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.
By ARTHUR FREDERICK
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.
Vallee, 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.’