Last Man Standing, Jerry Lee Lewis, RIP

Jerry Lee Lewis, the last pioneer of the SUN Records Rock n’ Roll era still standing, died this morning at age 87.

His representative Zach Farnum, released this message: “Judith, his seventh wife, was by his side when he passed away at his home in Desoto County, Mississippi, south of Memphis. He told her, in his final days, that he welcomed the hereafter, and that he was not afraid.”

Lewis taught himself to play piano when he was 9 and sang in church, drawing inspiration from preachers and musicians that traveled through his hometown of Ferriday, Louisiana.

Lewis married his 13 year old cousin, Myra in 1958.

At 10, Lewis’ father mortgaged their family farm to buy him his first piano. He performed for the public for the first time at a local car dealership when he was 14.

See Great Balls of Fire Cornbread recipe here

Lewis crashed into the gates of Graceland, the famed home of Elvis Presley

Through Sam Phillips’ SUN Records in Memphis, Tennessee, Lewis began with the likes of Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Charlie Rich as one of the original rock and rollers.

Lewis with Sam Phillips

Considered a music pioneer, Lewis released a number of timeless hits including “Great Balls Of Fire”, “Whole Lot of Shaking Going On” and “Breathless” before pivoting to country music and topping the charts with tunes like “What Made Milwaukee Famous,”“There Must Be More To Love Than This” and “Would You Take Another Chance On Me.”

Revisiting SUN studio site of the MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET

Over the course of his career, he won several Grammys and was an inaugural inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

When Lewis was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, country star Hank Williams Jr. said Lewis “doesn’t ask for your attention, he demands it.”

“He doesn’t take a stage, he commands it,” Williams said.

Lewis with Mick Jagger


In God We Trust

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History, Texas, Pioneers, Genealogy

From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.


CLICK: PARK LANE by Rebecca Taylor

Simple Respect at Marine Vet’s Funeral Lifted Family’s Spirits

“Yesterday during my Daddy’s funeral procession, led by the United States Marine Corps, my family noticed the man in this photo pulled over on the side of the road,” posted Rona Wallace. “His hat was in is hand and his hand was over his heart, honoring my father and our family as we passed by.”

“His respectful act touched my family and the entire procession so deeply,” she noted. “We passed many other cars along the way that simply went about their day.”

“Since his license plate showed in the photo, my daughter did some digging and we found him!!!”

“His name is Ernest Boerlin and he is also a veteran – US Navy,” she continued. “When I messaged him privately to thank him for honoring my father, he said:”

“It was an honor to show my respect for a fellow serviceman and their family. Please accept my prayers and condolences to you and your family for your loss. Fair winds and following seas. God bless.”

“Thank you, Ernest. Your act of kindness and respect touched our family and friends very deeply and we are grateful. May God bless you and yours as well,” she commented. “Let’s thank Ernest for his service and show him some love, y’all!”

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CLICK: PARK LANE by Rebecca Taylor

Was Natalie Wood Murdered?

“…intentional accident,” said her sister Lana.

When Hollywood legend Natalie Wood starred in the 1983 movie Brainstorm,  there was no way of knowing it would be her last.

NOTORIOUS AMERICAN CRIME CHRONICLES is a CleverJourneys ongoing series exploring American history from a perspective that burrows deep into criminal profiles, the penal system, victim’s stories, crime prevention, forensic science, law enforcement and our justice system.

The science-fiction movie, co-starring Christopher Walken,  explored the intriguing and dangerous possibilities that came with intruding into someone else’s mind. 

Natalie died before the film was finished. Despite resistance from studio executives, the director, Douglas Trumbull, creatively found a way to complete Brainstorm

Walken and Wood in BRAINSTORM

Trumball used Natalie’s younger sister, Lana Wood, for some “long shots and shaded profiles” to successfully complete the movie. Brainstorm was a hit and went on to receive a total of six award nominations.

Natalie started out successfully as a child actor and by the 1960s she was featured in Hollywood classics such as West Side StoryGypsy, and Sex and the Single Girl.

She put her acting career on hiatus in the 1970s and had a child with Robert Wagner, whom she had previously married and divorced.

🔹While on a yachting excursion with Wagner and Brainstorm co-star Walken off Santa Catalina Island on November 29, 1981, Wood’s body was mysteriously found floating about a mile away from the yacht.

🔹An autopsy revealed that she had bruises and abrasions on her body, as well as a cocktail of pain medications and alcohol in her system.

🔹Her death was ruled to be an accidental drowning and hypothermia.

🔹To this day, no one is certain how Natalie got in the water in the first place, although then-Los Angeles County coroner Thomas Noguchi suggested that she may have slipped and fell given the alcohol in her system.

🔹Wagner claimed that there was no foul play on his part, although he admitted later that the two had a big argument right before Wood disappeared.

In 2006, I had the pleasure of meeting Buzz Aldrin, Wally Schirra, Gene Krantz, and other space related notables at the St. Anthony Hotel in San Antonio, Texas.

Among some of the “celebrities” I talked with were movie and television stars James Drury (The Virginian), Clint Howard (Gentle Ben, Apollo 13), and Warren Stevens (Forbidden Planet). However, I was especially excited to spend some time with Lana Wood.

Lana followed her sister into the movie business and as a child starred in The Searchers with John Wayne. She had a recurring role in the TV hit Peyton Place in the 1960s. My favorite role of hers was as Plenty O’Toole in the 1971 James Bond spy movie, Diamonds Are Forever with Sean Connery.

I gave her my business card and we chatted for a good while. She was very open and candid during the interview, especially when asked about the death of her sister.

My autograph from Lana Wood

“First, Natalie was absolutely terrified of the water and swimming, so I never bought into the idea she went out at 10 o’clock at night in a dingy,” she said.  Additionally, Wood’s sister asserted that Wood was terrified of water and under no circumstances would have gone in on her own accord.

“The things they (Wagner and Walken) were saying that Natalie did that night were just not credible,” Lana was certain. “Searchers found her in her nightgown about a mile away. That totally goes against her personality, her character.”

“I knew her all of our life and she was always concerned about how she looked and where she was going,” Lana continued. “Our mother, was an aggressive stage mom, especially with Natalie. It was drilled in her head to be dressed right, day or night, here or there.”

“Do you think her death was an accident?” I asked point blank.

“No, if it was an accident, it was intentional because of their fight on the yacht,” she responded. “I believe her death was intentional and the man who killed my sister was not Christopher Walken. It has been over 20 years now and it continues to haunt me.”

🔹In 1983, the coroner officially ruled Natalie Wood’s death as an accident.

🔹Her death certificate reads, a “probable drowning in the ocean.”

🔹In 2011, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reopened the investigation into the mysterious death.

Since the night of her death, more information has come to light:

🔹The yacht captain and Christopher Walken both heard Wood and Wagner fighting that night, per Vanity Fair.

🔹Questions about why no one called for emergency assistance when Wagner discovered his wife missing have never been answered. It wasn’t until a few hours later when the incident was reported.

🔹Over time, new witnesses, including people who were in their own boats at that time, came forward indicating they heard arguing and a woman shouting for help on that night.

🔹Natalie’s death certificate was amended in 2012 to change the cause of her death from “Drowning” to “Drowning and other undetermined factors”.

Finally, during the last week of May 2022, the LA County Sheriff’s Dept. announced they cleared Robert Wagner, 92, in its investigation into the death of Natalie Wood.

“All leads have been exhausted and the case remains open,” they said. “If additional leads surface which have not already been investigated, the case will be reassigned for investigation.”


🔹When Natalie Wood’s death investigation was reopened, her cause of death was changed to “undetermined.”

🔹Her body was found dressed in a plaid, flannel nightgown, argyle socks, and a red down jacket.

🔹Wood’s blood alcohol content was 0.14%, which was higher than the legal driving limit.

🔹Pain and motion sickness medications were found in her bloodstream.

🔹Bruises were found on several parts of her body, such as the ankles, knees, and wrists.

🔹In the 1981 report, the bruises were attributed to hitting her body on the side of the yacht, as she struggled to get back up after falling over.

🔹However, the new coroner’s report, after the reinvestigation, states that the bruises occurred before Wood even fell into the water.

“The location of the bruises, the multiplicity of the bruises, lack of head trauma, or facial bruising support bruising having occurred prior to entry in the water.”

🔹The yacht’s captain, Dennis Davern, revealed in an interview that he lied during his police interrogation. When asked whether he thought Wagner was responsible, he answered, “Yes, I would say so. Yes.”

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Happy 82 Birthday Sir Tom Jones, From My Mom in Heaven

Knowing I’m an advid autograph collector, my mother, Geraldine Dennis was always on the lookout and obtained several signatures for me.

In April 1969, she took me to a Tom Jones concert with my cousins Carolyn Sanders Gerland and James Johnson at the Hemisfair Arena in San Antonio, Texas. Gladys Knight and the Pips and comedian Norm Crosby also appeared.

They performed on a stage, in the center of the arena, with an amazing orchestra on one side. I was only 13 and the entire show was incredible. Tom Jones sang such hits as “It’s Not Unusual,” “Delilah,” and “Help Yourself.”

I was mesmerized by the strength in his voice and boldness of his showmanship. (It would be three years later, in April 1972, when I would see Elvis Presley for the first time at that same arena…and up until that concert, never did I believe Tom Jones could be beat. LOL.)

Elvis & Tom, 1969

For years Mom would laugh and say, “When I die I want to come back reincarnated as a gospel backup singer so I can stand behind Tom Jones and watch him work on stage.”

She meant it.

On her 50th birthday we took her to the Magic Time Machine restaurant. It first opened in 1973, the year I graduated from high school, and continues to be a fun favorite in San Antonio.

 The Time Machine is like no other restaurant I’ve ever seen, with no two seating areas alike. In San Antonio, you can sit at the Sweethearts Table, in The Attic, a Thatched Hut or even an old Refrigerator. Mom loved the salad bar, a shiny red 1952 MG-TD Roadster modified to serve as a soup and salad vegetables.

“The thing that sets The Magic Time Machine apart is our zany cast of characters who transport our guests into another point in time,” their website bills themselves. “Our servers dress in costumes representing popular pop culture icons from the past, present, and future. The entertainment comes from the humorous interaction with your server in a family friendly environment. Pirate or Princess? Hero or Villain? We have characters for every occasion and group. At The Magic Time Machine, ‘Laughing Aloud is Allowed’!”

It was a fun night that January 17, 1988. Elvis was in the house and Mom told her friends Wayne and Betty Lewis, “I wished Tom Jones would make an appearance too” and explained her reincarnation wish.

We had great laughs but it was especially joyful to see her open my present to her—an 8×10″ glossy personally autographed picture of Tom Jones. The smile and happy tears on her face endure in my thoughts even today.

I took mom to see Tom Jones two more times (she had even seen him in Las Vegas) both in San Antonio’s Majestic Theater and the Laurie Auditorium. Each time she repeated her reincarnation wish–“gospel singer behind Tom Jones.”

When Mom died in September 2006, the funeral at First Baptist Church in Boerne, Texas was full. My sister Bobbi Shipman and I both addressed our dear family and friends, some we hadn’t seen in decades. Of course, there was great emotion and sadness.

To end it all, a gospel group from a Black San Antonio church led by Janet Givens (she has sang to royalty and backed up Michael Bolton) practically blew the stained glass windows out of the church with their songs. They concluded with “Oh Happy Day!”

Mom’s funeral was appropriately uplifting…just like her.

Happy Birthday Sir Tom Jones

I imagine that as Sir Tom Jones celebrates his 82nd birthday here on Earth June 7th, Mom will be wishing him good will and happiness from Heaven–and looking at his behind.

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Bob Saget Death Investigation Photos Released

Hours before he was found dead, Bob Saget released this last selfie:

When Saget arrived back in front of the Ritz-Carlton hotel, he handed his rental car keys over and posed for a selfie with valet worker Orlando Nunez, 21.

Last photo of Saget with Nunez.

Orange County, Florida police investigators don’t believe the late comedian’s head injuries were caused by slipping in the shower of his $800 a night hotel room that night.

On Tuesday, March 22, 2022 photos from a forensic investigation at Saget’s Ritz-Carlton suite #962 were released. Police were looking for evidence of a blow from a hard surface or corner that would have likely broken the skin and left a more distinctive injury.

Although no such tissue or matter was found, the final police report suggests Saget, 65, died from a strike on the head on the floor, bed headboard or some other hard surface in the early hours of January 9.

Bed in Room 962, Jan. 9, 2022

“Our purpose was to locate specific places or items in the room that could have caused the trauma found on autopsy,” the final investigation report stated. “The countertops, tables, nightstands, and other hard furniture in the room all had sharply defined edges and corners and were thought to be unlikely due to the fact that they would have lacerated the skin.”

Saget’s night stand showing his iPhone, iPad, glasses, AirPods, Chapstick and more are shown.

Only one cup appears to have been used in the barely touched mini-bar.

Saget had driven himself back from a stand-up performance two hours away in Jacksonville before handing over the keys to his Chevrolet Impala and walking into the Ritz-Carlton at 2:13am.

“The counters in the bathroom and the shower stall were ruled out for the same reason,” the investigation report continued. “Most of the chairs and couches were thickly upholstered and were too soft to have caused the type and extent of injury Mr. Saget suffered. As mentioned earlier, most of the suite was carpeted. The headboard of the bed was lightly padded and set slightly out from the wall.”

Shower inside Bob Saget’s Florida hotel suite is pictured in crime scene photos taken immediately after his death.

The door to room 962 was latched from the inside and there was no sign of struggle, nothing was damaged and no trace of blood on his sheets or bedding, the report indicated.

“These are listed here as possible mechanisms of injury, but nothing was located in the room that allows for a definitive conclusion,” the report said.

Police saw, via CCTV security camera, Saget walking “purposely across the lobby” before entering his room at 2:17am. When he failed to check out later that day security entered his suite at 3:53pm and found Saget slumped dead in his bed with swelling and small bruises in the corner of his left eye.

The internal door to the adjoining room, 961, was found unlocked but staff established that nobody had been inside it while Saget was there.

Ritz-Carlton Orlando

The hotel parking valet said he “didn’t see any injuries, he didn’t seem hurt, he wasn’t slurring his words – he was exactly as I remembered while watching him on the TV as a child. I was in awe.’

Nunez and Saget chatted warmly for several minutes about the pandemic, their families and their home state of California before they huddled for a photo on his cell phone.

“He said he’d just driven back from Jacksonville but he didn’t seem tired at all, it was like he had just stepped off stage,” Nunez recalled.

“We talked about Covid and he made a joke about how there are so many strains now they are giving them sorority names,” he continued. “If anything I was very cautious about the picture as I wanted to be polite and respectful. But he said get in here, c’mon.”

“I’ve met a few celebrities who barely say a word but Bob was the most genuine, approachable guy. When I heard what had happened the next day I was devastated.”

This diagram shows all the injuries sustained by Saget, resulting in his death from a brain bleed

Saget’s death stunned his fans and concerned his distraught wife Kelly Rizzo who indicated her husband was the happiest he had ever been and was in great health.

Experts also ruled out drugs or alcohol as the cause, attributing the beloved funnyman’s death to ‘blunt force injuries to the head’ including various abrasions to the scalp and fractures to the base of the skull.

Saget was on the road for his ‘I Don’t Do Negative Comedy Tour’ tour when he died.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.
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Las Vegas Comic-Magician Amazing Jonathan Dead at 63

The bizzare and original comic-magician Amazing Johnathan died at his home in Las Vegas on Tuesday, 2-22-22.

Johnathan (AJ) whose legal name was Johnathan Szeles, passed away about 11:30 p.m. with his wife, the sideshow stunt artist Anastasia Synn, by his side.

Although I enjoyed his performances four times over the years at the Golden Nugget and Sahara, it was after a show at the Koval Theater at Miracle Mile Shops in 2007, I was able to interview him and meet his then sidekick, the kooky Psychic Tanya, Penny Wiggins.

Jack Dennis with the Amazing Johnathan and Psychic Tanya, Las Vegas, 2007.

“These shows take the breath out of me,” AJ, obviously tired, wisecracked as he apologized for cutting my time short “Maybe I will need to renegotiate my contract to have more time off.”

Little did he know at the time a diagnosis of cardiomyopathy was in his future. First diagnosed in 2009, as his heart muscle weakened and became more degenerative, doctors told AJ that he only had a year to live. In November 2014, he told an audience at an ENTSpeaks event at Inspire Theater in downtown Las Vegas the sobering news.

He stunned the crowd by stating, “The greatest time of my life was spent here. I made millions of dollars, I have two beautiful houses, and everything came crashing … down. And I was told I have a year to live.”

A single laugh came from the crowd, and A.J. said, “It’s not a joke…So. Um … I promised myself I wasn’t going to cry, but, it’s very scary,” his voice quivered. “My heart is failing. My wife says it failed long ago. But it is actually failing, for real.”

“The last thing I said to him was, ‘I love you, honey, I’ll be with you when you get up from your nap,’ ” his wife Anastasia Synn said almost midnight Tuesday night. “We were feeding him oranges and strawberries. He was so peaceful. He said, ‘Yay!’ He had the most pure and sweetest look on his face.”

Johnathan did not wake up from that nap.

“For the next 36 hours, he was unresponsive,” Synn said. “We spent that time snuggling with him.”

The Las Vegas Journal-Review reported “Synn, Magic Castle official and longtime family friend Erika Larsen, and caregiver Stephanie Castellone of the BurlyCares nonprofit medical assistance organization, were with him at the end. Castellone is herself a performance artist, a contortionist, and was in A.J. and Synn’s wedding in June 2014.”

Anastasia and Johnathan

“I did my best to keep his medicine in his system, clean his foot wounds, do everything a nurse would do and I’m not a nurse. But I loved him so much,” Synn said. “He wanted to pass at home. For the past six months I was begging him to go the hospital, but he absolutely hated going there.”

Born in Detroit on Sept. 9, 1958, Johnathan act was in line with my wicked sense of humor. Before many of his shows a camera would focus on audience members projecting putdowns, bizzare accusations and sick captions. These were definitely adults only performances.

AJ was hands on, inviting unsuspecting members of the audience on stage for saucy humor. If an innocent onlooker was reluctant, he would often go into the audience for a one-on-one routine. I’ve seen him appear to magically swallow his eyeball, skewer his tongue with a spike and take a swig of Windex.

Since the mid-1980s, AJ appeared on “Late Night With David Letterman” and Fox’s “Comic Strip Live.” He was extremely popular on Comedy Central and hosted his own variety specials.

In January 2016, he reunited for a final time with Wiggins, who played Psychic Tanya for more than 15 years, to host a midnight variety performance at Baobab Stage at Town Square.

AJ with Wiggins

At the top of the show, Wiggins greeted A.J. with a line he’d actually written, “Weren’t you supposed to be dead two years ago?”

Wiggins, an outstanding comic actress in her own right, cried late Tuesday remembering Johnathan as “the nicest man and one of the funniest people I knew.”

Mac King, currently performing at Excalibur and currently the longest-running headliner on the Strip, posted, “So sad to lose my friend Johnathan, absolutely one of the funniest guys in the world. Thanksgiving will never be the same.” A.J. was a frequent guest at King’s holiday party.

Johnathan is survived by his sisters, Nancy Rogers and Gail McGuire, and his first wife, Sandra Bowing. A.J. had been saddened over the recent death of his mother, Doreen Szeles.

“He was so loved,” his wife said. “I want him to have the biggest celebration, with everyone who loved him tell the stories of the pranks he played on people. There was nobody else like him.”

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Media Can’t Hide Lies About COVID Vaccine Dangers From Americans Forever

The media charade is over. Too many famous and notable people have died in 2020-2021 from COVID-19 and other complications after their experimental vaccine shots. Liberal newscasters, reporters and political news releases cannot continue pretending as more Americans see and learn about these deaths.

🔹Hank Aaron, 86, the legendary pro baseballer received his COVID vaccine on January 5th, 2021 to demonstrate the safety of the vaccine and encourage other black Americans to do the same. He died two weeks later.

🔹Soon after, Wayne Radford, 64, former NBA and Indianapolis team star, died at his home in Indianapolis following his second dose of the Chinese Virus vaccine.

🔹Mainstream media tried to downplay the death of Wallkill Central School, New York high school football player
Miguel Antonio Lugo, 17, after he collapsed and died during practice.

🔹Joe Bradshaw, 19, a football player at Charleston Southern University. Collapsed with cardiac arrest and shallow breathing died on March 19, again only days after getting the COVID ‘vaccination.’

🔹A few days later, undisputed middleweight champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler died on March 13, 2021 after fighting for his life from the effects of the experimental vaccine injected into his arm just days before.

Named as the Fighter of the Decade for the 1980s by Boxing Illustrated magazine, Hagler also won the Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year award twice. 

Shortly before his death, former professional boxer Thomas Hearns – who was knocked out by Hagler during their famous bout in 1985 – wrote on Instagram alongside a picture of his old opponent: ‘A real true warrior Pray for the king and his family…he’s in ICU fighting the after effects of the vaccine!”

🔹The day after Hagler’s death, Andy Haman, 54, a pro bodybuilder and actor died of pulmonary embolism soon after his second COVID jab.

🔹Country Music star Joe Diffie died on March 29, 2021 from COVID after being vaccinated.

🔹On that same day, Allen Merrill a rocker musician–who penned “I Love Rock and Roll” that became legendary when former Runaways frontwoman Joan Jett covered it in 1982–also died after his shots from COVID.

Brett Smith, an NCAA college basketball referee, collapsed and died during a game on March 31. He had been recently jospitalized with a blood clot after his second jab.

On May 5, Everest Romney, 17, a healthy 6’9″ high school sophomore was hospitalized after experiencing severe migraines and swelling in his neck post-vaccination.  Within 24 hours of getting the vaccine, Everest began experiencing an “exorbitant amount” of pain and swelling in his neck that originated on the same side he received the vaccine. Everest’s dad experienced a similar reaction following a Moderna injection. An x-ray revealed he had over 100 blood clots in his lungs.

Stephanie Dubois, 39, received the the COVID jab just days before being rushed to hospital after having suffering a “serious thrombotic episode.” She initially received the first dose on May 6, 2021 and taken to hospital eight days later due to issues in terms of her breathing and nervous system. She died soon thereafter from a brain hemorrhage.

“Woke up feeling fine and then within an hour I had body shakes, all my joints seized [up] and I was struggling to breathe and was cold to the bone with a persistent headache and dizziness,” Dubois posted on Facebook on May 14.

John Davis, one of the real vocalists behind the R&B duo Milli Vanilli, died at age 66 on May 24 from COVID-19 after he had been “fully vaccinated.”

Seventeen year old Andrew Roseman, a junior high school baseball pitcher died unexpectedly on July 13 during a game in Pennsylvania not long after his jab.

Patrick Ellis, a Midwestern radio personality died on July 16, 2020 after his last vaccine shot.

Little Rock, Arkansas football player
Devon DuHart, 16, mysteriously died on July 24, of a seizure in his sleep within a week of his jab. He was not feeling well after a recent practice.

In Georgia, a few days later, 15-year-old Joshua Ivory collapsed and died during a football game. The coroner’s report said cardiac dysrhythmia triggered sudden cardiac arrest. He had been vaccinated less than a month before his death.

Louisiana Politician Frank Howard died on July 27, from vaccine jab complications.

On August 2, Stephen Sylvester, 15,  a Detroit Central Catholic High School football and track athlete collapsed and died during conditioning practice not long after his second COVID jab.

Quandarius Wilburn, 19, a recently vaccinated football player collapsed during a Georgia Panthers conditioning practice and later died. He appeared to be in very good physical condition when he reported to his first college preseason camp.

Marc Pilcher died–after his second vaccination dose–from COVID-19, just weeks after winning an Emmy on Sept. 11 at the 2021 Creative Arts Emmy Awards. Pilcher, 53, had no prior underlying health conditions died before being double vaccinated.

On October 18,  Lexi Riggles, 16, a Hanover College senior and 2018 Danville High School graduate who played basketball for the Panthers and Warriors, died unexpectedly after her second dose.

November 6, Shawn Rhoden (46), Mr. Olympia 2018 died soon after his vaccinations from cardiac arrest.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Our Readers Favorite Elvis Presley Articles & Photos

The recorded voice of Elvis Presley has been heard by more people than any other in human existence. Elvis remains arguably the most famous and recognizable entertainer in history. From music, movies and memorabilia, his lifetime earnings were $4.3 billion–worth $19 billion today. His earnings since his death on August 16, 1977 far exceed that.

Here are some of our readers favorite articles about Elvis from Clever Journeys, beginning with the most widely viewed.

Favorite Fan Photos

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

RIP Mike Nesmith-The Best Monkees Christmas Song

“I’m heartbroken. I’ve lost a dear friend and partner,” Mickey Dolenz, the last member of the Monkees said of Mike Nesmith who died Friday. “I’m so grateful that we could spend the last couple of months together doing what we loved best — singing, laughing, and doing shtick. I’ll miss it all so much. Especially the shtick. Rest in peace, Nez. … All my love, Micky.”

Dolenz and Nesmith just completed the Monkees’ Farewell Tour with a final stop at L.A.’s Greek Theater on Nov. 14.

“I’m sorry to hear about Mike Nesmith. The Monkees had some great songs, those were fun days,” Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson tweeted. “Love & Mercy to Mike’s family and friends.”

Tork, Dolenz, Jones, Nesmith

“My first big artistic hero, Mike Nesmith,” magician Penn Jillette also tweeted. “He’s a big part of who I am. It’s love you bring, no that I can’t deny. With your wings, you helped me learn to fly. Sweet Young Mike Nesmith.”

Paul Stanley of Kiss responded to Nesmith’s death. “WOW! Sometimes it’s hard to know why someone’s passing hits you a certain way but this is another one that hit me,” he tweeted. “I watch my world change as people that I thought to be timeless pass on, and that is sobering. Lives end and life goes on. RIP Mike Nesmith.”

Nesmith with Santa

As a tribute to Mike Nesmith here is a video of the Monkees best Christmas song:

Click here: Unwrap You At Christmas Video

By now most fans know that Nesmith was raised by his mother in Dallas, Texas after her divorce with his father, Wesley upon his return from overseas in the military.

Later, Nesmith attended San Antonio College in the Alamo City where he met his first wife. Soon they moved to Los Angeles so he could pursue his passion of blues and country music.

It didn’t take long for Nesmith to be cast in The Monkees, as one of the made-for-TV band members inspired by the Beatles.

🔹Davy Jones was a British song-and-dance man with a Tony nomination.

🔹Peter Tork was a Greenwich Village folks singer.

🔹Micky Dolenz had played the orphaned Corky in the 1950s TV show “Circus Boy.”

“Who would play what and who would sing and who would write and who would produce the records was of keen interest to me,” Nesmith wrote in his 2017 memoir, “Infinite Tuesday: An Autobiographical Riff.” “So I was unprepared for the idea that the four of us would have nothing to do with any of that.”

Rest In Peace and thanks for the memories, Michael Nesmith (1942-2021).

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Notable Deaths of 2021

May they Rest in Peace.

Hank Aaron
Former Atlanta Braves’ slugger Hank Aaron, at a pregame ceremony in 2017.


Baseball great Hank Aaron was born on Feb. 5, 1934, in Mobile on the wrong side of segregation. He died on Jan. 22, 2021, as a national icon at age 86. Aaron reached the height of his fame on April, 8, 1974 — a misty night in Georgia when the Atlanta Braves outfielder hit an offering from Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Al Downing over the left-field fence in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium for his 715th home run in the big leagues.

Ed Asner
Ed Asner died on Aug. 29, 2021, at age 91.


Ed Asner won seven Emmy Awards, five for playing the crusty Grant on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and later on his own “Lou Grant.” He was the only actor to win Emmys for playing the same character on both a sitcom and a drama. Asner’s other acclaimed work included Emmy-winning roles as slave ship master Captain Davies in the miniseries “Roots” and Axel Jordache in the miniseries “Rich Man, Poor Man.”

Ned Beatty

Ned Beatty died Sunday, June 13, 2021.


Ned Beatty, the Oscar-nominated character actor who in half a century of American movies, including “Deliverance,” “Network” and “Superman,” was a booming, indelible presence in even the smallest parts, died at 83 on June 13, 2021, of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles surrounded by friends and loved ones.

Apollo 11 moon landing celebrations
This March 30, 1969 photo from NASA shows the crew of the Apollo 11, from left, Neil Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, module pilot; Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, lunar module pilot. Apollo 11 was the first manned mission to the surface of the moon.


Michael Collins, one of three astronauts on the historic Apollo 11 moon mission was 90 years old. He died on April 28, 2021.

“Today the nation lost a true pioneer and lifelong advocate for exploration in astronaut Michael Collins,” said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk. “As pilot of the Apollo 11 command module – some called him ‘the loneliest man in history’ – while his colleagues walked on the Moon for the first time, he helped our nation achieve a defining milestone. He also distinguished himself in the Gemini Program and as an Air Force pilot.”

Collins’ family also released a statement on Twitter saying he died after a “valiant battle with cancer.”

Michael Constantine
Actor Michael Constantine.


Michael Constantine, an actor best known for his Emmy-winning role as high school principal Seymour Kaufman in the TV series “Room 222″ from 1969 to 1974 and his portrayal of Kostas “Gus” Portokalos, the Windex bottle-toting father of the bride in the 2002 film “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” died peacefully on Aug. 31 at age 94.

Constantine appeared on many popular TV shows prior to ” Room 222″ including “My Favorite Martian,” ” The Twilight Zone,” “Bonanza,” “Hogan’s Heroes,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “The Fugitive.”

Stuart Damon
Stuart Damon, a longtime favorite on “General Hospital,” died in June 2021 at age 84.


Stuart Damon spent more than 30 years portraying Dr. Alan Quartermaine on ABC’s “General Hospital” and the spinoff series “Port Charles.” He receiveed six Daytime Emmy nominations and won in 1999 for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series.

Ronald DeFeo Jr.
Nov. 15, 1974, Ronald DeFeo Jr., center, leaves Suffolk County district court after a hearing, on New York’s Long Island. DeFeo, the man convicted of slaughtering his parents and four siblings in a home that later inspired the book and movie “The Amityville Horror” died Friday, March 12, 2021, at Albany Medical Center, where he was taken Feb. 2 from a prison in New York’s Catskill Mountains, prison officials said Monday, March 15. He was 69.


The man convicted of slaughtering his parents and four siblings in a home that later inspired the “The Amityville Horror” book and movies died at age 69.

Dustin Diamond as Samuel Powers, better known as Screech"
Dustin Diamond, better known as Screech” from the series “Saved by the Bell.” Diamond died on Feb. 1, 2021, after a three-week fight with carcinoma, according to his representative.


Dustin Diamond, who gained fame on ’90s teen sitcom “Saved by the Bell,” died Feb. 1, 2021, at age 44. A San Jose, Calif. native, Diamond portrayed quirky nerd Samuel “Screech” Powers, for around 13 years across several iterations of the franchise, which debuted 1989 on NBC. Millions of viewers obsessed over “Saved by the Bell,” especially during the show’s ’90s prime. The show was heavily syndicated and the reruns were must-see after-school viewing for a generation of fans.

Richard Donner
Director/producer Richard Donner.


Filmmaker Richard Donner, who helped create the modern superhero blockbuster with 1978′s “Superman” and mastered the buddy comedy with the “Lethal Weapon” franchise, died at 91 on July 5, 2021.

Donner gained fame with his first feature, 1976′s “The Omen.” A then-unheard-of offer followed: $1 million to direct 1978′s “Superman.”

In 1987, Donner cast Mel Gibson and Danny Glover as a mismatched police pair in the buddy-cop action film “Lethal Weapon.” The film was a smash, spawning several sequels and a TV show.Donner followed up with the Bill Murray hit “Scrooged” in 1988 and “Lethal Weapon 2” the next year. His other credits include “Maverick,” “Conspiracy Theory” and “Radio Flyer.”

Olympia Dukakis
Actress Olympia Dukakis is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her stage work in front of the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles.


Olympia Dukakis, the veteran stage and screen actor whose flair for maternal roles helped her win an Oscar as Cher’s mother in the romantic comedy “Moonstruck,” has died at 89 on May 1, 1921 at her home in New York City.

She also appeared as Kirstie Alley’s mom in “Look Who’s Talking” and its sequel “Look Who’s Talking Too,” the sardonic widow in “Steel Magnolias” and the overbearing wife of Jack Lemmon (and mother of Ted Danson) in “Dad.”

Everly Brothers
1964: The Everly Brothers, Phil, left, and Don, perform on stage. Don Everly, one-half of the pioneering rock ‘n’ roll Everly Brothers whose harmonizing country rock hits impacted a generation of rock music, died at age 84.


Don Everly, the last surviving member of the Everly Brothers and an inaugural inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, died at his Nashville home on Aug. 21.

Beginning in 1957, he and his brother, Phil, recorded a series of hit singles for the Cadence and Warner Bros. labels. Their best known numbers included “Bye Bye Love”, “Wake Up Little Susie” and “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” Their harmonies inspired musical acts that followed in the 1960s including The Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel.

Siegfried Fischbacher, surviving member of Siegfried & Roy duo, has died
2014: Siegfried Fischbacher, left, holds up a white lion cub as Roy Horn holds up a microphone during an event at Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat in Las Vegas.


Illusionist Siegfried Fischbacher, the surviving member of the duo Siegfried & Roy, died on Jan. 13, 2021, in Las Vegas at age 81. Fischbacher’s long-time show business partner, Roy Horn, died in 2020 at age 75. For years, Siegfried & Roy was an institution in Las Vegas, where Fischbacher and Horn’s magic and artistry consistently attracted sellout crowds.

Charles Grodin
Actor/comedian Charles Grodin.


Charles Grodin, the comedic actor best known for films like “The Heartbreak Kid” and “Midnight Run” has passed away at 86 on May 18, 2021 of bone marrow cancer at his home in Wilton, Conn.

He starred as the lead in Elaine May’s comedy “The Heartbreak Kid” and did brilliant comedic work starring opposite Robert De Niro in “Midnight Run.” Grodin also played a perfect straight man in 1990s comedies like “Beethoven” and “Clifford,” the latter of which he starred with Martin Short.

April 1985: Marvin Hagler, right, and Thomas Hearns fight during the first round of a world championship boxing bout in Las Vegas.


Marvin Hagler, the middleweight boxing great whose title reign and career ended with a split-decision loss to “Sugar” Ray Leonard in 1987, died on March 13, 2021. He was 66.

Hagler was 62-3-2 with 52 knockouts from 1973 to 1987. He was the undisputed middleweight champion from 1980 to his loss to Leonard at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on April 6, 1987.

Tom T. Hall
Tom T. Hall


Tom T. Hall, the singer-songwriter who composed “Harper Valley P.T.A.” and sang about life’s simple joys as country music’s consummate blue collar bard, died at age 85 on Aug. 20 at his home in Franklin, Tennessee. Known as “The Storyteller” for his unadorned yet incisive lyrics, Hall composed hundreds of songs.

His breakthrough was writing “Harper Valley P.T.A.,” a 1968 international hit about small-town hypocrisy recorded by Jeannie C. Riley. Throughout the ‘70s, Hall became one of Nashville’s biggest singer-songwriters, with multiple hit songs including, “I Love,” “Country Is,” “I Care,” “I Like Beer,” and “Faster Horses (The Cowboy and The Poet.)” He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1978.

Hal Holbrook
Hal Holbrook


Hal Holbrook died January 23 at 95. He gained fame for his performance as Mark Twain in the one-man show “Mark Twain Tonight!” in 1954, later winning a Tony Award in 1966 for playing the author. Holbrook also won five Emmys and earned an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor in 2007 for his performance in “Into the Wild.” Holbrook also famously played Deep Throat, the secret government informant to Bob Woodward during The Washington Post’s investigation of the Watergate scandal, in the 1976 film “All the President’s Men.”

Larry King
Larry King died on Jan. 23, 2021.


Larry King, the suspenders-sporting everyman whose broadcast interviews with world leaders, movie stars and ordinary Joes helped define American conversation for a half-century, died on Jan. 23, 2021. He was 87. A longtime nationally syndicated radio host, from 1985 through 2010 he was a nightly fixture on CNN, where he won many honors, including two Peabody awards.

Old Yeller
Tommy Kirk is pictured in a lobbycard for “Old Yeller,” 1957.


Tommy Kirk, a child star who played in Disney films such as “Old Yeller” and “The Shaggy Dog,” died at 79. Kirk’s longtime friend and former child star, Paul Petersen, said he was found dead in his Las Vegas home on Sept. 28, 2021. The cause of death has not been released. Petersen said Kirk lived a private life as a gay man and was estranged from what “remains of his blood family.”

Kirk started his career with several television shows including the Mickey Mouse Club’s serialized adventure “The Hardy Boys: The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure” and “The Hardy Boys: The Mystery of the Ghost Farm,” which aired in 1956-1957. His big break came when he starred as Travis Coates in the 1957 film “Old Yeller,” a story about a teenage boy and his heroic yellow dog.

In “The Shaggy Dog,” Kirk portrayed a teenage boy who was cursed with occasionally turning into a sheepdog. He played the middle son alongside James MacArthur and Kevin Corcoran — who played his brothers — in the 1960 film “Swiss Family Robinson.” Kirk played in a slew of other films in the 1960s including “The Absent-Minded Professor” and its sequel “Son of Flubber.” He also starred in “The Misadventures of Merlin Jones.”

Yaphet Kotto
Actor Yaphet Kotto


Yaphet Kotto, whose decades-long acting career included a memorable turn as a James Bond villain and prominent roles alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger and Robert De Niro, died at 81. The “Alien” actor’s death was announced on March 15, 2021, by his wife, who remembered him as a “legend.”

Cloris Leachman
Cloris Leachman a character actor whose depth of talent brought her an Oscar for the “The Last Picture Show” and Emmys for her comedic work in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and other TV series, died at 94.


Cloris Leachman, the Oscar-winning actress best known for “The Last Picture Show” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” passed away on Jan. 26, 2021. She was 94. Born in Des Moines, Iowa, she earned 22 Emmy nominations and won eight, making her the most decorated winner in the award show’s history, along with Julia Louis-Dreyfus. As eccentric landlady Phyllis Lindstrom on the CBS sitcom “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” Leachman won rave reviews along with the Emmy for outstanding supporting actress

G. Gordon Liddy
G. Gordon Liddy, a Watergate conspirator, died at age 90.


G. Gordon Liddy, the tough-guy Watergate operative who went to prison rather than testify and later turned his Nixon-era infamy into a successful television and talk show career, died on March 30, 2021, at his daughter’s house in Virginia. ,

While others swept up in the Watergate scandal offered contrition or squirmed in the glare of televised congressional hearings, Liddy seemed to wear the crime like a badge of courage, saying he only regretted that the mission to break into the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters had been a failure.

Betty Lynn
Betty Lynn, who played Thelma Lou on “The Andy Griffith Show,” died Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, after a brief illness.


The actress famous for portraying Thelma Lou on the “Andy Griffith Show” passed away. Betty Lynn, 95, the TV, radio and movie star who performed for American soldiers in war zones in Southeast Asia during WWII, died on Oct. 15, 2021, after a brief illness. Lynn, a Missouri native, played Barney Fife’s girlfriend, Thelma Lou, on the show for 26 episodes between 1961 and 1966. She also acted in television shows like the comedy, “Where’s Raymond,” “Peg O’ My Heart” and many others.

“Betty’s performances as Thelma Lou and in other roles will continue to entertain generations of appreciative audiences. More than that, all who ever encountered Betty are forever grateful to have known such a truly beautiful soul,” the Andy Griffith Museum announced.

Rush Limbaugh
Feb. 4, 2020: Rush Limbaugh reacts as first Lady Melania Trump, and his wife Kathryn, applaud, as President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington.


Rush Limbaugh, the influential talk radio host, died on Feb. 17, 2021 at 70. Limbaugh announced he had stage 4 lung cancer in February 2020. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Donald Trump at the State of the Union address shortly after he announced his diagnosis.


Gavin MacLeod, Georgia Engel
Gavin MacLeod


Gavin MacLeod, the veteran supporting actor who achieved fame as sardonic TV news writer Murray Slaughter on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and stardom playing cheerful Capt. Stubing on “The Love Boat,” died at 90 early on May 29, 2021, at his home in Palm Desert, California.

Among his final TV credits were “Touched by An Angel,” “JAG” and “The King of Queens.” MacLeod’s lighthearted screen persona was in contrast to his private life. In his 2013 memoir, “This Is Your Captain Speaking,” MacLeod acknowledged that he had struggled with alcoholism in the 1960s and 1970s. He also wrote that losing his hair at an early age made it hard for him to find work as an actor

Norm Macdonald
Norm Macdonald


Norm Macdonald, the standup comedian and former “Saturday Night Live” cast member, died at 61, after “a nine-year private battle with cancer.” Born in Quebec, Canada, Macdonald broke into show business as a standup comic in the mid-1980s before landing a job as a writer on “Roseanne” and a gig as a performer on the sitcom “Roseanne” in 1992.

Macdonald then landed a spot in the cast of “Saturday Night Live” where he worked from 1993 until 1999. Known for his impressions of Bob Dole, Larry King, Burt Reynolds and David Letterman, Macdonald left his mark on the show and all of entertainment as one of the most popular “Weekend Update” anchor’s in the late night comedy staple’s storied history.

Macdonald also appeared in many films like “Billy Madison,” “Dirty Work,” “Dr. Dolittle,” and television shows like “The Norm Show,” “A Minute with Stan Hooper,” “Family Guy” and “The Orville.”

Don Maddox
Don Maddox, formerly of The Maddox Brothers and Rose, performed at the Ryman Auditorium on June 5, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee.


Don Maddox, the last surviving member of the pioneering country act The Maddox Brothers and Rose, died at age 98.

Known as “America’s Most Colorful Hillbilly Band,” the Alabama rooted Maddox Brothers and Rose earned fame for eye-catching costumes and high-energy performances during the 1940s and ‘50s. Don Maddox described their vibrant, hard-driving sound as an early model for rockabilly.

The Maddox family built its reputation by playing at festivals and fairs in the late 1930s and ‘40s. They recorded for 4-Star Records and Columbia Records, performed on radio shows and toured the United States as headliners. The group disbanded in the mid-1950s when Rose Maddox launched a solo career.

Jackie Mason
Actor/comedian Jackie Mason stands beside a bus displaying a sign advertising his TV show, 1992.


Jackie Mason, a rabbi-turned-comedian whose feisty brand of standup comedy led him to Catskills nightclubs, West Coast talk shows and Broadway stages, died at 93.

Mason died on July 24, 2021, at 6 p.m. ET at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan after being hospitalized for over two weeks. The irascible Mason was known for his sharp wit and piercing social commentary, often about being Jewish, men and women and his own inadequacies. His typical style was amused outrage.

Les McKeown
Bay City Rollers singer Les McKeown died suddenly at the age of 65 on Thursday, April 22, 2021.


Les McKeown, the former lead singer of the 1970s Scottish pop sensation Bay City Rollers, died suddenly at the age of 65. A statement from his family posted on social media said: “It is with profound sadness that we announce the death of our beloved husband and father Leslie Richard McKeown.” The Scottish singer died at home on April 20, it added.

Formed at the end of the 1960s, the Bay City Rollers enjoyed huge success in Britain and abroad with their tartan outfits and pop tunes like “Bye Bye Baby,” “Shang-a-Lang” and “Give a Little Love.” They had a fanatical teen following and sold more than 100 million records. Some in the British media called them the “biggest group since the Beatles”.

Walter Mondale
Former Vice President Walter Mondale, died Monday, April 19, 2021.


Former Vice President Walter F. Mondale, a liberal icon who lost the most lopsided presidential election after bluntly telling voters to expect a tax increase if he won, died on April 19, 2021 at age 93.

Mondale followed the trail blazed by his political mentor, Hubert H. Humphrey, from Minnesota politics to the U.S. Senate and the vice presidency, serving under Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981. His own try for the White House, in 1984, came at the zenith of Ronald Reagan’s popularity.

Roger Mudd
Roger Mudd


Roger Mudd, the longtime political correspondent and anchor for NBC and CBS who once stumped Sen. Edward Kennedy by simply asking why he wanted to be president, has died. He was 93. CBS News says Mudd died on March 9, 2021, of complications of kidney failure at his home in McLean, Virginia.

During more than 30 years on network television, starting with CBS in 1961, Mudd covered Congress, elections and political conventions and was a frequent anchor and contributor to various specials. His career coincided with the flowering of television news, the pre-cable, pre-Internet days when the big three networks and their powerhouse ranks of reporters were the main source of news for millions of Americans.

Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II
Britain’s Prince Philip


Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, died on April 9, 2021, at 99 years old. The duke had suffered failing health in recent years, and retired from royal duties in 2017. A month prior to his death, Prince Philip was released from London’s King Edward VII hospital, after being admitted a month before as a “precautionary measure”. A week later Buckingham Palace said he was battling an “infection.” The prince married Princess Elizabeth in 1947, and the couple have four children, eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Christopher Plummer
Christopher Plummer


Christopher Plummer, the legendary actor known for his roles in “The Sound of Music” and “Beginners,” passed away on Feb. 5. He was 91. Plummer’s family confirmed he died peacfully at his home in Connecticut. Elaine Taylor, his wife of 53 years, was with him.

A veteran film and stage actor, the Canadian-born Plummer made his Broadway debut in 1954 before hitting the big screen in 1958 in Sidney Lumet’s “Stage Struck.” He appeared as Capt. Georg von Trapp in the beloved 1965 musical “The Sound of Music” with Julie Andrews.

Plummer would also earned widespread acclaim in films like “The Man Who Would Be King,” “The Insider,” “The Last Station” and “All the Money in the World.” Plummer earned an Oscar win for best supporting actor for his turn in 2010′s “Beginners.” Along with his Oscar win, he also received two Emmys, two Tony Awards a Golden Globe award, a Screen Actors Guild award and a BAFTA.

Markie Post
Markie Post, who played the public defender in the 1980s sitcom “Night Court” and was a regular presence on television for four decades, died at 70.


Markie Post, the actress best known for playing Christine Sullivan on the sitcom “Night Court,” ha

died after a battle with cancer. Born in Palo Alto, Calif., in 1950, she was the daughter of scientist Richard F. Post and Marylee Post. Her show business career began in game shows, working on “Split Second,” “Double Dare” (as a producer), “Card Sharks,” “The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour” and “The (New) $25,000 Pyramid.”

She landed a gig as series regular on the ABC drama “The Fall Guy,” before starring as public defender Christine Sullivan on the beloved NBC sitcom “Night Court” until the show’s end in 1992. She would also star on the CBS comedy show “Hearts Afire” with John Ritter.

Colin Powell
Colin Powell


Colin Powell served Democratic and Republican presidents in war and peace but his reputation was forever stained when he went before the U.N. and made faulty claims to justify the U.S. war in Iraq. Fully vaccinated, he died of COVID-19 complications. 

A veteran of the Vietnam War, Powell rose to the rank of four-star general and in 1989 became the first Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In that role he oversaw the U.S. invasion of Panama and later the U.S. invasion of Kuwait to oust the Iraqi army in 1991.

In 2003, he went before the U.N. Security Council as secretary of state and made the case for U.S. war against Iraq at a moment of great international skepticism. He cited faulty information claiming Saddam Hussein had secretly stashed away weapons of mass destruction. Iraq’s claims that it had no such weapons represented “a web of lies,” he told the world body.

Jane Powell
Jane Powell


Jane Powell, the bright-eyed, operatic-voiced star of Hollywood’s golden age musicals who sang with Howard Keel in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and danced with Fred Astaire in “Royal Wedding,” died at 92.

Powell died on Sept. 16, 2021, at her Wilton, Connecticut, home of natural causes. Powell performed virtually her whole life, starting about age 5 as a singing prodigy on radio in Portland, Oregon. On screen, she quickly graduated from teen roles to the lavish musical productions that were a 20th-century Hollywood staple.

“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” proved to be a 1954 “sleeper” hit. Audiences were overwhelmed by the lusty singing of Keel and Powell and especially by the gymnastic choreography of Michael Kidd. “Seven Brides” achieved classic status and resulted in a TV series and a Broadway musical.

After her movie career ended, musical theater offered plenty of work for a star of her prominence and talent. She sang in supper clubs, toured in such shows as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” and “I Do! I Do!” and replaced Debbie Reynolds in the Broadway run of “Irene.” She frequently appeared on television, notably in the Judy Garland role in a new version of “Meet Me in St. Louis.”

Lloyd Price
Lloyd Price appears backstage at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, in New York.


Singer-songwriter Lloyd Price, an early rock ‘n roll star and enduring maverick whose hits included such up-tempo favorites as “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” “Personality” and the semi-forbidden “Stagger Lee,” died on May 3, 2021 at 88. He was at a long-term care facility in New Rochelle, New York, of complications from diabetes, his wife, Jacqueline Price said.

Tanya Roberts, Victoria Leigh Blum
Tanya Roberts stars as Kiri in the adventure movie “The Beastmaster,” on Dec. 16, 1981.


Former Bond girl and “That ’70s Show” star Tanya Roberts died on Jan. 4, 2021, at age 65 in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. She was hospitalized after a collapse at her home on Christmas Eve. She was placed on a ventilator but did not have COVID-19.

Jimmie Rodgers
Jimmie Rodgers signs an autograph for a fan in 1963.


Jimmie Rodgers, singer of the 1957 hits “Honeycomb” and “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” whose career in music and movies was disrupted by a severe head injury a decade later, at 87, died from kidney disease on Jan. 18, 2021, in Palm Desert, California.

With a style of singing and playing guitar that included elements of country, folk and pop, the Washington native recorded “Honeycomb” and many other Top 10 hits during the late 1950s, including “Secretly,” “Oh-Oh, I’m Falling in Love Again,” and “Are You Really Mine?”

Donald Rumsfeld
Donald Rumsfeld


Donald Rumsfeld, the two-time defense secretary and one-time presidential candidate whose reputation as a skilled bureaucrat and visionary of a modern U.S. military, died on June 29, 2021. He was 88. His family said he “was surrounded by family in his beloved Taos, New Mexico.”

Regarded by former colleagues as equally smart and combative, patriotic and politically cunning, Rumsfeld had a storied career in government under four presidents and nearly a quarter century in corporate America. … Rumsfeld is the only person to serve twice as Pentagon chief. The first time, in 1975-77, he was the youngest ever. The next time, in 2001-06, he was the oldest.

Mort Sahl
Mort Sahl in 1978.


Satirist Mort Sahl, who helped revolutionize stand-up comedy during the Cold War with his running commentary on politicians and current events and became a favorite of a new, restive generation of Americans, died on Oct. 25, 2021, at 94.

During a time when many comedians dressed in tuxedos and told mother-in-law jokes, Sahl faced his audiences in the ‘50s and ‘60s wearing slacks, a sweater and an unbuttoned collar and carrying a rolled-up newspaper on which he had pasted notes for his act. Reading news items as if seated across from you at the kitchen table, he made his inevitably cutting comments, often joining the laughter with a horsey bellow of his own and ending his routines by inquiring: “Is there any group I haven’t offended yet?”

Marty Schottenheimer
Coach Marty Schottenheimer


Legendary NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer, who won 200 regular-season games with four teams, died in Charlotte on Feb. 8, at 77.

He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2014 and was moved to a hospice on Jan. 30. Schottenheimer was the eighth-winningest coach in NFL history, spending 21 seasons with the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, Washington and San Diego Chargers.

Peter Scolari
Peter Scolari


“Newhart” and “Bosom Buddies” star Peter Scolari is died at age 66 on Oct. 22, 2021, after a two-year battle with cancer.

Scolari first rose to fame for his role as Henry Desmond opposite Tom Hanks on the short-lived ‘80s sitcom “Bosom Buddies.” He was nominated for an Emmy three times for his role as Michael Harris on Bob Newhart’s TV show “Newhart,” and won an Emmy for his portrayal of Ted Horvath on HBO’s “Girls” as the father of Hannah (Lena Dunham).

His credits also include “Evil,” “Gotham,” “The Polar Express,” “Camp Nowhere,” “Murphy Brown,” “Perfect Harmony,” “Encyclopedia Brown,” “That Thing You Do!” and playing Wayne Szalinski in the ‘90s TV series adaptation of “Honey! I Shrunk the Kids.”

George Segal
Actor George Segal poses with a replica of his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, in Los Angeles.


George Segal, a Golden Globe winner who was equally adept at serious drama and lighthearted comedy, died on March 23, 2021, at age 87. Segal’s wife Sonia announced his death: “The family is devastated to announce that this morning George Segal passed away due to complications from bypass surgery.”

The actor was best known to contemporary TV viewers as Albert “Pops” Solomon, the eccentric grandpa on ABC’s long-running sitcom “The Goldbergs.” But Segal’s resume also included a tour de force role in the 1966 film version of Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

Segal, a native of Great Neck, New York, appeared in more than 60 movies during his lifetime and was equally prolific on television. He received two Golden Globes during his lifetime, in 1965 as New Star of the Year for “The New Interns,” and in 1974 as Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, for “A Touch of Class.”

Phil Spector
Phil Spector


Phil Spector, the eccentric and revolutionary music producer who transformed rock music with his “Wall of Sound” method and who later was convicted of murder, died at 81. California state prison officials said he died on Jan. 16, 2021, of natural causes at a hospital.

Spector had been hailed as a visionary for channeling Wagnerian ambition into the three-minute song, creating the “Wall of Sound” that merged spirited vocal harmonies with lavish orchestral arrangements to produce such pop monuments as “Da Doo Ron Ron,” “Be My Baby” and “He’s a Rebel.”

Spector was convicted of murdering actress Lana Clarkson in 2003 at his castle-like mansion on the edge of Los Angeles. After a trial in 2009, he was sentenced to 19 years to life.

Muhammad Ali through the years
Muhammad Ali and Leon Spinks exchange punches during their World Boxing Association heavyweight title bout at the Superdome in New Orleans, La., Friday night, Sept. 16, 1978. Ali became the first man to win the heavyweight crown three times by defeating Spinks with a 15-round unanimous decision.


Leon Spinks, who won Olympic gold and then shocked the boxing world by beating Muhammad Ali to win the heavyweight title in only his eighth pro fight, died on Feb. 5, 2021, according to a release from a public relations firm. He was 67.

Spinks, who lived his later years in Las Vegas, had been battling prostate and other cancers. A lovable heavyweight, Spinks beat Ali by decision in a 12-round fight in 1978 to win the title. He was unranked at the time, and picked as an opponent because Ali was looking for an easy fight. He got anything but that, with an unorthodox Spinks swarming over Ali throughout the fight on his way to a stunning win by split decision.

Dean Stockwell


Dean Stockwell, the actor best known for his role on the television show “Quantum Leap,” passed away at 85 at his home. Born in North Hollywood, Stockwell began his career that spanned more than 70 years as a child actor in films like “Anchors Aweigh” and “Gentleman’s Agreement.”

Stockwell is probably best known for his performance as Rear Admiral Albert “Al” Calavicci on NBC series “Quantum Leap” from 1989 until 1993. The show starred Scott Bakula as a physicist who leaps through spacetime during experiments in time travel. Stockwell played his companion who appeared as a hologram and helped guide him through the series of misadventures.

He earned four Emmy nominations for the role, plus three Golden Globe nominations and one win.

B.J. Thomas
BJ Thomas


B.J. Thomas, the Grammy-winning singer who enjoyed success on the pop, country and gospel charts with such hits as “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” and “Hooked on a Feeling,” died at 78. Thomas, who announced in March that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer, died from complications of the disease on May 29, 2021, at his home in Arlington, Texas.

A Hugo, Oklahoma-native who grew up in Houston, Billy Joe Thomas broke through in 1966 with a gospel-styled cover of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and went on to sell millions of records and have dozens of hits across genres. He reached No. 1 with pop, adult contemporary and country listeners in 1976 with ″(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song.” The same year, his “Home Where I Belong” became one of the first gospel albums to be certified platinum for selling more than 1 million copies.

"Elvis Presley In Concert"
Ronnie Tutt


Ronnie Tutt, a legendary drummer who spent years playing alongside Elvis Presley and teamed up with other stars ranging from Johnny Cash to Stevie Nicks, died at 83 on Oct. 15, 2021.

Elvis Presley Enterprises noted Tutt’s death in a statement on Oct. 15. Tutt drummed for Elvis with the TCB Band from 1969 until 1977, joining the band put together by James Burton for Elvis’ 1969 Las Vegas opening and staying with Elvis until his death in 1977.

Beyond Elvis, Tutt played with some of the biggest names in music, touring with Neil Diamond’s band and recording and playing with Cash, Nicks, Glen Campbell, Kenny Rogers, Elvis Costello, Michael McDonald and more, Elvis Presley Enterprises wrote.

Cicely Tyson
Cicely Tyson


Cicely Tyson, a distinguished Hollywood actress who made her mark in movies, television and theater, died on Jan. 28, 2021, at age 96. She was an iconic presence in the entertainment world and the winner of three Emmy Awards, a Tony Award, an honorary Academy Award, a Peabody Award for career achievement and more. During a career that spanned more than six decades, she appeared in movies such as “Fried Green Tomatoes” (based on a novel by Alabama native Flannie Flagg), “Sounder,” “The Help,” “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” and more.

Jessica Walter
Jessica Walter


Jessica Walter, the actress best known for playing Lucille Bluth on the comedy series “Arrested Development, died at 80 on March 25, 2021.

Born in Brooklyn in 1941, Walter appeared on Broadway early in her career before acting in television shows like “Naked City,” “East Side/West Side,” “Ben Casey,” “The Defenders,” “Flipper” and “The Fugitive.” She then appeared in Clint Eastwood’s 1971 directorial debut “Play Misty for Me,” playing a young woman who stalks Eastwood’s disc jockey character. She earned a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in the best actress in a drama. She would appear in other comedies like “The Flamingo Kid” with Matt Dillon and “PCU” with Jeremy Piven and David Spade.

Charlie Watts and The Rolling Stones
Charlie Watts, of the Rolling Stones


Charlie Watts, the self-effacing and unshakeable Rolling Stones drummer who helped anchor one of rock’s greatest rhythm sections and used his “day job” to support his enduring love of jazz, died at 80 peacefully in a London hospital surrounded by his family.

Watts had announced he would not tour with the Stones in 2021 because of an undefined health issue. The quiet, elegantly dressed Watts was often ranked with Keith Moon, Ginger Baker and a handful of others as a premier rock drummer, respected worldwide for his muscular, swinging style as the band rose from its scruffy beginnings to international superstardom. He joined the Stones early in 1963 and remained over the next 60 years, ranked just behind Mick Jagger and Keith Richards as the group’s longest lasting and most essential member.

Clarence Williams III
Clarence Williams III


Clarence Williams III, who portrayed Linc Hayes for five seasons on “The Mod Squad” and Prince’s father in “Purple Rain,” passed away at 81 from colon cancer on June 4, 2021.

His breakout role was playing Lincoln Hayes as part of the counterculture hit “The Mod Squad,” which ran from 1968 to 1973 and co-starred Peggy Lipton and Michael Cole as Julie Barnes and Pete Cochran, respectively. The three played former miscreants hired as cops charged with using their street smarts to infiltrate high schools, acting classes, prisons, hippie newspapers, gangs, movie sets and other situations to root out criminals.

Nominated for a Tony Award for “Slow Dance on the Killing Ground” in 1965, he also starred in several other plays, and numerous movies including “The General’s Daughter,” “Sugar Hill,” “Half Baked,” “Deep Cover,” “Hoodlum,” “The Brave,” “Happy Here and Now,” “The Legend of 1900” and “Life.”

Mary Wilson
Mary Wilson


Mary Wilson, the longest-reigning original Supreme, died on Feb. 8, 2021, at age 76 at her home in Las Vegas. Wilson, Diana Ross and Florence Ballard made up the first successful configuration of The Supremes. Ballard was replaced by Cindy Birdsong in 1967, and Wilson stayed with the group until it was officially disbanded by Motown in 1977. Motown founder Berry Gordy said he was “extremely shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of a major member of the Motown family, Mary Wilson of the Supremes. The Supremes were always known as the ‘sweethearts of Motown.’”

Other Deaths

Gerry Marsden

Gerry Marsden, lead signer of the British pop band Gerry and the Pacemakers, died Jan. 3 after an infection of the heart. He was 78.

Tommy Lasorda   🔹

Tommy Lasorda, who spent 71 seasons playing with and managing the Los Angeles Dodgers, died Jan. 8. He was 93. 

Don Sutton🔹

 Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher and former Los Angeles Dodger Don Sutton died Jan. 19 from natural causes. He was 75.

Gregory Sierra 

Actor Gregory Sierra’s death was reported on Jan. 22, and a family spokesperson said Sierra died earlier in the month after a battle with cancer. The “Barney Miller” and “Sanford and Son” actor was 83. 

Bruce Kirby 

Character actor Bruce Kirby, who starred in acclaimed films including “The Godfather” and “Crash,” died Jan. 26. He was 95 years old. 

Hilton Valentine 

The founding member of the band The Animals died on Jan. 29 at age 77. He helped bring the band to stardom with the hit “House of the Rising Sun.”

George Shultz

 The former Secretary of State to Ronald Reagan died Feb. 7. He was 100 years old. 

Mark Wilson 

The ’60’s TV magician best known for the series “Magic Land of Allakazam” died March 8. He was 91.

Katherine Diaz 

Diaz, a 22-year-old Olympic hopeful, was struck by lightning in a freak accident and died March 22 at age 22.

Larry McMurtry 🔹

The author of “Lonesome Dove” and screenwriter of “Brokeback Mountain” died March 26 at age 84.

Gloria Henry  

Henry, who played Alice Mitchell on TV’s “Dennis The Menace” died April 4 at age 98.

James Hampton 

The actor, best known for his roles in “The Longest Yard” and “F Troop,” died from complications of Parkinson’s Disease. He was 84.

Joseph Siravo

 The actor who played Tony Soprano’s father on HBO’s “The Sopranos” died April 12 after a battle with colon cancer. He was 66. 

Lee Aaker  Lee Aaker, who starred in ABC’s series “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin” as a child actor, died of a stroke April 13. He was 77. 

Bernie Madoff  

The investor and architect of one of the world’s most notorious Ponzi schemes, Bernie Madoff died in prison April 14. He was 82. 

Johnny Crawford 🔹

Child star and Mouseketeer Johnny Crawford died April 30 at 75 years old. 

Bobby Unser 

Three-time Indy 500 racing champion Bobby Unser died May 3. He was 87. 

F Lee Bailey

Celebrity attorney F Lee Bailey — best known for representing OJ Simpson and Patty Hearst — died June 3. He was 87. 

Frank Bonner 

Frank Bonner, the actor who played radio-station sales manager Herb Tarlek on “WKRP in Cincinnati” died June 27. He was 79.

Robert Downey Sr. 

Director Robert Downey Sr., father to “Iron Man” star Robert Downey Jr. and director of the hit underground film “Putney Swope,” died July 7 after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. He was 85.

William Smith 

Actor and stuntman William Smith, who is credited in over 300 films including the Clint Eastwood film “Any Which Way You Can,” died July 5. He was 88. 

🔹denotes those I have interviewed, met or seen.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Queen: Remembering Freddie Mercury 30 Years After His Death

“It would be so boring to be 70. I’ve lived a full life and if I’m dead tomorrow, I don’t give a damn,” said Freddie Mercury, perfectly summing up his life – and famous attitude.

Mercury died from complications of AIDS at age 45 on November 23, 1991, just one day after announcing to the world that he’d been diagnosed with the disease.

Widely regarded as one of the all-time great rock singers and frontmen, Freddie used his powerful vocals, flamboyant persona and dynamic performing style to help Queen become among the most popular and successful bands in the world.

As an aspiring journalist, I met the flamboyant Freddie on March 20, 1974 backstage at the Municipal Auditorium in San Antonio, Texas during their Sheer Heart Attack tour in the United States.

Leading Queen’s performance onstage, was Al Stewart and a group called Brownsville Station. Freddie was upbeat, wearing a Fedora type hat with red and white foot long feather plumes poking out. The autograph I acquired from him remains promently placed in a large glass frame in our home.

I recall him saying he was happy to be in Texas, as they had played in New Orleans and Miami just days before. Dallas would be their next stop after San Antonio.

They blew the Alamo City crowd away. Even today, 48 years later, I will run across someone who was at that concert who will say “That blew my mind,” or “Could you believe them? How did so much music come from basically three players?”

While Freddie played some piano and tambourine, he was backed by the original members Brian May (electric guitar, backing vocals, banjo),
Roger Taylor (drums, backing vocals),
John Deacon (bass guitar, triangle)

The once-shy boy, born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar in 1946, went on to become one of the world’s most eccentric frontmen. Mercury’s range – both vocally and in terms of his character remainslegendary. B2018’s hit biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.

A legendary songwriter, music producer, and all-around theatrical entertainer, Mercury was one of the 20th century’s best-known lead signers, who sang for Queen from 1970 until his death. 

Freddie also co-wrote Queen’s classic 1981 collaboration with David Bowie, “Under Pressure.” Mercury’s performance with Queen at London’s Wembley Stadium at the 1985 Live Aid festival is considered one of the highlights of that historic event.

Mercury also released a pair of solo albums during the 1980s.

Following Freddie’s death, May, Taylor and Queen manager Jim Beach co-founded the Mercury Phoenix Trust in his honor. The charity supports AIDS-related causes.

Mercury was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with Queen in 2001. His legacy continues to make its mark on the rock and pop world.

Click For Queen Video

Known for challenging the parameters of pop and rock, Mercury was willing to take any musical risk to prevent him from being mainstream. He unapologetically pushed artistic boundaries and was the life of all of the band’s live performances, ensuring no two shows were the same.

Electric and eccentric, he worked across a range of genres, but the songs were always poetic and heartfelt, filled with melodies you wanted to hum and witty metaphors you couldn’t help but remember. 

From perhaps his most famous song, Bohemian Rhapsody in 1975, through to We Are the Champions in 1977 and then Crazy Little Thing Called Love in 1979, which pays homage to Elvis Presley’s rockabilly styling, Mercury took music to bold new heights. 

A six-minute-long banquet, Bohemian Rhapsody involved a lavish mixture of production, vocal layers and choral overdubs. Described by Mercury as “mock opera”, it topped the charts for weeks. And rightfully so.

Mercury possessed a voice so powerful and expressive it would be hard not to want to listen to him sing. His excellent pitch and incredible vocal control, array of note choices, dynamics, tones and vocal effects were astounding.

Queen’s live performances were iconic, with one of their greatest generally acknowledged as being their Live Aid Concert at London’s Wembley Stadium in July 1985. Mercury was phenomenal on stage, controlling the entire crowd of 72,000, who were all clapping along to the rhythm of We Will Rock You. Their set was electrifying. 

Click for Queen Video 2

Years of touring had given him “an arsenal of stagecraft prowess, strutting, holding poses, dressed in his glam-rock style” and the audience adored his flamboyance. 

Thirty years later, Mercury continues to influence many musicians, such as 12-time Grammy award winner Lady Gaga, who has said the inspiration for her stage name came from the Queen song  Radio GaGa. In the past decade, Queen’s Somebody to Love was used in film soundtracks for Happy Feeet (2006) and Ella Enchanted (2004).

Mercury will always be remembered as the powerful songwriter with the magnetic stage presence who was taken far too soon. But his legacy, of course, will continue to live on. 


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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey

In Memory of Luis Vera: 1956-2021

A Fierce Fighter For Civil Rights and American Justice

Luis Roberto Vera, Jr. (J. Dennis)

The Sunday, November 20, 2021 death of Luis Roberto Vera, Jr., 65, a prominent civil rights leader and Texas attorney, appropriately made national news this week.

I spent a few years interviewing over 200 people and researching (spending many hours side-by-side studying Luis) for a book, “Miracles of Justice.”

The common denominator in how most people described Luis, is the word “fighter.” That he fiercely was…especially in the case of Dominique Ramirez, who at 16, became the youngest Miss San Antonio in history.

During her tenure, Dominique was abruptly decrowned of her title by replaced leadership on the pageant board. Long story short, the beautiful Dominique’s plight made international news as she was unfairly kicked out by the board. After unsuccessful attempts to find an attorney, Dominique experienced her first miracle: enter Luis Vera, Jr.

Attorneys Steven Price, Dominique Ramirez & Luis Vera during 2011 trial. (J. Dennis)

This week, Vera was acknowledged by The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC, the nation’s oldest Hispanic civil rights organization, founded in 1929) as their national general counsel and worked with them for three decades.

LULAC’s National President Domingo Garcia issued a statement on the passing of Vera. 

We have lost a friend, and our Nation’s Latino community has lost one of its greatest defenders. Luis was a man whose fight for justice often took him from the streets of our poorest barrios in San Antonio to the marbled hallways of our federal courts. Judges knew when Luis Vera walked into their courtroom…He was widely respected, even by those who presented opposing legal arguments in landmark cases…Luis followed in the footsteps of those before him who have helped build LULAC into one of America’s most respected civil rights organizations. Vaya con Dios Luis Vera.

“Ironically, Luis lives on through the recent lawsuits he helped file in federal court that will forever carry the imprint of his love for justice and the voice that shall never be silenced,” LULAC National CEO Sindy Benavides said in a statement.

My wife, Loralyn, and her southside San Antonio Kingsborough Elementary and Middle School classmates, meet for lunch at least once a year at Don Pedro’s Mexican Restaurant for a mini-reunion–all paid for and hosted by Luis. He cherished his lifelong friends. The biggest smiles I’ve ever seen beam off of Luis’ face were with his classmates.

Luis with elementary school classmates, September 2021. (Walter Tenery)

In loving memory of Luis, here is Chapter 4 of “Miracles of Justice,” his introduction in the book.

(Note: Luis didn’t want to have the book published yet, because he indicated to Dominique and me that he was working on a potential movie deal–slowed by the pandemic–and didn’t want to intrude on that possibility.)

Miracles of Justice

Written by Jack Dennis, with collaboration from Dominique Ramirez-Wilson. Copyrighted by Jack Dennis

Chapter 4    Against the Odds

He’d been playing against the odds of death far too long. Politicians, CEOs, foreign and domestic governments, school district officials, and other organizational threats of courtroom confrontations didn’t faze him. Luis Vera emerged fiercer. If they spread lies to the media, it only strengthened his persistence. He didn’t flinch. When they decided to enter a game of chicken, they would play against a relentless, and very much alive, warrior beast!   

Vera grew up having high expectations for himself.  He attended San Antonio College, St. Mary’s University and the University of Texas at San Antonio simultaneously to finish his last two years of college in one year.  He met his wife Rosie in 1988 when she worked as a file clerk at the State School on South Presa and S.W. Military Drive. Vera was a new unit manager supervisor. It was a “place to park while I waited for law school to begin,” he said.

“What I first remember about Luis is that he was undergoing training and he was already wanting to change everything,” Rosie laughs. “He was a bit crude. He would ask me out to lunch, but I said ‘I just don’t think so, or that I don’t want to go out. It’s not going to work.”

Persistently, Vera continued to ask.

Luis & Rosie at 2019 Presidential Inaguration Gala, Washington DC (L. Vera)

“There’s something wrong with this guy,” Rosie deduced. “I thought he was too blunt and crude. He proceeded to try to talk to me. He asked me one day what was wrong with me so I told him ‘not everybody needs to stand up in the room when you enter.’ It was awkward, but he kept trying. So the first time we went to lunch we took another co-worker so there would be three of us there. I think it was uncomfortable for him.”

Rosie relented. Soon they had lunch together alone. Within a few months she became executive secretary for the Human Resources Director, while her new “boyfriend” continued to be the king of his domain on his unit. One of his personnel techs was a young man named Robert Cuellar, who would one day become president of the annual Fiesta Flambeau Night Parade in San Antonio.

“Church has always been very important to me,” explained Rosie. “Meeting Luis was a ‘God thing.’ I would ask people to go to church and they wouldn’t. He did. When I asked him about it, there was no hesitation. I found that his faith is very strong, but like everything, it’s in his own way. He started going with me every Saturday and Sunday to Living Way Christian Church in northeast San Antonio.”

Luis Vera says a prayer at la Virgen de Guadalupe Church after the trial for Dominique Ramirez in 2011. (J. Dennis)

Luis and Rosie became Mr. and Mrs. Vera within 11 months. Two weeks after their wedding, they moved to Massachusetts where he began law school.

“I enjoyed Massachusetts very much,” she remembered. “It was my first time out of Texas. It was a different life.”

Vera began working for prominent San Antonio attorney Oliver Heard after receiving his license to practice. One of his first cases was a lawsuit against the National Guard. Mexican-Americans were not being promoted even though some of them were career guardsmen.

“It was hard for some of the older ones to compete with rookie guardsmen, especially on the physical training exercises,” Vera recalled. “I went to Austin to meet with a large panel of National Guard leaders. There I was alone, just facing a group of distinguished men, or at least they thought they were distinguished wearing their ribbons and badges. I just thought to myself, ‘you guys don’t intimidate me. To me you are just cub scouts dressing up. Let’s get to the meat of the matter. Let’s talk about real justice.’”

He won.

The Vera’s had four children: Jerry, Michael, Anthony and Melanie. By 2017, with Rosie as a 6th grade teacher at Leal Middle School in south San Antonio, Luis continued to practice law. Their grandchildren included Girbrian, Olive, Vita, Maseo, and Anthony. Yaza, their first great-grandchild, was born in 2016.

“God uses Luis to help people out,” Rosie said. “People just see him at the trial, but his faith is what they don’t see. It is so strong. I’ve seen people come to him with nothing and no hope. One man, an African-American, had his children taken away from him illegally by their mother. He was from another state but knew they were in Texas. He kept coming back to San Antonio but there was no trace of them here.”

“His father, a minister, told his son that he had been praying for him and that he should return because he thinks he will find his children. When the father went before the judge in San Antonio, he told him he understood what he was saying, ‘But you need a lawyer to represent you in something this complex. There is one right there. You can use him.’”

“The judge pointed at Luis as he walked into his courtroom for other business. Luis listened to him and said ‘yeah, I’ll help you, but let me take care of this first.’ Luis was able to find the woman and secured the children to return legally back to their loving father. How did that happen? –that Luis happened to be coming through those doors at exactly the right moment to help this family?”

“Over the years, and during the big fights in court and with my health, I would be so exhausted, be sick with headaches,” Vera said. “People would see or hear about me and they’d say ‘he is not going to last or he won’t make it.’ I would force myself. Being sick made me better as a lawyer. I became more disciplined because now I was limited to so many hours in the day because of operations, doctor appointments, and all. Six to seven days a week, even if I traveled to San Diego, Tampa, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Tulsa, Miami, New York or Washington D.C., I would receive treatment.”

As his body aged toward 55, Vera became less afraid of exceeding his own expectations. He realized that the question of making meaning or purpose to our lives is constantly before all of us in a variety of ways. In the life of an attorney, stress, fear and loss is never very far. On any given day, Vera spoke with people whose lives were reshaped in an instant. In the morning he would speak to a man whose wife had left him after 22 years of marriage. Later, the parents of an ailing child came in to talk about medical malpractice because their daughter would never hear again. Towards the end of the work day, a man strolled in with a wheelchair, broken arm, and in a neck brace.  While injured in a work-related accident, he wasn’t ‘officially’ an employee of the business.

(L. Vera)

What all these individuals had in common was the staggering presence of loss in their lives. But, with Vera, each one had a choice. The loss could be seen as a sign of meaninglessness, or an opportunity to create meaning. Not only was it his job as an attorney to help them through legal remedy, he was their protector.  He perceived himself shield-like by offering choices that provided quality, dignity, and to some extent, a bit of joy.

The deepest losses of life may not be curable.  However, the greater the loss the greater the need for calmness of soul. Sometimes the calmness comes from the realization that distress has to be allowed so we can learn to bear it. We may share in others’ sadness, but we cannot repair the pain. In the book of Job, his friend’s response to his series of tragedies was to sit with him and weep. Although commendable, later they were condemned when they attempted to explain to him why he experienced the sequences of tragedies. What loss cries for is not to be explained or repaired, but to be shared and hopefully, to find some meaning.

Luis in his office. (J. Dennis)
September 2021 (Walter Tenery)

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Author Cindy Leal Massey was a McCollum High School classmate with Luis Vera, Jr.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.