52 sundays; february 13, 2011

‘Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.’ James Byron Dean

The famous actor James Dean would have had a birthday this past week on February 8th.  If James were still alive, he would have been 80 years old . . . hard to imagine the ‘rebel’ at that age because he has been forever immortalized as the handsome twenty-something of the 1950s.

The Professor and I live about 45 minutes south of where James Byron Dean was born, raised and ultimately buried far too soon.   Fairmount, like much of central Indiana, is flat farm country with miles and miles of cornfields and soybeans in the summer. His family moved to California when James was 6 but when his mother died of cancer 3 years later, James’ father sent him back to Fairmount to be raised by an aunt and uncle. The kicker is that The Professor is actually James Dean’s 4th Cousin…. no joke.  Their great-great grandfathers were brothers and there is even some resemblance in The Professor’s father and Great Uncle to the famous Dean.

We took these pictures of James Dean’s grave site last summer and are always amazed at the number of fans that visit – younger generations including visitors from around the world have made the trek to the tiny cemetery flanked by miles and miles of farmland. Some kiss the monument, some leave trinkets and still others will write a name or note on a nearby stone . . . I wonder how many times that stone has been painted over since his death in 1955.

And since we’ll be watching the Oscars in a few weeks, here’s a bit of trivia from Wikipedia:

James Dean was the first actor to receive a posthumous Academy Award nomination for Best Actor and remains the only actor to have had two posthumous acting nominations. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Dean the 18th best male movie star on their AFI’s 100 Years…100 Stars list.

Happy Birthday, Cousin!

The two photos of the house were taken at the James Dean Gallery and Museum, in Fairmount, Indiana.


  1. Thats pretty cool. And where did the time go???

  2. We just introduced our girls to James Dean a few weeks ago for family movie night. We watched Rebel Without a Cause; which they weren’t too into when it started, but the more they watched, they realized why we like it so.
    Great post–love the trivia too!

  3. You’re right. It’s hard to imagine James Dean at 80 isn’t it. Interesting connection to the rebel without a cause.

  4. I *KNEW* the Professor had a bit of rebel in him! 🙂

  5. So hard to believe he would be 80 years old! When did I get so old myself?

  6. Wow, very interesting about the connection in the Professor’s family tree! It’s hard to picture Dean as an 80 year old man. You’re right–he will always be immortalized as his young self. Interesting post!

  7. What a cool connection! There are icons in our collective conciousness that I find it so difficult to fathom them not being young, from Princess Di to JFK Jr. (much less his father) to Kurt Cobain–James Dean is definitely among one of them. And his tombstone may be our answer to the Blarney Stone in Ireland, no?

    This reminded me to implore to you to if you aren’t watching Parks and Recreation, you HAVE to because it’s set in Indiana because it’s so funny and real and it makes you happy to watch it, you know? The first season isn’t great, but the second and (currently airing) third are and they have so much heart.

  8. Hard to believe he would have been 80!
    Love the photos!

  9. That’s so cool! I knew there was something mysterious about the Professor! He’s got that James Dean trait. And he cooks too? Well done, Debra!

  10. I don’t know much about James Dean, but I really should. Thanks for the history lesson and I’m definitely going to check out his movies.
    Very cool idea for a post!

  11. Great Post Debra! What an amazing legend James Dean was and the world misses him so much!

  12. I’m a huge James Dean fan (have the collection of all his films… can’t watch them enough). A wonderful Sunday post, Debra!

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  14. Fairmount is my home town and I loved reading your tribute to our most famous son. How cool that the Professor is a cousin. Love your site.

  15. This is such a beautiful post it evokes sadness about and a sense of glamour too. I love the snippets you give us Debra about your surroundings which I would have never known if it weren’t for your posts. Your friend, Shulie

  16. He is an enigma certainly. I’ve always wondered if his perpetual popularity would have been the case if he had not died so young, so handsome, so Rebel Without a Cause. Nice memory Deb.

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