John Wayne, An American Experience museum

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When you find yourself in Fort Worth, you can stop by a museum dedicated to one of America's greatest actors.

John Wayne might not have been a Texas native, but he always had a fondness for the Lone Star State.

"He's done a lot of movies about Texas and certainly about American heritage," says son Patrick Wayne, who became a Hollywood actor in his own right, "and the core values of what it means to be an American are strongly felt here down in Texas."

In the Fort Worth Stockyards, you can learn all about The Duke at "John Wayne: An American Experience."

"It covers my dad's professional life, his public life and his private life," says Patrick Wayne, who is now 82. "Very comprehensive."

The museum opened about a year and a half ago.

"We've had (around) 55,000 paid customers come through it," says Wayne; "and to a person, everybody has been very, very pleased with what they saw."

The museum has artifacts from Wayne's legendary career, including costumes he wore in various films he starred in.

It also contains photos and artifacts from his off-screen life, including a customized 1976 Pontiac station wagon he owned.

Patrick Wayne did not have an active role in creating the museum; so when he walked through it for the first time, he says it was an emotional experience -- especially at the end, which covers his cancer battle, which he lost on June 11, 1979, at the age of 72.

"We really felt right up to the end that he was going to beat it," says Patrick Wayne, who along with his siblings was by his father's side as he passed away, "but ... he knew he was not going to beat it. But he didn't complain, he just was a tough, tough guy."

And Patrick Wayne says his father showed a lot of courage during the end stages of his cancer fight.

"To me, the greatest example of my father's courage was the last six weeks of his life," Patrick Wayne says. "He was laying in a hospital dying and cancer, and he never complained. He was always strong in there. When he had a chance, he would get up and go visit other patients and try to encourage them and give them spirit to fight to live."

Patrick Wayne and his siblings have created a legacy to their father.

"We have been training board certified surgeons to become cancer surgeons," Patrick Wayne says, "and we have trained 140 of them."

"John Wayne, An American Experience" is located at 2501 Rodeo Plaza in Fort Worth, and it's open 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. seven days a week.

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