Huell Howser remembered

What: Public memorial for the popular PBS TV personality who died Monday

Organized by: L.A. City Councilman Tom LaBonge

When: 3:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Griffith Observatory, 2800 E. Observatory Road, Los Angeles

Admission: Free

More information: tomlabonge.com

I love hearing from readers, and I'm pretty darn lucky because most of my mail is positive and fun to read.

Oh, now and then I'll hear from some sorehead who is upset about something I've said on this or that topic. You can guess the kinds of topics I mean. Guns, immigration rights, raves. The hot-button issues, you know.

Then again, the biggest lambasting I ever received was after I made fun of people who back their cars into parking spaces instead of going in nose-first.

Ouch. I didn't live that one down for months.

Usually, I don't respond to mean and nasty notes. I figure the writers of those flame-o-grams have had their say, and they've gotten it off their chests, so they're all better. They don't need me to put it back on their chests by bandying a response.

Besides, you can't argue with certain people. They aren't logical. They won't back down. Especially those showboaters who make everyone wait while they back into parking spaces.

(Uh-oh.)

Again, most of my mail is pleasant and friendly, and I'm very grateful for it. I try to answer as often as I can, even if it's just a short note of thanks.

Last week I received one of my favorite letters ever. It came in response to a column I did on the passing of Huell Howser, longtime host of the popular PBS TV series "California's Gold." The letter not only made me smile, but cry a little bit, too - in a shiny happy way.

I had hoped that my column would prove to be a worthy tribute to Howser. But, wow, this letter was an even better tribute - both to Howser and his fans.

I not only wrote back to say thank you, but I did something I never have done before. I asked for permission to reprint the entire letter in my column.

I want to share it now. It's from Lisa Reichardt-Avance of Bloomington:

Thank you, John, for the wonderful story about Huell Howser. I, too, will miss him, in more ways than most.

I live here in Bloomington, where I grew up. My Dad and Mom would actually go to some of the places that Huell would visit on the shows. Huell and Luis (Howser's cameraman Luis Fuerte) did a show about a good friend of ours and their restaurant El Rancho in Colton. But that wasn't until my Dad had come down with cancer, and he was limited on his personal outings.

I would come home from work, and my Dad would be getting ready to watch "California's Gold." I would sit with him and ask him, "Where we going tonight, Dad?" And his response would be, "We'll see." We would watch the show together. He laughed about how excited Huell would get. He made fun of Huell's driving, and I would tease my Dad and say, "He drives like you."

My husband and I bought the house across the street two doors down from my parents due to the fact that my Dad's health was decreasing. I would go in the evenings to watch Huell Howser with Dad before we would have to hook his machines up for the night. "Where we going tonight, Dad?"

Dad started not to make it through an entire show anymore without nodding off. I would sit there just watching the show until "our song" at the end, then Mom and I would hook his machines up and off to bed he went.

Time passed and so did Dad. It was a long 12-year battle for him, in and out of hospitals. He would even watch the show in the hospital when he could get it.

I now watch (repeats of) "California's Gold" when I get a chance, here and there, no matter how many times I have seen the episode. I feel like Dad is watching, too.

Huell made something for me that was worth more than its weight in "Gold." It was memories.

Now, I hope Dad can show Huell around "Heaven's Gold."

Read more John Weeks at http://sbsun.com/johnweeks. Contact him by email at john.weeks@inlandnewspapers.com.