Day in History 6 June – Patrick Henry – Robert F. Kennedy – Kenneth Rexroth – Billy Preston

Patrick_henryOn this day in 1799, attorney, planter, politician, orator, and Founding Father, Patrick Henry died of stomach cancer at Red Hill, his plantation near Brookneal, Virginia at the age of 63.  Born 29 May 1736 in Hanover County, Virginia.  Remembered for his “Give me Liberty, or give me Death!” speech.  The Final Footprint – Henry is entombed in a private mausoleum at Red Hill.

Robert_F__Kennedy_1964-203x300On this day in 1968, politician, civil rights activist, RFK, Robert F. Kennedy died at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles from gunshot wounds sustained at The Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles at the age of 42.  Born Robert Francis Kennedy on 20 November 1925 in Brookline, Massachusetts.  He was the younger brother of John F. Kennedy and the older brother of Edward M. Kennedy.  RFK was a graduate of Harvard and obtained his law degree from the University of Virginia.  He served as Attorney General of the United States (1961-1964) first under his brother, JFK, then briefly under LBJ.  Following JFK’s assassination, at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, RFK quoted Shakespeare (from Romeo and Juliet) in speaking of his brother;

“[…] and when [he] shall die
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun”

RFK resigned as AG to successfully run for United States Senator from New York.  He declared his candidacy for the President of the United States on 16 March 1968, fifteen days before LBJ stunned the nation with his announcement that he would not seek reelection.  RFK was assassinated shortly after winning the California Democratic primary.  RFK was married to Ethel Sakel (1950-1968 his death).  One of my favorite quotes is by RFK:

“Some people see things as they are and ask why – I dream things that never were and say why not.”

The Final FootprintHis body was returned to New York City, where it lay in repose at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral for several days before the Requiem Mass held there on June 8.  His brother, Ted, eulogized him with the words:

“My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it. Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world. As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him: ‘Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.’

The Requiem Mass concluded with the hymn, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” sung by Andy Williams.  Immediately following the Requiem Mass, his body was transported by a special private train to Washington, D.C.  Thousands of mourners lined the tracks and stations along the route, paying their respects as the train passed.  This slow transport delayed arrival at Arlington National Cemetery, causing it to be the only night burial to have taken place there.  RFK was buried near his brother, JFK. He had always maintained that he wished to be buried in Massachusetts, but his family believed that since the brothers had been so close in life, they should be near each other in death.  In accordance with his wishes, RFK was buried with the bare-minimum military escort and ceremony.  The casket was borne from the train by 13 pallbearers, including former astronaut John Glenn, former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, family friend Gen. Maxwell Taylor, RFK’s eldest son Joe and his brother Ted.  Archbishop Terence Cooke of New York and Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle, Archbishop of Washington, conducted the brief graveside service.  Afterward Glenn presented the folded flag on behalf of the United States to Ethel and Joe Kennedy.  In August 2009, Ted was also buried at Arlington, near his brothers.  Other notable Final Footprints at Arlington include; Space Shuttle Challenger, Space Shuttle Columbia, Medgar Evers, JFK, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, Edward Kennedy, Malcolm Kilduff, Jr., Lee Marvin and Audie Murphy.

Kenneth_RexrothOn this day in 1982, poet, translator, essayist, “The Father of the Beats”, Kenneth Rexroth died in Santa Barbara, California at the age of 76.  Born Kenneth Charles Marion Rexroth in South Bend, Indiana on 22 December 1905.   In my opinion, one of the central figures in the San Francisco Renaissance.  Although he apparently did not consider himself to be a Beat poet, and disliked the association, he was dubbed the “Father of the Beats” by Time.  He was among the first poets in the United States to explore traditional Japanese poetic forms such as haiku.  Much of Rexroth’s work can be classified as “erotic” or “love poetry,” given his deep fascination with transcendent love.  Rexroth married four times;  Andrée Dutcher (1927-1940), Marie Kass (1941-1955), Marthe Larsen (1949- ), Carol Tinker ( – 1982 his death).  The Final Footprint – Rexroth is interred on the grounds of the Santa Barbara Cemetery Association overlooking the sea.  While all the other graves face inland, his alone faces the Pacific.  His epitaph reads, “As the full moon rises / The swan sings in sleep / On the lake of the mind.”  According to association records, he is interred near the corner of Island and Bluff boulevards, in Block C of the Sunset section, Plot 18.  Other notable Final Footprints at Santa Barbara include actor Laurence Harvey, actor Fess Parker, and model and actress Suzy Parker (no relation to Fess).

Billy_PrestonOn this day in 2006, musician and songwriter, the Fifth Beatle, Billy Preston died in Scottsdale, Arizona, of complications of malignant hypertension that resulted in kidney failure and other complications at the age of 59.  Born William Everett Preston on 2 September 1946 in Houston.  Preston became famous first as a session musician with artists such as Little Richard, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles and the Beatles, and was later successful as a solo artist with hit pop singles including “Outa-Space”, its sequel, “Space Race”, “Will It Go Round in Circles” and “Nothing from Nothing”, and a string of albums and guest appearances with Eric Clapton, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and others.  In addition, Preston was co-author, with The Beach Boys’ Dennis Wilson, of “You Are So Beautiful,” recorded by Preston and later a #5 hit for Joe Cocker.

Alongside Tony Sheridan, Billy Preston was the only other musician to be credited on a Beatles recording: the artists on the number-one hit “Get Back” are given as “The Beatles with Billy Preston”.  Stephen Stills asked Preston if he could use Preston’s phrase “if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with” and created the hit song.  The Final Footprint – His funeral was held on June 20 at the Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood, California, where his remains were interred at Inglewood Park Cemetery.  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), and blues musician T-Bone Walker.

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Day in History 5 June – Stephen Crane – O. Henry – Maurice McIntire – Conway Twitty – Ronald Reagan – Ray Bradbury

Crane2On this day in 1900, novelist, short story writer, poet and journalist Stephen Crane died from tuberculosis at a health spa in Badenweiler, Germany at the age of 28.  Born 1 November 1871, in Newark, New Jersey.  Prolific throughout his short life, he wrote notable works in the Realist tradition as well as early examples of American Naturalism and Impressionism.  He is recognized by modern critics as one of the most innovative writers of his generation.  Crane’s first novel was the 1893 Bowery tale Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, which critics generally consider the first work of American literary Naturalism.  He won international acclaim for his 1895 Civil War novel The Red Badge of Courage, which he wrote without any battle experience.

In 1896, Crane endured a highly publicized scandal after appearing as a witness in the trial of a suspected prostitute.  Late that year, he accepted an offer to cover the Spanish-American War as a war correspondent.  As he waited in Jacksonville, Florida, for passage to Cuba, he met Cora Taylor, the madam of a brothel, with whom he would have a lasting relationship.

At the time of his death, Crane was considered an important figure in American literature. After he was nearly forgotten for two decades, critics revived interest in his life and work.  Although recognized primarily for The Red Badge of Courage, which has become an American classic, Crane is also known for short stories such as “The Open Boat”, “The Blue Hotel”, “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky”, and The MonsterCranegravestoneThe Final Footprint – Crane was interred in the Evergreen Cemetery in what is now Hillside, New Jersey.

o henry_by_doubledayOn this day in 1910, writer O. Henry died of cirrhosis of the liver, complications of diabetes, and an enlarged heart in New York City at the age of 47.  Born William Sydney Porter on 11 September 1862 in Greensboro, North Carolina.  O. Henry’s short stories are known for their wit, wordplay, warm characterization and clever twist endings.  Among his most famous stories are: “The Gift of the Magi”, “The Ransom of Red Chief”, “The Cop and the Anthem”, “A Retrieved Reformation”, and “The Duplicity of Hargraves”.  The Final Footprint – After funeral services in New York City, he was buried in the Riverside Cemetery in Asheville, North Carolina.

On this day in 1960, less than a month before I was born, my grandfather, United States Army veteran, Mac, Maurice William McIntire took his own life in Rockport, Texas.  He is interred in Fort Sam Houston Cemetery in San Antonio.

Conway_Twitty_1974On this day in 1993, singer and songwriter Conway Twitty died in Springfield, Missouri, at Cox South Hospital, from an abdominal aortic aneurysm, aged 59.  Born Harold Lloyd Jenkins on 1 September 1933 in Friars Point in Coahoma County in northwestern Mississippi.  He held the record for the most number one singles of any act, with 40 No. 1 Billboard country hits, until George Strait broke the record in 2006.  From 1971 to 1976, Twitty received a string of Country Music Association awards for duets with Loretta Lynn.  Although never a member of the Grand Ole Opry, he was inducted into both the Country Music and Rockabilly Halls of Fame.  The Final Footprint – Twitty is entombed in an outdoor garden mausoleum in Sumner Memorial Gardens in Gallatin, Tennessee.

Ronald_Reagan_with_cowboy_hat_12-0071M_editOn this day in 2004, radio, film and television actor, 33rd Governor of California, 40th President of the United States, Dutch, Ronald Reagan died at his home in Bel Air, California of Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 93.  Born Ronald Wilson Reagan on 6 February 2011 in Tampico, Illinois.  His father was the descendant of Irish Catholic immigrants from County Tipperary while his mother had Scots-English ancestors.  His father nicknamed him Dutch after his Dutchboy haircut.

Reagan was educated at Eureka College in Eureka, Illinois with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and sociology.  After graduation, Reagan first moved to Iowa to work as a radio broadcaster and then in 1937 to Los Angeles, California.  He began a career as an actor, first in films and later television, appearing in over 50 movie productions and earning enough success to become a famous, publicly recognized figure.  Reagan served as president of the Screen Actors Guild, and later spokesman for General Electric (GE).  Originally a member of the Democratic Party, he switched to the Republican Party in 1962.  After delivering a rousing speech in support of Barry Goldwater‘s presidential candidacy in 1964, he was persuaded to seek the California governorship, winning two years later and again in 1970.  He was defeated in his run for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968 as well as 1976, but won both the nomination and election, defeating incumbent Jimmy Carter in 1980.

As president, Reagan implemented sweeping new political and economic initiatives.  His supply-side economic policies, dubbed “Reaganomics,” advocated reducing tax rates to spur economic growth, controlling the money supply to reduce inflation, deregulation of the economy, and reducing government spending.  In his first term he survived an assassination attempt, took a hard line against labor unions, and ordered a military action in Grenada.  He was reelected in a landslide in 1984, proclaiming it was “Morning in America.”  I remember watching his election victory speech and I will never forget him saying, if you liked what you saw in the first four years, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”  His support of anti-Communist movements worldwide, his decision to publicly call the Soviet Union an “evil empire”, and his policy of forgoing the strategy of détente by ordering a massive military buildup in an arms race with the USSR, contributed to the end of the Cold War.  Reagan went to the Berlin Wall and challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall”.  Reagan was married twice; Jane Wyman (1940-1948 divorce) and Nancy Davis (1952-2004 his death).  He ranks highly in public opinion polls of U.S. Presidents, and is a conservative icon.  He is one of my favorite presidents.  Reagan put the swagger back in America.

The Final Footprint – Reagan’s body was taken to the Kingsley and Gates Funeral Home in Santa Monica, California where well-wishers paid tribute by laying flowers and American flags in the grass.  On June 7, his body was removed and taken to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, where a brief family funeral was held.  His body lay in repose in the Library lobby until June 9.  Reagan’s body was then flown to Washington, D.C. where he became the tenth United States president to lie in state.  On 11 June, a state funeral was conducted in the Washington National Cathedral, presided over by President George W. Bush.  Eulogies were given by former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and both Presidents Bush.  Also in attendance were Gorbachev, and many world leaders, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and interim presidents Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, and Ghazi al-Yawer of Iraq.  After the funeral, the Reagan entourage was flown back to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, where another service was held, and President Reagan was interred.  His was the first state funeral in the United States since that of President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1973.  His burial site is inscribed with the words he delivered at the opening of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library: ”

Ray_Bradbury_(1975)_-cropped-On this day in 2012, fantasy, science fiction, horror and mystery fiction writer, Ray Bradbury died in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 91, after a lengthy illness.  Born Ray Douglas Bradbury on 22 August 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois.  Perhaps best known for his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 (1953) and for the science fiction and horror stories gathered together as The Martian Chronicles (1950) and The Illustrated Man (1951).  Bradbury was one of the most celebrated 20th-century American writers.  Many of Bradbury’s works have been adapted into comic books, television shows and films.  The Final Footprint – Bradbury is interred at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery (a Dignity Memorial property) in Los Angeles.  Other notable final footprints at Westwood include; Sammy Cahn, Truman Capote, James Coburn, Rodney Dangerfield, Janet Leigh, Farrah Fawcett, Brian Keith, Don Knotts, Burt Lancaster, Peter Lawford, Peggy Lee, Jack Lemmon, Karl Malden, Dean Martin, Walter Mathau, Marilyn Monroe, Carroll O’Connor, Roy Orbison, George C. Scott, Dorothy Stratten, Natalie Wood and Frank Zappa.

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Day in History 4 June – Casanova – Ronnie Lane

Casanova_ritratto-150x150On this day in 1798, Italian adventurer, author from the Republic of Venice, and famous lover, Giacomo Girolamo Casanova de Seingalt died at age 73 in Duchcov, Kingdom of Bohemia, Holy Roman Empire, now the Czech Republic.  Born Giacomo Girolamo Casanova in Venice on 2 April 1725.  His autobiography, Histoire de ma vie (Story of My Life), is regarded as one of the most authentic sources of the customs and norms of European social life during the 18th century.  As was not uncommon at the time, Casanova often used pseudonyms, the most frequent being Chevalier de Seingalt.  He also published abundantly in French under the name Jacques Casanova de Seingalt.  He has become so famous for his often complicated and elaborate affairs with women that his name is now synonymous with “womanizer”.  He spent his last 13 years in in the Castle of Dux, Bohemia (Duchcov Castle, Czech Republic) as a librarian in Count Waldstein‘s household, and wrote the story of his life.  casanova graveThe Final Footprint –  Casanova was buried at Dux, but the exact place of his grave was forgotten over the years and remains unknown today.  His last words are said to have been “I have lived as a philosopher and I die as a Christian”.


ronnielane-205x300On this day in 1997, musician, songwriter, producer, member of both Small Faces and Faces, Ronnie Lane died from multiple sclerosis in Trinidad, Colorado at the age of 51.  Born Ronald Frederick Lane on 1 April 1946  in Forest Gate, a working class area in the East End of London.  Lane formed the Faces with Ian McLagan, Kenney Jones, Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart in 1969.  Faces was a great band, one of my favorites.  Lane was married to Susan Gallegos at the time of his death.  The Final Footprint – Lane is interred in the Masonic Cemetery in Trinidad, Colorado.  His grave is marked by an upright companion granite monument.  On one side is engraved; LANE / God Bless Us All.

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On this Day 3 June – Georges Bizet – Franz Kafka – Dory Funk – Will Sampson

Georges_bizetOn this day in 1875, composer and pianist of the Romantic era, Georges Bizet died on his sixth wedding anniversary, from heart failure at the age of 36 in Bougival (Yvelines), about 10 miles west of Paris.  Born Georges Alexandre César Léopold Bizet on 25 October 1838 at 26 rue de la Tour d’Auvergne in the 9th arrondissement of Paris.  Perhaps best know for his opera Carmen.  Carmen, which is based on a novella of the same title written in 1846 by the French writer Prosper Mérimée, premiered on 3 March 1875, at the Opéra-Comique in Paris, but received an initial lukewarm reception.  Bizet was reportedly bitterly disappointed.  Of course, Carmen has since become one of the most popular works in the entire operatic repertoire.  In June 1862 the Bizet family’s maid, Marie Reiter, gave birth to a son, Jean Bizet.  Bizet married Geneviève Halévy (1869–1875 his death).  Bravo Bizet!  Dear reader, I strongly suggest you purchase/download Carmen and see it live when you can.  The Final Footprint – Bizet is entombed in  Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.  His tomb is marked by an upright marble or stone monument with his bronze bust on top.  The names of his operas are engraved on the side of the monument.  The following is engraved on the front; SA FAMILLE ET SES AMIS (His family and friends).  Other notable Final Footprints at Père Lachaise include; Honoré de Balzac, Jean-Dominique Bauby, Maria Callas, Chopin, Colette, Auguste Comte, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Molière, Jim Morrison, Édith Piaf, Camille Pissarro, Marcel Proust, Sully Prudhomme, Gioachino Rossini, Georges-Pierre Seurat, Simone Signoret, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Oscar Wilde, and Richard Wright.

Kafka_portraitOn this day in 1924, German-language writer of novels and short stories, one of the most influential authors of the 20th century, Franz Kafka died from complications of laryngeal tuberculosis at a sanatorium in Kierling near Vienna, at the age of 40.  Born near the Old Town Square in Prague on 3 July 1883.  Kafka strongly influenced genres such as existentialism.  His works, “Die Verwandlung” (“The Metamorphosis”), Der Process (The Trial), and Das Schloss (The Castle), are filled with the themes and archetypes of alienation, physical and psychological brutality, parent/child conflict, characters on a terrifying quest, and mystical transformations.  The term Kafkaesque has entered the English language to describe surreal situations.  Kafka graveThe Final Footprint – Kafka’s body was brought back to Prague where he was buried on 11 June 1924, in the New Jewish Cemetery in Prague-Žižkov.



Dory_FunkOn this day in 1973, United States Navy veteran, professional wrestler, humanitarian, Dory Funk died at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Amarillo, Texas from a heart attack at the age of 54.  Born Dorrance Wilhelm Funk on 4 May 1919 in Hammond, Indiana.  Funk is the father of wrestlers Dory Funk, Jr. and Terry Funk.  He founded The Double Cross Ranch near Amarillo.  He was a long time supporter of the Cal Farley Boys Ranch.  As a boy growing up in the Texas Panhandle, I watched the Funks wrestle on television.  We called it “big time wrastlin'”.  The Final Footprint – Funk is interred in Dreamland Cemetery in Canyon, Texas.




On this day in 1987, actor and artist, Native American Muscogee (Creek), Will Sampson died in Houston after undergoing a heart and lung transplant of post-operative kidney failure and pre-operative malnutrition problems, at the age of 53.  Born in Okmulgee, Oklahoma on 27 September 1933.  Perhaps his most notable roles were as “Chief Bromden” in the Miloš Forman film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)based on the 1962 novel of the same name by Ken Kesey; as “Ten Bears” in the Clint Eastwood film The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) based on the novel Gone to Texas by Forrest Carter; and as Crazy Horse in The White Buffalo (1977).  Sampson was also an artist.  His large painting depicting the Ribbon Dance of his Muscogee people is in the collection of the Creek Council House Museum in Okmulgee, Oklahoma.  The Final Footprint – Sampson was interred at Graves Creek Cemetery in Hitchita, Oklahoma.

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On this Day 2 June – Lou Gehrig – Vita Sackville-West – Bo Diddley

louGehrig_croppedOn this day in 1941, baseball player, New York Yankee, 7x All-Star, 6x World Series Champion, Hall of Famer, The Iron Horse, Lou Gehrig died at his home in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, New York at the age of 37 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), now commonly known in the United States and Canada as Lou Gehrig’s disease.  Born Henry Louis Gehrig on 19 June 1903 in the Yorkville section of Manhattan.  His legendary 17-year career was cut short by the disease.  Perhaps even more legendary is the strong dignity with which he faced his prognosis.  The Yankees announced his retirement and proclaimed 4 July 1939 as “Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day.”  In his speech that day, wearing his Yankee’s uniform, Gehrig in part said; “Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got.  Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”  The Yankees retired his number four that day.  Gehrig was married to Eleanor Twitchell (1933-1941 his death).  She did not remarry.  The Final Footprint – Gehrig was cremated and his cremains are interred in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.  Eleanor was interred next to him following her death in 1984.  Their graves are marked by a companion upright granite marker.  Gary Cooper portrayed Gehrig in the movie The Pride of the Yankees (1942).  The Yankees added a monument to Monument Park to honor Gehrig.  Monument Park is an open-air museum containing a collection of monuments, plaques, and retired numbers honoring distinguished members of the Yankees.  Other notable Yankees whose final footprints include memorialization in Monument Park; Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth, George Steinbrenner, Roger Maris, Thurman Munson, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Phil Rizzuto, Billy Martin, Mel Allen, Bob Sheppard, and Casey Stengel.

Vita_Sackville-WestOn this day in 1962, author, poet and one-time lover of Virginia Woolf, The Hon Victoria Mary Sackville-West, Lady Nicolson, died at the age of 70 in Sissinghurst Castle, Kent, England.  Born Victoria Mary Sackville-West at Knole House near Sevenoaks, Kent on 9 March 1892.  She won the Hawthornden Prize in 1927 and 1933.  She was known for her exuberant aristocratic life, her passionate affair with the novelist Woolf, and Sissinghurst Castle Garden, which she and her husband, Sir Harold Nicolson, created at their estate.  Woolf wrote one of her most famous novels, Orlando, described by Sackville-West’s son Nigel Nicolson as “the longest and most charming love-letter in literature”, as a result of her affair with Sackville-West.  The moment of the conception of Orlando was documented from Woolf’s diary on 5 October 1927: “And instantly the usual exciting devices enter my mind: a biography beginning in the year 1500 and continuing to the present day, called Orlando: Vita; only with a change about from one sex to the other”.  The Final Footprint – Sackville-West is entombed  in the Sackville family vault at Withyham Parish Church in East Sussex.

On this day in 2008, rhythm and blues vocalist, guitarist, songwriter (usually as Ellas McDaniel), rock and roll pioneer, The Originator, Bo Diddley died of heart failure surrounded by his family at his home in Archer, Florida at the age of 79.

Bo Diddley
Bo Diddley Prag 2005 02.jpg

Bo Diddley performing in 2005

Born Ellas Otha Bates on December 30, 1928 in McCombs, Mississippi.  Diddley played a key role in the transition from the blues to rock and roll.

In my opinion, his use of African rhythms and a signature beat, a simple five-accent hambone rhythm, is a cornerstone of hip hop, rock, and pop. In recognition of his achievements, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation and a Grammy Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. He is also recognized for his technical innovations, including his distinctive rectangular guitar.

The Final Footprint – The gospel song, ‘Walk Around Heaven’ was sung at his bedside and when it was done he said ‘wow’ with a thumbs up.  His last words he said ‘I’m going to heaven.'”

His funeral, a four-hour “homegoing” service, took place on June 7, 2008, at Showers of Blessings Church in Gainesville, Florida, and kept in tune with the vibrant spirit of Bo Diddley’s life and career. The many in attendance chanted “Hey Bo Diddley” as a gospel band played the legend’s music. A number of notable musicians sent flowers, including George Thorogood, Tom Petty and Jerry Lee Lewis. Little Richard, who had been asking his audiences to pray for Bo Diddley throughout his illness, had to fulfil concert commitments in Westbury and New York City the weekend of the funeral. He took time at both concerts to remember his friend of a half-century, performing Bo’s namesake tune in his honor.

After the funeral service, a tribute concert was held at the Martin Luther King Center in Gainesville, Florida and featured guest performances by his son and daughter, Ellas McDaniel Jr. and Evelyn “Tan” Cooper; long-time background vocalist Gloria Jolivet; former Offspring guitarist and long-time friend and coproducer of “Bo Diddley put the rock in rock’n’roll,” Scott “Skyntyte” Free and Eric Burdon.  

Diddley is interred at Rosemary Hill Cemetery in Bronson, Florida.

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Day in History 1 June – Leslie Howard

On this day in 1943, Academy Award nominated actor, director and producer, Leslie Howard died at the age of 50 when the civilian airliner he was flying on was shot down by German fighters over the Bay of Biscay, a gulf of the northeast Atlantic Ocean located south of the Celtic Sea.  Born Leslie Howard Steiner on 3 April 1893 in Forest Hill, London, England.  Perhaps best remembered for his role as Ashley Wilkes in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, produced by David O. Selznick and directed by Victor Fleming and starring Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’ Hara, Clark Gable as Rhett Butler, Olivia de Havilland as Melanie Hamilton Wilkes, Hattie McDaniel as Mammy, Butterfly McQueen as Prissy and Thomas Mitchell as Gerald O’ Hara.  Howard was married to Ruth Martin (1916-1943 his death).  Allegedly widely known for his affairs, he reportedly said that he “didn’t chase women but … couldn’t always be bothered to run away.”

Bay of Biscay off the northern coast of Spain and the eastern coast of France

The Final Footprint – Howard’s body was lost at sea in the Bay of Biscay.  Howard’s son and daughter each published memoirs of their father: In Search of My Father: A Portrait of Leslie Howard (1984) by Ronald Howard, and A Quite Remarkable Father: A Biography of Leslie Howard (1959) by Leslie Ruth HowardEstel Eforgan‘s biography, Leslie Howard: The Lost Actor was published in 2010.

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On this Day 31 May – Isabella of Angoulême – Joseph Haydn

IsabelledAngoulemeOn this day in 1246, queen consort of England as the second wife of King John, from 1200 until John’s death in 1216, renowned beauty, the “Helen” of the Middle Ages, and  mother of the future King Henry III, Isabella of Angoulême died at Fontevraud Abbey in France at the approximate age of 57.  The Final Footprint – By her own prior arrangement, she was first buried in the Abbey’s churchyard, as an act of repentance for her many misdeeds.  On a visit to Fontevraud, Henry III was shocked to find his mother buried outside the Abbey and ordered her immediately moved inside.  She was finally placed beside Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.


Joseph_Haydn-150x150On this day in 1809, composer, “Father of the Symphony” and “Father of the String Quartet”, Joseph Haydn died at his home in the Vienna suburb of Gumpendorf.  Born Franz Joseph Haydn on 31 March 1732 in Rohrau, Austria.  Haydn was a prolific and prominent composer of the Classical period.  He was reportedly a friend of Mozart and a teacher of Beethoven.  The Final Footprint – Some of his last words reportedly were attempts to calm and reassure his servants as the French army under Napoleon launched an attack on Vienna:  “My children, have no fear, for where Haydn is, no harm can fall.”  On 15 June 1809, a memorial service was held in the Schottenkirche at which Mozart’s Requiem was performed.  Haydn is entombed in the Bergkirche in Eisenstadt, Austria.

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On this Day 30 May – Joan of Arc – Christopher Marlowe – Pieter Paul Rubens – Alexander Pope – Voltaire


On this day in 1431, peasant girl, national heroine of France, Catholic saint, The Maid of Orléans, Saint Joan of Arc was executed by burning in Rouen, France at the age of 19.  Born around the year 1412 in Domrémy, a village which was then in the duchy of Bar (later annexed to the province of Lorraine and renamed Domrémy-la-Pucelle).

Joan claimed divine guidance and led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years’ War, which paved the way for the coronation of Charles VII.  She asserted that she had visions from God that instructed her to recover her homeland from English domination.  The uncrowned Charles VII sent her to the siege of Orléans as part of a relief mission.  She gained prominence when she overcame the dismissive attitude of veteran commanders and lifted the siege in only nine days.  Several more swift victories led to Charles VII’s coronation at Reims and settled the disputed succession to the throne.  She was captured by the Burgundians, sold to the English, tried and sentenced by an ecclesiastical court.    The Final Footprint – Joan’s ashes were cast into the Seine.  A monument in Rouen dedicated to her is inscribed with the words of André Malraux: “O Jeanne, without sepulchre, without portrait, you know that the tomb of heroes is the heart of the living.”  A statue in her honor was erected in the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral, interior.  Twenty-five years after the execution, Pope Callixtus III examined the trial, pronounced her innocent and declared her a martyr.  Joan of Arc was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920.   She is one of the patron saints of France, along with St. Denis, St. Martin of Tours, St. Louis IX, and St. Theresa of Lisieux.

Down to the present day, Joan of Arc has remained a significant figure in Western culture.  From Napoleon onward, French politicians of all leanings have invoked her memory.  Writers and composers who have created works about her include: Shakespeare (Henry VI, Part 1), Voltaire (see below) (The Maid of Orleans poem), Schiller (The Maid of Orleans play), Verdi (Giovanna d’Arco), Tchaikovsky (The Maid of Orleans opera), Mark Twain (Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc), and George Bernard Shaw.  Depictions of her continue in film, theatre, television, video games, music and performance.

Marlowe-Portrait-1585On this day in 1593, English dramatist, poet, translator of the Elizabethan era, and the foremost Elizabethan tragedian until his mysterious early death, Christopher Marlowe died in Deptford, England at the age of 29.  The Final Footprint – Marlowe was buried in an unmarked grave in the churchyard of St. Nicholas, Deptford.

Rubens_Self-portrait_1623On this day in 1640, Flemish Baroque painter, and a proponent of an extravagant Baroque style that emphasised movement, colour, and sensuality, Pieter Paul Rubens died in Antwerp at the age of 62 from heart failure, which was a result of his chronic gout on 30 May 1640.  The Final Footprint – Rubens was interred in Saint Jacob’s church, Antwerp.

Alexander_Pope_by_Michael_DahlOn this day in 1744, English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer and for his use of the heroic couplet, Alexander Pope died at the age of 56 in his villa in Twickenham surrounded by friends.  The Final Footprint – He lies buried in the nave of the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Twickenham.

Voltaire-BaquoyOn this day in 1778, French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, freedom of expression, free trade and separation of church and state, Voltaire died in Paris at the age of 83.  Born François-Marie Arouet in Paris either on 21 November 1694 or 20 February 1694.  Voltaire was a versatile writer, producing works in almost every literary form, including plays, poems, novels, essays, and historical and scientific works.  He wrote more than 20,000 letters and more than 2,000 books and pamphlets.  He was an outspoken advocate, despite the risk this placed him in under the strict censorship laws of the time.  As a satirical polemicist, he frequently made use of his works to criticize intolerance, religious dogma, and the French institutions of his day.  The Final Footprint – Because of his well-known criticism of the Church, which he had refused to retract before his death, Voltaire was denied a Christian burial, but friends managed to bury his body secretly at the Abbey of Scellières in Champagne before this prohibition had been announced.  His heart and brain were embalmed separately.  On 11 July 1791, the National Assembly of France, which regarded him as a forerunner of the French Revolution, had his remains brought back to Paris to enshrine him in the Panthéon.  It is estimated that a million people attended the procession, which stretched throughout Paris.  There was an elaborate ceremony, complete with an orchestra, and the music included a piece that André Grétry had composed specially for the event.  A widely repeated story, that the remains of Voltaire were stolen by religious fanatics in 1814 or 1821 during the Pantheon restoration and thrown into a garbage heap, is false.  Such rumours resulted in the coffin being opened in 1897, which confirmed that his remains were still present.  Other notable Final Footprints at the Panthéon include: Louis Braille, Pierre and Marie Curie, Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, André Malraux, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Émile Zola.

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On this Day 29 May – Joséphine de Beauharnais – Harvey Korman – Dennis Hopper – Doc Watson

Josephine_de_Beauharnais,_Keizerin_der_FransenOn this day in 1814, first wife of Napoléon Bonaparte, and thus the first Empress of the French, Joséphine de Beauharnais died of pneumonia in Rueil-Malmaison, four days after catching cold during a walk with Tsar Alexander in the gardens of Malmaison, at the age of 50.  Born Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie in Les Trois-Îlets, Martinique to a wealthy white Creole family that owned a sugar plantation.  Her first husband Alexandre de Beauharnais was guillotined during the Reign of Terror, and she was imprisoned in the Carmes prison until her release five days after Alexandre’s execution.  Through her daughter, Hortense, she was the maternal grandmother of Napoléon III. Through her son, Eugène, she was the great-grandmother of later Swedish and Danish kings and queens.  The reigning houses of Belgium, Norway and Luxembourg also descend from her.  She did not bear Napoleon any children; as a result, he divorced her in 1810 to marry Marie Louise of Austria.  Joséphine was the recipient of numerous love letters written by Napoleon, many of which still exist.  Her Château de Malmaison was noted for its magnificent rose garden, which she supervised closely, owing to her passionate interest in roses, collected from all over the world.  The Final Footprint – She was buried at the church of Saint Pierre-Saint Paul in Rueil.  Her daughter Hortense is interred near her.  Napoleon learned of her death via a French journal while in exile on Elba, and reportedly stayed locked in his room for two days, refusing to see anyone.  He claimed to a friend, while in exile on Saint Helena, that “I truly loved my Joséphine, but I did not respect her.”  Despite his numerous affairs, eventual divorce, and remarriage, the Emperor’s last words on his death bed at St. Helena were: “France, the Army, the Head of the Army, Joséphine.”(“France, l’armée, tête d’armée, Joséphine”).

On this day in 2008, actor Harvey Korman died at the age of 81 on May 29, 2008, at UCLA Medical Center as the result of complications from a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm he had suffered four months previously.  He was buried at Santa Monica’s Woodlawn Cemetery.

dennishopperOn this day in 2010, actor, screenwriter, director and photographer, Dennis Hopper, died at his home in the coastal Los Angeles district of Venice at the age of 74 from prostate cancer.  Born Dennis Lee Hopper on 17 May 1936 in Dodge City, Kansas.  He appeared in an impressive list of great, even iconic movies, including: as a goon in Rebel without a Cause (1955) starring James Dean; as Jordan Benedict III in Edna Ferber’s Giant (1956) with Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean; as Dave Hastings in The Sons of Katie Elder (1965) with John Wayne and Dean Martin; as Babalugats in Cool Hand Luke (1967) with Paul Newman, Strother Martin and George Kennedy; as the Prophet in Hang ’em High (1968) with Clint Eastwood; as Billy in Easy Rider (1969) which he directed and co-wrote with Peter Fonda and Terry Southern and which he starred in with Fonda and Jack Nicholson; as Moon in True Grit (1969) with John Wayne, Glen Campbell, Kim Darby, Robert Duvall and Strother Martin; as a photojournalist in Francis Ford Coppola‘s adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness (1902),  Apocalypse Now (1979) with Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen and Robert Duvall; as Frank Booth in David Lynch‘s Blue Velvet (1986) with Kyle MacLachlan and Isabella Rossellini; as Shooter in Hoosiers (1986) with Gene Hackman; as Lyle from Dallas in Red Rock West (1993) with Nicholas Cage and Lara Flynn Boyle; as Clifford Worley in True Romance (1993) which was written by Quentin Tarrantino and featured Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt and Christopher Walken; as Howard Payne in Speed (1994) with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves.  Hopper was married five times; Brooke Hayward (1961-1969 divorce), Michelle Phillips (1970-1970 divorce), Daria Halprin (1972-1976 divorce), Katherine LaNasa (1989-1992 divorce), Victoria Duffy (1996-2010 separated).  The Final Footprint – Hopper’s funeral took place on 3 June 2010 at San Francisco de Asis Mission Church in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico.  He is interred in Jesus Nazareno Cemetery in Ranchos de Taos.  His grave is marked by a burial mound where various momentos have been left in his honor.  As someone who has spent some time in Ranchos de Taos, this is one of the special places in America and it is easy to understand why Hopper chose this for his final footprint.  It is enchanting.

Doc_Watson_Sugar_GroveOn this day in 2012, guitarist, songwriter and singer, 7x Grammy Award winner, Doc Watson died at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina at the age of 89.  Born Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson on 3 March 1923 in Deep Gap, North Carolina.  He was predeceased by his son Merle who died in a tractor accident at their farm.  One of my favorite Guy Clark songs, “Dublin Blues”, has a line that pays tribute to Watson:

I have seen the David
I’ve seen the Mona Lisa too
And I have heard Doc Watson
Play Columbus Stockade Blues 

The Final Footprint – Doc and Merle are interred at the Merle and Doc Watson Memorial Cemetery in Deep Gap, North Carolina.

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Day in History 28 May – Audie Murphy

On this day in 1971, United States Army veteran, Medal of Honor recipient, actor, songwriter, Audie Murphy died in a private plane crash on Brush Mountain near Catawba, Virginia at the age of 46.  Born Audie Leon Murphy on 20 June 1924 in Kingston, Texas.  The most decorated American soldier of World War II.  Murphy was awarded 33 U.S. medals, five medals by France and one from Belgium including; three Purple Hearts, two Bronze stars, the Legion of Merit, two Silver Stars, the Distinguised Service Cross and the Medal of Honor.

The official U.S. Army citation for Murphy’s Medal of Honor reads:

Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army, Company B 15th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division.
Place and date: Near Holtzwihr France, January 26, 1945.
Entered service at: Dallas, Texas. Birth: Hunt County, near Kingston, Texas, G.O. No. 65, August 9, 1944.
Citation: Second Lt. Murphy commanded Company B, which was attacked by six tanks and waves of infantry. 2d Lt. Murphy ordered his men to withdraw to a prepared position in a woods, while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery by telephone. Behind him, to his right, one of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. Its crew withdrew to the woods. 2d Lt. Murphy continued to direct artillery fire, which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, 2d Lt. Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer, which was in danger of blowing up at any moment, and employed its .50 caliber machine gun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to German fire from three sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back. For an hour the Germans tried every available weapon to eliminate 2d Lt. Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad that was trying to creep up unnoticed on his right flank. Germans reached as close as 10 yards, only to be mowed down by his fire. He received a leg wound, but ignored it and continued his single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way back to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack, which forced the Germans to withdraw. His directing of artillery fire wiped out many of the enemy; he killed or wounded about 50. 2d Lt. Murphy’s indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction, and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy’s objective.

James Cagney invited Murphy to Hollywood in September 1945.  Murphy’s 1949 autobiography To Hell and Back (became a national bestseller.  He portrayed himself in the 1955 film version of his book.  Murphy was married twice; Wanda Hendrix (1949-1950 divorce) and Pamela Archer.  The Final Footprint – Murphy is interred in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.  His grave is marked by an upright marble VA marker.  Other notable Final Footprints at Arlington include; Space Shuttle Challenger, Space Shuttle Columbia, Medgar Evers, JFK, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, RFK, Edward Kennedy, Malcolm Kilduff, Jr., and Lee Marvin.

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