Day in History 29 July – Vincent van Gogh

Self Portrait in Front of the Easel, January 1888

On this day in 1890, Dutch post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh died from complications of a self-inflicted gunshot to the chest in Auvers-sur-Oise, France at the age of 37.  Born Vincent Willem van Gogh on 30 March 1853 in Zundert, Netherlands.  Perhaps my favorite artist.  In my opinion, his work has had a far-reaching influence on art as a result of its vivid colors and emotional impact.  Between his move to Paris and his discovery of the French Impressionists and his stay in Arles (accompanied for awhile by Paul Gauguin) he developed his highly recognizable style.  Van Gogh never married.  The Final Footprint – Van Gogh is interred in Auvers-sur-Oise Town Cemetery.  His brother Theo apparently reported that van Gogh’s last words were, “The sadness will last forever.”  Theo would die six months later.  The brothers rest side-by-side.

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A landscape in which the starry night sky takes up two thirds of the picture. In the left foreground a dark pointed Cypress pine tree extends from the bottom to the top of the picture. To the left, village houses and a church with a tall steeple are clustered at the foot of a mountain range. The sky is deep blue. In the upper right is a yellow crescent moon surrounded by a halo of light. There are many bright stars large and small, each surrounded by intense swirling halos. Across the center of the sky the Milky Way is represented as a double swirling vortex.
The Starry Night, June 1889, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Under a bright cloudless blue/green sky is a large collection of connected buildings on the right side of the canvas. The buildings are all part of a mill, up a slight embankment from a stream in the foreground. On the left side of the painting near the steps leading up the embankment to the old mill are two small figures. Off in the left distance is a farmland and farmhouses, while the far distance shows low purple hills
The Old Mill, 1888, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.
The top of the painting is a dark blue night sky with many bright stars shining brightly surrounded by white halos. Along the distant horizon are houses and buildings with lights that are shining so brightly that they are casting yellow reflections on the dark blue river below. The bottom half shows the Rhone river with reflected lights showing throughout the river. In the foreground we can see a shallow wave.
Starry Night Over the Rhone, 1888, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
A starless, moonless evening sky of middle blue with two large white clouds are above darker blue twisting hills in the distance. In the foreground is a grove of Olive trees, that extend horizontally across the whole painting, towards the bottom is a winding, twisting path that extends horizontally across the painting
Olive Trees with the Alpilles in the Background, 1889, Museum of Modern Art, New York.
An early night sky with an intense large yellow star surrounded by a white halo to the top left, an intense yellow and red-lined glowing crescent moon to the mid-right top. A large singular dark green Cypress tree painted with impasto and intense upright brushstrokes extends down the middle of the painting, from the top of the canvas to the burnt orange field below, where it grows beside a twisting stream. in the far distant horizon are low blue hills and to the far right is a farmhouse with smoke from the chimney and lights on within. Along the right side of the foreground are two figures walking along on the road and quite a way behind them is a horse drawn buggy also coming down the road.
Road with Cypress and Star, May 1890, Kröller-Müller Museum.
An open field of yellow wheat, under swirling and bright white clouds in an afternoon sky. A large cypress tree to the extreme right painted in shades of dark greens with swirling and impastoed brushstrokes. There are several smaller trees to the left and around the cypress tree are more small trees and several haystacks. There are blue-gray hills on the horizon in the background.
Wheat Field with Cypresses, 1889, National Gallery, London.
A pair of large trees to the left, one so tall it goes out of the top of the picture and mountains in the distance along the horizon. The afternoon sky is painted with bright blue and green swirls with white clouds and a visible daytime crescent moon also surrounded by swirls and halos. The dark green trees to the left are painted with thick impasto brush-strokes and swirls as well as the lighter yellow-green grasses in the foreground below.
Cypresses, 1889, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
A pair of women stand facing left in front of four massive cypress trees.
Cypresses with Two Figures, 1889–90, Kröller-Müller Museum (F620).
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Day in History 28 July – Johann Sebastian Bach – Cyrano de Bergerac – Antonio Vivaldi

Portrait of Bach by Haussmann, 1748

On this day in 1750, Baroque composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist Johann Sebastian Bach died in Leipzig, Germany at the age of 65.  Born  in Eisenach, Saxe-Eisenach, in what is now Thuringia, Germany, on 21 March 1685.  The Baroque period of Classical music begins after the Renaissance and was followed by the Classical era.  The word “baroque” came from the Portuguese word barroco, meaning “misshapen pearl”.  Baroque music forms a major portion of the classical music canon and is associated with composers such as Bach, George Frideric Handel, Alessandro Scarlatti, Antonio Vivaldi (see below), Claudio Monteverdi and Henry Purcell.  Most importantly to me, it was during this period that opera became established as a musical genre.  My favorite Bach works include; the Brandenburg Concertos, the Goldberg VariationsThe Well-Tempered Clavier, the Mass in B minor, the St Matthew Passion, the St John Passion, and the Magnificat.  Beethoven described him as the “Urvater der Harmonie”, “original father of harmony”.  Bach married twice; his second cousin, Maria Barbara Bach (1706-1720 her death) and Anna Magdalena Wilcke (1721-1750 his death).  The Final Footprint – Bach was originally buried at Old St. John’s Cemetery in Leipzig.  His grave went unmarked for nearly 150 years.  In 1894 his coffin was finally discovered and reburied in a vault within St. John’s Church.  This building was destroyed by Allied bombing during World War II, and in 1950 Bach’s remains were taken to their present resting place in an underground vault in Leipzig’s Church of St. Thomas.

cyrano2On this day in 1655, French dramatist and duelist, Cyrano de Bergerac died aged 36, at the house of his cousin, Pierre De Cyrano, in Sannois, France, or, he died from effects of tertiary syphilis in an asylum, in which he was confined by his own brother Abel de Cyrano.  Born Hercule-Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac on 6 March 1619 in Paris.  In fictional works about his life he is featured with an overly large nose, which people would travel from miles around to see.  Portraits suggest that he did have a big nose, though not nearly as large as described in works about him.  Cyrano’s work furnished models and ideas for subsequent writers.  The Final Footprint – He was buried in a church in Sannois.  In 1897, the French poet Edmond Rostand published a play, Cyrano de Bergerac, on the subject of Cyrano’s life.  This play, by far Rostand’s most successful work, concentrates on Cyrano’s love for the beautiful Roxane, whom he is obliged to woo on behalf of a more conventionally handsome but less articulate friend, Christian de Neuvillette.  The play was adapted for cinema in 1990 with Gérard Depardieu in the title role.  The dialogue is in French with subtitles written by Anthony Burgess in rhymed couplets, mirroring the form of the dialogue in the original play.  The most famous film version in English is the 1950 film, with José Ferrer in the title role, a performance for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Antonio_VivaldiOn this day in 1741, il Prete Rosso (“The Red Priest”), Italian Baroque composer, Catholic priest, and virtuoso violinist, Antonio Vivaldi died aged 63, in a house owned by the widow of a Viennese saddlemaker in Vienna.  Born Antonio Lucio Vivaldi on 4 March 1678 in Venice.  Recognized as one of the greatest Baroque composers, his influence during his lifetime was widespread over Europe.  Vivaldi is known mainly for composing instrumental concertos, especially for the violin, as well as sacred choral works and over forty operas.  His best known work is a series of violin concertos known as The Four Seasons.  Many of his compositions were written for the female music ensemble of the Ospedale della Pietà, a home for abandoned children where Vivaldi had been employed from 1703 to 1715 and from 1723 to 1740.  Vivaldi also had some success with stagings of his operas in Venice, Mantua and Vienna.  Though Vivaldi’s music was well received during his lifetime, it later declined in popularity until its vigorous revival in the first half of the 20th century.  Today, Vivaldi ranks among the most popular and widely recorded of Baroque composers.  The Final Footprint – On 28 July Vivaldi was buried in a simple grave in a burial ground that was owned by the public hospital fund.  Vivaldi’s funeral took place at St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

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Day in History 27 July – Bob Hope – Gertrude Stein

On this day in 2003, legendary comedian, actor, humanitarian, the first and only honorary veteran of the U.S. armed forces, American Icon, Bob Hope died at his home in Toluca Lake, Los Angeles at the age of 100.  Born Leslie Townes Hope 29 May 1903 in Eltham, London.  Hope appeared in vaudeville, on Broadway, and in radio, television and movies.  Perhaps his best known films are the “Road” series of films featuring Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour.  He was also noted for his work with the US Armed Forces and his numerous USO shows entertaining American military personnel.  Hope entertained troops during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the third phase of the Lebanon Civil War, the latter years of the Iran–Iraq War, and the 1990–1991 Persian Gulf War.  Of Hope’s USO shows in World War II, writer John Steinbeck, who was then working as a war correspondent, wrote in 1943:

When the time for recognition of service to the nation in wartime comes to be considered, Bob Hope should be high on the list. This man drives himself and is driven. It is impossible to see how he can do so much, can cover so much ground, can work so hard, and can be so effective. He works month after month at a pace that would kill most people.”

Hope hosted the Academy Awards ceremony 18 times.  He married twice; Grace Louise Troxell (1933-1934 divorce) and Dolores Reade (1934-2003 his death).  Hope’s signature song was “Thanks for the Memory” ( music composed by Ralph Rainger and lyrics by Leo Robin).  Indeed, thanks for the memories Mr. Hope.  The Final Footprint – Reportedly when Hope was asked on his deathbed where he wanted to be buried he told his wife, “Surprise me.”  Hope is entombed in The Bob Hope Memorial Garden at San Fernando Mission Cemetery, a Catholic cemetery in Los Angeles.  Other notable final footprints at SFMC include: Walter Brennan; Chuck Connors; the parents of Francis Ford Coppola, Carmine and Italia Coppola; Ritchie Valens; Jane Wyatt.

Gertrude_Stein_1935-01-04On this day in 1946, art collector of seminal modernist paintings and an experimental writer of novels, poetry and plays, Gertrude Stein died at the age of 72 from stomach cancer in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France.  Born on February 3, 1874, in Allegheny, Pennsylvania.  Raised in Oakland, California, Stein moved to Paris in 1903, making France her home for the remainder of her life.  For some forty years, the Stein home on the Left Bank of Paris would become a renowned Saturday evening gathering place for expatriate American artists and writers, and others noteworthy in the world of vanguard arts and letters.  Entrée and membership in the Stein salon was a sought-after validation, signifying that Stein had recognized a talent worthy of inclusion into a rarefied group of gifted artists. Stein became combination mentor, critic, and guru to those who gathered around her.  A self-defined “genius”, she was described as an imposing figure with a commanding manner whose inordinate self-confidence could intimidate.  Among her coterie she was referred to as “Le Stein” and with less laudatory deference as “The Presence”.  Stein met her life partner Alice B. Toklas on 8 September 1907, on Toklas’ first day in Paris.  In 1933, Stein published the memoirs of her Paris years titled The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, which became a literary bestseller.  The advent of this book elevated Stein from the relative obscurity of cult literary figure, into the light of mainstream attention.  Gertrude_Stein's_gravestoneThe Final Footprint – Stein was interred in Paris in Père Lachaise Cemetery.  When Stein was being wheeled into the operating room for surgery on her stomach, she asked Toklas, “What is the answer?”  When Toklas did not reply, Stein said, “In that case, what is the question?”  There is a monument to Stein on the Upper Terrace of Bryant Park, New York.  Other notable Final Footprints at Père Lachaise include; Georges Bizet, Honoré de Balzac, Jean-Dominique Bauby, Maria Callas, Frédéric Chopin, Colette, Auguste Comte, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Molière, Jim Morrison, Édith Piaf, Camille Pissarro, Marcel Proust, Sully Prudhomme, Gioachino Rossini, Georges-Pierre Seurat, Alice B. Toklas,  Oscar Wilde, and Richard Wright.

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Day in History 26 July – Sam Houston – Eva Perón

On this day in 1863, statesman, politician, soldier, 8th Governor of Tennessee, 1st and 3rd President of the Republic of Texas, United States Senator from Texas, 7th Governor of Texas, Sam Houston died from pneumonia at his home, Steamboat House in Huntsville, Texas at the age of 70.  Born Samuel Houston of Scots-Irish descent on 2 March 1793 in Rockbridge County, Virginia.  A leader of the Texas Revolution.  Sam Houston supported annexation by the United States.  When he assumed the governorship of Texas in 1859, Houston became the only person to have become the governor of two different U.S. states through direct, popular election, as well as the only state governor to have been a foreign head of state.  Houston was married to Eliza Allen (1829-1837), Tiana Rogers Gentry (under Cherokee law) and Margaret Moffette Lea (1840-1863 his death).  God bless Texas!  God bless Sam Houston!  The Final Footprint – Houston is entombed in Oakwood Cemetery in Huntsville.  His last words were reportedly; “Texas!  Texas!  Margaret…”  His grave is marked by a large carved marble monument.  His epitaph; “THE WORLD WILL TAKE CARE OF HOUSTON’S FAME.”  ANDREW JACKSON.  The inscription on his tomb;

A Brave Soldier. A Fearless Statesman. A Great Orator– A Pure Patriot. A Faithful Friend, A Loyal Citizen. A Devoted Husband and Father. A Consistent Christian– An Honest Man.

Namesake of the fourth largest city in the U.S., Houston’s reputation was sufficiently large that he was honored in numerous ways after his death, among them: a memorial museum, four U.S. warships named USS Houston (AK-1, CA-80, CL81 and SSN-713), a U.S. Army base, a national forest, a historical park, a university and a prominent roadside statue outside of Huntsville.

Eva_peron_official_state_portrait_3On this day in 1952, actress, the second wife of President Juan Perón (1895–1974), the First Lady of Argentina from 1946 until her death, Evita, Eva Perón died from cervical cancer in Buenos Aires at the age of 33.  Born María Eva Duarte on 7 May 1919 in the village of Los Toldos in rural Argentina.  Evita met Colonel Juan Perón on 22 January 1944, in Buenos Aires during a charity event at the Luna Park Stadium to benefit the victims of an earthquake in San Juan, Argentina.  The two were married the following year.  In 1946, Juan Perón was elected President of Argentina.  Over the course of the next six years, Evita became powerful within the pro-Peronist trade unions, primarily for speaking on behalf of labor rights. She also ran the Ministries of Labor and Health, founded and ran the charitable Eva Perón Foundation, championed women’s suffrage in Argentina, and founded and ran the nation’s first large-scale female political party, the Female Peronist Party.  In 1951, Evita announced her candidacy for the Peronist nomination for the office of Vice President of Argentina, receiving great support from the Peronist political base, low-income and working class Argentines who were referred to as descamisados or “shirtless ones”.  However, opposition from the nation’s military and bourgeoisie, coupled with her declining health, ultimately forced her to withdraw her candidacy.  In 1952, shortly before her death Evita was given the title of “Spiritual Leader of the Nation” by the Argentine Congress.  The Final Footprint – She was given a state funeral and a full Roman Catholic requiem mass.  The government suspended all official activities for two days, with all flags being flown at half-staff for ten days.  The crowd outside of the presidential residence grew dense, congesting the streets for ten blocks in each direction.  Later, while Evita’s body was being moved, eight people were crushed to death in the throngs.  In the following 24 hours, over 2000 people were treated in city hospitals for injuries sustained in the rush to be near Evita as her body was being transported from the presidential residence to the Ministry of Labour building.  The streets of Buenos Aires overflowed with flowers that were stacked in huge piles, and within one day of Evita’s death, all flower shops in Buenos Aires had run out of flowers.  Plans were made to construct a memorial in Evita’s honor.  The monument, which was to be a statue of a man representing the “descamisados,” was projected to be larger than the Statue of Liberty.  Evita’s body was to be stored in the base of the monument and, in the tradition of Lenin‘s corpse, to be displayed for the public.  While waiting for the monument to be constructed, Evita’s embalmed body was displayed in her former office at the CGT building for almost two years.  Before the monument to Evita was completed, Juan Perón was overthrown in a military coup, the Revolución Libertadora, in 1955.  Perón hastily fled the country and did not make arrangements to secure Evita’s body.  A military dictatorship took power in Argentina.  The new authorities removed Evita’s body from display and its whereabouts remained a mystery for 16 years.  In 1971 the military revealed that the body was entombed in a crypt in Milan, Italy, under the name “María Maggi.”  In 1971, Evita’s body was exhumed and flown to Spain, where Juan Perón maintained the corpse in his home.  Juan and his third wife, Isabel, decided to keep the corpse in their dining room on a platform near the table.  In 1973, Juan Perón came out of exile and returned to Argentina, where he became president for the third time.  Perón died in office in 1974.  His third wife, Isabel Perón, whom he had married on 15 November 1961, and who had been elected vice-president, succeeded him, thus becoming the first female president in the Western Hemisphere.  It was Isabel who had Evita’s body returned to Argentina and (briefly) displayed beside Juan Perón’s.  The body was later entombed in the Duarte family tomb in La Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires.  Extensive measures were taken by the Argentine government to secure Evita’s tomb.  There is a trapdoor in the tomb’s marble floor, which leads to a compartment that contains two coffins.  Under the first compartment is a second trapdoor and a second compartment.  That is where Evita’s coffin rests.  Biographers Marysa Navarro and Nicholas Fraser write that the claim is often made that Evita’s tomb is so secure that it could withstand a nuclear attack.  “It reflects a fear,” they write, “a fear that the body will disappear from the tomb and that the woman, or rather the myth of the woman, will reappear.”  This cemetery, which is located in the northern part of barrio Recoleta, also holds the remains of many illustrious military generals, presidents, scientists, poets and other affluent Argentinians.  There is a saying in Argentina that it costs much more to die than it does to live.  Evita has become a part of international popular culture, most famously as the subject of the musical Evita (1976) by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, which was later made into a film starring Madonna as Evita.  Cristina Alvarez Rodriguez, Evita’s great niece, claims that Evita has never left the collective consciousness of Argentines. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the first female elected President of Argentina, claims that women of her generation owe a debt to Evita for “her example of passion and combativeness”.

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Day in History 25 July – Carl Brashear – Samuel Taylor Coleridge – Big Mama Thornton – Ben Hogan

Cuba Gooding, Jr., Carl Brashear and Defense Secretary William Cohen October 2000

On this day in 2006, U. S. Navy Master Diver Carl Brashear died of respiratory and heart failure at the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center, Portsmouth, Virginia at the age of 75.  Born Carl Maxie Brashear on 19 January 1931 in Tonieville, Kentucky.  Brashear was the first African-American to attend and graduate from the Diving & Salvage School, the first African-American U.S. Navy Diver and the first African-American U.S. Navy Master Diver.  After an accident aboard the U.S.S. Hoist, which resulted in the eventual amputation of his lower left leg, he became the first amputee diver to be certified or re-certified as a U.S. Navy diver.  Cuba Gooding, Jr. portrayed Brashear in the film based on his story, Men of Honor (2000) featuring Robert De Niro, Charlize Theron, Hal Holbrook, Powers Boothe and David Keith.  Brashear married three times; Junetta Wilcoxson (1952-1978 divorce), Hattie R. Elam (1980-1983 divorce) and Jeanette A. Brundage (1985-1987 divorce).  The Final Footprint – Brashear is interred in Woodlawn Memorial Gardens in Norfolk, Virginia.  His grave is marked by an individual VA, bronze on granite marker.  His epitaph; I AIN’T GONNA LET NOBODY STEAL MY DREAM.

SamuelTaylorColeridgeOn this day in 1834, English poet, Romantic, literary critic and philosopher who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets, Samuel Taylor Coleridge died at the home of the Gillman family, where he lived, in Highgate, London at the age of 61 as a result of heart failure compounded by an unknown lung disorder, possibly linked to his use of opium.  Born 21 October 1772 in in the country town of Ottery St Mary, Devon, England.  Perhaps best known for his poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan, as well as his “Conversation poems”.  His critical work, especially on Shakespeare, was highly influential, and he helped introduce German idealist philosophy to English-speaking culture.  He coined many familiar words and phrases, including the celebrated “suspension of disbelief”.  He was a major influence on Emerson, and American transcendentalism.  Throughout his adult life, Coleridge suffered from crippling bouts of anxiety and depression; it has been speculated by some that he suffered from bipolar disorder, a condition not identified during his lifetime.  Coleridge suffered from poor health that may have stemmed from a bout of rheumatic fever and other childhood illnesses. He was treated for these concerns with laudanum, which fostered a lifelong opium addiction.  The Final Footprint – He is interred in Saint Michael Churchyard in Highgate.

bigmamaThornton_Big_Mama_01On this day in 1984, singer and songwriter Big Mama Thornton died of a heart attack in Los Angeles at age 57.  Born Willie Mae Thornton on 11 December 1926 in Ariton, Alabama.  She was the first to record Leiber and Stoller‘s “Hound Dog” in 1952, which became her biggest hit.  It spent seven weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B charts in 1953 and sold almost two million copies.  However, her success was overshadowed three years later, when Elvis Presley recorded his more popular rendition of “Hound Dog”.  Similarly, Thornton’s “Ball ‘n’ Chain”, had a bigger impact when performed and recorded by Janis Joplin in the late 1960’s.  The Final Footprint – Thornton is interred in Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California.  Other notable Final Footprints at Inglewood Park include; Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, baseball player Curt Flood, actress Betty Grable, attorney Robert Kardashian (father of  Kim, Kourtney and  Khloé), soul musician Billy Preston and blues musician T-Bone Walker.

Ben_Hogan_NYWTSOn this day in 1997, professional golfer, 9x major champion, winner of all four major championships (the Masters Tournament, the Open Championship, the U.S. Open, and the PGA Championship), The Hawk, Bantam Ben, The Wee Iceman, Ben Hogan died in Fort Worth, Texas at the age of 84.  Born William Ben Hogan on 13 August 1912 in Stephenville, Texas.  In my opinion, one of the greatest players in the history of the game.  Born within six months of two other acknowledged golf greats of the twentieth century, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson, Hogan is notable for his profound influence on the golf swing theory and his legendary ball-striking ability, for which he remains renowned among players and fans.  The Final Footprint –  Hogan is entombed in the mausoleum at Greenwood Memorial Park in Fort Worth.

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Day in History 24 July – Peter Sellers – G. D. Spradlin

On this day in 1980 Royal Air Force veteran, comedian and Academy Award-nominated actor, Peter Sellers died in London from a heart attack at the age of 54.  Born Richard Henry Sellers on 8 September 1925 in Southsea, Hampshire, England, United Kingdom.  Perhaps best remembered for his role as Chief Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther film series.  My favorite role played by Sellers is the man-child and TV-addicted Chance the gardener in the film, Being There (1979).  Sellers married four times; Anne Hayes (1951-1961 divorce), Britt Ekland (1964-1968 divorce), Miranda Quarry (1970-1974 divorce) and Lynne Frederick (1977-1980 his death).  The Final Footprint – Sellers was cremated and his cremains are interred at Golders Green Crematorium in London under a rose bush at the far end of the complex next to the Chapel of Memory columbarium.  His memorial plaque has the epitaph; “Life is a state of mind” and the term of endearment; WITH EVERLOVING MEMORIES.  Other notable Final Footprints at Golders Green include; Sigmund, Martha and Anna Freud; Keith Moon; Anna Pavlova; and Bram Stoker.  In addition, among those who were cremated here, but whose cremated remains are elsewhere; Neville Chamberlain, T. S. Eliot, Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, Vivien Leigh, H. G. Wells, and Amy Winehouse.

Gd-spradlin-1-sizedOn this day in 2011, lawyer, Oklahoma Sooner, the actor who portrayed Senator Pat Geary in Francis Ford Coppola‘s The Godfather Part II, G. D. Spradlin died of natural causes at his cattle ranch in San Luis Obispo, California at the age of 90.  Born Gervase Duan Spradlin on 31 August 1920 in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma.

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Day in History 23 July – Eudora Welty – Conrad Kohrs – Montgomery Clift – Amy Winehouse

On this day in 2001, author of short stories and novels about the South, photographer, Pulitzer Prize recipient, Eudora Welty died at her home in Jackson, Mississippi at the age of 92.  Born Eudora Alice Welty on 13 April 1909 in Jackson.  One of my favorite writers.  Every year on her birthday I read some of her short stories.  Her work attracted the attention of author Katherine Anne Porter, who became a mentor to Welty and wrote the foreword to Welty’s first short story collection, A Curtain of Green (1941).  I highly recommend The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty (1982) and her novels; The Robber Bridegroom (novella) (1942), Delta Wedding (1946), The Ponder Heart (1954), Losing Battles (1970) and The Optimist’s Daughter (1972).  Welty never married.  The Final Footprint – Welty is interred in Greenwood Cemetery in Jackson.  Her grave is marked by an individual upright granite marker.  Her epitaph reads; FOR HER LIFE, ANY LIFE, SHE HAD TO BELIEVE WAS NOTHING BUT THE CONTINUITY OF IT’S LOVE.  THE OPTIMIST’S DAUGHTER.  Her house in Jackson is a National Historic Landmark and open to the public as a museum.

Conrad_KohrsOn this day in 1920, Montana cattle rancher, Montana’s Cattle King, Conrad Kohrs died at his ranch near Dear Lodge, Montana.  Born Carsten Conrad Kohrs on 5 August 1835 in Holstein, a province that was ethnically and culturally German and part of the German Confederation but ruled at the time in personal union by Denmark.  The home ranch near Deer Lodge, Montana, was held by the family until 1972, when his grandson sold it to the National Park Service. It is now the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site

montgomeryClift,_MontgomeryOn this day in 1966, film and stage actor, 4x Academy Award nominee, Montgomery Clift died at his home in New York City from a heart attack at the age of 45.  Born Edward Montgomery Clift on 17 October 1920 in Omaha, Nebraska.  My favorite Clift roles include: Robert E. Lee Prewitt in From Here to Eternity (1953) with Burt Lancaster and Frank Sinatra, Perce Howland in John Huston‘s The Misfits (1961) with Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, Matt Garth in Howard Hawk‘s Red River (1948) with John Wayne.  The Final Footprint – Following a 15-minute ceremony at St. James Church attended by 150 guests including Lauren BacallSinatra and Nancy Walker, Clift was buried in the Quaker Cemetery, Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York City.  Elizabeth Taylor, who was in Paris, sent flowers, as did Roddy McDowall, Myrna Loy, and Lew Wasserman.

AmyWinehouseBerlin2007On this day in 2011, singer and songwriter, Amy Winehouse died at her home in Camden, London at the age of 27, thus becoming a member of the Forever 27 Club, which includes, bluesman Robert Johnson, Rolling Stone Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison.  A coroner’s inquest reached a verdict of death by misadventure from alcohol poisoning.  Born Amy Jade Winehouse on 14 September 1983 in Southgate, London.  The Final Footprint – Family and friends attended Winehouse’s funeral on 26 July 2011 at Edgwarebury Lane Cemetery in north London.  Her mother and father, Janis and Mitch Winehouse, close friend Kelly Osbourne, producer Mark Ronson and her boyfriend Reg Traviss were among those in attendance at the private service led by Rabbi Frank Hellner.  Her father delivered the eulogy, saying “Goodnight, my angel, sleep tight. Mummy and Daddy love you ever so much.”  Carole King‘s “So Far Away” closed the service.  She was later cremated at Golders Green Crematorium.  Other notable cremations at GGC include; Kingsley Amis, Neville Chamberlain, T. S. Eliot, Sigmund Freud, Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, Vivien Leigh, Keith Moon, Peter Sellers, Bram Stoker, and H. G. Wells.

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Day in History 22 July – Alan Shepard – Carl Sandburg – 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.

On this day in 1967, poet, writer, and editor, winner of three Pulitzer Prizes: two for his poetry and one for his biography of Abraham Lincoln, Carl Sandburg died of natural causes at the age of 89 in Flat Rock, North Carolina.  Born Carl August Sandburg on January 6, 1878 in a three-room cottage at 313 East Third Street in Galesburg, Illinois. During his lifetime, Sandburg was widely regarded as “a major figure in contemporary literature”, especially for volumes of his collected verse, including Chicago Poems (1916), Cornhuskers (1918), and Smoke and Steel (1920). He enjoyed “unrivaled appeal as a poet in his day, perhaps because the breadth of his experiences connected him with so many strands of American life”, and at his death in 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson observed that “Carl Sandburg was more than the voice of America, more than the poet of its strength and genius. He was America.” Sandburg met Lilian Steichen at the Social Democratic Party office in 1907, and they married the next year. The Final Footprint – Sandburg was cremated and his cremains were interred under “Remembrance Rock”, a granite boulder located behind his birth house. His epitaph: FOR IT COULD BE A GOOD PLACE TO COME AND REMEMBER

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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