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Memorial at museum showed a life well lived

By Penny Owen Published: May 1, 2003
Edward L. Gaylord knew how his memorial should be. And in typical business fashion, he had set about planning it.

He wanted family and friends to gather at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum the same place he saved from obscurity, then built into one of the country's finest representations of frontier values.

"He didn't demand it. He just asked, said Linda Haller, the museum's spokeswoman.

Haller said they would have cleared any schedule for Gaylord, but as luck had it Wednesday was the first day in several weeks when the Noble Events Center a room large enough to hold the 1,600 who attended was available.

Gaylord also had asked University of Oklahoma President David Boren to eulogize him provided, he said with tongue in cheek, that Boren didn't speak too long.

The service lasted exactly one hour a fact that probably would have pleased the publisher's penchant for punctuality.

Gaylord also chose the David B. Hooten band for his music and asked the musicians to play "When the Saints Go Marching In as his family's recessional song. They played it with gusto.

Wednesday's memorial carried the simplicity of a man with Oklahoma roots and the grandness that comes in honoring someone whose reach went further than words could say.

Perhaps the final send-off at his beloved museum said it for him.

"The whole spirit of this place, he was that, said Byron Price, director of the museum. "That's what this place is about: independence, rugged individualism and core American values. And he was, too.

Outside the museum, an American flag swayed at half-staff as Oklahoma County sheriff deputies, wearing full-dress uniforms and white gloves, held open the doors to Gaylord's chosen finale.

Inside, dozens of flower sprays formed a semi-circle at "The End of the Trail, where a great white sculpture of an American Indian perched on a slumping horse symbolizes the West. Among the flowers, a horse was shaped out of yellow mums and a horseshoe out of red carnations. A 4-H group sent their wishes in a spray of green.

Someone had the good business sense to keep the gift shop open. Gaylord probably would've liked that.

Guests arrived to Dixieland music playing in the background.

Their arrival became a Who's Who of Oklahoma: former University of Oklahoma and Dallas Cowboys football coach Barry Switzer; OU football coach Bob Stoops; former Gov. Henry Bellmon; former Miss America and television news anchor Jane Jayroe; former legislator and former National Finals Rodeo General Manager Clem McSpadden; Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin; Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys; Gov. Brad Henry; actor Rex Linn.

Dozens more followed.

"Ed Gaylord always called me cowboy, said former Oklahoma County District Attorney Bob Macy, who appeared wearing his traditional string tie. "To me, it was a term of respect.

Governors and senators, judges and legislators from both sides of the aisle signed guest books and took their seats.

On the stage, a portrait of Gaylord, his elbow resting on a copy of The Oklahoman, was flanked by two towers of red roses.

Between a countrified version of "Amazing Grace and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic, stories were told of Gaylord's generosity, of his quick wit, his business acumen and his love for a state he could have long ago left but embraced instead for 83 years.

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