When you hear the word perseverance, what are some terms that come to your mind? Resilience, toughness, determination? Did some examples in history or from movies pop up, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Rocky, a sports figure? As I scroll through my Rolodex of synonyms, definitions, and examples one person stands front and center in my mind and it is my Uncle Jr.
Let me set the stage for you. It is 1967 and my Uncle Jr. is one year fresh out of the Marine Corps, is a newlywed, has a baby on the way, enrolled in college using his G.I. Bill, just bought a new house and has a new job at the town’s steel mill. Everything in his life was looking up for him. He had a vision for his life and he was actively pursuing the greatest version of himself. You could even say he had the “perfect life.”
On a Monday afternoon in 1967, everything changed for my Uncle Jr. While working at the steel mill, there was a mechanical malfunction resulting in a thousand-pound hoisted steel beam crashing down below onto my Uncle’s legs! His shrieks of pain ricocheted off the walls of the factory bringing all machines and bodies to a halt. He eventually passed out due to shock and loss of blood. The ambulance rushed him to the hospital and called and informed his pregnant wife about the tragedy. My aunt and my family dashed to the hospital to only find him laying lifeless with bloodstain sheets covering his legs, and tubes connected to his body. The doctors informed my family that it was unlikely he would make it through the night due to excessive bleeding.
Bethlehem Steel Mill in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, USA.
By the grace of God, the doctors were able to stop the bleeding and he made it through the night, through the week, and fifty-two plus years after that day.
Unfortunately, within months of the accident, the doctors had to remove his legs from the knees down. Despite his horrific injuries, my Uncle did not give up on life. Shortly after receiving his prosthetic legs, he re-learned how to walk, adopted a full-body exercise regimen, and strengthened his relationship with God.
Despite having over a dozen surgeries on his body throughout the years, his injuries did not blur his vision for life as he continued being a loving husband, father, and servant leader. Among his many accomplishments, he became a minister, was elected to the city school board twice, led various community service organizations, was a founding member of a college and received his college degree. My Uncle has been a guiding force of inspiration in my life as he is the rock of my family.
My Uncle Jr. with his loving wife, my Aunt Delores.
My Uncle epitomizes the word perseverance and you know who else does, YOU. By you being here at this very moment and time is proof that you have persevered. Yes, you may or may not have experienced the same conditions as my Uncle, but you have persevered. I encourage you to remain steadfast and strong during difficult times because, in life, it’s not about how many times you fall but how many times you get back up. Rise to your greatness.
My Uncle Jr. (left-hand side) with his brother, my Uncle Jimmy.
“Bethlehem Steel.” Johnstownhistory.blogspot.com. Feb 2012.
“Rev and Mrs. Julius Porcher.” The Tribune-Democrat. August 2014.