Gone but never forgotten — that’s how Savannah Guthrie feels about her late Uncle Pierce Franklin Long Jr., whom she lovingly just calls “Uncle Pierce.”
The journalist penned an article for The Today Show wherein she remembered her late uncle, a man who had Down syndrome. As Savannah explains, when Pierce was born, doctors told his parents that he would never be able to walk, or even talk. But he was able to defy the odds — and learned to walk and to speak, even displaying an “exceptional sense of humor” in his life. Once Pierce’s father passed away, he and his mother came to live with Savannah and her family. That set of circumstances contributed to her very fond memories of him.
At the time that he and his mother came to live with the Guthries, they, too, were having a tough time — having recently lost Savannah’s father. But Pierce was one of the people who helped the family overcome those difficulties, and his “emotionally wise and sensitive” nature helped them to heal.
“When you love somebody who has a disability, and you experience how they experience the world, it’s instant perspective about how to make life wonderful even when you’ve been given incredible difficulties,” Guthrie shared.
Now, Savannah says that it is her mission to raise awareness for those with Down syndrome. The Today Show host says that advocacy is so important, because people need to understand the condition so that they’re not afraid of it. She gives the example of many people who are living with Down syndrome having normal lives with their spouses and children. She says that seeing this love in action just takes her breath away.
Savannah wants to make sure that the legacy of her beloved uncle lives on, and she wants to remember him for what a great man he was. Pierce passed away many years ago.
“Pierce reminded me every day [of] what matters in life: goodness, gratitude, enthusiasm, warmth. He lived to a ripe old age with many friends and admirers. This day is close to my heart because he is close to my heart, and always will be.”
Savannah’s sister, Annie Guthrie, also chatted about Savannah’s close bond with her uncle. Annie thinks that since the two of them were so much alike, this similarity may have made their bond so tight.
“I think my Uncle Pierce was a simultaneously serene and exuberant person, and I think Savannah’s that way,” Annie shared. “I think she has this incredible, deep calm that sets people at ease.”
You can catch Savannah and Hoda Kotb on weekday mornings on The Today Show on NBC.