For many years the little community I lived in was also Michael's community. Neverland was just up the road from us and while I never met him personally, Michael Jackson was our neighbor, a constant quiet figure in our comings and goings.
Back in the beginning, I did photography for a small non-profit that Michael was very good to. It was his nature to be generous and the children that this charity helped had experiences to last a lifetime. Our community knew him and Neverland as a giving person, a giving place. As the years passed by, the King of Pop would sometimes quietly pop into a gift shop in downtown Solvang but more often was just privately a presence in the valley we called home.
I'm now in front of the TV celebrating his life, just one of the millions around the world who grew up to his music, his immense talent, the love he shared through his genius. Michael, as a little boy you sang I'll Be There" and I know you will always be...in my heart and soul, as an artist, fueling my passion for music, as a philanthropist, teaching me responsibility to those with less around me, as my neighbor in a little rural valley we both called home.