Jimmy was a great man, and a great actor. I will not go into details about his life and career; everyone knows the good stuff. This is just his decline and death. Isn't that why we're all tuned in?
Jimmy and his wife Gloria lived at 918 Roxbury Drive, in Beverly Hills. The good part of BH. Here's a more recent picture of the house (Thank you Cayley). The Stewart's neighbors included Lucy, Jack Benny, Rosemary Clooney, and Agnes Moorehead. Jimmy and Gloria were married in 1949, and stayed together for 44 years, until 1994, when Gloria died of lung cancer in the house.
Jimmy never got over Gloria's death. He spent the next couple of years puttering around the garden that he and his wife were so proud of. Early in their marriage, the Stewarts bought the home next to theirs, and tore it down to build this sanctuary. After Gloria died, Jimmy would sit there for hours, talking to his wife. He missed her terribly, and it began taking a toll on his own health.
In December of 1996, he was due to have his battery changed in his pacemaker. He supposedly told his children that he'd rather not have that done. He wanted to let things take their natural course.
On January 31st, 1997, Jimmy tripped over a potted plant in his bedroom, and cut open his forehead. He was taken to St. John's Hospital, in Santa Monica, where he was given 12 stitches. A few weeks later, he was hospitalized for a blood clot and irregular heartbeat. He had a blood clot in his right knee, and the swelling soon spread through his entire leg. Clearly, this man was not going to be around much longer.
Jimmy spent his last months in bed, watching television. He rarely took phone calls or visitors. He was ready to die, and everyone knew it.
With his housekeeper, medical staff, and his children at his side, Jimmy did die on Wednesday July 2nd, 1997, at 11:05am. Official cause of death was cardiac arrest. He was 89 years old. His last words were, "I'm going to be with Gloria now."
Upon the news of his death, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce put flowers on Jimmy's star, on the Walk of Fame, along with a 40 foot roll of paper where fans could scribble their sentiments, to be tossed in the garbage, I'm sure.
On Monday morning of July 7th, Jimmy was buried next to Gloria at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, in Glendale. Because he was a war hero, Air Force Honor Guards gave him a 21-gun salute, at the private ceremony. Later that day, a memorial service was held at the Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church. 350 mourners attended, including Bob Hope (will he ever die?), June Allyson, Nancy Reagan, Esther Williams, June Haver (Fred MacMurray's widow), Shirlee Fonda (Henry's widow), Robert Stack, Carol Burnett, and Ralph Edwards. The ceremony ended with the organist playing, "Auld Lang Syne," just like in the film, It's a Wonderful Life.
In October of 1997, the house on Roxbury went on the market for $6.7 million. It was bought for $5.6 million by some stockbroker, and destroyed. Dick dick dick dick. Something gawdawful is being built on the lot. In April of 1999, here's what it looked like. Here's another picture of it, where you can see Jimmy's address scribbled on a tarp. A damn shame.
August 06 This is what stands now.
Trivia: Jimmy Stewart's last dinner was Cornish Game Hen, and baby carrots.
More Trivia: Karolyn Grimes Wilkerson, the broad that played Zuzu in the film It's a Wonderful Life, still cashes in on her fame from the flick. Here's a page from her newsletter.
Even More: Back in 1988, I wrote a fan letter to Mr. Stewart, and got this reply. Foolish me, I didn't request a reply from Mr. Stewart himself.
Still More: In October of 1989, my friend Bun and I went to a book signing, where Jimmy was signing his new poetry book. We said hello, and he looked up and smiled. That was it, but it was very cool. It was very, VERY cool. Here's Bun with Jimmy. Hi Bun!
Here's a picture of Jimmy's footprints, at the Chinese Theater, in Hollywood.
Trivia: Got this in March of 2000:
About 5 years ago, I was cruising down a rural Maryland road with my brother-in-law, and we approached a yellow Auburn Boat-tail out for a cruise ahead of us. As the Auburns were only built by direct commission, and were never a production car (the production car was the Cord), there's always a good story behind one. As we were the only ones on the road, I pulled alongside the car, and asked the owner if he'd mind very much if he'd pull over so we could look at it, and he was happy to oblige. He was an older fella, out with his wife, and was happy to show off his unique auto.
I asked how much it was worth, (it was in very good condition, but not restored), and he said about $800,000.00 as is. He also said he was in negotiations with a movie company that wanted to use the car, and if he got his way, the charge for their use of the car would be a full restoration, about $200,000.00. Before I could ask him if he knew who the car had been commissioned for, he told me to look at the silver plate on the dash. It read "Commissioned for Mr. James M. Stewart", and included a date of I think sometime in 1937. The man said "Yup, it was Jimmy Stewart's car."
I was so thunderstruck, I didn't even think to ask how and where he got it. He just said he had to get going, hopped in and took off. I
kick myself in the ass for not getting more info. Believe me, I have cruised that road many more times, and watched every damn movie I can for
that yellow Auburn, but I've never seen it or the man again...
Robert C. Stanfield