In the midst of the Boston tragedy this week, and now the West, Texas catastrophe, almost unnoticed are the deaths of two great Americans and two of my heroes. Pat Summerall, NFL player and Sports Broadcaster, died at the age of 82. A recovering alcoholic, Summerall had a liver transplant in April 2004. The lifesaving surgery was necessary even after 12 years of sobriety. After a family intervention in 1992, Summerall began weeping tears of regret and reluctantly agreed to enter rehab at the Betty Ford Clinic. It was a decision that changed his life. At the clinic, he not only found freedom from alcohol. He also encountered the grace of God. "My thirst for alcohol was being replaced by a thirst for knowledge about faith and God," Summerall wrote. "I began reading the Bible regularly at the treatment center, and it became a part of my daily routine. The more I read, the more I felt a void in my life that needed to be filled." Summerall often shared his testimony with Christian groups and told his story when speaking before other organizations.
My other hero, George Beverly Shea, died at the ripe old age of 104. He escaped a life of toil in an insurance office to become a Grammy-winning gospel singer and a longtime associate of Billy Graham, appearing before an estimated 200 million people at Graham revival meetings worldwide. His resonant baritone voice was most identified with the song “How Great Thou Art”. He was a great man that many Christian musicians looked up to and whose lifestyle they emulated. I only wish I could become half the man these two godly men were. They impacted millions of people all over the world for Christ.