Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Remembering Pat Summerall May 10, 1930 - April 16, 2013

His theme in life was that "it's never to late to start over."

George Allen "Pat" Summerall is remembered for a successful football career and even more for his many years as a television sportscaster.  He also served his country in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.

Pat was born in Lake City, Florida having experienced a difficult childhood.  He was raised by loving relatives and overcame many obstacles to reach success as both a professional athlete and legendary sports commentator.  Although he has received many honors for his career, he is most proud of his relationship with Jesus Christ.  In his later years, he was moved to share his belief in Jesus Christ with the world.

In high school, Pat attended Columbia High School in Lake City and played football, tennis, baseball and basketball.  His favorite sport at the time was basketball and was an All State player in both basketball and football and inducted into the Florida Hall of Fame.  Following high school, Summerall attended the University of Arkansas from 1949-51 and played defensive end and tight end and was also the Razorback's placekicker.

He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the fourth round during the 1952 draft as primarily a placekicker.  After breaking his arm, he was traded to the Chicago Cardinals where he played from 53-57 and then the New York Giants from 1958-61. He was a player in the "Greatest Game Ever Played."  His best season as a professional was in 1959 when he scored 90 points and was 30 for 30 in extra point kicking and 20 for 29 in field goals.  His final game as a football player took place in the 1961 NFL Championship game.

He took an interest in broadcasting during the early 60's when he was the morning host of a radio show in New York City.  His broadcasts often aired on Fox and CNN and over the years hosted other shows on both television and radio.

Following his retirement from football, he was hired by CBS to work as a color commentator for National Football League coverage.  He eventually rose to the top of sports journalism.  He covered weekly games and did his first Super Bowl coverage for Super Bowl III.  Over the years, Summerall paired up with many of the leading sports commentators in the business and in 1981, he shared coverage with John Madden.  The two of them covered 16 Super Bowls over the years.  His final game with Madden was the 1993 NFC championship game. He soon found himself doing commentating on the Madden NFL video games.  He also covered professional golf including the Masters tournament along with tennis, hockey, and basketball events.

Summerall received many honors over the years including National Sportscaster of the year in 1977 and was inducted into the Sportscasters Hall of Fame.  He was the 1994 recipient of the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award given to him by the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  An award was named in his honor that goes to "a deserving recipient who through their career has demonstrated character, integrity, and leadership both on and off the job."

He also did many commercials for such names as True Value and Dux Beds.  He also provided commentary for the Cartoon Network's "The Big Game" from 1998-2001.

Summerall funeral program
On his personal side, Pat suffered from alcoholism for many years and although he quit drinking, because of the habitual use of alcohol over the years, his liver was destroyed. He underwent a liver transplant in 2004.  As mentioned earlier, he developed a strong relationship with Jesus Christ and often gave speeches about his new life free from addiction.

He wrote his book called "Summerall: On and Off the Air" and claimed that he replaced his thirst for alcohol with a thirst for knowledge about faith and God.

Pat Summerall underwent hip surgery for a broken hip in April, 2013.  He developed heart complications from the surgery and died on April 16, 2013 at the age of 82.

John Madden speaking of his friend
Thousands gathered for a celebration of Pat's life (program pictured) was held on April 20, 2013 in the Worship Center of the Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas.  Among those who spoke of Summerall were his longtime friend, John Madden and Dr. Jack Graham.   Madden said of his friend "If there ever was a book about good guys, he'd be the star of that book."

Pat Summerall resting place
Pat Summerall was laid to rest in the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery in Dallas.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Remembering Ed Bradley June 22, 1941 - November 9, 2006

Most remember him as a journalist on 60 Minutes but Ed Bradley loved, lived, and died jazz.

Ed Bradley was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and was primarily raised by his mother, Gladys.  His mom worked two jobs to support her family.  His dad was in the vending business in Detroit and Ed would visit him in the summers.  He attended school in an all black catholic boarding school.  He then attended the Mount Saint Charles Academy in Rhode Island and finally graduated from Cheyney State College in Pennsylvania with a degree in education.

Following college, Ed was an elementary schoolteacher and moonlighted at a radio station where he programmed music and read the news.  He also broadcasted local athletic events.  While at WDAS, he covered his first news reports during a riot in Philadelphia during the 60's.  Ed eventually took a job with CBS where he worked in Paris, France covering the Peace Talks.  He soon found himself in Saigon covering the Vietnam war as well as Cambodia.  While in Vietnam, Bradley was
wounded from a mortar round that hit is back and arms.  He returned to Washington D.C. and was given the task of covering the Jimmy Carter campaign.  Dan Rather replaced Walter Cronkite as anchor of the CBS News and Bradley took Rather's spot.

Ed Bradley was a regular on 60 Minutes for 26 years and during that time covered over 500 stories from war, poverty, politics and human interest stories.  He interviewed many heavyweights over his years with 60 Minutes that included George Burns, Michael Jordan, Timothy McVeigh and Bob Dylan.  He is remembered for wearing an earring on camera not seen before in television news journalism.

On Bradley's personal side, he was a lover of music, especially jazz and hosted "Jazz at the Lincoln Center" on NPR for over a decade.  He was considered the fifth Neville Brother and often performed with them on stage.  He was also a huge Jimmy Buffet fan and from time to time performed with his band.  He was also a professional sports fan and was often seen in the stands of the New York Knicks basketball games having been a longtime ticket holder.

Over the years, Bradley earned 19 Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award to name a few.  The National Association of Black Journalists considered Bradley a pioneer in African American broadcasting.

Ed Bradley's jazz funeral
Ed Bradley died on November 9, 2006 at the age of 65 from leukemia with his wife and longtime friend, Jimmy Buffet at his side.

Bradley's jazz handkerchief and program
A celebration of Ed Bradley's life (program pictured) took place on November 21, 2006 in the huge Riverside Church in New York City.  Many entertainers, journalists and musicians attended his service.  Among those who paid tribute to Bradley were former President Bill Clinton who called Bradley "a brilliant and insatiably curious traveler on a relentless lifetime quest to get to the bottom of things.  He was like the great jazz musicians he so admired.  He always played in the key of reason.  His songs were full of notes of facts but he knew to make the most of music you have to improvise."  Clinton said he knew he "had arrived in national politics when Ed Bradley wanted to interview me.  I always preferred watching him interview others."  Music for the service was performed by Aaron Neville, Jimmy Buffet who sang "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?"and Wynton Marsalis. The New Orleans funeral brass band was flown in to conclude the service New Orleans style when the audience waved their Ed Bradley handkerchiefs (shown) and marched to "When the Saints Go Marching In"

His resting place is unknown.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Remembering Payne Stewart January 30, 1957 - October 25, 1999

If you ever watched professional golf tournaments during the 90's on television, there was always one golfer that stood out from the rest.

William Payne Stewart was one of the most popular golfers in history.  With his unique style of dress, always wearing flamboyant colors that included his ivy cap, his patterned knickerbocker pants, and colorful shirts, he was one of the most admired and best dressed golfers in the history of the game.  He was also remembered as having one of the most gracefully fluid and stylish golf swings of the modern era.

Stewart was born in Springfield, Missouri and began playing golf at the age of four.  He attended high school at Greenwood Laboratory School that was part of Missouri State University.  From the time he was a child, he was well liked by just about anyone he came in contact with.  After graduating from high school, Payne attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas and graduated with a degree in business.  While in college during his senior year, he was the co-champion of the Southwest Conference.

He won his first title at the Miller High Life tournament in 1982 during his first season on the tour.  His father's death in 1985 from cancer had a huge impact on Stewart's life.  Payne donated all of his winnings in 1985 ($108,000) to a Florida hospital.  Two years later, he won his first major title, the 1989 PGA Championship.  Although Stewart was a crowd favorite, he occasionally annoyed other golfers with his self confidence and classy demeanor.

During his career, Stewart won eleven tour victories including three major titles and was 3rd on the PGA Tour's all-time money list of career earnings during the 1999 season.   He represented the US on five Ryder Cup teams and played for the US on three World Cup teams. During most of his career, he was known for his NFL sponsorship and would wear the colors of the closest NFL franchise to where he was playing.

He appeared as himself on an episode of the popular sitcom "Home Improvement" titled "Futile Attraction."

On October 25, 1999, Stewart was preparing to play in the year end tournament "The Tour Championship" and boarded a Learjet in Orlando, Florida en route to Dallas, Texas.  He planned to stop in Dallas to discuss plans for building a new home golf course for the Southern Methodist University golf program.  The plane depressurized.  The plane remained in the air until it ran out of fuel and crashed in South Dakota.  Stewart and five others aboard died from hypoxia.

Nearly 3000 people said good-bye to Stewart on Oct. 29, 1999 in the First Baptist Church of Orlando, Florida (program pictured)  It was said that the memorial service fit the personality of Stewart--emotional, humorous, unique, and unforgettable.  More than 100 of the world's greatest golfers attended the service including Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Hal Sutton, and Davis Love.

Wristband, memorial program and recording from Payne's memorial service
The front of the church sanctuary was filled with Payne's trophies, clothing, portraits, and a bottle of Rogaine.  Music was performed by the likes of Vince Gill and Michael W. Smith.  Gill sang a song he wrote in tribute to Stewart called "Hey, God-A Tribute to Payne"Among those who spoke of Payne was his wife and daughter and pro golfer, Paul Azinger.  The back of the memorial program includes the words to Michael Smith's song "This Is Your Time"

Payne Stewart was laid to rest in the Doctor Phillips Cemetery in Orlando, Florida.  His epitaph reads "The Champion of Our Hearts."
Payne Stewart gravesite

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Remembering John Denver December 31, 1943 - Oct. 12, 1997

In the 70's, the songs of John Denver were a remedy for me following a stressful day.  I would sit in my bean bag chair with my headphones on and listen to the voice of John Denver singing "Annie's Song" or "Rocky Mountain High" and get immediate relief.

Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. was born in Roswell, New Mexico to an Air Force officer that is recognized in the Air Force Hall of Fame for breaking speed records with his B-58 bomber. He was brought up in a strict environment and during his childhood, moved often because of his dad's military career.  He was an introverted child and never felt at home.  He had a difficult time adapting to his environment and his family eventually moved to Tucson, Arizona.  He connected with the Tucson Boys Chorus and eventually found Tucson to be his home.  Soon the family moved to Fort Worth, Texas and graduated from the Arlington Heights High School after having a difficult time adjusting to Ft. Worth.

When John was 11 years old, he received his first acoustic guitar from his grandmother.  She encouraged him and he soon became good enough to play in local clubs by the time he went to college.    He took on the name of Denver because of his love for Colorado.  The idea of changing his name came from a member of the popular group, "The New Christy Minstrels" who felt that Deutschendorf wouldn't work.

Denver performed with a band known as "The Alpine Trio"while attending Texas Tech University.  He left college early and moved to Los Angeles where he often performed in folk clubs.  He performed with the Chad Mitchell Trio and then decided to pursue a solo career.  One of his first songs was called "Babe I Hate to Go" that would become "Leaving on a Jet Plane" that later became a huge hit for Peter, Paul and Mary.

Denver began to rise to the top when he released the album "Poems, Prayers, and Promises" in 1971 that included his hit song "Take Me Home, Country Roads" that reached #2 on the billboard charts.  In 1972, Denver reached the very top of the charts with his song "Rocky Mountain High" and it was uphill from there.  Other hits include "Sunshine on My Shoulders" "Thank God I'm A Country Boy" and "I'm Sorry"

He is remembered for his western shirts, long blonde hair and round glasses as he performed all over the country.  He was also a guest on many television talk shows and was a guest star on "The Muppet Show"  He took a shot at acting and appeared on an episode of the tv series, "McCloud" and starred with George Burns in the movie "Oh, God!"  Denver also hosted the Grammy awards five different times and was a guest host for the Tonight Show on several occasions.  In 1975, he was the recipient of the Country Music Association's Entertainer of the Year Award.

Denver was also known as a conservationist and philanthropist.  He cofounded "The Hunger Project" and was appointed by President Jimmy Carter on his world hunger organization.  He also composed and sang the theme song for the 1984 Winter Olympics.

Denver wrote and published his autobiography called "Take Me Home" where he wrote candidly about his drug use, marital infidelity and history of domestic violence.  He was also an avid photographer and enjoyed taking pictures of the outdoors. He painted, skied and piloted aircraft.

Denver had a love for flying and became quite involved with NASA where he received the NASA Public Service Medal. His dream was to be the first civilian in space. His love for flying eventually cost Denver his life.

Denver funeral folder
On October 12, 1997, he was solo flying an experimental plane called the Rutan Long-EZ plane near the Pacific Ocean and was practicing takeoffs and landings when the plane crashed near the Monterey Peninsula Airport in California. He died instantly at the age of 53.   A CBS movie was made about his life called "Take Me Home: The John Denver Story"

Denver memorial program
His remains were returned to the Parker Funeral Home in Colorado and a service was held at the Faith Presbyterian Church  in Aurora, Colorado on Oct. 17, 1997 followed by "A Celebration The Life of John Denver"held on Saturday, Oct. 18, 1997 in Aspen, Colorado (program pictured) that was attended by thousands of fans.  His own words from Seasons of the Heart appeared on the program  "Love is why I came here in the first place, Love is now the reason I must go, Love is all I ever hoped to find here, Love is still the only dream I know."

John Denver Sanctuary
Following cremation, Denver's cremated remains were scattered in the Rocky Mountains.

A memorial to John was created called the John Denver Sanctuary that includes many of the lyrics to his songs etched in rocks.  It is located in Aspen, Colorado.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Remembering Whitney Elizabeth Houston August 9, 1963 - February 11, 2012

In 2009, the Guinness World Records recognized her as the most awarded female act of all time.  She sold over 200 million records worldwide.  She is the only artist to reach #1 on seven consecutive Billboard Hot 100 Hits.

Whitney Houston was born to a musically talented family.  Her dad, John Houston, was an entertainment executive and mom, Cissy Houston, an accomplished gospel singer.  Her aunts and cousins also reached the top in the recording industry.

At the age of 4, the Houston family moved to East Orange, New Jersey and Whitney began performing at the age of 11 as a soloist in the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J. She attended an all girl's Catholic high school.  Her mother continued to teach Whitney how to sing and during that time, she included Gladys Knight and Roberta Flack as major influences in her future singing career.  She would often sing at her mother's performances during her teenage years.  She sang back up to various performers including Chaka Khan and Khan's hit single I'm Every Woman."  She also backed up Lou Rawls and Jermaine Jackson.

During the early 80's, Houston worked as a fashion model after a photographer noticed her during a concert at Carnegie Hall.  She would soon find herself on the covers of Seventeen, Glamour, Cosmopolitan and Young Miss magazines.  She was also featured on a few television commercials.  She continued recording songs that included "You Give Good Love" that was chosen as a lead single.  She was also a guest on late night television talk shows.  Her song "Saving All My Love for You" was her first number one hit single in both the United States and the UK.

During the 1986 Grammys, Houston was nominated for three awards including Album of the Year.  She won her first Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for "Saving All My Love for You" and that was the start of a lifetime of recognition and honors.  Her debut album is listed as one of Rolling Stone Magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time as well as Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's Definitive 200 list. Other hit songs over the years include "How Will I Know" "We Almost Have It All" "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" and "I'm Your Baby Tonight" She will always be remembered for her rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner" following the September 11, 2001 tragedy.  The release of "I Will Always Love You" became the biggest selling commercial single in history.

Whitney not only had an unmatchable singing career, but she would soon become an outstanding actress as well.   Her memorable performance with Kevin Costner in "The Bodyguard" is recognized for both her singing and acting ability. She was also nominated for her performance in "The Preacher's Wife." and appeared in the remake of "SPARKLE" in 2011.

She had television roles on several programs including "Gimme A Break!" "As the World Turns" "Silver Spoons" and "Boston Public"

Whitney Houston was working on a remake of a Judy Garland film and also planning to film a sequel to "Waiting to Exhale."

On February 9, 2012, Whitney was attending a pre-Grammy awards party with Clive Davis and singers Brandy and Monica at the Beverly Hills Hilton.  Two days later on February 11, 2012, Whitney Houston was found unconscious in her Suite 434 that resulted in her death having been discovered submerged in water in her bathtub.  Following an investigation, the cause of her death was accidental drowning caused by atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use.

Her body was flown back to the Whigham Funeral Home in Newark, New Jersey.
Memorial invitation

An invitation-only memorial service (program and invitations pictured) was held on Saturday, February 18, 2012 in the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark where Whitney grew up.  The service lasted nearly four hours and was televised throughout the United States.

Among those who eulogized Whitney were Tyler Perry, Bishop T.D. Jakes and co-star of "The Bodyguard" Kevin Costner.  Music performers included Stevie Wonder who sang "A Ribbon In The Sky" Aretha Franklin "The Greatest Love Of All" and the service ended with Whitney's own recording of "I Will Always Love You"
Whitney's memorial program

The following morning, Whitney Houston was laid to rest in a private burial service in Westfield, New Jersey's Fairview Cemetery next to her father, John Russell Houston.

Remembering Millard Dean Fuller January 3, 1935 - February 3, 2009

"I see life as both a gift and a responsibility.  My responsibility is to use what God has given me to help
his people in need."

These are the words of Millard Fuller.  How appropriate they are when describing this great man.

Millard Fuller was the founder and former president of Habitat for Humanity International.  Habitat, as most know, is a nonprofit organization known around the world for building houses for those in need.  He is regarded as the leader of the modern day movement for affordable housing around the world.

Millard Fuller was born in Lanett, Alabama. His mother died when he was 3.  His dad remarried and Millard's business career began at the age of 6 when his dad gave him a pig.  Millard is said to have fattened the pig up and sold it for $11.  Millard was soon buying and selling pigs, rabbits, and chickens and selling them for a profit.  Following high school, Millard graduated from Auburn University with a degree in economics. He continued his studies by attending the University of Alabama where he received his law degree.

Millard became very successful in both law and business.  He married his wife Linda and became a self made millionaire by the age of 29.  He and his wife discovered that money doesn't make you happy.  It seemed like the more wealthy they got, the more problems they had.  One day Millard and his wife decided to give their money away and turn their lives over to Christian service.  The Fuller family moved to a farming community in Georgia.  They remained there for five years until the decided to become missionaries in Africa in 1973 where their vocation was building homes.  While there, they  came up with the idea that if homes could be built in Africa, why couldn't they be built around the world.

They returned to the U.S. and began a Christian ministry at Koinonia Farm in Georgia and, as part of the ministry built simple decent homes for low income families in their community.  They sought assistance from others in the community through both donating labor and contributions.  Those who received the homes repaid for the materials along with donating their time and efforts to building additional homes.  No interest was charged and these principles were used to expand the ministry.  They named the ministry "Partnership Housing" that eventually was expanded to Habitat for Humanity.  In 2005, they founded another non-profit organization with the same vision called "The Fuller Center for Housing."

The Fullers, over the years, are responsible for more than a million people with homes in more than 100 countries.  Among those supporters of the Fullers are former U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.  Bill Clinton presented Fuller with the Presidential Medal of Freedom and was quoted as saying "I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that Millard Fuller has literally revolutionized the concept of philanthropy."

Fuller Memorial Celebration
Millard Fuller authored ten books and was the recipient of more than 50 honorary doctorate degrees.  He has also received numerous awards and honors for his work.  One of his books "Theology of the Hammer" explains Fuller's philosophy. "Love in action changes the face of volunteering in America and has inspired millions to pick up a hammer and make a difference in their communities. "
Fuller program and nail apron

Millard Fuller died on Tuesday, February 3, 2009 after experiencing chest congestion for about a month.  He was 74 years of age.

A Memorial Celebration of Millard's life was held March 14, 2009 in the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia (program pictured).  Among those who paid tribute to Millard was former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.  Others who reflected on Fuller's life were two homeowners from Fuller's organization.  The songs sung were favorites of Millard's that included "Higher Ground" and "We're Marching to Zion."  Those who attended the celebration received a "nail apron" that reflected Millard's life (pictured).  He was laid to rest on Koinonia Farm.
Millard Fuller resting place

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Remembering Wallace Hartley June 2, 1878 - April 15, 1912

It's been over 100 years and the story of the Titanic continues to be on the minds of many.  I don't know about you but anytime the Titanic is brought up, I immediately begin to put myself on the ship
and try to imagine how I would react in knowing that my life would soon end.

Wallace Hartley was one of the major heroes on the ship.  He was the bandleader of the Titanic and played a major role in trying to keep the hundreds of passengers at ease knowing that he would soon perish.

Hartley was born in Colne, Lancashire, England.  His dad was a choirmaster and Sunday school superintendent at a Methodist Church.  Wallace is known for his introduction of the hymn "Nearer My God To Thee" to his congregation.

Hartley's violin and case
Wallace became an accomplished violinist and after high school, began working for a bank until he became a member of the Huddersfield Philharmonic Orchestra.  He continued to master his music career and eventually joined the Cunard Line as a musician on various ocean liners including the RMS Mucania, RMS Lusitania and the RMS Mauretania.  He soon joined the White Star Line of ships that changed his status from a crew member to a passenger of the ship.

In 1912, Hartley was assigned to be the bandmaster of the RMS Titanic and because he had a fiancée, he reluctantly took the position even though he would be separated from her for periods of time.  He took the job only because he felt he could move up in status and would enhance his future career possibilities.

During a voyage on April 15, 1912, as the band played and passengers were enjoying themselves, we all know the Titanic hit an iceberg and would soon begin to sink.  Hartley and the other band members continued to play music as women and children were loaded on lifeboats.  Survivors from the tragedy claim Hartley and the band were instrumental in preventing added chaos and keeping the passengers as calm as possible.  Many in the lifeboats claimed to have seen Hartley and the other band members standing on the boat deck and soon saw three of the members washed off the ship and the remaining five were dragged down with the bow of the ship.  A newspaper reported after the tragedy that "the part played by the orchestra on board the Titanic in her last dreadful moments "will rank among the noblest in the annals of heroism at sea."

Coincidentally, the final song played by the band is said to have been Hartley's hymn "Nearer, My God, to Thee"

Wallace Hartley funeral card
HaTwo weeks following the sinking of the Titanic, Hartley's body was recovered and was said to be fully dressed with his music case strapped to his body.  It was returned to England where Wallace's father met the ship and brought his son back to Colne.

Wallace Hartley's funeral (funeral card pictured) was held on May 18, 1912 and is reported that over 1000 people attended the service. It was also speculated between 30000 and 40000 people lined the streets for Hartley's funeral procession.  He was laid to rest in Keighley Road Cemetery in Cole.  His gravesite features a 10 foot headstone in which a violin is carved into the base.

Hartley's home continues to be recognized by tourists and his violin has been on exhibition at Titanic museums.
Hartley's resting place

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Remembering "Marlboro Man" David McLean May 19, 1922 - October 12, 1995

Whatever happened to "Marlboro Man"?

Many of the younger generation has never heard of "Marlboro Man"  Those of us in our fifties and sixties, when cigarettes were popular, knows that "Marlboro Man" was a popular cowboy on television whose purpose was to show the "macho side" of smoking, not just any cigarette, but Marlboros.

Marlboro Man was actually an Akron, Ohio native by the name of David McLean.  He appeared on television and newspaper advertising wearing his stetson and often riding his horse.  Part of his compensation was a free supply of cigarettes.

McLean was born Eugene Joseph Huth and was an actor who played the leading character in a short-lived western television series called "Tate"  He also appeared in numerous television episodes and feature films during the 1960's and 70's. He was a guest star on "Laramie" and as "Steve Collier" a corrupt politician in "Beyond Justice" and as Cully Brown in "A Grave for Cully Brown."  He also could be seen on episodes of popular westerns including "Death Valley Days" "Bonanza" "The Virginian" and appeared on the "Perry Mason" show. 

Ironically, McLean would eventually become an anti-smoking crusader after he learned that he developed lung cancer.  He attended a stockholder's meeting of the Philip Morris, maker of Marlboro, asking them to limit  their advertising that included his appearance.  He joined a campaign to end the  advertising of cigarettes on television.
David McLean's funeral program

Unfortunately, lung cancer took McLean's life on October 12, 1995 at the age of 73 in Culver City, California.  

The Gates, Kingsley & Gates Funeral Directors directed his funeral service (program pictured) in the Holy Cross Mausoleum Chapel in Culver City on Oct. 18, 1995 and following the service, McLean was laid to rest in Holy Cross Cemetery.  

McLean's resting place
Following McLean's death, his widow and son filed a lawsuit against Philip Morris that claimed the firm encouraged and even required cigarette smoking that caused his death. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Remembering Chris Kyle April 8, 1974 - February 2, 2013

Chris Kyle will go down in American history as one of the country's most lethal weapons.

Chris was born in Odessa, Texas and was the son of a devout Christian family.  His dad bought Chris his first gun at the age of 8 and taught Chris to hunt pheasant, quail and deer.  Chris would soon find himself in the rodeo as a bronco rider until he severely injured his arm.

Chris decided to join the armed forces.  He initially wanted to become a Marine.  In talking to a Navy recruiter, Chris was told about the Navy SEALS program.  Initially he was refused because of the arm injury he had received in the rodeo but was soon contacted about an opportunity to attend Basic Underwater Demolition school.  He joined the US Navy in 1999.

Chris is recognized as the most skilled sniper in military history.  He had 160 confirmed kills out of 255 claimed kills and served four tours in the Iraq conflict and awarded the 4th highest commendation for heroism, acts of merit and military service in a combat zone.  Nicknamed the "Devil of Ramadi" by Iraqi insurgents, he was the recipient of the Bronze Star and numerous Silver Star medals.  During his military career, Kyle was shot twice and involved in six IED attacks.  His longest successful shot was from 2100 yards away having killed an insurgent with a rocket launcher. Because of Kyle's skill as a marksman, he had a $80000 bounty on his head by the enemy.
Kyle's book and memorial program

He left the US Navy in 2009 and returned to Midlothian, Texas with his wife and two children.  He
wrote his life story in a book called "American Sniper with the money from the book going to the Heroes Project.  It became a New York Times bestseller. He made several television appearances including the "Today Show" "Stars Earn Stripes" and the Bill O'Reilly.

On Feb. 2, 2013, Chris and a friend, Chad Littlefield were doing some shooting practice at a range in Rough Creek Ranch Resort in Erath County, Texas.  The two friends were working with another soldier who suffered from post traumatic stress disorder.  The other soldier, Eddie Ray Routh mortally shot both Kyle and Littlefield.  Routh was later captured during a freeway chase.

Honors as Texas State Cemetery
Memorial at Cowboy stadium
Chris Kyle's life was celebrated at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Feb. 11, 2013 (program pictured)  that was attended by nearly 7000 people.  It was said of Kyle, "he was more than an excellent sniper feared by U.S. enemies-he was a dedicated family man known for his sense of humor, compassion, selflessness and generosity."  Country singer Randy Travis sang "Whisper My Name" that was requested by Chris' wife, Taya because of the song's meaning to both Chris and Taya.  His flag draped casket sat in the middle of the Cowboy "star" The day following the memorial tribute, Kyle was laid to rest nearly 200 miles away in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin where people lined the streets and the hearse was accompanied by the Patriot Guard and nearly 200 vehicles.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Remembering George Beverly Shea February 1, 1909 - April 16, 2013

O the wonder of it all!
The wonder of it all!
Just to think that God loves me.

O the Wonder of it all!
The wonder of it all!
Just to think that God loves me.

These are the words and music penned by the late George Beverly Shea so often heard on Billy Graham crusades all over the world.

George Beverly Shea was born in Ontario, Canada to a Wesleyan Methodist minister.  He was a very shy boy but displayed his musical gifts at a young age and performed in his father's church.  He began playing chords on his family's piano by the age of 5.  Shea said he became a Christian at the age of five or six but made a rededication to Christ at the age of 18.

One Sunday morning in 1926, Shea reluctantly was talked into singing a solo on a Sunday morning worship service and that was the beginning a lifelong career of displaying his baritone voice as a service to his Lord and Savior.  A few years later, when sitting down at the piano, he noticed a poem written by his mother and immediately the tune "I'd Rather Have Jesus" began to flow.  He would soon find himself performing his talents on Christian radio.

Shea became the staff announcer for the Moody Bible Institute's radio station.  It was during that time that he met the young Billy Graham.  Graham asked Shea to sing on his new radio program and the rest is history.  Billy Graham asked his friend to perform on crusades with him throughout the world.  Shea was also constantly composing songs along with singing hundreds of concerts.  Over the years, Shea received numerous honors and accolades including a Grammy award in 1965, a lifetime achievement award in 2011 and membership in the Gospel Music Association's Hall of Fame in 1978.  He was also the recipient of the Southern Baptist Evangelists Hall of Faith in 2008.  He was nominated for ten Grammy Awards.

George Beverly Shea has the distinction of having performed live before more people than anyone in history.  His largest performance was in 1973 during a meeting in Seoul South Korea in which 1.1 million people attended.

Shea authored a number of books including his autobiography "Then Sings My Soul"as well as "Songs that Lift the Heart" "How Sweet the Sound" and "Stories Behind 50 Southern Gospel Favorites" and also appeared in several films.  He was also the subject in the book, "George Beverly Shea: Tell Me the Story" written by Paul Davis.

George Shea funeral and special casket
Billy Graham said of Shea "Bev was the very first person I asked to join me in evangelism.  It was God who brought us together.  Bev will always be remembered as "America's beloved Gospel singer, whose rich bass-baritone voice touched the hearts of millions in our Crusades and through his recordings.  I have sometimes said that I would feel lost getting up to preach if Bev were not there to prepare the way through an appropriate song.  But I will always be grateful not only for his musical contributions to our Crusades but also for his warm spirit and his personal friendship over the years."

George Beverly Shea died on April 16, 2013 at the age of 104 following complications from a stroke.

George Shea's program and card
Shea's funeral was attended by nearly 1000 people including Billy Graham at the Anderson Auditorium in Montreat, North Carolina (funeral program pictured).  He was laid to rest in an Angola casket made by the inmates of the Louisiana State Penitentiary.  Warden Burl Cain from the penitentiary attended and was quoted as saying "I thought it was the most incredible funeral.  It was just a great celebration of
someone's life."Among those who eulogized Shea was Cliff Barrows of the Billy Graham ministry.  Several of Shea's recorded music were
played during the service.

Shea was laid to rest on the grounds of the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina.
George Beverly Shea's resting place at Billy Graham library

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Remembering Rodney Dangerfield November 22, 1921 - October 5, 2004

He got his big break when the Ed Sullivan Show called him on March 5, 1967 following the cancellation of a performer asking Rodney Dangerfield to fill in that would result in the beginning of a successful career in comedy and film.

He was born Jacob Rodney Cohen in Babylon, New York to Jewish parents.  His father was a vaudevillian performer and were both descendants from Hungary.  His dad abandoned his family when Jacob was very young.  His mother moved to Queens, New York and Jacob attended Richmond Hill High School.  Jacob took on several jobs to support his family that included selling newspapers, ice cream, and delivering groceries.

When Jacob turned 15, he began to write for standup comedians and would soon perform his own standup at the age of 20 under the name of Jack Roy.  For several years, Dangerfield struggled to make ends meet and took jobs as a singing waiter and performed as an acrobatic diver.  He soon gave up his entertainment career to become an aluminum siding salesman.

In the 1960's, Dangerfield decided to give comedy another shot and returned to the stage by performing in hotels in the Catskill Mountains.  He decided he needed a unique image and style if he was to be successful.  It was then that he took on the name Rodney Dangerfield (came from a character of Jack Benny) and his character was one of never doing anything right.  Dangerfield gives Jack Benny credit for encouraging him.

Following Dangerfield's appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, Dangerfield began headlining shows in Las Vegas and continued to make appearances on the Sullivan show.  He also made numerous appearances on television including "The Tonight Show" 35 times as well as "The Dean Martin Show" He traveled on the road most of the time until he decided to build the Dangerfield Comedy Club that allowed him to stay home.  The club became very successful and hosted many television comedy shows that included many up and coming stars.

He won a Grammy Award for his album "No Respect" and a television special featured the song "Rappin Rodney" that became one of the first Hot 100 rap records.  His career began to peak in the 1980's when Dangerfield was featured in comedy movies that included "Caddyshack" "Easy Money" and "Back to School"  He also was featured in advertising campaigns for Miller Beer.  He took on a serious role as an abusive father in "Natural Born Killers"  Another film was "Little Nicky" with Adam Sandler.

Over the years, Dangerfield helped the career of several entertainers of comedy including Jim Carrey.

In 2001, Dangerfield suffered a mild heart attack while backstage of the Tonight Show.  He also began experiencing other health problems While in the hospital, it is said that someone asked him how long he had to stay in the hospital.  Dangerfield replied "if all goes well about a week.  If not, about an hour and a half."

It was reported that in September of 2004, Dangerfield was in a coma.  On October 5, 2004, Dangerfield died at the age of 82 from complications from surgery.

Dangerfield cookie and bookmark
Over Dangerfield's career, he always told his wife and agent to never book performances during the day.  When making Dangerfield's funeral arrangements, his wife, Joan decided it would be appropriate to conduct his funeral in the evening.  It has been reported that Dangerfield's funeral was one of the most elaborate funerals ever reported.  The funeral was held at Westwood Village Memorial Park and his wife created a candle-lit heaven's harvest that featured chandeliers that hung from trees and white cashmere carpet that covered the ground leading to the chapel.  A harpist performed as friends and family entered the chapel and all in attendance were presented his funeral program (pictured) that featured Dangerfield's signature red tie as well as a caricature cookie and bookmark thanking those in attendance for attending.  Bob Saget was the master of ceremonies and others who eulogized Dangerfield were Jay Leno who said that Dangerfield was the greatest standup comic of all time.  as well as Tim Allen, Roseanne, and Paul Rodriguez.  Highlighting the event, was a special memorial video created that included many of Dangerfield's special moments.  The funeral concluded with Frank Sinatra's "Come Fly With Me" that was the song playing in the hospital room the moment that Dangerfield died.  Following the service, pallbearers that included Adam Sandler, Michael Bolton, Jim Carrey, Rob Schneider, and Bob Saget carried Dangerfield's casket to its final resting place in Westwood.
Rodney Dangerfield funeral program

Academy Award producer Al Ruddy said of Dangerfield's funeral "It couldn't have been a better funeral if I had produced it.  For a man who didn't get no respect, Rodney's funeral certainly made up for it.

Dangerfield was laid to rest near several other actors and entertainers that include Carroll O'Conner, Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon.  Dangerfield's monument includes his engraved epitaph "There Goes The Neighborhood"
Dangerfield monument