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Steve Lail aka Rainbow Kid

Memories of Steve Lail
October 1944-February 1998

To see page two of my Tribute to Steve Lail click the following link:

William Steve Lail, a.k.a. The Rainbow Kid, 53, of Longview, North Carolina died Feb. 17th, 1998.

Steve "The Rainbow Kid" Lail died after a bout with infection and pneumonia, ending his twenty year existence as a paraplegic. In 1978, then 33, Steve worked as a high school Journalism teacher in Virginia. At a party one evening while attempting to break up a fight, he toppled down a flight of stairs. When he woke up, he was paralyzed from the chest down. Unable to continue his career, he spent the next eighteen years back home near Hickory, NC with his parents.

He was a journalist, a teacher, a writer,and a friend. Among his books were "Six Flags Over P.T.L." and "More Fun With Jim & Tammy" both of which played a part in the downfall of the Baker's empire of theft and deception. He also wrote poetry in the "bitter satrye" style I loved. One of these books was "The Truth About Rainbows".

I first laid eyes on Steve on a busy morning at work. It was the fall of 1989. I was working the Medical floor with 9 patients to take care of in my hometown of Hickory, NC. In the middle of the busiest time of the morning, an old man of at least 80 years, (whom i came to know and love as Charlie Lail) came walking out of a patients room. He came up to me and told me his son needed something for pain. When I walked into Steves room with his pain medicine, the first thing he asked me was "what is your favorate movie". I told him he had never heard of it. He said "try me". I told him Jesus Christ Superstar. Without missing a beat he responded with "Oh Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson". Well I had met up til then very few who had heard of my favorate movie and absolutely no one yet who actually knew Ted Neeley played the leading role. He went on to tell me that he knew Ted and Carl "back in the 70's - we were friends and hung out together". Well at the time I thought he had the most original pick-up line ever used on a women. Turns out he was telling the truth.

I grew very close to both Steve and Charlie over the following years. Many evenings after working a twelve hour shift at the hospital I would stop by Steve and Charlies place. I never knew what to expect when I walked in to Steves room. I learned rather quickly to knock softly and move slowly as I came in. He had an old straight backed chair with the seat covered in red velvet. I would pull that chair up to the side of his bed and sit. Sometimes the pain Steve had was so overwhelming. And so I just sat quietly holding his hand, allowing him to draw me into his pain - it left me mentally exhausted, but often left him much calmer having somehow shared the burden. But oftentimes he would crawl out of that abyss of pain to ask how I was doing or how my children were.

Through our long and sometimes endless conversations I came to know the Steve that grew up and lived as a boy in Longview in the 50's. I came to know too, the young man he was before the accident that left him paralyzed. And more importantly, I came to know the man Steve was now - and what an honor that was. He often told me how grateful he was for the times i spent with him and for the errands i would run for him or Charlie. But the gratitude was all mine. Gratitude for having known him, for having been blessed with his friendship and love.

Once, after the breakup of my marriage, when I came back to North Carolina for a few days, I was invited to stay at Steves'. By that time, Charlie had passed away. He had the housekeeper clean his mothers old bedroom.

When I walked into his mothers bedroom, there on the bedside table were fresh daisies (I love daisies) and a little glass bowl of M&M's (another item I love). After retiring for the night I could hear Steve (coughing I think). Anyway, my door and his were both open. I called out, "you awake?"....he gave his response (something witty and funny, I just cannot recall exactly what it was). We then passed the next two hours or so talking in hushed voices back and forth. The house was still and quiet. The windows were open and the cool, sweet Southern breeze blew it's magic into the house that night.

The moon was at my window barely illuminating the room. It was almost like being a kid again because here I was laying in bed - awake when I should have been sleeping.....calling out to "my brother" down the hall carrying on a very enchanting conversation and there were no "grownups" to tell us to be quiet. Yea, I know he and I were both suppose to be grown up's, but it was something about that night, sleeping in his mothers old room, whispering back and forth at midnight to Steve in the other bedroom.....made me feel almost like a child again. Somehow too, it is easier to talk about our vulnerabilities, our fears, and our dreams when it is nighttime.

I will never forget Steve nor will I forget the ways he changed my outlook on life and on how I cared for my patients. He used to tell me "I hate when someone tells me they know how I feel, or It could be worse" right he was. None of us really knows what it feels to be in someone elses shoes. And hearing that it could be worse sure doesn't make our present dilema any easier to handle.

He spoke often of old friends. One in particular whom he went to college with. He said they had an agreement to write each others eulogy. I wonder if that old friend was at Steves service. He told me how he wanted to be burried in his blue jeans and boots, and a "sports jacket". I am sorry Steve that I wasn't in Hickory to tell them what you wanted. I was a thousand miles away wrapped up in my own life-crisis. I never heard of your passing until months after you were gone.

There are some things we do or don't do in life that we have a hard time forgiving ourselves for. But even through the guilt I feel for not having been there when he needed me most, i still can feel his friendship and his love, and I know I am a better person for having known him. Here's to you Superstar! Stormy Reiley RN


I've come a long way on paper

All those days I thought I couldn't live through

Have all been here and gone.

I still remain confused with my own evolution

I shall always have quiet resurrections

of where I've been and why

There is still a slight Disney-edge on all my dreams,

But I am not led anymore by restlessness or ultimatum.

I have unlearned my fantasies

So that I may fill myself with something real.

I have loved and I have been loved,

Not always simultaneously.

I have given and I have taken,

Not always without motive.

My life has been a curious design of contradiction

But I think I chose my own sorrow.

I had to experience it and discover it

In order to create my own particular peace.

A few years after putting this website up, I received a letter from someone else who once knew Steve. I am quoting her letter below, leaving her anonymous but showing you just how much this man touched all who knew him

He always said it was his luck to be a parapalegic and yet still have constant pain. I spent hours in his room listening to his many stories. The life he led prior to his accident was the kind of life you see in a movie. But he spoke of "celebrities" as though they were the mailman or the lady across the street. That is one of the things I adored about him. Not only his charm but also the venom he spewed when he was enraged by something. He had such passion and conviction.

He was very loved and my life has forever been changed by having known him. I have always said that life is like a cherished painting and that everyone you encounter in your life picks up a brush and makes their stroke upon your canvas. Steve left a rainbow on mine and I am forever grateful for having his colors in my life.

Update March 2006: I have published a second page after receiving pictures of Steve from a trip to Europe in 1969. Thank you to Janet T. for her kindness in sharing these pictures. To go to the second page

Click here to see the pictures Janet sent of the Europe trip You can also get to this page by scrolling back up to the top and clicking the link