The late Steve McQueen—the King of Cool—will be honored later this year by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) with its “Keep Me in Your Heart” memorial tribute award. McQueen starred in dozens of films including the The Great Escape (1963), The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), Bullitt (1968), and Papillon (1973). He died in November 1980 after being diagnosed a year earlier with pleural mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.
His wife, Barbara Minty McQueen, will accept the award on her late husband’s behalf at ADAO’s annual conference scheduled for March 30-April 1, 2012 in Los Angeles, CA. After learning about the award Barbara McQueen said:
“Steve’s death was a long and painful ordeal and my heart goes out to those who have been exposed to asbestos as well as their loved ones. We’re all in the same family and I commend ADAO for the great work they do on behalf of asbestos awareness.”
The “Keep Me in Your Heart” award is named for singer-songwriter Warren Zevon, who died at age 56 from peritoneal mesothelioma, another unique cancer caused by asbestos exposure. His song with the same title (sung by him (here) was the last tune he wrote before succumbing to the asbestos disease in 2003. His son, Jordan Zevon, is ADAO’s honorary spokesperson and will present the award to Barbara McQueen.
“Mesothelioma is a tragic disease more common than most people know, and it is important to recognize Steve’s spirit and later plight in order to both cherish his memory and increase asbestos awareness,” Jordan Zevon said. “In their respective fields they were the definition of charm, intelligence, wit and the ultimate tough guy. However, as strong as they were, they are both lost to asbestos- related cancer.”
At the group’s 2011 conference, the late Ron Cyrus, the father of Billy Ray Cyrus, received ADAO’s “Keep Me in Your Heart” award.
ADAO works to raise the voice of asbestos victims worldwide. Last month, the group launched a petition drive to compel the leaders of the U.S. and Canada to endorse a plan to halt asbestos exposure and end asbestos-related disease.
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Before he became an actor, McQueen worked in the construction industry, where he was often exposed to asbestos on job sites. While serving as a Marine, McQueen was exposed to asbestos in shipyards, since one of his main responsibilities included stripping the asbestos insulation off of pipes.
In addition to his employment, McQueen was an avid race car driver. It is believed that McQueen was exposed to asbestos while working on race cars. Asbestos was also used as a flame retardant in the protective equipment McQueen used while participating in the sport, such as helmets and driving suits.
Zevon never discovered the source of his asbestos exposure.