Sunrise: A tribute to Roy Rogers

Sunrise: A tribute to Roy Rogers

Posted: Thursday, July 3, 2008 7:00 pm

By Don H. Lawrence Special to The Messenger The death of a childhood hero evokes a unique kind of grief. I am one of the countless people whose lives have been profoundly impacted by Roy Rogers, and when he died due to congestive heart failure on July 6, 1998, I experienced grief. This is not the kind of grief that occurs due to the death of someone with whom we share a personal relationship. It is, rather, a shared, corporate grief that we experience due to the death of a hero. We do not have to be personally acquainted with an individual to experience grief in response to their death. Roy’s real name was Leonard Slye, and he was born on Nov. 5, 1911, to Andy and Mattie Slye in Cincinnati. He used to joke about the fact that his old homeplace at 412 Second St. was located at second base after Riverfront Stadium was built as the home of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team. Roy experienced a great deal of grief in his lifetime. In 1943 he lost his wife, Arlene, during the birth of their son. He found strength and support from Dale Evans (Frances Octavia Smith, Oct. 31, 1912-Feb. 7, 2001) who became his wife in 1947. Like many other parents who have experienced grief due to the loss of children, Roy and Dale lost three of their nine children: Robin died at age 2 from Down’s Syndrome. Debbie died in a church-bus accident when she was 12. Sandy choked to death in Frankfurt, Germany, where he was stationed in the military. Roy experienced another kind of grief when he lost his beloved 33-year-old palomino horse, Trigger, in 1965. His movie career began in 1935, and he eventually starred in some 89 movies and over 100 television shows. He achieved such popularity as the “King of the Cowboys” after he started working at Republic Pictures in 1937 that from 1943 to 1955 he was the Number One Cowboy Star. Dale was crowned Queen of the West. Roy organized the famous Sons of the Pioneers singing group. His famous sidekicks were George “Gabby” Hayes (May 7, 1885-Feb. 9, 1969) and Pat Brady (Oct. 31, 1914-Feb. 27, 1972). Roy Barcroft (Sept. 7, 1902-Nov. 28, 1969) played the notorious “bad guy” role in many of Roy’s movies. And, we dare not forget Pat Brady’s famous ornery jeep, “Nellybelle.” An enjoyable and informative autobiography by Roy and Dale is entitled Happy Trails, which is also the title of their unforgettable theme song that Dale wrote. Goodbye, Roy, and thanks for all the “happy trails” you have ridden with us. Don Harold Lawrence is coordinator of SUNRISE, which is sponsored by Shackelford Corporation. He may be contacted by mail at 145 Abernathy Drive, Adamsville, TN 38310-3001 or by telephone or fax at (731) 632-4483. His Web address is www.shackelfordfuneraldirectors.com. Published in The Messenger 7.3.08

, ,

Leave a Comment