12:54 PM EDT 04/22/2014
Originally posted 12/26/2013 09:15AM
Earl Hurshman was used to his wife Bernadette telling him what to do.
After almost 50 years of marriage, "we never had an argument," he says. "Now we had disagreements but we never ever yelled at each other. Never. We were raised with the same ideals and morals. We had more fun."
So when Bernadette died in Oct. 2011, Hurshman, 81, of Excelsior Springs, Mo., began visiting her grave almost daily to continue their conversations.
Originally posted 12/19/2013 05:30PM
A few weeks into her daily outpatient regimen of chemotherapy at Children’s Hospital of Orange County (Calif.), Jessie Rees, 11, saw some of the children housed in the cancer ward and asked her parents a question they’ll never forget.
"When do all the other kids come home?"
Her dad, Erik Rees, explained: "These children have different diagnoses than you do. Some stay days, some stay weeks, some stay years."
Then Jessie asked, "How can we help them?"
Originally posted 12/12/2013 07:25AM
After two wartime tours of Iraq, Alex Brown couldn’t shut off his alert switch.
"My job as a gunner was to literally see everything," says the former Army specialist. "Not only my life, but my team’s life depended on it."
Yet back home in Louisville, Ky., the constant tension honed in combat left him anxious and jumpy – and afraid to venture beyond secure walls. His relationships crumbled in the wake of his post-traumatic stress disorder.
Originally posted 12/06/2013 10:35AM
When Patricia and Richard Logan agreed to foster a blind 11-year-old girl with cerebral palsy 22 years ago, it was an easy decision.
"We got really attached to Michelle," says Patricia, 60, of Warren, Mich. "I wanted to give her the best life she could ever have."
It went so well that not only did they adopt her, they later adopted four more children with cerebral palsy.
"Everyone needs a loving home," says Patricia, who worked at a nursing home before deciding to care for their special-needs children full time.
"If I had a bigger home I would adopt even more," she says.
Originally posted 11/28/2013 09:30AM
Born without arms, Abe Harris, 35, learned to write and eat with artificial limbs, but sometimes found they got in his way – so, when he learned to drive at age 16 without them, he put them away.
"They were more something between me and what I was trying to do,” Harris says.
By 2011, Harris, an art teacher and a soccer coach, had a 3-year-old daughter who happened to be learning to ride a bike.
Originally posted 11/21/2013 05:45PM
Back in 1987, Oral Lee Brown, an Oakland, Calif., realtor, made a seemingly crazy decision.
She decided to offer 23 first-grade children at Brookfield Elementary School a full-ride to college with no realistic expectations that they would even graduate from high school.
In a school district with a 54 percent high school graduation rate, Browns' kids are beating the odds. Out of that first group of 23, 19 graduated from high school and enrolled in college.
"They didn't want to fail me," she says of their success. "I believe love can turn anything around."
Originally posted 11/14/2013 08:30PM
Bao Tran still remembers an old man shuffling onto the bridge to hand him a tiny bundle tucked into a straw hat.
It was May 1972 and Tran was in the South Vietnamese Army fighting alongside the Americans. His company was about to blow up the bridge outside Quang Tri.
"The man said the baby was trying to nurse on its dead mother," Tran, now 65, recalls.
He carried the baby in that hat for 60 miles – "I was in full combat gear, with explosions all around," he says – to an orphanage, where he left her with the name he'd planned for his own daughter someday: Ngoc Bich.
Originally posted 11/11/2013 03:10PM
Veterans Day is a time to pay tribute and say thanks. And just as families across the country today are honoring those who have served and sacrificed, we too are reminded of the brave men and women we've met through the years.
PEOPLE's ongoing series Heroes Among Us profiles everyday Americans who are going the extra mile to help neighbors and strangers, and the seven amazing men highlighted below – all retired from, or affiliated with, the armed services – deserve another round of applause for their inspiring acts of kindness.
Originally posted 11/07/2013 03:45PM
In the fall of 2007, doting mother Gretchen Holt-Witt of Califon, N.J., was in good spirits. Her 2-year-old son Liam, who had spent months in and out of the hospital battling neuroblastoma, a form of nerve cancer, was in remission and appeared healthy once again.
"We were so grateful his cancer was gone, we felt it was important to give back," says Holt-Witt.
So Gretchen and Liam, a joyful risk-taker of a kid who loved to cook – "he'd download tons of cooking apps," Holt-Witt says – decided to pay it forward. They came up with the idea to bake cookies to raise money for pediatric cancer research. But a few dozen wouldn't do. They opted for 8,000 dozen.
Originally posted 10/31/2013 12:25PM
On paper, Andrew Stoloff knew it made no sense to buy Rubicon Bakery in Richmond, Calif.
But the former Wall Street analyst's decision to take over the failing business in 2009 and save the jobs of its 14 part-time employees – most of whom were recovering drug addicts or ex-convicts – had little to do with dollars or cents.
"I fell in love with its mission: to give people a second chance," says Stoloff, 53.
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