On This Day: John Wayne Loses His Battle With Cancer in 1979

by Joe Rutland

People across the United States woke up on this day in 1979 and heard the news that John Wayne had died. The Duke, forever immortalized in movies from Stagecoach to The Shootist, fought the good fight with cancer. Still, it would prove to be a reason for Wayne’s death on June 11, 1979. On Saturday, the John Wayne Estate took time to pay homage and respects to him on their Instagram account.

And you better believe his fans were sharing their tender thoughts and warm words upon seeing this post. One writes, “He may be gone from the Earth but he is not forgotten and we can still see him do his thing by watching his movies.” Another one states, “Great Actor. He’s always in my mind. God bless him. RIP”. This fan probably puts all of the thoughts succinctly, simply saying, “He is deeply missed.”

From ‘The Searchers’ and ‘Hellfighters,’ John Wayne Could Do It All

The @joinjohnwayne account takes John Wayne fans to one dedicated to the John Wayne Cancer Foundation. Its bio states: “In honor of John Wayne, his family created JWCF to bring courage, strength, & grit to the fight against cancer”. Talk about true grit. Wayne embodied it far more than just a movie title. Seeing him play in Hellfighters alongside Katharine Ross and Jim Hutton is one of my favorite memories. Then there are those John Ford movies, including The Searchers and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. Hearing Ethan saying “that’ll be the day” takes me back to seeing that movie for the very first time. Of course, you have your own Wayne favorites. Maybe today you can take a minute and think about them, what they mean to you and your life.

Here’s an interesting story involving both Wayne and Ford. One time, Wayne embarrassed himself to protect his elderly mentor. Wayne was to accept a prestigious award after he and the director finished working on The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Ford would be going to introduce Wayne. Well, on his way up some steps to a dais, Ford tripped on a step and slid back down the stairs. But this time, he was an elderly man and nearing retirement from the movie business.

Wayne could see what happened and thought quickly on his feet. As he headed up to accept the award, Wayne slipped on the steps and slid back himself. This sent the audience into a roar as they thought it had been set up as a gag between the two men.