Friday, March 19, 2010

Farewell Fess – We Love You

When I was 10 years old everyone was singing:
Born on a mountaintop in Tennessee, greenest state in the land of the free. Raised in the woods so he knew every tree, killed him a bear when he was only three. Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier.
"The Ballad of Davy Crockett"

And, every boy my age (and yes, some girls) either wanted or was already wearing a coonskin cap.

Why? Because they wanted to be like the Tennessee frontiersman and hero, Davy Crockett, and yes, like the soft-spoken actor who played him, Fess Parker, on the Disney TV Show.

The television show was a huge hit and not just with kids. The theme song made it to number one in March of 1955 and stayed there for three months. The show touched off a merchandising phenomenon. Hundreds of millions of dollars of Davy Crockett coonskin caps, “Old Betsy” rifles, and lunchboxes were sold.

Today, fifty-five years later, I must admit with deep shame that I too was one of those kids who contributed to the wholesale slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent raccoons.

Fess Parker went on to play the dad in the movie, "Old Yeller." And then, in 1964 he put on a coonskin cap again and played another American hero, Daniel Boone, on yet another hit television show. The show ran for six years with 165 episodes.

In the 1970s, Mr. Parker retired from show business and opened a family winery and vineyards in southern California.

Mr. Parker married Marcella Belle Rinehart on January 18, 1960. They had two children — Fess Elisha III and Ashley Allen Rinehart — along with 11 grandchildren and a great-grandson.

Yesterday at the age of 85 Fess Parker died of natural causes at his home in Santa Ynez, California, near the Fess Parker Winery. His death came on the 84th birthday of his beloved wife.

He is remember by me and millions of other baby-boomers as not just an actor, but a true southern gentle-man.

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