Almost all of us have had someone special in our lives. It's someone who made us a better person; someone who taught us lessons that shaped our future. For some, it's a member of the family. For others, it is a mentor, or even a stranger who helped elevate our existence. For a handful, it's someone famous or distinguished we never met, but inspired us to always try harder.
Random interviews with East County locals reveal how an assortment of people changed their lives for the better.
"It was my brother who taught me how to deal with adversity," said Tyler Porter of Antioch. "He lost his eyesight when he was 21 and wouldn't let it get him down. He lived alone and faced daily challenges. He sharpened his memory so that he could describe something better than people who could see."
Rene Guevarra of Antioch never met Philippine boxer Manny Pacquiao, his idol. "He made me a better person by setting an example on how to live on top of the world, respect all others and still be humble," he said. "I dream of actually meeting him some day."
Dale West of Oakley singled out an economics professor at UC Berkeley. "He was an amazing mentor with boundless information on just about everything," he said. "He made going to his classes a wonderful experience. But, it's hard to pick a single person who became a lifelong inspiration. We all know a lot of people who shaped our lives."
Antioch's Stephanie Boushey said it was the Rev. Francisco Vicente of Antioch's Holy Rosary Church who set her on the right path. "It began when I was 7 years old and continued for years. He always was there for me." Then she talked about her two children being her inspiration for improvement. "Raising my kids kept me trying to be a better person."
"My parents were amazing," said Juanita Lopez of Oakley. "I can never forget their stories about work ethic and coping with life. They came to America from Mexico with four kids. They started with nothing and made it work by working tirelessly. They never took welfare or any other kind of assistance or handout."
Brentwood's Becky Emmerling talked of her grandmother. "She came to this country speaking only Spanish, but could communicate love without language. She was a never- ending example of goodness," she said. "My other inspiration is President Obama. I really look up to him and admire his understanding of life and truth."
Joann Reams of Byron also picked her grandmother. "She died 20 years ago and left me with a better understanding of morality and love," she said. "More recently, it's my best friend for the past 15 years. She's a one-in-a-million in inspiring love and caring. She keeps teaching me how to be a better person."
"Years ago I worked with Mr. Sri, a gentleman from India who was my great mentor," said Julie Stanley of Antioch. "He liked to teach people to keep striving to achieve their potential. His attitude always was positive. The great lesson I learned from him is that we never stop growing, and never should stop learning."
Brentwood's Jane Oertwig said an informal logic class she took at the University of Utah changed her life. "We learned to question things because everything isn't black or white. There are shades of gray in almost everything. We learned to think and not take anything at face value."
Ted Turner is the inspiration and easily the most interesting man Brentwood's Dave Dennick ever knew. "I sailed with him 30 years ago on San Francisco Bay and crewed for him in Europe," he said. "Turner chose his own path, capable of brilliant quick thinking in his careers at CNN and owning the Atlanta Braves. He knew how to make big things happen. And he also knew how to mix with and work well with all kinds of people."
Ed Arnow can be reached at BrentwoodBuzz@aol.com.