Stephen M. Silverman
July 24, 2003 10:20 AM

“Ben Hur” star and former National Rifle Association president Charlton Heston, 78, was among those awarded the Medal of Freedom on Wednesday by President Bush, reports The Washington Pos.

The screen he-man, showing signs of the Alzheimer’s disease that he revealed to have last year, stubbornly would only accept help from Bush in accepting his honor.

The President took Heston’s hand to help raise him from his chair in order to place the medal around the star’s neck during the ceremony in the White House East Room.

The other 10 people also honored — the medal is the nation’s highest civilian award — were master TV chef Julia Child, the late Wendy’s hamburger chain founder Dave Thomas, nuclear bomb pioneer Edward Teller, concert pianist Van Cliburn, former Czech Republic president and playwright Vaclav Havel, former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, late Hall of Fame baseball player Roberto Clemente, the late Supreme Court justice Byron White, historian Jacques Barzun and social commentator James Q. Wilson.

Child, who is 90, was represented by her niece at the ceremony, and President Bush noted that the famous “French Chef” worked for the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA, during World War II and had received the highest distinction from the French government.

Thomas’s award, which in large part was for his work promoting adoption (Dave was himself an adopted child) was accepted by his daughter, Wendy.

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