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A True Hero

May 26th, 2020

The word hero gets thrown out a lot in our society, and it can mean different things to different people. The meaning has for sure changed for me since I was a younger man, and so have the people that I call a hero. Please, allow me to explain:

The first hero for me that I remember was Pete Rose in 1975. The Cincinnati Reds won the World Series, and Pete Rose was the MVP. I watched the games with my dad, who yelled at the TV just like I do now.


Then, around 1977, my dad got me into wraslin! Not wrestling, but wraslin, the kind where they can stomp on your neck and not kill you type. Mr. Wrestler II became my hero. Boy, did I love that guy as a kid. Well, still do!


At the same time, Scott Woerner was a superstar for the UGA football team. He came from my high school,  Jonesboro, where my dad was a principal. In 1978 Scott was back to return a punt against the bumblebees from Georgia Tech. He called for a fair catch, but they hit him anyway. He was bleeding, and when I saw that, I knew I hated Tech, and I knew Scott was my hero! Scott is still my all-time favorite Dawg.




In 1985, my dad had to hire a new basketball coach for Jonesboro, and he hired Rick Duncan. Now, coach Duncan had a 6′ 5″ son, Chris, averaging 20 points a game at his old school.  I had never seen a high school player like Chris! As a white guy, he could shoot the lights out and dunk on you. He also strutted around on his heels, so I began to do the same as a skinny 5′ 6″ guy. That had to have been hilarious to watch. Chris also played defense with his tongue out and his hands at his ankles. Well, I tried to do the same one night during my Freshman year. At halftime, my dad came into the locker room and snatched me up. “How about we play like John Lilly this half!” Yes sir!

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As I grew older, I started to have my own limited sports success, and the need for heroes drifted away in my life. The great John Lilly, as I thought of myself, did not admire anyone because John Lilly was so great. Again, that must have been hilarious for anyone to witness. When I started my career, an older client told me how much he hated celebrities and sports stars. He said, “They keep their toilet paper the same place I keep mine, so they ain’t no better than me.” I adopted that mantra for a long time in my life. Then, I started to see real heroes.

First and foremost, my mom and dad! I can’t say enough about how much I love and admire them for who they are and how they raised me. I am impressed they did not kill me. They are heroes.


Last Sunday, my church held our first service in two months outside on our youth field. Tim and Cindy Atwell were there with four children, all under nine years old in the hot sun. I could not have been more impressed. They, too, are heroes to me.

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In 2001, I was blessed to marry my wife, Anne Michele. Just so you know, Michele only has one L, and you would be shocked at how many people tell me I misspelled my wife’s name. Also, I am sure people will say she is a hero for being married to Lilly. Yeah, yeah, I get it. However, Anne Michele proudly works in the ER at Northeast Georgia Hospital and continues to treat patients with COVID-19. My wife has always been a hero, but how she has embraced her job and patients is genuinely amazing. I have never seen any fear in her, and I have never heard her complain, as I for sure would be by now. She works her twelve-hour shifts and comes home with a great attitude. She is there for the kids and me while being on the front line, helping others along with her co-workers. So, remember the name Anne Michele Lilly if you think back on these difficult times in the future. Please remember her for the bravery she showed and the care she gave to those in the Gainesville community. She deserves a medal, but she will never get one. She deserves praise, but she would not accept it. Why? Because that is what a true hero does. She, my wife, is a true hero!

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