Dale Evans, Queen Of The West, Dead At 88

Actress/singer was most popular woman ever in Western films.

Memorial services will be held Saturday for Queen of the West Dale Evans, who died Wednesday of congestive heart failure at her home in Apple Valley, California. She was 88.

Evans, who married the late Roy Rogers in 1947, was considered the most popular woman ever to appear in Western movies. She starred in 38 films and two television series, and wrote the couple's theme song, "Happy Trails" (RealAudio excerpt) and two-dozen other tunes. After Rogers' death in 1998, she seldom appeared in public.

She was born Frances Octavia Smith on October 31, 1912, in Uvalde, Texas, and grew up in Osceola, Arkansas. After her family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, she worked as a secretary for an insurance company, where her boss heard her singing and got her a radio audition. After working in Memphis radio, she was hired by station WHAS in Louisville, Kentucky. There, the station changed her name to Dale Evans.

She moved to Chicago in 1938 and sang pop and jazz with Anson Weeks' orchestra, toured extensively and worked at WBBM. A screen test landed her a short-lived contract with Twentieth Century Fox. After a stint as lead vocalist on radio for Charlie McCarthy and Edgar Bergen in 1942, Evans was cast by Republic Pictures in musicals, and in 1944, the studio paired her with Rogers in the film "The Cowboy and the Señorita."

The chemistry between the two was evident — they were to act together in 19 films, marrying in 1947. They went on to raise a large family, also adopting several children. (Evans' second book, "Angel Unaware," dealt with Robin Rogers, their daughter with Down syndrome, who died before her second birthday.)

Evans became a prominent religious author and lecturer, and had a hit with "The Bible Tells Me So," which she also wrote. In the 1950s, she and Rogers starred for seven years in the popular NBC series "The Roy Rogers Show."

The couple eventually settled into semi-retirement in Apple Valley, and built their Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum in Victorville, California.

A public memorial service is planned for 3 p.m. Saturday in Hansen Hall of the Church of the Valley Presbyterian in Apple Valley. Evans will be buried next to Rogers in Sunset Hills Memorial Park.

Evans is survived by six children, Tom, Cheryl, Linda, Roy Jr., Dodie and Marion; 15 grandchildren; 36 great-grandchildren and six great-great-grandchildren.

Condolences can be sent to Roy Rogers Jr., known as "Dusty," and family at: Queen_Of_The_West@royrogers.com

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to either:

The Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum, 15650 Seneca Road, Victorville, CA 92392; or Sunset Hills Memorial Park, P.O. Box 1223, Apple Valley, CA 92307.