When Stephen A. Vodde, 68, of Belleville died Nov. 13, he left behind relatives, a house, pets and an extensive collection of James Dean memorabilia.
The retired parking control officer for Belleville had James Dean clocks, James Dean portraits and about James Dean everything, said Jerry Winters, a cousin who will be in charge of distributing everything when Vodde's will is settled.
Vodde left instructions that some of his memorabilia be donated to the James Dean collection in the history museum in Fairmount, Ind., Dean's hometown.
Dean was a celebrated young movie star who became the epitome of live fast, die young. He died in a car accident in 1955 at the age of 24. But his rebel image lives on.
When Vodde bought the carriage house and property behind the former Hamel Mansion on Mascoutah Avenue, near his home on Park Avenue, he added a sign on the garage proclaiming the driveway as James Dean Boulevard. His license plates reflected his admiration for Dean.
A couple of items he will donate to the museum include famous pictures of James Dean which Vodde had doctored to show himself in. In one he is giving Dean a ticket. In another he is just hanging out with the cool star.
Vodde showed up in the newspaper occasionally. He was a frequent blood donor, an Air Force veteran and he was active in the Sons of Union Civil War Veterans and the VFW.
He tended the parking meters downtown for more than 30 years, rain or shine, cold or hot, so he was a good source for a quote on unusual weather. He was almost a downtown fixture himself.
He was an avid coin collector and of course he made the yearly pilgrimage to Fairmount for the festival on the anniversary of Dean's death.
In his will, he assured that he will always be in touch with James Dean. He asked that he be cremated and that his ashes be scattered on Dean's grave in Park Cemetery in Fairmount, which apparently is OK with everyone.
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