Loving Harry

By John Bloom | 07/13/2008


Harry Guetzlaff–the puckish Managing Editor of The Wittenburg Door, who died Sunday morning–spent his whole life searching for unconditional love. He was a romantic in the old-fashioned sense. He was a master of the elaborate gift, the perfect birthday card, the ultimate dance-mix party tape to make someone’s wedding as wonderful as he thought all weddings should be. He was capable of both sudden and lasting friendships, even of intense loyalties to people he had only known for half an hour. He was dangerously capable of human affection. He loved women, sometimes to the point of suffocating them. He was constantly going to bat for someone else’s quirky crusade. He could take your tackiest dream and believe in it more than you did. He loved the Door so much that he thought all six billion people on the planet should read it, including the illiterates and the atheists. If he could read this obituary, he would tell me that I just made a great joke, even though I didn’t. When he laughed, his eyes crinkled like Santa Claus. As he got older and paunchier, he looked more and more like a teddy bear.

Harry and I were roommates on three different occasions, always after one of us had crashed and burned from some personal life trauma. First I took up residence in his swanky Preston Tower apartment, then, when he went bankrupt, he took up residence in mine. This was in the 1980s, when Harry had become a sort of Hollywood Christian, hoping to make millions through a video production company that featured a fish logo on his business card. When God told Harry and his partners that He had other plans, and the business started to fail, Harry made the last-ditch gesture of giving evangelist Robert Tilton $5,000 as a “faith vow.” Perhaps this is why he was later the most zealous member of the Trinity Foundation investigative team, as they brought down Tilton and launched dozens more investigations of preachers who prey on the poor and the desperate.

Vette
Harry and his '77 Vette

Harry had done okay for himself in the corporate world. He was a marketing executive at Coca-Cola and Dr. Pepper, a commercial film director, and one of the best film and video editors I’ve ever worked with. He was an archivist of pop culture, which is a nice way of saying he was a packrat. He grew up on the Jersey Shore in the fifties and was the archetypal American Graffiti kid on the boardwalk, with a Brylcreem haircut and white bucks and a convertible with fins on the back. He could tell you every doo-wop artist who ever charted, plus the name, make and body style of every hot car from 1946 forward. He had photo albums that ran into the tens of thousands of pictures. He had vast record collections, oceans of video, DVDs sorted by title, artist and subject, and material on his computer stored in ways that only the techno cognoscenti could ever figure out. He never lost his childlike zeal for new music, new television, new trends in food, cars or comedy. He thought The Honeymooners was the greatest sitcom ever made. He thought there will never be another Sinatra. He was never happier than when he was in his home editing studio, splicing together disparate pieces of film for the Door DVDs. But his highest praises were reserved for feature films.

Harry and Mom
At Home, New Jersey, 1978

I’ve known a lot of film buffs who feast on trivia, and a lot of would-be filmmakers who survive on dreams, but Harry was that rarest of film fans–the perfect audience member. Harry was the guy Martin Scorsese has in mind when he makes the movie–the guy who doesn’t want to critique the film, or make the film, or own the film, but simply wants to be drenched in the aura of the film experience. Harry was so passionate about the talents of this or that new filmmaker that he started a weekly film night in his apartment that ran on and off for the last 30 years of his life. When he started he used actual 16-millimeter projectors, but that eventually gave way to video and, as soon as the first one was pressed by the factory, DVDs. Film Night was based on the passion of Harry and nothing else. If it was an obscure film, he might screen for an audience of one. If it was something a little better known, he could draw 20 people from the neighborhood. But even when he was slouched on his favorite sofa, watching the brilliant Lebanese documentary by himself, he had a concentration that was remarkable. He could see the whole frame and describe it later, remember entire scenes of dialogue, tell you exactly which shots were new and innovative and which ones were derivative of filmmakers from the past.

HG
Filmmaker, 1972

But if you looked for a common denominator in Harry’s film tastes, it would be the love story. Harry didn’t think it was a great movie unless it made you cry. One of the last things I worked on with Harry was an article about the failed NBC show Studio 60, and as part of that project, Harry captured every episode on tape. One day he came to tell me about a love scene between two of the principals. He told me a good 60 seconds of dialogue (and they talked fast on that show). He had to have watched it at least ten times to know it that well. And there were tears in his eyes. It was a scene about what it means to love and pursue someone even when the person is not that great looking and not having their best day.

If Harry had been able to form his own church, instead of finding the one that Christ brought him into, it would have been some version of goddess worship. He loved women so passionately that, long after they had dumped him, he cherished their memories. He was always looking for that perfect woman in the future, or fearing that he’d let the one in the past get away. One time, after pining for weeks over a girl who was long gone, he came into my room in the middle of the night to announce that he had seen the error of his ways and was now “over her.” I congratulated him. And then he announced that he was leaving immediately. He would be driving to Atlanta in order to tell her that he was over her.

Harry and Friend
Harry and Friend, 1986

The only way you could get him to stop this obsessive behavior was to kick his ass. And the guy who ended up lovingly kicking his ass, over and over again, was Ole Anthony, the president of Trinity Foundation, who became his pastor, his protector, his lifelong friend and the man who, among other things, went to the Internal Revenue Service at Harry’s lowest point and told them that Harry would not be paying the $500,000 he owed. In a miracle more stunning than anything ever claimed by Benny Hinn, the IRS agreed.

Harry spent the rest of his life working as a “Levite” at the Trinity Foundation, which was so puzzling to the Social Security Administration that they called last week to suggest that a digit was missing from Harry’s Medicaid records. The woman explained that they showed a salary of only $94 a week–only to be told that yes, indeed, that was Harry’s salary. He had finally worked his way up to $94 a week after more than two decades as a Trinity employee.

Taking the vow of poverty is what unleashed Harry’s true genius. Besides being the maitre d’ at the Door–the only guy who knew where all the layouts were, what the printing schedule was, and when to send out the renewals–he was a one-man video production house, turning out all the Door videos, working with me three seasons on The Daily Show (I put in about three hours a month on those segments, Harry put in about sixty), and being the go-to guy whenever the Trinity Foundation needed theatrics, music, or simply style. Harry couldn’t stand cheap wine, sloppy jump cuts, or people who didn’t know how to properly crease the napkins at Passover. Given the fact that Trinity often had homeless people hanging around, including recovering drug addicts and more than the average quota of rednecks, he was always fighting losing battles in defense of the beautiful and the classy. He had a temper. He was a master of the hissy fit. He was especially perturbed when no one took the hissy fits seriously. On the night before Passover, it became traditional to award the “Huffies,” fake awards named in honor of Harry’s tantrums. One of his favorite sayings was, “I don’t know how people can live that way.” And still the napkins would remain uncreased.

Graduation
Graduation, Trinity Foundation, May, 2008

During the last year of his life, and especially when he was battling aggressive cancers, Harry’s two closest companions were Ole Anthony, publisher emeritus of the Door, and John Bojo, current publisher of the Door. Of the three classic types of faith, Harry had the faith of Jacob. He wrestled with God daily. He always had a love/hate thing with Ole, not sure whether to trust him or not, never thinking he was “loving” enough, going to him only as a last resort. But over time Ole became the calm paternalistic authority figure who would point him back to God. He looked to John, on the other hand, as the brother who was not too embarrassed to hold his hand tightly when he was terrified of death. Whenever he was well enough to sit at his computer for a few hours, he would go straight to the Door homepage and send me his latest critique. The last email I have from him tells me how hard he laughed at an entire page and suggesting that we enter that day’s writing in a contest. So many people called during his sickness that he eventually did a group email that sort of resembled a blog about his medical team and his various treatments. He did it more to reassure others than for himself, because one of the few things we seem to carry off well at Trinity Foundation is dying. During his last three months, he told Ole, many of the things that he had doubted about God suddenly kicked in, and he could hear the promise and the hope and the rest of the Shema prayer. A few hours before he died, long after he had ceased speaking, he looked wildly around the room and he caught the eye of John Bojo and he smiled and John felt that gaze as a gift. And then at around 2 a.m. on the 13th of July, 2008, he found, at last, unconditional love.


Comments(85)

A1 | 10:29 pm on 7/13/2008

My first visit to Trinity Harry took my wife and me around and introduced us to everyone bragging about my Adventures of Hucklebenny Hinn article I'd written years earlier.
John said it best describing Harry when he laughed, "his eyes crinkled like Santa Claus." They did.
Harry, I know you're happier now more than ever ...

Anonymous | 08:53 pm on 3/22/2011

Harry will never die in my eyes much like Jesus. His movies will live on for generations. He will be missed but will be watching over us from heaven. Kennal @ the buy Nintendo 3ds. thanks.

Jadon | 05:44 am on 7/14/2008

Glad Harry will experience joy unspeakable and full of glory. God bless you all today. My condolences from this Canadian.

Anonymous | 10:58 am on 7/14/2008

What a great man, he will be missed.

Gregg | 01:25 am on 5/05/2011

He got a lot of contribution in this world and it will always stays in our hearts forever.

Gregg
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ken | 12:02 pm on 7/14/2008

Every time I saw Harry, he always had that look on his face like as if he were thinking of life from a different angel and had something on his mind or was trying to figure it out. I don't every remember talking w/ him and not us having a good laugh together. Our prayers are with him, his family, and all of you who had the pleasure of his friendship. He will be missed. What a glorious time it must be for Harry now be in the very presence of our Lord and to have run a good race w/ his life. All the best.

Duane-Ohhh! | 12:05 pm on 7/14/2008

Wish I knew him. Too bad God didn't make an extra 500 copies of Harry.

UNCLE KENNY | 12:39 pm on 7/14/2008

John, that was an excellent eulogy for a very rare, and fascinating man.

Just one question. . .what gives with the picture from 1978? It makes it look like he was sitting on his back porch in Jersey, naked, and smoking a joint with mom.

You might want to find a better shot, eh?

scott w. | 07:39 pm on 7/14/2008

Well done Kenny..That was the funniest submission.
Harry would have loved it too !

Obviously, you were on par with him.

I spent '98 - 2003 in his neighborhood there in Dallas

Seeing all of this in print with past photo's too is making it harder than when I 1'st heard about it coming long ago & now this week.

Gosh .....

Hman | 04:46 pm on 7/18/2008

Uncle Kenny, I can assure you that Harry was NOT naked and was NOT smoking weed in that shot. You must have been in the sun way too long to come to that conclusion. I was his neighbor for 20 years and he was NOT that crazy!

Mike | 01:02 pm on 7/14/2008

Harry was a such class act. I always looked forward to his input and sense of humor whenever I had the privelege of working on an illustration with him. I never got the chance to meet him in person but I always considered him a friend... he was easy to get to know. One of my fondest memories was an email exchange we got into about the Karate Kid of all things (wax on, wax off...)

Harry, you'll be REALLY missed and I look forward to meeting you face to face one day.

Thomas | 01:19 pm on 7/14/2008

Harry was truly a great man. He could bring a smile onto anyone's face. I'll always remember the two summers where I was able to work alongside him. Harry, you'll be missed.

Raquel | 01:43 pm on 7/14/2008

I'm so sorry. Que vayas con dios, Harry.

Randy R | 01:49 pm on 7/14/2008

Beautiful obit. Love seeing those pics. Harry, I'll really miss you.

Chris Mikesell | 05:30 pm on 7/14/2008

I was infinitely privileged to meet Harry about a year ago when I moved to Dallas. His nickel tour of the Door digs included a stop to see his prized possession: a Buddy Christ figurine from the movie Dogma.

Sorry you're gone too soon Harry.

Glad you're with the larger-than-lifesize, real-deal Buddy Christ now.

Scott W. | 06:58 pm on 7/14/2008

So long old Harry. :(

What a sweet old friend to have known ! :)

Truly One of a kind. :)

God broke the mold after him . :(

What an ace ! :)

becky | 07:22 pm on 7/14/2008

While I never met Harry, we worked for years on getting the graphics to accompany my interviews - it was very sad day when I had to delete his email knowing we wouldn't be communicating until I make it to where Harry is right now.

Jim | 07:39 pm on 7/14/2008

John--Wonderful eulogy. I only knew Harry thru emails but we developed a warm and humorous relationship via that electronic connection. I did speak to him once when he phoned me. I hadn't responded to an email that he sent and as time passed he was concerned about my health and well-being. (My computer was on the fritz for several weeks). From that brief conversation I could feel the warmth and humor that emanated from him.
I'll miss him.

southpaw | 08:37 pm on 7/14/2008

Rest in peace brother. Never met you, never heard of you, but recognize the impact you had, and love you! That's all...

Ken G | 09:29 pm on 7/14/2008

John, what a wonderful story and send-off. Harry was every bit as special as you described. I know those who knew him well will miss him and treasure their time with him. As you said, he appreciated what Ole had done for him and he was especially touched by the friendship of John Bojo.

larry f | 09:40 pm on 7/14/2008

I knew Harry for the better part of 25 years , even though I had seen him but rarely the last 10 , except for the hospital and hospice. He was such a complicated man that when I first met him I was a little overwhelmed. Harry was an artist but more than that he was capable of inspiring others. He was elegant and generous. .I pray we will know even as we are known on the day of resurrection. may the Lord comfort those who share in the loss of Harry.

Anonymous | 11:41 am on 12/27/2010

thanks for sharing this wonderful information
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Mark Haville | 03:40 am on 7/15/2008

Hi John

Ole rang me about half hour ago and told me to read Harry's piece that you wrote on the Door website. I'm in England six hours ahead. And Pete spoke to me last night to tell me Harry was with the Lord.

First John thank you for writing that piece.

As one of the furthest away members of Trinity and one of the only folks to have his DVD sold by Harry through the Door (The Signs and Wonders Exposed series)I had a love hate relationship with Harry. He loved to hate me! Over the years I came to realise he was like this frequently with many folks and I didn't enjoy special status. He once called me a pompous, posturing prick and a wanna-be anchor man, when we were taken before Ole to resolve our falling out, Ole told Harry he was talking about himself and he just turned round and asked me to forgive him. After many
years I have learnt more and more that I do not need to walk on egg shells with people or change the way I behave to suit those I'm around, thanks in part to Harry. And Harry was also right by the way! I can honestly say he was a mystery to me for years and I thought often of him as a grumpy old git just to be avoided. Strangley I miss him with great affection like a nice comfortable pair of slippers (he'd hate me for saying that if he was here)and it's difficult for people to understand why I am shedding tears for someone I always thought hated me for a hobby. It's because they are flowing for someone who is my brother, and beloved because he's family. Over the years I have experienced a unique bond of the Spirit with this strange group of tallented, intellectual and rejected group of dysfunctional losers called the Trinity Foundation, amongst whom Harry was an icon. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Now he is with the Father and I say Museltov Harry. Mark

More Anonymous Than You | 07:01 am on 7/15/2008

For me, Harry is not yet gone. I only know him in any personal way from following the Morning Bible Studies for several years. I will have to relive this time in 6 months from now or whenever I catch up to this time in the MBS. I am dearly going to miss him. He was such a type of the sorts of characteristics we all have in greater or lesser degrees. And in that he was much like the Apostle Paul.

I think it may actually be distracting for me now to hear his voice. As we continue to study the personal implications of the cross of Christ and the id-suicide required to enjoy God's Lordship, the recordings often speak of mortification. I think it will difficult to not read prophetic statements into some of the discussion.

I can so very much relate to the angst that Harry lived with in his walk and the on-going ying yang or back and forth with Ole as he struggled with living the difference between resting in faith and having been programmed to be the good, responsible son whose value is based on performance in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately culture. I know he was afflicted with that, in part, for me. I have joy that his struggle is over and that he is finally at perfect peace in the realization of the eternal security in which he already existed.

I can just hear him how, in heaven, saying, "After 30 year of sitting here listening to this, for the first time, I finally see it."

More Anonymous Than You | 07:20 am on 7/15/2008

Apostle Paul?! Oops! I meant Peter.

Joyce | 07:26 am on 7/15/2008

I love you Harry and will see you soon

Kimberley Smith | 08:12 am on 7/15/2008

My first introduction of Harry was sometime in 1999 when I interviewed for the position of art director of the Wittenburg Door magazine. The meeting went well, we seemed to hit it off immediately and that began my long relationship with Harry. I've never had a better relationship with a client and we had such fun for these odd nine years....sometimes he was my teacher and sometimes he, my student. His creativity and vision were only slightly overshadowed by his sense of humor and wit, all being razor sharp. Harry quickly became a dear friend of mine and he was always quick to commend me on my work giving me rave reviews. He often commented "I worry about you sitting over there all by yourself with no one to pat you on the back," but he always stepped in to do just that. He was passionate about the magazine and never lost his almost childish awe of how it all came together each issue. I imagine now, that he is managing the editorial of Heaven's Pretty Much Only Magazine and keeping all the angels giggling.

Harry and I spoke every day, mostly about the intricacies of the magazine but many times just to check in with each other and say hi. I will miss those calls tremendously but feel so, so lucky to have had my life graced by Harry's friendship.

Ron | 10:46 am on 7/15/2008

a glass has been raised in honor of him. may harry have the closest seat to the blessed christ in the great feast hall!

Shelly | 11:44 am on 7/15/2008

The World has lost a beautiful soul, but OH MY, can you imagine the celebration in Heaven?

Suzanne | 02:50 pm on 7/15/2008

John, your ability to capture the essence of such a unique and complex man is remarkable. Well done.
Harry was a passionate and loving man who has made a lasting impression on many of us. I am deeply saddened by the news of his passing, but rejoice in knowing he rests with the Lord now. My prayers are with the family and friends he left behind.

Richard Ray | 03:05 pm on 7/15/2008

I thank God I got to see my friend Harry and laugh with him and hug him a few weeks ago. He's been in my prayers ever since. I know he is safe at home. That gives me comfort.
God Bless Harry!
Richard Ray

Anonymous | 03:25 pm on 7/15/2008

My condolences to all Harry's loved ones and God-speed to Harry!

Eric Ayers | 04:03 pm on 7/15/2008

He was a wonderful friend to the Ayers clan. I send the warmest of sympathies to Harry's family, from Marc, Eric, Jeff and Gregg Ayers, all Little Silver neighbors of his.
May God Bless him and his family.

Eric

Pigseye | 04:22 pm on 7/15/2008

I knew Harry in a past life. He was Klaus Glaubt, and I was Deiter neiderlander we worked together at the watch tower in Germany. He was very fond of weinersnitzel, and older women. He will be missed again.

Christian | 04:56 pm on 7/15/2008

Thanks Harry for the great times of sitting and watching your favorite films, exchanging music and showing me the ropes of the Door. Was always a pleasure to see you again, everytime. Love and miss you sir, say 'hey' to the Big Guy for me.

Alias | 05:54 pm on 7/15/2008

The write up is, as usual the best, thank you J.B.!, along with the photo's which are amazingly haunting! And the many comments pouring in width & breadth from every where & every one priveledged to have known are beloved Harry G., this is all so very awesome ! Only God could pull this off with our man Harry.

No doubt, Harry having the vantage point over us all now, nothing new there, would not change a damn thing about this year concerning himself, seeing us all hugging & laughing & crying & communing together this week like this......At any moment the whole shabang held onto by shreds & tatters for two thousand years has been ready to go full on, full tilt....bottoms up...Game over.

God is good, to us ! What a heavenly party worth dying for !

This is alot like 'fall out' from the local tombs when Christ appeared on Easter Sunday

Yup, won't be long now ! Maranatha

Scott S. Work | 07:01 pm on 7/15/2008

Anyone on this page going to be at the 'East Coast Service'

Saturday, the 19'th, at John Days Funeral Home in Eatontown, N.J.?

Please let me know !! @ scottwork@comcast.net or 484/887-8614

I would so very much love to rendezvou knowing of a mutial friend ahead of time ......

As I originally knew of 'our man' out of Texas, but I now live in Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia.

As it is, it is over a two hour drive one way & alone, so I am weighing the options at this time, but I just wanna be there.

Thank you.

Couldn't make it to Dallas this week, But I can get to Eaton, by Saturday mid morning.

Catherine, in Seattle | 08:22 pm on 7/15/2008

I never met the man, but, through John's description, can feel how much he was loved. A truly great tribute, clearly from the heart. Harry had worthy friends.

Murray Stiller | 09:51 pm on 7/15/2008

Excellent piece, John.
Harry worked with me on a documentary about The Door this past year. Your description of him rung so true; his intensity, focus, and uncompromising support made him a great mentor.
The world is a little more frightening without him but his drive and determination gives me courage and keeps that fire burning in belly of those who were inspired by him.
Our film will soon be finished and it will be dedicated to his memory.

chiz | 12:37 am on 7/16/2008

Ole,

You have lost your right arm.

And as an extended member of the Trinity/Door family I feel like my Oscar Madison lost his Felix Unger.

My heart and love go out to you and the entire family on Wittenburg Row and beyond; for the grief of our loss and heaven’s gain.

From California to New Jersey we tearfully celebrate a life of a man who could always make you smile, even if he didn’t mean to.

I know how much you loved that dear pal of yours, there’s nothing like a pal, a real pal. Harry was a great gift and blessing of balance to your life.

With that indefinable innocence of his, I bet he taught you as much as you taught him.

And I know one thing deeply. He REALLY loved you. Very, very much.

I knew him when… wish it had been longer, truly.

We come into the world crying and everyone is laughing, we go out laughing and everyone crying, but I trust Heaven is rejoicing. As is Harry.

Be Great… and allow yourself what you need and let your people love and comfort you as well.

Love to you all….

Tom Kertis | 02:20 pm on 7/16/2008

John, what a great eulegy! I talked with Harry over the phone, several times, and through e-mail...and always considered him to be a good friend, even in that short time....He we be sadly missed, but joyously welcomed!

Anthony Hatcher | 09:43 pm on 7/16/2008

When I was writing my dissertation on The Wittenburg Door back in the mid-1990s, Harry, Ole, Bob, and all the rest treated me like family from day one. On subsequent visits, Harry was always accommodating, and patiently answered all my questions. He copied video for me, sent me emails, and was always kind in word and deed.

Although we met face to face only a couple of times over the years, I feel I have lost a friend.

God Bless, Harry.

Anthony

Carmela2007 | 09:56 pm on 7/16/2008

What a beautiful eulogy! I feel as if I have missed something in my life by not personally knowing Harry.

Here's to you Harry . . .

http://youtube.com/watch?v=u2MP6-JAR6Y&feature=related

You are right . . .there will never be another.

Looking forward to meeting you in the hereafter . . .

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McNair Wilson | 02:45 am on 7/17/2008

In my long relationship with "the Door" (and Trinity), our friend Harry was one of the effulgent spirits in a bowl-ful l of spirited folks.

Harry sent me a small box full of every issue of The Door to sell at my speaking engagements and he never missed an issue. When I was sold out in the middle of a conference, Harry would overnight more Doors. You're correct John in mentioning his love for The Door. We were a great team.

I amproud to have known him, and spent time with him.

I can't wait to see him again—but not soon. I am certain he has already established a new movie night.

"Save me an aisle seat, HG."

Tripp Thornton | 03:45 am on 7/17/2008

Ole & John,
My heart saddened after learning about your loss of your dear friend...
Harry and I met only a couple of years ago but within a few minutes of our first conversation I felt like I met an old friend! Harry had an incredible sense of humor in that British comedy sort of way....He loved the Lord and he loved others more than himself....I will miss my friend Harry!
Ole and John plus all of my friends at the Door, here's a big ole hug from your brother in Christ!
Tripp Thornton

J&D Vilhotti | 04:33 am on 7/17/2008

Thank you Harry. You had our love - no strings attatched.

Ralph Asher | 04:46 am on 7/17/2008

This is sad to hear. RIP.

Anonymous | 05:16 am on 7/17/2008

So sorry for your loss, but happy for Harry's gain.

Skippy R | 07:38 am on 7/17/2008

About 70 friends of Harry Guetzlaff gathered in Dallas July 15 to remember him and, as he would have wanted, swap stories of how "the marshmallow inside the jawbreaker that was Harry" had affected all their lives. Mary Darden--wife of The Door's senior editor-- recalled their mutual love of singer Van Morrison and how Harry once sent them as a gift what was probably his most prized possession--a rare signed portrait of the singer. Children who had grown up fearing his sometimes gruff exterior testified how they grew to become friends and colleagues as adults. Everyone related a version of how Harry's propensity to be either hot or cold cemented him as a true friend. His longtime pastor, Ole Anthony, noted that Jesus seemed to like that kind of a soul, and the group committed their dear friend into the Father's loving arms.

A recording of the service will be available online soon.

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