Fans gather at Strawberry Fields to pay respects to Harrison

By Elizabeth Lesure

Associated Press

NEW YORK — Fans gathered before dawn Friday to pay their respects to former Beatle George Harrison at Strawberry Fields, the section of Central Park dedicated to the memory of John Lennon.

Harrison, 58, died Thursday of lung cancer in Los Angeles. News of his death became public early Friday, and within hours dozens of Beatle enthusiasts headed to the park for an impromptu memorial. Many left flowers, candles and notes at a makeshift shrine, while others paused to reflect before continuing to or from work.

Joe Crow Ramsey, 48, an engineer from Tuxedo Park, placed a green apple at the memorial, recalling the trademark of Apple Records, the record label that produced several Beatles albums.

Related story:

‘Quiet Beatle’ George Harrison dies

"I spent my childhood watching that apple go round and round on records," he said.

Strawberry Fields, which takes its name from the Lennon-McCartney song "Strawberry Fields Forever," was dedicated to John after his 1980 shooting death at the hands of a deranged fan. On any given day, a lighted candle or vase of flowers can be seen there on a mosaic with the word "IMAGINE."

With Harrison’s passing, only two members of the band — Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr — survive.

"He was a very big part of my life," said Steve Yalof, who paused during a morning jog to pay his respects. "Both me and my guitar are gently weeping." It was a reference to Harrison’s song "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."

Near the mosaic, one fan placed a drawing of Lennon with Harrison with the inscription "Goodbye George. May you and John be together forever."

"I just decided to buy a bottle of wine and some roses at the corner and head over here," said John Soler, 38, a restaurateur from Manhattan. The first fan to arrive, Soler said he brought his laptop so he could play Beatles music.

Michael Vishnick, 36, visiting from London, said he rushed to Strawberry Fields when he heard Harrison had died.

"The Beatles’ message of peace and love will always be with us, but it’s still upsetting," Vishnick said. "It’s comforting to be in this place at this time."

Joe Canning, 42, a Beatles fan for 30 years, said Harrison’s death was meaningful to his generation.

"We’re all getting older, we’re all getting up to that age. Nothing lasts forever; all good things come to an end," Canning said.

Pete Degan, 42, said he owns more than 300 albums related to the Beatles and the band members and called it "a sad day for rock ‘n’ roll."

Strawberry Fields plays host to a vigil every Dec. 8 commemorating Lennon’s killing across the street.

In Los Angeles, fans stopped at the Beatles star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to leave candles, flowers, and other tributes.

Jill Hennessy, star of NBC’s drama "Crossing Jordan," left an elaborately folded blue paper that she called "a note of blessing for the family."

"I just wanted to say thank you," she said. "He’s going to be greatly missed."

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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