Monday, March 10, 2014

Article regarding Bill Irwin, in Bangor Daily News...

Bill Irwin... Bangor Daily News...

Bill Irwin, famous blind AT thru-hiker, dies after battle with cancer

By Aislinn Sarnacki, BDN Staff
Posted March 07, 2014, at 4:05 p.m.

Bill Irwin, the only blind person to solo hike the entire Appalachian Trail, died on March 1 at age 73, after a two-year battle with cancer. His life story is, without a doubt, an inspiring one — for outdoorsmen, for addicts, for Christians or for anyone cast into darkness, struggling to find their way.

“I think in the age of heroism and how we view it, Bill made me realize that there are real heroes out there, and that these real heroes have their own struggles, just like we do,” said Michael “Clint” Ross, who considers Irwin to be his personal hero.

“But what makes them heroes,” Ross continued, “is the fact that they persevere through it all.”

Irwin wasn’t born blind. An Alabama native, he enjoyed an early career as a medical technologist, chemist, teacher and founder of Birmingham Clinical Laboratories. But things quickly headed south as he fell victim to alcoholism. He struggled through four failed marriages. And at the age of 28, he lost sight in his left eye due to a rare eye disease. By age 36, he was completely blind.

Everything turned around in 1987, when Irwin became a Christian and surrendered his life to God. This spiritual awakening marked the start of a new life and career as a health consultant, speaker, family and marriage counselor and author.

Three years later, he set out to do what most people would say is impossible. At age 50 — without compass, map or GPS — Irwin set out to hike the Appalachian Trail, a 2,100-mile hiking trail spanning from Georgia to Maine, with his guide dog, Orient.

Marked with white paint, the AT travels over high peaks and winds through deep woods. It crosses rivers and roads and boulder fields as it traverses 14 states.

“He was on a mission for God — he would call it a Christian mission,” Ross said. “For me, there were two sides to it — the miraculous and the absurd. It is absolutely miraculous that a blind man and his dog could do this alone, and that he lived. But it’s also absurd, meaning why would he do this? Why would anyone do this? And it just became — I just saw him as a true hero. This guy put his life on the line so that he could do something no one else has done and to meet people and encourage them along the way.”

Though it took him eight months, Irwin completed the trail, ending in November of 1990 in Baxter State Park. He recounts the journey in the 1991 book “Blind Courage,” co-authored by David McCasland.

“I’ve hiked the AT three times,” said Phil Pepin, who hiked with Irwin for 10 days during his 1990 AT thru-hike. “I’ve said it so many times; It’s so difficult to hike it with sight, never mind to hike it without sight. But he was just an incredible, totally remarkable man.”

Pepin recalls hiking with Irwin along an especially hairy section in Rangeley, where a hurricane had knocked trees across the trail. It took them a full day to hike just 4 miles.

“Climbing over and around blowdowns, it was just miserable travel,” Pepin said. “Irwin would slip and fall and pick himself right back up. He was wearing shin guards at the time because he’d fallen so much. He had big scars on his knees … I don’t ever recall him muttering a bad word. He wouldn’t. It was just part of the course.”

After completing the trail in 1990, life continued to look up for Irwin, who married his best friend, Debra, in 1996. The couple then moved to Sebec, Maine, where they enjoyed hiking, camping, kayaking, snowshoeing and biking with friends and family.

When Ross reached out to the famous thru-hiker in November 2012, Irwin was in the process of battling prostate cancer. Having read “Blind Courage,” Ross, a filmmaker from Georgia, was interested in creating an independent film about Irwin’s story.

“When the email came through, he was with his pastor and his wife and his pastor’s wife, praying and talking about the next steps for Bill,” Ross said.

Intrigued, Irwin invited Ross to visit him at his home in Sebec. The two men connected, and Ross returned home with Irwin’s blessing to create the film. Over the past year, Ross has been working on the script, gleaning details from Irwin during monthly meetings.

“Bill wanted to hold on more than anything for a filmmaker who was going to make his story as God-centered as possible but true to the story,” Ross said. “We both agreed it’s not like we want to smack people over the head with Jesus and the Bible. We wanted this to be a film about courage and faith, and by the end, it will be obvious where Bill got that from.”

Ross predicts the script for “Blind Courage” the film will be finished in just a few months, then filming will begin, putting it on track for a 2015 release.

“He just had a lot of faith,” Ross said. “Bill inspired me to look at my life and to just keep going — whether it’s on the script, my career, my family — to just keep going and have a good attitude.”

To his last day, Irwin served as director of Free Indeed Ministries, helping those suffering from addictions as he did. When bedridden, he counseled people from his bed. His motto, “Never lose faith and never give up.”

He is survived by his wife, Debra; his four children, Marianne Cash, Billy Irwin, Jeff Irwin and Amanda McCroy; four grandchildren, Gabriel Irwin, Jake Irwin, Madison Cash and Grayson Cash; sister, Midge Irwin “Mary”; brother, Lynn Irwin; niece, Kristi Healy; and many loving cousins and friends.

Irwin requested that upon his death, his body be donated to the University of Tennessee for scientific research and education in the department of anthropology to help others.

“This was Bill’s way,” wrote Debra Irwin in a Facebook post about Irwin’s wishes.

A memorial service will be held 2 p.m. March 8, at Bangor Baptist Church, officiated by the Rev. Pete Campbell. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to to further the ministries that were dear to Bill’s heart.

See more at:

Bill Irwin, Appalachian Trail Legend, dies...

From the pages of the Morning Sentinel...

"Frst blind hiker to trek Appalachian Trail dies

Bill Irwin dies in Maine at age 73 of prostate cancer.
The Associated Press

SEBEC— Bill Irwin, the first blind hiker to complete the Appalachian Trail without assistance, died in Maine at the age of 73.

A posting on Irwin’s website says he died of prostate cancer on March 1, the anniversary of the start of his historic 1990 journey.

In November 1990, Irwin arrived at a campground in Millinocket with his sole companion, his guide dog Orient. After nine months and 2,167 miles, he became the first blind person to make the solo hike from Georgia to Maine.

At the time, he said he felt “an indescribable feeling of gratitude” and credited his faith for carrying him along the trail.

A memorial service was set for Saturday in Bangor.

Irwin is survived by his wife, Debra, and four children."

I know this is such a brief blurb... says little about the man, other than acknowledging his amazing hike of the Appalachian Trail. Much more to the man, beyond that. Truly a great loss...

I imagine that he has been hiking the streets of gold, and has gazed into the eyes of our loving Lord and Savior. What a terrific ending to a beautiful journey!

Rest in His Peace, Bill, rest easy...


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Hibernating in Maine this New Year...

Happy New Year, everyone! What? That was yesterday?

Well... yesterday didn't count, up here in Maine, at least not for me. The clock tick-tocked away on the night of the 31st of December, and I dozed peacefully, pretty close to a state of hibernation. For some reason, my eyes fluttered open at 11:58 PM... I watched it advance to Midnight, and when the minute and second hands tipped their way over the top of the clock, I envisioned year 2013 taking a tumble... and promptly having its' place taken up by a fresh, young, New Year, Year 2014. I closed my eyes by 12:01, sinking back into my pleasant hibernation.

Yesterday, I had no hurries, as I had the day off from work. I decided to take the day off from everything, take a "zero" day, and see how this New Year thing was going to work out. Pretty well, I think... I'm going to go for it! Having made all the proper assessments yesterday, and getting all rested up, I'm ready to officially start my New Year, TODAY, January 2, 2014. If it doesn't start well... I will go back into hibernation!

Praying that as you begin your New Year, it will be all you should want it to be!

Gods' Blessings!


Sunday, December 22, 2013

I wonder...

I wonder as I wander...

In the spirit of Christmas, thought I would share... Don't know why, but I had never heard this beautiful song until this year.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"I Wonder as I Wander" is a Christian folk hymn, typically performed as a Christmas carol, written by folklorist and singer John Jacob Niles. The hymn has its origins in a song fragment collected by Niles on July 16, 1933.[1][2][3][4][5]
While in the town of Murphy in Appalachian North Carolina, Niles attended a fundraising meeting held by evangelicals who had been ordered out of town by the police.[1][5] In his unpublished autobiography, he wrote of hearing the song:
A girl had stepped out to the edge of the little platform attached to the automobile. She began to sing. Her clothes were unbelievable dirty and ragged, and she, too, was unwashed. Her ash-blond hair hung down in long skeins.... But, best of all, she was beautiful, and in her untutored way, she could sing. She smiled as she sang, smiled rather sadly, and sang only a single line of a song.[2]
The girl, named Annie Morgan, repeated the fragment seven times in exchange for a quarter per performance, and Niles left with "three lines of verse, a garbled fragment of melodic material—and a magnificent idea".[2][5] (In various accounts of this story, Niles hears between one and three lines of the song.[2][4][5][6]) Based on this fragment, Niles composed the version of "I Wonder as I Wander" that is known today, extending the melody to four lines and the lyrics to three stanzas.[2][3][5] His composition was completed on October 4, 1933.[2] Niles first performed the song on December 19, 1933 at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina.[2][6] It was originally published in Songs of the Hill Folk in 1934.[4][6]

"I Wonder As I Wander" lyrics

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
For poor on'ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky

When Mary birthed Jesus 'twas in a cow's stall
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all
But high from God's heaven, a star's light did fall
And the promise of ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing
A star in the sky or a bird on the wing
Or all of God's Angels in heaven to sing
He surely could have it, 'cause he was the King

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
For poor on'ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky

May you all have a Blessed Christmas, as we honor the birth of THE King, our Savior, Jesus Christ.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Stickman... "World Traveler"!

Hello Friends,

Wondering where I've been?!? Well, truthfully, I've not been far... pretty much been right here in Maine. I do get out and about, but "physically", I'm NOT a "World Traveler". I did get out for a bit, this Saturday, past. I had the honor, once again, of providing transportation for Craig "Hoosier" Clapper, who completed his Appalachian Trail Thru-hike on Friday.

***A BIG round of applause for Hoosier, as it is a tremendous accomplishment to hike the 2,185.9 miles of rugged trail in a year!

I picked up Hoosier at the Appalachian Trail Lodge, in Millinocket, scooted over to the Appalachian Trail Cafe (yum!) for a bit of breakfast, then headed for Stratton, where he had left his vehicle with Sue, at the Stratton Motel. We had a wonderful time, chatting about the Trail, lessons in life, and the like. Hated to see you drive off, Hoosier, as I was really enjoying your company! I suppose that we will meet again, Lord willing... God Bless your travels, as you continue on in your journey! Read Hoosier's Journal... "Hoosier" at Trail!

Speaking of journey... although the ol' Stickman hasn't had much opportunity to travel any great distance lately, he did some interesting "browsing" the other day. In navigating the 'blog site, I saw that I could look at various statistics. One thing I found very interesting was a list of the countries which had viewers of my blog. I was not surprised to see that there were folks from the United States, or even the United Kingdom that had visited me. I was surprised to see MULTIPLE visits from people in Netherlands, Germany, Russia, Slovenia, South Korea, Ukraine, Japan, and China! Whowouldathunkit!?!

I guess that even if I don't leave home, with todays' technology, I should expect "company from away" to show up at my house anytime! Of course, you're ALL welcome, no formal invitation needed! I'll keep the coffee on.

God Bless the steps of your individual journeys,


Friday, August 23, 2013

Wandering... but not lost!

“Not all those who wander are lost.” J.R.R.Tolkien

Hi folks, it's been awhile since I have posted up. I would like to apologize for my long absence, and ask forgiveness for wandering so far away with no explanation. I am not sure that I even have an explanation, but I assure you that it was not intentional that I walked away... I just started walking, and the direction I took was "away".

Although I wandered, poking around on life's trails that ascend to the heights, descend to the lowest valleys, and take sudden turns that reveal the previously unknown, I knew that I would someday return "home".

There have been SO many things that I have experienced since we last chatted, some that have made great memories, and some that have also stretched me a bit. I don't need to go into the telling of the journey in whole right now... there is too much to tell, and I'm not sure that the teller would adequately tell. Perhaps it is best to just walk together for a while, and talk of things as they nudge me to speak of them.

The path I am on right now includes being part of the Praise and Worship team, alongside my wife, Cari, at the wonderful Church we attend. Pray for us all, that we might be used of the Lord to help bring the congregation into a place of praise and worship for our wonderful Savior!

Another section of trail has blessed me with being able to lend my support to Craig "Hoosier" Clapper.

Hoosier will be jumping back on Trail, shortly, and if all goes well... I will be able to be a help to him after his completion of the AT, as he summits Katahdin!

Other stuff... other stuff... but, now, we must walk. My heart is with the hikers, especially those on the AT. (My heart is with you, also, as we are ALL on "the journey", together!).

My latest wandering took me to Caratunk, delivering a load of lumber up to Pleasant Pond. Coming back down from the Pond, I arrived at "the 'tunk". Across from the Post Office were a dozen or so hikers. More hikers were making their way up the road from the Kennebec River, where they had been shuttled across by the Ferryman, Dave Corrigan. I pulled over, getting out to wish them well, congratulate them for persevering to make their way this far North.

As we exchanged bits of hiker pleasantries, Marie Beane, the Postmistress extraordinaire, of Caratunk, stepped outside to warn me... "Kelly, you CAN'T go with them!". We all had a great laugh, and I admitted that I surely would like to join up with that little band of hikers... but, for now at least, that is a trail I cannot take.

Praying that all of YOUR wanderings are Blessed, whether on trail, or off...


Monday, July 2, 2012


Pardon me... this is only a test! I have not been able to post up lately, so if this works... I will talk to you all later! God Bless you, Stickman