Friday, November 29, 2013

Remembering Leslie W. Nielsen February 11, 1926 - November 28, 2010

"Let er Rip"

This is the epitaph on the marker of one of the funniest comedic characters in the history of film and television.

Leslie W. Nielsen appeared in more than one hundred films and over 1500 television programs and took on the role of nearly 220 characters over his career.

He was born in Canada.  His mom was a Welsh immigrant and his father was a Danish born constable in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  Leslie and his brothers suffered from physical abuse from their father.  After Leslie graduated from the Victoria School of Performing and Visual Arts in Edmonton at the age of 17, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force even though he was for the most part, deaf. He was trained as an aerial gunner. Leslie's uncle was a popular entertainer on a long running radio series.  He eventually worked as a disc jockey for an Alberta Canada radio station and enrolled in the Lorne Greene Academy of Radio Arts in Toronto.  He received a scholarship to the Neighborhood Playhouse where he studied theater.

Nielsen made his television debut in 1948 on an episode of "Studio One" alongside Charlton Heston.  His career began with serious roles  during the "Television's Golden Age." having appeared in fifty live programs in 1950.  In 1956, Nielsen made his first feature film in the musical film "The Vagabond King" and his career began to move to another level.  He was offered a role in "Forbidden Planet" that resulted in his signing a long term contract with MGM.  He would soon appear in "Ransom" "The Opposite Sex" and "Hot Summer Night" and then appeared with Debbie Reynolds in "Tammy and the Bachelor"  After leaving MGM, he took on roles in "Ben-Hur" and "The Swamp Fox"

Leslie Nielsen also appeared in many television episodes including "Justice, "Alfred Hitchcock" "The Virginian" and "The Wild Wild West"  He also had a major role in "Hawaii Five O and a police officer in "The Bold Ones: The Protectors."

He is probably most remembered for his exemplary performances in "Airplane!"and "The Naked Gun." He continued his acting career in

his eighties having performed serious roles in his one man theater show "Darrow" and provided voiceovers in "Zeroman" and "Pumper Pups" He also appeared as a celebrity contestant on the CBS Gameshow Marathon having played on "The Price Is Right" "Let's Make A Deal" and "Beat the Clock"

He received numerous accolades during his career that included a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a Golden Palm Star on the Walk of Stars.  Grant MacEwan College named its school of communications after him.

Leslie Nielsen died from pneumonia on Nov. 28, 2010 at the age of 84.

Cover of Leslie's funeral program designed by his wife
Kleenex created by Leslie himself
His funeral was unlike most in that it was an open casket cocktail party.  Leslie's wife is an artist and her painting was the cover of the funeral program (pictured).  the memorial was billed "Cocktails With Leslie and Barbaree"  Nearly 100 family members and friends socialized in the Lago Mar Resort in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  It was reported that Leslie got a final laugh when a whoopee cushion was placed underneath his remains and its sound penetrated during his service.  As part of the celebration of Leslie's life, clips of Leslie's films and television shows were played.  Because of Leslie's love of law enforcement, the Broward County retired police organization provided the color guard and the Broward Sheriff's motorcycles escorted the casket from the funeral home to Lago Mar.

Those in attendance each received a container of kleenex (pictured)
that were inscribed with Leslie's own words "Stop Crying!!!! This is supposed to be a fun night.  Love & Laughs   Leslie

Leslie rests in the Evergreen Cemetery in Fort
Lauderdale that not only includes his epitaph but a bench sits near his gravesite with the words "Sit Down Whenever You Can  Leslie Nielsen.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Remembering Rev. Dr. George M. Docherty May 9, 1911 - November 27, 2008

Abraham Lincoln routinely attended the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington D.C. located a few blocks from the White House.  Later, the church was attended by many other U.S. Presidents on the Sunday nearest Lincoln's birthday and a special pew was reserved for those presidents in the exact seat where Lincoln sat.

During President Dwight Eisenhower's years in office, the church was pastored by a gentleman by the name of Rev. George MacPherson Docherty.  Eisenhower attended the service on Lincoln Sunday, February 7, 1954.  Docherty preached a message that Sunday on calling for the addition of "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance.  He borrowed the phrase from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address that included the words "this Nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom. Docherty's message inspired Eisenhower. The following day, Eisenhower and other members of Congress began amending the "Pledge" to include those words.  On Feb. 8, 1954 the bill was introduced to Congress and the bill was signed by Eisenhower on Flag Day (June 14, 1954).  Docherty's sermon was published in 1958 by Harper & Bros. in New York.

Docherty was born in Glasgow, Scotland and worked as a shipping clerk.  During his 20's, he decided to enter the ministry and earned two degrees from the University of Glasgow.

Docherty with Eisenhower
Dr. Docherty continued to pastor the church for 26 years.  He was very active in the civil rights movement during those years and had developed a relationship with Martin Luther King and Billy Graham along with many others.  He was also an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War.  Docherty hosted a television program in Washington D.C. as well as authored a book of his sermons entitled "One Way Living" His biography of memoirs was also written called "I've Seen the Day."

Rev. Docherty memorial folder
Dr. Docherty retired from the ministry in 1976.  He eventually settled in Alexandria, Pennsylvania and continued to serve as a guest pastor and teacher.

Rev. George Docherty died at his home on Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 2008 from a heart ailment.

Rev. Docherty funeral program
The John B. Brown Funeral Home in Huntington was in charge of Dr. Docherty's funeral arrangements.  On Dec. 21, 2008, his memorial service (program pictured) was held in the historic church Docherty faithfully served, the New York Ave. Presbyterian  Church in Washington D.C.  A visitation was held Dec. 1, 2008 in the Huntington Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania followed by his funeral service (program pictured)

St. Michael's Cemetery
Dr. Docherty was laid to rest in the St. Michael's Orthodox Church Cemetery in Wood, Pennsylvania.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Remembering Larry Hagman September 21, 1931 - November 23, 2012

"Who Shot J.R.?"

Larry Hagman
This was the catchphrase given to one of the most watched television episodes in TV history.  This episode drew an estimated 350 million people from 57 countries and had a Nielsen rating of 53.3 and a 76% share.  It drew more people than the presidential election that year.

This show was one from the successful and long running television show "Dallas.

"J.R." was played by actor, Larry Hagman.  "J.R. Ewing" was a villainous oil baron from Dallas, Texas.

Larry Hagman was born in Fort Worth, Texas, the son of actress, Mary Martin, most known for her role as Peter Pan and the prominent attorney, Ben Hagman.   During Larry's childhood, his parents divorced and for a brief time was raised by his grandmother.  Following his grandmother's death, Larry returned to be with his mother who had remarried.  Soon after, his mother pursued a Broadway career and Larry moved with his father.  After graduating from Weatherford High School, Larry enrolled in Bard College in New York and decided to follow in his mother's footsteps to pursue an acting career.  His first professional appearance occurred in the Margo Jones Theatre-in-the-Round in Dallas followed by "Taming the Shrew" in New York.  He soon moved to England to become a member of his mom's stage production of "South Pacific"

Larry enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and his job was producing and directing shows for the armed forces.  Following his military service, Larry returned to New York and appeared in a series of Broadway plays. During that time, he married and he and his wife had two children. Larry's family soon moved to Hollywood and Larry made guest appearances in several television shows including "Harbormaster" "Medical Center" "Harry O" "Streets of San Francisco" and "The Rockford Files" to name a few.

"Dallas" was not the first television role that Larry is most recognized but many remember him alongside Barbara Eden on the popular "I Dream of Jeannie"  He played an astronaut on the series that ran for five seasons and produced 139 episodes.  His film career includes roles in "The Cavern" "Fail-Safe" "Nixon" and "Primary Colors"

Cast from Dallas
Because of his popularity on Dallas, Larry became a Texas legend and hosted "Lone Star" a documentary about the state of Texas.

Off screen, Larry became actively involved in numerous civic activities including chairman of the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout from 1981-92.  He was also the National Spokesperson for the 1996 U.S. Transplant Games by the National Kidney Foundation.  He participated in the Love Ride 23 Harley Davidson in Glendale, California that raised 1.7 million dollars for charity.  He was an avid "Harley-hog" and enjoyed fishing, traveling, and was a collector of hats and flags.  Many don't realize that he recorded a single  called "Ballad of the Good Luck Charm" and in 2001, wrote his autobiography called "Hello Darlin: Tall (and Absolutely True) Tales About My Life."  His motto in life was "Don't Worry. Be Happy, Feel Good!"

In 1992, Larry was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and a cancerous tumor developed.  Soon, Larry had a liver transplant that restored his life.

Larry Hagman memorial program
Larry continued with his successful career and it was decided to bring "Dallas" back to television.  It was during the filming of the renewed "Dallas" that Larry had developed a cancerous tumor behind his tongue.  In July 2012, he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and worked hard in continuing his role on the new "Dallas" but his cancer ended his life on Nov. 23, 2012 where he died peacefully.  He was 81.  It was reported that his family and close friends (including his "Dallas" family) had joined him to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Larry's memorial service
Larry Hagman's life was remembered (program pictured) in a touching memorial service on the grounds of the Southfork Ranch.  Many props from the show including photographs, hats, and belt buckles were displayed and eulogies were given by co-stars Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy. Others attending the memorial were actor Lee Majors and tycoon, Caroline Rose Hunt. Hundreds of people on the days following Larry's passing paid homage to Larry at the Southfork ranch and following cremation, Larry was laid to rest on the grounds of Southfork.
Larry Hagman resting place

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Remembering Davy Jones December 30, 1945 - February 29, 2012

"From horse jockey to teen idol" describes the life of Davy Jones.

Davy was born in Openshaw, Manchester, England.  His mom died of emphysema when Davy was 14 years old.  He enjoyed working with horses and began his career as a jockey when he took a job with the Newmarket thoroughbred racing group.  He dropped out of school and his jockeying career ended soon after he took an interest in acting when he tried out for the role as "Artful Dodger" in the production of "Oliver!" in London's West End" He left England to come to the United States and appeared on Broadway in the same production and  was nominated for a Tony Award.  During that time, he also performed on the Ed Sullivan Show on the same episode that featured The Beatles.  While watching the Beatles and the excitement of fans, Davy decided that he wanted to draw the same exuberance.

Following his appearance on the Sullivan show, he signed a contract with the predecessor of Columbia Pictures and made appearances on
episodes of the "Ben Casey" show  and "The Farmer's Daughter"  He also began his musical career having begun a solo career in 1965 with a single called "What Are We Going To Do?"  and an album soon followed.

The Monkees
"The Monkees" formed as a result of the beginning of a television series that was produced by Screen Gems and Davy became the lead singer of the group. The series became extremely popular and resulted in "Monkeemania" and the recordings of big hits that included "I Wanna Be Free" and "Daydream Believer." The group continued until 1971 when they disbanded.  The group also had a huge hit called "Last Train To Clarksville" that reached the top of the charts. The show continued in syndication.  Three years later, Jones came together again with Monkee, Mickey Dolenz and musicians, Boyce and Hart.

Twenty years after the end of the Monkees, they were reunited for a broadcast called "Pleasant Valley Sunday" and "Monkeemania" resulted once again until they discontinued their performances.  They continued to perform on different anniversaries of the groups creation.  Jones last tour came on the 45th anniversary of the group in what was called "An Evening with The Monkees: The 45th Anniversary Tour."

Davy Jones and his horses
Davy Jones opened a store that sold "hip" clothing called Zilch in Greenwich Village in 1967 and in 1971, he also created a New York style street market in Los Angeles called "The Street" He continued to make solo performances from time to time.  He also recorded solo albums and renewed his acting once again.  He appeared in "Here Comes the Bride" "Love, American Style," My Two Dads," and The Brady Bunch.  He also appeared in an animated form of himself in "Scooby Doo" movies.  He made a cameo appearance in "SpongeBob SquarePants" and continued to record and perform over the years.

In 2008, Yahoo! Music named him the "Number 1 teen idol of all time and Fox News listed him 2nd on it's list of the 10 best teen idols of all time in 2009.  Jones published his autobiography in 1987 called "They Made A Monkee Out of Me."

 Davy continued his love of horses having owned and raised several horses in Florida.  He also had a residence for many years in the small town of Beaverton, Pennsylvania where he acquired a closed church and planned to create a museum in its location.

Jones memorial program
On February 29, 2012, Jones was riding one of his horses when he began to experience chest pains and difficulty breathing.  An ambulance was called and he was taken to Martin Memorial South Hospital in Stuart, Florida where he was pronounced dead.  The cause of his death was a severe heart attack due to atherosclerosis.  He was 66 years of age.

A private funeral was held at the Holy Cross Catholic Church in Indiantown, Florida.

One of three banners displayed at memorial in Beaverton
Memorial services were also held in New York City and Beaverton, Pennsylvania (program and banner shown).  The service in Beaverton was held near the future site of Davy's museum.  The town of Beaverton has plans to continue Davy's dream for the museum.

Davy Jones was cremated and his ashes have supposedly been returned to his birthplace of Manchester, England.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Remembering Christa McAuliffe September 2, 1948 - January 28, 1986

"From triumph to disaster"

These words can describe the life of the first teacher in space.

Christa McAuliffe was born Sharon Christa Corrigan in Boston, Massachusetts and was the eldest of five children to an accountant and a substitute teacher.

Christa graduated from Marian High School in Framingham, Massachusetts.  While in high school, she had always been inspired by the space program and especially the Apollo moon landing program.  She was a big fan of astronaut, John Glenn.  Following high school, she attended the Framingham State College where she earned a B.A. degree in history.  She would soon marry her longtime boyfriend, Steve McAuliffe who had recently graduated from VMI and the two moved to Washington D.C.  in order for her husband to attend law school.

She began teaching history at a junior high school in Maryland.  She also eventually obtained her masters degree from Bowie State University of Maryland.  In 1978, the McAuliffe's moved to Concord, New Hampshire and she continued teaching several courses including a self designed course called, "The American Woman."  The purpose of her course emphasized the impact of ordinary people in history.  She had always thought an important aspect of learning was through field trips and bringing in specialized speakers who could inspire her students.

President Ronald Reagan announced the creation of the Teacher in Space program in 1984 that's purpose was for NASA to eventually put a teacher into space for the purpose of communicating with the teacher's students while in orbit.  Christa was one of over 11000 applicants to the program.  When they narrowed the field of applicants to 10, Christa was invited to the Johnson Space Center that
required her to take a variety of medical tests and briefings about space flight.  Because of Christa's
"infectious enthusiasm, she would be the selected person along with an alternate, Barbara Morgan.

NASA paid the salaries of the two over the next year as they trained a learned more about space exploration.  It was soon announced that she would be part of the STS-51-L crew.  The teaching curriculum was also developed that included experiments in magnetism, chromatography and Newton's laws.  She had also planned to conduct two 15 minute classes from space and included a tour of the spacecraft called "The Ultimate Field Trip" and "Where We've Been, Where We're Going, Why"  During that same year, McAuliffe appeared on several television programs including "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" "Good Morning America" and "CBS Morning News"

Memorial program
On January 28, 1986, McAuliffe and the six crew members boarded the Space Shuttle Challenger.  Thousands witnessed the take off and 73 seconds into the flight at 48000 feet, the shuttle exploded.  All aboard were killed instantly.  It was later determined that the disaster was caused by a defect in the part of the spacecraft called "O-Rings."

STS 51-L memorial service
Over the next several days, the country was glued to the television as we witnessed the events as they unfolded including the funerals and memorials of the Challenger crew.

Fr. James Leary, the priest who married Christa and her husband Steve, officiated a private funeral mass for Christa  on Feb. 3 in the St. Peter's Catholic Church in Concord, New Hampshire that was attended by nearly 500 people.

A public memorial service for Christa (program pictured) was held on Feb. 7.  Other memorial services for the crew were held at NASA headquarters.
Christa's resting place

Her remains rest in the Blossom Hill Cemetery in her hometown of Concord, New Hampshire.