Day in History 22 July – Alan Shepard – Dennis Farina

On this day in 1998, the 29th anniversary of the first moonwalk, United States Navy veteran, test pilot, flag officer, NASA astronaut, Alan Shepard died of leukemia near his home in Pebble Beach, California at the age of 74.  Born Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr. on 18 November 1923 in Derry, New Hampshire.  The first American in space and the fifth person to walk on the moon.  Shepard was one of the original seven Mercury astronauts along with Virgil Ivan “Gus” Grissom, John Herschel Glenn, Jr., Malcolm Scott Carpenter, Walter Marty “Wally” Schirra, Jr., Leroy Gordon Cooper, Jr. and Donald Kent “Deke” Slayton.  Shepard married Louise Brewer (1945-1998 his death).  In the film The Right Stuff (1983) based on the book by Tom Wolfe, Shepard was portrayed by Scott Glenn.  The film also featured; Sam Shepard as Chuck Yeager, Ed Harris as John Glenn, Dennis Quaid as Gordon Cooper, Fred Ward as Gus Grissom, Scott Paulin as Deke Slayton, Charles Frank as Scott Carpenter and Lance Henriksen as Wally Shirra.  Wonderful movie and book; I highly recommend both.

The Lone Cypress a symbol of Pebble Beach

The Final Footprint – Shepard was cremated and his cremains, and that of his wife’s who would die five weeks later, were scattered from a Navy helicopter over Stillwater Cove near their Pebble Beach home.


Dennis_Farina_2011_ShankboneOn this day in 2013, actor of film and television and former Chicago police officer Dennis Farina died in a hospital in Scottsdale, Arizona after suffering a blood clot in his lung, at the age of 69.  Born in Chicago, Illinois, to Sicilian-American parents Iolanda, a homemaker, and Joseph Farina, a Sicilian immigrant doctor, on 29 February 1944.  He was a character actor, often typecast as a mobster or police officer.  Perhaps his most known film roles are those of mobster Jimmy Serrano in the comedy Midnight Run and Ray “Bones” Barboni in Get Shorty.  He starred on television as Lieutenant Mike Torello on Crime Story and as Detective Joe Fontana on Law & Order.  He also hosted and narrated a revived version of Unsolved Mysteries.  His last major television role was in HBO’s Luck, which premiered on 29 January 2012.  The Final Footprint – Farina is interred in Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois.

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Day in History 21 July – Robert Burns – Owen Wister

On this day in 1796, Scottish poet, lyricist and farmer,  Rabbie Burns, Scotland’s favourite son, the Ploughman Poet, Robden of Solway Firth, the Bard of Ayrshire, The Bard, Robert Burns died in Dumfries, Scotland at the age of 37.  Born Robert Burnes on 25 January 1759 near Ayr, in Alloway, South Ayrshire, Scotland.  Widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and celebrated worldwide, Burns is a cultural icon in Scotland.  Burns collected folk songs from across Scotland, often revising or adapting them.  His poem (and song) Auld Lang Syne is often sung at Hogmanay (the last day of the year), and Scots Wha Hae served for a long time as an unofficial national anthem of the country.  Other poems and songs of Burns that remain well-known across the world today include; A Red, Red Rose; A Man’s A Man for A’ That; To a Louse; To a Mouse; The Battle of Sherramuir; Tam o’ Shanter, and Ae Fond Kiss.  Burns was married to Jean Armour and romantically involved with Elizabeth Paton, Mary Campbell, Agnes Nancy McLehose and Jenny Clow.  The Final Footprint – Burns is entombed in the Burns Private Mausoleum at St. Michael’s Churchyard in Dumfries.  His birthplace, Burns Cottage, is now a museum.  Bronze statues in honour of Burns have been erected around the world including: Dorchester Square in Montreal, Quebec; Bernard Street in Leith, Scotland by David Watson Stevenson; Central Park, New York by Sir John Steell; in Dundee, Scotland; Thames Embankment Gardens in London; Dunedin, New Zealand; Union Terrace Gardens in Aberdeen by Henry Bain Smith; Allan Gardens, Toronto by Emanual Hahns; Stanley Park in Vancouver; Eglinton Country Park, North Ayrshire by Clement Wilson; Dumfries town centre.  John Steinbeck apparently took the title of his novel Of Mice and Men (1937) from a line contained in the second-to-last stanza of To a Mouse: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley“.  When asked for the source of his greatest creative inspiration, singer songwriter Bob Dylan selected Burns’s 1794 song A Red, Red Rose, as the lyric that had the biggest effect on his life.  The author J. D. Salinger used protagonist Holden Caulfield’s misinterpretation of Burns’ poem Comin’ Through the Rye as his title and a main interpretation of Holden’s grasping to his childhood in his 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye.  The poem, actually about a rendezvous, is thought by Holden to be about saving people from falling out of childhood.  Burns became the “people’s poet” of Russia and became a symbol for the ordinary Russian people.  Burns Night, effectively a second national day, is celebrated on 25 January with Burns suppers around the world, and is still more widely observed than the official national day, St. Andrew’s Day.  The first Burns supper in The Mother Club in Greenock was held in 1802 and the format of Burns suppers has not changed since.  The basic format starts with a general welcome and announcements, followed with the Selkirk Grace – Scots: “Some hae meat and canna eat, And some wad eat that want it, But we hae meat and we can eat, Sae let the Lord be thankit.”  English: “Some have food and cannot eat, And some would eat that lack it, But we have food and we can eat, So let God be thanked.”  After the grace, comes the piping and cutting of the haggis, where Burns’ famous Address To a Haggis is read and the haggis is cut open.  The event usually allows for people to start eating just after the haggis is presented.  This is when the reading called the “immortal memory”, an overview of Burns’ life and work, is given.  The event usually concludes with the singing of Auld Lang Syne.  From the last verse of Auld Lang Syne; “And there’s a hand my trusty friend !  And give us a hand o’ thine !  And we’ll take a right good-will draught, for auld lang syne!” and for Robert Burns!

Owen_WisterOn this day in 1938, writer, “Father of Western Fiction”, Owen Wister died at his home in Saunderstown, Rhode Island at the age of 78.  Born on 14 July 1860, in Germantown, a neighborhood in the northwestern part of Philadelphia.  Perhaps best remembered for writing The Virginian (1902), a pioneering novel set in the Wild West describing the life of a cowboy on a cattle ranch in Wyoming.  It was the first true western written, aside from short stories and pulp dime novels.  In 1898, Wister married Mary Channing, his cousin.  The couple had six children.  OwenWisterGraveThe Final Footprint – Wister is interred in Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.  Just within the western boundary of the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, there is an 11,490-foot mountain named Mount Wister named in his honour.  The Virginian has been made into four feature films, a television movie and a television series starring James Drury and Doug McClure.

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Day in History 20 July – James Doohan – Pancho Villa – Bruce Lee

jamesDoohan-portraet1On this day in 2005, Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery veteran, character and voice actor, James Doohan died at his home in Redmond, Washington from pneumonia and Alzheimers.  Born James Montgomery Doohan on 3 March 1920 in Vancouver, British Columbia.  His parents emigrated to Canada from Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland.  Perhaps best known and loved for his portayal of Montgomery “Scotty” Scott in the television and film series Star Trek, created by Gene Roddenberry and also featuring William Shatner as James Tiberius Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Spock, DeForest Kelley as Dr. Leonard H. “Bones” McCoy, Nichelle Nichols as Nyota Uhuru, George Takei as Hikaru Sulu and Walter Koenig as Pavel Andreievich Chekov.  Yes, I am an unabashed Trekkie!  Doohan married three times; Janet Young (divorced 1964), Anita Yagel (1967-1972 divorce) and Wende Braunberger (1974-2005 his death).  Beam me up Scotty!

Gig Harbor Puget Sound with Mount Rainier in the background

The Final Footprint – Doohan was cremated.  On 28 April 2007, a portion of his cremains, along with those of astronaut Gordon Cooper, were launched into suborbital flight and then parachuted back to Earth.  This portion of Doohan’s cremains were subsequently launched again on 3 August 2008 on a Falcon I rocket which failed two minutes after launch.  A portion of his cremains were scattered over Puget Sound in Washington.  On May 22, 2012, a small urn containing some of Doohan’s cremains was flown into space aboard the Falcon 9 rocket as part of COTS Demo Flight 2.

Pancho_villa_horsebackOn this day in 1923, prominent Mexican Revolutionary general, Pancho Villa was killed when a fusillade of over 40 gunshots hit the automobile he was riding in, in Parral, Mexico.  Villa was 45.  Born José Doroteo Arango Arámbula on 5 June 1878 in La Coyotada, San Juan del Río, Durango, Mexico.  The Final Footprint – The next day, Villa’s funeral was held and thousands of his grieving supporters in Parral followed his casket to his burial site.  Shortly after his death, two theories emerged about why he was killed.  One was that he was killed as an act of family revenge by Jesus Herrera, the last surviving son of Villa’s former general Jose de la Luz Herrera.  The other theory that emerged was that Villa was killed for political reasons.  At the time of his death, Villa had taken an interest in running for President of Mexico and would have presented a significant challenge to his rival potential candidate Plutarco Elias Calles.  While it has never been completely proven who was responsible for the assassination, most historians attribute Villa’s death to a well planned conspiracy, most likely initiated by Plutarco Elías Calles and Joaquin Amaro with at least tacit approval of the then president of Mexico, Obregon.  At the time, a state legislator from Durango, Jesus Salas Barraza, whom Villa once whipped during a quarrel over a woman, claimed sole responsibility for the plot.  Barraza admitted that he told his friend Gabriel Chavez, who worked as a dealer for General Motors, that he would kill Villa if he were paid 50,000 pesos.  Chavez, who wasn’t wealthy and didn’t have 50,000 pesos on hand, then collected money from enemies of Villa and managed to collect a total of 100,000 pesos for Barraza and his other co-conspirators.  Barraza also admitted that he and his co-conspirators watched Villa’s daily car-rides and paid the pumpkinseed vendor at the scene of Villa’s assassination to shout “Viva Villa!” either once if Villa was sitting in the front part of the car or twice if he was sitting in the back.  It was reported that before Barraza died of a stroke in his Mexico City home in 1951, his last words were “I’m not a murderer. I rid humanity of a monster.”  Villa’s purported death mask was hidden at the Radford School in El Paso, Texas, until the 1970s, when it was sent to the Historical Museum of the Mexican Revolution in Chihuahua; other museums have ceramic and bronze representations that do not match this mask.  Villa was buried in the city cemetery of Parral, Chihuahua.  Villa’s skull was stolen from his grave in 1926.  His remains were reburied in the Monument to the Revolution in Mexico City in 1976.

BruceLeecardOn this day in 1973, actor, martial arts instructor, philosopher, film director, film producer, screenwriter, founder of Jeet Kune Do, and the son of Cantonese opera actor Lee Hoi-Chuen, Bruce Lee died in Hong Kong at the age of 32.  After complaining of a headache, Lee took a painkiller, Equagesic, which contained both aspirin and the muscle relaxant meprobamate.  Lee took a nap and later could not woken up.  A doctor was summoned, who spent ten minutes attempting to revive him before sending him by ambulance to Queen Elizabeth Hospital.  Lee was dead by the time he reached the hospital.  There was no visible external injury; however, according to autopsy reports, his brain had swollen considerably.  The only substance found during the autopsy was Equagesic.  When the doctors announced Lee’s death officially, it was ruled a “death by misadventure”.  Donald Teare, a forensic scientist recommended by Scotland Yard who had overseen over 1,000 autopsies, was assigned to the Lee case.  His conclusion was “death by misadventure” caused by an acute cerebral edema due to a reaction to compounds present in the combination medication Equagesic.  The Final Footprint –  Lee’s wife Linda returned to her hometown of Seattle, and had him buried at lot 276 of Lakeview Cemetery.  Pallbearers at his funeral on 31 July 1973 included Taky Kimura, Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Chuck Norris, George Lazenby, Dan Inosanto, Peter Chin, and Lee’s brother Robert.  Lee’s iconic status and untimely demise fed many theories about his death, including murder involving the triads and a supposed curse on him and his family.  Black Belt magazine in 1985 carried the speculation that the death of Bruce Lee in 1973 may have been caused by “a delayed reaction to a Dim Mak strike he received several weeks prior to his collapse”.  Born Lee Jun-fan on 27 November 1940 in San Francisco.

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Day in History 19 July – Petrarch – Mary Jo Kopechne – Lefty Frizzell

On this day in 1374, scholar, poet, humanist, “The Father of Humanism”, “The Father of the Renaissance”, Petrarch died at his home in Arquà Petrarca, Veneto, Italy one day before his 70th birthday.  Born Francesco Petrarca on 20 July 1304 in Arezzo, Tuscany, Italy.  He rediscovered many Ancient Greek and Roman writers and his belief that there was no real conflict between Classical and Christian thought anticipated the Renaissance spirit.  He did not see a conflict between realizing humanity’s potential and having religious faith.  Petrarch is perhaps best known for his Il Canzoniere (Song Book) a collection of  366 poems which address his lifelong unrequited love for a mysterious woman named Laura.  In many of these he developed and perfected the sonnet form, and the “Petrarchan sonnet” still bears his name.  Apparently, on 6 April 1327, Good Friday, the sight of a woman called “Laura” in the church of Sainte-Claire d’Avignon awoke in him a lasting passion.  Laura may have been Laura de Noves, the wife of Count Hugues de Sade (an ancestor of the Marquis de Sade).  According to his “Secretum”, she refused him for the very proper reason that she was already married to another man.  Petrarch channeled his feelings into love poems.  Upon her death in 1348, he found that his grief was as difficult to live with as was his former unrequited longing.  Later in his “Letter to Posterity”, Petrarch wrote: “In my younger days I struggled constantly with an overwhelming but pure love affair – my only one, and I would have struggled with it longer had not premature death, bitter but salutary for me, extinguished the cooling flames.  I certainly wish I could say that I have always been entirely free from desires of the flesh, but I would be lying if I did.”  I have always been fascinated by poems and stories inspired by the exquisitely painful longing of unrequited love.  Petrarch never married but possibly fathered two children, a son Giovanni and a daughter Francesca, with a woman or women who remain unknown to posterity.  The Final Footprint – Petrarch is entombed in the town square of Arquà Petrarca.  There is a marble statue of Petrarch on the Uffizi Palace, in Florence.  The Romantic composer Franz Liszt set three of Petrarch’s Sonnets (47, 104, and 123) to music for voice, Tre sonetti del Petrarca, which he later would transcribe for solo piano for inclusion in the suite Années de Pèlerinage.

Mary_Jo_KopechneOn this day in 1969, teacher, secretary, and political campaign specialist, Mary Jo Kopechne died at the age of 28 in a car accident in Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts while a passenger in a car being driven by U.S. Senator Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy.  Born on 26 July 1940 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.  On 18 July 1969, Kopechne attended a party on Chappaquiddick Island, off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.  The celebration was in honor of the dedicated work of the Boiler Room Girls, and was the fourth such reunion of the Robert F. Kennedy campaign workers.  Kopechne reportedly left the party at 11:15 p.m. with Robert’s brother Ted, after he offered to drive her to catch the last ferry back to Edgartown, where she was staying.  Kennedy drove the 1967 Oldsmobile Delmont 88 off a narrow, unlit bridge, which was without guardrails and was not on the route to Edgartown.  The Oldsmobile landed in Poucha Pond and overturned in the water; Kennedy extricated himself from the vehicle and survived, but Kopechne did not.  Kennedy failed to report the incident to the authorities until the car and Kopechne’s body were discovered the next morning.  The Final Footprint – A private funeral for Kopechne was held on 22 July 1969, at St. Vincent’s Roman Catholic Church in Plymouth, Pennsylvania, attended by Kennedy.  She is buried in the parish cemetery on the side of Larksville Mountain.

Lefty_Frizzell_Columbia_publicity_-_croppedOn this day in 1975, singer and songwriter Lefty Frizzell died at age 47 after a massive stroke.  Born William Orville Frizzell on 31 March 1928 in Corsicana, Texas.  The Final Footprint – Frizzell was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens in Goodlettsville, Tennessee.  In October 1982, Frizzell was posthumously inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  Merle Haggard said “The impact Lefty had on country music is not even measurable. … No one could handle a song like Lefty. He would hold on to each word until he finally decided to drop it and pick up the next one. Most of us learned to sing listening to him.”  George Strait recorded a Sanger D. Shafer song called “Lefty’s Gone” on the album Something Special.  In addition, Willie Nelson‘s 1977 album, To Lefty From Willie was a tribute to Frizzell and consisted entirely of cover versions of Frizzell songs.  Frizzell has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  He is also in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.  Fellow Texan Roy Orbison was a devout fan of Frizzell’s sound, and in 1988, as a part of the Traveling Wilburys, he chose the name “Lefty Wilbury” to honor his musical hero.

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Day in History 18 July – Jane Austen – Caravaggio – Bobby Fuller

On this day in 1817, novelist Jane Austen died in Winchester, England at the age of 41.  Born 16 December 1775 at Steventon Rectory in Steventon, Hampshire, England.  In my opinion, one of the great English writers.  She wrote; Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1816).  Austen did not marry.  The Final Footprint – Austen is entombed in the north aisle of the nave of Winchester Cathedral.  Her inscription reads; “In memory of JANE AUSTEN, youngest daughter of Rev GEORGE AUSTEN, formerly Rector of Steventon in this court.  She departed this life on the 18th of July 1817, aged 41, after a long illness supported with the patience and the hopes of a Christian.  The benevolence of her heart, the sweetness of her temper, and the extraordinary endowments of her mind obtained the regard of all who knew her and the warmest love of her intimate connections.  Their grief is in proportion to their affection they know their loss to be irreparable but in their deepest affliction they are consoled by a firm though humble hope that her charity, devotion, faith and purity have rendered her soul acceptable in the sight of her REDEEMER.”  The term Janeite has been embraced by devotees of the works of Austen.

CaravaggioOn this day in 1610, Italian artist active in Rome, Naples, Malta, and Sicily between 1593 and 1610, Caravaggio died in Porto Ercole, Tuscany at the age of 38.  Born Michelangelo Merisi on 29 September 1571 in Milan.  His paintings, which combine a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, with a dramatic use of lighting, had a formative influence on the Baroque school of painting.  Caravaggio trained as a painter in Milan under Simone Peterzano who had himself trained under Titian.  Caravaggio’s novelty was a radical naturalism that combined close physical observation with a dramatic, even theatrical, use of chiaroscuro.  This came to be known as Tenebrism, the shift from light to dark with little intermediate value.  He burst upon the Rome art scene in 1600 with the success of his first public commissions, the Martyrdom of Saint Matthew and Calling of Saint Matthew.  Thereafter he never lacked commissions or patrons, yet he handled his success poorly.  Famous while he lived, Caravaggio was forgotten almost immediately after his death, and it was only in the 20th century that his importance to the development of Western art was rediscovered. His influence on the new Baroque style that eventually emerged from the ruins of Mannerism was profound.  It can be seen directly or indirectly in the work of Rubens, Jusepe de Ribera, Bernini, and Rembrandt, and artists in the following generation heavily under his influence were called the “Caravaggisti” or “Caravagesques”, as well as Tenebrists or “Tenebrosi” (“shadowists”).  Art historian Andre Berne-Joffroy said of him: “What begins in the work of Caravaggio is, quite simply, modern painting.  The Final FootprintHis death is the subject of much confusion and conjecture.  On 28 July an anonymous avviso (private newsletter) from Rome to the ducal court of Urbino reported that Caravaggio was dead. Three days later another avviso said that he had died of fever on his way from Naples to Rome.  A poet friend of the artist later gave 18 July as the date of death, and a recent researcher claims to have discovered a death notice showing that the artist died on that day of a fever in Porto Ercole, near Grosseto in Tuscany.  Human remains found in a church in Porto Ercole in 2010 are believed to almost certainly belong to Caravaggio.  The findings come after a year-long investigation using DNA, carbon dating and other analyses.  Some scholars argue that Caravaggio was murdered by enemies he may have made in Malta.  Caravaggio might have died of lead poisoning.  Bones with high lead levels were recently found in a grave likely to be Caravaggio’s.  Paints used at the time contained high amounts of lead salts.  Caravaggio is known to have indulged in violent behavior, which can be caused by lead poisoning.  Caravaggio’s epitaph was composed by his friend Marzio Milesi. It reads:  “Michelangelo Merisi, son of Fermo di Caravaggio – in painting not equal to a painter, but to Nature itself – died in Port’ Ercole – betaking himself hither from Naples – returning to Rome – 15th calend of August – In the year of our Lord 1610 – He lived thirty-six years nine months and twenty days – Marzio Milesi, Jurisconsult – Dedicated this to a friend of extraordinary genius.”

BobbyfullerOn this day in 1966, rock singer, songwriter, and guitar player best known for his singles “I Fought the Law” and “Love’s Made a Fool of You,” recorded with his mid-1960s group, the Bobby Fuller Four, Bobby Fuller died in Los Angeles at the age of 23.  Fuller was found dead in an automobile parked outside his Hollywood apartment.  The Los Angeles deputy medical examiner, Jerry Nelson, performed the autopsy.  Reportedly the autopsy states; “The report states that Bobby’s face, chest, and side were covered in “petechial hemorrhages” probably caused by gasoline vapors and the heat.  He found no bruises, no broken bones, no cuts.  No evidence of beating.”  The boxes for “accident” and “suicide” were ticked, but next to the boxes were question marks.  Despite the official cause of death, some believe Fuller was murdered.  Born Robert Gaston Fuller on 22 October 1942 in Baytown, Texas.  The Final Footprint – He is interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles.  Other notable final footprints at Hollywood Hills include Gene Autry, Strother Martin, and Ricky Nelson.

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Day in History 17 July – Billie Holiday – Adam Smith – Charlotte Corday – Jim Bridger – The Romanov Family – John Coltrane – Walter Cronkite

On this day in 1959, jazz singer and songwriter, Lady Day, Billie Holiday died from cirrhosis of the liver at Metropolitan Hospital in New York at the age of 44.  Born Eleanora Fagan on 7 April 1915 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  One of my very favorite singers.  In my opinion, she had a seminal influence on jazz and pop singing.  Holiday possibly took her professional name from Billie Dove, an actress she admired, and the musician Clarence Holiday, her probable father.  She apparently worked as a prostitute in Harlem before she began singing in clubs.  My favorite songs performed by Holiday include; “Embraceable You” written by George and Ira Gershwin, “God Bless the Child” written by Holiday and Arthur Herzog, Jr. and “Pennies from Heaven” written by Arthur Johnston and Johnny Burke.  Frank Sinatra had this to say of Holiday; “With few exceptions, every major pop singer in the US during her generation has been touched in some way by her genius.  It is Billie Holiday who was, and still remains, the greatest single musical influence on me.  Lady Day is unquestionably the most important influence on American popular singing in the last twenty years.”  Her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues, was ghostwritten by William Dufty and published in 1956.  Holiday married twice; Jimmy Monroe (1941-1947 divorce), Louis McKay (1957-1959 her death).  The Final Footprint – Holiday is interred next to her mother Sadie in Saint Raymonds Cemetery New in the Bronx.  Their graves are marked by an upright companion granite marker.  Holiday’s term of endearment says; BELOVED WIFE.  Diana Ross portrayed Holiday in the film Lady Sings the Blues, which is loosely based on Holiday’s autobiography.  The film earned Ross a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress.  Holiday was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.  In 1988 the group U2 released “Angel of Harlem” in her honor.

AdamSmithOn this day in 1790, Scottish moral philosopher and a pioneer of political economy, Adam Smith died in the northern wing of Panmure House in Edinburgh after a painful illness at the age of 67.  Born 5 June 1723 OS (16 June 1723 NS) in Kirkcaldy, Scotland.  One of the key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, Adam Smith is best known for two classic works: The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776).  The latter, usually abbreviated as The Wealth of Nations, is considered his magnum opus and the first modern work of economics.  Smith is cited as the “father of modern economics” and is still among the most influential thinkers in the field of economics today.  Smith studied social philosophy at the University of Glasgow and at Balliol College, Oxford, where he was one of the first students to benefit from scholarships set up by his fellow Glaswegian John Snell.  After graduating, he delivered a successful series of public lectures at the University of Edinburgh, leading him to collaborate with David Hume during the Scottish Enlightenment.  Smith obtained a professorship at Glasgow teaching moral philosophy, and during this time he wrote and published The Theory of Moral Sentiments.  In his later life, he took a tutoring position that allowed him to travel throughout Europe, where he met other intellectual leaders of his day.  Smith then returned home and spent the next ten years writing The Wealth of Nations, publishing it in 1776.  Adam_SmithgraveThe Final Footprint – Smith was buried in the Canongate Kirkyard in Edinburgh.  On his death bed, Smith expressed disappointment that he had not achieved more. His grave is a place of pilgrimage for economists of the world.  Although an imposing railed monument, it may have been altered in the 1930s, as it was then described as “too small to notice”.

Charlotte_CordayOn this day in 1793, a figure of the French Revolution, the Angel of Assassination, Charlotte Corday was executed under the guillotine for the assassination of Jacobin leader Jean-Paul Marat, in Paris at the age of 24.  Born Marie-Anne Charlotte de Corday d’Armont on 27 July 1768 in Saint-Saturnin-des-Ligneries, a hamlet in the commune of Écorches (Orne), in Normandy.  Marat was in part responsible, through his role as a politician and journalist, for the more radical course the Revolution had taken.  More specifically, he played a substantial role in the political purge of the Girondins, with whom Corday sympathized.  His murder was memorialized in a celebrated painting by Jacques-Louis David which shows Marat after Corday had stabbed him to death in his bathtub.  In 1847, writer Alphonse de Lamartine gave Corday the posthumous nickname l’ange de l’assassinat (the Angel of Assassination).  At her trial, when Corday testified that she had carried out the assassination alone, saying “I killed one man to save 100,000,” she was likely alluding to Maximilien Robespierre‘s words before the execution of King Louis XVI.  The Final Footprint – Corday’s body was disposed of in the Madeleine Cemetery.  The decapitated corpses of the guillotine victims were thrown in specially dug trenches and covered in quicklime to speed up the decomposition process.  There were no markers.  After her decapitation, a man named Legros apparently lifted her head from the basket and slapped it on the cheek.  Charles-Henri Sanson, the executioner, indignantly rejected published reports that Legros was one of his assistants.  However, Sanson stated in his diary that Legros was in fact a carpenter who had been hired to make repairs to the guillotine.  Witnesses report an expression of “unequivocal indignation” on her face when her cheek was slapped.  This slap was considered unacceptable and Legros was imprisoned for three months because of his outburst.  Jacobin leaders had her body autopsied immediately after her death to see if she was a virgin.  They believed there was a man sharing her bed and the assassination plans.  To their dismay, she was found to be virgo intacta (a virgin), a condition that focused more attention on women throughout France, laundresses, housewives, domestic servants, who were also rising up against authority after having been controlled by men for so long.  The assassination did not stop the Jacobins or the Terror: Marat became a martyr, and busts of him replaced crucifixes and religious statues that had been banished under the new regime.

Jim_BridgerOn this day in 1881, one of the foremost mountain men, trappers, scouts and guides who explored and trapped the Western United States during the decades of 1820-1850, Jim Bridger died on his farm near Kansas City, Missouri at the age of 77.  Born James Felix Bridger on 17 March 1804 in Richmond, Virginia.  Bridger had a strong constitution that allowed him to survive the extreme conditions he encountered walking the Rocky Mountains from what would become southern Colorado to the Canadian border.  He had conversational knowledge of French, Spanish and several native languages.  He would come to know many of the major figures of the early west, including Brigham Young, Kit Carson, George Armstrong Custer, John Fremont, Joseph Meek, and John SutterThe Final Footprint – For some 23 years, Bridger’s grave was located in a nondescript cemetery just a few hundred yards from his farm house, but his remains were re-interred in the more notable Mount Washington Cemetery in Independence, Missouri in 1904.  Bridger is briefly mentioned in Sydney Pollack‘s 1972 film Jeremiah Johnson, starring Robert Redford in which Will Geer‘s character introduces himself as, “Bear Claw Chris Lapp, blood kin to the grizz that bit Jim Bridger’s ass”.  In the 2009 Quentin Tarantino movie Inglourious Basterds, lead character Lt. Aldo Raine (portrayed by actor Brad Pitt) states: “Now, I am the direct descendant of the mountain man Jim Bridger. That means I got a little Injun in me. And our battle plan will be that of an Apache resistance.” Consequently, his nickname in the movie is “Aldo the Apache.”

romanovRussian_Imperial_Family_1911On this day in 1918, The Russian Imperial Romanov family (Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Tsarina Alexandra and their five children Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei) and all those who chose to accompany them into exile – notably Eugene Botkin, Anna Demidova, Alexei Trupp and Ivan Kharitonov, were shot in Yekaterinburg on 17 July 1918.  The murder of the Tsar was carried out by the Ural Soviet which was led by Yakov Yurovsky.  In the opinion of historians, the murder had been ordered in Moscow by Vladimir Lenin and Yakov Sverdlov to prevent the rescue of the Imperial Family by approaching White forces during the ongoing Russian Civil War.  The Final Footprint – Early next morning, when rumours spread in Yekaterinburg about the disposal site, Yurovsky removed the bodies and hid them elsewhere.  When the vehicle carrying the bodies broke down on the way to the next chosen site, Yurovsky made new arrangements, and buried most of the acid-covered bodies in a pit sealed and concealed with rubble, covered over with railroad ties and then earth on Koptyaki Road, a cart track (subsequently abandoned) 12 miles (19 km) north of Yekaterinburg.  In July 1991, the remains of all the family and their retainers (except two of the children, who were identified in 2008) were found by amateur enthusiasts and reburied by the Russian government following a state funeral.  A ceremony of Christian burial took place in 1998.  The bodies were laid to rest with state honors in the St. Catherine Chapel of the Peter and Paul Cathedral in Saint Petersburg, where most other Russian monarchs since Peter the Great lie.  President Boris Yeltsin and his wife attended the funeral along with Romanov relations, including Prince Michael of Kent.  On 15 August 2000, the Russian Orthodox Church announced the canonization of the family for their “humbleness, patience and meekness”.  However, reflecting the intense debate preceding the issue, the bishops did not proclaim the Romanovs as martyrs, but passion bearers instead (see Romanov sainthood).  On 1 October 2008, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation ruled that Nicholas II and his family were victims of political repression and rehabilitated them.

John_Coltrane_Live_at_BirdlandOn this day in 1967, United States Navy veteran, jazz saxophonist and composer, Trane, John Coltrane died from liver cancer at Huntington Hospital on Long Island at the age of 40.  Born John William Coltrane on 23 September 1926 in Hamlet, North Carolina.  Working in the bebop and hard bop idioms early in his career, Coltrane helped pioneer the use of modes in jazz and later was at the forefront of free jazz.  He organized at least fifty recording sessions as a leader during his recording career, and appeared as a sideman on many other albums, notably with trumpeter Miles Davis and pianist Thelonious Monk.   As his career progressed, Coltrane and his music took on an increasingly spiritual dimension.  Coltrane influenced innumerable musicians, and remains one of the most significant saxophonists in jazz history.  He received many posthumous awards and recognitions, including canonization by the African Orthodox Church as Saint John William Coltrane.  In 2007, Coltrane was awarded the Pulitzer Prize Special Citation for his “masterful improvisation, supreme musicianship and iconic centrality to the history of jazz.  The Final Footprint – Coltrane’s funeral was held at St. Peters Lutheran Church in New York City.  The Albert Ayler Quartet and The Ornette Coleman Quartet respectively opened and closed the service.  He is buried at Pinelawn Cemetery in Farmingdale, N.Y.

walterCronkitenasaOn this day in 2009,  broadcast journalist, Texas Longhorn, Walter Cronkite died at his home in New York City, at the age of 92. He is believed to have died from cerebrovascular disease.  Born Walter Leland Cronkite, Jr. on 4 November 1916 in Saint Joseph, Missouri.  Best known as anchorman for the CBS Evening News for 19 years (1962–81), and for being the “the most trusted man in America”.  He reported many events from 1937 to 1981, including bombings in World War II; the Nuremberg trials; combat in the Vietnam War; Watergate; the Iran Hostage Crisis; and the murders of President John F. Kennedy, civil rights pioneer Martin Luther King, Jr., and Beatles musician John Lennon.  He was also known for his extensive coverage of the U.S. space program, from Project Mercury to the Moon landings to the Space Shuttle.  He was the only non-NASA recipient of a Moon-rock award.  Cronkite is well known for his departing catchphrase “And that’s the way it is,” followed by the date on which the appearance aired.  Cronkite was married for nearly sixty-five years to Mary Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Maxwell (25 January 1916 – 15 March 2005), from 30 March 1940 until her death from cancer.  I watched his final broadcast with friends at a bar in Austin.  The Final Footprint – Cronkite’s funeral took place on 23 July 2009 at St. Bartholomew’s Church in midtown Manhattan, New York City.  At his funeral, his friends noted his love of music, including, recently, drumming.  He was cremated and his remains buried next to his wife, Betsy, in the family plot at Mount Moriah Cemetery in Kansas City, Missouri.


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Day in History 16 July – John F. Kennedy, Jr. – Caroline Bessette Kennedy – Lauren Bessette – Harry Chapin – Jo Stafford – Kitty Wells

On this day in 1999, elder son of JFK and Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, lawyer, magazine publisher, pilot, John F. Kennedy, Jr. died, along with his wife Caroline Bessette and his sister-in-law Lauren Bessette, when the Piper Saratoga plane he was piloting crashed in the Altantic Ocean off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.  JFK, Jr. was 38, Carolyn was 33 and Lauren was 35.  He was born on 25 November 1960 in Washington, D.C.  JFK was assassinated on 22 November 1963, three days before JFK, Jr.’s third birthday.  The funeral was held on his birthday and in a moment that became an iconic image, he stepped forward and saluted his father’s flag-draped casket as it was carried out of St. Matthew’s Cathedral.  JFK, Jr. graduated from Brown University and earned his JD degree from New York University School of Law.  Caroline Jeanne was born 7 January 1966 in White Plains, New York.  Lauren Gail was born 5 November 1964 also in White Plains.

Edgartown Lighthouse on Martha’s Vineyard

The Final Footprint – After the crash, the bodies of Kennedy, his wife and his sister-in-law were finally located in the afternoon of July 21.  They were recovered from the ocean floor by Navy divers and taken by motorcade to the county medical examiner’s office.  During a public memorial service for Kennedy, his paternal uncle, U.S. Senator Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy, stated:

We dared to think, in that other Irish phrase, that this John Kennedy would live to comb gray hair, with his beloved Carolyn by his side. But, like his father, he had every gift but length of years.

U.S. President Bill Clinton attended the public memorial service and ordered that the flag at the White House and in public areas across the country to be lowered to half-staff to honor the passing of Kennedy.  At President Clinton’s orders, warships of the U.S. Navy had assisted in the search for the crashed plane.  Critics argued that this was a massive abuse of taxpayer dollars, as no ordinary citizen would receive similar treatment.  On the evening of July 21, autopsies revealed that the crash victims had died upon impact.  At the same time, the Kennedy and Bessette families announced their plans for memorial services.  In the late hours of July 21, the three bodies were taken from Hyannis to Duxbury where they were cremated in the Mayflower Cemetery crematorium.  On the morning of July 22, their ashes were scattered from the Navy ship USS Briscoe and into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.  The ship was used for the public memorial service with the permission of U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen.

Harrychapin61880On this day in 1981, singer, songwriter Harry Chapin died from a heart attack either prior to, or as the result of an automobile accident on the Long Island Expressway in Jericho, New York, at the age of 38.  Born Harry Foster Chapin on 7 December 1942 in Brooklyn.  Perhaps best known for his folk rock songs including “Taxi,” “W*O*L*D,” “Flowers Are Red,” and the No. 1 hit “Cat’s in the Cradle.”  Chapin was also a dedicated humanitarian who fought to end world hunger; he was a key participant in the creation of the Presidential Commission on World Hunger in 1977.  In 1987, Chapin was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his humanitarian work.  Chapin was married to Sandy Cashmore (née Gaston) (1968-1981 his death). They are the parents of singer Jen Chapin.  HarrychapingravesiteThe Final Footprint – Chapin’s remains were interred in the Huntington Rural Cemetery, Huntington, New York. His epitaph is taken from his song “I Wonder What Would Happen to this World”:

Oh if a man tried / To take his time on Earth / And prove before he died / What one man’s life could be worth / I wonder what would happen / to this world

Jo_Stafford,_ca__July_1946_(William_P__Gottlieb_08111)On this day in 2008, singer Jo Stafford died from congestive heart failure at the age of 90 in Century City, Los Angeles.  Born Jo Elizabeth Stafford on 12 November 1917 in Coalinga, California.  Her career spanned five decades from the late 1930s to the early 1980s.  Admired for the purity of her voice, she was considered one of the most versatile vocalists of the era.  Her 1952 version of the Pee Wee King, Chilton Price, and Redd Stewart song, “You Belong to Me” topped the charts in the United States and United Kingdom, and she became the first woman to reach number one on the UK Singles Chart.  The Final Footprint – Stafford was interred with her husband, Paul Weston, at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.  Other notable final footprints at Holy Cross include; actor John Candy, Bing Crosby, Jimmy Durante, John Ford, the voice of the Los Angeles Lakers Chick Hearn, Rita Hayworth, Bela Lugosi, Al Martino, actress Audrey Meadows, Ricardo Montalbán, actor Chris Penn, and Sharon Tate.

Kitty_WellsOn this day in 2012, singer, songwriter, The Clock Stopper, The Queen of Country Music, Kitty Wells died in Madison, Tennessee, from complications of a stroke at the age of 92.  Born Ellen Muriel Deason on 30 August 1919 in Nashville, Tennessee.  Her 1952 hit recording version of the J. D. Miller song, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels”, made her the first female country singer to top the U.S. country charts, and turned her into the first female country star.  Her Top 10 hits continued until the mid-1960s, inspiring a long list of female country singers who came to prominence in the 1960’s.  In 1976, she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  In 1991 she received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.  Wells was married to singer, songwriter Johnnie Wright (1937-2011 his death).  The Final Footprint – Wells is interred with her husband in Spring Hill Cemetery in Nashville.  Other notable final footprints at Spring Hill include; Roy Acuff, Earl Scruggs, Hank Snow, and Keith Whitley.

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Day in History 15 July – Gianni Versace

Gianni_VersaceOn this day in 1997, fashion designer and founder of Gianni Versace S.p.A., Gianni Versace died from a gunshot wound on the steps of his Miami Beach mansion, the former Casa Casuarina now known as “The Villa By Barton G.”, as he returned from a morning walk on Ocean Drive, at the age of 50.  Versace was shot by Andrew Cunanan, who later shot himself, for unknow reasons.  Born Gianni Marcus Versace on 2 December 1946, in Reggio Calabria, Italy, where he grew up with his elder brother Santo and younger sister Donatella, along with their father and dressmaker mother, Francesca.  Gianni Versace S.p.A., an international fashion house, produces accessories, fragrances, make-up and home furnishings as well as clothes.  He also designed costumes for the theatre and films.  Versace met his partner Antonio D’Amico, a model, in 1982.  Their relationship lasted until Versace’s murder.  The Final Footprint – Versace’s body was cremated and his cremains were returned to the family’s estate near Cernobbio, Italy, and inurned in the family vault at Moltrasio cemetery near Lake Como. Versace’s brother, Santo, and Jorge Saud were named the new CEOs of Gianni Versace S.p.A.  Versace’s sister, Donatella, became the new head of design.  In his will, Versace left 50% of his fashion empire to his niece Allegra Versace. Her younger brother, Daniel, inherited Versace’s rare artwork collection.  Versace was portrayed by Franco Nero in the 1998 film The Versace Murder, and by Enrico Colantoni in the 2013 Lifetime film House of Versace. 

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Day in History 14 July – Billy the Kid – Quentin Roosevelt

On this day in 1918, Bastille Day, the youngest son of Teddy Roosevelt, United States Army Second Lieutenant, 95th Aero Squadron, Quentin Roosevelt died when his plane, a Nieuport 28, was shot down during aerial combat with German fighter planes over France, at the age of 20.  Born on 19 November 1897 in Oyster Bay, New York.  He was a graduate of Harvard.  Lieutenant Roosevelt was engaged to Flora Payne Whitney, the great-granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt, one of the country’s richest men, and also an heiress to the Whitney family fortune.  The Final Footprint – Lieutenant Roosevelt was interred by the Germans near Chamery, France where his plane crashed.  After his grave came under Allied control, thousands of American soldiers visited it to pay their respects.  Lieutenant Roosevelt’s resting place became a shrine and an inspiration to his comrades in arms.  The French placed a headstone with the inscription:

Quentin Roosevelt
Escadrille 95
Tombé glorieusement
En combat aerien
Le 14 Juillet 1918
Pour le droit
Et la liberté
 (Fell Gloriously In air combat For the right And freedom)


Allied troops visiting Lieutenant Roosevelt’s grave near Chamery, France during WWI

Later, his grave was marked with a full ledger marble marker with the epitaph; “He has outsoared the shadow of our night.”  When the World War II Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial was established in France at Colleville-sur-Mer, Lieutenant Roosevelt’s body was exhumed and moved there.  He is interred next to his brother Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., who had died of a heart attack in France shortly after leading his troops in landings on Utah Beach on D-Day as Assistant 4th Infantry Division Commander.  Lieutenant Roosevelt’s grave is marked by an upright marble cross.  When Lieutenant Roosevelt was exhumed, his marble ledger was moved to Sagamore Hill, the Roosevelt home near Oyster Bay, which is now Sagamore Hill National Historic Site and also includes the Theodore Roosevelt Museum.  The Normandy American Cemetery is featured in the Steven Spielberg film Saving Private Ryan (1998) starring Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Matt Damon and Vin Diesel.  The film’s premise is possibly based on the Niland brothers, four American brothers (Frederick, Edward, Robert and Preston) from Tonawanda, New York, serving in the military during World War II.  Of the four, two survived the war, but for a time it was believed that only one, Frederick, had survived.  Preston and Robert are interred at the Normandy American Cemetery.

Billy_the_Kid_correctedOn this day in 1881, frontier outlaw, Henry Antrim, William H. Bonney, Billy the Kid died after being shot by Pat Garrett in Fort Sumner, New Mexico Territory at the age of 21.  Possibly born William Henry McCarty, Jr. on 23 November 1859 in New York City.  Very little is known of his early years.  It is known that his mother’s name was Catherine and that she was Irish.  She married William Antrim in 1873 in Santa Fe and the family settled in Silver City.  Legend has The Kid killing 21 men but the actual tally is certainly far less.  The legend and The Kid’s folk hero status were fueled by stories printed in the Las Vegas Gazette (Las Vegas, New Mexico) and the New York Sun.  In 1877, The Kid moved to Lincoln County where he met Doc Scurlock and Charlie Bowdre and became involved in the Lincoln County War with John Tunstall and Alexander McSween on one side and Lawrence Murphy and James Dolan on the other side.  The Final FootprintThe Kid is interred in Old Fort Sumner Cemetery in Fort Sumner between his fellow outlaw companions, Tom O’Folliard and Bowdre.  Their graves are marked by an upright stone marker with the epitaph; PALS.  The gravesite is enclosed by a steel cage to prevent theft as their marker had been stolen twice.  The Kid has been the subject and inspiration for many books, films and songs including;

  • Anything for Billy (1998) novel by Larry McMurtry
  • The Outlaw (1943) film by Howard Hughes starring Jack Buetel as Billy and featuring Jane Russell in her breakthrough role as the Kid’s fictional love interest
  • The Left Handed Gun (1958) film by Arthur Penn based on a Gore Vidal teleplay, starring Paul Newman as Billy and John Dehner as Garrett
  • Chisum (1970) film starring John Wayne as John Chisum, which deals with Billy the Kid’s involvement in the Lincoln County War. Billy is portrayed by Geoffrey Deuel
  • Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) film by Sam Peckinpah with Kris Kristofferson as Billy, James Coburn as Pat Garrett, and with a soundtrack by Bob Dylan, who also appears in the movie
  • Young Guns (1988) film by Christopher Cain starring Emilio Estevez as Billy, John Wayne’s son Patrick as Pat Garrett, Kiefer Sutherland as Doc Scurlock, Jack Palance as Lawrence Murphy, Lou Diamond Phillips as Chavez, Charlie Sheen as Richard Brewer, Brian Keith as Buckshot Roberts, Tom Cruise as an uncredited cowboy and Randy Travis as an uncredited Gatling gunner.
  • Gore Vidal’s Billy the Kid (1989) film by Vidal starring Val Kilmer as Billy and Duncan Regehr as Pat Garrett
  • Billy the Kid, (1938) ballet by Aaron Copland
  • “The Ballad of Billy the Kid” song by Billy Joel from his album Piano Man (1973)
  • “Me and Billy the Kid” song by Joe Ely from his album Lord of the Highway (1987)
  • Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) soundtrack album by Bob Dylan

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Day in History 13 July – George Steinbrenner – Jean-Paul Marat – Johnny Ringo – Frida Kahlo

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