Along the Way: I Love Lucy

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Grave of Lucille “Lucy” Ball, Jamestown, New York

After visiting the grave of Grace Galloway, I knew I had to visit the most famous grave located on the grounds of Lake View Cemetery, a grave that brings people from all over the world to Jamestown.   Note: Grace’s story can be found here: The Lady in Glass

I had read in numerous places that finding the grave was extremely easy – I drove back to the entrance and followed the trail which leads to the grave. Arriving at the main entrance, I immediately spotted a heart with the letter “L” painted on the roadway. I followed the trail of hearts, stopping at the last heart and glanced around. To the left was a stone walkway ending at a black granite stone with a heart and the name “Ball” written in it. Here, in the family plot, rests one of the most famous actresses and comedians of all time – Lucille Ball.

Lucille, known by fans world-wide as Lucy, was born August 6, 1911 in Jamestown, New York, but her family moved to Montana shortly after her birth. At the age of three, while in Michigan, Lucy’s father died of typhoid fever. Her mother, who was pregnant with Lucy’s younger brother, moved the family back to Jamestown.

In 1925, Lucy convinced her mother to enroll her in the John Murray Anderson School for Dramatic Arts in New York City. Though she did not make it through school, she remained in New York City, finding work as a model, but it was not steady work. By the early 1930s, Lucy had dyed her hair to the familiar chestnut red and in 1933 moved to Hollywood. Over the next couple of years, Lucy appeared in a number of movies, but only had a minor role in them

In 1940, Lucy would meet Desi Arnaz while on a movie set. The couple fell in love and eloped the following year. Their marriage produced two children: Lucie, born in 1951 and Desi Jr., born in 1953. Their relationship would create one of the best-known television shows – I Love Lucy.

When I Love Lucy premiered in 1951, it was an instant success. The series, which was centered on the marriage of Desi and Lucy, was produced by Lucy and was the first filmed in front of a live audience. The critics and audiences loved the show and during its run it received numerous awards, including five Emmys. In 1990, I Love Lucy had the honor of being the first television series inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.

In 1950, Lucy and Desi formed Desilu Productions, the company that would produce I Love Lucy and other shows, including: The Dick Van Dyke Show and the first seasons of Star Trek and Mission: Impossible. When Lucy and Desi divorced in 1960, and Desi sold his portion of Desilu Productions to Lucy, which made Lucy the first woman to own a major studio. In 1967, she sold the company, which would eventually become a part of CBS Production Studios.

Lucy would marry Gary Morton, a former comedian and actor Lucy had met while performing on stage, who helped her create Lucille Ball Productions. By 1974, Lucy had mostly retired from stage and screen, making only sporadic appearances, usually as a guest star. Her last television appearance was during the 1989 Academy Awards in early March of that year. On April 26, 1989, at the age of seventy-seven, the world lost the beloved actress when she died of a ruptured aorta. Lucy was interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills Cemetery. In 2002, her children had Lucy’s remains moved to Lake View Cemetery, in the town she grew up in.

I finished paying my respects to the comedian and actress whose life inspired the show that captured the nation from 1951 through its end in 1957. She has survived the test of time as younger generations – generations that have come along since her death – have turned to her show for the humor and the genuine acting that connects them to Lucy.

As I quietly returned to the vehicle another car stopped and a young family got out. “Look mom!” the youngest child called out. “I see her!” As they headed towards Lucy’s grave, I headed towards my next stop, which was a short distance away.

To be concluded in George Kendall.

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