‘Payback painter’ thanks town for kindness with mural

Bussey, Iowa, may make you homesick for a place you’ve probably never been. Just 422 people live there — but this small town has made a big difference in Todd Spaur’s life.“The whole community helped me raise my three kids,” Spaur explained, “because I had my hands full, being a single dad.”Two decades ago, Spaur was in a terrible accident. After his car flipped off a highway, he lay

Golden Gate Bridge links lovers for a lifetime

San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge was so loved when it opened in 1937 that a lot of people scribbled their names and addresses on its towers. A friend bet 14-year old Bill Hughes a quarter that Bill couldn’t write a letter to a name and address chosen at random and get a reply. The friend closed his eyes and put his finger on a name: Patricia Lucas. Bill wrote the letter.Decades later, Patric

Despite paralysis, Iraq vet is thankful to be a dad

Babies can find ways to make us feel better. Matt Keil may be paralyzed from the waist down, but his daughter knows the path to her dad’s heart is through his thumb.“Ouch!”She was teething on the one hand that Matt, who is quadriplegic, can move. “You wake up thinking you're having a bad day,” Matt said, talking around the tiny fingers trying to touch his lips, “and then you come out a

70 years later, ghosts of World War II remain indelible

Producer's notebook: There’s a ghost in my house. No, I'm not delusional. In fact, I saw it being created. You did too, if you caught Bob Dotson's American Story on TODAY this morning.It's about the “Ritchie Boys”: thousands of World War II soldiers, mostly German-speaking Jews, who fled the Nazis and fought for their new nation — the United States — as intelligence officers. Many Ritchi

Remembering those who lost the war

On the Fourth of July we always celebrate the winners, the people who won our independence and set up our country, but what happened to the losers? No, not the British, but the Americans who fought with them? Our revolution was, for some, a civil war. Even the founding fathers' families were split. Benjamin Franklin's son William defied his father and remained Royal Governor of New Jersey until hi

From bad hair day to pay day

Today’s American Story with Bob Dotson comes from Williamstown, N.J., where a teenager thinks she’s found the key to success. It’s not a question of being dealt a good hand, she says. It’s playing a bad hand well, over and over again.I found Jasmine Lawrence watching her mom struggle to learn how to load a high speed-labeling machine. Shampoo bottles were spinning and sticking, their label

‘Young’ senior citizens rock out

Today's American Story with Bob Dotson comes from Northampton, Mass., home to a group of the most unlikely movie stars. “Eyeeeeee feel Good!” Dora Morrow shouts into a microphone, then growls her best James Brown. "Like I knew that I would …” If it’s not loud enough to wake the dead, it's loud enough to show that she isn’t among them, even though Dora and her 25 friends in this r

A master of music and medicine

Today's American Story with Bob Dotson comes from Los Angeles, where I found a young man who climbed the ladder of success and found it leaning against the wrong wall. Now he has to choose between a career in Medicine or Music.A lot of us love the spot light. Look at the explosion of personal web pages on the Internet, every one trying for their 15 Megabytes of fame. Robert Gupta is different.

Spring break for the homeless

Today's American Story with Bob Dotson comes from Wilmington, Delaware, where I happened upon a man who is taking some of his homeless neighbors on a Florida spring break. That's right — a spring break for the homeless. A trip, hopefully, to a better life.Rollie Richardson got to know the homeless in the parks near his home. I followed him one morning as he went looking for friends hunkered in t

Remembering a soulful singer

Sometimes it feels as if I started in this business back when the earth was cooling. When I was a young storyteller, we shot film. Spliced pictures together with glue. Wore gloves so we wouldn't smudge the images. I pecked out my scripts on a typewriter. Made "instant" copies, six at a time, by inserting carbon paper behind the page I was typing. This morning's story sent my memories skidding b

Art for hospitality

Few of us willingly go out beyond the limits of our settled lives. Certainly, most would be reluctant to do what Jim Mott does. The successful, middle-aged artist travels the country trading paintings for hospitality. Stays with total strangers. Scary, you say? We found Jim Mott wandering through a fading afternoon in Wisconsin last fall. A shy man. Quiet. Not the kind you would expect could trav

An inspiring autistic artist

One of my favorite stories last year was about a son who had not said a sentence to his mother in two decades. He could not express a complex thought. But hope will never be silent. See what the New Year holds for Seth Chwast. To succeed, Seth will need to count on more than his fingers. Fortunately, he has an amazing mom. We are all the result of the many hands that push us along, who help us do

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