Back to Life In Legacy Main Page Pages for Previous Weeks Celebrity Deaths Message Board
Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, August 27, 2016

Hold pointer over photo for person's name. Click on photo to go to brief obit.
Click on name to return to picture.

Steven Hill, actor in theater, films, and TVDick Assman, Canadian gas station owner made famous by David LettermanHeadley Bennett, saxophonist on recording of Bob Marley's first songDr. Joy Browne, syndicated radio and TV psychologistJerry Buck, longtime AP entertainment reporter and columnistMichel Butor, French novelistJames Cronin, Nobel Prize-winning physicistJaime Davidovich, conceptual artist who used TV as art mediumJackson B. Davis, Louisiana state senatorJosephine Del Deo, fought for preservation of Cape Cod shorelineDaniela Dessi, Italian operatic sopranoJames Doyle, former mayor of Pawtucket, Rhode IslandBill Etra, invented video animation systemGeorge Fraley, former Tennessee state legislatorJim Hardin, Secret Service agent who protected LBJ and his familyWarren Hinckle, editor of radical left magazine 'Ramparts'Todd Hoover, retired Pennsylvania judgeSir Antony Jay, British writer of political satire for TVEsther Jungreis, Jewish speaker and teacherMarvin Kaplan, TV and movie character actorIsaiah Kiplagat, Kenyan sports officialTim Lawson, key figure in Utah case against two former state attorneys generalDr. Bill Lenkaitis, former New England Patriots player and later team dentistColson Machlitt, Kentucky college football playerDaniel Z. Nelson, NYC housing officialJerry O'Keefe, WWII fighter pilot and former mayor of Biloxi, Miss.Abraham Peck, Holocaust survivor of nine concentration campsAaron Plyler, North Carolina state senatorSellapan Ramanathan, sixth president of SingaporeMax Ritvo, poet who wrote of his battle with cancerSonia Rykiel, French fashion designerJohn Schaeffer Jr., Inupiat Eskimo elder and tribal leader in northwest AlaskaWalter Scheel, former foreign minister and president of West GermanyGregory Schmidt, former secretary of California State SenateReinhard Selten, Nobel Prize-winning German economistJean-Baptiste ('Toots') Thielemans, Belgian harmonica virtuosoJane Thompson, industrial designerRoger Tsien, UC San Diego Nobel Prize winner in chemistryRudy van Gelder, audio engineer who helped to define sound of jazz on records

Art and Literature

Michel Butor (89) French novelist whose experiments with narrative and structure in the late ‘50s and early ’60s put him at the forefront of the literary trend known as le nouveau roman (“the new novel”). Butor objected to being characterized as a member of the movement, although his novels shared certain characteristics with those of leading figures in the school—a cameralike detachment, an indifference to psychology, a preoccupation with physical details, and the instability of human perception—but took a more philosophical and political approach. He died in Contamine-sur-Arve, in the Rhône-Alpes region of southeastern France, on August 24, 2016.

Jaime Davidovich (79) Argentine-born conceptual artist who brought the downtown New York art scene to TV viewers in the early ‘80s on his cable-access program The Live! Show. Davidovich embraced video technology as an ideal medium for disrupting the gallery system and reaching new audiences. In 1976, with several other artists, he formed Cable SoHo, a nonprofit consortium of artists and arts organizations interested in public-access broadcasting that evolved into the Artists’ Television Network. It began broadcasting SoHo TV, a weekly arts magazine, on Manhattan Cable Television, which at the time had 80,000 subscribers. The Live! Show was broadcast from 1979–84. Davidovich died of pancreatic cancer in New York City on August 27, 2016.

Bill Etra (69) artist and inventor who, with a partner, created a video animation system in the early ‘70s that helped to make videotape a more accessible medium for many avant-garde artists. Etra and Steve Rutt (d. 2011) created the Rutt/Etra video synthesizer, an analogue device studded with knobs and dials that let a user mold video footage in real time and helped to make video a more expressive art form. Etra had spinal stenosis for many years and was mostly bedridden when he died of heart failure in the Bronx, New York on August 26, 2016.

Max Ritvo (25) poet who chronicled his long battle with cancer. Ritvo was diagnosed at 16 with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare cancer that affects bones and soft tissue in children and young adults. Treatment brought about a remission that permitted him to finish high school and attend Yale University, where he performed in an improv comedy group. The cancer returned in his senior year, but he completed Yale and earlier this year earned a master’s degree from Columbia University. His first book of poetry, Four Reincarnations, is scheduled to be published this fall. He died in Brentwood, California on August 23, 2016.

Jane Thompson (89) designer who first made her mark as coeditor of the pioneering magazine Industrial Design. After marrying Benjamin C. Thompson in 1969, Jane joined him in planning festival marketplaces in Boston, Baltimore, and New York and in cultivating Design Research, his small but influential chain of clothing and home furnishing stores. Jane Thompson died of cancer in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 14 years and five days after the death of her husband, on August 22, 2016.

Business and Science

Dick Assman (82) Canadian gas station owner who received his 15 minutes of fame, and then some, through the Late Show with David Letterman. Assman came to the attention of Letterman in 1995 through an advertisement in which Assman and Scott Gosselin, owners of a Petro-Canada gas station in Regina, announced their move to a new location. Letterman was amused by the name (a German name pronounced OSS-man, although Letterman did not pronounce it that way). Assman was invited to New York to appear on the show and was engulfed by screaming studio audience members; he had become a celebrity. The show began featuring an occasional segment called “Assman the Gasman,” in which Letterman would telephone him at his gas station. The segments touched off a craze that some referred to as Assmania. Assman, who took it all good-naturedly, died in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada on August 22, 2016.

James Cronin (84) physicist who in 1980 shared a Nobel Prize with Val Fitch for repudiating a fundamental principle of physics and explaining why the universe survived the Big Bang with anything in it. The 1964 finding, known as the Fitch-Cronin effect, bolstered the Big Bang theory, mainly by explaining why the matter and antimatter produced by the explosion did not annihilate each other, leaving nothing but light instead of a residue that evolved into stars, planets, and people. Cronin died in St. Paul, Minnesota on August 25, 2016.

Sonia Rykiel (86) French designer dubbed the “queen of knitwear” whose sweaters in berry-colored stripes and eye-popping motifs helped to liberate women from stuffy suits. For the generation of women who came of age in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Rykiel, with her hallmark bright orange hair, came to symbolize the new era of freedom. She died of Parkinson's disease in Paris, France on August 25, 2016.

Reinhard Selten (85) German economist, a recipient of the 1994 Nobel Prize in economics. Selten had taught at the University of Bonn since 1984. He received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with Hungarian-American John C. Harsanyi and American John F. Nash Jr. for their “pioneering analysis of equilibria in the theory of noncooperative games.” Game theory has been used to explain human behavior in different fields such as economics, politics, and biology. Selten died in Poznan, Poland on August 23, 2016.

Roger Tsien (64) University of California/San Diego professor who shared the 2008 Nobel Prize in chemistry for helping to develop fluorescent markers that could tag cancer cells or track the advance of Alzheimer's disease in the brain. Tsien was a professor of pharmacology, chemistry, and biochemistry at UC San Diego's School of Medicine for 27 years. In 2008 he shared the Nobel with Osamu Shimomura and Martin Chalfie for helping to turn green fluorescent protein from a jellyfish into a research tool that could literally illuminate everything from brain cells to bacteria. Tsien apparently died while on a bike trail in Eugene, Oregon on August 24, 2016.


Daniel Z. Nelson (86) New York housing official who presided over an innovative financing agency that created thousands of public school classrooms in partnership with private developers at relatively little cost to taxpayers. In 1967 Nelson, a lawyer who served in the administrations of Mayors Robert F. Wagner and John V. Lindsay, was first executive director of the New York Educational Construction Fund, a public benefit corporation created by the State Legislature. Since it began, the fund has helped to finance 15 new schools and has added more than 18,000 classroom seats while facilitating the construction of 4,500 apartments and 1.2 million square feet of office space. Nelson died in New York City of complications from a fall, on August 23, 2016.


Todd Hoover (61) judge who originally handled the criminal case against three Penn State administrators charged with covering up child-sex complaints about Jerry Sandusky. Dauphin County Judge Hoover had retired earlier this year. He handled the public corruption trial of former state House Speaker Bill DeWeese, among others, before being assigned to the child endangerment case involving former Penn State President Graham Spanier, former athletic director Tim Curley, and former vice president Gary Schultz. Hoover died in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on August 24, 2016.

Tim Lawson (51) Utah businessman, a key figure in the pay-to-play allegations against former Utah Attorneys General Mark Shurtleff and John Swallow. Lawson was accused of interfering with criminal cases by intimidating witnesses while working as a go-between for Shurtleff and a businessman facing fraud charges. Lawson had pleaded not guilty to charges of obstructing justice, witness retaliation, and other crimes; his trial was set for April 2017. Charges were dropped against Shurtleff after prosecutors said they didn’t have key evidence. Swallow pleaded not guilty to 13 charges of bribery and other crimes. Lawson died in Provo, Utah of an infection that developed from a hole in his esophagus, on August 21, 2016.

News and Entertainment

Headley Bennett (85) saxophonist who played on “Judge Not,” Bob Marley’s first song. Bennett was a session musician at producer Leslie Kong’s Beverley’s Records in 1962 when 16-year-old Robert Nesta Marley recorded “Judge Not,” a ska song. That year Bennett also played on “Hurricane Hattie,” the first hit song by 14-year-old James Chambers, later known as Jimmy Cliff. Bennett later played on numerous hit reggae songs by Bunny Wailer and Gregory Isaacs. He had suffered from high blood pressure and was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. Bennett died in Kingston, Jamaica on August 21, 2016.

Dr. Joy Browne (71) syndicated radio and TV psychologist who dispensed advice and inspiration over the air for nearly 40 years. Beginning in 1978—when she was suddenly thrust onto the air because a hockey game had been canceled—Browne reached millions of radio listeners, many of whom revealed their concerns to her in call-in segments or emailed her their problems, which she read and responded to over the air. Browne died in New York City, still hosting her daily three-hour radio program, on August 27, 2016.

Jerry Buck (85) columnist who chronicled the TV industry for the Associated Press in New York and Los Angeles. During a 32-year (1960–92) career with the AP, Buck spent all but five of those years writing about the rise of cable TV, the videocassette, and the growth of political TV coverage, among many other topics. He died in Los Angeles, California on August 26, 2016.

Daniela Dessi (59) Italian operatic soprano. Besides Milan's La Scala, Dessi performed in other major opera houses including the Metropolitan in New York, Vienna's Staatsoper, and the Deutsche Oper in Berlin. In July she wrote to her fans on Facebook saying she had to cancel all her summer performances owing to an undisclosed health problem. She died in Brescia, Italy on August 21, 2016.

Steven Hill (94) versatile character actor in theater, films, and TV who achieved his greatest success late in life as grumpy District Attorney Adam Schiff on TV’s long-running Law & Order. Hill also starred for a season on the ‘60s series Mission: Impossible. He made his Broadway debut in 1946 with A Flag Is Born and was in the original casts of Mister Roberts and The Country Girl. When the TV networks began broadcasting live drama programs during TV’s Golden Age, Hill made the transition to the small screen seamlessly, appearing on Studio One, The Ford Theatre Hour, Lux Video Theatre, Goodyear Television Playhouse, and The Philco Television Playhouse. He later appeared on shows including thirtysomething, The Fugitive, Rawhide, Ben Casey, Dr. Kildare, The Untouchables, and Route 66. He died in New York City on August 23, 2016.

Warren Hinckle (77) editor who made Ramparts magazine a powerful national voice for the radical left in the ‘60s and later championed the work of Hunter S. Thompson, helping to introduce the no-holds-barred reporting style known as gonzo journalism. Ramparts published Che Guevara’s diaries with a long introduction by Fidel Castro, Eldridge Cleaver’s letters from prison, and some of the wilder conspiracy theories surrounding the Kennedy assassination. The covers became countercultural classics. Among the most memorable: a photograph of four hands, belonging to the magazine’s top editors, holding up burning draft cards. By 1967 the magazine, which began with about 2,500 readers, had a circulation of nearly 250,000. Hinckle, who lost an eye in a car accident at age 10, resigned in 1969. He died of pneumonia in San Francisco, California on August 25, 2016.

Sir Antony Jay (86) British writer whose knowledge of corporate behavior helped to make the ‘80s BBC-TV series, Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister, instant classics of political satire. A producer at BBC-TV and a writer for the satirical news program That Was the Week That Was in the ‘60s. Jay was a close student of complex organizations and the behavior of the people who ran them. In his books Management & Machiavelli: An Inquiry into the Politics of Corporate Life (1967) and Corporation Man (1972), he drew parallels between kings and business leaders. As a writer and producer of management training films, he shone a bright light on the dark machinations of government and the relationship between public officials and civil servants. Jay died in England on August 21, 2016.

Marvin Kaplan (89) veteran actor best known for his recurring role on the long-running (1976–85) sitcom Alice as Henry, a telephone linesman and frequent patron of Mel’s Diner. Kaplan also voiced the character Choo-Choo in the ’60s cartoon series Top Cat and made several appearances on the Ted Danson comedy Becker. His other credits include the 1963 film It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and the ‘65 Blake Edwards comedy The Great Race. Kaplan died in Burbank, California on August 26, 2016.

Jean-Baptiste ('Toots') Thielemans (94) Belgian harmonica player whose career included playing with jazz greats like Miles Davis. Thielemans' solos have figured in numerous film scores, including those of Midnight Cowboy, The Getaway, and Sugarland Express and in the theme music to the children’s TV series Sesame Street. He hung up his harmonica in 2014 as health problems linked to his age made it more difficult for him to take to the stage. He was hospitalized in July after a fall but had been in good spirits after an operation on his shoulder. Thielemans died in his sleep in Brussels, Belgium on August 22, 2016.

Rudy van Gelder (91) audio engineer whose work with Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and numerous other musicians helped to define the sound of jazz on records. Van Gelder was an engineer, not a producer. He was not in charge of the sessions he recorded, did not hire the musicians, or play any role in choosing the repertoire. But he did have the final say in what the records sounded like, and was, in the view of countless producers, musicians, and listeners, better at that than anyone. The many albums Van Gelder engineered for Blue Note, Prestige, Impulse, and other labels in the ‘50s and ’60s included acknowledged classics like Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, Davis’s Walkin’, Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage, Sonny Rollins’ Saxophone Colossus, and Horace Silver’s Song for My Father. Van Gelder died in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on August 25, 2016.

Politics and Military

Jackson B. Davis (98) former Louisiana state senator. Davis, who earned a law degree from Louisiana State University in 1940, was elected to the Louisiana State Senate in ‘56 and represented parts of Caddo and Bossier parishes for six consecutive terms until ‘80. His legislative accomplishments included the establishment of LSU-Shreveport in 1967. He died in Shreveport, Louisiana on August 22, 2016.

James Doyle (78) former mayor of Pawtucket, Rhode Island. The Democrat was mayor of Pawtucket for 13 years, stepping down at the end of 2010. Doyle had also served on the Pawtucket City Council and had about 40 years of public service. His son, James Doyle 2nd, represents Pawtucket in the state Senate. The elder Doyle died in Pawtucket, Rhode Island on August 27, 2016.

George Fraley (85) former Tennessee state representative and mayor of Franklin County. Fraley served in the Tennessee State Legislature from 1996–2010, when he was defeated in a Republican wave in which Democrats lost 14 seats. He was among four Democrats who had been expected to vote in favor—but ultimately declined to support former Republican Gov. Don Sundquist’s proposal to create a state income tax in 2002. Despite furious lobbying efforts by Democrat House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, the measure fell short by a single vote. Fraley died in Nashville, Tennessee two days after he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage when he fell out of bed and hit his head, on August 24, 2016.

Jim Hardin (80) Secret Service agent who protected President Lyndon B. Johnson and his family during and after their White House years. Hardin was a teacher and football coach in Haltom City, Texas, when he joined the Secret Service in 1965. He protected Johnson’s daughter, Lynda, in 1966 when she attended the University of Texas. Hardin later joined LBJ's protective detail. He also protected President Richard Nixon before being assigned to the Johnson family in Texas. Hardin retired in 1995. He died of an apparent heart attack in Fredericksburg, Texas on August 23, 2016.

Jerry O'Keefe (93) former mayor of Biloxi, Mississippi who received the Congressional Gold Medal after serving as a fighter pilot in World War II. As a young Marine pilot, O’Keefe shot down seven Japanese airplanes. Originally in the funeral business after the war, he was elected to the Mississippi State House in 1959 and served four years, then was elected Biloxi mayor in ‘73 and served eight years. He died of congestive heart failure in Biloxi, Mississippi on August 23, 2016.

Aaron Plyler (89) former North Carolina state senator, a lawmaker who wielded power over the state budget and was a strong advocate of higher education. Plyler was elected to the House in 1974 and to the Senate in ‘82. He rose to become chairman of a budget committee and a member of a super subcommittee, a handful of lawmakers who wrote the state budget behind closed doors. He played a pivotal role in the growth of the University of North Carolina/Charlotte. Plyler died in Monroe, North Carolina on August 23, 2016.

Sellapan Ramanathan (92) Singapore’s sixth and longest-serving president, also known as S. R. Nathan. Ramanathan served two terms as Singapore’s head of state from 1999–2011 before being succeeded by Tony Tan Keng Yam. He held top positions in the civil service and was appointed high commissioner to Malaysia in 1988. From 1990–96, Ramanathan was Singapore’s ambassador to the US. He was hospitalized in critical condition after suffering a stroke on July 31; it was his second stroke in less than two years. He died in Singapore on August 22, 2016.

John Schaeffer Jr. (77) Inupiat Eskimo elder and tribal leader in northwest Alaska. Schaeffer was the first president and chief executive of the NANA Regional Corp. and was credited with protecting the subsistence lifestyle of his people. He joined the Alaska Army National Guard's Eskimo Scout battalion in 1957, serving as adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard starting in the mid-‘80s until ’91. He was among the leaders in the state's response to the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill and was the first Inupiat two-star general in the nation. Earlier this month, Schaeffer attended a dedication of a Guard hangar named after him in Kotzebue. He died in Kotzebue, Alaska, his hometown, on August 25, 2016.

Walter Scheel (97) foreign minister of West Germany who helped to shape his country’s policy of reconciliation with the Communist bloc and later was president. Scheel died in Bad Krozingen, in southwest Germany, on August 24, 2016.

Gregory Schmidt (69) longtime secretary of the California State Senate. Schmidt was first nominated to the post by then-Senate President Pro Tem Bill Lockyer in 1996, then reappointed under three successive Senate presidents. He was in charge of everything from processing bills to ensuring that rules were followed. He retired in 2014 amid an investigation into reports of nepotism in the Senate’s hiring practices; Schmidt’s son, daughter-in-law, and nephew all had jobs in the state Legislature, as did five family members of the Senate’s human resources director. Schmidt’s post required discretion and dealing with politicians of both parties. He died of cancer in Sacramento, California just two years after retiring from the post he had held for 18 years, on August 24, 2016.

Society and Religion

Josephine Del Deo (90) writer and preservationist who helped to safeguard the Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts and preserved the historic character of Provincetown, at the cape tip. Josephine and her husband, artist Salvatore Del Deo, were leading figures in the bohemian aristocracy that dominated Provincetown’s cultural life in the decades after World War II. They were members of a citizens' committee that fought the redevelopment of the Province Lands—3,200 acres of beaches, dunes, marshland, forests, and ponds that had been a common public asset since the days of Plymouth Colony. Josephine Del Deo died of a stroke in Provincetown, Massachusetts on August 25, 2016.

Esther Jungreis (80) speaker and teacher whose popular revival-style assemblies urged secular Jews to study the Torah and embrace traditional religious values. A Hungarian Jew who spent several months in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp as a child, Jungreis was often called “the Jewish Billy Graham,” and her rallies, with theatrical lighting and musical accompaniment, were in fact inspired by Graham’s Christian crusades. Jungreis styled herself “rebbetzin,” the Yiddish honorific bestowed on wives of rabbis. Her late husband, Rabbi Theodore Jungreis (d. 1996), led the Congregation Ohr Torah, an Orthodox synagogue in North Woodmere, Long Island, New York. Esther Jungreis died of pneumonia in Brooklyn, New York on August 23, 2016.

Abraham Peck (91) Holocaust survivor who made it his mission to share stories of the horrors he saw and endured while imprisoned in nine concentration camps. Peck was well known for speaking before school and community groups and was the subject of a recently published biography. He believed his long life was tantamount to victory over Adolf Hitler because he wanted to educate people about the Holocaust and have them fight injustice. He eventually married another Holocaust survivor and immigrated to the US in 1949. He took a job at an upholstery manufacturing company and eventually bought the business, which he operated for 25 years. Peck died of kidney failure in Fair Lawn, New Jersey on August 25, 2016.


Isaiah Kiplagat (72) president of Kenya’s athletics federation, Athletics Kenya, who gained wide notoriety when he was suspended amid reports that he and two other officials had diverted more than $700,000 of sponsorship money from Nike. Kiplagat was a longtime council member of the International Association of Athletics Federations, track and field’s world governing body. He led Athletics Kenya for more than 20 years, helping to transform track and field in the country from an amateur venture into a multimillion-dollar business. But the IAAF ethics commission, investigating allegations of embezzlement and extortion, suspended him and two other Athletics Kenya officials in November 2015. All three men were accused of taking money from Nike for personal gain and asking athletes to pay to conceal positive doping tests. The Nike money was supposed to have been used to help train and support poor Kenyan athletes. Kiplagat had been treated for colon cancer since 2010. He died in Karen, Kenya, a Nairobi suburb, on August 24, 2016.

Dr. Bill Lenkaitis (70) former New England Patriots offensive lineman and team dentist. The San Diego Chargers drafted Lenkaitis out of Penn State in the second round of the 1968 American Football League draft. After three seasons in San Diego, he played 11 seasons in New England. He started 119 games, including all 16 in 1978 when the Patriots set a team National Football League rushing record with 3,165 yards, a mark that still stands. Lenkaitis earned his dental degree while still an active player. He died of brain cancer in Foxborough, Massachusetts on August 27, 2016.

Colson Machlitt (18) sophomore football defensive lineman at Georgetown (Ky.) College. After playing on the scout team and in other roles as a freshman, 6-foot-2, 220-pound Machlitt had worked hard in the offseason to bulk up and was expected to get more playing time. Early on August 21 he fell and hit his head after jumping down a flight of stairs at the Lambda Chi Alpha house. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and died the next day in a Lexington, Kentucky hospital, on August 22, 2016.

Previous Week
Next Week

Return to Main Page
Return to Top