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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, April 29, 2017

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Vito Acconci, father of performance and video artBenjamin R. Barber, political theorist and academicHenry Chung, Hunanese cook and restaurateurJonathan Demme, director of 'Silence of the Lambs' and 'Philadelphia'Anne R. and Philip K. Dick in the '60sAgustín Edwards, Chilean media magnateThomas Francis Forkner Sr., cofounder of Waffle House chainLittle Gem, baby sea lion born to sick motherDon Gordon, right, actor friend of Steve McQueen, in 'Bullitt'Richard Haynes, Houston defense attorneyWilliam M. Hoffman, book editor,  playwright, and teacherVinod Khanna, Bollywood actor turned politicianMartha Lavey, artistic director of Chicago's Steppenwolf TheaterMichael Mantenuto, actor in Disney movie 'Miracle'Shobha Nehru, Hungarian Jew who married into India's leading familyKate O'Beirne, conservative editor of 'National Review'Luis Olmo, first Puerto Rican position player in major league baseballJoseph ('Ray') Perry, father of US Energy Secretary and former Texas governor Rick PerryRobert M. Pirsig, author of 'Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance'Nicholas Sand, proponent and producer of LSDKenny Sears, first basketball player on 'Sports Illustrated' coverPeter Spier, award-winning children’s book author and illustratorBrody Stephens, Indiana cancer patientKerry Turman, bassist with The TemptationsSolly Walker, St. john's basketball star who chose career in educationChuck Wielgus, longtime executive director of USA SwimmingChad Young, US cyclistDr. Julius Youngner, right, last member of Salk research team that developed polio vaccine

Art and Literature

Vito Acconci (77) Bronx-born father of performance and video art and a poetic, influential force on the New York art scene for decades. Starting in the late ‘60s, Acconci began creating documented performances in the street or for tiny audiences, his radar tuned to an unease that pervaded American society. Some performances might have gotten him arrested, although Acconci also seemed to possess the instincts of a cat burglar. In one of his most famous early works, Following Piece, from 1969, he spent each day for almost a month following a person picked at random on the streets of Manhattan, sometimes taking a friend along to photograph the action. The rules were only that Acconci had to keep following the person until he or she entered a private place where he couldn’t go in. He died in New York City on April 27, 2017.

Anne R. Dick (90) muse and third of science fiction author Philip K. Dick's (died 1982) five wives. Anne Dick shows up as female characters in several of Dick's books. She inspired Juliana, the heroine of his best-known novel, now in its second TV season on Amazon, The Man in the High Castle, who has no trouble slashing a Nazi operative’s throat, and several shrill, carping, unhappy wives in other books. Anne Dick died of congestive heart failure in Point Reyes Station, California on April 28, 2017.

Robert M. Pirsig (88) author whose philosophical novel Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance became a million-selling classic after more than 100 publishers turned it down. The book was published in 1974 and was based on a motorcycle trip Pirsig took in the late ‘60s with his 12-year-old son, Chris. It began as an essay Pirsig wrote after he and Chris (killed by a mugger in 1979) rode from Minnesota to the Dakotas. William Morrow finally took on the book, with editor James Landis writing at the time that he found it “brilliant beyond belief.” Pirsig died in South Berwick, Maine on April 24, 2017.

Peter Spier (89) Dutch-born award-winning children’s book author and illustrator who depicted Noah’s biblical journey, told the story of the Erie Canal to the words of the song “Low Bridge, Everybody Down,” and gave voice to the sounds of hundreds of animals like hippos (“RRUMMPF”) and starlings (“FEE-YOU”). Spier’s dozens of books are filled with meticulously drawn and brilliantly colored images, like the elephants, horses, seals, acrobats, clowns, and trapeze artists in Circus! (1992) and the pairs of animals in Noah’s Ark (1977), which he filled with a cast of creatures that seems animated on the page. Spier died of congestive heart failure in Port Jefferson, New York on April 27, 2017.

Business and Science

Henry Chung (98) brought the lessons of Chinese cooking from his grandmother’s rural kitchen to San Francisco, where in 1974 he opened one of the first American restaurants to specialize in spicy Hunanese cuisine. Chung also wrote a cookbook, Henry Chung’s Hunan Style Chinese Cookbook (1978). He died in San Francisco, California on April 23, 2017.

Thomas Francis Forkner Sr. (98) jumped from selling real estate to the restaurant business when he cofounded Waffle House in the ‘50s. Forkner died less than two months after the death of his business partner, Joe Rogers (died March 3), who recruited him to help launch the famous Southern diner chain, on April 24, 2017.

Dr. Julius Youngner (96) virologist whose nearly fatal childhood bout of lobar pneumonia led him to become a medical researcher and a core member of the team that developed the Salk polio vaccine in 1955. Youngner was the last surviving member of the original three-man research team assembled by Dr. Jonas Salk (died 1995) at the University of Pittsburgh to address the polio scourge, which peaked in the US in the early ‘50s when more than 50,000 children were struck by it in one year. Three other assistants later joined the group. Salk credited his six aides with major roles in developing the polio vaccine, a landmark advance in modern medicine, which he announced on April 12, 1955. The announcement—that the vaccine had proved up to 90 per cent effective in tests on 440,000 youngsters in 44 states—was greeted with ringing church bells and openings of public swimming pools, previously drained for fear of contagion. Within six years, annual cases of the paralyzing disease had declined from 14,000 to fewer than 1,000. By 1979 polio had been virtually eliminated in developed nations. Youngner died in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on April 27, 2017.


Benjamin R. Barber (77) political theorist whose 1995 book, Jihad vs. McWorld, analyzed the socioeconomic forces leading to the September 11, 2001 attacks and a surge in tribalism around the world. Barber was an academic and public intellectual who argued, with missionary zeal, the virtues of decentralized democracy. In his later writing he promoted cities as solution generators for pressing world problems, their size and flexibility allowing them to generate and implement ideas more creatively than national government. He died of pancreatic cancer in New York City on April 24, 2017.


Richard Haynes (90) flamboyant and successful Houston defense lawyer who argued some of the most notorious cases in modern Texas history. Haynes inherited the mantle of legendary Texas lawyer Percy Foreman when he began compiling a spectacular record of acquittals in seemingly unwinnable cases, both small and large. Between 1956, the year he began practicing law, and ‘68, he defended 163 clients accused of drunk driving and won every case, establishing one of the longest winning streaks in legal history. In the nearly 40 capital-punishment cases he handled, none of his clients was given the death penalty. Haynes made his name with a series of celebrated cases beginning in the ‘70s. He died in Trinity, Texas on April 28, 2017.

Nicholas Sand (75) disciple of LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) who spent his adult life producing the hallucinogenic drug in an attempt to turn on the world. For years Sand raced to stay a step ahead of federal agents, and after being convicted on drug and tax-evasion charges, he hid in Canada for 20 years under an assumed name. Eventually, after being arrested and unmasked, he was returned to the US, where he served six years in prison. He emerged an unchanged man, estimating that he had manufactured about 30 pounds of LSD over the course of his career, enough for nearly 140 million doses. Sand died of a heart attack in Lagunitas, California on April 24, 2017.

News and Entertainment

Jonathan Demme (73) Oscar-winning filmmaker who observed American characters with a discerning eye, a social conscience, and a rock ‘n’ roll heart, achieving especially wide acclaim with The Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia. Demme died of esophageal cancer in New York City on April 26, 2017.

Agustín Edwards (89) Chilean media magnate who published El Mercurio, that country’s most influential conservative newspaper, and played a crucial role in overthrowing the Socialist government of Salvador Allende in 1973. Edwards had been in an induced coma for almost two months since returning from medical treatment in New York, where he had experienced complications after an operation. He died at his farm in Graneros, about 46 miles south of Santiago, the capital of Chile, on April 24, 2017.

Don Gordon (90) Emmy-nominated character actor who often starred alongside his close friend Steve McQueen (died 1980). Gordon found steady work in the ‘60s–’80s as a supporting actor on TV and in the movies, often playing tough guys. In 1962 he was nominated for an Emmy for his role as Joey Tassili, a troubled young man, on The Defenders, a CBS courtroom drama that starred E. G. Marshall and Robert Reed. Early on Gordon appeared on shows like Space Patrol in the ‘50s and on McQueen’s CBS Western, Wanted: Dead or Alive in 1959–60. He was also cast as Lt. Hank Bertelli on the short-lived ‘60s show The Blue Angels. His most memorable film roles were alongside McQueen in Bullitt (1968); Papillon (1973), which also starred Dustin Hoffman; and The Towering Inferno (1974), a disaster film with Paul Newman and Faye Dunaway. Gordon died in Los Angeles, California on April 24, 2017.

William M. Hoffman (78) playwright whose play As Is was among the first sign of Broadway’s coming to grips with the AIDS epidemic. Hoffman also wrote the libretto for John Corigliano’s opera The Ghosts of Versailles. He began his career as a book editor at Hill & Wang, where he published gay and lesbian playwrights in the New American Plays series and in the 1979 anthology Gay Plays: The First Collection. He followed his success as a writer by teaching, as a professor of journalism, communication, and theater and as host of Conversations with William M. Hoffman, a regularly scheduled TV program on which he interviewed theatrical and musical personalities. Hoffman died of cardiac arrest in the Bronx, New York on April 29, 2017.

Martha Lavey (60) actress who took over as artistic director of the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago in 1995 and over the next 20 years made it a showcase for acclaimed productions and an incubator for new plays and young playwrights. Lavey died of a stroke in Chicago, Illinois on April 25, 2017.

Michael Mantenuto (35) former actor best known for his role in the Disney hockey movie Miracle (2004) who later joined the Army. Mantenuto was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in his car at Saltwater State Park in Des Moines, Washington, a Seattle suburb, on April 24, 2017.

Kate O'Beirne (67) editor and pundit who advanced the conservative agenda on the pages of National Review and defended it on the CNN program The Capital Gang. O’Beirne was Washington editor and wrote the “Bread & Circuses” column for National Review under its founding editor, William F. Buckley Jr. For 11 years she sparred with Robert Novak, Albert Hunt, Mark Shields, and Margaret Carlson on The Capital Gang, She was also a substitute host on Crossfire on CNN and a commentator on NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS. In 2005, after 10 years as National Review’s Washington editor, O'Beirne became president of the National Review Institute, a research and advocacy organization, a post she held for six years. She died of lung cancer in McLean, Virginia on April 23, 2017.

Kerry Turman (59) longtime bassist for The Temptations. Turman had performed with The Temptations since the ‘80s. The group had several hits in the ‘60s and ‘70s, including the No. 1 song “My Girl.” The vocal group is currently touring with the Beach Boys. Turman was found dead of natural causes at a local hotel, shortly after performing in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, on April 23, 2017.

Politics and Military

Vinod Khanna (70) dashing Bollywood actor turned politician. Khanna made his Bollywood debut in 1968 and acted in more than 100 films. He entered politics in 1997 as a lawmaker with the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, representing the Gurdaspur constituency in northern Punjab state in Parliament. He was also junior external affairs minister and culture and tourism minister. Khanna died of bladder carcinoma in New Delhi, India on April 27, 2017.

Shobha Nehru (108) Hungarian Jew who narrowly escaped the Holocaust, married into India‘s leading political family, and witnessed religious and ethnic violence convulsing both her native and adopted countries. After marrying Indian diplomat Braj Kumar Nehru (died in 2001) in 1935, the former Magdolna Friedmann took the name Shobha, selected by her in-laws, dressed in saris, and was so thoroughly assimilated that acquaintances often took her for a pale-skinned Kashmiri Pandit, like the Nehrus themselves. Shobha Nehru died in the Himalayan foothills on April 25, 2017.

Joseph ('Ray') Perry (92) father of US Energy Secretary and former Texas governor Rick Perry. The elder Perry spent decades as a rural west Texas county commissioner. He died in Abilene, Texas on April 27, 2017.

Society and Religion

Little Gem (2 days) baby sea lion born prematurely to a sick mother at SeaWorld San Diego. The mother was rescued from a beach in the city of Oceanside on April 25. She was too sick to care for the pup, who was nursed with a special milk formula. The mother may have eaten shellfish or fish poisoned by domoic acid, a naturally occurring toxin from algae. The female pup had appeared to be healthy, but she died two days after she was discovered in the pen where her mother was being treated, on April 28, 2017. The mother was recovering.


Luis Olmo (97) first Puerto Rican position player in the major leagues when he made his debut with the 1943 Brooklyn Dodgers, helping to create a path for the dozens of Puerto Rican ballplayers who have made a major impact on the game. Olmo, who played mostly in the outfield, arrived at Ebbets Field a year after Hiram Bithorn, a right-handed pitcher, became the first Puerto Rican major leaguer when he joined the Chicago Cubs. Olmo was the oldest living former Dodger when he died in Santurce, Puerto Rico on April 28, 2017.

Kenny Sears (83) two-time All-Star for the New York Knicks, first basketball player to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated, in 1954, then a new magazine. Sears was chosen because of his standout play at Santa Clara University, where he was twice named West Coast Conference player of the year. In college he went on three impressive NCAA tournament runs with the team, reaching the Final Four in 1952 and the round of 8 in ‘53–54. As a senior, he averaged 22.3 points per game and was named an all-American. The Knicks chose him as the fourth overall pick in the NBA draft in 1955. Sears led the team in scoring for two seasons, averaging 18.6 points per game in 1957–58 and 21.0 in ‘58–59. He was chosen an All-Star in 1958–59 and twice led the NBA in field-goal percentage, shooting .490 in the ‘58–59 season and .477 in the next. He died in Watsonville, California on April 23, 2017.

Brody Stephens (8) Indiana boy who befriended his basketball and football heroes during a years-long fight with leukemia. Brody was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia as an infant. He fought it off, but the cancer returned in 2015. As he underwent hospitalizations and a bone marrow transplant, Brody was visited by his heroes, including Golden State's Stephen Curry and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, tight end Jack Doyle and coach Chuck Pagano. Golden State flew Brody to California in March to serve as ball boy and to attend the team's shoot-around and Coach Steve Kerr's pregame press conference. He died in Indianapolis, Indiana of a viral complication on April 29, 2017.

Solly Walker (85) St. John's basketball star in the ‘50s and the school's first black player. In his first season on the varsity, Walker, on December 17, 1951, became the first black player to compete in a basketball game against Kentucky on the Wildcats' home court. St. John's reached the NCAA championship game that season, the first of two Final Four appearances in the school's history. In 1952–53, the 6-foot-4 swingman helped St. John's to advance to the NIT title game by averaging 7.0 points and 6.0 rebounds. His finest season came as a senior in 1953–54 when he topped the team in scoring (14) and rebounding (12.2). Walker was drafted by the New York Knicks but chose a career with the New York Board of Education, eventually becoming a principal at a Manhattan school. He died on April 28, 2017.

Chuck Wielgus (67) USA Swimming executive director who led a federation that brought home 156 Olympic medals during his 20 years at the helm. Wielgus was the longest-tenured leader among US Olympic organizations. The 156 medals represent about one-third of America's overall total from the last five Olympics. During his 20 years, USA Swimming's revenue increased by about 600 per cent and its four-year Olympic-cycle budget grew from $35 million to nearly $160 million. Membership more than doubled, to 400,000-plus, and Wielgus helped to turn swimming's Olympic trials into a showcase event. The 2016 trials sold out more than 200,000 tickets. Wielgus died of colon cancer in Colorado Springs, Colorado on April 23, 2017.

Chad Young (21) promising cyclist who died from injuries sustained during a high-speed crash at the Tour of Gila, the first American rider to die in a prominent North American stage race in nearly 20 years. The last American rider to die from injuries sustained in a major North American competition was Nicole Reinhart, who crashed during a race in 2000 in Arlington, Massachusetts. Collegiate rider Randall Fox was killed in 2016 during a race near Seattle. Young was involved in a crash April 23 during the queen stage of the New Mexico race. He was airlifted to a hospital in Tucson, where he was initially listed in stable condition but was downgraded to critical on April 25 when the extent of his head injuries became clear. He died three days later in Tucson, Arizona on April 28, 2017.

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