Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Legend Leaves Us

People stay married because they want to, not because the doors are locked. (video link)

If you don't have enemies, you don't have character.

~ Paul Newman, 1925-2008

Sadly, we learned this weekend that the media whispers of Paul Newman's approaching death from cancer were true. As was his practice in the many important undertakings of his life, he didn't talk much about it; he just went ahead and did it.

Paul Newman was not your garden variety celebrity. In fact, he went to extremes to avoid the trappings of his worldwide fame. Aside from his enormous success as an actor, Newman became an accomplished race car driver, after his interest was piqued while filming Winning.

Although he himself did not publicize his numerous charitable and philanthropic activities, they became well known through his many admirers and associates, as well as by the success of these endeavors. Perhaps most famous is the line of "Newman's Own" salad dressings and other foods. All proceeds, after taxes, are donated to his charities, including the Canary Foundation, for research on early detection of cancer; the Hole in the Wall Gang, for children with life-threatening illnesses; and HELP USA , to educate and assist homeless people.

Newman also created The Scott Newman Center in memory of his son, who died of a drug overdose in 1978. The foundation fights drug abuse through education, assists in recovery, and provides a haven for survivors of abuse.

This is an impressive legacy of meaningful philanthropic achievements from a man who wasn't expected to do much more than just show up and take off his sunglasses. Paul Newman could have simply strolled along the red carpets of his lifetime and still have been remembered as a brilliant actor and towering icon of the entertainment world.

For Newman, the star-strewn pathway was not enough. He chose a more challenging road of hard work and sacrifice behind the scenes to leave the world better than he found it. With his passing, we lose a talented and treasured American actor. But by far the larger loss is that a kind and thoughtful man, of generous heart and bold action, leaves us behind.