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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, April 8, 2017

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Don Rickles, grandmaster of insult comedyKishori Amonkar, singer of classical Indian musicSam Ard, NASCAR driverArthur Bisguier, chess grandmasterBob Cerv, baseball slugger for Yankees and KC AthleticsMarjorie Diehl-Armstrong, convicted in bank robbery plotKenneth Donnelly, Massachusetts state senatorLolis Edward Elie, civil rights pioneerTeddy Getty Gaston, fifth and last wife of J. Paul GettyAl Golin, public relations man behind McDonald's successGeorgy Grechko, Soviet cosmonautMark Hawthorne, journalist who became Berkeley's 'Hate Man'Eugene M. Lang, investor in children's education and futureMasha Leon, Polish refugee turned NYC society columnistLeonard Litwin, NYC rental property developerPatricia McKissack, author of children's books on black history and folkloreAlma Soller McLay, last survivor of US prosecuting team at Nuremberg war trialsChristopher Morahan, British TV producerGlenn O'Brien, Andy Warhol cohort who developed multifaceted careerPaul O'Neill, founder of Trans-Siberian OrchestraDavid Peel, NYC street musicianTim Pigott-Smith, British actor who starred in 'Jewel in the Crown'Paul Plummer, Massachusetts middle school principalJoseph Rascoff, manager of rock bands and performersJoan See, actress in TV commercialsRoy Sievers, first American League Rookie of the Year in 1949William Walaska, Rhode Island state senator

Art and Literature

Patricia McKissack (72) author who with her husband, Frederick (died 2013), transformed a career crisis into a prolific literary partnership that produced scores of children’s books about black history and folklore. Patricia McKissack wove the back-porch fables she remembered from childhood together with her own personal anecdotes (including a false accusation of thievery and a dinner at a whites-only restaurant) in fictional narratives. Her The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural (1992) won a Newbery honor. She died of cardiorespiratory arrest in Bridgeton, Missouri on April 7, 2017.

Glenn O'Brien (70) writer and editor, a social fixture in the downtown Manhattan art, music, and fashion world for 50 years. Over the decades, O’Brien developed a career that seemed to mirror the evolution of the downtown sensibility itself. It began in 1971, when Andy Warhol hired him to work on—and shortly thereafter, edit—Interview, Warhol’s take on a celebrity magazine. Besides his work as an editor, art and music columnist, essayist, and poet, O’Brien was a TV host (of the punk-era public access show TV Party), a stand-up comedian (once opening for David Johansen’s Buster Poindexter act), and screenwriter (his Downtown 81 had its premiere at Cannes). He also made his mark as a creative director (Barneys New York), advertising copywriter (including several major Calvin Klein TV campaigns), book editor (Madonna’s Sex), playwright (Drugs, which he wrote with Cookie Mueller), and author (the opinionated advice guide How to Be a Man: A Guide to Style & Behavior for the Modern Gentleman [2011]). He had been treated for an undisclosed illness for several years and contracted pneumonia a week ago. He died of pneumonia in New York City on April 7, 2017.

Business and Science

Al Golin (87) public relations man who in 1955 made a cold call to a fledgling restaurateur named Ray Kroc, who had bought the franchising rights to McDonald's and opened his own hamburger stand modeled after it in suburban Des Plaines, Illinois. Golin was instrumental in creating what he called a trust bank. He encouraged the McDonald’s Corp. to sponsor Ronald McDonald Houses for children with life-threatening illnesses, an All-American High School Marching Band, an All-American High School Basketball Game, and the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon—all to build good will that could be drawn upon when the company needed public support. Golin retained the McDonald’s account for 60 years in what is probably among the most enduring partnerships between a corporate client and its PR firm. He died in Scottsdale, Arizona on April 8, 2017.

Eugene M. Lang (98) investor whose 1981 spur-of-the-moment promise to an East Harlem sixth-grade graduating class that he would pay for their college educations inspired a foundation, led to the support of more than 16,000 children nationwide, and made him something of an American folk hero. A self-made businessman who flew coach class and traveled on subways and buses, Lang contributed more than $150 million to charities and institutions during his lifetime. He died in New York City on April 8, 2017.

Leonard Litwin (102) rental-property developer who built a New York residential real estate empire and paid millions to Republican and Democrat leaders to ensure tax breaks, government financing, and favorable rent laws. In the small circle of wealthy, sometimes flamboyant real estate moguls in New York, Litwin was almost invisible: a secretive man who kept his company private and his books closed. Living quietly in Great Neck, he shunned publicity and said little about his assets and activities that was not good for business or required by law. But his imprint is on the Manhattan skyline in dozens of buildings he built, owned, and operated—more than 8,700 apartments with high-end amenities and lofty rents. The holdings were assembled over 60 years in a father-and-son enterprise that ventured into the city rental market in the early ‘50s and expanded into an archipelago of towers with names like the Pavilion, the Lucerne, and Liberty Plaza. Leonard Litwin died in Melville, Long Island, New York on April 2, 2017.

Joseph Rascoff (71) accountant who showed little passion for rock ‘n’ roll but became the powerful business manager and tour producer for a roster of music powerhouses, including the Rolling Stones, U2, and Paul Simon. Although he preferred classical music, Rascoff immersed himself in the rock ‘n’ roll business. He was fascinated by the complexities of managing the business affairs of rock artists and the myriad elements of orchestrating long multicity tours. His company pioneered tour management that oversaw nearly everything but the artistic side—from lighting and hotel bookings to arena scheduling, trucking, sponsorship, and merchandising—thus taking the logistical details out of the artists’ hands. Rascoff died of prostate cancer in Los Angeles, California on April 6, 2017.


Paul Plummer (49) popular Massachusetts principal of Michael Smith Middle School. Plummer had been principal in South Hadley since 2013 after stints in the Amherst Regional and East Longmeadow school systems. He died suddenly and unexpectedly in South Hadley, Massachusetts on April 4, 2017.


Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong (68) woman convicted in a bizarre bank robbery plot that left a pizza delivery driver dead when a bomb strapped to his neck exploded. Diehl-Armstrong was serving a life sentence plus 30 years for the suburban Erie, Pennsylvania bank robbery plot, which ended in the death of Brian Wells when a bomb locked to his neck exploded after the robbery. Later identified as an unindicted coconspirator although his family maintains he was a hostage, Wells told state troopers he was forced to wear the collar at gunpoint shortly before robbing the bank in 2003. He was sitting down, handcuffed, and waiting for a bomb squad to arrive when the device exploded. Diehl-Armstrong died at the Federal Medical Center-Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas on April 4, 2017.

Alma Soller McLay (97) last surviving member of the US team that prosecuted many of the highest-ranking Nazi war criminals at the famed trials in Nuremberg, Germany after World War II. McLay was credited with later helping to compile the official US record of the trials, a painstaking four-year task that resulted in a 12-volume collection that offered many Americans their first look at the atrocities committed by the Nazis and Adolf Hitler’s diabolic vision for rolling across the globe, enslaving and killing people as his troops advanced. A secretary by training, McLay was thrust onto the world stage at age 25 and asked to fulfill the role of documentarian for what was the world’s first international criminal tribunal. She died in Torrance, California on April 5, 2017.

News and Entertainment

Kishori Amonkar (84) singer renowned for her innovative interpretation of classical Indian music. One of the leading lights of the Jaipur gharana or community of musicians, Amonkar was trained by her mother, Mogubai Kurdikar, also a well-known singer. Amonkar developed her own distinctive style, drawing on influences from other schools of Indian classical music. She broadened the sweep of the Jaipur gharana with a repertoire that included light classical songs set to traditional ragas and devotionals and even lent her voice to film music. For that she was criticized by purists, but her soulful renditions earned her millions of fans across India. Amonkar died in central Mumbai, India on April 3, 2017.

Masha Leon (86) Polish-born journalist who survived harrowing childhood escapes from grim pre-ghetto Warsaw and through Communist Siberia during World War II to mingle years later with New York's glitterati as society columnist for the world’s oldest Yiddish newspaper. Leon, who lived in Flushing, Queens, wrote her weekly “On the Go” column for the English-language version of The Forward from its founding in 1990 until December 2016. The Yiddish edition of The Forward was begun by immigrant Jewish socialists in New York in 1897; it appears online and is still published monthly in print. For all the boldface names that Leon encountered at charity events in the metropolitan area and the gossip they generated for her column, few celebrities could match the literary grist of her own odyssey through war-torn Europe. She died in New York City on April 5, 2017.

Christopher Morahan (87) producer whose many productions for British TV included the acclaimed 1984 drama series The Jewel in the Crown, about the last days of British rule in India. Morahan was well known as a producer and director for stage and TV when Denis Forman, chairman of Granada Television, asked him to translate the four India novels by Paul Scott, known as The Raj Quartet, into a TV series. Filmed on location in India and broadcast in Britain by ITV in 14 parts, four of them directed by Morahan, The Jewel in the Crown was hailed as a superlative example of high-style period drama. Morahan was the father of British actress Hattie Morahan, who most recently played the Enchantress in Beauty & the Beast (2017). He died in Guildford, Surrey, England on April 7, 2017.

Paul O'Neill (61) founder of the progressive metal band Trans-Siberian Orchestra. O'Neill was a rock producer and manager who began putting together Trans-Siberian Orchestra in 1996. The band is best known for its hard rock takes on Christmas staples like “Carol of the Bells.” O'Neill was found dead in his room by hotel staff in Tampa, Florida on April 5, 2017.

David Peel (74) longtime New York street musician whose song “I Like Marijuana” became a hippie anthem in the ‘60s. Peel collaborated with John Lennon and Yoko Ono in the early ’70s. An anarchist and marijuana evangelist, he began performing in Washington Square Park in the late ‘60s. He was equipped with three guitar chords, a screaming vocal style, and an endless stream of provocative lyrics aimed at the Establishment in all its forms. Danny Fields of Elektra Records, who later signed the Stooges and the Ramones, heard Peel and signed him to the label. Peel was recorded live in the park with a portable tape machine, singing “I Like Marijuana,” “Here Comes a Cop,” “Up Against the Wall,” and other songs released in 1968 on the album Have a Marijuana. He died of a heart attack in New York City on April 6, 2017.

Tim Pigott-Smith (70) veteran British actor who recently played Prince Charles on stage and screen. Pigott-Smith came to global attention as a sadistic police officer in British-controlled India in the '80s miniseries The Jewel in the Crown. The show became a global sensation, and Pigott-Smith said it “changed my life.” He recently earned Olivier and Tony award nominations for the play King Charles III, which imagines disastrous events after the current heir to the British throne becomes king, and reprised the role for a TV adaptation. He died in London, England on April 7, 2017.

Don Rickles (90) big-mouthed, bald-headed “Mr. Warmth” whose verbal assaults endeared him to audiences and peers and made him the acknowledged grandmaster of insult comedy. For more than 50 years Rickles headlined casinos and nightclubs from Las Vegas to Atlantic City and livened up late-night talk shows. No one was exempt from Rickles' insults, not fans nor presidents nor such fellow celebrities as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Johnny Carson. Even volatile Sinatra let Rickles have his comedic way with him. “Hey, Frank, make yourself at home. Hit somebody,” Rickles snapped at the singer attending his show. Sinatra laughed. Despite jokes that from other comics might have inspired boycotts, Rickles was one of the most beloved people in show business, idolized by everyone from Joan Rivers and Louis CK to Chris Rock and Sarah Silverman. Rickles, who would have been 91 on May 8, suffered kidney failure and died in Los Angeles, California on April 6, 2017.

Joan See (83) actress who in 1979 capitalized on her success in TV commercials by creating a school to teach others how to do the same. See had compiled a modest résumé on the New York stage when she auditioned for an Oxydol detergent commercial in the early ‘60s. She got the part, and many more followed, for Tide, Ivory Snow, and O-Cedar mops and brooms, for Thomas’s English Muffins and American Express. See's specialty, she said, was “the Westchester housewife type.” All told, she appeared in more than 300 commercials and drew on her experience as an actor and teacher to write Acting in Commercials: A Guide to Auditioning & Performing on Camera (1993). See died in Jersey City, New Jersey of complications from ovarian cancer and a recent fall, on April 5, 2017.

Politics and Military

Kenneth Donnelly (66) Massachusetts state senator, a former Lexington (Mass.) Fire Department veteran who as a politician was known for fighting for issues including mental health care and employment training. A Democrat, Donnelly represented the 4th Middlesex District, including Arlington, Burlington, Billerica, Woburn, and Lexington. Before becoming a senator he was a firefighter for 37 years. Some of the causes Donnelly championed during his political career were increasing access to mental health services, funding workforce training for the unemployed, and protecting homeless families and retirees on fixed incomes. He died of a brain tumor in Arlington, Massachusetts on April 2, 2017.

Georgy Grechko (85) Soviet-era cosmonaut. Grechko made three trips into space between 1975–85, spending a total of 134 days above the Earth. His longest was a stay of more than three months aboard the Salyut-6 space station in 1977–78. He later became a cosmonaut instructor and joined the faculty at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Atmospheric Physics. He died in Moscow, Russia on April 8, 2017.

William Walaska (71) former Rhode Island state senator in office for more than 20 years. Walaska was known for his work on environmental protection, port development, and the economy. He talked of his fight against a rare blood and bone marrow disease in 2016 in championing legislation to allow people with terminal illness to try off-label medications. He was senator from 1995 until 2016, when he lost the Democrat primary. Walaska died of cancer in Warwick, Rhode Island on April 3, 2017.

Society and Religion

Lolis Edward Elie (87) civil rights pioneer whose advocacy as a lawyer, protest organizer, and negotiator helped to propel the racial desegregation of New Orleans. As a newly minted lawyer in the early ‘60s, Elie found himself among the leaders of an emerging movement to integrate downtown lunch counters and other public accommodations and to boycott stores in a black shopping district where blacks could get only menial jobs. He died of Parkinson’s disease in New Orleans’s Treme neighborhood on April 4, 2017.

Teddy Getty Gaston (103) J. Paul Getty was one of America’s richest men; Teddy Lynch was a crimson-haired dinner club singer in New York who aspired to be in opera. Together they forged a complex and stormy relationship that survived a world war, long stretches of separation, and imprisonment but was ultimately undone by the death of a child. Decades after Getty died in 1976, Teddy Getty Gaston retraced their marriage in the 2013 memoir, Alone Together: My Life with J. Paul Getty, a story of glamour and pain in early 20th century America that pulled back some of the mystique from one of America’s best-known billionaires. Gaston died in Pacific Palisades, California on April 8, 2017.

Mark Hawthorne (80) former New York Times reporter who gave it all up one day in 1969. Better known as the beloved and respected “Hate Man” of Berkeley, Calif., Hawthorne lived for decades on the streets of Berkeley and in People’s Park. An admission of hate, for him, was a prelude to love. He died in Berkeley, California on April 2, 2017.


Sam Ard (78) two-time champion of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) second-tier series. Ard won titles in what is now known as the Xfinity Series in 1983–84. He won 22 races in three seasons—just 92 career starts—and his average finishing position was an impressive fifth. He won 18 races over his 1983–84 championship seasons, just the second and third year of the series’ existence, but suffered severe head trauma in a crash at North Carolina Speedway in the next-to-last race in '84 and retired because of injuries suffered in the final race of that season. He suffered from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases for much of the last 20 years. Ard died in Pamplico, South Carolina on April 2, 2017.

Arthur Bisguier (87) largely self-taught chess grandmaster who brought a native Bronx brashness to his style of play in defeating some of the game’s greatest players while finding mostly frustration when he faced Bobby Fischer (died 2008). Bisguier won the New York High School Championship while still in junior high school. He was not yet 20 when he won the US Junior Championship in 1948. In 1949 he successfully defended the title and later won the US Open in '50, the first of five times he triumphed or tied for first in that tournament. In 1954 he won the US Championship, an invitation-only event. Bisguier might have won more US Championships—or at least one more—if not for Fischer, who beat him in all but two of their 15 matches. Bisguier died of respiratory failure in Framingham, Massachusetts on April 5, 2017.

Bob Cerv (91) baseball slugger who made it to the New York Yankees not once, not twice, but three times. First the Yankees signed Cerv; then they traded for him; then they made a deal to get him back again. Cerv never played regularly for the Yankees, who ruled baseball at the time and were stocked with talent. They won five World Series from 1949–53 and were transitioning from the Joe DiMaggio era to Mickey Mantle’s. Cerv found full-time work—and stardom—only after the Yankees sold him to the Kansas City Athletics, perennially one of baseball’s worst teams. After a mediocre start, Cerv broke out in 1958, batting .305, hitting 38 home runs, and driving in 104 runs. He died in Blair, Nebraska on April 6, 2017.

Roy Sievers (90) baseball outfielder who won the American League's first Rookie of the Year Award playing for the 1949 St. Louis Browns and became one of the game's leading power hitters of the ‘50s with the original Washington Senators. Playing in the outfield and at first base for 17 major league seasons, Sievers hit 318 home runs. His best season came in 1957, when he had a league-leading 42 homers and 114 runs batted in while hitting .301 for the last-place Senators. Right-handed-batting Sievers also hit home runs in six consecutive games at the Senators’ Griffith Stadium that summer, matching an AL record that has since been broken. He died in Spanish Lake, Missouri on April 3, 2017.

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