The Faithful Departed: Dana Reeve (1961-2006)

Dana Reeve, the epitome of grace and class under pressure, is probably most known for the tragic events that surrounded her husband Christopher Reeve and his paralyzing accident. Dana remained by her husband’s side and her comforting words “you’re still you” provided him with the resolve that he needed for his remaining days to be an activist for people with spinal chord injuries. Tragically, Dana died from lung cancer (despite the fact that she never smoked) less than two years after her husband passed away.

I met Dana briefly after she was interviewed on a talk show I produced at WOR Radio in New York. About a month before that, I was asked to review a play she was starring in called “Good Will;” a story of a family that intentionally just scrapes by on the bare essentials—choosing to live simply. Dana was simply mesmerizing on stage. Her character was a mix of anger and concern for her family. I came away from the play that evening seeing her in a different light. I realized that acting was her vocation.

Her husband knew that woman well. Chris and Dana met in 1987 at the Williamstown Theater Festival in Massachusetts. She sang “The Song That Makes Me Dance” which entranced Chris who immediately came up afterward and introduced himself.

As Dana left our radio studio that morning, I stopped her and told her how much I enjoyed seeing her on stage in “Good Will.” She immediately took me by the arm and smiled. She whispered to me, “Is there somewhere we can talk more about the play for just a few minutes. I’m just so happy that someone wants to talk to me about this wonderful play and I never get the chance to do that anymore.”

While best known for her activism and her heroism, I think I’ll remember her as a woman who exuded passion—for her marriage, certainly—but mostly as woman who could strut on stage with the best of them and leave a young man awestruck.