- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 30, 2005

Carson hometown remembers Johnny

NORFOLK, Neb. (AP) — More than 1,000 people gathered in Johnny Carson’s hometown yesterday to remember the man who for 30 years sent millions of Americans to bed every night as host of “The Tonight Show.”

Far from a somber tribute, the high-spirited event included a monologue, a jazz ensemble playing the “Tonight Show” theme, and stage props such as a desk and guest chairs where those who had known Mr. Carson were asked to talk about him.

Mr. Carson died a week earlier of emphysema at his Malibu, Calif., home. He was 79.

At his request, no public memorial was held in Los Angeles. The king of late-night television was a fiercely private man who made few public appearances after his retirement in 1992.

However, residents in Norfolk said they wanted a chance to say goodbye. Many had known the comic from high school. The memorial was held in the high school theater that bears his name.

Jeff Burkink, who was principal of Norfolk High School in the 1980s when Mr. Carson gave $600,000 to the school to build a new performing arts center, said the celebrity never forgot his roots.

Born in Iowa, Mr. Carson was raised in Norfolk from the age of 8 until he left after high school to join the Navy and serve in World War II.

Fame did not diminish Mr. Carson’s fondness for his hometown. His known donations to causes in the town amounted to more than $5 million, including $2.27 million for a regional cancer radiation center.

The entertainer also gave $100,000 to the Elkhorn Valley Museum in Norfolk and later donated 11 boxes of his personal items — including awards and his Presidential Medal of Freedom — to the museum for a permanent display.

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