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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, December 10, 2016

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John Glenn, last surviving 'Mercury 7' astronaut and American space heroByron Birdsall, Alaskan artistAdolf Burger, Holocaust survivor forced to make counterfeit British pounds in Nazi plotChris Connors, Maine man who lived outsized lifeJohannah Deakin, mother of One Direction singer Louis TomlinsonBill Dineen, hockey player and coachRobert R. Douglass, counsel to NY Gov. Nelson RockefellerDave Edwards, Dallas Cowboys linebackerSidda the Indian ElephantPaul Evstrom, Danish Olympic sailing championMike Ensign, Las Vegas casino ownerFlorence Ebersole Smith Finch, WWII heroFarnsworth Fowle, journalist who covered landmark eventsAdrian Gill, 'London Sunday Times' restaurant critic and columnistHildegard Hamm-Brücher, German politicianMatthew Hayes, Texas A&M student and Sigma Phi Epsilon memberKen Hechler, former US congressman (D-W. Va.) and state officialJayalalithaa Jayaram, Indian actress turned politicianEdward W. ('Mike') Kelley Jr., Federal Reserve Board memberPhillip Knightley, Australian investigative journalistGreg Lake, British musician who cofounded two progressive rock bandsBrian Loncar, Dallas attorney, and his daughter Grace at age 11Joseph Mascolo, stage and TV actorBill Menefee, Baylor athletic directorRon Pierce, founder of Bass Cat BoatsCharles B. Reed, former  CSU chancellorJens Risom, Danish furniture designerJack Rudin, NYC reat estate developer and marathon benefactorRashaan Salaam, 1994 Heisman Trophy winnerRodney Smith, whimsical photographerRafael Tovar y de Teresa, Mexican secretary of culturePeter Vaughan, British actor on 'Game of Thrones'Ronald Webster, former minister of AnguillaMargaret Whitton, stage and film actress and director

Art and Literature

Byron Birdsall (78) painter who spent decades capturing Alaska scenes in watercolors. Birdsall was born in 1937 in Arizona and was raised in California. He moved to Alaska in 1975 and became a self-taught painter. He turned many of his watercolors into prints that can be found in galleries throughout Alaska. He was known for the variety of his landscapes and his use of light while depicting life in the north. Birdsall painted florals, still-life images, and historic scenes, including work that commemorated Anchorage's centennial. He died in Fairbanks, Alaska on December 4, 2016.

Rodney Smith (68) photographer whose whimsical work invited comparisons to that of Belgian surrealist René Magritte’s. The people in Smith’s photographs carry umbrellas and wear hats, often bowlers. Some peer into binoculars as if they can see into the future. Others lean into space at odd angles or are poised to leap from a building ledge or airplane wing. A few have their faces obscured by hats, boxes, and lampshades. In one of his best-known photographs, an elegantly dressed couple kiss atop a taxicab on an Upper Manhattan street jammed with three lanes of cabs, which Smith had hired. He died in Snedens Landing, New York, on December 5, 2016.

Business and Science

Chris Connors (67) Maine resident who, by his family's own admission in his online obituary, never played by the rules. From the first line about his dying of whiskey and stubbornness, Connors' obit described a man who “lived 1,000 years in the 67 calendar years we had with him because he attacked life.” Connors was stabbed saving a woman during a mugging in New York, got stranded in a life raft for 40 hours off Panama, and reached base camp at Mount Everest at age 64. A Golden Gloves boxer who later made a career on Wall Street, he was known for taking a swim in the ocean in January, occasionally cross-dressing, and leading a rousing night on the town with friends. His passion for life was on display until the end, with one of his daughters recalling how he boxed with a bikini-clad hospice nurse, and, 15 hours before he died, danced the Irish jig. His last words were curses. Connors, who suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease, and pancreatic cancer, died in York, Maine on December 9, 2016.

Mike Ensign (79) retired casino owner and executive whose influence and holdings grew along with the Las Vegas Strip in the ‘80s and whose son, veterinarian Dr. John Ensign, resigned as US senator amid scandal in 2011. The elder Ensign became chairman and chief executive of Circus Circus Enterprises in 1998. He became one of the architects of a modern Las Vegas—featuring luxury destination resorts and casinos with entertainment, shopping, and dining. Circus Circus Enterprises grew to become Mandalay Resort Group in 1999, with properties including Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Excalibur, and Circus Circus. Ensign retired in 2005 after MGM Resorts International acquired Mandalay Resort Group for $7.9 billion. He died in his sleep in Las Vegas, Nevada on December 7, 2016.

Ron Pierce (81) founder of Bass Cat Boats and a former member of the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission. Pierce and his wife, Jan, founded Bass Cat in their two-car garage in 1971. The company makes fishing boats and now employs more than 100 workers at its Mountain Home (Ark.) headquarters. Pierce was Mountain Home's mayor from 1976–86 and on the Game & Fish Commission from 2006–13. He died in Mountain Home, Arkansas on December 4, 2016.

Jens Risom (100) Danish furniture designer who helped to bring mid-20th century modern design to the US through his work with Knoll Studio. Defined by sharp Scandinavian lines and fused with the rustic aura of Shakerism and American arts and crafts, the armless, affordable chair that became Risom’s signature in 1942 was one of the first mass-produced modernist furniture pieces introduced in the US, not Europe. It both introduced Knoll as one of the world’s most enduring quality furniture brands and helped to make great mass design palatable to American consumers, who continue to buy Risom’s chair 74 years later, in every possible color and fabric. He died in New Canaan, Connecticut on December 9, 2016.

Jack Rudin (92) patriarch of a family that has been developing New York real estate for five generations and benefactor of the city’s first five-borough marathon. Jack and his younger brother Lewis, who died in 2001, were in the vanguard of the partnership of government, business groups, and organized labor that helped to spare the city from bankruptcy in the mid-‘70s and figured prominently in its revival. They persuaded fellow property owners to prepay real estate taxes to replenish the city’s depleted coffers and founded the Association for a Better New York, which continues to promote civic pride. Jack Rudin died of pneumonia in New York City on December 4, 2016.


Charles B. Reed (75) California State University chancellor for 14 years, during which the system struggled with budget cutbacks and soaring enrollment. Reed headed CSU—the US's largest public university system—from 1998–2012. During that time, the system dealt with a series of budget cutbacks before and after the recession. The state slashed $1 billion in CSU funding—a reduction of 33 per cent—between 2008–12 alone. Reed was lauded for his efforts to expand educational opportunities for minority and low-income students but blasted by critics over rising student costs. During his tenure, enrollment soared but so did tuition, jumping from less than $1,500 per year to nearly $5,500. Reed died n Long Beach, California on December 6, 2016.


Brian Loncar (56) Dallas personal injury attorney. Loncar was well known in Texas for his TV commercials, in which he branded himself the “strong arm.” His firm has offices across Texas. He died in Dallas, Texas about a week after the suicide of his 16-year-old daughter, Grace, who had long battled depression. Brian Loncar died on December 4, 2016.

News and Entertainment

Johannah Deakin (43) mother of One Direction star Louis Tomlinson, singer with the British band since 2010. At 24, Tomlinson is Deakin's eldest child. She had six other children: 18-year-old Lottie, 16-year-old Felicite, and two sets of twins—12-year-olds Phoebe and Daisy and 2-year-olds Ernest and Doris. Deakin had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia earlier this year. She died in Sheffield, England on December 7, 2016.

Farnsworth Fowle (100) veteran journalist who, in a career that spanned 40 years, witnessed World War II at battlefronts from North Africa to the Balkans, the creation of the state of Israel, and the death of King George VI of Britain. But Fowle's most affecting account was a moment-by moment chronicle of the effort to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in September 1957. Over the years he worked for Time magazine, CBS, and the New York Times. He was five days shy of his 101st birthday when he died in Wilder, Vermont, near White River Junction, on December 8, 2016.

Adrian Gill (62) Britain's Sunday Times longstanding restaurant critic and columnist, better known as A. A. Gill. Edinburgh-born Gill was known for his writing on food, TV, fashion, and travel. He was the author of books including Table Talk, AA Gill Is Away, and a memoir, Pour Me: A Life. Gill revealed he had cancer in his regular column in November. He died in London, England on December 10, 2016.

Phillip Knightley (87) Australian investigative journalist. In the '70s Knightley helped to gain compensation for the victims of the drug thalidomide, which caused horrific birth defects, through a landmark investigation for London's Sunday Times and shone light on the murky world of Cold War espionage. He also uncovered previously secret details of the career of Kim Philby, a senior British intelligence official who was also a KGB mole. Knightley interviewed Philby in Moscow shortly before his death in 1988—his only audience with a Western journalist since defecting in '63. Knightley's books include several volumes about Cold War spies and a history of war reporting, The First Casualty. He died in London, England, on December 7, 2016.

Greg Lake (69) British musician who cofounded both King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer—bands that helped to define the influential but often maligned genre known as progressive rock. Lake was instrumental in bringing classical influences, epic length, mythic scope, and ‘70s excess into rock 'n' roll, winning millions of fans before punk swept in and spoiled the party. He died of cancer in London, England on December 7, 2016.

Joseph Mascolo (87) actor who played bad guy Stefano DiMera on NBC's daytime serial Days of Our Lives. Although he was best known for his role as crime boss and mogul DiMera, Mascolo was a classically trained musician and appeared on Broadway in plays including Dinner at Eight and That Championship Season. His wide-ranging TV credits included the prime-time series Kojak, Hill Street Blues, and It's Garry Shandling's Show. Mascolo began on Days of Our Lives in 1982 and, despite taking breaks from the show, spent a total of more than 20 years with it. He also appeared on the daytime serials The Bold & the Beautiful, General Hospital, and Santa Barbara. Mascolo, who had Alzheimer's disease for several years, died in Los Angeles, California on December 7, 2016.

Peter Vaughan (93) veteran British character actor who played the enigmatic blind scholar Maester Aemon on Game of Thrones. Vaughan's face—if not his name—was familiar to generations of TV viewers in Britain and around the world. His best-known roles included criminal Harry Grout in the ‘70s prison sitcom Porridge. His film appearances included The Naked Runner, opposite Frank Sinatra, and The French Lieutenant's Woman. Like many British actors, Vaughan gained wider fame through HBO's Game of Thrones. He died in London, England on December 6, 2016.

Margaret Whitton (67) actress who starred as a former showgirl who became owner of the Cleveland Indians in the 1989 comedy Major League. Whitton was a regular on the New York stage as both an actor and director. Besides playing the sultry Rachel Phelps in Major League and its 1994 sequel, she also starred on several TV series. Whitton had a passion for sports that extended off-screen. She was a die-hard New York Yankees fan and played softball in the Broadway Show League. She died of cancer in Palm Beach, Florida on December 4, 2016.

Politics and Military

Robert R. Douglass (85) among the last surviving members of four-term (1959–73) Republican New York Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller’s inner circle, an adviser to his brother David Rockefeller and the Chase Bank, and a catalyst in the revitalization of Lower Manhattan. Douglass was counsel and secretary to Nelson Rockefeller (d. 1979). He also managed Rockefeller's short-lived 1968 presidential campaign and shepherded him through confirmation hearings for the vice presidency in ‘74, when Rockefeller was recruited by newly elevated President Gerald R. Ford. Douglass died of Parkinson’s disease in Greenwich, Connecticut on December 6, 2016.

Florence Ebersole Smith Finch (101) Philippines-born hero. For nearly 50 years after World War II, virtually no one outside her family knew that Finch was a highly decorated Coast Guard veteran and a former prisoner of war whose exploits had been buried in time. Held captive by the Japanese during the war, she was tortured and forced to curl up in a 2-foot-by-4-foot box after being caught steering supplies to Filipino guerrillas and American PoWs. She weighed 80 pounds when freed by American forces in early 1945, then moved to upstate New York, where an aunt lived. She died in Ithaca, New York on December 8, 2016.

John Glenn (95) first US astronaut to orbit the Earth whose 1962 flight made him an all-American hero and propelled him to a long career in the US Senate. Glenn was the last survivor of the original Mercury 7 astronauts. He had two major career paths that often intersected: flying and politics, and he soared in both of them. Before he gained fame orbiting the world, he was a fighter pilot in two wars, and as a test pilot he set a transcontinental speed record. He later served 24 years in the US Senate from Ohio. A rare setback was a failed 1984 run for the Democrat presidential nomination. Glenn’s long political career enabled him to return to space in the shuttle Discovery at age 77 in 1998, a cosmic victory lap that he relished and turned into a teachable moment about growing old. He held the record for the oldest person in space. More than anything, Glenn was the ultimate and uniquely American space hero. He died at the James Cancer Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, where he had been hospitalized for more than a week, on December 8, 2016.

Hildegard Hamm-Brücher (95) grande dame of Germany's pro-business Free Democratic Party who made an unsuccessful bid for the country's presidency in 1994. Hamm-Brücher entered politics with the Free Democratic Party, which became the kingmaker of postwar German politics, in 1948 and was a member of the federal parliament from '76 until her retirement in ’90. She was the FDP's candidate for president in 1994 but lost to Roman Herzog of then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl's Christian Democrats. Hamm-Brücher died in Berlin, Germany on December 7, 2016.

Ken Hechler (102) West Virginia statesman and author whose 70-year career included stints in the Truman White House and Congress. Hechler served nine terms in Congress, where he championed civil rights legislation and fought for coal mine safety, strip mine regulations, and black lung compensation. He later served four terms as West Virginia's secretary of state, becoming a common sight driving around Charleston in his trademark red Jeep. He died in Romney, West Virginia on December 10, 2016.

Jayalalithaa Jayaram (68) South Indian actress-turned-politician. Jayaram inspired intense loyalty among film and political fans alike and was widely known as “Amma,” which means “Mother” in the Tamil language. She worked on nearly 150 Tamil-language movies, many as a romantic lead, before following her mentor into politics. She was Tamil Nadu's chief minister for more than 15 years and was praised for her efforts in fighting rural poverty. She had been hospitalized in September in Tamil Nadu's capital of Chennai, India after suffering from fever, dehydration, and an unspecified lung illness. As her condition reportedly deteriorated, thousands prayed outside the hospital for her recovery. She died a day after undergoing surgery following a heart attack, on December 5, 2016.

Edward W. ('Mike') Kelley Jr. (84) appointee of President Ronald Reagan who served 14 years as a member of the Federal Reserve Board and was instrumental in modernizing the banking operations of the Federal Reserve system. During much of his tenure on the board, Kelley chaired the committee that oversaw the operations and payment systems of the Fed's 12 regional banks. In that role he led efforts to modernize the Fed's computer systems and prepare for a smooth transition during the century date change in January 2000. Kelley died in Washington, DC two weeks after suffering a stroke, on December 4, 2016.

Rafael Tovar y de Teresa (62) Mexican secretary of culture, a diplomat, historian, and promoter of the arts. Tovar was the country's first culture secretary. President Enrique Pena Nieto named him to the newly created Cabinet-level post in December 2015. Before that he had been president of the national culture and arts council. Tovar served two stints as head of the council, from 1992–99 and again from 2012–15. He was also director of Mexico's National Institute of Fine Arts and ambassador to Italy from 2001–07. He had been hospitalized for evaluation and died two days later in Mexico City, Mexico on December 10, 2016.

Ronald Webster (90) in 1967, when Britain was shedding the last of its empire, Webster emerged as the George Washington of the tiny Caribbean island of Anguilla—in reverse. He plotted a revolution to embrace the mother country rather than to break with it. Webster, as the island’s leading political figure, did the unthinkable: he all but insisted that Parliament declare Anguilla a British dependency again. It took until late 1980 for London to formally designate the island a dependent territory. Webster was chief minister until 1984, when he was defeated in an election. He died on Anguilla on December 9, 2016.

Society and Religion

Adolf Burger (99) Jewish typographer forced by the Nazis to make fake British pound notes in a major counterfeit operation during World War II. Slovakian-born Burger was arrested in 1942 after he was caught producing fake baptism certificates for Jews to help them escape transportation to Nazi death camps. Slovakia was a Nazi puppet state during the war. Burger was deported to Auschwitz with his wife, Gisela, who was put to death there. At the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Germany in 1944, Burger became one of some 140 inmates who were put to work forging British pound notes, a top secret plan to destabilize Britain known as Operation Bernhard. He survived and was liberated by the US Army in 1945. He died in Prague, Czech Republic on December 6, 2016.

Sidda the Elephant (35) elephant who broke a leg and was left to hobble around the backwaters of a reservoir in southern India. Villagers and veterinarians brought him food and tried to soothe his agony through treatment. Sidda, the name given to the elephant by forest guards, was estimated to be 35 years old. He fell into a ditch and broke a leg in the Manchinbele dam area in late August. He also sustained abrasions all over his body and had an abscess on his back that required treatment. The accident occurred in the Savandurga reserve, a home to wild elephants in the Ramanagara district of Karnataka state. Sidda died of an infection formation inside the leg that was not noticeable from outside, on December 9, 2016.

Matthew Hayes (20) Texas A&M student and Sigma Phi Epsilon member. The Brazos County Sheriff's Office said deputies responded to a report of cardiopulmonary rescusitation being performed on Hayes when he was found unresponsive on his bed at the fraternity house. Other Sigma Phi Epsilon members told deputies they thought Hayes had been asleep, after last seeing him late Dec. 5 after returning from a party. It was the second A&M fraternity student death this year; Sigma Nu member Anton Gridnev died of an accidental drug overdose in August. Ten students face drug-related charges. Hayes died in College Station, Texas on December 6, 2016.


Bill Dineen (84) Canadian-born hockey icon who played with and later coached Gordie Howe. Dineen played 324 games in the National Hockey League with the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks, winning two Stanley Cup championships in Detroit alongside Howe. He made more of an impact as a player in the American Hockey League, where he was a four-time 20-goal scorer over six seasons with Buffalo, Cleveland, Rochester, and Quebec. Dineen went into coaching after retiring as a player, taking the reins of the World Hockey Association's Houston Aeros for six years starting in the 1972–73 season. He helped the Aeros to win Avco Cup titles in 1974–75 with teams featuring Howe and Dineen's sons Mark and Marty. Bill Dineen died in Lake George, New York on December 10, 2016.

Dave Edwards (76) former Dallas Cowboys linebacker. Edwards played for 12 seasons in Dallas from 1963–75 and was a key cog in the Cowboys defense. He won one Super Bowl with the team and played in two others. Before going to Dallas, the Alabama native was an all-Southeastern Conference linebacker at Auburn. He was recently diagnosed with a heart condition and was set to undergo surgery this week, but died in his sleep near Lake Whitney, Texas, about 65 miles south of Dallas, on December 5, 2016.

Paul Elvstrom (88) Danish sailing champion whose prowess at sea brought him four consecutive Olympic gold medals in sailing and international standing as one of the sport’s greatest competitors of the 20th century. Elvstrom also won 13 world championships in a sailing career that began when he was a boy. He popularized the technique of leaning back over the side of the boat from his knees—almost parallel with the water—to add power, stability, and speed. He later built an international sailmaking and sailing products company that became a leader in design, engineering, and performance. His dominant run in the Games, in which he won gold from 1948–60, helped to create a legacy that can still be seen in the strength of Denmark’s small but remarkable Olympic sailing team, which ranks sixth in sailing medals. He died in Hellerup, Denmark on December 7, 2016.

Bill Menefee (95) Baylor athletic director (1980–92) whose tenure included a Southwest Conference football championship and five bowl trips for the Bears. Menefee had a 149-144 record as the men's basketball coach from 1961–73. He first went to Baylor in 1947 as a physical education instructor. He also was an assistant coach and oversaw freshman teams. Menefee was with the US Marines in the Pacific during World War II and served three months on Okinawa. He died in Waco, Texas on December 8, 2016.

Rashaan Salaam (42) former running back who won the Heisman Trophy in 1994 but whose professional career never lived up to his promise. Salaam was the first University of Colorado player to win the award. He was a first-round selection in the 1995 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears, with whom he played three seasons and became the youngest NFL player to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. But his professional career was cut short by injuries, fumbles, and marijuana use. His body was discovered in a parking lot at Eben G. Fine Park in Boulder, Colorado on December 5, 2016. Suicide was suspected.

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