Dennis Weaver, athlete, Navy Pilot, actor, humanitarian and passionate environmentalist ,leaves behind a long legacy of helping people and helping the planet. He dedicated 175 acres with spectacular Rock Mountain vistas for a wildlife preserve and recreation area along the Uncompahgre River. Today that land incorporates River Sage, and friendly real estate development surrounded by 130 acres of green open space and the spectacular, 60-acre Dennis Weaver Memorial Park, in Ridgway, Colorado, honoring his memory and many accomplishments.
Dennis grew up on a Missouri farm during the Depression. He served as a navy Pilot during the depression. He served as a Navy Pilot during WWII, then returned to college, graduating with a degree in fine arts in theater from the University of Oklahoma. In 1945, he married his childhood sweetheart, Gerry Stowell, they had three sons, Rick, Rob, and Rusty. Dennis was also a fine athlete. In 1948, he was a decathlon finalist in the United States Olympic trials.
From his earliest years, Dennis had always wanted to be an actor. He made his acting debut on Broadway which led to a contract with Universal Studios in Hollywood, where he played various characters, mostly in westerns. His big break came when he was chosen for the role of Chester Goode in “Gunsmoke,” which ran for nine years, and for which Dennis won an Emmy. He later played the sexy McCloud in a television series (of the same name) which ran seven years and earned him two Emmy nominations.
A talented musician and entertainer, Dennis released several country albums. In his one-man Shakespearean show, he played 19 different characters..
He was the face seen in the background of many classic westerns between 1930 and 1950. In one of the rare speaking roles, Kennedy played Trooper Heinze in the John Wayne movie, “Rio Grande.” He pioneered the training of “falling horses” and was an expert at saddle falls and blind wagon driving. Some of his other movie appearances were: “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” “Red River,” “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” “The Searchers” and “Hondo.”
In 1958, Kennedy was hired for a small part in his friend’s, director John Ford, production of “The Horse Soldiers” in Louisiana. To earn extra money for doing a stunt, Kennedy talked Ford into allowing him to perform the saddle fall. During the stunt, Kennedy broke his neck and died while being transported to the hospital. Ford, distraught over the death of Kennedy, shut down production and returned to Hollywood. The final battle scene for “The Horse Soldiers” was shot at a later date in the San Fernando Valley area, instead of on location in Louisiana. The scene with Kennedy’s fatal saddle fall was kept in the movie. In 1982, Kennedy was inducted into the Hollywood Stuntmen’s Hall of Fame.
|If interested in learning more about the Hall of Fame, please contact John Hagner (Founder) at 435 260-2160.
Hall of Fame website: www.stuntmen.org
John Hagner (Founder) is also the Artist of the Stars.
His Celebrity Portrait Drawings are available at telephone 435-259-7000,
50 W. 400 N, Moab, Utah 84532.
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