Fans Pay Tribute 13 Years After Presley’s Death
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) _ An estimated 8,000 of the ever-faithful heaped long-stemmed red roses and small teddy bears on Elvis Presley’s grave today in a candlelight vigil marking the 13th anniversary of his death.
″His music isn’t dead, and there’s a whole new generation that’s going through it all again,″ said Grace Caputo, 29. She accompanied 16 other Elvis fans from Adelaide, Australia, in the procession past Presley’s grave.
Stands of flower arrangements, many in the shape of hearts and guitars, surrounded the gravesite and lined both sides of a small walkway leading to it. The flowers, from fan clubs around the world, carried such messages as ″Elvis, we miss you so much″ and ″ Love is forever.″
The graveside vigil, which got under way Wednesday night, drew Elvis fans from around the country and abroad.
It is single largest gathering in a string of concerts, dances, souvenir fairs and other events tied to the anniversary. A memorial service featuring Elvis’ friends and relatives was scheduled for this afternoon at Memphis State University.
″What makes this special is Elvis is here,″ said Bettie Dodd, 51, a member of the Elvis Country Fan Club of Austin, Texas, which organizes the annual procession. ″Everything else is commercialized, but this is paying a tribute to Elvis.″
Presley died on Aug. 16, 1977, at his white-columned Graceland residence. He is buried alongside his father, mother and grandmother in a small garden beside the house.
Participants held lighted candles as they walked single file up Graceland’s quarter-mile drive. Many carried single red roses to leave at the grave. Roses were on sale for $4.95 each at a souvenir shop across the street.
″I have waited 10 years for this,″ said Dino Riolo, 26, of Milan, Italy. ″In a few moments, I will see the grave of the biggest, absolutely biggest, singer of the whole world, of the whole universe.″
″When I hear his music, I feel something. The others, nothing,″ said her friend, Jimmy Sorce, who said he sings in an Italian rock band.
Graceland draws more than 600,000 visitors a year. The week surrounding the anniversary of Presley’s death is the special time for his fans.
″I flew down the night of his death and I’ve come back every year since then,″ said Bill Rowe, 40, of Dayton, Ohio. ″There was just something about the guy that said to me, ‘I’m your friend.’ ″
Presley was 22 when he bought Graceland for $100,000 in 1957. He was 42 when he fell dead on a bathroom floor there.
A medical examiner listed the cause of death as heart disease. Court testimony revealed Presley was addicted to prescription drugs.