1999: James Dean Memorial Service in Fairmount

1999: James Dean Memorial Service in Fairmount

     Updated 2 November 1999.      URL is http://our.tentativetimes.net/99memorial/index.html

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1999 James Dean Memorial Service

Back Creek Friends Meeting

Fairmount, Indiana

This year’s memorial service was well attended and very special. Along with our celebrity speaker, Dizzy Sheridan, we gathered to pay tribute to long-time fan Kathie Wilson who passed away in January 1999.

Michelle Adams, Magdalin Leonardo and Donovan Wilson.

The Friends brunch gathering is a welcome tradition. We feasted for two hours before the service, and some of us returned later to polish off the last sandwiches, cookies, cider and treats.

Esther Hoffman and Patsy Vetor greeted us at Back Creek Friends Meeting.

We had many photographers with us, including a group from Ball State University. This must be the best documented James Dean event in the world.

Dizzy Sheridan with David Loehr

We are happy to learn that there will soon be a biography by Elizabeth (Dizzy) Sheridan about her time in New York City with James Dean, including the hitch-hiking trip to Fairmount. The book is being shopped as you read this. As soon as there is a publisher, I’ll tell you how to buy the book. Dizzy is one of the friendliest, most approachable celebrities I’ve ever met. She brings honor on the title, "star." When she tried to eat dinner at Ryan’s Steakhouse in Marion, she had to spend the entire time signing autographs. Maybe next time we can find a more secluded restaurant for part of her visit.

Here are a few photos taken inside the Back Creek Friends Meeting House and Fellowship Hall. This first group includes all the speakers at the service.

Cleve Porter

Eulogy to James Dean By Cleve Porter


Delivered at Back Creek Friends Church in Fairmount, IN on September 30, 1999.

I want to thank my friends Phil Zeigler and Tom Berghuis for the opportunity to speak about my feelings about Jimmy. And I thank my other friend Martha Howell for the wonderful stories she has told me about Jimmy when they were in school together.

I first saw Jimmy in EAST OF EDEN in 1954 when I was 13 years old. His performance moved me to tears; especially when his father rejected Jimmy’s hard-earned gift. I began buying magazines, records, and so forth about him. After REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, I knew I’d found a friend.

My friends and family didn’t understand my fascination with Jimmy; but his screen personna paralled my life very closely; a cold, austere father and harrassment in high school of me and my friends by the football players instead of a gang. (Big, brave jocks! My friends and I weighed about 135 pounds each) Plus, as most teenagers do, I had feelings of being alienated and alone.

Then he died. I remember sitting in the back seat of my parents car on the way to a vacation in Panama City, Fl in 1955 and asking myself over and over—"Why did he have to die?" His early death was tragic; and I felt a tremendous sense of loss. I still do.

My memoriabilia collection about Jimmy grew and grew. It included many magazines, articles, records, books, and pictures. When I entered college in 1959, on order to protect my collection from my younger brother and 2 younger sister I locked my collection in my closet with a large padlock. Four years later, when I graduated, it was still safe. Today I’ve added 16mm color prints of EOE and RWAC, and more artifacts.

Of my several trips to Fairmount, two stand out. In 1975, I fulfilled a long-held dream and visited Fairmount for the first time. I met with Ortense and Marcus, Sr. who told me they had no idea Jimmy would reach such heights. They were very nice and looked over my collection. I talked with Adeline Nall in Marion about Jimmy’s life. She reiterated his search for excellence through his acting. And Jimmy’s life certainly inspired me to seek excellence in my own personal and professional lives and led me to a 28 year medical sales career with DuPont.

I visited Jimmy’s grave. I can’t express my feelings there.

Inspired by my visit in Fairmount, I went to LA to the Griffith Planetarium where I sat in Jimmy’s seat from Rebel. As I stood on the lookout later where the knife fight took place, I wondered where the tire iron was that Jimmy had thrown over the edge; for a moment I started to climb over the wall and hunt for it, but the area was pretty dangerous. What a great artifact that would have been to have!

And then to Cholame to the Memorial there. Then I stood on the old road (not the new road} where highways 41 and 466 (now highway 46} meet at the crash site. I stood there a long time thinking; "Why did he have to die in such a senseless, tragic accident ? What a loss to us!"

The other outstanding visit occurred in 1995. I returned to Fairmount . I met Marcus,Sr. Frank Mazzola, who played Crunch in REBEL, Kenneth Kendall, Jimmy’s friend Lew Bracker, Leith Adams who wrote JAMES DEAN: BEHIND THE SCENES, and the others. The visit was very inspirational.

Hopefully, all of my pictures from all of these trips and the stories behind them will be shared with you soon on Sandra Weinhardt’s website DEANERS.com. I hope you enjoy them and my Jimmy Dean story.

On Monday night, I talked with Ann Doran, who played Jimmy’s Mother in RWAC. I told her I would be speaking at the Memorial Service for Jimmy and I asked her if she had anything she’d like for me to tell you. First, she said she’s sorry she can’t be here with us, but, she laughed, then said she’s 88 years old. she said, " I’m old!" She recently had a stroke, but she’s talking again now. She said Jimmy was wonderful to work with. she said his first visit to her home occurred when Jimmy awakened her at 2 a.m. throwing rocks at her window. He wanted her to come ride in his new car. she told him he was crazy and to come back in daylight. Which he did. After that, he would often visit her at night and talk with her as if she was his Mother and a Mother-son relationship developed between them.

You are here because you love and you miss James Dean. I’m with you.

Phil Ziegler

Gary Bryant

Dizzy Sheridan

Musical interlude

Michelle Adams

Tom Berghuis

Bob Pulley

Nikki Bazooka

After the walk to Park Cemetery

This part of the ceremony starts when Nikki Bazooka places a saddle on Jimmy’s headstone. Then we tried to sing Amazing Grace. Maybe next year we’ll bring papers with the words. This is a tradition begun by Adeline Nall.

Instead of the poems and speeches from the fans this year, Tom Berghuis suggested we all go home. We were confused, as we are used to staying at the graveside a long, long time. No one left, and then Donovan Wilson took the floor, with great emotion sharing memories of his mother Kathie. Donovan had brought some of Kathie’s ashes to place on Jimmy’s grave. Only those closest to Donovan knew this was going on, but the word spread and a respectful silence lay over Park Cemetery. A lot of us were crying, even people who had not met Kathie.

Maxine Rowland took this portrait of Kathie Wilson. It’s Donovan’s favorite photo.

It was good that people stayed on, for then we all visited and kept Donovan in our safe circle. See quite a few other crowd scenes on the next page

Other memorial pages include brunch scenes and

Flowers at the cemetery

Here’s a link to the main index for the 1999 James Dean festival

  Contents of DEANERS e-zine.

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