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Long Islanders tell their Oprah stories

Leon T. Goodman, 59, of Bay Shore, recounts

Leon T. Goodman, 59, of Bay Shore, recounts his experiences on the Oprah Winfrey television show. (May 21, 2011) Photo Credit: John Dunn

With millions of people expected to tune in, the world's most famous talk show host will be ending her reign on Wednesday.

Oprah Winfrey has inspired legions over the years. Here are stories from three local fans.

IRAIDA MENDEZ

OCEANSIDE

"I love her," says Mendez, 70, who co-owns Jorge & Ida, a hair salon in Long Beach. "I'm just so touched by the things she talks about on her show."

Mendez, who watches the show at least three times a week, says that it's Winfrey's life that has most influenced her. "She taught me to give myself permission to enjoy myself."

She'll be watching Winfrey's final show this week.

"I don't know how many celebrities they could have on there," says Mendez. "Maybe the queen of England? Maybe Steadman, her boyfriend, will propose to her?"

Thanks to Oprah, Mendez says she has no guilt about enjoying such pleasures as watching a little TV, sitting in her garden, knitting or doing needlepoint.

In addition to being inspiring and informative, Winfrey is respectful of her guests, Mendez says with admiration, even those who normally don't get respect, including pedophiles.

In fact, "respectful" is one of the more than 60 words that Mendez needlepointed onto a piece of art she's sending to Winfrey. Other words include "friend," "healthy," "truthful," "dream and "believe."

EVE LYON

HOLLIS PARK, QUEENS

Eve Lyon was in her late 50s. She'd never married and had no children.

Then she watched Oprah Winfrey on TV and something just "clicked."

Lyon says she was watching Winfrey's show a few days after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. The shock of the terrorist attack prompted the host to urge viewers to do now what they've always wanted to do before it's too late.

Inspired, Lyon decided to finally act on her desire to be a foster parent. She never dreamed she'd be allowed to adopt because of her age.

After a year of training, a 3-year-old boy was placed in her care for what was supposed to be just two weeks. Eight years later, she was allowed to adopt him.

"I was thrilled," says Lyon, now 72. " . . . Oprah gave me my son."

Today, Edward Patrick Lyon is 18 -- an Eagle Scout and "gifted violinist," his mother says. He has completed his first year at Adelphi University in Garden City, majoring in music education. He also recently received an award from the New York City Department of Administration for Children's Services for the 140 care packages he created for children entering foster care.

LEON GOODMAN

BAY SHORE

Shuttling between New York and Chicago for his job, Goodman happened to score tickets for the "Oprah" show in 1997. The program featured a relationship expert who made a point of how divorced men often effectively divorce their children, too.

From the audience, Goodman begged to differ.

Identifying himself as a divorced father, he recounted the steady Friday night "dates" he had with his daughter while she was growing up. During one outing, on her 16th birthday, Goodman said he advised her not to date anyone who didn't treat her as well as he did.

Oprah ran off the stage and high-fived her guest.

"How cool was that? My personal Oprah moment," recalls Goodman, 59, a human resources executive.

His daughter, Schanaque Goodman-Harris, is now 40 with three children of her own.

"I get teased even now by my husband about how I'm a daddy's girl," she says. "We have a very, very close relationship and seeing the show summarized for me in a flash just how proud I was of him, and the joy I got from him telling the world about us."

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