Leaving the spotlight: Maureen O'Hara visits Iowa to pay homage to 'Duke'

broberts@idahostatesman.comMay 25, 2013 

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Maureen O’Hara, center, Aissa Wayne, John Wayne’s daughter, and Conor Fitz-Simons are framed by a statue of Wayne near where a John Wayne museum and learning center is planned in Winterset, Iowa.

PROVIDED BY CONOR FITZSIMONS

Happy Birthday, John Wayne

A tribute honoring the late screen giant - born May 26, 1907 - at his birthplace in Winterset, Iowa, got some extra star power. Boise resident Maureen O'Hara, who made five films with Wayne, made her first trip to his boyhood home.

Iconic charisma

Wayne and O'Hara were a pair of tough, don't-give-in personalities whose chemistry thrilled moviegoers in the 1950s and '60s. Their films include "McClintock" and "The Quiet Man."

Mixed emotions

Wayne died in 1979. O'Hara's visit is a time of joy and sadness, the 92-year-old actress said. "You knew you were never going to see the Duke again," O'Hara said. Still, she knows he's "happy with all the angels and saints cheering for the Duke."

Remembered by fans

O'Hara, whose film career dates to the 1930s, is spending the weekend reacquainting herself with fans. "I hope they don't forget," she said. "If they forget me, I might get mad at them, because I am still here," she said in her characteristically fun, feisty way.

Back to private life

O'Hara's appearance at Wayne's birthday marks the beginning of a winding down of her 70-plus years in public life, said grandson Conor FitzSimons. O'Hara and her family think "it is better to bow out of the public eye while you are still on top."

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