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Editor: 

Like millions of other people, Matt Shepard's death had a tremendous impact on me. I am a 77-year-old gay man who was married to a woman for 17 years, have two sons, and came out of the closet at age 38.

I cannot even tell you why Matthew's death had such an impact on me, but it certainly did. Upon hearing of his struggle for life in the hospital, I organized a vigil for Matt in the City Park of Silver City, New Mexico, where I was living at the time. I subsequently visited Laramie more than once and made my pilgrimage to Matt's fence on four occasions. Each time, even years later, I was literally overwhelmed with grief.

Matt's picture touched my heart. His youth and innocence contributed to the "every man" image that resonated with so many of us all over the planet. Matt Shepard did not die in vain. The image of his "crucifixion" gave courage to literally millions of people to come out of the closet. In giving his life, Matthew Shepard literally saved the lives of many of his gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

Thank you, Matthew Shepard.

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JIM TOEVS, Tuscon, Ariz. 

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