August 10, 2009

Ethel to get own postage stamp

The Kansas girl born Vivian Roberta Jones now has a stamp commemorating the 100th anniversary of her birth.

The world knows her as Vivian Vance, and she became one of America's "best friends" in the 1950s when she played Ethel Mertz on the "I Love Lucy" TV series.

Vance was born July 26, 1909, in Cherryvale. She died in 1979.

On August 11th, her surviving relatives will celebrate the release of the stamps in her hometown post office, along with postal authorities. Vance's stamp is one of 20 the U.S. Postal Service is introducing nationally.

The series of stamps called Early TV Memories, highlights some of America's favorite television shows, including "The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "The Honeymooners" and "You Bet Your Life."

"The stamps are calling cards for America's rich cultural history," said Richard Watkins, postal service spokesman in Kansas City. "We are excited Vivian Vance's hometown is recognizing her contributions to groundbreaking television."

Vance's relatives, including her second cousins, Imogene Ragan Littell, Jack Ragan and Carolyn Clark, will make a presentation along with Postmaster Daniel Wishall at 10 a.m. Tuesday at 309 W. Sixth St. in Cherryvale.

Although Vance was born in Cherryvale, when she was six, her family moved to Independence. After graduating from the Independence High School, Vivian changed her last name to Vance and moved to Tulsa to find work as an actress.

She soon developed a successful Broadway career and, in 1951, was tapped by Desi Arnaz as "Ethel" for the "I Love Lucy" show.

Playing second fiddle to Lucille Ball in the series, Vance was Ethel Mertz — a frumpy housewife and landlord to Ball's zany Lucy.

Together they would create some of television's most memorable comic moments.

Take, for example, the time Ethel and Lucy decide to work on an assembly line at Kramer's Kandy Kitchen: The chocolates keep coming and coming, and both of them end up stuffing chocolates in their hats, blouses and mouths.

Vance was so good as Ethel that in 1954 she was awarded an Emmy for best supporting actress. She was nominated in 1955, 1957 and 1958 in the same category.

In 1991, "I Love Lucy" was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame.

The show debuted Oct. 15, 1951. The series continued until May 6, 1957.

By then, "I Love Lucy" had become an American icon. Today, the show is still seen in reruns around the world.

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