Houstonians react to Swayze's death

September 15, 2009 3:42:50 PM PDT
Patrick Swayze danced his way into viewer's hearts as Johnny Castle in "Dirty Dancing." Fans and Houstonians are mourning the loss of the native son who died Monday night at the age of 57. Swayze lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. He gave his last television interview back in January. He said he fought his cancer for more than a year and tried to live as normal of a life as possible.

"That's one thing I'm not gonna do is chase, is chase staying alive, I'm not gonna. You'll spend so much time staying alive, you won't live," Swayze told Barbara Walters on ABC.

Swayze was born in Houston in 1952. He attended Oak Forest Elementary School, Black Junior High, Waltrip High School and San Jacinto College.

We're hearing from those who knew him in his early years. We spoke with a woman named Cookie Joe who owns a Sugar Land dance studio. She grew up with Swayze and says he was very talented and never gave up.

Cookie Joe last saw Swayze in 2006 and she has followed his battle with pancreatic cancer. She is not surprised by the way he fought it.

"He's always been the type that no matter what hit him, he was going to fight it and be determined to get over it, and keep going," said Cookie Joe.

They attended Black Elementary and Waltrip High School together. Beginning a friendship at age nine, they both shared a love of dance.

"He was a great partner, but he was frustrated easily. He did not like doing things wrong. He was one of those dancers that if you did it wrong, he got darn right mad," said Cookie Joe.

Patrick's mother Patsy was Cookie's dance teacher. She recalls his many talents from football to dance class.

"He would either have his football bag or his roller skates or whatever he was doing that day. All the girls were swooning because here's the good-looking teenage boy," said Cookie Joe.

While this dance teacher has owned her own dance studio for more than 30 years, Cookie Joe says it has been exciting watching Swayze's achievements from movies to dance. But there is something else that she admires about his life.

"I love that the fact that he and his wife stayed married for so long and were so devoted to each other. I've always been proud of that part of his personality, his character and his loyalty," said Cookie Joe.

She says that Swayze's death is still sinking in.

Other Houstonians also had kind words to say about Swayze.

"He was an incredible talent. I loved his moves, watching he and his wife go through the battle they went through, what an inspiration," said Eric Breuner.

Gabi Estrada said, "I'll always remember him in 'Dirty Dancing.' He had the best moves and I hope he is in a better place now."

Whoopi Goldberg, who starred with Swayze in the movie "Ghost" released a statement saying, "Patrick was a really good man, a funny man, and one to whom I owe much that I can't ever repay. I believe in 'Ghost's' message, so he'll always be near."

The American Cancer Society says people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer only live six months. Swayze was diagnosed more than a year and a half ago. Pancreatic cancer is also pretty personal to us here at Channel 13 as it took our beloved Marvin Zindler back in 2007.

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