Mattie Stepanek, the child poet whose inspirational verse made him a best-selling writer and a prominent voice for muscular dystrophy sufferers, died Tuesday of a rare form of the disease. He was 13. His poems brought him admirers including Oprah Winfrey and former President Carter and made him one of the best-selling poets in recent years.
In his short life, the tireless Stepanek wrote five volumes of poetry that sold millions of copies. Three of the volumes reached the New York Times’ best-seller list. Stepanek began writing poetry at age 3 to cope with the death of a brother.His mother, Jeni, 44, has the adult-onset form of the disease, and his three older siblings died of it in early childhood.
Despite his condition, Stepanek was upbeat, saying he didn’t fear death. His work was full of life, a quest for peace, hope and the inner voice he called a “heartsong.” “It’s our inner beauty, our message, the songs in our hearts,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press in November 2001. “My life mission is to spread peace to the world.”