The New York Rangers organization lost a true fan and longtime friend on Monday night with the passing of Dana Reeve, who died of lung cancer at age 44.
Reeve, a singer and actress, earned a standing ovation at Mark Messier Night on Jan. 12, when she serenaded Messier with the Carole King classic, "Now and Forever." Despite her ongoing battle with her illness, Reeve gave a stirring performance in honoring Messier on the night his number was retired.
Reeve, and her late husband Chris, were both devoted hockey fans who could be seen at many Rangers games over the past decade. Dana had grown up as a Rangers fan, going to games with her family, who were season-ticket holders. Chris, known worldwide for his starring role in the Superman movies, had played high school hockey as a teen-ager and was also a fan of the Blueshirts.
"The Rangers organization would like to extend its deepest condolences and express our heartfelt sadness to the family of our dear friend, Dana Reeve, on their tragic loss," said Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather. "Dana was simply an extraordinary human being, who faced unthinkable tragedies, from her husband's injury to her own illness, with strength, dignity, optimism and grace that inspired all of us. She, along with her late husband Christopher and son Will, will always be cherished members of the Rangers family, and will live in our hearts forever."
Although their bond with the Rangers was already strong, it became even more meaningful in 1995. That year, after Chris was paralyzed in a horse-riding accident, Messier paid a visit to the Reeves with the Stanley Cup, which the Rangers had won the previous season.
"On behalf of my entire family and the New York Rangers organization I am deeply saddened by the news of the loss of Dana Reeve," said Messier. "Her courage and determination to continue to champion the efforts of her late husband Christopher Reeve as well as her optimistic and positive outlook in the face of adversity will continue to provide inspiration to us all. I would also like to express our deepest sympathy to Dana's son Will and the entire Reeve family."
In the years after the accident, Dana and Chris Reeve worked tirelessly to raise awareness of spinal cord injuries and research into possible cures. As the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation became the driving force in giving hope to paralysis victims, the Reeves continued their involvement with hockey and passed their love of the game on to their son, Will, who played for the Pee Wee Rangers team at the annual Quebec City tournament.
In 1999, the Rangers began working with the Christopher Reeve Foundation, organizing the first of five annual SuperSkate events. At SuperSkate, Rangers players and other celebrities teamed for a charity game with all proceeds benefiting both the Reeve Foundation and Rangers Cheering for Children.
Under Dana Reeve's leadership as chairwoman, the Christopher Reeve Foundation, which funds research on paralysis and works to improve the life of the disabled, has awarded a total $55 million in research grants and $7.5 million in quality of life grants.
Reeve said she was thrilled and honored to be part of Messier Night event, and her performance, in the face of her illness, was among the highlights of one of the most memorable nights in New York Rangers history.
She received numerous awards for her work, including the Shining Example Award from Proctor & Gamble in 1998, an American Image Award from the AAFA in 2003. In 2005, the American Cancer Society named her Mother of the Year.
Dana Reeve is survived by her 13-year-old son, Will, and two grown stepchildren, Matthew and Alexandra. She is also is survived by her father, Dr. Charles Morosini, and sisters Deborah Morosini and Adrienne Morosini Heilman.
No funeral plans were announced. The family said donations could be made in Dana Reeve's memory to the Christopher Reeve Foundation in Short Hills, N.J.