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Rogers Family Gets a Bow From 'The Duke'

April 05, 1993|BRIDGET BYRNE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Silhouetted in a block of crystal, the figure of John Wayne stands tall, an endearing image symbolizing a lasting commitment to "Fight the Good Fight."

This statuette, known as "The Duke," is the special service award given by the John Wayne Cancer Institute Auxiliary. This year's award was presented Saturday to Henry and Rosalind Rogers and their daughter, Marcia Rogers Ross, to honor their commitment to the fight against cancer, both personally and in support of the institute's continuing research.

As a successful publicist for more than 50 years, Henry Rogers proved that not everything in Hollywood is fickle and of the moment. So, appropriately, the organization's Odyssey Ball, which attracted nearly 700 to the Beverly Hilton Hotel, set no store by flashy gimmicks, relying for its success on the tried and true.

Columnist Army Archerd was emcee. Auctioneer Monty Hall, who's always known how to make the best deal, couldn't manage to drum up much enthusiasm for a walk-on role on "Roseanne," but did succeed in securing the full $12,000 price for an Abercrombie and Kent "Explorer" cruise.

Traditional music provided by the Ray Anthony Orchestra kept the dance floor crowded, and Michael Feinstein's rendition of favorite songs provided necessary nostalgia.

Thank-you time at the podium--headed by Auxiliary President Sue Neuman and Dr. Donald Morton, the institute's director--was kept to a minimum. And the presence of many past recipients of "The Duke," including Larry Hagman and Nancy and Carroll O'Connor, marked the continued dedication to the treatment and research center now based at St. John's Hospital and Health Center in Santa Monica.

Others on hand included: Dina Merrill with husband Ted Hartley; longtime Rogers business associates Warren Cowan, Dale Olson and Paul Bloch; actor Kevin Dobson, who in July will host his third annual celebrity golf tournament to benefit the institute, and members of the Wayne family. Four of the seven children of the movie star, who died of cancer in 1979, were present--Michael, who with wife Gretchen chaired the honoree dinner committee, and Tony, Marisa and Patrick.

"My father was more a hero to me in death than he ever was in life," said Michael Wayne, reflecting on his father's legacy and recalling how John Wayne allowed himself "to be a guinea pig" in numerous experiments in the fight against cancer.

"It wasn't just because he hoped it might save him, but because he hoped that the research conducted on him might ultimately help others. 'Maybe it will work for some other poor bastard was what he actually said,' " Michael Wayne recalled, still amused by his father's straight talk and forever proud of his courageous final fight.

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