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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, June 16, 2018

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Alfred W. Alberts, scientist whose chemical discovery led to development of cholesterol-lowering lovastatinMyrtle Allen, pioneering Irish cook and restaurateurNina Baym, literary scholarDouglas Bennet, former head of NPRMartin Bregman, producer of 'Scarface' and other late 20th-century crime filmsBilly Connors, NY Yankees pitching coachDorothy Cotton, civil rights activistAnne Donovan, women's basketball Olympic gold medalist player and coachD. J. Fontana, Elvis Presley's first drummer and last survivor of his original musiciansBonaldo Giaiotti, Italian opera bassoJames E. Gips, computer scientist and innovatorLeslie Grantham, actor on British soap, 'EastEnders'Jon Hiseman, British drummer, composer, and rock innovatorYvette Horner, French accordionistDiana Hanbury King, teacher of dyslexicsDr. Adel Mahmoud, helped to develop lifesaving vaccinesMatt Murphy, blues guitarist, performing with John Belushi and Blues Brothers bandStephen Reid, bank robber turned authorDon Ritchie, Scottish ultrarunnerGennady Rozhdestvensky, Russian symphonic conductorEd Sadlowski, US labor leaderLarry Thomas, California political writer and strategistJames H. Tully Jr., former NY State finance commissionerChuck Vinci, last US Olympic male weightlifting champion

Art and Literature

Nina Baym (82) scholar who asked why so few women were represented in the American literary canon, then spent her career working to correct that imbalance. Baym, who taught English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for more than 40 years, was writing a book about Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1975 when she began to wonder why 19th-century American literature was so male-dominated. Hawthorne himself helped to pique her curiosity; in 1855 he had famously complained that a “damned mob of scribbling women” was cutting into his sales. Baym died of dementia in Urbana, Illinois, one day after her 82nd birthday, on June 15, 2018.

Business and Science

Alfred W. Alberts (87) largely unknown hero behind the first cholesterol-lowering statin approved in the US. Alberts lacked the usual credentials for a medical scientist—an MD or a Ph.D.—and started out as a lab technician. Yet he ended up as a peer to established researchers like P. Roy Vagelos, a biochemist who became chairman of Merck, the giant pharmaceutical company. In the late ‘70s Alberts discovered the chemical compound that led to the drug lovastatin, a leading remedy for high cholesterol. He suffered a heart attack and underwent bypass surgery but died two weeks later in Fort Collins, Colorado on June 16, 2018.

Myrtle Allen (94) defined the modern era of Irish cooking by using locally sourced ingredients at Ballymaloe House, the restaurant she created in her Georgian country home in the ‘60s. Allen opened her restaurant in Ballymaloe House in 1964, having bought the property and its 300-acre farm with her husband in ’48. Originally the site of a 15th-century Anglo-Norman castle, the house, an ivy-covered stone landmark near Shanagarry, County Cork, was largely rebuilt around 1820. The restaurant soon came to symbolize the farm-to-table movement promoted by American chef Alice Waters, and it helped to make Irish cooking competitive with French and Italian cuisine, receiving a one-star rating (out of a possible three) from the Michelin Guide in 1975. Myrtle Allen died of pneumonia in Wilton, a suburb of Cork City, Ireland, on June 13, 2018.

Douglas Bennet (79) took over National Public Radio when it faced an uncertain future and spearheaded 10 years of growth. In a wide-ranging career, Bennet also led Wesleyan University in Connecticut for 12 years and served in various political and government positions. He was known for bringing financial and organizational stability to whatever institution he took on, a skill honed as an assistant to political figures like Chester Bowles, a diplomat and a former Connecticut governor and congressman; and Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey. When Bennet took the helm at NPR in 1983, during the fiscally conservative administration of President Ronald Reagan, the organization was in financial distress. Bennet made structural changes that reversed the decline. He died in Essex, Connecticut, 13 days before his 80th birthday, of complications from a fall sustained five years ago, on June 10, 2018.

James E. Gips (72) one of three Boston College computer scientists who developed EagleEyes, a technology that uses electrodes placed around the eyes to allow a user to control the computer with eye movements. Gips did not realize at first that he and his colleagues had come up with a device that would change the lives of countless people with disabilities. EagleEyes and a subsequent technology, Camera Mouse, which Gips developed with Margrit Betke, have opened up computer use—and thus communication—to all sorts of people who, for one reason or another, cannot use a conventional computer mouse. They include nonverbal people, many of them children, whose disabilities had led others to assume that they had no intellectual life. Gips had recently had pancreas surgery. He died in Medfield, Massachusetts on June 10, 2018.

Dr. Adel Mahmoud (76) infectious-disease expert who played a vital role in the development of lifesaving vaccines. As president of Merck Vaccines from 1998–2006, Mahmoud oversaw the creation and marketing of several vaccines that brought major advances in public health. One prevents rotavirus infection, a potentially fatal cause of diarrhea in babies. Another protects against human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cancers of the cervix, anus, genitals, and middle of the throat. Mahmoud also helped to usher in a combination vaccine against measles, mumps, rubella, and chickenpox, and one to prevent shingles, the painful and debilitating illness that can develop when a previous chickenpox infection is reactivated. He died of a brain hemorrhage in New York City on June 11, 2018.


Dorothy Cotton (88) civil rights activist who worked closely with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., taught nonviolence to demonstrators before marches, and sometimes calmed tensions by singing church hymns. Cotton was among a small number of women in leadership positions at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during the civil rights era, and she led the Atlanta-based civil rights group’s Citizenship Education Program. Cotton remained active in civil rights and education after King’s death, later serving as an administrator at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where she died on June 10, 2018.

Diana Hanbury King (90) master teacher who helped generations of students struggling to read fluently, write, and spell—and being stigmatized for it—because of an often undiagnosed learning disability called dyslexia. King, whose uncle was dyslexic, taught, tutored, founded camps, and trained teachers in education programs that were replicated around the world. She died in Lakeville, Connecticut of complications from several falls, on June 15, 2018.


Stephen Reid (68) Canadian who helped to carry out a long series of meticulously planned and executed bank robberies in Canada and the US, then became a well-regarded author before returning to his original trade. Reid was a member of a trio of well-dressed bandits known as the StopWatch Gang, which, authorities estimate, participated in at least 100 holdups during the ‘70s and '80s, getting away with about $15 million. Reid spent time in 20 prisons over 40 years. His move into writing produced two books and many widely published essays. He frequently appeared on TV and elsewhere in the Canadian media as a commentator on the prison system and was a teacher and lecturer who worked with indigenous young offenders. Despite his success, Reid continued to struggle with drug and alcohol addictions. In 1999 he returned to crime and robbed a bank in Victoria, British Columbia. Unlike the heists with the StopWatch Gang, that one was a messy affair, with a police chase, shots fired, and an arrest. Reid was sentenced to 18 years in prison and spent some of his last years returning to jail for parole violations. He died of a lung infection and heart failure in Masset, a village on the Haida Gwaii islands in British Columbia, on June 12, 2018.

News and Entertainment

Martin Bregman (92) outspoken film producer behind Scarface, Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico, and other late-20th-century crime dramas. The first film Bergman ever produced was Sidney Lumet’s Serpico (1973), the true story of a New York City cop who blew the whistle on police corruption and paid for it dearly. The film was also the beginning of a new kind of relationship with its star, Al Pacino. All three collaborated again on the offbeat bank-robbery drama Dog Day Afternoon (1975). Bregman died of a cerebral hemorrhage on June 16, 2018.

D. J. Fontana (87) rock-’n’-roll pioneer who rose from strip joints in his native Shreveport, Louisiana to the heights of musical history as Elvis Presley’s first and longtime drummer. Fontana was the last surviving member of Elvis’s original core of musicians. He met Presley and the others on Louisiana Hayride, a popular radio and TV country music program based in Shreveport. Staff drummer Fontana asked to join his group for a session broadcast in October 1954. A regional act at the time, 19-year-old Presley had been recording and touring since the summer with guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black, the musicians Sun Records founder Sam Phillips brought in after Presley turned up at the Memphis, Tennesee-based label’s studio. Fontana had been suffering from complications after breaking his hip in 2016. He died in his sleep in Nashville, Tennessee on June 13, 2018.

Bonaldo Giaiotti (85) former Italian furniture design apprentice who became an acclaimed operatic bass. Giaiotti was a fixture at the Metropolitan Opera, where he sang more than 400 performances from 1960–89, mainly in Italian operas. He also performed in other major houses, including the Vienna State Opera, the Royal Opera House in London, the Teatro Real in Madrid, and the Zürich Opera. He was a special favorite at the Arena di Verona, where he appeared for more than 30 seasons. He died of a kidney blockage in Milan, Italy on June 12, 2018.

Leslie Grantham (71) actor who became a British TV icon during the ‘80s as arch-villain “Dirty” Den Watts on the soap opera EastEnders, which first aired in 1985, chronicling life in the fictional working-class London neighborhood of Walford. Grantham’s unscrupulous, adulterous character ran the Queen Vic pub with his wife, Angie, and their tempestuous relationship was central to many of the soap’s most dramatic plots. Half of Britain’s population, some 30 million people, watched a 1986 Christmas episode in which Den handed his wife divorce papers with the words, “Happy Christmas, Ange.” Grantham died in London, England on June 15, 2018.

Jon Hiseman (73) British drummer, composer, and progressive-rock innovator who led the bands Colosseum and Tempest and played in many other groups. Hiseman's music combined elements of the classical music he grew up on, the modern jazz and free jazz he played early in his career, and the blues and rock that built his career in ‘60s London. The original Colosseum lasted barely three years, from 1968–71, but the band reunited in the ‘90s and continued to perform and record for 20 years. Hiseman also worked extensively with musical theater composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. He also recorded with his wife, saxophonist and composer Barbara Thompson, and established a recording studio and a music publishing company, Temple Music. He died of complications from surgery he underwent in May to remove a brain tumor, in Sutton, England nine days before his 74th birthday, on June 12, 2018.

Yvette Horner (95) French accordionist who played at high-end Paris fashion shows, appeared in Maurice Béjart’s reimagining of The Nutcracker, and recorded with Nashville harmonica player Charlie McCoy. Horner’s legend was rooted in the years she spent as a distinctive part of the grand caravan that accompanies the Tour de France, the sprawling French bicycle race. For more than 10 years in the ‘50s and ’60s, she played for the crowds from atop one vehicle or another as the caravan made its way along the tour route ahead of the cyclists. After establishing herself on the tour caravan, Horner recorded scores of albums and played in countless nightclubs and concert halls. She died on June 11, 2018.

Matt Murphy (88) master bluesman who played with Howlin’ Wolf, Etta James, Chuck Berry, and Memphis Slim but was best known as a member of the Blues Brothers band. Murphy began his career in Memphis before moving in the ‘50s to Chicago, which was then at the epicenter of a new kind of hard-driving, heavily electrified blues. His jazz-inflected guitar playing established him as a mainstay of the Chicago scene and a true original. His talent came to the attention of actor John Belushi and keyboardist Paul Shaffer in 1978 as they recruited musicians for the band that Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, both stars of Saturday Night Live at the time, planned to take on tour as the Blues Brothers, inspiring the 1980 film comedy, The Blues Brothers. Murphy toured with the band, appeared in the movie, and continued to perform and record. He died of a heart attack in Miami, Florida on June 15, 2018.

Gennady Rozhdestvensky (87) Russian conductor who directed orchestras in Moscow, Stockholm, Vienna, and London. In a career spanning more than 60 years, Rozhdestvensky served stints as principal conductor of the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra and as chief conductor of the Stockholm Philharmonic, the Vienna Symphony, and the BBC Symphony. He guest-conducted at many major orchestras including the Berlin Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony. and the Cleveland Orchestra. Since 2012 he had been conductor at the State Academic Chamber Theater in Moscow. Rozhdestvensky, who suffered from heart problems, diabetes, and cancer, died on June 16, 2018.

Politics and Military

Ed Sadlowski (79) labor leader whose insurgency in the ‘70s shook but failed to dislodge the steelworkers' union’s top brass. Sadlowski rose meteorically through the ranks of the United Steelworkers union by echoing the rhetoric of his labor heroes, like John L. Lewis, who had led the miners' union, and Victor Reuther, one of three Reuther brothers who had transformed the autoworkers’ union into a labor power. Sadlowski rejected the more collegial approach of contemporaries who had gone so far as to give up the right to strike in favor of arbitration. But in 1976 his celebrity rapidly evaporated after he lost a union presidential election. He became a union subdistrict director and retired in 1993. He died of Lewy body dementia in Estero, Florida on June 10, 2018.

Larry Thomas (70) San Diego native who parlayed a newspaper job writing about politics into a career as a press spokesman and strategist for a mayor (Pete Wilson), a governor (George Deukmejian), a vice president (George H. W. Bush), and one of the largest real estate development companies in California (Orange County's Irvine Company). Thomas worked for United Press International, KPBS, and the Copley News Service before joining the San Diego Union, where he became, in his early 20s, one of the youngest politics writers working for a major newspaper in the nation. He died of cancer in Newport Beach, California on June 11, 2018.

James H. Tully Jr. (87) former New York State finance commissioner who challenged neighboring states for siphoning off state revenue, pursued corporations that took tax deductions for bribes they had paid, and helped New York City to recover from its fiscal crisis. Tully was New York State commissioner of taxation and finance from 1975–82. He presided during the city's fiscal crisis, becoming, in effect, custodian of the city’s sales tax revenue. That money had been pledged to pay the debt of the Municipal Assistance Corp., an agency created to borrow funds on behalf of New York City after major banks had refused to give it any more loans. Tully died of non-Hodgkins lymphoma in Albany, New York on June 10, 2018.


Billy Connors (76) three-time New York Yankees pitching coach and confidant of late owner George Steinbrenner. Connors coached the Yankees from 1989–90, ‘94–95, and 2000 and was vice president of player personnel from ‘96–2012. He was instrumental in the development of Yankees pitchers Orlando Hernandez, Andy Pettitte, Chien-Ming Wang, and Mariano Rivera. Steinbrenner and Connors would go over pitching plans not only at the team’s spring training complex in Tampa, Florida but also while regularly watching Tampa Bay Lightning hockey games in the Boss’s suite. A native of Schenectady, New York, Connors played baseball and basketball at Syracuse and was a member of the Schenectady team that won the Little League World Series in 1954. He died on June 16, 2018.

Anne Donovan (56) Basketball Hall of Famer who won a national championship at Old Dominion, two Olympic gold medals as a player, and another as a coach. The 6-foot-8 center coached both in college and the WNBA. She became the first female coach and the youngest person (at 42) to win a title in the WNBA, guiding the Seattle Storm to a championship in 2004. Donovan was a member of three Olympics teams as a player; the 1980 team did not go to Russia because of a boycott. The team won the gold in 1984 and ‘88, and Donovan coached the winning 2008 team. She also coached the WNBA’s Indiana Fever, Charlotte Sting, New York Liberty, and Connecticut Sun, working there from 2013–15. She died of heart failure in Wilmington, North Carolina on June 13, 2018.

Don Ritchie (73) one of the world’s top ultrarunners, who set more than a dozen records traveling distances better suited to an automobile than a human being. Ritchie began running competitively in the early ‘60s as a sprinter, but he soon found that he was not deterred by distance. In time he adopted a grueling training regimen, sometimes running more than 150 miles a week in his native Scotland. Suffering from diabetes and heart and lung problems, he died in Lossiemouth, Moray, Scotland on June 16, 2018.

Chuck Vinci (85) former shoeshine boy from Cleveland whose gold medals in weightlifting at the 1956 and ‘60 Summer Olympics were the last to be won by an American man. Tara Nott, a flyweight, won at the 2000 Sydney Games—the first Olympics in which women competed in weightlifting. Vinci was considered one of the greatest weightlifters of all time. He was also one of the smallest: at just under 5 feet, he competed in the 123-pound class. One of his nicknames was the Mighty Mite. He developed his extraordinary chest and bicep muscles through long workouts at a YMCA in Cleveland after World War II and later, as the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne drew near, at a weight-lifting club in York, Pennsylvania, sponsored by a barbell manufacturer. Vinci died of congestive heart failure in Westlake, Ohio on June 13, 2018.

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