"Maysville helped Rosemary to blossom"

by Nick Clooney, Cincinnati Post, published July 5, 2002

Another day has dawned in the little river town of Maysville, Kentucky, just one of nearly 80,000 days since settlers from the East Coast decided this would be a good place to build a few cabins, a tavern and eventually a church.

For one-third of all those days, a native daughter proudly called Maysville her home town. By the time Rosemary Clooney first saw the light of day on May 23rd, 1928, Maysville had settled in as a prosperous, attractive community. Most Maysvillians thought it was just the right size. Rosemary thought so, too.

No one could remember when Rosemary didn't sing. And when her sister Betty came along three years later, it seemed Betty could sing before she could talk because Rosemary wanted someone to harmonize with.

When Rosemary and I talked about it in later years, she was sure that the first time she sang before a group of people who were not family was at St. Patrick's Church. Her first personal appearance.

Today, in melancholy symmetry, it was where she made her last personal appearance. The most famous daughter of the community and, arguably, of the Commonwealth of which it is a part, never forgot her childhood here.

Not all of it was moonlight and roses, by any means. No one's childhood is. It was the time of the Depression and World War II. Our mom and dad couldn't make a go of their marriage, so Grandma Guilfoyle raised us. Money was tight, but it was the same for nearly everyone.

Rosemary, Betty and I always thought Maysville had a lot to do with any success we were able to attain. When Rosemary and Betty sang and, eventually, I began broadcasting, Maysville gave us a boost. The supported us, told us we were good, "as good as any of those other people on the radio or in the movies."

By the time the three of us found out it wasn't quite that simple, Maysville had already instilled enough confidence in us that we were able to survive whatever negative energy we might encounter in a highly competitive profession. That was a priceless gift and it would have been improper to forget it.

So any time Rosemary — or Betty or I — had a chance to tell the world about Maysville, we did so. When the time came, we told our children, too.

Rosemary's career became meteoric and she was a star of international stature, so some thought she would finally break the childhood tie. She didn't. The Kentucky roots centered her. She often kidded about it, as we all do, but it was with affection.

So there was no suspense when it came to her funeral service. It would be the same place she was baptized, had her first communion and married Dante — St. Patrick's Church. She will be buried in St. Patrick's cemetery, where her marker will remain until, many years from now, time and nature erode the granite — but never the memory.

Many have asked if there is some place where a memorial contribution might be sent. There are many worthy causes which Rosemary supported over the years; it is difficult to single one out.

However, this morning I was recalling the day Rosemary and Dante married, a happy occasion nearly five years ago at St. Patrick's. Rosemary asked if those in attendance could support St. Patrick's School Fund.

All three of us attended St. Pat's, a small private school, grades 1-12, always struggling to survive. Rosemary went there eight grades and starred in some of her first plays, including "Snow White." She got a good review.

My guess is that if this occasion could help St. Pat's pay the light bill for another month, that would make her smile.

"That's the secret, Nick. Smile. Even if I'm singing a sad song, I smile. People like to believe everything will turn out all right."

I'll give it a try, Rosemary. Tomorrow.