January 08, 2012

Beloved entertainer Danny Thomas gets a 'forever' stamp

Danny Thomas, the versatile entertainer who spent seven decades on radio, TV and film, will make a posthumous appearance on a "forever" postage stamp in honor of the 50th anniversary of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, which he founded in 1962.

The hospital "was his absolute passion," actress Marlo Thomas, his daughter, said. "He lived it, he dreamt it."
The hospital in Memphis treats children with catastrophic pediatric diseases regardless of a family's ability to pay. It is among the top children's hospitals in the world.
The U.S. Postal Service unveiled the stamp Saturday night in Los Angeles at a star-studded gala for St. Jude to celebrate what would have been Thomas' 100th birthday. The party, hosted by his son-in-law Phil Donahue, included performances by Tony Bennett andRay Romano.
Thomas is shown in the foreground of the stamp wearing a tuxedo with a red handkerchief in the pocket and a lapel pin representing the St. Jude Police League, which supports Chicago police officers. The hospital is in the background.
The stamp goes on sale Feb. 16 and costs 45 cents. It can be used forever to mail a one-ounce, first-class letter, U.S. Postal Service spokesman Richard Maher said.
"We're probably more excited about the stamp than he would be," his son Hollywood producer Tony Thomas said. "He was not one to take a lot of bows."
He'd be happy, Tony Thomas said, that the hospital is getting attention.
Danny Thomas, who died in 1991, considered the hospital his proudest achievement, surpassing the Emmy for his starring role in Make Room for Daddy, his long-running sitcom The Danny Thomas Show and appearances in such classic movies as The Jazz Singer and I'll See You in My Dreams, Tony Thomas said.
In 1985, Danny Thomas received the Congressional Gold Medal for his humanitarian work. He and his wife, Rose Marie, are buried on the hospital grounds."It was the jewel in the crown of his life," his son said.
Thomas was born in 1912 to parents who had immigrated to the United States from Lebanon. In his immigrant neighborhood, he saw children die of curable diseases, injuries and even rodent bites.
"It gave him a front-row seat to inequity in health care," Marlo Thomas said. "He was always seeking justice and fairness. It was unacceptable to him that any child should die, as he said, 'in the dawn of life.' "
He decided to locate the hospital in the South after reading a news article about a black child hit by a car on his bicycle who died because no hospital would take him, Marlo Thomas said. "Now children come from all over the world," she said. "No child is turned away."
Danny Thomas, who also produced The Andy Griffith ShowThe Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mod Squad, used his show biz connections to raise millions of dollars for the hospital. "He'd get all his celebrity friends involved — Jack Benny, Dinah Shore, Perry Como, even Elvis," Tony Thomas said. "I watched him work his entire life to build St. Jude Children's Hospital."
Thomas and his siblings remain involved. His sister Terre Thomas has served 28 years on the board. Marlo Thomas is the international outreach director.

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