James Stewart, the star of It's a Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Rear Window, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and The Spirit of St. Louis, to list just a few of his classic films, was truly an American hero, embodying the ideal of the self-reliant, decent, community-focused, patriotic man, both onscreen and off.

Stewart, a conservative Republican, became the first movie star to enter the armed forces during WWII, joining the Army Air Corps nearly a year before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He lobbied to go into combat, flew 20 combat missions, finished the war as a colonel, and served in the Air Force Reserves until the age of 60, becoming General Stewart along the way. He was an elder in his church, was married for 44 years to his wife Gloria, was very active in wildlife conservation efforts, lost a stepson (Marine 1st Lt. Ronald McLean) in Vietnam, and campaigned extensively for his friend Ronald Reagan during the 1976 presidential race, as well as for Richard Nixon in 1968 and 1972. According to his IMDB biography, Stewart had "nearly declined to support his friend Ronald Reagan's campaign for the governorship of California in 1966, since Reagan had been a Democrat until 1962."

This is a man whose life deserves to be remembered and emulated. Yet the Wall Street Journal reports (in video and in print) that the Jimmy Stewart Museum, in Stewart's hometown of Indiana, Pa., has fallen upon hard times and is in danger of closing. Here's hoping that our citizenry still appreciates men like Jimmy Stewart too much to let that happen.

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