Grip Hands - The Passing of Liz Houston

I previously wrote about the Benefit being held for my friends, Kevin & Liz Houston. Liz was suffering with Scleroderma - a chronic autoimmune illness involving the body's connective tissue. We went to the benefit on March 1st of 2008 (the details and pictures are below).

Liz went Home to God yesterday at 4:00pm. She is truly going to be missed.
To all my '87 friends & classmates ---

I am deeply saddened to inform you that Liz Houston, wife of our classmate Kevin Houston, passed from this earth just after 4:00PM, today, January 3, 2009. Liz had been receiving treatment at St. Luke's Cornwall Hospital since Tuesday night; the result of complications stemming from a bout of pneumonia she bravely and heroically battled until she succumbed to it's cumulative effect late this afternoon. Many of you are aware that she was stricken with the insidious scourge of the affliction, scleroderma; a debilitating connective tissue disease that attacks the organs of the body. She gamely fought its effects since being diagnosed in May of 2004, and managed to inspire all of us with a positive outlook, an infectious enthusiasm for the "battle" to beat the disease, and unconditional love for family and friends blessed enough to have been in her life.

Kevin, though dealing with the most difficult of circumstances, has rallied around their three children, and along with an ever burgeoning support network of family and friends, has begun the arduous process of pressing forward without his soulmate, his partner for some thirty years, and the beautiful girl who he began seeing while they were both sophomores at Pearl River High School in 1979. Their abundant love and respect for each other was truly inspirational to those of us lucky enough to catch some of its powerful reflection.

The family has been deeply appreciative of all the love, support, and assistance provided by not only the c/o of '87, but from many other members of the Long Gray Line, as well. Our collective efforts as an
extended "family" are another of the myriad of qualities that make West Pointers a unique brand of lifetime comrades; there for each other during conflict, as well as in times of peace and prosperity.

Please keep the Houston Family in your thoughts and prayers.

With heavy heart,
James G.

Here are some links
Grip Hands - Part 1

A mother's illness met with hardship and hearts

Scleroderma Facts:
Scleroderma is characterized by a hardening of the body's connective tissue and is a painful, life altering disease that is fatal in its more severe forms
  • About 80% of Scleroderma patients are women, typically diagnosed between the ages of 25 and 55.
  • Scleroderma affects African Americans more frequently and at an earlier age and they tend to develop the most severe form of the disease.
  • Complications of scleroderma typically include some or all of the following: extreme sensitivity to cold in extremities, hand deformity and facial changes, difficulty swallowing and digesting food and profound fatigue and pain.
  • Misdiagnosis is common. It can take one year or more for an individual to be diagnosed and receive appropriate treatment.

Ron and I attended The Friends of Liz & Kevin Benefit this past Saturday. I knew a lot of people were coming, but when I walked into the room I was OVERWHELMED with the number of people, the love and the outpouring of support I saw. At the height of the evening, there had to be approximately 700 people in a room that was fire coded for 300. Since the police department Pipes & Drums Corp played, I wasn't surprised that this little fact was overlooked. The food was plentiful, the bar overstocked (and I saw most people paying for the cash bar items vs the free stuff since a portion of the bar proceed were going to the fundraiser), and the Silent/Live Auction items were out of this world. I could not believe the items that were donated...Autographed footballs from Superbowl players, autographed basketballs from NBA players, flat panel TVs, tickets to Mets games (and even one where you spent the evening with the team photographer), floor tickets to Lakers game, a week at a beach house, golf outings, a stay at Trump Towers, huge gift baskets (I won a basket with 6 bottles of Aussie wine, 1 bottle of champagne, and 2 crystal glasses) & more.

The evening was an absolute blast (as well poignant and solemn) and I pray that they raised enough funds to help with the mounting medical bills and modifications to their home to make it accessible for Liz who is now wheel chair bound.

Here are some great pictures from the event. I am planning on making a video slide show to music after I gather up some more pictures taken by the event photographer & friend, Scott Strine.

I took a little video while at the event and have compiled it here. It is just a short sampling of the event. There were so many people to see, so many of my classmates, so many of the guys from Army Basketball (I was just a groupie from 83-87). Kevin's speech was so moving.

Enclosed is a message from one of the event organizers & my classmate- James Gagliano....

If you were in attendance last evening at the Pearl River Benefit for Kevin and Liz Houston, as many of us were, you were humbled by the unbridled enthusiasm and palpable support for our classmate and his dear wife. Conservative estimates have the crowd, who gamely braved limited parking and a bitter cold night, at upwards of 700 attendees. The festive atmosphere felt like a reunion, and Kevin nailed it when he described all the assemblage as his and Liz's "extended family" --- those of us '87'ers in attendance could proudly claim a sizable chunk of those attendance figures, no doubt. Thank you to all my classmates who answered the call; either in person or with financial support; or by the simple conveyance of thoughts by a card or note to the Houston's; or by keeping Liz and Kevin, as well as their entire conjoined families in your thoughts and prayers.

And while the assistance has been robust to date, there's still a mighty hill to climb. You can continue to help by making a donation at the secure pay credit card donation site listed below:


All my best to you all. You make me proud to claim a similar lineage and proud to be an '87'er.

Best regards, JG