Vallee remembered as ‘a real darling’

When singer and movie star Rudy Vallee died in 1986, his remains were shipped to Maine, the state where he was born and raised. His old family home was still owned by family members in Westbrook, and that’s where friends and family gathered to mourn his passing. I was invited to cover that gathering, so I was in attendance on that summer day.


WESTBROOK, Maine (UPI) — Ashes of crooner Rudy Vallee were buried in a family cemetery near the home where he grew up, in accordance with his wishes and his widow’s belief ‘the people of Maine would take good care of him.’

About 200 people, many of them elderly, surrounded the family plot at St. Hyacinth’s Cemetery Monday as the Rev. Brian Kelleher, Vallee’s nephew, led mourners in the 23rd Psalm.

rudy valleeVallee, 84, died July 3 at his California home while watching the Statue of Liberty festivities on television. A funeral mass was held in California and his remains were cremated.

But Vallee had asked that his ashes be interred at the Westbrook cemetery in the family plot that contains his parents, his brother William and two other siblings who died in infancy.

‘He always spoke of that,’ said Vallee’s widow, Eleanor. ‘We felt that the people of Maine would take good care of him.’

Vallee served in the Coast Guard during World War II, and the academy provided a color guard and bugler. The service ended with a 21-gun salute.

‘Rudy, by his special gifts, brought many hours of joy to many people,’ Kelleher said. ‘It is therefore fitting and appropriate to ask God to grant him joy in return.’

Among the spectators was Mildred Jordan, 87, a Westbrook resident who worked at the University of Maine at Orono when Vallee was a student band leader there in the 1920s.

‘I worked in the office and Rudy had a band, and he used to play for our girls’ club every week,’ said Jordan, who watched the services from a lawn chair next to a granite monument. ‘He was loveable, a real darling.’

Following the service, the family and a few guests gathered at the old home where Vallee was raised. The home is now occupied by Dorothy Vallee, the widow of Vallee’s brother.

A large picture of Vallee in his prime was propped up on a chair in the front hall, and letters and telegrams of condolence were on the mantle, including a telegram from President Reagan and a note from Frank Sinatra.

Eleanor Vallee clutched a single red rose in the living room and asked someone to put one of Vallee’s records on the stereo.

‘Turn it up loud,’ she said as Vallee’s voice filled the room with the song, ‘You Took Me Out of This World.’



Americans, Soviets eulogize Samantha Smith

Back in the mid-1980s, a young Maine schoolgirl, Samantha Smith, wrote a letter to Soviet President Yuri Andropov, expressing her worries about a possible war between the USSR and the U.S. He invited her to visit the Soviet Union, and she did, attracting worldwide media attention. A year or so later, Samantha and her father were killed in a plane crash in Auburn, Maine. She was just 13. I was rousted out of bed at around midnight on that night and told to go and cover the plane crash scene. I wrote this story a few days later, following her funeral service in 1985.


AUGUSTA, Maine (UPI) — Samantha Smith, the schoolgirl who traveled to Russia on a mission of peace two years ago, was mourned by 1,000 friends and dignitaries and eulogized by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev as an ambassador of ‘good will, friendship and love.’

The crowd, including her TV co-star Robert Wagner and a Soviet diplomat carrying a message from Gorbachev, filled St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church for Wednesday’s memorial service for Samantha and her father, Arthur. Scores of other mourners lined up outside, some watching the services on a television placed on the lawn.

‘This little girl did things that governments don’t have the power or the will to do,’ her school adviser told the throng.

samantha smithSamantha, 13, and her father, 45, were among eight people killed Sunday night when a Bar Harbor Airlines plane crashed about a half-mile short of an airport in Auburn.

Samantha’s mother, Jane, leaned heavily on the arm of Wagner, who flew to Maine from Switzerland to attend the services. Wagner and Samantha were to star in a new ABC television series called ‘Lime Street.’

Samantha and her father were returning from London, where scenes for the show were being taped, when the plane crashed.

The Smiths’ bodies will be cremated at a later date.

The bereft family sat in the front row of the church, located several miles from Samantha’s hometown of Manchester. Wagner sat directly behind Mrs. Smith.

A children’s choir sang ‘We Are The World,’ and the church organist played the hymns ‘O God, Our Help in Ages Past’ and ‘Let There be Peace on Earth.’

Gorbachev sent a personal emissary, Vladimir Kulagin, first secretary for cultural affairs at the Soviet Embassy in Washington.

Reading a statement from Gorbachev, Kulagin said, ‘You should know millions of mothers and fathers and kids back in Russia share this tragic loss.’

‘The best thing would be if we continued what they (Samantha and her father) started, with good will, friendship and love,’ he said.

President Reagan earlier sent condolences to Mrs. Smith, saying ‘millions of people … will cherish and remember Samantha, her smile, her idealism and unaffected sweetness of spirit.’

When Samantha was 10, she wrote a letter to Soviet President Yuri Andropov, telling him of her fears about nuclear war. Andropov responded by inviting her for a two-week tour of his country in July 1983.

William Prebble, Samantha’s adviser at Maranacook Community School, said from the pulpit that he and a group of students met to talk about Samantha’s life and death.

‘We made a list of things we would want to do before we died,’ he told the mourners. ‘We decided we’d like to travel and that we’d like to meet many people. We would want to make some contribution, and if we were successful at that, we wouldn’t want to be stuck up or conceited.

‘We agreed that Samantha had accomplished many of those things,’ he said.

Other speakers were Gov. Joseph E. Brennan, the head of Manchester’s governing Board of Selectmen and several family friends.