"Language, as well as the faculty of speech, was the immediate gift of God." ~ Noah Webster

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My Hero

It was four years ago this month, that my hero died. He was 81 years old at his passing and to me (and many, many others) he was the funniest man in the world. He brought laughter into the homes of Americans for decades! His name was Don Knotts, and my favorite character that he created was Barney Fife with - of course - The Andy Griffith Show. This show aired from 1960 - 1968 which were the very same years I attended grade school. My love for Barney, however, went well beyond that time. I don't think there was ever a time in my life that was without Don Knotts. In high school, when all the other girls had photographs of the Beatles, the Monkees and Elvis Presley hanging in their rooms, I had photos of Barney. Even all these years later, I'm still watching Barney, laughing at his antics and every once in a while, hurting for his heart.

There were many reasons Don Knotts was my hero, though, other than because he made America laugh. One, during World War II he joined the army and became an entertainer to the troops. That       qualifies him a hero just in itself, in my mind. Further, after he
began  his long acting career, he always made movies and                
television shows that the whole family could enjoy.

But probably the biggest reason Mr. Knotts reached hero status for me was because he was a genius in creating a character that one could relate to and with whom we could identify. Didn't we all know a "Barney"? I sure did. Weren't there some aspects of Barney's personality where we could ( if we were honest) see ourselves? I sure can. Before it was all over, didn't you just want to be Andy, so you could watch out for your best friend, take care of him, and make the bumbling goof-ball "the hero" just because he always tried so doggone hard? I sure did. And maybe that was the best thing about Barney....he brought out the best in all of us. The part that wants to help another human being just because they need it.

Anyway, I cried the day Don Knotts died. I usually always feel a little sad when we lose one of the great actors or actresses of our time, but rarely does it move me to tears. After all, I didn't really know them. But Mr. Knotts was different; he let us into his life enough that we all felt like we knew him. He created a character, that just wasn't on the tv screen or big screen; he created a character that belonged to us - a family member, a friend, someone who demonstrated for us the very best part of life.

"Don Knotts gave us the best character, the most clearly drawn, most perfect American,
most perfect human ever."
~~Billy Bob Thornton

I kept the above photo on the mirror in my bedroom when I was a kid. Though stained, weathered, and wrinkled, I still have it...a memento of a simpler, easier time.

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