The United States Postal Service and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital honor Toledo native Danny Thomas.
Make way for the Danny Thomas postage stamp.
"Forever" stamps featuring the entertainer, comedian, and philanthropist who grew up in Toledo go on sale Thursday at post offices across the United States, and special Toledo cancellations will be available from the United States Postal Service through mid-April.
The stamp features a portrait of Mr. Thomas by artist Tim O'Brien with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, the Memphis pediatric cancer research hospital he founded and supported, beyond his right shoulder. It will be valid for first-class letters and other domestic mail with a current value of 45 cents.
A "first-cover" dedication ceremony is to be Thursday at the Memphis hospital, which marks its 50th anniversary this year.
Mr. Thomas' decision to found the hospital was rooted in a prayer he made, while still living in Toledo as a struggling nightclub comedian, seeking career guidance from St. Jude, the Roman Catholic patron saint of desperate or hopeless causes. Although he chose to build St. Jude in Memphis, the hospital is known for its abundance of Toledo memorabilia that Mr. Thomas provided to honor the place of his upbringing.
"How wonderful. Danny Thomas was a great entertainer, producer, and humanitarian. It's such an honor," Jamie Farr, like Mr. Thomas of Lebanese descent, said in an email interview Tuesday before joking: "I hope the stamp is not a profile of his nose, otherwise the stamp would have to fold out and probably be as large as the envelope."
No worries about that: The portrait is a standard head-and-shoulders view of Mr. Thomas, wearing a bow tie and tuxedo.
Born Amos Muzyad Yakhoob Kairouz -- later anglicized to Amos Jacob Kairouz -- in Deerfield, Mich., Thomas grew up in what was then the "Little Syria" section of North Toledo and dropped out of Woodward High School as a junior to pursue show business. He adopted his stage name after taking a night-club job in Chicago in 1940.
Danny Thomas, shown here at age 9 in 1921, was born in Michigan as Amos Muzyad Yakhoob Kairouz but grew up in the 'little Syria' section of North Toledo.
He gained national fame in the 1950s as star of the television program Make Room for Daddy, in which he portrayed a road-weary entertainer like himself. He had several prominent movie roles and continued to work the comedy circuit until his death in 1991, at age 79, of a heart attack.
Toledo radio personality Harvey Steele, who in 2006 mounted an unsuccessful campaign to rename Toledo Express Airport for Mr. Thomas, said the stamp selection is "a good story for the city of Toledo" and that Mr. Thomas' philanthropy showed "he took something good out of Toledo" from his local upbringing.
"He's given a lot back to cancer patients all over the world," Mr. Steele said.
In an autobiography, Mr. Thomas defended choosing Memphis to build St. Jude to fulfill a promise made as part of his prayer for guidance. The hospital, he wrote, needed to be "somewhere there are a lot of poor children, both black and white," but its services are available to families from anywhere.
The stamp "will become an ambassador for philanthropy, traveling on letters and packages throughout America," Ed Ruiz, the U.S. Postal Service's Los Angeles district manager, said during an unveiling event last month in Los Angeles. "It also will serve as a lasting tribute to one of America's most beloved and enduring entertainers who worked tirelessly to help the most helpless of all: children with diseases."
"My family is honored that our father will be immortalized in a Forever stamp, not only because of his success in the entertainment industry, but also for his efforts to save the lives of children," said actress Marlo Thomas, his daughter and St. Jude's national outreach director. "Dad always considered St. Jude -- where patients are saved through the latest research and ground-breaking treatments without any regard to pay -- to be the crowning achievement of his life and career."
Orders for the special Toledo cancellation may be sent to the main Toledo post office at 435 S. St. Clair St., Toledo, OH, 43601, and must be postmarked by April 16. Stamps may be purchased at local post office branches, then affixed to addressed envelopes and mailed -- or delivered -- in an outer, larger envelope to the Toledo post office, which will deliver them after post-marking to the requested addresses.
The stamps also may be ordered by phone or online through the U.S. Postal Service's Web site, usps.com/shop.
"Mr. Thomas is so deserving. I shall buy my share [of stamps] and place them on envelopes with great pride," Mr. Farr said, after acknowledging the size of his own nose, "one of our Lebanese trademarks."
The postal service annually receives thousands of proposals for commemorative stamps that are reviewed by a Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee.
Those chosen are "men and women who have made extraordinary contributions to American society and culture," said David Van Allen, a postal service district spokesman in Cleveland. "These remarkable individuals through their transformative achievements in their respective fields have made enduring contributions to the United States of America."
Until last year, only U.S. presidents who had been dead for one year, or others who had been dead for at least five years, could be depicted on stamps. The postal service announced last summer it would begin taking nominations for living subjects, but so far has not chosen any.
Contact David Patch at: email@example.com or 419-724-6094.
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