Steve Hartman's dad has a message for his fans

An earlier version of this story aired on May 29, 2015.

ATLANTA -- This is the story people ask me about more than any other. A story we first told last year about the house I grew up in, and the man who made it.

My father, George Hartman, built the house himself back in 1955. He had planned to live in the home for the rest of his life.

"But when we built this house we didn't consider stairs as a factor when you get old," he said.

And so there we were, at that moment elderly parents and their grown children seem to dread equally -- the selling of the family home.

"I prefer to stay, but you also have to realize that all good things come to an end," Dad said.

After my mom died, it became increasingly difficult for him to manage on his own. So my brother Joe and I went to Toledo, Ohio to pack up his things. Amid the boxes was a lock of hair in a small transparent bag.

"My mother's hair when she died," Dad said as he held it in his hands. "She never got gray hair, as you can see."

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Steve Hartman, right, helps his father George pack up belongings from his home
CBS News

"I would have taken your word for it," I told him.

We spent a couple days trying to help Dad with his downsizing, which at times felt more like same-sizing. But when pressed, the only things that truly mattered centered on either his faith -- a Rosary made the cut -- or his family -- a handmade Valentine 's Day card did too.

A house that raised a family is so much more than wood and shingles. It's home to almost every memory of our younger lives. It is in the background of everything we were and helped make us who we are. It's where we learned to feel safe, sound, and sometimes even invincible.

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Steve Hartman's childhood home in Toledo, Ohio.

CBS News

Yes, technically a house is just a place, but at times like this it sure feels more like a person.

My dad moved to a senior living facility near my other brother Mike in Atlanta, where I recently visited.

"I let a lot of emails, people asking me how you're doing," I told Dad.

"You do?! What do you call a lot of emails?" he asked.

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Steve Hartman's dad, George, in his senior living home in Atlanta, Georgia.

CBS News

"Hundreds."

"How come you don't send me that kind of stuff?!"

As you can tell, he's still the same old dad. He got to keep his dog, which mattered most to him, and not a single stair in the place -- which mattered most to us. And as for his fans, he told me he appreciates all of you who asked about him.

"Tell them I'm still alive," he said. "What are they gonna say when I drop over dead?"

I don't know what they'll say, but I'm sure he'll want to read their emails.

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  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.