In this Season of Inspiration, are you remembering anyone who’s inspired you>?

Posted at Dec 19, 2016 9:35 am


It’s just a coincidence that Pete Hershberger has a last name that’s common to a lot of Amish folks, and that I also dedicated my book The Sisters of Sugarcreek to him which is set in the Amish town of Sugarcreek, Ohio. I can’t be certain if any of Pete’s ancestors were Amish, but I know he wasn’t.

Pete’s family lived around the corner from mine during a lot of our growing up years. I don’t remember him venturing up Zig Zag road to our cul-de-sac to play baseball or touch football very often. I do, however, remember traipsing down the street his way and playing in the woods behind his house once in a while.

But, honestly, none of those distant memories have anything to do with the reason I wanted to put Pete’s name on my Sisters of Sugarcreek dedication page. Rather, it was more current interactions with Pete that had me doing that.

Long before I saw Pete at our most recent high school reunion a few years ago, I’d heard through the grapevine that he’d been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. A few years after hearing that news, I learned he wasn’t able to work any longer. By the time I saw him at the reunion it brought a tear to my eye to see him having to be helped to stand or to get to his seat. Yet none of that seemed to stop Pete from enjoying the evening and everyone’s company.

So it wasn’t like Pete and I really communicated over the years, mostly I just heard things about how he was doing every so often. Yet the last two times I did happen to bump into him, he communicated much to me. In just a few words, he gave me a world of encouragement.

The first of those last times, was a couple of years ago when I ran into Pete at a visitation. He was even less unsteady on his feet than he had been a couple of years earlier at the reunion. Yet as a group of us ambled to our cars, he stopped abruptly in the parking lot, seeming intent on saying something to me. Swaying and shaking, clearly it was work for him to stand there and speak what was on his mind. And to me, the words seemed to come out of the blue. “Don’t — don’t stop writing,” he stammered.

A few months before Pete’s passing, I saw him once more. This time his wife was pushing him in a wheelchair. They were coming into the clinic where I work so he could get some testing done. Getting words out seemed even more arduous and taxing on him than the time before when I’d seen him. But he seemed so determined. So I stood quietly, clueless as to what he wanted to say to me this time. It took major effort and many moments of time before he said the words I’d heard from him before. “Don’t stop writing,” he told me again.

I don’t even know how Pete knew about my writing. I guess he must’ve heard things through the grapevine about me too. But the thing that was most remarkable to me and the biggest question I had was WHY? Why in moments when he was so clearly struggling to even form a word — why would he be thinking of me instead of himself?

Since that time I’ve read and heard even more about Pete. I’ve read how during his 11 years as a Parkinson’s disease patient, he devoted much of his time in groups involved in finding treatments and cures. I learned that he was awarded the Sunflower Victory Award which is given to those who inspire, empower and give hope to others in the Parkinson’s disease community. I’ve also read about what a great dad he was and how his daughters could always count on him to be there for them no matter what. I learned that his wife remembers how “he always thought about everyone else before himself. Even in his most difficult days, he never complained and was kind and loving.”

I have no doubt that all I’ve read and heard is true. Because I know firsthand how his attitude and caring in times of his own struggle inspired me and helped me through my own struggles which were so much less in comparison. Over the last couple of years as I struggled with getting Sisters right along with other issues and a health scare, I kept a post-it note with Pete’s name on it right by my computer monitor. Every time I got distracted by the what-ifs of life or didn’t think I could write and rewrite another page, seeing Pete’s name made me think I could.

But it wasn’t just encouragement that Pete gave to me. He taught me a lesson too—one I can’t say I’ve gotten completely right yet. But I promise to keep trying! That is, no matter what is going on in my life, I need to step outside myself. I need to hear. To see. To listen. To reach out. To encourage. To give hope. I need to be there others—for someone else. Just like Pete was there for me.



15 responses to “In this Season of Inspiration, are you remembering anyone who’s inspired you>?”

  1. Bob Clarke says:


  2. Barry Thiel says:

    Absolutely beautiful. This brought afew tears to my eyes. I was also forced to retire after having two heart attacks, but consider myself very blessed after reading this. Thank you Cathy.

    • cathy says:

      Barry, I’m sorry I didn’t reply to your FB comment. My computer was going wacky on me! I bet Pete felt lucky to have you as a friend too! I hope your heart issues are all on the mend now and that you’re doing better. Somehow these bodies of ours just don’t seem to know that in our minds we’re still young at heart. Take care!


    Cathy, that is a beautiful tribute to a wonderful man. Pete was very special to me and to many, he NEVER complained, just enjoyed what he could. What a strong man and a wonderful family.

  4. Jan Hershberger says:

    Cathy, This is beautiful. Thanks for writing the tribute to an amazing husband, Dad, and friend. I know he would love it.

  5. cathy says:

    It was my pleasure to be able to do it, Jan.
    And my good luck that we crossed paths when we did. Hugs to you!

  6. Vicki Hershberger says:

    Thank you, Kathy. What a great Christmas gift. My dad would have been so pleased to see that he made a difference to someone. Thank you again, I can not tell you how much it means to me that someone else realized that he was still on the inside even though Parkinson’s had taken his body- but he was still the same person. You just had to be patient to listen to what he had to say. Thank you again.

  7. Bev Sherman says:

    I think this poem describes Pete to a T…along with your assessment❤️


    Submitted By: Bev Downs Sherman
    Not – How did he die? But – How did he live?
    Not – What did he gain? But – What did he give?

    These are the things that measure the worth
    Of a man as a man, regardless of birth.

    Not – What was his station? But – had he a heart?
    And – How did he play his God-given part?

    Was he ever ready with a word of good cheer?
    To bring back a smile, to banish a tear?

    Not – What was his church? Not – What was his creed?
    But – Had he befriended those really in need?

    Not – What did the sketch in the newspaper say?
    But – How many were sorry when he passed away?

    These are the things that measure the worth
    Of a man as a man, regardless of birth.

    Author: Anonymous
    If you are the copyright holder of this poem and it was submitted by one of our users without your consent, please contact us at and we will be happy

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