Art and LiteraturePeter Abrahams
(97) South African writer whose journalism and novels explored the injustices of apartheid and the complexities of racial politics. Abrahams spent most of his adult life in Britain, France, and Jamaica, but his moral center of gravity was located in the country he left at age 20. He first attracted notice in 1946 with Mine Boy,
a novel about the trials of a naïve young black South African who leaves his home in the north to work in the gold mines near Johannesburg and falls in love with a mixed-race woman. Abrahams died in Kingston, Jamaica on January 18, 2017.Byron Dobell
(89) editor at Time-Life, Esquire,
and New York
magazine who played a pivotal role in the careers of Tom Wolfe, Mario Puzo, and other writers. As editor of Book World
in 1967, Dobell gave Puzo, who had yet to achieve fame as author of The Godfather,
free rein as a reviewer, putting his takedown of Paris Review’s
celebrated author interviews on the journal’s front page. Dobell died of Parkinson’s disease in New York City on January 21, 2017.Chuck Stewart
(89) photographer who as a child could not master the piano but later succeeded with a camera, becoming a fixture in the jazz world with his photographs of John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Dinah Washington, and many others. Stewart often framed his subjects in black, as if to prevent the eye from being distracted by anything but the singer or musician. He created an archive of some 800,000 negatives, and by his count his photographs appeared on the covers of at least 2,000 albums. He died in Teaneck, New Jersey on January 20, 2017.Emma Tennant
(79) British writer who blended fantasy, science fiction, and social satire in dozens of novels that explored the borderland between daylight and dreams, dissected contemporary Britain, and updated the works of Jane Austen and other classic writers in sequels that often had a feminist twist. An unusually prolific writer, Tennant produced dystopian fantasies like The Time of the Crack
(1973), about a seismic fault under the Thames that destroys half of London, and comic novels of manners like The Adventures of Robina, by Herself: Being the Memoirs of a Debutante at the Court of Queen Elizabeth II
(1986). Tennant died of posterior cortical atrophy, a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease, in London, England on January 21, 2017.
Business and ScienceBrenda Barnes
(63) two-time corporate chief executive whose decision to leave her top job at Pepsi-Cola sparked a national debate about women juggling career and family. Barnes had been CEO of Pepsi-Cola North America for 18 months when she decided in 1997 to step down, saying that after 20 years of grueling hours away from home she wanted to spend time with her three children, then ages 10, 8, and 7. She was 43 at the time and overseeing PepsiCo’s chief profit engine, based in Somers, New York, making her one of the most recognized women in corporate America. In 2004, with her children in high school, Barnes accepted an offer to be a top executive at Sara Lee, the food conglomerate based in Chicago, and was soon named chairwoman and CEO—becoming one of the few women to run a major American corporation—and given a mandate to revive Sara Lee’s sinking fortunes. She died of complications from a stroke she suffered in 2010, in Naperville, Illinois on January 17, 2017.Donald Birch
(79) upstate New York tavern owner who gained fame for serving free Sunday meals at his biker bar for more than 30 years. Birch was an engine repair shop owner and Harley Davidson-riding motorcycle enthusiast who opened the Saw Mill Tavern in a blue-collar Schenectady neighborhood in the late ‘70s. In 1980 he began offering free Sunday buffets for his customers and needy residents of a city hit hard by job losses at the local General Electric operations. The free hot meals continued until March 2011, when the effects of the recession took a toll on Birch's business. He died in Schenectady, New York on January 17, 2017.John Cunniff
(87) business writer for the Associated Press who for 35 years wrote a column that helped readers to grasp a better understanding of the economy. Cunniff wrote the “Business Mirror” column from 1966 until his retirement in December 2001, compiling nearly 5,600 columns and business analysis pieces. At the column's peak, hundreds of newspapers carried “Business Mirror,” making it one of the nation’s most widely seen financial news features. Cunniff, who had been in failing health since 2012, died in Valley Cottage, New York on January 21, 2017.Dr. Phyllis Harrison-Ross
(80) pioneering black pediatrician, psychiatrist, prison monitor, and mental health administrator. Harrison-Ross was a ubiquitous presence in the mental health field in New York City and nationally for more than 35 years. She was an early leader in designing rehabilitation and therapy for children with a combination of severe developmental, emotional, and physical disabilities. She was also at the forefront of promoting teleconferencing to bridge gaps between doctors and patients, and what is known as televisiting, to link inmates in prisons in rural parts of upstate New York to their families in New York City and other urban areas. She died of lung cancer in New York city on January 16, 2017.Dr. Paul Ornstein
(92) half of a Holocaust survivor couple who both became psychiatrists after reuniting in Germany at the end of World War II. Married in 1946, Drs. Paul and Anna Ornstein came to the US, where they became major figures in the self-psychology movement, an evolving theory that challenged traditional Freudian analysis. Paul Ornstein embraced and advanced the theory, which encourages therapists to be more empathetic. Instead of dealing primarily with individual guilt, sex, and aggression, as Freudians do, self-psychology postulates that parents’ failure to support a child’s sense of self leads to later personality disorders. Ornstein died of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in Brookline, Massachusetts on January 19, 2017.H. Boyd Woodruff
(99) scientist whose groundbreaking research enabled fellow scientists to harvest an arsenal of lifesaving antibiotics from ordinary dirt. Woodruff was instrumental in isolating two microbes that, while effective against tuberculosis and other infections, proved toxic to humans. But his findings in the early ‘40s inspired the rapid development of streptomycin, the miracle cure used to treat TB, typhoid, plague, and other diseases that did not respond to penicillin and other drugs. He died in Watchung, New Jersey on January 19, 2017.
(63) Arizona historian and author. In 2016 August was named historian and director of Institutional Advancement at the Arizona Capitol Museum in the State Library. He was a former executive director at the Arizona Historical Foundation at Arizona State University and wrote on such subjects as water politics in the Southwest and biographies of Gov. Raul Castro (d. 2015) and US Sen. Carl Hayden (D-Ariz.; d. 1972). August died in Phoenix, Arizona on January 20, 2017.Vicki Lansky
(75) best-selling author who dispensed recipes and practical advice that helped a generation of parents to cope with child-rearing challenges and housekeeping, from cradle cap to divorce. Lansky churned out more than 30 books, wrote newspaper and magazine columns, and produced a newsletter. She championed natural, do-it-yourself versions of store-bought baby food and more healthful alternatives to sugary snacks. Her first book was Feed Me; I’m Yours.
She died of nonalcoholic cirrhosis in Plymouth, Minnesota, nine days after her 75th birthday, on January 15, 2017.
(79) US attorney who headed the investigation and prosecution that led to Spiro Agnew’s resignation as US vice president. Beall was US attorney for Maryland when reports of corruption in Baltimore County came to his attention. The investigation focused on Agnew, who had been Baltimore County executive and Maryland governor. Richard Nixon picked Agnew to be vice president in 1968. Beall began investigating Agnew in 1973. Agnew, who died in 1996, was accused of taking bribes as governor and vice president. Beall died in Naples, Florida on January 15, 2017.William Norris
(89) retired federal appeals court judge who wrote a concurring opinion in 1988 calling the US Army’s ban on gay soldiers unconstitutional. Norris served 17 years on the San Francisco-based court before retiring in 1997. He concluded that the Army’s prohibition on gay soldiers serving was just as morally—and legally—wrong as banning interracial marriages. His concurring opinion in the Army case was one of more than 400 rulings Norris wrote while a judge. He recently finished an autobiography called Liberal Opinions: My Life in the Stream of History.
He died in Bel Air, California on January 21, 2017.Teori Zavascki
(68) Brazilian Supreme Court justice who had a central role overseeing a massive corruption investigation into a multibillion-dollar kickback scheme centered at state oil company Petrobras. While the largest corruption probe in Brazil's history has been led by a team of prosecutors and Judge Sergio Moro in the southern city of Curitiba, Zavascki handled cases involving politicians. By Brazilian law, only the Supreme Court can decide to charge or jail federal politicians. Most recently, Zavascki had been reviewing the dozens of plea bargains of former and current executives of constructor Odebrecht, one of the main players in the kickback scheme. He was expected to decide which plea bargains to validate by February. Validation would make them public, potentially implicating scores of politicians in Brazil and several other countries where Odebrecht did business. Zavascki was killed in a small plane crash outside Paraty, a coastal town about 155 miles west of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on January 19, 2017.
News and EntertainmentWayne Barrett
(71) investigative reporter, a scourge of New York City power brokers from Rudolph Giuliani to Mike Bloomberg during a decades-long career with the Village Voice,
and an early and tenacious chronicler of President Donald Trump. Starting in the ‘70s, there was no more dedicated muckraker than the gruff, relentless Barrett. His many scoops ranged from the criminal past of Giuliani's father to the many votes missed by then-Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, who had accused the man who would defeat him for reelection in 1998, Democrat Charles Schumer, of similar lapses. Schumer later said the revelation helped him to win. D'Amato called Barrett a “viper.” Barrett, who had been battling interstitial lung disease, died in New York City on January 19, 2017.Miguel Ferrer
(61) actor who brought authority to his featured role on CBS's hit NCIS: Los Angeles
and, before that, to the NBC crime drama Crossing Jordan.
Ferrer had played assistant director Owen Granger on NCIS: Los Angeles
since 2012. Before that he played the chief medical examiner and gruff-but-supportive boss to series star Jill Hennessy for the six seasons of Crossing Jordan.
Ferrer was the son of Oscar-winning actor Jose Ferrer and singer-actress Rosemary Clooney, and a cousin of actor George Clooney. He died of cancer in Los Angeles, California on January 19, 2017.William A. Hilliard
(89) journalist who, as a boy growing up in Portland, Ore., was denied a newspaper delivery route by The Oregonian
because he was black. Hilliard later became the paper’s first black reporter, its first black executive editor (1982), and its first black editor-in-chief (1987). In 1993 he became the first black person elected president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (now the American Society of News Editors). He died of congestive heart failure in Portland, Oregon on January 16, 2017.Walter ('Junie') Morrison
(62) singer, keyboardist, producer, one-man studio band, and funk mastermind who recorded as Junie Morrison and under other names. Morrison was an architect of hits by the Ohio Players and Parliament-Funkadelic, preeminent ‘70s funk outfits. He also had a prolific career on his own, making albums on which he played and sang all the parts. His music pumped across dance floors from the ‘70s into the hip-hop era. The Dayton, Ohio native had relocated to England by the end of the '80s and died in London, England on January 21, 2017Ronald ('Bingo') Mundy
(76) singer best known for his work with the doo-wop group The Marcels and their hit “Blue Moon.” The five-member vocal group reportedly recorded the song in two takes. “Blue Moon” is instantly recognizable for the bass vocals that begin the song. The single hit No. 1 on the Billboard
charts in 1961. Mundy lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and died there of pneumonia on January 20, 2017.Tom Murray
(54) editor of the West Chester
(Pa.) Daily Local News.
Murray held newspaper jobs in the Philadelphia suburbs, in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He became content manager in 2016 for Digital First Media group’s Main Line newspapers and the Daily Local News.
A widower, Murray died in West Chester, Pennsylvania after being stricken ill while out to dinner with his fiancée, on January 21, 2017. The two were planning to marry on Valentine’s Day.William Onyeabor
(70) Nigerian musician who pioneered a stuttering style of electronic funk during the '70s and '80s before retreating from music to focus on his faith and business ventures. Beginning in 1977, Onyeabor recorded nine albums featuring heavy bass. The singing style of Onyeabor and his female backups on songs like “Why Go to War” and “Atomic Bomb” often belied lyrics with a political edge. Onyeabor never performed live and by the mid-‘80s had left music to run a flour mill and other businesses while stating that he was a born-again Christian. He died in his sleep in Enugu, Nigeria on January 16, 2017.Roberta Peters
(86) Bronx-born coloratura soprano who at 20 was catapulted to stardom by a last-minute—and unrehearsed—Metropolitan Opera debut, her first public performance anywhere. Peters, who sang with the Met 515 times over 35 vigorous years, was internationally renowned for her high, silvery voice (in private, she could hit a high A, 2.5 octaves above middle C); her clear diction in several languages; her attractive stage presence; and, because she and TV came to prominence at about the same time, her wide popular appeal. Besides the Met, with which she appeared regularly from 1950–85—one of the longest associations of any singer with a major opera company—Peters was heard at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Cincinnati Opera, Vienna State Opera, Covent Garden, and elsewhere. Her best-known roles include the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s The Magic Flute,
Rosina in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville,
Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto,
and Oscar (a pageboy played by a soprano) in his Un Ballo in Maschera.
But her most significant role was Zerlina in Mozart’s Don Giovanni.
Enlisted to sing that part in 1950 as a last-minute substitute, Peters was propelled, with no rehearsal, onto the Met stage and into a stellar career. She continued to sing in recital until well into her 70s, a good 20 years past the retirement age in her line of work. She died of Parkinson's disease in Rye, New York on January 18, 2017.Maggie Roche
(65) folk-rock singer-songwriter who since the mid-‘70s had performed and recorded as a trio and in pairs with her two sisters, Terre and Suzzy. Growing up in Park Ridge, New Jersey, eldest sister Maggie formed a duo with middle sister Terre, and while touring, they caught the attention of Paul Simon, who brought them in as backup singers for his hit 1973 album, There Goes Rhymin' Simon.
In 1975 the duo released an album of their own. Shortly after that, youngest sister Suzzy joined to form The Roches trio. Maggie Roche died of cancer in New York City on January 21, 2017.Charles ('Bobo') Shaw
(69) jazz drummer from St. Louis who worked with major figures of the ‘60s and ’70s jazz avant-garde. As a founder of the Black Artists’ Group and the Human Artists Association in St. Louis, Shaw was also an organizer in an era when forward-looking jazz musicians were creating their own infrastructure. He was hospitalized in December with multiple ailments and died in St. Louis, Missouri on January 16, 2017.Jimmy ('Superfly') Snuka
(73) former professional wrestler who earlier this month was found not competent to stand trial in the 1983 death of his girlfriend in Pennsylvania. A Lehigh County judge on January 3 dismissed the murder case against the retired Wide World Entertainment star in the death of Nancy Argentino, whose body was found in their Whitehall Township hotel room. Prosecutors alleged that she was beaten; Snuka maintained she died from a fall. A native of Fiji, Snuka was known on the wrestling circuit for diving from the ropes. He died in Pompano Beach, Florida on January 15, 2017.Veljo Tormis
(86) Estonian composer known for his numerous choral works. Tormis, who started in the neoclassic style but moved to using folk music of his native Estonia and other related peoples, gained worldwide recognition with his a cappella
songs. Born in the small Baltic state with a strong choral tradition, Tormis studied the organ at the Tallinn Conservatoire before graduating from the Tallinn Higher Music School in 1947. He moved on to the Moscow Conservatoire, where he earned a composer's diploma in 1956. He died from long-term illnesses in the Estonian capital of Tallinn on January 21, 2017.Max Wilcox
(88) classical record producer and engineer who won five Grammy Awards and whom pianist Arthur Rubinstein (d. 1982) called his musical collaborator. For 17 years, until Rubinstein’s retirement in 1976, Wilcox produced some 60 of his recordings for RCA Victor Red Seal. He counted Rubinstein’s recordings of Chopin’s repertoire among his favorite productions. His other favorites included recordings of Beethoven by pianist Richard Goode and the Emerson String Quartet. Besides the Grammys Wilcox won as a producer, recordings he produced won 17. He died in Seattle, Washington of complications from a stroke and Alzheimer’s disease, on January 20, 2017.
Politics and MilitaryGene Cernan
(82) US astronaut, commander of the Apollo 17
lunar-landing mission in 1972, who traced his only child’s initials in the dust of the lunar surface, then climbed into the lunar module for the ride home, becoming the last person to walk on the moon. A ferocious competitor with a test pilot’s reckless streak, Cernan rocketed into space three times, was the second American to drift weightless around the world on a tether, went to the moon twice, and shattered aerospace records on the Earth and the moon. He died in Houston, Texas on January 16, 2017.Lucy Killea
(94) former San Diego City Council member and California state legislator whose independent streak put her at odds with the Catholic Church and her own political party. From her work at the Central Intelligence Agency and on Eleanor Roosevelt’s staff at the first United Nations General Assembly in 1946 to her early support of San Diego’s trolley and downtown redevelopment, Killea forged her own path in a political world largely dominated by men. In 1989 she was banned from receiving Communion because of her support for abortion rights. She died of cancer in San Diego, California on January 17, 2017.Charlie Liteky
(85) US Army chaplain in Vietnam who was awarded the Medal of Honor for rescuing more than 20 wounded men but later gave it back in protest and became a peace activist. The Army awarded Liteky the highest military decoration for his actions on December 6, 1967, when his company came under intense fire from an enemy battalion in Bien Hoa province. Despite painful wounds in the neck and foot, Liteky carried more than 20 men to the landing zone to be evacuated during the fierce firefight. In 1987, 20 years after his heroic actions in Vietnam, Liteky left the Medal of Honor and a letter to President Ronald Reagan at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington in protest of US foreign policy in Central America, where US-backed dictators were fighting bloody wars against left-leaning rebels. He died in San Francisco, California on January 20, 2017.Harry Middleton
(95) speechwriter for former President Lyndon B. Johnson and later longtime director of his presidential library. A former journalist who once worked for the Associated Press, Middleton was hired toward the end of Johnson's presidency in 1967 and followed him back to Texas after leaving the White House. He wrote two books with Johnson and later ran his presidential library from 1970–2002. The LBJ Library helped to declassify hundreds of thousands of records from the Johnson administration under Middleton, including documents pertaining to the Vietnam War. Middleton died in Austin, Texas on January 20, 2017.David Poythress
(73) former Georgia secretary of state and two-time gubernatorial candidate. Poythress entered state politics in 1979, when he was appointed secretary of state. He later won a term in office. He was also elected Labor commissioner and was head of the Georgia Army and Air National Guard. He was a deputy state revenue commissioner, assistant state attorney general, and commissioner of the Department of Medical Assistance. But Poythress never achieved his goal of serving as governor, losing in two separate runs. He suffered from a longtime lung illness and died in Atlanta, Georgia on January 15, 2017.Vlado Trifunovic
(78) former Yugoslav army general whose treason conviction by Serbia’s wartime nationalist leadership became a symbol of the senselessness of the ‘90s Balkan conflict. Trifunovic was in charge of a Yugoslav army unit in the town of Varazdin in independence-seeking Croatia as war broke out there in 1991. He disobeyed orders from Belgrade to fight and instead negotiated a safe passage for his troops. Yugoslavia’s once multiethnic military became dominated by Serbs and controlled from Belgrade after the western republics of Slovenia and Croatia declared independence in 1991. Trifunovic was convicted of treason by the nationalist government of Serbia’s then-President Slobodan Milosevic, but antiwar Serbs hailed him as a hero for saving the soldiers’ lives. His conviction was thrown out in 2010, years after Milosevic (died in prison in 2006) was ousted from power and handed over to a United Nations war crimes court to face a genocide trial. Trifunovic reportedly died in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, on January 15, 2017.James S. Vlasto
(82) public relations and political adviser to New York politicians and public officials over 60 years. Besides serving as a counselor and confidant to leading candidates, Vlasto was press secretary to Gov. Hugh L. Carey, a Democrat, in 1976–77, and to Joseph A. Fernandez, New York City schools chancellor, from ‘90–93; and director of communications for Betsy Gotbaum, the city’s public advocate, from 2003–08. He died in New York City on January 19, 2017.Thomas L. White Jr.
(??) Alabama state comptroller. White headed the state office that is responsible for paying the state's bills, handling contracts, and other financial services. Before being appointed comptroller, White was chief financial officer for the state Health Department and of the Alabama Public Health Care Authority. He died in Montgomery, Alabama on January 19, 2017.
Society and ReligionEddie Long
(63) megachurch pastor whose reputation was tarnished after former congregants accused him of sexual misconduct. As senior pastor at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga. since 1987, Long oversaw the church's explosive growth, with membership swelling from 300 to 25,000. It became one of the nation's largest congregations. The church operated TV and international ministries and built satellite churches in several cities. Long was a Christian author and gospel singer known for preaching and practicing a prosperity gospel in which the faithful would be rewarded with wealth. He was also known for his flamboyant lifestyle, as he flew around the world on a private jet, drove around metro Atlanta in a $350,000 Bentley, and lived in a $1.4 million house with six bedrooms and nine bathrooms. He died of cancer in Lithonia, Georgia on January 15, 2017.
(97) matriarch of early American road racing and a leader in the creation of the International Motor Racing Research Center. Argetsinger was predeceased by her husband, Cameron, in 2008. The Argetsingers were credited with the rebirth of road racing in the US after World War II. In establishing Watkins Glen as one of the most important racing venues in the world, Jean Argetsinger was at the forefront in hospitality, publicity, and community involvement. She was a founder of the IMRRC, an archival and research library dedicated to the preservation and sharing of the history of motorsports, all venues, and all series worldwide. She died in Watkins Glen, New York on January 16, 2017.Craig Howard
(64) Southern Oregon football coach who coached Tim Tebow in high school before leading the Raiders to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics championship. Howard coached high school football in Florida from 2003–10, leading Nease High School to a state championship in ’05. His quarterback was Tebow, who later won the Heisman Trophy at Florida. Howard returned to his home state in 2011 to coach a struggling Southern Oregon football team. The Raiders turned things around, winning the 2014 NAIA title and falling one victory short of a repeat in ’15. Howard died in Ashland, Oregon on January 19, 2017.Dan O'Brien Sr.
(87) longtime major league baseball executive. The Texas Rangers were one of four major league teams with whom O’Brien held front-office jobs over 45 years in professional baseball. He was the Rangers’ second general manager, from 1973–78. O'Brien began his baseball career in 1955 as a minor league general manager and spent 10 years in the minors before joining the Rangers. He left Texas to become president and later general manager of the Seattle Mariners. He also worked in the front office with the Cleveland Indians, California Angels, Arizona Fall League, and USA Baseball before his retirement in 2000. His son, Dan O’Brien Jr., was general manager of the Cincinnati Reds during the 2004–05 seasons after working as assistant general manager in Texas from 1996–2003. The elder O’Brien died in Dallas, Texas on January 16, 2017.Edwin Pope
(88) award-winning sports columnist who covered the first 47 Super Bowls and spent more than 50 years with the Miami Herald.
Pope went into the newspaper business at age 11, was a sports editor at 15, and joined the Herald
in 1956. He covered major tournaments in golf and tennis, the Olympics, Triple Crown races, baseball, basketball, boxing, and fishing, but his favorite sport was football. He covered the Miami Dolphins from their first season and recommended Don Shula for their head coaching job in 1970, a suggestion that transformed the franchise. In 1989 Pope became the youngest winner of the Red Smith Award, given for lifetime achievement in sports journalism. He died of cancer in Okeechobee, Florida, where he lived in retirement, on January 19, 2017.Previous Week
Return to Main Page
Return to Top