Mr. Hockey Gordie Howe celebrating 85th birthday

More than 30 family and friends will help Gordie Howe celebrate

his 85th birthday Sunday at a private dinner in Detroit.

They know to cherish times like these. Howe’s family revealed

just over a year ago that the hockey great has a mild form of

dementia.

”His memory loss is getting to the point where it’s almost

becoming difficult to do a lot of interaction with Dad,” son Mark

said in a recent interview. ”I’m sure this (birthday) will go

well, but a year from now, I don’t know what life’s going to

bring.

”So we’re going to make the best of it.”

Despite his health issues, Howe began celebrating his milestone

birthday in early March when he attended a ceremony at a Vancouver

Giants game. He’s a minority owner of the Western Hockey League

team. Before Sunday’s birthday dinner, he’ll take in a Red

Wings-Blackhawks game.

And the events won’t end Sunday.

Howe will make another appearance at a Red Wings game against

the Colorado Avalanche on Monday and attend charity hockey games in

Calgary, Edmonton and possibly Vancouver in the coming weeks.

Fans still can’t get enough of Mr. Hockey.

”He’s just an easygoing guy,” Marty said. ”You can talk to

him for five minutes and think you’ve been friends for 30 years.

That’s always been his secret, I think.”

Howe has spent recent months with daughter Cathy at her home in

Texas, where he enjoys the warm weather. He stays with sons Marty,

Murray and Mark at other times during the year.

Fellow Hall of Famer Bobby Hull is certain aging doesn’t sit

well with Howe.

”Getting old isn’t fun,” he said. ”I’d like to find the guy

or the girl that coined the phrase that these are the golden years.

Like hell they are. Give me back my youth. And I’m sure he feels

the same way.”

Marty says Howe is ”slowing down.”

”He’s starting to feel his age like he never did before,” he

said.

The public events are good for Howe’s health, Marty said,

because the interaction stimulates his brain and he always ”perks

up.”

”At first, I was thinking, well, we just won’t do as many

events and stuff and let him go fishing and down to Florida and

relax a little bit,” Marty said. ”But he can’t stand still.”

Howe, who Marty says is ”strong as a bear,” also remains

physically active, fishing in the summer with Mark, the Red Wings’

head pro scout, and practicing his putting on the golf course.

”Dad’s kind of a fixture down there,” Mark said. ”People look

forward to having him down there. But when you have him, you

cherish every day. You hope you have more, but you never know, so

you take every day and live life to the fullest. That’s your only

other option.”

Mark says Howe is looking forward to seeing family at his

birthday celebration.

”It’s getting tougher and tougher and tougher on him, but he

loves being around his family,” Mark said.

Howe’s late wife Colleen suffered from Pick’s disease, a rare

form of dementia. Going through that experience with their mother

has helped the Howes deal with their father’s condition.

”What’s gone on, it’s part of life,” Mark said. ”When you’re

85 years old, these things happen to people.”