John Wayne played a lot of different roles throughout his life – tough cowboys, gruff soldiers. But at heart, he was always a family man. Wayne had seven children across two different marriages. And he was always proud of his children and their accomplishments.
He wanted them to each feel special in their own ways. For instance, he wrote his daughter Aissa a beautiful heartfelt letter after a performance. He addressed the letter to “My Darling Aissa” and signed the tribute “Affectionately, Daddy.”
“It was wonderful to hear your voice last night. Your dad is an especially lucky fellow to have a daughter like you. Every day you are growing into a more gentle little lady. Sorry, you could not come to this location but I know you will not mind if [Mommy] joins me for a few days visit. Thank you for making me a proud and happy father,” Wayne wrote in the letter. “PS. Don’t forget the stars.”
Aissa is Wayne’s eldest daughter from his first marriage to Pilar Pallete. Pallete and Wayne first met down in Peru while the Duke was filming a movie. They ended up marrying a year later in Hawaii. Another year after that, Aissa was born. Like several of his children, Aissa made short cameos in her father’s work. For instance, he cast her for a small role in “The Alamo.”
These days Aissa serves on the board at the John Wayne Birthplace and Museum. Like her siblings, she advocates for cancer awareness and increased screenings as well as a cure.
John Wayne and His Granddaughter
But the Duke always had a way to make his children feel loved. And that extended down to his grandchildren as well. Anita Swift is the daughter of Wayne’s second child, Mary. Growing up, she vividly remembered spending time with her grandfather.
As she told American Cowboy, he even once took off from working on a production to watch her school play. She was surprised and overjoyed to find him there among the crowd.
“When I played Fagin in my eighth-grade production of ‘Oliver Twist,’ he was doing a movie with Warner Bros. at the time and I never thought that he would be able to come see me in the play,” Anita Swift told the outlet. “But one night somebody said ‘John Wayne is here!’ Afterward, I received a bouquet of flowers and a telegram that read: ‘I want to sign you to a contract. —Lou Wasserman.’ Well of course I knew it was from him, and every night for the rest of the play’s run he sent me a telegram pretending to be somebody else. ‘You were terrific. Forget Lou Wasserman. I want you. —Louie V.,’ things like that. He was so cute that way.”