Maria Elena Holly spends much of her time hunched over a paper-piled desk in her home, trying to make Buddy Holly's dreams come true.
The legendary singer, songwriter and musician, who with his own blend of rock 'n' roll and country influenced the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and many others, dreamed that he would inspire young musicians and pave their way in the industry, his widow said."If Buddy were still alive, I think that he would be involved in every facet of the music industry," she said.
Although she has tried to realize that dream through a Buddy Holly scholarship fund, preferably at Texas Tech University in Holly's hometown of Lubbock, or through a festival there, each attempt has failed.
Three decades after Holly was killed in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, his widow pursues his dreams by answering letters from fans who say they will always remember, and from opportunists who say there is money to be made making sure the public doesn't forget.
In Clear Lake Friday women in poodle skirts and saddle shoes and men in T-shirts with rolled-up sleeves danced to Holly classics in memory of the rock 'n' roll legend.
About 2,000 fans gathered at the Surf Ballroom, braving snow, high winds and subzero temperatures similar to the conditions blamed in the Feb. 3, 1959, crash that also claimed the lives of Ritchie Valens and J.P. "Big Bopper" Richardson. The three had just played the Surf and were en route to Fargo, N.D., in the early morning hours when the small plane went down.
"This old-time music is the only thing that works anymore," said Larry Fennigaoh of Milwaukee, decked out in a tuxedo, white socks and black sneakers.
Fennigaoh and his wife, Beth, were among those attending a sock hop at the 11th annual Buddy Holly reunion.
"I liked Buddy Holly even better than Elvis (Presley). Elvis had more persona and was more macho. But Holly had purity, clarity," Fennigaoh said.
Maria Elena Holly receives letters from three to 10 people each day.
"Buddy wrote and wanted his music to be received in a positive way and for people to enjoy it and for people to be inspired by his music and his determination to make it out there," she said.
"And that's where I come in with the youngsters. I feel that through the letters, it has done that. Anything that is a positive thing received from Buddy Holly's music, it makes me happy. It pushes me out there to continue putting his name out there and keep it there."
But she's not making Holly available to the public without some personal benefit.
In 1987, she successfully lobbied Texas lawmakers to approve legislation giving her full rights to Holly's name, voice, likeness, photographs and signature. Under the law, Holly's "property" cannot be used for commercial purposes without her approval.
Bill Griggs, president and founder of the Buddy Holly Memorial Society, says the law serves a good purpose.
"If you go to Memphis, Tenn., to Graceland, across the street is souvenir store after souvenir store. You can buy Elvis Presley toilet paper, which to me is the epitome of bad taste," he said. "That's why Maria Elena is so tough. She wants to make sure everything is done above board and in good taste."
Not only does the law keep Holly's name and face off beer cans, as one entrepreneur proposed, but it also allows her to profit from the Buddy Holly music boxes, posters and T-shirts that are sold.
"That was his legacy he left to us (his family) and the music was his legacy he left to everybody," she said. "I feel very strongly that if someone is going to make money, I'm going to make money and the Hollys are going to make money."
She had been married just six months when the small plane crashed near Clear Lake.
She was pregnant when Holly left on the tour and she suffered a miscarriage after the crash.