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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, September 8, 2018

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Burt Reynolds, film and TV starNancy Blomberg, curator at Denver Art MuseumStan Brock, founder of Remote Area MedicalTito Capobianco, opera impresarioBill Daily, actor who played Larry Hagman's friend on 'I Dream of Jeannie'Richard DeVos, cofounder of Amway Corp.Will Jordan (left), impressionist who imitated Ed SullivanChristopher Kennedy Lawford, actor and authorDiane Leather, British runnerMac Miller, popular rapperJames Mirrlees, Cambridge University economist and Nobel Prize winnerThad Mumford, TV writer and producerMadeleine Yayodele Nelson, founder of percussion ensembleFreddie Oversteegen, WWII Dutch resistance fighterMicheline Rozan, French theatrical producerKenny Shopsin, owner and founder of NYC's Shopsin's General StoreEhsan Yarshater, Iranian historian

Art and Literature

Nancy Blomberg (72) curator at the Denver Art Museum who treated American Indian artworks as aesthetic creations, not artifacts, and championed the artists who made them. Blomberg was chief curator at the museum and its Andrew W. Mellon curator of native arts, and during her 28 years at the museum she reimagined its extensive American Indian art collection. She emphasized that pieces often thought of as anthropological artifacts were in fact artworks. She also pushed to expand the collection with work by contemporary artists and set up residencies for them. Blomberg died of accidental asphyxiation at her home in Breckenridge, Colorado on September 2, 2018.

Business and Science

Richard M. DeVos (92) Amway Corp. cofounder who built and used one of the 20th century’s great personal fortunes to bolster the Republican Party; restore civic vitality to his hometown, Grand Rapids, Michigan; and buy the Orlando Magic of the NBA. An evangelical Christian who espoused self-reliance, capitalism, and the free market, DeVos was a superb salesman. He joined Jay van Andel, his friend and business partner for 55 years, in marketing the concept of direct sales and turned the privately owned Amway Corp. into a global enterprise with more than $8.6 billion in sales in 2017, more than 17,000 employees, and hundreds of thousands of independent salespeople. At his death, DeVos and his family had an estimated net worth of $5.5 billion. His daughter-in-law Betsy DeVos is education secretary in the Trump administration. Richard DeVos died of an infection in Ada, Michigan on September 6, 2018.

Kenny Shopsin (76) proprietor of a Manhattan restaurant where the menu is lengthy and the customer has never been king. Shopsin and his wife, Eve, started their restaurant, Shopsin’s General Store, in 1983 in a grocery they had been running on Bedford Street in the West Village. It has moved several times since and is now on the Lower East Side; but wherever it has been it has reflected the curmudgeonly, cursing personality of Shopsin, a man who was rarely written about without having the word “eccentric” appended to his name. But he didn’t like publicity or being listed in diners’ guides because, he said, such attention had the annoying effect of attracting customers. His was a classic neighborhood restaurant, and he didn’t want it to become a tourist attraction. He was not averse to throwing someone out who didn’t seem to get the chatty, casual-clutter look and feel of the place. Shopsin fell in 2017 and had had a series of health problems since. He died in the West Village, New York on September 2, 2018.


James Mirrlees (82) Cambridge University economist, cowinner of the 1996 Nobel Prize in economics. Mirrlees studied public economics, or the role of the public sector in the market economy, examined devising an optimal income tax regimen balancing efficiency and equity, and shared the Nobel with William Vickrey of Columbia University. He died of a brain tumor in Cambridge, England, on September 5, 2018.

Ehsan Yarshater (98) Iranian historian who founded and edited the Encyclopedia Iranica, a magnum opus of Iranian history and culture that helped to transform modern understanding of Persian civilization. Yarshater’s encyclopedia cast Iran as a global civilization in the aftermath of the Iranian revolution in 1979 and the seizure of US Embassy hostages, when the country appeared isolated on the world stage and he was forced to suspend the project by the new Islamic regime. The encyclopedia includes entries on everything from ancient Persian philosophy to cabbage. It documents Iran’s relationship with other world cultures, like those of Greece and India, expanding the notion of Persian civilization beyond Iran’s modern borders. Yarshater died in Fresno, California on September 2, 2018,

News and Entertainment

Tito Capobianco (87) creator of groundbreaking productions at the New York City Opera in the ‘60s and ’70s, including a rare staging of Handel’s Giulio Cesare that made Beverly Sills a star. Capobianco later became a general director at the Pittsburgh Opera, bringing a diverse background to his work. He was an aspiring young baritone in his native Argentina, an actor on stage and screen, and briefly a student of ballet. His best productions combined singing, acting, movement, and scenic designs into finely integrated stagings. In February 1966, Capobianco directed the North American premiere of Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera’s Don Rodrigo, which inaugurated the City Opera’s residence at the newly opened New York State Theater (today the David H. Koch Theater) at Lincoln Center. The opera, which starred a little-known 25-year-old tenor named Plácido Domingo, included a large cast, an enormous chorus, brassy pageantry, and psychological drama. Capoianco died of cancer in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Florida on September 8, 2018.

Bill Daily (91) TV actor known for playing affable and warm-hearted pals on I Dream of Jeannie and The Bob Newhart Show. On Jeannie, Daily played Maj. Roger Healey, an astronaut and best friend of Maj. Anthony Nelson, played by Larry Hagman (died 2012), whose life changes when he falls in love with a blonde genie, played by Barbara Eden. The show ran from 1965–70, and Daily was in 131 episodes. On The Bob Newhart Show, which ran from 1972–78, Daily played a perpetually jet-lagged pilot, Howard Borden, neighbor of Newhart’s Dr. Robert Hartley. He died in Santa Fe, New Mexico on September 4, 2018.

Will Jordan (91) impressionist who mimicked the voices of many stars but became known mainly for his full-body imitation of variety-show host Ed Sullivan (died 1974), whose Sunday show was must-see TV for nearly 25 years. Sullivan was an awkward, wooden physical presence who mangled words and names. Jordan turned him into a mumbling character who cracked his knuckles, popped his eyes, hunched his shoulders, folded his arms, spun in place, and promised the audience it was in for a “really big shoo.” But it was largely an invention. Sullivan was not inherently funny, so Jordan created a comic version of him. He started by putting his tongue under his upper lip—as if he were imitating an ape—and rolled his eyes so audiences could see the whites. More gestures followed. He had honed it for a couple of years before he performed it in 1953 on the stage of The Toast of the Town (later The Ed Sullivan Show), which ran from 1948–71. Jordan died of a stroke in New York City on September 6, 2018.

Christopher Kennedy Lawford (63) author and actor born into political and Hollywood royalty who sank into substance abuse and addiction and rose to become a well-known advocate for sobriety and recovery. Lawford was the only son and oldest child of Patricia Kennedy—sister of John, Robert, and Ted Kennedy—and Peter Lawford (died 1984), English actor and socialite who was a member of Frank Sinatra’s “Rat Pack.” In his 2005 book, Symptoms of Withdrawal: A Memoir of Snapshots & Redemption, the first of several books he wrote about his substance struggles, Lawford said he spent his youth frolicking with Hollywood stars on one coast and rubbing shoulders with political stars on the other, living between Los Angeles and the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, where he was a big-brother figure to John F. Kennedy Jr. (died 1999). Lawford died of a heart attack in Vancouver, Canada on September 4, 2018.

Mac Miller (26) platinum hip-hop star whose rhymes ranged from party raps to lyrics about depression and drug use and earned kudos from the likes of Jay-Z and Chance the Rapper. Miller also drew headlines for his two-year relationship with singer Ariana Grande that ended earlier this year. While Miller didn’t have a hit on Top 40 radio, he had a strong following on streaming networks and even had an album debut at No. 1 on the top 200 albums chart. He often alluded to his battles with addiction over the years and had collaborations with Kendrick Lamar, Lil Wayne, and Ty Dolla $ign. He released his fifth full-length album, Swimming, in August. Miller was found dead of a drug overdose at his home in Los Angeles, California on September 7, 2018,

Thad Mumford (67) Emmy Award-winning writer and producer for M*A*S*H and other hit TV shows at a time when blacks were practically unheard of in network writing rooms. Mumford wrote both for predominantly black shows, like Good Times, That’s My Mama!, and A Different World and for shows with largely white casts, like Coach and Maude. He said in 1983 that he did not want his race to define or restrict his work. He died in Silver Spring, Maryland on September 6, 2018.

Madeleine Yayodele Nelson (69) founder and leader of Women of the Calabash, a percussion ensemble devoted to music from across the African diaspora. Nelson had spent most of her 20s as an educator, not a professional musician, when she formed the group in 1978 as a quartet. But she had recently learned how to build and play the shekere, a West African and Afro-Latin percussion instrument consisting of a gourd, or calabash, wrapped in shells. All four band members played the shekere while singing and dancing in coordinated steps, drawing on traditional music from across sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, and South and North America, and mixing in their own interpretations of reggae and pop songs. Besides expanding performance opportunities for New York's female percussionists, Nelson hoped the group would spread awareness of African cultural practices. She died of a heart attack in New York City on September 6, 2018, 10 days before her 70th birthday.

Burt Reynolds (82) film and TV star known for his acclaimed performances in Deliverance and Boogie Nights, commercial hits such as Smokey & the Bandit, and for an active off-screen love life that included relationships with singer Dinah Shore and actresses Loni Anderson and Sally Field. Reynolds inspired a wide range of responses over his long, erratic career: critical acclaim and scorn, popular success and box office bombs. He made scores of movies, ranging from lightweight fare such as the hits The Cannonball Run and Smokey & the Bandit to more serious films like The Longest Yard and The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing. He was nominated for an Oscar for Boogie Nights, won an Emmy for the TV series Evening Shade, and was praised for his starring role in Deliverance. But he was also a frequent nominee for the Razzie, the tongue-in-cheek award for Hollywood’s worst performance, and his personal life provided ongoing drama, particularly after an acrimonious divorce from Anderson in 1995. He said posing nude for Cosmopolitan in 1972 was one of his biggest mistakes because it undermined the respect he had gained for Deliverance. Reynolds died of a heart attack in Jupiter, Florida on September 6, 2018.

Micheline Rozan (89) behind-the-scenes force who in 1970 helped director Peter Brook to found the International Center for Theater Research at Paris's historic Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord and produced many of its trail-blazing productions. Rozan found the money, ironed out the logistics, and ran the interference necessary to allow Brook to stage memorable works like The Mahabharata, a nine-hour epic based on a Hindu poem, and La Tragédie de Carmen, a version of the Bizet opera that played Broadway in 1983. Rozan died in Paris, France on September 7, 2018.

Politics and Military

Freddie Oversteegen (92) was only 14 when she became an assassin and saboteur. It was 1940, Germany had invaded the Netherlands, and Freddie and her sister, Truus (16), were recruited by the local Dutch resistance commander in the city of Haarlem. The sisters, along with a lapsed law student, Hannie Schaft, became a female underground squad, part of a cell of seven, that killed collaborators and occupying troops. The three staged drive-by shootings from their bicycles; lured German soldiers from bars to nearby woods, where they executed them; and sheltered fleeing Jews, political dissidents, gay people, and others who were being hunted by the invaders. Schaft was captured, tortured, and executed by the Nazis shortly before liberation in 1945. Truus died in 2016. Freddie Oversteegen, last surviving member of the trio, died the day before her 93rd birthday in Driehuis, The Netherlands, on September 5, 2018.

Society and Religion

Stan Brock (82) founder of an organization that uses mobile medical clinics to bring health-care services to people in remote, underserved areas of the US and around the world. Brock started the first Remote Area Medical clinic in the US in May 1992 in Sneedville, Tennessee. Since then more than 740,000 people have received free dental, vision, and medical care from Brock’s clinics and the group’s volunteers in the Appalachia region and other areas of the US. The organization was initially founded to provide free medical care in Guyana and other developing countries; it still operates an air ambulance program in Guyana. RAM also responds to natural disasters, such as Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017, Hurricane Matthew in Haiti in ’16, and the Nepal earthquakes in ’15. Brock died in Rockford, Tennessee on September 5, 2018.


Diane Leather (85) British runner, the first woman recorded to have run a mile in under 5 minutes but whose feat—like women’s distance running in general at the time—was not recognized by the track and field establishment. Leather set her record on May 29, 1954, 23 days after another Briton, Roger Bannister, broke the 4-minute mile for men. But unlike Bannister, who died in March, Leather did not find a place in the world record books. At the time, the sport’s governing body, the International Amateur Athletics Federation, did not keep track of women’s distances greater than 800 meters. Leather died of a stroke in Truro, Cornwall, England on September 6, 2018.

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