack some of my autographs one day in 2006 and he was intrigued with the astronaut’s signatures. I told him perhaps someday I could take him to get some autographs from astronauts. He seemed very interested. I checked the Internet to see if there would be any upcoming autograph opportunities in the near future.

To our surprise there was a huge gathering of astronauts, cosmonauts and others associated with space travel and movies in San Antonio that same day at the St. Anthony Hotel.

We rushed to downtown from Boerne. Jack and I were able to meet and talk with Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, Dave Scott, Gene Cernan, Ed Mitchell, Walt Cunningham, Richard Gordon, Vanentina Treshkova, Bruce McCandless, Alex Leonov, Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra, Al Worden, Gene Kranz and so many others.

11. I witnessed the launching of the last Shuttle Atlantis in May 2010 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was flight STS132.

Jack Dennis


12. Like many from the Alamo City, I saw President John F. Kennedy in San Antonio the day before he was assassinated in Dallas. It was November 21, 1963 when my mother took me out of third grade class. We drove to the corner of Military Drive and Zarzamora. When the President’s entourage came by, I was more excited about seeing my father, a policeman, on the motorcycle than I was JFK and Mrs. Kennedy.

13. I have shaken the hands of, and talked with three Presidents, Jimmy Carter at the Alamo, Bill Clinton at Mi Tierra Restaurant, and George W. Bush at the AT&T Center, all in San Antonio. I have seen Lyndon B. Johnson, George H.W. Bush and Donald Trump but did not get to meet them. I have interviewed First Lady Ladybird Johnson.

Being Elvis Before it Was Cool

14. In April 1973, I performed as Elvis Presley on our high school stage in front of 770 people. It was life changing. Prior to that date, I had never spoken or sang in public. The band and I performed several other times that year. Soon I was performing at local schools, venues and night clubs. I also performed at my high school reunions in 1983, 1993 and 2003.


15. I have given speeches in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Seattle, Nashville, Orlando, Atlantic City, Washington D.C., Dallas, San Diego, Grand Rapids, St. Louis, Memphis, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Boston, Hartford, and many other locations.

16. The largest group I addressed was to the National Retail Federation at the Kravitz Center in New York City in 1999. In the green room prior to the speech I met Joe Torrey, the successful manager of the New York Yankees and Walter Martinez, the CEO of Sears-Roebuck. The crowd numbered over 10,000.

17. Jay Leno gave me a cap and free steak dinner after winning a dance contest against five others during “The Tonight Show” warmup prior to the taping of the show. Evander Holyfield was on the show after his March 17, 2007 defeat of Vinny Maddalone by a TKO. Antonio Banderas was also on that show.

More Serendipity

18. In 1977 there was a horror movie called “The Hills Have Eyes.” A poster, depicting one of the stars of the film, Michael Berryman, absolutely horrified me. I was afraid to even look at it, much less go see the movie.

Over 34 years later, while attending a horror film festival in San Antonio as a member of the press, I met Berryman. During our conversation he asked me to have lunch with him. We visited for over two hours. He was candid and answered all my questions honestly. I confessed how I was afraid of that poster.

Later, after he received an award, he came down into the audience and sat by me. He whispered for me to follow him to another part of the conference. Berryman pulled out an 8×10 photo of the poster and signed it for me.

19. In 1974, my father gave me a birthday card that read “Happy Birthday to a good looking guy.” When I opened it, it read “Now you can give me this card for my birthday.”  I did.

For 37 years, we exchanged the card back and forth. After his death in 2011, it was in Ripley’s Believe it Or Not as the longest continuous exchange of the same birthday card by a father and son.

Who Was the Sailor Boy?

20. One cold rainy night in 2007, I was walking with Andres Lira, the supervisor of the custodian crew of the downtown headquarters for H-E-B Food and Drugs, a major retail chain based in San Antonio. I was the Director of Facilities Management at the time and periodically would visit with Lira and his crew as they performed their nighttime duties.

The headquarters is on the beautiful campus of a Civil War era U.S. Army Arsenal and to this day is called “The Arsenal.” Lira’s crew would often tell me about seeing ghosts in two of the older houses and in other parts of the Arsenal.

On this particular night I was walking along on the exterior walk way in the interior portion of the Arsenal when I noticed someone at the foot of the steps leading to the entry of the North Building. It was raining fairly hard and I wondered why this individual was just standing in the rain.

As I approached closer I realized it was a young boy of about seven or eight years of age. He was dressed in a sailor or Navy type suit that reminded me of the boy on Cracker Jack’s popcorn boxes.

Immediately, from my vantage point on the Western interior walkway looking out across interior campus, I scanned the North, East and South Buildings to determine if there was some sort of projection device and determine if someone was trying to fool me.

I began walking more toward the North Building and the boy faded towards his left into some hedges next to the stairs. I went to the stairs and looked behind and around the hedges, and then examined the windows along the first floor to determine if there was some kind of reflection.

I could not find the boy and decided to go back to the South Building basement where Lira’s office was. When I told him about the boy, he smiled and asked if it was “a sailor boy?” I said yes and he indicated that is what others have seen too. I can’t explain it, but I know it happened.

21. In the middle of watching a movie at the Rialto Theater in San Antonio I made a quick run to the restroom.

I started washing my hands and grabbed a paper towel on the way out. I grabbed the door handle, pulled the door open and was startled by a man I recognized wanting to enter.

He stood there anxiously waiting for me to exit. I was in shock and just looked at him.

Finally, with much disgust, looking me straight in the eyes, he said, “You need to move!”

“Yes Sir,” I whispered back and moved away so actor Tommy Lee Jones could enter.


22. One evening just as I was finishing up my shift as a golf marshal at Fair Oaks Ranch Golf Resort & Country Club, I received a phone call from another nearby resort. It was Tapatio Springs asking if I could come take photos (I freelanced as a side job) for a special event they were having.

“It’s a private event by invitation only, so we need to be quiet about it until you get here.”

I always kept a set of additional clothes for such events so I showered in the locker room and drove straight to the “secret” event.

It was a private concert and auction  for elite donors to the Wounded Warriors charity organization. I recognized such well known personalities such as Mark Cuban the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks owner and from TV’s “Shark Tank”).

The show started with Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel and ended with country music icon George Strait.

I was able to interview both of them as well as band members, song writers and others. What a long but exciting day that turned out to be.

23. When I lived in an apartment above the Majestic Theater in downtown San Antonio for almost five years, I was able to interview such notables as B.B.King, Merle Haggard and Lou Diamond Philips.

During one pre-concert interview, I walked in a “green room” with several men in there but none I recognized until one of them spoke.

“Have a seat,” the man offered. I knew who it was by his voice, not his face.

This well known star had recently undergone a facelift that didn’t match my preconceived notion of how I remembered him.

It was a bit awkward start, but Kenny Rogers was the ultimate and patient gentleman.

Photo by Jack Dennis

24. During the world premiere of Shrek III at the Westwood Theater near Hollywood, I was placed in between Entertainment Tonight and a Japanese news crew along the red carpet.

Among those I interviewed was Mike Myers, Justin Timberlake, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Julie Andrews, Larry King, Antonio Banderas, Terri Hatcher and more.

While I was waiting for Steven Spielberg to finish with Entertainment Tonight, an older, but attractive lady was talking with me, but I didn’t recognize her. She kept looking back toward other celebrities so I grinned and asked who she was looking for.

She laughed and pointed at my camera, “You had better get ready to use that, honey because Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz are about to see each other for the first time in public since their breakup.”

I quickly peered over just as they embraced and snapped a photo of their greeting kiss. That photo alone paid for most of my trip to LA.

25. When I found out who the lady was who hinted I should photograph the Timberlake-Diaz kiss, I was embarrassed. She is the mother of the wife of Antonio Banderas, who most of us know as actress Melanie Griffith.

And the mother?

I talked with her casually a good ten minutes not realizing she was one of my favorite childhood actresses, Tippi Hedrin of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds fame.


We are Celebrating 1000 Blog Posts!

This is our 1000th post on CleverJourneys in just over a year. Dodie and I are celebrating by checking into a hospital.

Yes, both of us! Coincidence? Serindipty? Double whammy?

The short story is she is in Room #7 of Kerrville’s Pederson Hospital’s Emergency Room and I’m on test #1 of a three part, five-hour nuclear stress tests today, less than 75 feet away from her. It’s a bit concerning, but we are both grinning.

Looks like we are both going to be okay, but are taking this as a big warning sign. She’s about to be released (been here since 7 a.m.). We’re not getting any younger and there is always room for health improvements. We will meet the challenge.

My sincere apologies to country music recording artist Sonny Morgan. We were due to interview and see him perform in Granbury, Texas this evening.

To celebrate this achievement please consider this wisdom:

Thank You

What I Learned About Happiness From Interviewing Famous People

From Elvis Presley to B.B. King to Buzz Aldrin to Clint Eastwood and so many more, I had the pleasure and opportunity visit with some of the most influential people of our times. I always asked questions about happiness.

by Jack Dennis

Rudy Giuliani

Rudolph Giuliani is best known for being mayor of New York during the September 11, 2001 attack. In 2008, I had the opportunity to meet Giuliani in San Antonio. The American leader expressed his thoughts on his personal change, compassion, hope and faith during the disaster.

“Most people are surprised to know that I changed more from having prostate cancer than from September 11,” Giuliani stated, backstage at the Alamodome, where he was to give a speech later. “Dealing with the cancer forced me to gain the wisdom about the importance of life and the lack of control we have over death.”

“I needed the confidence and character I gained from coping with the cancer to prepare me to deal with, and even survive, the trials of September 11,” the former mayor said.

Giuliani found himself surrounded by firefighters, police officers and emergency workers on that fateful day in 2001. The worst attack on American soil became the most successful rescue operation in our country’s history under his leadership.

That evening, as Giuliani prepared for bed, he found solace in the words of Winston Churchill and “realized that courage doesn’t simply materialize out of thin air.”

Giuliani attended hundreds of funerals and visited Ground Zero daily.

“I grew physically and emotionally exhausted,” he recalled. “When I saw the families of the victims, I was revived knowing if they can do this, I can do it.”

“Courage begins years before, sometimes in our early childhood, as we develop our character,” he spoke. “Every choice we make in life can strengthen or weaken our character.”

Here are highlights of Mr. Giuliani’s views.

“When I was in my teens, I seriously planned to become either a priest or a doctor as I have always been faithful and enthusiastic about my faith in God and helping others. Religion was a favorite topic I enjoyed talking with my teachers about. Prayer and faith in God provided me with the strength I could not acquire from any other source. When things are tough, it’s always a good idea to pray for the guidance and strength necessary to get us through.”

“Most of my time as mayor was spent under the maxim that it’s better to be respected than to be loved. September 11 unlocked compassion in me that I typically reserved for my family and very close friends. I discovered that revealing your love and compassion does not weaken leadership. It makes it stronger.”

“Allowing doubt, fear and worry to overtake us is an inevitable path to failure. I could not afford failure after September 11. It was very necessary to reach inside and push the doubts away, and even out, of my thinking.”

“I’ve spent much of my reading on learning about how great leaders that I admired grew up and forged the character each had to deal with different substantial challenges. Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt came to mind. ‘Then only thing we have to fear is fear itself.’”

“Love can spark deep moments of profound goodness. When I saw the love of our heroes in New York who looked beyond their own safety or what was best for themselves and focus on the lives and safety of others, I learned that love can help us push aside differences to share our humanity and those things that we have in common.”

“I prayed with these brave men and women. I became very close and was able to learn from these firefighters, police officers and emergency responders, not to mention ordinary every day civilians. At the root of all of this, it was love, and not so much the sense of duty, that caused those firefighters to run into the flaming towers to save those he or she had never met. Love can so powerful it can help us be kind to even those who are cruel to us.”

Jerry Lewis

Jerry Lewis, “one of the 5 most recognizable people in the world,” according to Newsweek magazine was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977 for his efforts and results with the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

The “King of Comedy” died August 20, 2017 at age 91. Millions know him for helping the Muscular Dystrophy Association in 1950 and helped raise more than $2 billion for almost 60 years.

He teamed up with Dean Martin at age 19 to launch their careers to the top of the movie charts and worldwide stardom. 

 In 2008, I had the opportunity to meet Lewis in San Antonio. The American comedian, actor, and director expressed his thoughts on happy and the key to success in life before he went on stage to address a crowd of 18,000 people in the Alamodome.

“No one gets through life unscathed,” Lewis told the audience. “Pain, rejection and sorrow have been obstacles in life, but they have also been a source of inspiration.”

“My parents were performers on the road and were never home, so relatives raised me. I missed them so much,” he recalled. “Comedy, and being the center of attention and making people laugh, began as a means to fill the emptiness. It became my life.”

“At first I didn’t know what I was doing,” Lewis laughed. “I kept going on and I found the key and that was to squelch the fear!”

“Don’t let fear rob you of opportunities,” he pointed up. “Take risks. There is no limit to what you can do, but you have to take that first step past fear. You can make it work for you.”

Here are highlights of Lewis’s views, both backstage and onstage:

I had met Jerry Lewis briefly behind the Majestic Theater in San Antonio in January 1995 where he was performing the play ‘Damn Yankees.’ It was after a matinee show, his throat was hurting and his voice was hoarse to the point he had to be relieved of showing up for the evening performance.

He was staying at the La Mansion hotel on the River Walk just across the street from the theater but was unable to meet. It was a pleasure to get to go backstage at the Alamodome years later and talk with this great American entertainer.

Lewis had been watching the monitors backstage to see those going on before him onstage. Dressed in a back suit, with a red shirt and handkerchief in his front pocket, Lewis smiled from his electric mobility scooter as I approached. (Note: I had just won a dance contest by process of elimination from the audience crowd roar among 21 contestants. The prize? A free trip to Walt Disney World for my family.)

“Mr. Energy, come shake my hand,” he offered his hand to me. I was exhausted and happy to win, but especially excited to meet him. He laughed when I asked what was his key to happiness in life.

Looking at me square in the eyes, Jerry Lewis grabbed my arm with his right hand and pointed to me with his left. He was serious. Then smiled again.

 “The key to happiness and maintaining joy in your life is easy,” he grinned. “Do you remember when you were nine-years-old?”

He paused.

“If you can remember that time and always be the person you were when you were nine, you will have a happy life.”

“Applying that same sense of humor, the childlike humor of a nine-year-old, as I see it, is the secret to getting through life and getting the most out of it,” Lewis explained. “Laughter is healing. Many doctors now know that it is the truth that laughter is a terrific safety valve.”

“When I see how serious people are, it becomes automatic for me that I must stop this seriousness,” Lewis spoke. “Immediately, I become mischievous and do whatever I can and whatever it takes to lighten the mood.”

“The smiles and laughter that follow make me happy and make me know and remember I’m doing exactly what I was put on this earth to do.”

Jerry Lewis’s legacy includes more than 60 films (including 18 he wrote, directed and starred in), concerts, radio, television, and standup performances since age 5.

Interviewing Others

Over the years I made it a habit to always ask the question, “What makes you happy?”

If they answered and had the time, I would ask for elaboration. I didn’t always get it and some where reluctant to pursue that line of questioning. The biggest surprise was from Merle Haggard (I will write about later). But here are some notable personalities who were enthusiastic about the subject of happiness.

The age they were when I asked them.
Jerry Lewis83“…remember when you were nine-years-old? Always be the person you were when you were nine.”
Elvis Presley41“Knowing and appreciating what God has blessed me with.”
Gene Krantz72“Always reach for the stars.”
May Pang60“John said it best: IMAGINE.”
Clint Eastwood46“Working hard, and long enough, to pay my dues and earn the right to do what I want to do.”
B.B. King85“Well, Son, it music of course. Singing and playing.”
Buzz Aldrin76“Continuing to learn and continuing to have opportunities to apply what you learn.”

The Hollywood Star’s Mother Who Saved Apollo 13 Astronauts

A Special Mother’s Day Story

On August 12, 2006, I had the privilege of interviewing astronauts such as Buzz Aldrin, Bruce McCandless, Wally Schirra and more at a collectSpace event in San Antonio.

There were other space related celebrities I talked with including James Drury (Classic TV’s The Virginian), Lana Wood (Natalie Wood’s sister, Diamonds Are Forever), and Clint Howard (brother of Ron Howard, TV’s Gentle Ben and 1995 movie Apollo 13).

One of the most interesting people I met was famed NASA Space Control Center chief Gene Kranz (“Failure is not an option.”) played by Ed Harris in the Apollo 13 movie.

During his interview he said the most riveting mission “was of course, the Apollo 11, our first manned landing” but the “most tense was without a doubt, Apollo 13.” He praised his team and engineers for saving the lives of astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jim Swigert in 1970 after an oxygen tank exploded on their voyage to the moon.

Kranz, 2nd from left.
Apollo 13 crew returns to Earth.

Judith Love Cohen was one of those engineers Kranz talked about. She had three children–Neil, Howard, and Rachel–when she saved Apollo 13.

Cohen had a fascinating life as an engineer who worked on the Pioneer, Apollo, and Hubble space missions. Later she would become an author and publisher of books about women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and environmentalism in the 1990s, a ballet dancer with the New York Metropolitan Opera Ballet Company, an advocate for better treatment of women in the workplace. Today, you may recognize her son.

She passed away in 2016 at the age of 82 following a short battle with cancer. Her oldest son, Neil Siegel, a professor of engineering, included an anecdote from the Apollo 13 mission in an obituary he wrote on July 29 the year of her death.

Judith Love Cohen with son, USC professor Neil Siegel.

“My mother, USC alumna Judith Love Cohen Siegel Black Katz, B.S. EE ’57, M.S. EE ’62, died on July 25, 2016, after a short battle with cancer. She was just a couple of weeks shy of her 83rd birthday.”

“A beloved mother, wife, and friend, she was an accomplished engineer, author, and publisher.”

“Her first passions were dancing and engineering. By age 19, she was a dancer in the Corps de Ballet of the New York Metropolitan Opera Ballet Company, and a student in engineering school of Brooklyn. She met Bernard Siegel, the man who became her first husband and my father, at the end of her freshman year. They were married a couple of months later and made the move west to Southern California.”

“During the next 10 years, she worked full-time as an engineer, had the first three of her four children, and completed both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering at USC. She liked to be busy.

“She started dancing again – recreational folk dancing – around 1964, which she continued until the end of her life.”

“Her engineering career included roles on the teams that created the guidance computer for the Minuteman missile, the Abort-Guidance System in the Lunar Excursion Module for the Apollo space program, the ground system for the Tracking Data, and Relay System Satellite (recently retired after nearly 40 years of operations on orbit!) among others.”

“This picture is of Judy with the Pioneer spacecraft in 1959. She and my father worked together on this satellite, which was scheduled to launch in spring of 1959. “Life” magazine decided that a husband-and-wife engineering couple would be a good story, so photographers came to our house in Bellflower and took photos of the family.”

“Unfortunately, the Atlas-Able rocket that was supposed to launch blew up on the pad at Cape Canaveral, and “Life” lost interest in the story. A replacement satellite got built, and was going to be launched in 1960 or 1961. “Look” magazine thought that it would do the story. So we had another set of photographers at our new house in Manhattan Beach. The story never ran, but we still have the photos, including this one.”

“Judy and Bud divorced in the mid-1960’s, and she soon married Tom Black.”

“Her fourth child was born a few years later. She actually went to her office on the day that (he) was born. When it was time to go to the hospital, she took with her a computer printout of the problem she was working on. Later that day, she called her boss and told him that she had solved the problem. And . . . oh, yes, the baby was born, too.”

“My mother usually considered her work on the Apollo program to be the highlight of her career. When disaster struck the Apollo 13 mission, it was the Abort-Guidance System that brought the astronauts home safely. Judy was there when the Apollo 13 astronauts paid a “thank you” to the TRW facility in Redondo Beach.”

“She finished her engineering career running the systems engineering for the science ground facility of the Hubble Space Telescope.”

“During her engineering career, she was a vigorous and tireless advocate of better treatment for women in the workplace. Many things that today we consider routine – the posting of job openings inside of a company so that anyone could apply, formal job descriptions for every position, and so forth – were her creations. She had a profound impact on equality in the workforce.”

“She and Tom divorced in the late 1970’s, and she later met and married the man who turned out to be the love of her life, David Katz. They had been married 35 years at the time of her death.”

“Judy retired from engineering in the early 1990’s, and immediately wrote a small book called “You Can Be a Woman Engineer” targeted to eight- to 10 year-old girls. It was intended to encourage them to consider a career in engineering.”

“She was not able to find a publisher, so she and David started their own book company. This led to a new passion and an entire series of titles including, “You Can be a Woman Architect” (co-authored with my father’s wife, a practicing architect), “You Can be a Woman Astronomer,” and many others.”

“Judy sold more than 100,000 of these books; held hundreds of in-person book-readings and seminars; and prepared lesson-kits so that hundreds of other people could do the same. She must have influenced tens of thousands of young girls to become interested in professional careers of one sort or another.”

“Her husband David illustrated these books, so this was an adventure of love that they experienced together.”

“She was an ideal mother-in-law to my wife Robyn, especially when Robyn’s own mother died at a relatively early age. She invited Robyn to become a co-author for one of her books. The partnership worked, and she and Robyn co-authored the last 10 or so of the books in the series.”

“In the last 10 years, my mother acquired three grandchildren, giving her yet another passion.”

“Her life was not perfect: Her younger sister, Rosalind, died young; there were the two divorces; and she suffered the trauma of losing a child, my brother Howard, who also died young. But she was happy to have reached age 82½ without a single overnight visit to the hospital since age 6, and was busy every minute doing the things that she loved.”

“We will miss her very much.”

The rest of the story is that Judith Love Cohen worked on the day she was in labor with her fourth child. She took a printout of a problem concerning Apollo 13 that she was working on to the hospital. She called her boss and said she finished the problem and then gave birth to a baby boy–actor and musician Jack Black.

He has been in movies such as Jumanji (2017 & 2019), Po in Kung Fu Panda, School of Rock, and Nacho Libre just to name a few.