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Michael Landon’s Actions are an Inspiration to all of us

July 19, 1991

Michael LandonI made a trip to the Hillsdale Chapel in Los Angeles and received motivation and insight. Returning home from the Memorial Services for Michael Landon, I asked his friend and publicist Harry Flynn for permission to share my feelings publicly.

Cindy, Michael’s wife, looked strong and radiant—I believe from the love they shared and the love remaining. Little Jennifer made me proud every time I looked at her. Her smaller brother Sean, all I could do was hug and carry on my shoulders. And those who spoke painted a beautiful portrait.

It seems redundant to say Jay Eller was Mike’s close friend. He was also his business manager and, as he has done so well before, took the helm that day in the chapel. Jay told how the Landons had nine dogs, all of which loved Mike and vice versa … with the exception of 14-year-old Lucy. The two of them just never clicked. Mike called Jay aside and said he was upset “because Lucy is going to outlive me. When the doctors told Mike to concentrate on a goal he suggested doing his autobiography. “For a title, what do you think of I’m Dying to Tell You Something?” And with that Jay set the tone for what was to follow, smiles and happy memories of Michael Landon.

Melissa Gilbert Brinkman of Little House on the Prairie said that after her father’s death, Mike moved into that role and shaped her life with lessons of dignity, respect, discipline and honor. “He knew when someone was ready for something,” she said.

Leslie Landon Matthews is one of Mike’s nine children. With tears she said her dad told the kids he would be more of an influence to them after he died. A couple of days before that moment she sat by his bed with Michael Jr. They were saying how much they would miss him and assuring him they would be all right. She was telling him how when that time arrived he would be whisked off and be surrounded with people and friends he hadn’t seen, all there to see him. Her dad said he wished it wouldn’t happen immediately. “After all this I could use a rest.”

Merlin Olsen towered above the speaker’s stand. The years and yards which carried him into the professional Football Hall of Fame made the moment no easier for him to bid goodbye to “the best boss, one who actually listened” to him as he portrayed Father Murphy both on Little House and the series by the same name. He said Mike’s sets were different because everyone went home for dinner and had weekends to spend with their families, a unique occurrence on any television series. Yet all the shows came in below budget and of the highest quality. Merlin left the series and soon regretted it. When Mike found out, he was invited back.

I wasn’t naïve. I knew Mike had a tough challenge but I was so sure he would return to full health. I figured the miracle would be found to keep him here and that US would be another hit as other remarkable projects flowed from that creative mind. Now I see Mike was a miracle in himself—and we all have that opportunity.

We all have homework when we come into this world. It is tough enough to know our own proper path, let alone someone else’s. Occasionally someone’s work is so obvious, as was the case of Michael Landon. On many levels there is no difference between what appears as Mike’s work and the act of parenting. Mike helped me see family and mankind as a set of dominos. The parent, the child, then more dominos, illustrating the generations to come as each child has a child. He often spoke of the importance of the parents and their ability to lift up or knock down the domino. “What happens in one generation can continue on. Fears, abuse, and bigotry are handed down. Knock down that first domino and the others follow and fall. The opportunity is there to lift up or knock down every following generation, not just with war but our own selves – each of us has the ability to create or destroy generations.”

Mike did not act as though he was above others. His legacy continues through those who saw and were uplifted as they learned “You are not only important but more important than you will ever think you are.” His own childhood was far from pleasant but he chose to make the change with his own family. This belief and way continue with the work he produced which in turn came to us. I and any person who Mike’s work affected have become a domino lifted up from his teaching.

Everyone has dreams. Michael Landon took action with his, and that action is an inspiration. I feel he is one of the brightest of the stars of any generation and I am so lucky that some of my days and nights allowed me to walk directly through his light. I thank him for that, and for his countless other things he has given this world which will continue to benefit me and others. I thank him for the continued inspiration he leaves. You are so right, Michael. “The dreamers did it.”

Melissa read a poem Mike wrote for an episode of Little House about a lady who knows she is dying and must find a home for her children. They read at her grave what she has written.

“Remember me with joy and laughter for that is how I will remember you. If you can only remember me with tears and sorrow, do not remember me at all.”

Pierre O’Rourke is a Scottsdale publicist and was a friend of Michael Landon.

Reprinted with permission of East Valley Tribune

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