Dale Evans

Obituary

Dale Evans, until we meet again. APPLE VALLEY - The world knew her as "the Queen of the West." High Desert neighbors knew her as a neighbor, a friend and a matriarch. Friends and fans everywhere are mourning the death of Dale Evans, who died Wednesday of congestive heart failure at her home in Apple Valley with her children by her side. She was 88. She was married to "King of the Cowboys" Roy Rogers for 50 years. Together, Rogers and Evans starred in more than two dozen Western movies and a Western television show before going into semi-retirement in 1965. She co-wrote their well-known theme song "Happy Trails to You" in 1951. They lived in Apple Valley for more than 30 years. First performance - She was born Frances Octavia Smith on Oct. 31, 1912, in Uvalde, Texas. Evans first showed her desire to perform at the age of 3, when she tried to sing a solo gospel in front of her church. When she was 7, her family moved to Osceola, Ark., where she attended school. By the age of 12, she had advanced to the ninth grade. When she was 14, Evans eloped with Thomas Fox, a childhood sweetheart. She had a son, Tom Fox Jr., when she was 15 years old. Before she was 16, Thomas Fox asked Evans for a divorce. After they separated, she enrolled in business school and got a job as a secretary at an insurance firm in Memphis, Tenn. One day, as she was trying to write lyrics for a song at her desk, Evans' boss caught her singing and offered to let her perform on the radio. Her performance led her to the top of the Memphis market. When she was about 19, Evans landed a job at a radio station in Louisville. There, she tried out her first stage name: Marion Lee. The station manager told her it was trite and changed it to Dale Evans. Hundreds of USO shows - During World War II, Evans performed in nearly 500 shows for the USO. She also performed extensively for the USO during the Vietnam War. Evans met Roy Rogers in the early 1940s through a mutual agent, but it was not until 1944 that they first worked on a movie together, "The Cowboy and the Senorita." By that time, Evans had at least nine movies to her name. Rogers and Evans made 28 movies together. Her last movie with Rogers, "South of Caliente," was released in 1951. Rogers and Evans became a team though, at one point, she distanced herself from Rogers to get away from Western movies. She eventually rejoined the regular cast and made personal appearance tours with him. In the fall of 1947, about a year after Rogers' wife Arlene died, Rogers proposed to Evans at a rodeo in Chicago. She accepted and the couple married on Dec. 31, 1947. By that time, her own son was grown and in the Army. With the marriage, Evans gained three new children, Cheryl, 7, Linda Lou, 4, and Roy Jr., 15 months. Facing a new marriage and a new life as a mother, Evans turned to religion to help her through what she described as a troubled time. She became a born-again Christian, followed by Rogers a short time later. Two years into her marriage, at the age of 37, Evans found out she was pregnant. On Aug. 26, 1950, she gave birth to Robin Elizabeth, who had Down syndrome and heart problems. By that time, Rogers had a radio program, "The Roy Rogers Show," which Evans performed on before she became pregnant. While taking care of Robin, Evans wrote the song "Happy Trails" for the show, inspired by Rogers' habit of writing "many happy trails" on autographs. Famous TV show - In 1951 Evans and Rogers started "The Roy Rogers Show" for television. The show ran until 1957, when it went into syndication on CBS. During that time, Rogers and Evans moved their family to Encino to escape the smog-filled Hollywood Hills because Robin had breathing problems. Robin died two days before her second birthday. The little girl was the inspiration for Evans' first book, "Angel Unaware," a 63-page story of Robin's first conversation with God. Evans donated the book's royalties to the National Association for Retarded Children. Rogers and Evans decided to adopt children to fill their house after Robin's death. Move to Apple Valley - The Rogers family passed through the Victor Valley on the way to television shoots and family vacations at their property in Big Bear. In 1964 the family moved to Apple Valley, where they went into semi-retirement. Although the pair did not stop making appearances altogether, they did limit their social obligations. Their home became a stopping point for tourists, some of whom would knock on their door. Rogers eventually bought the bowling alley across from the Apple Valley Inn and established the Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum. In 1976, the museum was moved to Victorville on a 40-acre stretch of land next to Interstate 15. According to the book "Happy Trails: Our Life Story," Evans and Rogers often toured the museum before it would open for the day, looking at the collection of their lives on display. Rogers and Evans started the Victor Valley Child Abuse Task Force in 1982. Ten years later, they changed the name to the Happy Trails Children's Foundation. They later opened the Cooper Home in 1997 to house abused children. Despite suffering a heart attack and stroke, she continued writing inspirational books in the 1990s, including "Hands of the Potter," which she said was "the fine print of my life." Rogers died in July 1998 of congestive heart failure at the age of 86. 'Life is a Blessing'After Rogers' death, Evans continued writing books while working at the Happy Trails foundation. Her last book, "Life is a Blessing," was released last year. She remained a well known celebrity and philanthropist in the community. As a result, the Apple Valley Town Council dedicated Dale Evans Parkway in 1998. Evans has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She was indicted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1995. She is survived by her six children, 16 grandchildren and more than 30 great grandchildren.
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