If we live long enough, each of us will be called upon to suffer losses. Some may be financial, some marital, and some may be the loss of one who we admired. I was just forced to face the loss of one who I admired, greatly. His name was Charlton Heston. Saturday night, Charlton Heston succumbed to a long and difficult battle with Alzheimer's.

He will long be remembered for his classical portrayals of historic characters. Ben Hur, El Cid, Michelangelo and Moses were brought into our worlds by his uncanny ability to recreate the personas of these historical characters, with unfailing accuracy. His many other roles were equally enduring, but it was his monumental portrayals of some of the most powerful men in history that set him aside from the ordinary Hollywood celebrity. That, and the fact that there was nothing ordinary about Charlton Heston.

I firmly believe that his ability to portray those men in such a believable way stemmed from the fact that he shared their sense of purpose and destiny. This was a man who knew right from wrong, and chose right, every time. He would have been the first to tell you that he was hardly a saint. He never played upon his celebrity. He never abandoned his principles. He never sacrificed his family for the sake of show business. He was real.

Chuck's own upbringing had been disrupted by family differences, but he never played upon that divisiveness. He finished his education at New Trier High School in Wilmette, IL, and went on to pursue his dreams through the Northwestern University School of Speech. Many actors and actresses followed the same path. He married his college sweetheart, and stayed married to Lydia for 64 years! Try putting that level of devotion into the context of present-day Hollywood. They lived in the same house for decades, forgoing the self-aggrandizement that obsesses so many of today's celebrities.

Through it all, he kept his sense of humor and his sense of humility. He claimed that he was never invited to parties, saying, "Nothing kills a Hollywood party quicker than looking across the room around midnight and seeing Moses leaning against the mantle." Having met many of his fellow actors, I knew full well of what he spoke. He was a member of the "old school," in which oaths were important and one's own character was infinitely more important than the "character" he was portraying. It came across on the screen and the men, women and children who bought the tickets never forgot it.

We will hear volumes about Charlton Heston's presidency of the National Rife Association, but very little about his presidency of the Screen Actor's Guild. We will be told about his ultra-conservative politics, and nothing about his having spent many years as a Democrat. Much like another actor named Ronald Reagan, Heston woke up one morning to find that his party had moved so far to the left that he couldn't find them. But, we will hear very little about his loyalty to his marriage vows, and his love for his country, for our freedoms and for his family. I choose to believe that if he could have his way, today, those are the things for which he would want to be remembered.

Robert Evans Burnette is a Crossville Chronicle columnist. His column appears each Wednesday.

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