"Hundreds honor Rosemary's memory at Augusta reception"

By Susan Bartels, Cincinnati Post, July 6, 2002

At first glance, Friday appeared to be just another day in the sleepy river town of Augusta. American flags hung from porches flapped in a light breeze, bargain hunters scanned tables at yard sales and motorists waited patiently for the ferry to return to the Kentucky shore.

But it wasn't just another day. In the large yard of a small house at the end of Riverside Drive, there was a reception to honor the memory of Rosemary Clooney — the last chance for family, friends and fans to gather to honor the woman who sang her way into the hearts of the world.

Nick Clooney, Rosemary's brother, hosted the party and sent out a public invitation to anyone who wanted to attend. Those who came to star gaze were quickly disappointed. Even Ms. Clooney's famous nephew George came into public view for only a brief time.

But those who came to pay tribute found exactly what they were looking for. They braved the stifling heat, seeking shade under huge trees and a tent erected for that purpose. Some stood on the perimeter of the property, many found their way to food and drink offered under the tent and in the house.

All were there for the same reason — they loved Rosie. The crowd of about 250 reminisced with friends and strangers.

"It was a real privilege to know her," said Pam Schlereth of Columbus, Ohio, who met Ms. Clooney in 1970 after a concert. Schlereth had gone back stage to thank the singer and a fast friendship ensued.

Wilma and Dan Steffen of Ft. Thomas had never met Ms. Clooney. They have seen all her movies and love listening to her records. "We just feel like we know her," Wilma Steffen smiled.

Sisters Sandra and Michelle Bowman drove all the way from Nashville to be at the funeral and reception. They were concerned people would think they were there to see George. "We came for Rosemary," Sandra said. "She's always had a special place in my heart."

Michelle Bowman said she watches the movie "White Christmas" repeatedly. "Even if I'm not watching it, I just like for it to be on," she said.

Southgate resident Velma Henn watched from under a shade tree near the edge of the property. She said she didn't want to intrude. She wasn't from the community or a member of the family.

"I'm just a fan," Henn said. "As soon as she died I thought I wanted to come here."

Nick Clooney sat under the tent holding his dog and greeting those who stopped to offer their memories. He listened, and then raised his glass to Mary Ellen Tanner, who was singing for the occasion.

"Mary Ellen was one of her (Rosemary's) favorite singers in the world," Nick Clooney announced. "This is the way to celebrate Rosemary, isn't it?"

He then settled back into his seat, continuing to talk to anyone who approached him. And what, he was asked, will he do when the tent comes down and everyone has gone home?

"I'm going to sit down and listen to her albums for the duration," he smiled.