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Al Gregory leaves Hyperion for a service at nearby Fredericksburg Baptist Church on a recent Sunday.
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Date published: 1/4/2013
The pitfalls Al Gregory has endured in his life are enough to make a grown man cry.
"I don't want to say he's unlucky, but he's unlucky," said longtime friend and well-known Fredericksburg-area auctioneer Buddy Updike. "He could fall into a bucket of roses and come out smelling like manure."
The thing is, though, Gregory mostly laughs while recounting the troubles he has endured.
The most recent is a rare muscle disease that has rendered his body nearly useless and likely will land him in an assisted-living facility.
The disease, inclusion body myositis, is just one of a string of maladies the 63-year-old Spotsylvania man has experienced in his life--including divorce and untimely family deaths.
But Gregory has made it a habit of bouncing back when life knocks him down. As a matter of fact, he's quite happy.
"I've been lucky all my life. It doesn't seem like it, but I have been," he said recently in his living room while sitting in a motorized wheelchair. The chair offers him mobility nowadays, along with a handicapped accessorized van. "I enjoy life."
Gregory admits that he hasn't always dealt with his setbacks very well, often living recklessly while in the depths of despair. And though he has many friends, he also says he doesn't necessarily come across as a sympathetic character. He describes himself as a "hot-headed redhead," "argumentative," "contrarian" and a general pain in the rear end.
Still, he has a story to tell, one he hopes can help others make it through their struggles. And he thinks it's time more people know about his rare disease. It won't help him but could benefit others down the line.
"I've been through enough," he said. "Maybe I can help somebody understand things, or accept them."
Gregory, who grew up in Maryland in an apartment over a grocery store his father ran, suffered his first tragedy as a teenager when his 21-year-old brother was killed in a car crash.
As a youth, he watched his mother suffer through a host of ailments. She had a hole in her heart caused by rheumatic fever as a child.
She endured lupus and "horrible" asthma. And, to top it off, she was stricken with breast cancer, which she survived.
No matter what happened, "she kept on going," he said of his mother, who lived to age 72.
INSPIRATION is a series about people who encourage others with their kindness, courage or perseverance.