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Mom recalls Gordie Little's

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'grace and graciousness'

http://www.al.com/news/huntsvilletimes/ ... xml&coll=1

Monday, October 31, 2005


Times Staff Writer patriciacm@htimes.com

Man who battled schizophrenia 'was angel on this earth'

Robert Gordon Little was paralyzed, lying in a hospital bed in his mother's house at the foot of Monte Sano when a member of the Knights Templar came to visit.

Gordie, as everyone called him, was dying of lung cancer, and huge tumors surrounded his neck and chest, tripling in size during his yearlong illness. The 42-year-old man, who had been diagnosed as schizophrenic 20 years ago, loved God and medieval history, and having an actual knight come visit him was an unbelievable joy.

That joy evolved into honor when the knight visited again, this time with a job to do.

He knighted Gordie two months ago, drawing him into the most exclusive, revered organization dating back nearly 1,000 years. Gordie died at home on Oct. 21.

Dorothy Little said it was her son's courage and devotion to God that prompted the knight to do what he did for Gordie.

"The knight looked into Gordie's eyes and saw his bravery and his pure heart and spirituality," Little said. "Even with everything that had happened to him and his pain and his paralysis, the knight saw his grace and graciousness.

"Whenever people met him, they walked away changed. They knew they'd been in the presence of someone holy."

For Gordie, knighthood was the greatest award he could've ever gotten, because it was the recognition of his beautiful soul, his mother said. During the bulk of his life, dealing with his schizophrenia, Gordie didn't always feel that the world saw him that way.

He didn't fear death, she said. He feared life, "because the world was too cruel and dangerous for such a gentle soul."

"The Knights Templar were the protectors of Christendom, watching over the pilgrims as they journeyed from France to the Holy Land," Little said. "To be considered worthy of that brought him so much peace."

As painful as his last year of life was, it was also one of his best. As his father, Gordon Little, said, as Gordie battled cancer, it seemed his mental illness lifted, allowing him to think clearly, "and his true wonderful character was revealed."

Gordie loved his room in his mother's house. He felt safe there. Bookshelves still showcase his books on war and politics, the tiny soldier figurines he painted with exquisite detail, his model airplanes and rocks.

Even though he began showing signs of mental unrest while a high school freshman, Little said it wasn't until he was in college that he was officially diagnosed. Medication helped, but schizophrenia - which is manifested through hallucinations, delusions, withdrawal and depression - can't be cured.

After teaching school for 30 years, Dorothy Little opened The Pet Nanny so her son could help. When customers dropped off their dogs for her to care for, Gordie did more than feed and walk dogs. He loved them.

"He had an amazing wit," said Martha Schamberger, whose dog Sweetie fell in love with Gordie instantly and lay with him in his hospital bed. "He would always joke with me about how much money it would take to buy her from me. We laughed so much. As sick as he was, he never once complained about how he was hurting.

"He was an angel on this earth. Anyone who met him was blessed. These aren't just words. I mean, anyone who looked in his eyes felt peace and love and God."

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