Monday, April 11, 2016

Nick Adams: The Rebel

The grave of Nick Adams,
Saints Cyril and Methodius Cemetery,Berwick
Hidden next to the grounds of the Berwick Golf Club, the small cemetery was located in an almost ideal location. Located close to the city, but far enough away that it avoids the noise, the birds were calling out that morning as I stepped out of the truck. The silence broken by the sound of Zech and I closing the truck’s doors – the cool morning air mixed with the warmth of the rising sun – it was a peaceful morning as we started walking among the stones searching for one grave among the field of stone.

And then the peace was broken the sound of golf balls being hit.

I instinctively cringed as I heard another one being whacked nearby as I wandered among the stones of Saints Cyril and Methodius Ukrainian Cemetery – which is listed on some online some maps as the Greek Catholic Cemetery – overlooking the town of Berwick. I had already spotted a number of balls resting among the stones and hoped that the players were able to keep their golf balls on the course.

“Hey I found him,” I heard Zech call out and I made my way over to where he stood looking at the stone. The back of it, the side that we could initially see, had the familiar outline of the head of Johnny Yuma.

“That’s him,” I agreed. “We found The Rebel.”

On June 10, 1931, Nick Adams was born Nicholas Aloysius Adamshock in Nanticoke, the son of an anthracite coal miner. At the age of five, his parents moved from the coal fields to after his uncle was killed as a result of a mining accident. While on his death bed, his uncle called Nick’s father over and commented about how the boys would make fine miners. Two days later, Nick’s father moved the family to New Jersey, settling in a small basement apartment just across the river from New York City.

While in school, Nick was a noted athlete. He was quarterback for the school’s team and also played for the baseball team. His ability on the field was enough to get him noticed and he was offered a minor league contract with St. Louis

At the age of seventeen, he appeared on Broadway and in 1950, he left the east coast behind and headed westward to pursue a career in acting. Two years later he starred in his first movie, an uncredited role in Somebody Loves Me. His acting career was placed on hold that same year when he enlisted in the United States Coast Guard as a means of avoiding the Army from drafting him into service (and to avoid fighting in the Korean War).

In 1955 he would star in supporting roles in two major movies – Mr. Roberts and Rebel Without a Cause. He would continue in supporting roles over the next couple of years, including another uncredited scene in Giant, in which he did a voice-over for James Dean, who had died during the filming of the movie.

It would be the series The Rebel (1959-1961) that would be the major role in Adams' career. For two years he portrayed the displaced Confederate Civil War veteran Johnny Yuma. After the series was canceled Adams appeared in guest roles in various shows and B Movies.

On February 6, 1968, the wanderings of The Rebel, Johnny Yuma, came to an end due to a drug overdose. When Nick failed to arrive at a dinner meeting on evening of February 7, his lawyer Edwin Roeder went to Adams’ house in search of him. Seeing the car still in the garage, Roeder broke a window and entered the house to find Nick’s lifeless body propped up against a wall in his bedroom. Nick’s death was due to a mixture of paraldehyde and other drugs. It was ruled an accidental suicide due to a drug overdose. There seems to be some debate if Nick’s death was truly accidental or if it was a murder – there are enough sites out there without me adding to the list.

After his death, Nick’s body was returned to Berwick.

The front of the stone is rather plain, but the back of the stone has a profile of Johnny Yuma, with "Nick Adams" and "The Rebel" within the outline; beneath it is chiseled "Actor of Hollywood Screens." The peace that Nick seemed unable to find during his lifetime fully surrounds his final resting place.

We paid our respects to the talented, though often overlooked, actor before continuing our day’s journey.

Nick Adams is buried in Saints Cyril and Methodius Cemetery, Berwick. The cemetery is located at the end of Crystal Hill Road – the opposite end of Crystal Hill Road is at the top of a hill and it is hard to see oncoming traffic when turning off of it – please use caution when visiting. He is buried along the fence to the right as you enter the cemetery, just a short walk from the entrance.

The back of Nick Adams' marker
The first time I ever heard of Nick Adams was related to the infamous curse that revolved around those who were involved with the movie Rebel Without A Cause. While I mentioned Nick's death above, I want to briefly mention the others who have been involved in the curse.

The most famous name associated with the curse is James Dean. James would die in a car crash on September 30, 1955 - his mechanic and passenger Rolf Wuentherich managed to survive the horrific crash with serious injuries. In July 1981, an intoxicated Wuentherich died when he crashed the vehicle he was driving.

Erwin Roeder was also a victim of this curse through knowing the actor. Edwin, who discovered Adams' body, would be violently killed. On June 10, 1981, Roeder and his wife, Jenny Maxwell, were gunned down during a robbery. Their deaths remain unsolved.

On February 12, 1976, Sal Mineo would become a victim of the curse. He was returning home from the rehearsal of a play he was in when he was attacked. His attacker stabbed him once through the heart, killing him instantly. Lionel Ray Williams was sentenced to fifty-seven years in prison for the murder.

Natalie Wood would be the final victim of the curse. On November 29, 1981, she had gone on a boat trip with her husband Robert Wagner, and Christopher Walken. During the trip she fell overboard and drowned. Originally ruled and accidental drowning, in 2013 it was amended to drowning and other indeterminate factors after the boat’s captain revealed he had lied when originally questioned.

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