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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, January 12, 2019

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Shirley Boone, longtime wife of singer Pat BooneMoshe Arens, former Israeli defense ministerSir Michael Atiyah, British mathematicianVerna Bloom, actress who played dean's wife in 'Animal House'Lessie Brown, oldest person in USJosé Ramon Fernández, Cuban general, with Fidel CastroLuis Garden Acosta, Brooklyn activistJoseph Jarman, avant-garde jazz musician turned Buddhist priestLarry Langford, former mayor of Birmingham, Ala.Jakiw Palij, former Nazi concentration camp guard deported from USLamin Sanneh, Yale professor of religion and historyBabs Simpson, former fashion editor at 'Vogue'Patricia Wald, first woman chief justice of federal appeals court in Washington, DCLester Wunderman, advertising pioneer

Business and Science

Sir Michael Atiyah (89) British mathematician who united mathematics and physics during the ‘60s in a way not seen since the days of Isaac Newton. Atiyah, who was retired, had been an honorary professor in the School of Mathematics at the University of Edinburgh and had spent many years at Oxford and Cambridge. He revealed an unforeseen connection between mathematics and physics through a theorem he proved in collaboration with Isadore Singer, one of the most important mathematicians of the last half of the 20th century. Atiyah’s work with Singer, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, led to the flowering of string theory and gauge theory as ways to understand the structure and dynamics of the universe and has provided powerful tools for both mathematicians and theoretical physicists. Atiyah died on January 11, 2019.

Lester Wunderman (98) advertising executive credited with pioneering the hugely successful modern techniques of direct marketing, with sales pitches aimed at targeted prospective customers in their homes and geared to their interests or characteristics. Chairman emeritus and cofounder of what became the world’s largest direct-marketing ad agency, Wunderman never graduated from college, had no formal training in advertising, and got into the mail-order business on a two-for-one offer: one salary split between him and his brother. Long before anyone had ever heard of Internet sales or interactive communications, Wunderman was widely credited with coining the term “direct marketing.” He died in New York City on January 9, 2019.


Patricia Wald (90) first woman to preside over the federal appeals court in Washington, DC. President Jimmy Carter appointed Ward to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, considered the second most influential court behind the Supreme Court. Later she was joined by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who became a Supreme Court justice. Wald was chief justice in the district from 1986–91. During her tenure, she wrote more than 800 opinions, most notably related to equal employment and education for women, LGBTQ individuals, and those with disabilities. She was considered a liberal jurist who viewed the law as a tool for achieving social progress. Wald died of pancreatic cancer in Washington, DC on January 12, 2019.

News and Entertainment

Verna Bloom (80) actress who portrayed the wife of the dean in the movie Animal House. In the 1978 John Landis film, Bloom played Marion Wormer, who flirted with and had a drunken romp with fraternity president “Otter” Stratton. Bloom was Clint Eastwood’s lover in High Plains Drifter and was Mary in The Last Temptation of Christ. She was born in Lynn, Massachusetts and graduated from Boston University in 1959. Her widower is former film critic and two-time Oscar-nominated screenwriter Jay Cocks. Bloom died in Bar Harbor, Maine of complications from dementia on January 9, 2019.

Shirley Boone (84) longtime wife of singer Pat Boone and a philanthropist. Shirley and Pat Boone had been married for 65 years. During that time, Shirley helped to establish Mercy Corps, which has become an international charitable organization dedicated to addressing economic, environmental, social, and political problem. She also published writings, hosted TV shows, and recorded music. Shirley was the daughter of Red Foley, a country singer of the ‘30s and ’40s who became a star with his recording of “Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy.” Shirley and Pat Boone had been high school sweethearts, and they married when he was 19 and rising to stardom. Shirley Boone died on January 11, 2019.

Joseph Jarman (81) saxophonist, flutist, woodwind player, and percussionist who helped to expand the parameters of performance in avant-garde jazz, especially as a member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Over the last 20 years Jarman was less active in music than in other pursuits, notably his ministrations as a Buddhist priest and aikido instructor. With his ex-wife, writer and scholar Thulani Davis, he founded the Brooklyn Buddhist Association in 1990. His students at the Jikishinkan Aikido Dojo, which he established in Brooklyn, typically did not enroll there because of his jazz career. But Jarman was revered for his tenure in the Art Ensemble, from its inception in the late ‘60s, through his departure in the early ‘90, and again early in the 21st century. He died in Englewood, New Jersey of cardiac arrest as a result of respiratory failure, on January 9, 2019.

Babs Simpson (105) fashion editor of a bygone era whose unfailingly correct taste informed the pages of Vogue. Always wearing a strand of pearls—real ones, naturally—Mrs. Simpson, as she preferred to be known, worked with many of the titans of fashion photography over her 25 years at the magazine. She searched out Hemingway in Cuba (he had an eye for the model she brought along, Jean Patchett), dressed Marilyn Monroe for her final sitting with photographer Bert Stern, and tromped through Ireland with actress Anjelica Huston and photographer Richard Avedon. Simpson sat for Horst P. Horst and worked with Irving Penn, but even collaboration with the greats never intimidated her. She died in Rye, New York on January 7, 2019.

Politics and Military

Moshe Arens (93) former Israeli defense minister, foreign minister, and an early political mentor to current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. An engineer by training, American-raised Arens was instrumental in developing Israel’s military and aircraft industries and served three stints as the country’s defense minister. He was a longtime stalwart in the hawkish Likud party. In the early ‘80s, Arens was the first to recognize the skills of a young Netanyahu, who then was running an antiterror institute and working in marketing. Arens took Netanyahu under his wing and brought him into Israeli politics. He died in his sleep in Savyon, Israel on January 7, 2019.

José Ramon Fernández (95) retired brigadier general who helped to form Cuba’s army after the revolution of 1959 and commanded Cuban defenses at the Bay of Pigs. A founding member of the Communist Party of Cuba, Fernández served for a time as a vice president on Cuba’s Council of Ministers. He was reelected to the party’s ruling Central Committee in 2011 at age 87. Fernández ran a cadet school that trained officers after revolutionary forces led by Fidel Castro overthrew the government of dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959. He also played a leading role in one of the great battles of the Cold War, helping to command Cuba’s militia forces in their victory over invading exile forces at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961. He died on January 6, 2019.

Larry Langford (72) former Birmingham mayor whose political career was ended by a conviction on public corruption charges. Langford was raised in poverty in a Birmingham housing project but rose to become one of the area’s most charismatic leaders. In the early ‘70s he became one of the first black TV reporters in Birmingham. He was mayor of Fairfield, president of the Jefferson County Commission, and mayor of Birmingham. He championed the creation of an amusement park called Visionland and other efforts to make Birmingham a tourism destination. His unrealized plans included bringing the Olympics to Birmingham and building a domed stadium. Langford’s political career ended in 2009 when he was convicted of taking bribes—in the form of cash, clothing, and a Rolex—as a member of the county commission in exchange for steering bond business to an investment banker. A federal judge sentenced him to 15 years in prison. Langford died of end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and emphysema in Birmingham, Alabama little more than a week after being released from federal prison because of his failing health, on January 8, 2019.

Jakiw Palij (95) former Nazi concentration camp guard who lived an unassuming life in New York for decades until his past was revealed and he was deported to Germany in 2018. US Ambassador Richard Grenell, who lobbied for Germany to take Palij, said he credited US President Donald Trump with seeing through Palij’s August 2018 deportation after it had been stalled for 25 years. Palij was the last Nazi facing deportation from the US when he was taken from his Queens home on a stretcher and put on a plane to Germany. From the time American investigators first accused Palij of lying about his Nazi past, it took 25 years for his removal from the US, despite political pressure and frequent protests outside his home. He was not prosecuted in Germany and spent his last months in a nursing home in Ahlen, Germany, where he died on January 9, 2019.

Society and Religion

Lessie Brown (114) Ohio woman believed to be the oldest person in the US. Brown said in 2013 it was God’s will that she had lived so long. Others in her family attributed her long life to the fact that she ate a sweet potato nearly every day until she was well past 100. Brown was the country’s oldest person after the May 9, 2018 death of 114-year-old Delphine Gibson of Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. With Brown’s death, the oldest living American is now believed to be Alelia Murphy (113) of New York state, according to the Gerontology Research Group. The world’s oldest person is believed to be 116-year-old Kane Tanaka, a Japanese woman. Brown turned 114 in September. She died in Cleveland Heights, Ohio on January 8, 2019.

Luis Garden Acosta (73) stopped just short of becoming a priest, then a doctor, and instead organized an innovative program to restore the spirit and health of his community. Garden Acosta and his wife, Frances Lucerna, founded a community organization, El Puente (the Bridge), in 1982 with the goal of combating gang violence among teenagers in Williamsburg, in northwest Brooklyn, then a mostly poverty-stricken neighborhood where Hispanic and Hasidic Jewish residents competed for scarce housing. El Puente evolved into a grass-roots model for improving local health, education, and environmental and social services and engaging residents in political, human rights, and social justice campaigns and cultural projects. Garden Acosta died of a degenerative lung disease in Brooklyn, New York on January 8, 2019.

Lamin Sanneh (76) was born into poverty in a tiny river town in Gambia and became a world-renowned scholar of Christianity and Islam, providing key insights into how each religion took hold in West Africa. Sanneh was born a Muslim but converted to Christianity as a teenager and became a practicing Roman Catholic, giving him experience in both Islam and Christianity and an unusual perspective for a scholar of religion. Even more striking, he alone of his large rural family managed to migrate across continents and attend prominent universities. He ended up as a professor at Yale University, where he taught for 30 years. He died of a stroke in New Haven, Connecticut on January 6, 2019.

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