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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, August 19, 2017

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Dick Gregory, comedian and civil rights activistBrian Aldiss, British sci-fi writerGene Bennett, Cincinnati Reds scout and executiveCharles R. Bentley, geophysicist who explored AntarcticaGunnar Birkerts, Latvian-born US architectJoe Bologna, actor, director, and Oscar-nominated screenwriterFrank Broyles, Arkansas football coachSonny Burgess, rockabilly singerFranklin D. Cleckley, first black justice of West Virginia Supreme CourtTeresa Cruz, Mexican-American community leaderRev. Francis X. DiLorenzo, conservative Catholic bishop of Richmond, Va.Vern Ehlers, US congressman from MichiganArthur Finkelstein, conservative political strategistBruce Forsyth, British TV personalityJanusz Glowacki, Polish-US playwright and screenwriterTommy Hawkins, basketball star for Notre Dame and LA LakersDr. Marshall H. Klaus, neonatologistSonny Landham, action-movie actor and stuntmanJon Lester, convicted Howard Beach ringleaderM. T. Liggett, Kansas folk artistRoger McKellips, South Dakota state senator and majority leaderMilton Mollen, led '90s investigation of NYPD corruptionPaul Oliver, British historian of American bluesFadwa Suleiman, Syrian actress and antigovernment protesterStuart J. Thompson, Tony-winning Broadway producerBea Wain, among last of big band singersJo Walker-Meador, headed Country Music AssociationLester Williams, New England Patriots nose tackleRobert Yancy, son of singer Natalie Cole

Art and Literature

Brian Aldiss (92) one of the most prolific and influential science fiction writers of the 20th century. Aldiss served in India and Burma with the British Army during World War II and later became a bookseller, publishing his first stories in a trade magazine. He later had a huge influence on sci-fi as a writer of stories and novels and as editor of many anthologies. His work includes Greybeard, set in a world without young people, and the Helliconia trilogy, centered on a planet in which the seasons last for centuries. Aldiss's 1969 short story “Supertoys Last All Summer Long” was an unrealized dream project for the late Stanley Kubrick and formed the basis for Steven Spielberg's 2001 film A. I. Artificial Intelligence. He also wrote general fiction, some of it inspired by his wartime experiences. Aldiss died in Oxford, England on August 19, 2017.

Gunnar Birkerts (92) internationally acclaimed modernist architect who designed buildings including the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis (shown above), the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York, and the University of Michigan Law Library. Birkerts was born in Riga, Latvia in 1925 but fled during World War II when he was in his teens. He made his way to Stuttgart, Germany, where he began studying architecture. In 1949 he emigrated to the US. He was based in the Detroit area for much of his career and worked for several different architecture firms. He eventually led his own firm, Gunnar Birkerts & Associates, for decades, and taught architecture at the University of Michigan from 1959–90. He died of congestive heart failure in Needham, Massachusetts on August 15, 2017.

M. T. Liggett (86) self-taught folk artist from Kansas whose roadside sculptures, signs, and whirligigs often carried political messages and brought him a measure of fame. Liggett’s scrap-metal gallery—conceived, shaped, and welded in his shop nearby—stood on farmland in tiny Mullinville, where a prairie wind kept the whirligigs spinning, lending energy to his hodgepodge of installations. His clownish, abstract, cartoonish, and grotesque works reflected his bent for provocation. Liggett, who learned he had brain cancer a year ago, died of renal failure in Wichita, Kansas on August 17, 2017.

Business and Science

Charles R. Bentley (87) leader of a team of scientists who in the '50s measured the West Antarctic Ice Sheet for the first time and later explained the mechanics of the fast-moving ice streams that drain the sheet. Thought to be a thin layer covering high mountains, the sheet was two miles thick at some points and extended as far below sea level as the highest mountains rose above the surface. The team discovered a trench the size of Mexico. Now known as the Bentley Subglacial Trench, it is the deepest spot on Earth not covered by ocean. Bentley made more than 15 trips to the Antarctic, the last in 2009, mapping the structure and physical properties of the ice sheet and probing the continent beneath it. He died of Parkinson's disease in Oakland, California on August 19, 2017.

Dr. Marshall H. Klaus (90) neonatologist whose research in the early ‘70s into emotional bonding between parents and their newborns prompted improvements in how hospital maternity wards care for mothers and their infants. Klaus and his colleague at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Dr. John H. Kennell, a pediatrician, concluded in their book Maternal-Infant Bonding (1976) that contact between a mother and her child in the first hours or even days of a baby’s life heightens the mother’s attachment to her child. Klaus died in Palo Alto, California on August 15, 2017.


Paul Oliver (90) Briton who wrote some of the earliest and most authoritative histories of one of America’s great indigenous musical forms, the blues. Oliver first heard black American music as a teenager in England during World War II. The extraordinary sounds sent him on a lifelong quest as a record collector, field researcher, and historian. A scrupulous researcher with a fluent writing style, he opened the eyes of readers in Britain and the US to a musical form that had been overlooked and often belittled. After taking a trip through the American South in 1964, interviewing and recording blues singers, Oliver wrote The Story of the Blues (1969), the first comprehensive history of the genre that remains an indispensable work. The author of several other books on the history of the blues, Oliver died in Shipton-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire, England, on August 15, 2017.


Franklin D. Cleckley (77) first black justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court. A civil rights attorney, Cleckley was appointed to fill a vacancy on the state Supreme Court in 1994 by then-Gov. Gaston Caperton. He spent 27 months on the court and decided not to run for election. Cleckley earned an undergraduate degree at Anderson (Ind.) College and a law degree from Indiana University. He joined the West Virginia University law school faculty in 1969 and returned in ‘96 after leaving the Supreme Court. He died in Morgantown, West Virginia on August 14, 2017.

Jon Lester (48) British electrical engineer who, as a teenage immigrant to the US, was the convicted ringleader of a dozen white teens who ambushed three black men in Howard Beach, Queens, New York in 1986, savagely beating one and causing another to run into highway traffic, where he was struck and killed by a car. Lester was convicted of second-degree manslaughter and first-degree assault. He was sentenced in 1988 to the maximum prison term, 10 to 30 years; two others were convicted of manslaughter as well. In 2001 Lester was paroled and deported to Britain, where he earned an engineering degree and started his own business. He committed suicide in Manchester, England on August 14, 2017.

Milton Mollen (97) former state judge and New York City deputy mayor who later led a commission that found that the New York Police Department had been “willfully blind” to drug-related corruption by organized bands of rogue officers in the ‘80s and early ’90s. The Mollen Commission was established by Mayor David N. Dinkins in 1992 after five officers in two Brooklyn precincts were arrested by the Suffolk County police and accused of working as a ring to buy cocaine in drug-infested neighborhoods in their precincts and resell it on Long Island. It quickly emerged that although the NYPD had received many complaints over several years that one of the officers, Michael Dowd, was dealing drugs, it had nonetheless allowed him to remain on the force—until he was arrested by the Suffolk County authorities. Reports also surfaced that federal investigators were pursuing allegations of corruption by officers in other city precincts. Mollen died in New York City on August 14, 2017.

News and Entertainment

Joe Bologna (82) Oscar-nominated screenwriter. Bologna was nominated for an Oscar in 1971 for best adapted screenplay for Lovers & Strangers and won an Emmy in '73. As an actor, he had a string of TV appearances but was best known for the 1982 comedy My Favorite Year. He was also a voice actor for the 2006 animated film Ice Age: The Meltdown and had a role in the 1999 Adam Sandler comedy Big Daddy. The actor and director was married to actress Renee Taylor, who credited his doctors for prolonging his life so he could receive a lifetime achievement award at the Night of 100 Stars for the Actors' Fund of America on February 26. Bologna died in Duarte, California after a three-year battle against pancreatic cancer, on August 13, 2017.

Sonny Burgess (88) early pioneer of what became known as rockabilly music. Burgess was among a group of singers in the mid-‘50s who mixed rhythm and blues with country and western music. The sound became known as rockabilly and included Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Burgess eventually signed with legendary Sun Records in Memphis, where Presley, Cash, and Lewis were among the artists under contract. He toured under the name “Sonny Burgess & The Pacers,” transitioning from honky tonk to what became rockabilly. His high-energy performances were on par with the antics of Jerry Lee Lewis. Burgess would sometimes dive into the audience, and he occasionally dyed his hair a flaming red to match his guitar and sports jacket. He died in Newport, Arkansas of complications from a fall, on August 19, 2017.

Bruce Forsyth (89) English entertainer, host, and quizmaster whose career spanned the history of TV. Dapper and mustachioed, with a toothy smile and cheeky charm, Forsyth was a TV presence for 75 years. Guinness World Records recognized him in 2012 as the male entertainer with the longest TV career. He was most recently a host of Strictly Come Dancing, a popular dance competition that premiered on BBC One in 2004. Forsyth died in London, England on August 18, 2017.

Janusz Glowacki (78) Polish-US playwright and screenwriter. Popular in New York and Polish artistic and intellectual circles, Glowacki was the author of award-winning plays Antigone in New York and The Fourth Sister, which set classic themes in the contemporary world. Born in Poznan, western Poland, he made a name for himself in the ‘60s with short stories and screenplays, including for Poland’s leading filmmaker Andrzej Wajda. Glowacki settled in New York in the early ‘80s, choosing not to return to Poland after its Communist authorities imposed martial law, but he did return to Warsaw after the 1989 ouster of Communist rule. He died in Warsaw, Poland on August 19, 2017.

Dick Gregory (84) comedian and activist who broke racial barriers in the ‘60s and used his humor to spread messages of social justice and nutritional health. As one of the first black standup comedians to find success with white audiences in the early ‘60s, Gregory rose from an impoverished childhood in St. Louis to win a college track scholarship and become a celebrated satirist who commented upon racial divisions at the dawn of the civil rights movement. His sharp commentary soon led him into civil rights activism, where his ability to woo audiences through humor helped to bring national attention to fledgling efforts at integration and social equality for blacks. He briefly sought political office, running unsuccessfully for mayor of Chicago in 1966 and US president in ‘68, when he got 200,000 votes as the Peace & Freedom party candidate. He died of a severe bacterial infection in Washington, DC on August 19, 2017.

Sonny Landham (76) action-movie actor who costarred in Predator and 48 Hrs. Landham was a brawny, deep-voiced actor and stuntman who played a bit part in Walter Hill's 1979 street-gang thriller The Warriors before the director cast him as trigger-happy criminal Billy Bear in 48 Hrs (1982). Part Cherokee and Seminole, Landham was perhaps most known for playing Native American tracker Billy Sole in the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger film Predator. He entered the movie business after working in pornography in the '70s. Later in life he attempted brief and unsuccessful political campaigns. He died of congestive heart failure in Lexington, Kentucky on August 17, 2017.

Fadwa Suleiman (47) outspoken Syrian actress who took center stage at antigovernment protests in the early days of the uprising against President Bashar Assad. Suleiman, who hailed from Assad's minority Alawite sect, became a hero to many for taking a stand against his family's decades-old rule. She often appeared at peaceful protests in the central city of Homs, giving speeches to inspire the crowds alongside local soccer star Abdelbasset Sarout, who later became an armed opposition fighter. The impassioned actress, known for her performances in numerous plays and on TV shows and series, soon became a rare female icon of the rebellion, urging protesters to remain peaceful and focused on their demand for freedom and justice. In 2012 she disguised her appearance and was smuggled out to neighboring Jordan, then continued to Paris, France, where she died from an illness on August 17, 2017.

Stuart J. Thompson (62) Tony Award-winning producer and manager of Broadway shows who brought a low-key style to an industry known for its razzmatazz and helped to mount hits like The Book of Mormon. Thompson was a respected leader in the theater community, not only as a producer but also as a general manager of more than 70 Broadway, off-Broadway, and national touring productions. In an industry filled with larger-than-life figures who reveled in the spotlight, he preferred to stay behind the scenes, but his sharp intellect, good taste, and dedication made him an influential force. His productions were nominated for 20 Tony Awards and won six. He died of esophageal cancer in New York City on August 17, 2017.

Bea Wain (100) one of the last surviving singers from the big band era who began performing on the radio when she was only 6 and remained a stage presence for decades. Wain was among the revered singers of the ‘30s and ’40s, when bandleaders such as Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, and Benny Goodman captivated America with their jazz-infused performances and recordings. Her breakthrough came when trumpeter and arranger Larry Clinton brought her aboard as the voice of a band he formed in 1937. While Clinton’s band never achieved the lasting stardom of Miller, Dorsey, or Goodman, it did have a string of hits that included “Deep Purple” and “Heart & Soul” and was a popular touring ensemble. The band also achieved recognition by adapting classical music to the day’s popular big band sound. Wain was the widow of radio announcer/actor Andre Baruch (died in 1991). She died of congestive heart failure in Beverly Hills, California on August 19, 2017.

Jo Walker-Meador (93) matriarch of country music who led the Country Music Association for nearly 30 years. Walker-Meador was an office manager for the CMA when it was created in 1958, then took over as executive director in ‘62 and held that position until ’91. During her tenure, the CMA launched a fund-raiser to build the Hall of Fame, started its annual televised awards show in the ‘60s, and began Fan Fair, precursor to the CMA Festival. Walker-Meador died in Nashville, Tennessee on August 15, 2017.

Robert Yancy (39) only child of singer Natalie Cole and grandson of crooner Nat (“King”) Cole (died in 1965). Natalie Cole was 65 when she died on December 31, 2015 of pulmonary arterial hypertension, which led to heart failure. Yancy, whose father was the first of Cole's three husbands, was a drummer who played in his mother's touring band and performed at her funeral in January 2016. Yancy was found dead at his home in Sherman Oaks, California after authorities were contacted to make a welfare check. His death was reported as caused by a sudden heart attack on August 14, 2017.

Politics and Military

Vern Ehlers (83) research physicist and moderate Republican who represented a western Michigan congressional district for 17 years and advocated Great Lakes cleanup funding. Ehlers decided in 2010 against seeking reelection in the 3rd District, which currently includes much of the Grand Rapids region and stretches beyond Battle Creek. He won the seat in a 1993 special election after serving 11 years in the Legislature and eight years on the Kent County Board of Commissioners. In Congress he successfully advocated a law that authorized spending $270 million over five years to clean up sediments in the Great Lakes and oversaw the US’s first major statement on science policy in more than 50 years. He also was involved in improving math and science education. Ehlers died in Grand Rapids, Michigan on August 15, 2017.

Arthur Finkelstein (72) political Svengali who revolutionized campaign polling and financing and helped to elect conservative candidates including US President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. Finkelstein was among the first political strategists in the late ‘70s to grasp the potential of a US Supreme Court ruling that allowed independent political committees to spend money on behalf of individual candidates and causes. The decision led to a proliferation of fund-raising vehicles that were supposed to be beyond the control of candidates or party officials but that in fact often worked with their campaigns. One such group, the National Conservative Political Action Committee, was established with Finkelstein’s help. He died of lung cancer in Ipswich, Massachusetts on August 18, 2017.

Roger McKellips (94) former South Dakota Democrat state Senate Majority Leader from 1993–94, the last time Democrats controlled a state legislative chamber. McKellips was the Democrat candidate for governor in 1978. He beat Lt. Gov. Harvey Wollman in the primary before losing to Republican Bill Janklow in the general election. McKellips served in the state Legislature from 1977–78 and ‘81–94 and held the posts of assistant minority leader and minority leader. He worked as a banker in private life and died in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on August 18, 2017.

Society and Religion

Teresa Cruz (89) Mexican-American community leader, a cofounder of the Arizona social-services agency Chicanos Por La Causa. Cruz helped to found the agency in 1969 and worked for it as a counselor for more than 40 years. The Arizona Diamondbacks honored Cruz in 2016 with an award named for Puerto Rican baseball legend Roberto Clemente under a Major League Baseball initiative setting aside a seat in each ballpark for a community hero. Cruz was also honored in 2012 as an Arizona Latina Trailblazer by Phoenix College's Raul H. Castro Institute. She was active with Chicanos Por La Causa until her physical limitations became too great last year. She died in Phoenix, Arizona on August 17, 2017.

Rev. Francis X. DiLorenzo (75) bishop of the Diocese of Richmond for 13 years who made a return to conservative values his top priority. DiLorenzo was installed as the diocese's 12th bishop in 2004 and vowed to bring the practices and values of the diocese back in line with the Scriptures. Within a few months he had appointed a diocesan theologian and began rolling back some of the more liberal policies put in effect by his progressive predecessor, former Bishop Walter E. Sullivan. DiLorenzo suspended the diocese's Sexual Minorities Commission, the first official group to reach out to gay and lesbian Catholics in the late ‘70s. He also sparked controversy by dismissing an advocate for ordaining women as priests from a diocesan women's commission. He was hospitalized briefly in 2004 for a heart catheterization procedure. DiLorenzo died in Richmond, Virginia on August 17, 2017.


Gene Bennett (89) was with the Cincinnati Reds organization for more than 60 years as a scout and executive. Bennett began scouting with the Reds in 1958 and became scouting supervisor in ’75. His signings included Don Gullett, Barry Larkin, and Paul O'Neill. Bennett received many scouting honors, including election to the Middle Atlantic Major League Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame. He also received the Legends in Scouting Award from the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation. He was a senior special assistant to the Reds' general managers from October 1992 until he retired in January 2011. He died in Wheelsburg, Ohio on August 16, 2017.

Frank Broyles (92) former University of Arkansas head football coach who led the team to a national championship in 1964. Broyles was head coach of the Razorbacks football team from 1958–76. He had a career record of 144-48-5 and was named athletic director for Arkansas in 1974. He retired from coaching in 1976 to focus on his administrative duties. His 1964 national championship team went undefeated with an 11-0 record. Broyles led Arkansas to seven Southwest Conference championships and two Cotton Bowl victories. Arkansas won 43 national championships in various sports under his leadership as athletic director. He died of Alzheimer’s disease in Fayetteville, Arkansas on August 14, 2017.

Tommy Hawkins (80) first black basketball player to earn All-America honors at Notre Dame. Hawkins played for the Los Angeles Lakers during a 10-year NBA career. He graduated from Notre Dame in 1959 after playing for three years on the basketball team. He had 1,318 career rebounds for the longest-standing record in Fighting Irish history. He was named to the school's All-Century team in 2004 and inducted into its Ring of Honor in ’15. He led the Irish to a 44-13 record over his last two seasons, including an Elite Eight berth in the 1958 NCAA Tournament. Hawkins died in his sleep in Malibu, California on August 16, 2017.

Lester Williams (58) former nose tackle who started in the New England Patriots’ first Super Bowl appearance during the 1985 season. The 27th overall pick in the 1982 NFL draft, Williams played in 40 games for the Patriots from 1982–85. He also played one season each for San Diego (1986) and Seattle (1987). For the Patriots, he had 39 solo tackles, 60 assists, 5 sacks, and 3 fumble recoveries. Williams started all nine games during his NFL strike-shortened rookie year. Before joining the Patriots, Williams played for the University of Miami. He died in Birmingham, Alabama on August 16, 2017.

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