Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

NHL: Gordie Howe Set for Birthday That Wasn't to Be

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

NHL: Gordie Howe Set for Birthday That Wasn't to Be

Article excerpt

Four months ago, the Howe children wrote a eulogy for their dad. Now, they are writing him birthday cards, and taking him fishing. There's also a second visit to a stem cell clinic in Mexico on the schedule.

Gordie Howe, a legend in hockey and to the Detroit Red Wings in particular, turns 87 Tuesday. Plans are to treat him to barbecue and cake he loves sweets and outdoors activity. In the evening, if he is up to it, he will watch on television as the Wings host the Ottawa Senators.

"We're treating every day we get with him as a bonus, just because his condition around Dec. 1 was so dire that we didn't imagine he'd be around," son Mark Howe told the Detroit Free Press on Monday. "You cherish every day with him, and when he has good days, you cherish that more."

Gordie Howe now spends his days puttering about the home of his daughter, Cathy Purnell, in Lubbock, Texas.

"He enjoys mucking around and being helpful," son Murray Howe said. "When he's holding a broom, he's happy as a clam. He loves to shovel and rake."

Maybe for the elder Howe, those activities stir memories of when he had his hands wrapped around a hockey stick. While dementia has robbed him of short-term memory "we'll tell him it's his birthday," Murray Howe said, "and five minutes later, he'll forget" Gordie Howe knows who he is, and who he was.

"He loves old videos of when he played with Mark and Marty, of Team Canada '74, of when he scored is 545th goal to beat Rocket Richard," Murray Howe said. "He loves to watch that stuff."

His three-decade career spanning the NHL and World Hockey Association earned him a place among hockey's elite. It also contributed to the state in which he has lived recently: With dementia. Over the past year, his health deteriorated to a point it was hard to watch for Mark Howe, who like his dad is in the Hockey Hall of Fame. …

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