Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Remembering Fr. Maurice Gordon Chase "Fr. Dollar Bill" March 17, 1919 - Nov. 20, 2011

"When you have done it to the least of men, you have done it to me"

These are the words prayed every weekend for 30 years as Fr. Maurice Chase drove his small white Toyota to skid row sporting his red sweater and his Notre Dame cap and a wad of cash that would be passed out to the penniless, addicts, winos, ex cons and homeless.  He wasn't concerned how they spent the money but claimed he was out here "skid row" to tell people I love them and God loves them."

Fr. Maurice Chase was more popularly known as "Fr. Dollar Bill" or "D.B." and felt it his duty to bring joy and comfort to the poor each Sunday. On Good Friday each year, Chase would spend the night on skid row among his people.

Fr. Maurice Chase at work
Fr. Chase was born in Dinuba, California.  His dad was an attorney and judge.  Chase was a popular student at Dinuba High School where he served as the president of his class and following high school, he continued as president of the freshman class at Visalia Junior College.  He continued his studies at UCLA Berkeley.  After receiving his undergraduate degree from college, Chase began his education studying law but was soon called to the ministry. He studied for the Catholic priesthood at St. Paul's College in Washington D.C.  He was ordained by the famous Archbishop Fulton Sheen in the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York City.  He eventually worked for the Assistant to the President of Loyola Marymount University.  His heart and soul was in addressing the needs of the poor and began his Skid Row Ministry in Los Angeles during the early 80's.  He was greatly influenced by the work of Mother Teresa and she counseled Fr. Chase early in his career.  He would often explain that "you can always give money but you can't always give a hug or listen to people's problems."

Fr. Chase raised over $100,000 every year to share with the poor.  Many celebrities including Bob Hope, Bob Newhart, Merv Griffin, Loretta Young along with numerous others supported Fr. Chase's ministry.

Fr. Chase memorial book
On Fr. Chase's personal side, he enjoyed playing tennis well into the 80's.  He was also active in his community and had a special fondness for Yosemite National Park.
Mass Program and Prayer Card

On November 20, 2011, as Fr. Chase was preparing for another Thanksgiving on skid row, Chase died of cancer at the age of 92.

Fr. Dollar Bill's life was celebrated during a funeral mass (programs and prayer card pictured) that was held Friday, Dec. 9, 2011 in the St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Dinuba.  Among those who paid tribute to him was Robert Raisson, the former publisher of the Dinuba Sentinel newspaper.  He said of Chase "Over the years his commitment to serve the Lord has kept him physically absent from Dinuba much of the time.  But I can tell you this: Emotionally he has never left Dinuba-not for one minute."

Fr. Chase was laid to rest in the Smith Mountain Cemetery next to his grandfather.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Remembering William A. Moody aka Paul Bearer April 10, 1954 - March 5, 2013

The name Bill Moody might be unfamiliar to most, but professional wrestling fans all know the name Paul Bearer.  Others knew him by Percival Pringle III.

Bill Moody is most remembered for his showmanship as the manager of "The Undertaker" who is one of the most popular professional wrestlers in history.  However, Bill also represented several other well known wrestlers including Steve Austin, Lex Lugar, Mick Foley, Vader, and Kane.  He was often seen in white makeup and black eyes carrying his urn and causing trouble for the competition.  Most people, however, don't know that he is actually a real, honest to goodness, funeral director.

Moody entered the wrestling business during his teenage years as a photographer.  After he finished high school, Moody enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and during his time in the service, he often wrestled in small bouts during off hours.  He soon became a manager and promoter under the name of Percival Pringle.  Following the arrival of his son,
Moody cut back from the wrestling circles to work on a degree in mortuary science and completed his training as both a funeral director and an embalmer.  In 1984, he got back into professional wrestling in Florida and Texas and the U.S. Wrestling Association. Other wrestlers that Moody managed included "The Ultimate Warrior, and Rick Rude.

He joined the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in 1990 after being introduced to owner Vince McMahon.  Using his real life involvement in funeral service, he created the character of Paul Bearer, a ghostly character and was often heard using his catchphrase "Ohhh yyyess! and with his urn, was able to instill power into "The Undertaker" "the power of the urn"  Paul Bearer was the most visible character in wrestling outside of the wrestlers themselves.  His character is also portrayed in the video game "WWF Attitude" He continued as Paul Bearer off and on as well as working in other capacities.

Bill Moody was married to his wife Dianna who died in 2009.  They have two sons including a son who followed in his father's footsteps as a wrestler.  In 2006, Moody returned to funeral service  and also started his own independent promotion known as Gulf South Wrestling.  Moody also co-authored a book called "Inside Secrets on How To Enter the Exciting World of Pro Wrestling" with Dennis Brent.  Bill was also a country western fan and called himself "The Possum Fan" and good friends of singer George Jones.

On March 2, 2013, Bill attended an annual event called "Gulf Coast Wrestlers" Reunion in Mobile, Alabama.  During the event, Moody was having breathing problems and coughing and sought treatment for respiratory problems.  Following the reunion, Moody was treated for a blood clot and on March 5, 2013, Moody died from complications at the age of 58.

Bill Moody's funeral (program pictured) was held in the St. Vincent Catholic Church in Mobile, Alabama.  A eulogy was read by Moody's niece and she mentioned that Moody would always say "Long story short, in my opinion, it doesn't matter if you are a good guy or a bad guy in wrestling, it is what you have done outside of it that matters."
Bill Moody's funeral folder and memorabilia

Percy's Prayer

Lord, as I stumble through this life help me to create more laughter than tears, dispense more happiness than gloom, spread more cheer than despair.  Never let me grow so big that I will fail to see the wonder in the eyes of a child or the twinkle in the eyes of the aged.

Never let me forget that my total effort is to cheer people, make them happy, and make them forget at least momentarily all the unpleasant things in their lives.  And, in my final moment, may I hear You whisper:  "When you made my people smile, you made me smile."  Amen

Bill Moody rests beside his wife, Dianna in the Serenity Memorial Gardens in Theodore, Alabama.

Paul Bearer's resting place at Serenity Memorial Gardens

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Remembering Hilary" Zig" Ziglar November 6, 1926 - November 28, 2012

The Top

You are at "The Top" When:

You have made friends with your past.  Are focused on the present and optimistic about your future.

You have the love of friends and the respect of your enemies.

You are filled with faith, hope and love.  And live without anger, greed, guilt, envy or thoughts of revenge.

You know that failure to stand for what is morally right is the prelude to being the victim of what is criminally wrong.

You are mature enough to delay gratification and shift your focus from your "rights" to your "responsibilities"

You love the unlovable, give hope to the hopeless, friendship to the friendless, and encouragement to the discouraged.

You know that "success" (a win) doesn't make you, and failure (a loss) doesn't break you.

You can look back in forgiveness, forward in hope, down in compassion and up with gratitude.

You are secure in who (and whose) you are, so you are at peace with God and in fellowship with man.

You clearly understand that yesterday ended last night, that today is a brand new day-and it's yours.

You know that "he who would be the greatest among you must become the servant of all."

You are "over the top" when:  You hear your Lord and Saviour say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

These words were printed on Zig Ziglar's memorial program, excerpts from Zig's book "Over the Top," one of the twenty five books on motivation written by Ziglar.  Ten of the books were best sellers.

Hilary Hinton Ziglar was born in Alabama and was the tenth of twelve children.  When Zig was five, his family moved to Yazoo City, Mississippi after his dad took a job managing a farm.  A year after the move, Zig's father and his younger sister died within a couple of days of each other.  His mother was the foremost influence in Zig's life, and he described her as a strict, devout woman whose mental storehouse of adages ("The person who won't stand for something will fall for anything") remained a
cornerstone of Ziglar's speeches and writings.

Zig completed high school and entered the U.S. Navy during World War II where he served in the Navy Training Program and started his education at the University of South Carolina.  He soon dropped out of college and took a job as a cookware salesman.  He also sold insurance and automotive performance parts.

Zig Ziglar's speaking career happened later in his life after years of becoming interested in what make's a man tick as well as why some people succeed and others fail.  Following year's of studying human behavior, Zig published his first book "Biscuits, Fleas, and Pump Handles" that's title changed to "See You At The Top" at the age of 49.  It was during this time that he also became a sought after speaker on motivational issues.  His start at speaking included engagements at local service clubs and  church groups that eventually grew to corporate retreats and conferences for firms like IBM and J.C. Penneys.

He located to the Dallas, Texas area and the demand for his speaking grew until he launched a business  that he called Zigmanship Institute, now Ziglar, Inc.  He sometimes earned tens of thousands of dollars per speech and would occasionally waive his fee for a humanitarian cause.  He is remembered for hundreds of quotes over the years including one that he told himself everyday "Yesterday ended last night, Today is a brand new day.  And it's yours."

Zig's memorial program
Zig Ziglar was a devout Christian and an active member of the Prestonwood Baptist Church having taught Sunday school for many years and often wove his Christian principles with his motivational writings and speeches.

Zig Ziglar died on November 28, 2012 from pneumonia at the age of 86.

Ziglar memorial service
His funeral service (program pictured) called "Praise To God For the Celebration and Life of Zig Ziglar was held Saturday Dec. 1, 2012 in the Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas.  Hundreds paid tribute to Ziglar through words and song.  Dr. Jack Graham, pastor of the church called Zig's service a "See You At The Top celebration."   Graham told the audience that more than a decade ago, Ziglar approached Graham about his future memorial service.  He discussed with him the scriptures that should be used as well as the song choices.  Ziglar was quoted as saying "I believe the major objective of my funeral should be to serve as an evangelistic occasion for the lost and as an encouragement for other Christians.   If based on your experience my choices
Zig's resting place
of songs and procedures are not the most conducive for persuading others to join me in eternity, please make whatever changes you deem advisable."  Songs included "Because He Lives" "Victory in Jesus" and "Sweet Little Jesus Boy"

Zig Ziglar was laid to rest in the Ridgeview Memorial Park in Allen, Texas with the Bible verse "Romans 8:28 appears on his marker  "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who, have been called according to his purpose."

Monday, September 16, 2013

Remembering Johnny Cash February 26, 1932 - September 12, 2003

"The Man in Black" was born in Kingsland, Arkansas to poor Southern Baptist sharecroppers.  Johnny Cash was one of seven children.  When Johnny was 3, his family moved to Dyess, Arkansas to take advantage of a farming program proposed by President Roosevelt.  For several years, J.R. (as he was called as a child), worked the cotton fields alongside of his parents, brothers and sisters.  Although the Cash family's life was full of hardships, they escaped through their difficulties through music.  His mom would often play the guitar and sing ballads and folk songs to the working people in the fields.  She passed on her love for music to Johnny who began to play the guitar at the age of 12.  His mom saved her money to pay for singing lessons for Johnny.  After three lessons, his teacher saw a natural talent in Johnny and instructed him not to change a thing in his voice and she was taken in by his unique sound.

After graduating from high school, Johnny moved to Pontiac, Michigan and took a job in an automobile manufacturing plant.  His job was sweeping the floor.  He soon quit the job to join the U.S. Air Force and took his basic training in Texas.  His military job was in Germany and was intercepting conversations on the radio and eavesdropping on the Soviet Union.   He soon married and had four daughters.  It was in Germany, when he began to explore his future in music.  He and some military friends formed a group called the "Landsberg Barbarians" and performed live shows.  It was in Germany that Cash wrote "Folsom Prison Blues"

When his military career ended, Cash moved to Memphis, Tennessee and worked as an appliance salesman.  He teamed up with some friends to play music.  Johnny was the front man and the group was known as the "Tennessee Three"  The group played a combination of blues and country western music known as "rockabilly" by the recording industry.  They contacted Sam Phillips (the legendary recording guru) who made Elvis Presley. They played known hits for Phillips and he suggested they work on producing original music.  They wrote and produced some pretty good music and soon Cash wrote and produced "I Walk The Line" that became the hit they were looking for.  Johnny joined Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis and they became known as "The Million Dollar Quartet."
Johnny and June

Johnny experienced some difficult times having gotten involved in drugs that ended in divorce.  He left Sun Records and relocated to Ventura, California and associated himself with Columbia Records.  By this time, Cash had created quite a name for himself and traveled 300 nights a year throughout the country.  He wrote and performed more popular hits including "Ring of Fire" and "Understand Your
Man."  He was a popular performer on the Opry Radio Broadcasts.  Although his music career was skyrocketing, his life was out of control.

In 1967, he met the woman who would turn his life around.  June Carter was a member of the founding family of country music.  She caused him to give up the drug habit and Cash eventually became a devout Christian.  He found himself hosting his own show "The Johnny Cash Show" that earned him two Grammy Awards.  He also released more hit singles "A Thing Called Love" and "One Piece at a Time."  He also was featured in a movie "The Pride of Jesse Hallam" and wrote his bestselling autobiography called "Man in Black"  He recorded and performed with "The Highwayman" that included Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.  He began to have setbacks with the addiction and as a result had medical issues.  He continued with his career but he continued to decline with his health. He was diagnosed with a condition known as "Shy-Drager Syndrome" The love of his life June Carter Cash died in May of 2003.  Her death was devastating to Johnny.  His physical illness along with the pain of June's death caused his death on September 12, 2003 less than four months after his wife.  He was 71.

Johnny Cash received many honors and accolades over his years of performing.  Among them was a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and Rolling Stone magazine ranked Cash "31" on their 100 Greatest Artists of All Time list.  Movies were made about his life including "Walk the Line"  and Broadway's "Ring of Fire."

Johnny's funeral program
Johnny Cash funeral
Johnny Cash's funeral was held at the First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee (program pictured) on September 15 at noon.  Among those who paid tribute to Cash were Emmylou Harris, Sheryl Crow and Kris Kristofferson.  Kristofferson told those in attendance "He represented the best of America; we're not going to see his like again."  Crow and Harris sang "The Old Rugged Cross and Bob Dylan's "Every Grain of Sand" More than 1000 people attended including Vince Gill, Hank Williams Jr., and George Jones.  Pallbearers included Larry Gatlin, Marty Stuart and Randy Scruggs.  Dr. Franklin Graham (Billy's son) eulogized Cash and the "Angel Band" including the Cash family, Larry Gatlin and congregation sang to his memory.  His funeral program has Johnny's own words called Meet Me In Heaven"

A public memorial tribute (program pictured) was held Monday, November 10, 1003 at 7:30pm in Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.  Master of Ceremonies for the event was Tim Robbins and special guests included Brooks & Dunn, Rosanne Cash, Kid Rock, and Willie Nelson to name a few.  Speakers included Tommy Cash, Al Gore, and Marshall Grant.

Johnny's public memorial program
The words of Robert Browning appear on the back of the program "This I believe-of this I am certain; from this life I shall pass to another better where that lady lives of whom my very soul is enamoured."

Johnny and June's resting place
"Johnny Cash will always be at home in the hearts of people the world over because his music, his stories, are timeless.  The boy from a cotton farm in Arkansas-the man, Johnny Cash, belongs to the people.  He is your legend and is destined to remain America's Foremost Singing Storyteller."

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Remembering Fr. Mychal Judge May 11, 1933 - September 11, 2001

Lord, take me where You want me to go,
let me meet who you want me to meet,
tell me what You want me to say,
and keep me out of Your way.

These are the words of the most famous victim of September 11, 2001.  

Fr. Mychal F. Judge OFM was the first certified victim of the attack on 9/11.  A Roman Catholic Priest, Judge also served the NY City Fire Department as it's chaplain.  
Robert Emmet Judge was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and was a twin.  He grew up during the great depression and always had a "big heart" for the poor and indigent. After his father's death when Judge was six, he shined shoes in the subway to support his family. He often passed the St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York and would visit the priests.  He soon realized that he didn't really care for material things and it was during that time that he knew he wanted to be a priest.

He began working toward the priesthood at the age of 15.  He received his education from three seminaries and eventually earned a bachelors degree from St. Bonaventure University.  He became ordained in 1961.  He changed his name to Michael when he joined the Order of Friars Minor and eventually changed the spelling to Mychal.  

Story of Fr. Judge
He served many parishes including one in Boston and others in New Jersey. In 1986, Fr. Judge was assigned to the parish he often passed as a child.  Fr. Judge discovered he had an alcohol problem and in 1978 with the support of Alcoholics Anonymous he became sober.  He used that experience to help other alcoholics over the years.  

In 1992, Fr. Judge was appointed chaplain of the Fire Department of New York.  Over the years, he helped many firemen and others by giving encouragement and prayers at hospitals, at fires, and during many emergency situations.    He also continued to tend to the homeless in the city and as a result was loved by thousands.  Many looked at Judge as a saint prior to 911.

Fr. Mychal Judge funeral
On September 11, 2001, upon learning of the first attack, Fr. Judge rushed to the World Trade Center to offer his assistance.  When he arrived at the site, he met Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.  The mayor asked Fr. Judge to pray and began offering last rites to victims on the street and soon entered the North Tower to continue supporting the victims.  It was there that Judge was hit by flying debris.  It was said that the moment he was struck in the head, Judge was praying "Jesus, please end this right now! God, please end this! according to Michael Daly, a New York Daily News columnist.  
Fr. Mychal's prayer card

Fr. Mychal Judge was designated as "Victim 0001" and thus recognized as the first official victim of Sept. 11, 2001.  The cause of his death was ruled "blunt force trauma to the head."  He was 68 years of age.

Approximately 3000 people paid tribute to Fr. Judge on September 15 in the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Manhattan.  Among those who spoke were Cardinal Edward Egan along with former president Bill Clinton.  Clinton said that Fr. Judge's death was a "special loss.  We should lift his life up as an example of what has to prevail...We have to be more like Father Mike than the people who killed him."  Fr. Michael Duffy was the homilist for the funeral mass and said of Judge" His heart was open, his ears were open and he truly was a people person.  When he was talking to you, he made you feel like you were the only person on the face of the earth.  Father Mychal Judge loved to be where the action was.  He loved to be where there was a crisis, so he could serve God."  The funeral was directed by the Frank Campbell Funeral Chapel in New York.
Fr. Mychal Judge gravesite

Fr. Mychal Judge rests in the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Massaic City, New Jersey.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Remembering Dr. Seuss Theodor Geisel June 28, 1879 - Dec. 9, 1968

"In every era, it seems, there emerge a tiny few who march to a different drummer than the rest of us-a
drummer whose beat is barely audible to the day to day world.  Ted Geisel was one of those mystical people.  His extraordinary lenses showed him a world where elves, leprechauns, and the little people are very real.  His was a world where there is good everywhere, if only we will take the time to see it.
And he did his best to show us how."

These are the words of Victor Krulak, a retired Lt. Gen. of the U.S. Marine Corps voiced at the memorial for his late friend.

Theodor "Ted" Geisel was born in Springfield, Massachusetts having enjoyed a happy childhood.  He loved writing poetry and drawing his own cartoons.  His dad ran a brewery and supervised the park system in Springfield.  He attended Springfield High School and his freshman year took an art class where he learned the fundamentals that he would use to create his future life.

Following high school, Geisel attended Dartmouth College.  While in college, he rose to the rank of editor and chief for the college humor magazine called the "Dartmouth Jack O Lantern"  Geisel liked to party and was forced to quit all extracurricular activities and was asked to resign his position with the newspaper when he got caught drinking gin with his friends in his college dormitory.  He decided to secretly continue his work with the newspaper under the pen name" Seuss".  His first work signed as Dr. Seuss appeared after he graduated.  A professor by the name of W. Benfield Pressey encouraged Geisel to continue writing and Geisel credits him with his "inspiration" to write.  After Dartmouth, Geisel attended Lincoln College in Oxford where he met his wife.

His writing career progressed when he submitted articles and illustrations to various magazines including Vanity Fair, Judge, Life, and Liberty.  The Saturday Evening Post published Geisel's first cartoon under the name of Seuss.  He also made his living by producing his work for General Electric, NBC, and Standard Oil Company.  Geisel's first book was created while on an ocean voyage to Europe when Geisel was inspired from the sound of the ship's engines and the result was his book "And to Think That I saw It on Mulberry Street."  He continued to write more and more children's books.

During World War II, Geisel began writing political cartoons that resulted in the publishing of "Dr. Seuss Goes to War."  He also drew posters for the Treasury Department.  He served in the US Army during the war where he continued to create animations and wrote films for military training.  He won an Academy Award for Documentary Feature for a film he did about Japanese culture.

In his later years, Geisel and his wife returned to La Jolla, California  where he wrote many of his popular works including "The Cat in the Hat" "Horton Hears a Who!" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" to name a few.  He received numerous awards for his writing.  He published 46 children's books, created eleven television specials and four feature films.

Theodor "Ted" Geisel died on September 24, 1991 in his sleep at the age of  87 after suffering from throat cancer.  He had received two Academy Awards, two Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, a Pulitzer Prize and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Geisel's memorial program

A Celebration of the Life of Theodor Seuss Geisel was held on November 18, 1991 (program pictured) in the James S. Copley Auditorium in the San Diego Museum of Art.  Several of his colleagues and friends paid tribute to him.  His program said of him "Ted Geisel was the true renaissance man.  Because he was a sensitive philosopher in a broad spectrum of the world's affairs and a serious student of many of the world's problems, it is difficult, in a single portrait, to capture the scope of his many interests."

Seuss memorial booklet
Geisel's birthday, March 2, has been adopted as the annual date for National Read Across America Day, an initiative on reading created by the National Education Association.  At the time of his death, nearly 200 million copies of his books were translated into 15 different languages are scattered across the world.  Along with his books, Geisel was cremated and his ashes were scattered (location unknown).

Monday, September 9, 2013

Remembering Richie Havens January 31, 1941 - April 22, 2013

Woodstock has been billed as one of the "50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock and Roll" and was held August 15-18, 1969.

The first performance for the iconic event was an American singer/songwriter and guitarist by the name of Richard Pierce "Richie" Havens.  Havens music was a combination of folk, soul, and blues.  He was also recognized as an outstanding guitarist.

Havens was born in Brooklyn and spent a great deal of time in Greenwich Village that was considered a place where "anything goes".  He initially performed without his guitar and recited poetry .  He also earned a living as an artist and for a few years drew portraits and listened to folk music.  He soon became a recognized performer on the New York scene where he eventually landed a record deal.  His first recording was called "Mixed Bag" in 1967 that included the song "Handsome Johnny" that was written by both Havens and actor, Louis Gossett Jr.  He continued to record albums and "Something Else Again" became his first successful album to make the Billboard charts.

Havens performance at Woodstock
Following his performance at Woodstock, his name catapulted him to success.  During the festival, he performed the song "Motherless Child" that soon became known as "Freedom"  He started his own record label and recorded several albums including "Stonehedge" and "Alarm Clock" that included the song that later was recorded by Beatle George Harrison called "Here Comes the Sun."  He was also a frequent guest on television talk shows including "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" where he made back to back appearances because of the positive reception from the Tonight Show guests.  He also took an interest in acting where he was featured in the stage presentation of The Who's "Tommy" "Greased Lightning" and with Richard Pryor in "Hearts of Fire"

Havens took a keen interest in the environment and felt it was his duty to educate the youth on ecological issues.    He co-founded a children's museum in the Bronx called "Northwind Undersea Institute"  He also did numerous television commercials for NBC, CBS, and ABC as well as Maxwell House Coffee's jingle "The Fabric of Our Lives"

He really knew he made it to the top when he was asked to perform at President Bill Clinton's inauguration.  He did many free concerts and benefits during his lifetime.

Near the end of Haven's career, he was featured on the soundtrack of the film "Collateral" with Tom Cruise and Jamie Fox.  He also published his autobiography called "They Can't Hide Us Anymore"  He received numerous accolades and honors for his work and was invited to play "Freedom" for the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.

In 2010, Richie Havens had kidney surgery that caused him to stop touring after 45 years of performances.  He died April 22, 2013 following a heart attack in his home in New Jersey at the age of 72.

Richie Havens memorial wine bottle
On Monday, April 29, 2013 a public memorial was held in the City Winery in New York City.  Those in attendance were served special wine honoring Havens (photo).  It was said that knowing Richie wanted a party rather than a somber memorial, they honored him with an unticketed gathering of friends, food, wine and music.  The event included Haven's numerous recordings while family and friends reminisced  about him. A stage that included a large portrait of Havens along with his guitar was displayed and hundreds turned out for the celebration.

Havens memorial program at Woodstock
Havens had requested that following cremation, his ashes be scattered over the original site of Woodstock known as Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.  On August 18, 2013, his wishes became reality when a celebration of Richie's life (program pictured) was held that included a concert that featured musicians Jose Feliciano and John Sebastian and among those who spoke were
his friends Lou Gossett Jr. and Danny Glover.   Nearly 1000 fans along with nearly 30 relatives gathered at Woodstock.  His cremated remains were mixed with flower pedals and released overhead by a plane over the site where Richie Havens had made his name.  His memorial program included the quote "You walked in grace until the stars called you home."
Scattering over Woodstock

Friday, September 6, 2013

Remembering Mr. Fred Rogers March 20, 1928 - February 27, 2003

"Fred Rogers, who gently invited millions of children to be his neighbor as host of the public television show "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" for more than 30 years died of cancer at the age of 74."

This was the announcement shared by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, hometown newspaper of Fred Rogers to the thousands of "his hometown neighbors" the day following his passing on February 27, 2003.

Fred Rogers lived the majority of his life in the Pittsburgh area in the small town of Latrobe, Pennsylvania where he was born and raised.  In Rogers childhood years, he had a love of music and enjoyed singing while his mother accompanied him on the piano.  He followed in his mom's footsteps by learning to play the piano at the age of 9.  He also enjoyed playing with puppets and would spend hours entertaining himself.

He grew up in a Christian home and attended the Presbyterian Church in Latrobe and had great admiration for the clergy.  He attended Latrobe High School and took an active role as student council president and was involved with the school newspaper.  After completing high school, Rogers studied at Dartmouth College for a couple of years and finished his undergraduate degree at Rollins College in Florida with a
degree in music.  While at Rollins, he fell in love with his future wife, Sara  and they soon married.  He continued his education at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and was eventually  ordained a Presbyterian minister.

During his senior year of college, Rogers came home one day and his parents had purchased a television.  He was fascinated with it and decided he wanted to explore television programming.

In 1953, Rogers took his first job in television at WQED in Pittsburgh and was responsible for local programming.   During that first year, Rogers co-produced a new program called 'The Children's Corner" that allowed his love of puppetry to be part of his young audience.  Following his ordination into the ministry, he was asked to use television as a medium to bring God and issues dealing with children to television.  The following year, Rogers launched a local television program called Misterogers' Neighborhood in 1966 followed by Mister Roger's Neighborhood two years later on PBS.

Mr. Roger's used the medium of television to teach youngsters respect for one another, and focused on everyday issues that children need to deal with and Rogers used his puppets to teach them.  Many of the characters that Rogers originally introduced in the early years stayed a part of his programs throughout his life.  The characters of Mr. McFeely, X the Owl, and Queen Sara helped keep his television programs fresh.  Rogers, through his music training, also wrote the scripts for his songs.  His cardigan
sweaters also remained with the show and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood would be guests to many famous people over the years.  Mr. Rogers Neighborhood earned about every honor and award given to the media.  He won Emmy Awards, a 1997 Lifetime Achievement Award, Presidential Medal of Freedom, Television Hall of Fame induction and many more.  He also served as chairman of the White House forum on childhood development and the mass media and he was often consulted as an expert witness on a variety of issues.  Fred Rogers once said "Those of us in broadcasting have a special calling to give whatever we feel is the most nourishing that we can for our audience.  We are servants of those who watch and listen."  Rogers famous cardigan sweater is one of the most popular displays at the Smithsonian Institute and is considered a "Treasure of American History."

On March 5, 2004, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed Senate Resolution 16, commemorating the life of Fred Rogers.  Senator Rick Santorum read "Through his spirituality and placid nature, Mister Rogers was able to reach out to our nation's children and encourage each of them to understand the important role they play in their communities and as part of their families,"

Funeral at Unity Cemetery
Fred Rogers was diagnosed with stomach cancer at the end of 2002 soon after his retirement.  In January, 2003, he underwent surgery that proved to be unsuccessful.  A week earlier, Rogers was the grand marshal of the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena.

He died on February 27, 2003 in his home a month before he turned 75 years of age.  The City of Pittsburgh mourned his passing as well as citizens throughout the United States.
Program from public memorial

The Hartman-Graziano Funeral Home in Latrobe handled the many details of his passing.

On March 1, 2003 beginning at 10am, a private viewing was held at the funeral home and then was taken in a procession to the Unity Cemetery in Latrobe and a funeral (program pictured) was held at the cemetery that consisted of 80 relatives, coworkers and close friends.  The service was held in the little chapel in the historic cemetery that Roger's father helped restore.  Following the service, Rogers was taken to the small mausoleum.  Remarks were made by the a retired pastor of the Presbyterian church and close friend of Rogers. Included in the message was the voice character of Mr. Platypus.

A public "Gathering in Memory of Fred M. Rogers (program pictured) was held on Saturday, May 3, 2003 at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh.  The service included a medley of Fred Rogers songs played by the Pittsburgh Symphony.  Among those who paid tribute to Rogers was Pat Mitchell, President of PBS and friend, William Isler, President of Family Communications, Inc.  The service also included a video tribute to Fred Rogers, Lifetime Achievement Awards by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

The program included a quote by Rogers himself  "The greatest gift you can give anyone is your honest self."

Our world could use a few more Mr. Rogers.
Mausoleum at Unity Cemetery

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Remembering Rosa Rio June 2, 1902 - May 13, 2010

At the time of her death, Rosa Rio was one of the oldest performers in the music industry.

Born Elizabeth Raub, she began her music career by providing the background music in the old silent movies.  She became a leading organist on radio and in soap operas and also provided music in the theater and motion pictures.

Rosa was raised in New Orleans and began playing the piano (by ear) at the age of four and began taking lessons at the age of 8.

Following high school, Rosa enrolled at Oberlin College where she studied music education and then at the Eastman School of Music.  While at Eastman, she married a fellow organist and professor.  The two had a son but eventually divorced.  She took on the stage name of Rosa Rio because it looked good on the theater marquee.

She performed for the theater in Syracuse, New York( Loew's theaters) as well as the Brooklyn Fox Theatre and the Brooklyn Paramount.  She then moved to New Orleans and worked for the Saenger Theatre when Al Jolson's "The Jazz Singer" was released that ended the silent movie era.
Rosa Rio instruction book

Rosa also worked for radio and was known as "Queen of the Soaps" having performed the background music for 24 soap operas and radio shows.  During her prime, she played between five and seven shows a day.  Among them were"My True Story" "Bob and Ray" and "When A Girl Marries"  Rosa also hosted her own radio show during World War II called "Rosa Rio Rhythms"  Her life was extremely hectic during those days when she had to run from studio to studio in a matter of seconds.

She began moving into television having performed in the soap opera "As The World Turns" and "The Today Show"  She had a difficult time with television because there were fewer opportunities than radio for jobs and advancements.

Rosa Rio began teaching music and opened a school for singing, as well as, organ and piano.  It was once estimated that Rosa provided accompaniment for over 370 silent films.

Rosa Rio's Tribute program
Over the years, Rosa Rio never revealed her age and refused to celebrate her birthday.  One evening, while performing in the Tampa Theatre, she revealed her age.  She performed in the Tampa Theatre until the age of 107.  Had she lived one month, she would have been 108 years old at the time of her death on May 13, 2010.

Her life was celebrated on June 5, 2010 in her 2nd home, the Tampa Theatre with "A Tribute to Rosa Rio."  The tribute (program pictured) was a true celebration that included lyrics that she adapted in the 1960's to "What A Wonderful Night This Has Been" and was always used at the conclusion of her concerts.  The tribute also included video clips of her performances and local dignitaries from the theatre and other musical associations made remarks about her life.

Her resting place is unknown.

Remembering Karen Carpenter March 2, 1950 - February 4, 1983

When posed the question  What female has the greatest singing voice?  Many would say Barbra Streisand or Whitney Houston.  My pick would be the angelic sound of
the late Karen Carpenter.

Karen and her brother Richard formed the popular 1970's duo "The Carpenters" whose hits include "Close to You" "We've Only Just Begun" and "Because We Are In Love"

Karen was born and raised in New Haven, Connecticut.  As a child, she was a tomboy and loved to play baseball with the neighborhood kids.  As a youngster, she appeared on the television program "This is Your Life" and mentioned that she loved pitching.  Her brother Richard was a piano prodigy.  The Carpenter family moved to Los Angeles in 1963 when Karen was 13 years old.  She attended Downey High School and joined the school band.  She soon took an interest in the drums and became an outstanding percussionist.  Karen and Richard decided to put their talents together, asked a friend to join them and became the Richard Carpenter Trio.  They performed locally at many nightclubs and tried out for a television talent show called "Your All American College Show"  They were also involved in another group called "Spectrum" and recorded several songs in a private recording studio.  They were not very successful until A&M Records signed them to a contract  in 1969.  Karen sang several of the songs from the band's first album called "Offering" that later became "Ticket To Ride" that would become their first successful single and also a successful song for the Beatles.  Karen and Richard wrote ten of the thirteen songs.  They soon recorded another album called "Close To You" that featured two more huge singles  (They Long to Be) Close to You and "We've Only Just Begun"  The two songs ranked #1 and #2 on the Hot 100 Hits.

Having started out as the drummer for the group, she often appeared (as drummers do) in the background and practically invisible. She was encouraged to become more visible and soon gave up the drums to be a more noticeable figure in the group.  As time went on, Richard became addicted to quaaludes and from time to time cancelled performances that eventually led to the demise of the group.

Karen soon started a solo career and recorded an album with Phil Ramone that was stopped shortly before it was produced.

On Karen's personal side, she resided with her parents until she was 26 years of age.  She moved into an apartment  and later bought two apartments, gutted them and turned them into a condo.  She was also a collector of Disney memorabilia and her friends included Petula Clark, Dionne Warwick and Olivia Newton John.    After dating a few celebrities, she met a real estate developer and the two were married for a brief time.  During that time, she developed a serious eating disorder that eventually took over her life.

Karen Carpenter's final recording was a song called "Now" while being treated for anorexia nervosa, however, her condition continued to deteriorate and caused a huge weight loss that resulted in an irregular heart beat.  After losing 30 pounds in eight weeks, she entered a hospital in New York.

Carpenter returned to California and was determined to reinvent her career, finalize her divorce and on Dec. 17, 1982, she gave her final singing performance that included Christmas carols to school age children (including Karen's godchildren).

Karen Carpenter died less than a month before her 33rd birthday of heart failure on February 4, 1983 after collapsing in her parent's home in Downey, California.  Her death resulted from her battle with anorexia.

The Utter McKinley Mortuaries in California directed Karen's funeral on February 8, 1983 from the Downey United Methodist Church.  She was dressed in a rose-colored suit while over 1000 members of her family and fans passed by her open casket that included skater, Dorothy Hamill and the friends mentioned above.  Her funeral program (pictured) was inscribed with the words

       She Sang
        For the Hearts
         Of us all
          Too soon and too young
           Our Karen is still,
            But her echo
             Will linger

Karen's funeral program
Pallbearers included Herb Alpert of the Tijuana Brass fame and honorary pallbearers were Olivia Newton John, Burt Bacharach, Dorothy Hamill and Cubby O'Brien (the Mouseketeer and Carpenters drummer)

She was laid to rest in the Forest Lawn Cypress Cemetery but was later moved to Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks Memorial Park in 2003.

Tribute Program
On Saturday, June 25, 1983, "A Tribute To Karen Carpenter" (program pictured) was held at The First Congregational Church of Long Beach.  Among those who performed at the concert included her brother Richard and John Bettis ( a member of the Carpenters group) and the California State University Choir.  Her brother Richard wrote  "February 4, 1983.  On that day I
Karen's resting place at Valley Oaks
lost my sister; a dear friend, and my professional partner.  The world lost a beautiful spirit.  Karen had not only a voice that was heaven-sent, but a personality that warmed the lives of everyone who had met and known her.  She was with us only 32 years.  Though my family and I will never get over losing her at such an early age, we can take comfort in the marvelous legacy she left us all.  Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss gave us the opportunity to record and due to the opportunity Karen's voice touched and will continue to touch the lives of millions.  That was a privilege she was very proud of...as I am proud of her.  She is greatly missed."  Richard