Bill Irwin -- noted for being the first and only profoundly blind person to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail (AT) alone -- passed away on March 1, 2014, following a battle with prostate cancer for the two previous years.
Bill's career was diverse and specialized. He was a chemist, teacher, and founder of Birmingham Clinical Laboratories.
If you spent time with Bill in the last 25 years, he would have told you he became a Christian in 1987, after several failed marriages and bondage to alcoholism.
In Bill's words:
For 26 years I was an alcoholic and lived my life out of control. I never even thought of God much less sought a personal relationship with Him. This is how it is now. Through my youngest son's surrender to cocaine addition, I was able to get a good look at my life the way God saw it and it was not a pretty picture. I was to the place in my addiction that I was drinking around the clock and thought that I would die without it.
God dramatically and completely delivered me from the desire to drink. Two months later He delivered me from my five-pack a day cigarette addiction. God provided these miracles without my asking for help or even having a desire to recover. Then through the love of a man that He put into my life I was led to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Then I learned that He changed me and helped me overcome all the things that prevented me from being a happy person. I experienced the peace and joy that only comes when one is willing to surrender and allow Jesus Christ to become first in his or her life.
The Trail was a pilgrimage to share God's love with all those whom I met while hiking. The book Blind Courage, is an account of my experiences and shares the plan of salvation with every one who reads it. It is not my book, it is God's book and after you read it you will understand why.
The Alabama native once could see ... then he went blind. Bill's left eye was lost to disease, then eight-years later, at age 36, he went totally blind.
In 1990, when he was 50-years-old, he set out to hike from Georgia to Maine on the AT with his guide dog, Orient, and (according to his website BillIrwin.org) without a map, GPS or compass.
After hiking for eight months, Bill completed his trek at Baxter State Park in Maine. Bill wrote about the physical and spiritual ordeal in his book "Blind Courage," co-authored by David McCasland, in 1991.
Bill's final days were dedicated to the Free Indeed Ministries, where he helped those who, like him, were fighting addictions. He lived his motto -- "Never lose faith and never give up!" -- until the end.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to billirwin.org to continue works Bill began.
Tags: Appalachian Trail, News, and Robert Sutherland Travel Writer
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