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Mike Leonard retires with tribute to most inspirational subject

Mike Leonard has been a part of the TODAY family for over three decades, covering stories about ordinary Americans doing extraordinary things.

Thursday, he announced his retirement with an incredible special tribute to a not-so-ordinary person in his own life his wife, Cathy  who has inspired him "to see the beauty in our everyday existence.”

"Your stories...are a microcosm of you," said Matt Lauer after Mike's final segment aired and the tears were wiped away. "They all have incredible heart, they're told with kindness, and hope, and modesty. They are understated and yet so powerful, and that is you in a nutshell."

"You have an amazing gift, an amazing talent," said Savannah Guthrie. 

Among Mike's favorite stories, he said, is this one, about a remarkable Chicago mailman:

James Hundley is a 63-year-old Chicago mailman whose mission is to treat all of his customers with dignity, respect and love despite getting caught in the middle of hate and violence as a peaceful civil rights protester in the 1960s.

And here's one of our favorites, about a day in the life of the Leonard household:

Feb. 20: Balancing work and family is never easy, especially if you're dealing with the chaos found at the Leonard home. NBC's Mike Leonard takes you inside his hectic and amusing work environment.

The studio was emotional as Cathy and members of the Leonard family were there to see him off. Fans reacted online, too: 

Thanks, Mike, for 32 amazing years!

More Mike: Why I shop where everybody knows my name
Quadriplegic man fulfills dreams of biking across country 
Famed tree has humble origins 
How a simple question revealed a remarkable story 
Video: Creating art out of washed-up beach trash