Monday, August 4, 2008


"Life is Tremendous" is a dear, long time friend's trademark, title of the book he wrote in 1967 and that has a couple million copies in print in at least a dozen languages - and his philosophy of life and how he lives his life and . . . will die. His name is Charlie "Tremendous" Jones, some of you may have heard of him, read his book, been fortunate enough to have heard him speak or, maybe, like me, are lucky enough to know him personally and call him a friend. Charlie is approaching 81 years young - and I mean young. Charlie is dying. Well, we're all dying, we just don't know when. Charlie has a pretty good idea when and it won't be long. He is another victim of cancer. He has fought prostate cancer valiantly for over 10 years. We thought we lost him about six or seven years ago. But, Charlie wasn't ready to go then. Life was still too tremendous for him, so he's been a blessing to the thousands of us who know him for several more years.

I've personally known Charlie for about 28 or 29 years. Charlie loves people, he loves life and he lives his philosophy everyday - no matter how bad things may be, what disasters my occur or who may wrong him. He's a lover of life and a lover of people. I don't think Charlie has ever met anyone he didn't love. Yes, he's a family guy, too - Gloria, his wife of 60 years and a doll herself - and 6 kids, all accomplished, some of whom I know because they work with Charlie in his book publishing business. By the way, Charlie is famous for another quotation - "You will be the same five years from now except for two things, the people you meet (associate with) and the books you read."

Charlie is also a very committed Christian. He doesn't beat anyone over the head with his faith, but he doesn't hide it and it is apparent that he lives his life in his faith. He is far from "holier then thou." He is very humble, despite the fact that he has spoken to hundreds of thousands of people around the world over the past 40+ years and indirectly impacted the lives of millions of people. Yet, he never brags and treats those who are in the most menial jobs in society as important as those in the highest stations of society. He never fails to get smiles from everyone he encounters. Is he super human? No, as he puts it, he's just thankful. I'm most impressed by his personally autographed picture of Mickey Mantle, one of my childhood heros. But, that's only one of, who knows how, much memorabilia in his trophy room and two libraries full of all kinds of first editions, some hundreds of years old.

Charlie and I started to become much closer as friends when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer nearly six years ago. Charlie was on the phone praying for me the night before I underwent the knife. He has been a cheerleader for me since then (an aside, so far, I'm lucky enough to be a poster child for early prostate cancer detection after 5 1/2 years). But, Charlie's cancer returned, with a vengeance. He loves to sing - and he was actually very good. So, we set out on recording his favorite music, not for release to the public, but as a legacy for his grandchildren and great grandchildren he doesn't know, yet. I set up a temporary studio in his guest house and we'd have ball recording "his" music - and he was like a kid.

Then, knowing that I was a recording guy, VO guy, speaker, and so on, Charlie started feeding me some of the thousands of old audio materials he's gathered over the years for restoration and new release through his publishing company. Then he decided to start creating a series of audio books from the public domain books on various personal improvement topics he was publishing. Now, remember, this is all during a time while he was approaching 80, getting weaker and weaker, losing some of his faculties and approaching (as he terms it) his "graduation" from this life.

It only gets better. Charlie wanted to record at least 20 of these small (basically a single CD) audio books himself and then turn the future (#21 + - a continuing series) over to me to narrate. So, I'd go up to PA (I live in northwestern VA) and we'd spend a couple days, usually over a weekend, recording audio books, his music recordings, laughing and enjoying the time together. Well, Charlie, 6'4", over this time was losing weight - he's probably lost over 100 pounds at this point. The complications of the cancer took one of his eyes, so he wears a patch over that eye and he reads with just one eye. And here comes the topper - as a professional, world renown speaker, about five months ago, he LOST HIS VOICE PERMANENTLY! We had completed only 18 of the 20 books he wanted to complete himself and his singing days were over.

But, life is still tremendous for Charlie "Tremendous" Jones. He can only whisper now. And, yes, we talk, well, I talk, he whispers, regularly by phone. He has accepted his situation positively. How positive? He spent part of May and June on a whirlwind, around the world SPEAKING tour - without a voice. He whispered at every venue. And, he received standing ovations at every program. He turned over the 19th and 20th audio books to me and he just listened to the 19th audio book reference copy I sent him and his comment to me after he reviewed it was, "It's tremendous! I wish I had lost my voice sooner so you could have been doing all of the other books, you are so much better then me and I've never heard a better interpretation of this particular book then yours." How much did that humble me?

Well, the story of Charlie "Tremendous" Jones is not over, yet! I was up to a theater a few miles from Charlies's farm a few weeks ago, to share in the joy of an old grad school buddy over his daughter's professional singing/dancing/acting career. She was starring in a musical at this theater. A lady friend of mine went along with me and she had met Charlie a few years ago when all three of us were at a Mark Victor Hansen program in CA. Charlie was speaking (he was on the main stage), I also spoke (a breakout session) and we were both exhibiting. Carolyn wanted to see Charlie's farm and maybe visit Charlie for a few minutes. So, we drove the 20 minutes to Charlie's place and visited. It was the first time in the nearly 30 years I've known him that he was not up and on his feet. He was lying on the couch and unable to get up. Another trademark of Charlie is that he is a big hugger - and I mean BIG BEAR HUGS. He lifted full grown men off the floor when he hugged them. Charlie couldn't even sit up to give and get a hug from me. But, he was still positive as always.

A few days later I received an e-mail from him saying that hospice had just delivered a hospital bed and wheelchair and they had turned the dining room into a bedroom for him since he could no longer go up and down stairs. And the next thing he said in the e-mail was, "And life gets more tremendous each day." I spent time with him a week ago today. He was in his hospital bed - but, the dining room table looked like the desks in his two offices always looked, covered from one end to the other in books, manuscripts, lists, projects, tapes, DVD's. On Friday of last week, I received a DVD of one of Charlie's programs in Auckland, NZ where he whispered. I laughed! I cried! I was moved as much, or maybe more, then I have ever been from Charlie's humor, stories, points, philosophies and ENTHUSIASM! I spoke with Charlie on the phone on Saturday morning and told him how much I gained from that DVD. Then we went over some projects. As we wrapped up the phone call he said he was getting more rest and was feeling a bit better. Once again, he said to me, "Life really is more tremendous every day for me."

Charlie is very close to his "graduation." I will not be sad for him, but I will feel a big loss. He has appointed me as his "voice" to continue audio programs for his business and legacy. It is one of the greatest and most humbling things to ever happen to me. It leaves me with two VERY BIG shoes to fill - and a huge challenge. But, Charlie will leave in a style like very few people I know of has displayed. He is possibly the only person I know, personally, who ALWAYS cares more about everyone else then himself and I never leave him without feeling more uplifted and inspired then when I arrived.

ABC video taped a documentary about his life - interviewing him in his office and with him only able to whisper. I don't know when that documentary might air, but, I'm sure it will impact anyone who views it. He also was interviewed by Success Magazine in the August issue and everyone who has read it said it's the best article ever written about him, I have to pick up my copy. If you're interested, you might want to find a copy yourself. I firmly believe that if we could each live our lives at only half the level that Charlie "Tremendous" Jones has lived his, we could change this world into the paradise it was created to be. Coincidentally, a week ago Friday, we lost a younger (47) version of Charlie Jones to pancreatic cancer, Randy Pausch. Had Randy lived to Charlie's age, I dare say, he would have impacted as many, or more, people with a positive spin on life then Charlie. This was long, but I hope my personal account of Charlie "Tremendous" Jones will leave you just a little better for investing the time to read it.

Ed Helvey

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