Mattie Stepanek, who became a poet at age 3 and in 2001 published the tugging Heartsongs, which became an international best seller, died on Tuesday, June 22, 2004, in Washington, D.C., due to complications from his rare neuromuscular disease, muscular dystrophy. The 13-year-old had fought a battle with muscular dystrophy most of his life, but with a spirit few could match. He began writing poetry partly as a salve for his grief over a brother's death from the same disease. The bright-eyed boy, whose big, dimpled smile and square glasses made Oprah Winfrey cry when he wheeled his electric chair onto her television show in October 2001, used his rise to fame to spread a message of hope. His philosophy was simply put: "Remember to play after every storm." In this photo, Mattie and his mother, Jeni, who also has the disease, are shown at their home in Upper Marlboro, Md., in November 2001.
AP/ Matt Houston, file
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