You've heard the saying, "It takes a village," well, in this case it took a world-wide swing dance community, and we did it! We raised enough money for Jean Veloz' Happy Hollywood Ending! Everything she dreamed of, plus!
Jean's Happy Hollywood Ending Celebration
WAS MARCH 4, 2023 AT THE HOLLYWOOD FOREVER CEMETERY IN THE JUDY GARLAND PAVILION
THANK YOU, TO ALL WHO MADE JEAN VELOZ’ HAPPY HOLLYWOOD ENDING A REALITY
A NOTE FROM RUSTY
I can’t help but once again thank everyone who made this dream come true.
We had over 500 donors from over 20 countries pitch in to make sure Jean Veloz got her final resting place amongst the stars at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. You all made it happen so quickly, and it was because of your love of Jean and how much she inspired you over the years and continues to inspire. I am so grateful to you for making sure that she has a beautiful place people can visit now and in the years to come.
The celebration of life on Saturday was exactly what we had dreamed it would be. A warm and loving tribute to this extraordinary, sweet, and inspiring woman. Over 60 family, friends, and swing dancers gathered in the Judy Garland Pavilion at Hollywood Forever Cemetery to pay tribute to her. There were speeches from family, from instructors, and even students, and everyone touched on the common thread of Jean: her love of people, her ability to be completely present in the moment, her extraordinary dancing style, her ability to love all other dancers, her love of a little glass of red wine, and of course, her love of See's Candies.
The stories evoked laughter, tears, heartwarming moments, all filling us with the beautiful essence of Jean.
Our speakers were, Stacey Phelps (Jean’s niece), Hilary Alexander, myself, Steve Conrad (who partnered her on many occasions, including on “The Bachelorette” and “The Steve Harvey Forever Young”), Jonathan Stout (dancer/guitarist, bandleader), Kim Clever (instructor/performer from Ventura, CA who accompanied her and taught with her), Jackie Goldfield (dancer and self-described “secret friend” of Jean’s), Joseph Rocamora (Rusty’s student who told the greatest Jean story!), Theresa Werner (who represented East Coast dancers and flew in from D.C. to do so!), and Tise Chao (L.A. dancer who recreated “One Girl & Two Boys” in 2000).
The celebration ended with Hilary Alexander singing "We'll Meet Again" with Jonathan Stout accompanying her on guitar and everyone joining in on the second chorus, voices so beautiful, I tell you you would be crying with me now. And, then I invited everyone to give to Jean what all performers love, a standing ovation. Oh, and then everyone got a See's Candies sucker! Yes, it was all perfect.
A special thank you to Jean’s niece, Stacey Phelps, and her great nephew, Chris Phelps, for beautifully decorating the niche with objects from Jean’s life, including her little black and white swing dance shoes, her Swing Dance Hall of Fame pendant, portraits from her dancing life, and of course a little box of See's Candies with all the donors names inside (you are all with her there!). Stacey and Chris, I want to make sure you know that dancers will journey to see Jean in all the years to come and will have their heart filled with love spending time at that niche you so thoughtfully curated.
Won’t you all please join me in thanking those who helped make the day come to fruition: Tom Koerner & Debra Sternberg for their support, Jonathan Kiss for making the blowups, Jennifer Stockert for taking photographs, Paul Riding for taking video, Jonathan Stout for his exquisite guitar accompaniment, Lovelynn Ivey and Betty De La Torre for welcoming all of you as you arrived, and, of course, Hollywood Forever Cemetery for making all of this possible for us.
I want to take a personal moment to thank my friends who counseled, calmed, and helped me along the way, because you know that this can't happen without that kind of support. So I thank my friends Laurie Gordon, Lovelynn Ivey, Karin Baker, Charlotte Carpenter Lewis, Mike Szymanski, Susan Morgenstern, Betty De La Torre, and Bryan Torfeh.
To Jeannie's caregivers, you gave her love and compassion and care during her final days, and we are all so grateful to you: TT Theresa, Esmeralda, Alma, Michelle, Ruth, and Lilibeth.
To Jean's stepdaughter, Yolanda Veloz, thank you for giving all you did - love, a home, support, and friendship. We are so sorry that you never got to see this day.
To Jean's niece, Stacey, thank you for all the care and love you gave to her. It was a tremendous amount... she just adored you.
And, finally, an extraordinary thank you to my partner in this project and in so many swing dance creations, Hilary Alexander. She and I are so proud of this accomplishment. I know we will profoundly miss getting to visit Jean together, but we promise to always carry on Jean’s legacy in our lives and our work.
THANK YOU ALL FOR MAKING THIS DREAM COME TRUE.
OVER 500 DONORS FROM 20 COUNTRIES RAISED $30,787!
HERE'S WHERE THE MONEY WENT:
Jean's beautiful niche next to Judy Garland in the Judy Garland Pavilion at Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Her exquisite urn
A Heart Floral Wreath for Her Celebration
Funding for Her Celebration (program, flowers, See's Candies, decorations, frames, blowups, etc.)
Funding for the Caregivers hosting a family backyard gathering
Plus, enough to set up a Jean Veloz Camp Hollywood Scholarship Fund
Rusty Frank points to Jean's niche, and Hilary Alexander points to Judy Garland's
We thought you would like to see a picture of the elegant urn that will contain Jean's ashes. Jean's family will be decorating her niche with this urn, a pair of her adorable black and white dance shoes, her Swing Dance Hall of Fame necklace, a tiny box of See's Candies (inside of which will be a neatly folded list of all the donors), framed photographs of her, her and her brother, and her and her husband, and other lovely mementos.
JEAN VELOZ CAMP HOLLYWOOD SCHOLARSHIP FUND
Our fundraising campaign was carefully budgeted, and you have all been so generous that it appears we will have extra. We have decided to create a "Jean Veloz Camp Hollywood Scholarship Fund" for any overflow and bonus. The recipients of the scholarship will be hand selected by Jean's trusted friends, Rusty Frank, Hilary Alexander, and Kim Clever, from young dancers whom we know Jean would love and could not afford to go to Camp Hollywood. Camp Hollywood was suggested by Rusty, because it was the local festival that Jean attended every single year and just loved, and fit perfectly with our theme of "Jean's Hollywood Happy Ending."
We know Jean Veloz’ iconic legacy among the great stars in the history of dance and also her place in our hearts.
Now it was our turn to leave her a final resting place that would mean all the world to her.
Jean made her wishes clear to her niece, Stacey Phelps, “I would love to be atHollywood Forever Cemetery where people can visit me and bring me bouquets of flowers.”
Jean, at the Herrang Dance Camp in 2012, leading hundreds of swing dancers from around the world to the Frankie Manning Way dedication. Isn't it a perfect image for our "Jean's Hollywood Happy Ending" world community campaign?!
One of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world, and right in the heart of the Hollywood filmdom, Hollywood Forever is known as one of the most significant final resting place of celebrities from the Golden Era of movies. And, now our Jean will be amongst them.
So, thank you from the bottom of our heart for everything you all did to leave this lasting gift for Jean Veloz.
The Jean Veloz Legacy Project
Rusty Frank, Hilary Alexander, Stacey Phelps (Jean's niece), Tom Koerner, and Debra Sternberg