Friday, January 19, 2018

Wreck of the Columbia January 13, 2018-
Kim Michael Producer


PRESS RELEASE: Pekin, Peoria, Glasford, Mid-State IL

A new video, free to the public, was released on YouTube, on January 13, 2018 commemorating the famous sinking of the river boat “Columbia” on July 4th, 1918. The video features original photographs and a music score with two new, original songs in a unique telling of what has been described as one of the greatest maritime disasters in American history, causing the deaths of 87 people and injuring hundreds more. Running time is 7 minutes 22 seconds.

The video goes on to show how regulations regarding the river changed, adding dams and locks to raise the level of the river so another disaster like the Columbia could never happen again, as well as the final outcome for the Captain of the Columbia- Herman Mehl and Pilot Tom Williams.

“This is spectacular!” “We just watched it. Fabulous!” “This is an amazing accomplishment! “I loved it!” “EXCELLENT!”

“Few events in human history define a town, or region and its people, more than the sinking of the excursion steamer Columbia. My motivation for creating this video was to memorialize, in an entertaining but sensitive way, the events that happened on July 4th, 1918. Like Gordon Lightfoot's “Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald” I wanted to create something that highlighted, and was part of, the history that we in greater Peoria/Pekin area all share. I am making it free to the public to watch and enjoy...and remember.”                   
                                                                                               -Kim Michael

KIM MICHAEL: originally from Glasford, Illinois, is an author, writer, producer--having written several books and formerly on the production staff for Doc Severinsen and the Tonight Show Orchestra--and now founder of Kim Michael: Business Design Graphics. He resides in Hendersonville, TN (greater Nashville area) with his wife, Joann (originally from Pekin,Il)

Media Contact:
Kim Michael 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Christmas Story: The Fourth King

By Kim Michael

Now in a beautiful 6 X 9 Paperback Edition

The Perfect Holiday Gift for little more than the price of a card. Give the unique gift that people will keep and enjoy for many Christmases to Come.

Available on CreateSpace/Amazon--$4.95.

It can be ordered- just click on:  A Christmas Story: The Fourth King

Since it's release over a thousand people have read and enjoyed "A Christmas Story: The Fourth King", and I have received numerous requests from people wanting a paperback version that they can give as "Gifts" at Christmas. 

Now with a new cover and layout, it is finally available and for little more than the price of a Christmas Card, you can give a truly original "gift" this Christmas that people will read and enjoy for years to come. 

From me and my family to yours...Merry Christmas!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Footprints in the Sand: "When I Carried You..."

By Kim Michael June 2016   Original Story by People Magazine as seen on

If you saw a picture of Darrell and Kay Smith of Breckenridge Texas you probably wouldn't look twice at it. I can't show the picture of them because of copyright laws, but Darrell is 48 years old and is as a water utility worker in Breckenridge, Texas. And Kay, his wife, is thirteen years older than he, a former home healthcare worker; and they both look like the average couple next door, or down the street. They have a twenty-seven year old son, Darrell Jr., who has cerebral palsy and I suspect taking care of him is how Kay spends most of her time.   

When you see the picture of them the first thing you notice is they are large people, which is the kind way of saying they are overweight. And I admit, when I first saw the picture come up on MSN. com I passed over it, like most people, without even a second glance; but something took me back to that picture and that story.   

I have long believed that some of the most extraordinary acts of faith and courage, and even “love”, are done by the most ordinary of people. And as I read the story about Darrell and Kay, and more importantly, the story “between” the lines, it brought tears to my eyes. 

It happened just a few short days ago, major flooding had hit Breckinridge, Texas. Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster across 31 counties as heavy rain continued to fall, up to three inches per hour. Lakes and streams flooded and literally the city of Breckinridge was sinking in a rising current of mud and debris as water levels rose. 

At 2am in the morning the family dog began barking and woke the family up. Darrell slipped on his pants and shirt and walked outside to find the street flooded, already knee deep. He hurriedly woke up Kay and Darrell Jr and got them into his truck in an effort to get them to higher ground, but at an intersection close to their home, a wave from a nearby man-made lake crashed over the vehicle and sept it completely off the road and into a ditch that was rapidly filling with water. Darrell was able to push his door open, and the door behind him, to get Darrell Jr out, but when he got to the other passenger door, he saw Kay, trapped in the rising water, face down inside the vehicle. He  forced the door open, and pulled her from the vehicle, but there was no sign of life. He tried desperately to give her mouth to mouth resuscitation, but it was too late. Kay, his best friend and wife, was dead.  
A kind person seeing the horror that was unfolding took Darrell Jr. on his back and got him to a safety, leaving Darrell alone with the body of his dead wife. 

“I couldn’t leave her,” he told People magazine, in an interview later. “She was everything to me.” 

He cried out repeatedly for help, but know one came. The water was rising so fast he realized that he had to go, but if he left her, he knew the water would surely wash her body away, and he just couldn’t leave her. 

And so, in the pouring rain, Darrell Smith lifted her in his arms and carried her, through the storm and rising water, arms aching and heart broken. He carried her for more than a mile until he found a highway that was not flooded and flashing lights waiting. And there, as he knelt by his wife’s body, he said good bye to his lifelong companion and friend.  

It remind me of the poem "Footprints in the Sand", by Mary Fishback Powers; the story of a man walking beside the Lord and looking back at the footprints of his life in the sand, and he noticed that at the point when he was troubled, and most alone, there were only one set of tracks. And he asked the Lord, why did you leave me? And the Lord replied, "I never left you...when there were only one set of footprints is when I carried you."

I think we sometimes forget what “love” truly is. It’s not about flowers on Sunday, or romantic trips, or even saying “I love you.” It is in the nobility of a human spirit, irrevocably tied to another, in times and ways that supersede the temporal boundaries of self preservation and even life itself. 

Darrell remained steadfast at the side of his wife to the very end, refusing to leave her, even in death.  

To some, I suspect, it is foolishness. But I think, we should all be so lucky... to be so foolish.  

If you would like to see the original article provided by People Magazine along with the picture of Darrell and Kay, it can be found at:

Thursday, May 26, 2016


By Kim Michael May 2016

When a favorite Aunt on my wife's side of the family put this picture on Facebook, I had to write something about it. Maybe not about the kids, the only one I know in the picture is the little girl sitting in the driver's seat, my wife's Aunt, whose now my age. Or the car they built, I never saw it either, but the picture of all of them gathered around their newly made, kid-built car, and the look on their faces, smiling proudly as they stood by their new creation. Priceless. And for a moment it took me back.

The world is a different place when you're a kid. When you look at an old box and some wheels and the seat off some broken chair, you don't see a pile of junk, you see... a car. When you see a stack of hay bales and an old tarp, you don't see hay and canvas, you see a fort, or a castle, or a ship about to sail off to fight pirates on the high seas, or a hundred other things. 

When you're a kid, everything is alive with possibility, there are no boundaries, everything is just waiting for you to touch it, to give life. You live in a world where witches and fairies and fairy-god mothers, and even homemade cars, are all real and you believe that, because you know, with out a doubt, that "magic" is real.  

Seeing that picture took me back to when I too believed in magic, before the world waxed over hard with reality and that sense of wonder that we all begin life with had weened itself from my  imagination.  

And so it was, one summer day, that my best friend Denny Johanson and I, decided to build an airplane. Not a model airplane mind you, but a real airplane. One that would carry the both of us up, up and away, and I remember thinking what a grand idea it was.  

We found a pile of old boards behind the garage that my dad had been saving. My dad was an avid board collector. He had piles of them all over the place. He had long ones and short ones, two by fours and flat boards, you name it and he had. I never knew what they were for, and frankly, I don't think he did either. But there they were, just calling us. They knew us by name and I could tell, just by looking at them, they wanted to be something. And when a board wants to be something other than a board, you have to oblige it. It's a rule of nature. 

And so we pulled everything to the front yard and began to build. There's not a lot of planning when you're a kid, you just do it. There are no blueprints, the blueprint is an idea in your head. Drawing and measuring are a waste of time. They say that when Walt Disney decided to build Disney World, he spent hours just walking the empty land in Florida, and to anyone who saw him, he just looked like he was walking around, but he wasn't. He was walking down main street. He could see every building, every store front, even the the castle. It was all in his mind and the blueprint was only an idea, a dream that he had. 

So with that in mind, we began. The fuselage was a couple of boards we nailed together to make it just long enough. If I remember the wings were a good fifteen feet across, but we didn't have anything to cover them with.  

Then the idea came to Denny, an epiphany if ever there was one. If you could use paper to make a model airplane, why couldn't you use it on a real airplane? We gathered up old newspapers and Christmas wrapping paper and paper bags, and piece by piece we stretched them out and nailed them to the wings. And then made a place just behind the wings where we both could sit and with a few more boards, the tail was done. And then we mounted the whole thing on my red Radio Flyer wagon using old bailing wire and twine to secure it. And thus, as thus goes, in a matter of a few hours, it was done. Wilbur and Orville Wright would have been proud.

We had the route all planned out. We would run it down a hill to get up enough speed and when it lifted off, we would fly down the valley and then turn up and fly over my house and then Denny's, and land in the field next to his house.

It was going to be a long flight so we decided to get a drink of water before we took off. Building an airplane is hard work and it was warm that day. Perfect for flying if I remember correctly.   

When we left the kitchen I heard mom say to dad, "You don't think that thing will really fly, do you?" Just hearing her ask him that made me think that it might just actually fly, though I thought I heard the sound of my dad laughing as the door closed behind us.  

We decided the only place where we could get up enough speed was a huge hill behind my house. And so the long journey began. 

We dragged that behemoth to the top of the hill, with the wheels on my Radio Flyer wagon, groaning and complaining under the weight  and then, when we got to the top, we positioned the nose facing downhill and everything was set. 

I scooped up a handful of dust and let it fall so I could see which way the wind was blowing. I'd seen someone do it in a movie once so I knew it was something you had to do. Denny assured me, all pilots do it--even airline pilots. Even though their runways are cement they keep a handful of dirt in their pockets and just before they get into the cockpit, when no one's looking, they empty their pocket to see which way the wind is blowing. So there it was--proof.

The dust told the story. There was just a slight breeze and it was blowing sideways and then in circles. Perfect, as far as either of us knew. And so it was time. We mounted our magic aircraft and on the count of three, we kicked away the bricks from under the wheels, and we began our descent down the hill. 

As we built up speed the plane began to shimmy and shake and I knew we were just about about to take off, when suddenly, about half way down, one of the wings dipped, caught the ground and the plane spun around. The wheels on the wagon snapped, and in another second we were sprawled out on the ground. The plane slid another ten feet, and then the wings fell off and the fuselage split in two.   

I looked at Denny, "Did we leave the ground?"

Denny looked at me dazed, "I think so."

And so in days to come, the story of our flight and the airplane we built became bigger and more fantastic with each telling. Neighborhood kids listened wide eyed, as we recanted the story over and over again of how we flew down the valley and over our houses and landed perfectly in the field next to Denny's house. 

I never really knew what became of that airplane. Maybe my dad pulled it all back off that hill where we left it, or maybe, just maybe, the pieces magically came back together, and when the wind was just right, it lifted off the ground and flew away. I can't be sure. 

There are times though, I think I can still see it, flying up in the sky, circling over our town, slipping and swirling in the clouds, dancing on the wind with newspaper and Christmas paper wings; and for a moment, just a moment. I remember what it was like, when I too, believed in... magic.  

Thursday, May 5, 2016

70 Dancing Little Angels: Garden of Angels by Kim Michael-- Copyright February 2015

70 Dancing Little Angels: Garden of Angels


            by Kim Michael

       Copyright February 2015

URL-- ttp:// Home Video Politics U.S. Opinion Entertainment Tech Science Health Travel Lifestyle World Sports Weather Privacy Terms.
      Some people live their lives going from cradle to grave without leaving so much as a footprint, while others leave huge wakes in life as they pass.  They are heroes of a sort.  They are people who inspire us and at times even humble us; people who are capable of such indescribable acts of kindness and courage that it’s difficult for us to grasp how or why they do what they do.

      Some years ago I read a Fox News article about the “Garden of Angels” and it affected me so profoundly that I promised myself that one day I would write about it and this is a story that has been long over due.   

      By the way I have included the original URL so you can also see the original article and pictures of the Garden are readily available if you search for the "Garden of Angels."     

     This story is for anyone who has ever loved a child, who knows how precious a gift they are, and that Angels do exist.

      Debi Faris-Cifell and her husband live in a little town in California called Calimesa.  When the phone rings it is a call for Debi to come to the morgue to collect yet another body of an abandon baby who has died somewhere in the three county area surrounding Los Angeles.  They are tiny, no names, left in alleys or garbage cans to die alone, unloved and unwanted.

      Debi goes to the morgue and insists on going in alone into the autopsy room where she raps the babies in a hand made quilt and in the quiet of that room she holds them, and prays over them, and loves them.  She gives them first names that will be engraved on a white cross above their grave in a very special place she has made for them, a place she calls the “Garden of Angels”.  

       Over the years the Garden has had frequent visitors, people who believe in what Debi and her husband are doing and often adopt the babies, leaving flowers and toys on their graves through-out the year. 

      Until Debi began her work in 1996, babies whose remains went unclaimed were cremated, their ashes placed in a small cardboard box and after three years if they remained unclaimed, were buried with other John and Jane Does in an unmarked grave. 

      Since Debi began her work in 1996 she has buried more than seventy babies.  Held seventy babies in her arms.  Gave seventy babies names and gave seventy babies love.  She refuses to let them pass from this world nameless and without being loved—even if only for a little while. 
      But just as she is committed to the babies who have been lost, she is equally committed to saving the lives of babies who are still in peril.
      In 2001 Debi Faris-Cifelli, helped win passage of the law called the “Safe Haven Law” in California, which allows desperate and confused parents a three day period to leave a child at a firehouse or hospital, without fear of prosecution.  Forty-six states now have enacted such laws and since the law took affect 67 babies in California have been safely surrendered, though Debi admits, no one knows how many have still been lost, and without an adequate awareness campaign many of these tiny lives are still in jeopardy.      
      To that end Debi travels across the country to lobby in states that have no such laws, all in the hope that one day the Garden of Angels will see its last angel. 
      She does all this with a three person staff supported by donations, grants, car washes, bake sales and compassionate people through out the country, but it has barely been enough to cover the costs.
      Then in 2008 a miracle happened.  Debi and her husband won the California lottery.  They had only played it three times in their entire life, but they won $27 million dollars.  For many of us that would be enough to just walk away from it all, but not Debi and her husband.  They have already made plans for the money.  They received a lump sum after tax of $9 million dollars and as you would expect some will go to their children, but the bulk will go into doing the work that is, and always has been, her passion.  And because of the money her babies will live on in a new way, one hundred forty scholarships will be given out each year in the names of each of the abandoned babies she has buried. 
     I suppose there are critics who will say that Debi and her husband are deluding themselves into thinking that they can love and comfort a child after its life has passed; that what they do makes no difference at all; but it does.  It makes a difference to me and probably anyone who has ever loved a child; and I am convinced that no act of love is ever lost, no good deed ever overlooked.  Maybe not here on earth, but I would like to believe, like Debi and her husband, that somehow, someway, those babies know and they are saying “thank you for loving me when no one else did”. 
     And why do I think that? The odds of winning the lottery are astronomical, even impossible, especially if you've only played three times in your life.  But I tend to think the odds are significantly less, when you have seventy dancing little angels in heaven…helping you. 

By the way you can find the website for the Garden of Angels at:

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Extraordinary Story of a Man Who Lost over a Thousand Races--The Dick and Rick Hoyt Story By Kim Michael-- Copyright March 2015

"Seeing The Face of God"

by Kim Michael          

Copyright March 2015

What would you say if I told you that there is a man who has run over a thousand endurance races, including 72 full marathons (32 Boston Marathons), six Ironman Triathlons, climbed mountains, and crossed America riding a bicycle in 45 days.  And in all of those competitions (to my knowledge) has never won a single race?   Would you say--that he is probably the biggest loser of all time?  You might if you didn’t know that much about what “winning" and "losing" really means; or the inspired way in which he lost; and how in losing, he has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of people around the world.

Meet Dick Hoyt, a retired military man who at the age of forty began running races.  A lot of them.  And up to that time he had never run more than a mile; he did not know how to swim; had never climbed a mountain and had never biked more than a few miles.  And the reason why he started doing all these things…is where this amazing story begins.

You see in every one of those races, Dick Hoyt carried, or pushed, or pulled his quadriplegic son “Rick"; sometimes in a wheelchair, sometimes in a rubber raft that Dick pulled behind him as he swam, and sometimes on the handlebars of a bike specially designed to carry Rick, and in all that time, Dick Hoyt has never run a single race without his son.  

It all began in the winter of 1962 when Dick and Judy Hoyt’s son was born.  During the delivery the umbilical cord had gotten wrapped around Rick’s neck strangling him and leaving him brain damaged and a spastic quadriplegic, unable to talk or control his limbs.

At the age of nine months the doctors told the Hoyts that Rick would be nothing more than a vegetable and should be institutionalized, but the Hoyts refused, which began a long list of refusals that would eventually save both Rick and Dick’s lives.  

The Hoyts refused to leave their little boy behind.  They refused to let his life be less than any other child’s.  They refused to let Rick’s disabilities define him, and when the kids in the neighborhood played, Rick payed with them, in his wheel chair.

The Hoyt’s invested in a computer that allowed Rick to tap out words with his head, and eventually he went to public school and graduated.

But the real turning point came when Rick heard about a La Cross player who had been paralyzed in an accident and a five mile charity run was being held to raise money for him.

“Dad,”  Rick said. “I want to run in that race.  I've got to let him know that life goes on even though he is paralyzed.”   So Rick ran the race with his father pushing him in his wheelchair.  They came in next to last, but they finished, even though Dick was sore for two weeks, but Rick told his dad, “When we were running, it was like I wasn’t disabled any more."

That was all Dick Hoyt needed to hear.  It was the beginning of a race that Dick and Rick would run for over forty years—together, father and son.  Over a thousand races in all, including six Ironman Triathlons; crossing America on a bicycle in 45 days, and climbing mountains.  And in each of those races, thousands of people lined the streets to see them; Rick waving his arms wildly, grinning ear to ear as they passed; people applauding them, cheering them on, taking pictures of them and more than a few with tears in their eyes.  

The Hoyts carried their message of hope to millions just through the simple act of refusing to give in, of having the courage and the sheer will to be more than their limitations.  I don’t think you can see something like that and not be humbled...and inspired by it.  I know the first time I saw the the video, I am not ashamed to say tears rolled down my face.   

But that is not the whole story.  Dick Hoyt admits that Rick saved his life as well.  Several years ago during a race Dick Hoyt had a mild heart attack.  With an artery 95% blocked he was told by his doctors if he had not been in such good shape from running, he would likely have died fifteen years before.  

At the age of 73 and Rick now 51, 2014 was the last Boston Marathon they would run, but they will be remembered.  Only yards from the starting line a statue has been erected; a statue of a father pushing his son’s wheel chair in the Boston Marathon, his son’s arms waving wildly... and if you look closely you can even see the smile on his son’s face.  

Over the centuries there have been many artists who have tried to depict the true likeness of God; great artists like Rubens, Blake, Michelangelo, and many others.   But you know what I think is probably the closest to what God really looks like?

It’s a statue in Boston of a man pushing his son’s wheel chair in a race that he will never win.  That’s what unconditional love looks like.  And I’m thinking ...that’s what the face of God looks like.  

If you have not seen it, the video can be seen at:  as well as the Hoyt story.



Monday, May 2, 2016

Women of Courage

The Amazing Story of the "Practical Magic" House

by Kim Michael

Copyright February 2015

For anyone who has ever seen the movie "Practical Magic" you know that the biggest star of the movie is not Sandra Bullock or Nicole Kidman--it is the Practical Magic "house". 

Having a fascination for such things I was interested in finding out where this house is, and if it can still be seen today.  Actually, the movie was made back in 1998, so there have been quite a few years since the house was first filmed, and I suspected that it had probably been sold and was now privately owned.

What I found out however was, the house no longer exists.  It was torn down  years ago.  But what most people (including myself) didn't know is that the house  was not actually a house, but rather, a movie set.  It literally had no insides and was essentially an empty shell.  The interiors were filmed on a sound stage in Hollywood.  It was rumored that Barbra Streisand was interested in buying the house at one time, but in the end, the cost of building out the inside proved to be too much and it was eventually bulldozed to the ground.

But there is another side to the story of the Practical Magic house that is even more intriguing.  When Griffen Dunne was brought in to direct the movie, he wanted to use a Victorian House on top of a hill, overlooking the ocean--but none could be found, so Stephen Alesch and Robin Standefer (a husband and wife set design team) were brought in to design and build the house--with a strange requirement.  The house had to have a "woman" inspired theme to it; a house where only women lived; and if possible, the architecture had to be "woman" inspired.  

Robin and Stephen's first thoughts were of a victorian house with lavish, frilly, ornate facades.... but when Robin began doing research on the concept, she discovered something that neither she or Stephen expected....something that would change dramatically the concept of their house, and instill in their design a deeper meaning, that many people would sense, but not really understand.    

It was a warm afternoon when they took their plans to the movie studio and spread them out for the production staff to see.... and the first reaction was one of confusion.

It was a victorian house alright, just as had been first envisioned, sitting on a hill top, overlooking the ocean, but with one signifiant difference... it was a lighthouse.  If you look closely at the picture at the top of this page you can see it--the highest point on the roof is actually what's called the "lantern room" of a lighthouse.

But why a lighthouse?  Why would a "woman" inspired design be a lighthouse?

"Because", Robin said, “In my research I found out that it was women, not men, who manned the lighthouses of the world for centuries."

Literally hundreds of thousands of sailors owed their lives to the brave women who climbed the stairs, night after night, to light the light... the light that would lead the ships at sea safely home, even in the worst storms.

Who were these women?  They were women who had lost husbands and sons, brothers and fathers, to an unforgiving sea....and had committed themselves to not let another life be taken....for lack of a light that could bring them safely home.  They were, and are, some of the greatest unspoken heroes of our past.  

And I tend to think that there are many women today, just like them, who maybe don't have lighthouses, but day in and day out, climb the stairs and light the light; and for most, it is not important to them that the world know they are heroes.  But it's is important...that we know.