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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, January 19, 2019

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Carol Channing, three-time Broadway Tony winnerBernardo Benes, Cuban exile in FloridaJohn C. Bogle, founder of Vanguard GroupDouglas M. Costle, EPA administratorJohn Coughlin, two-time US pairs figure skating championLorna Doom, bass player with punk rock band GermsFrancine du Plessix Gray, journalist and novelistNathan Glazer, Harvard sociologistEli Grba, original LA AngelAntonio ('Tony') Mendez, real-life inspiration for Oscar-winning movieEdward A. Morrison, former NYC deputy mayorIgnacio ('Nacho') Nava Jr., cofounder of LA's 'Mustache Mondays'Mary Oliver, Pulitzer-winninng poetMel Stottlemyre, NY Yankees' pitching aceHenry Sy, Philippine retail tycoonRita Vidaurri, ranchera singerGlen Wood, cofounder of NASCAR's Wood Brothers Racing teamReggie Young, Nashville guitarist

Art and Literature

Francine du Plessix Gray (88) French-American writer who, in her novels and journalism, explored the complexities of cultural identity, the obstacles confronting women seeking their place in the world, and her own privileged but anguished early life. Gray was the daughter of a French father and a Russian mother and had arrived in New York at age 10 speaking no English. Her father, Bertrand Jochaud du Plessix, was a down-at-heels aristocrat in the French diplomatic service who, flying from Casablanca to France to join the Free French forces, was killed when his airplane was shot down over Gibraltar. Her mother, Tatiana Yakovleva, was a Russian whose family fled to Paris after the Bolshevik Revolution. After the death of her husband, she escaped France with her daughter and Alexander Liberman, future editorial director of publisher Condé Nast, whom she later married. Gray chronicled her privileged but emotionally deprived childhood and her troubled relationship with her father, mother, and stepfather in Them: A Memoir of Parents, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2006. She died of congestive heart failure in New York City on January 13, 2019.

Mary Oliver (83) Pulitzer Prize-winning poet whose odes to nature and animal life brought her critical acclaim. The author of more than 15 poetry and essay collections, Oliver wrote brief, direct pieces that described her worship of the outdoors and disdain for greed and other human crimes. Her muses were owls and butterflies, frogs and geese, the changes of the seasons, the sun and the stars. She died of lymphoma in Hobe Sound, Florida on January 17, 2019.

Business and Science

Bernardo Benes (84) Cuban exile who helped to persuade Fidel Castro to free 3,600 political prisoners in the ‘70s but became an outcast in Miami’s anti-Castro community for negotiating with him. Benes was a prominent businessman and activist in Miami when he first met with Castro in early 1978. He had risen to a major job at a savings and loan and later cofounded a bank in the Little Havana section of the city. He helped to raise money to build a monument to the soldiers who were killed in the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and worked on various causes to help Cuban refugees. Benes died in Miami, Florida on January 14, 2019.

John C. Bogle (89) simplified investing for the masses by launching the first index mutual fund and founded Vanguard Group. Bogle did not invent the index fund, but he expanded access to no-frills, low-cost investing in 1976 when Vanguard introduced the first index fund for individual investors, rather than institutional clients. The emergence of funds that passively tracked market indexes, like the Standard & Poor’s 500, enabled investors to avoid the higher fees charged by professional fund managers who frequently fail to beat the market. More often than not, the higher operating expenses that fund managers pass on to their shareholders cancel out any edge they may achieve through expert stock-picking. Bogle died of esophageal cancer in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania on January 16, 2019.

Henry Sy (94) tycoon known as the “father of modern Philippine retail” whose chain of super malls changed that country’s retail landscape. For the last 11 years, Forbes had named Sy the richest person in the Philippines. His net worth was estimated at $19 billion. He opened the first ShoeMart in 1958 after a stint selling surplus boots. It later became known simply as SM. From a tiny shop in downtown Manila, SM grew into a behemoth with 62 department stores, 56 supermarkets, and more than 200 smaller grocery stores, which had revenues of $6.7 billion in 2016. The SM chain also operates six malls in China. Sy died in Manila, The Philippines on January 19, 2019.

News and Entertainment

Carol Channing (97) three-time Tony Award-winning musical comedy star who delighted American audiences in over 5,000 performances as the scheming Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly! on Broadway and beyond. Besides Hello, Dolly!, Channing starred in other Broadway shows but none with equal magnetism. She often appeared on TV and in nightclubs, for a time partnering with George Burns in Las Vegas and a national tour. Her outsized personality seemed too much for the screen, and she made only a few movies, notably The First Traveling Saleslady (1956) with Ginger Rogers and Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) with Julie Andrews. Over the years, Channing continued as Dolly in national tours, the last in 1996, when she was in her 70s. She had twice suffered strokes in the last year. She died in Rancho Mirage, California on January 15, 2019.

Lorna Doom (61) played bass in the extreme ‘70s Los Angeles punk band Germs. Doom (born Teresa Ryan) would stand onstage with her bass lines propelling the music along with drummer Don Bolles’s beat, while Germs’ leader, Darby Crash, delivered the songs with often self-mutilating intensity, confronting audience members, lighting matches, and smashing glasses on his head. Germs shows often sparked riots in the audience. The band made one album and lasted until 1980, when Darby Crash (born Jan Paul Beahm) killed himself with a heroin overdose. He had often spoken of a five-year plan to create a notorious cult band, record one album, then commit suicide to make himself legendary. Germs formed in 1976 with an initial lineup of Darby Crash, Lorna Doom, Pat Smear (born Georg Albert Ruthenberg) on guitar, and Belinda Carlisle on drums (was replaced by Bolles). Lorna Doom died of cancer in Thousand Oaks, California on January 16, 2019.

Ignacio ('Nacho’) Nava Jr. (42) one of the founders of Mustache Mondays, an LGBTQ-centered club promotion that started in 2007 and tried to distinguish itself from the West Hollywood party scene by highlighting the intersectional, multicultural Los Angeles that Nava and so many others lived in. Mustache Mondays bounced around different locations in downtown LA before finding its groove at La Cita, a long-standing Latino bar next to the Grand Central Market that soon became internationally famous for its trend-setting bohemia—fueled in large part by Nava’s vision. There, drag queens mixed with club kids, fashion designers collaborated with musicians, writers found characters for blogs and columns, and people of all ethnicities mingled on the ever-pulsating dance floor. Tracks dropped by electronic-dance marquee artists like Diplo and DJ Rashad mixed with the cumbias and rhythm and blues of southern California street life. Nava, who became an icon for LGBTQ people of color and performance artists in southern California, died in Los Angeles, California after a short bout with pneumonia, on January 19, 2019.

Rita Vidaurri (94) became famous across Latin America as a ranchera singer in the ‘40s and ’50s and stopped performing at the height of her renown, only to rekindle her career when she was nearing 80. Vidaurri, nicknamed “La Calandria,” or the Lark, belted out songs with a powerful voice, often making wisecracks during her performances. Based in San Antonio, she sang in Mexico, Cuba, and other parts of Latin America, performing with artists like Nat (“King”) Cole, Eydie Gorme & Los Panchos, and Celia Cruz. By the ‘50s she was mentioned alongside such famous Tejana entertainers as Eva Garza and Lydia Mendoza. Ranchera, traditional Mexican country music, often features wistful love ballads or paeans to places in Mexico and Texas. Vidaurri died in San Antonio, Texas on January 16, 2019.

Reggie Young (82) guitarist, a Memphis- and Nashville-based session player whose signature licks defined hit records from Elvis, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and many more. Young started his career in Memphis, where he was an in-demand session player working with producer Chips Moman, and opened for the Beatles with the Bill Black Combo in 1964. At Moman’s American Studio in Memphis, he played the signature sitar intro on “Hooked on a Feeling,” by B. J. Thomas, and played guitar on “Son of a Preacher Man” by Dusty Springfield, “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond, and “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis Presley. Young died in Nashville, Tennessee on January 17, 2019.

Politics and Military

Douglas M. Costle (79) helped to draw up the blueprints for the federal Environmental Protection Agency and was its administrator when it tackled toxic waste sites and fluorocarbons and monitored radioactivity from the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster. Appointed to head the agency by President Jimmy Carter in 1977, Costle recruited 600 scientists and other professionals within two months of taking office at what was already the government’s largest regulatory body. He was instrumental in creating the so-called Superfund to decontaminate toxic waste sites after the Love Canal health crisis near Niagara Falls, New York and oversaw a $400 million agreement with US Steel to curtail air pollution. At his first news conference, Costle announced the recall of 135,000 Cadillacs because they failed to meet minimum standards under the newly minted Clean Air Act. He died of a stroke in McLean, Virginia on January 14, 2019.

Nathan Glazer (95) sociologist and public intellectual who assisted on a classic study of conformity, The Lonely Crowd, and cowrote a groundbreaking document of nonconformity, Beyond the Melting Pot. A longtime professor at Harvard University, Glazer was among the last of the thinkers who influenced culture and politics in the mid-20th century. Starting in the ‘40s, he was a writer and editor for Commentary and The New Republic. Later he was a coeditor of The Public Interest and wrote or cowrote numerous books. With peers such as Daniel Bell and Irving Howe, he had a wide range of interests, “a notion of universal competence,” from foreign policy to Modernist architecture, the subject of one of his latter books, From a Cause to a Style. A radical in his youth, Glazer was regarded as a founding “neoconservative,” a label he resisted. He died in Cambridge, Massachusetts on January 19, 2019.

Antonio ('Tony') Mendez (78) former Central Intelligence Agency technical operations officer who helped to rescue six US diplomats from Iran in 1980 and was portrayed by Ben Affleck in the Oscar-winning film Argo. Specializing in covert operations, Mendez helped to devise the plan under which six diplomats who were in hiding were disguised as a Canadian film crew so they could board a flight and escape the country amid the Iran hostage crisis. The daring plot—for years a side note to the 52 people held hostage for 444 days—captured the public’s attention in Argo, which won the 2013 Oscar for best picture. Mendez, who joined the CIA after being recruited in 1965, spent his 25-year career working undercover in Cold War battlegrounds, including the Soviet Union. Working as a “chief of disguise,” Mendez and his workers helped secret agents to remain secret through disguises and false documents. He died of Parkinson's disease in Frederick, Maryland on January 19, 2019.

Edward A. Morrison (85) former New York deputy mayor whose avowal that John Lennon was a valuable cultural asset to the city helped Lennon to avoid deportation in the ‘70s. A lawyer, Morrison was among the advisers to Lennon and his wife, artist and singer Yoko Ono, when Lennon’s residency in the US was challenged by the Nixon administration in 1972. Morrison was also a friend of the couple’s. Lennon and Ono had attended Morrison’s swearing-in as deputy mayor in 1972. Lennon had been living with Ono in New York for about a year when his immigration troubles began. They stemmed from his pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of cannabis possession in London in 1968. The White House contended that American immigration law barred the admission of convicted drug offenders. In 1973 the US issued a deportation order. But Leon Wildes, Lennon’s lawyer, discovered that despite the government’s claim, deportation was not automatic. Morrison kept the case before the public eye and built up public sentiment against deportation. He died of congestive heart failure in Ocala, Florida on January 19, 2019.


John Coughlin (33) two-time US pairs figure skating champion recently suspended from the sport. Coughlin received an interim suspension from the US Center for SafeSport and US Figure Skating on January 17 for unspecified conduct. He was barred from any activities sanctioned by the skating body or the US Olympic Committee. Coughlin was chairman of the International Skating Union athletes commission and a member of a technical committee. He won national pairs championships with two partners, teaming with Caitlin Yankowskas in 2011 and with Caydee Denney in ’12. He committed suicide in Kansas City, Missouri on January 18, 2019.

Eli Grba (84) first player to throw a pitch for the Los Angeles Angels. A pitcher with a penchant for partying and a competitive spirit, Grba was known as the Original Angel. With the opening selection of Major League Baseball's first expansion draft in December 1960, Angels general manager Fred Haney made Grba the first addition to the Angels’ inaugural roster. Grba appeared in 40 games in 1961–62 and threw eight complete games in the Angels’ first season. But an addiction to alcohol cut short what might have been a promising career, and he was out of baseball by 1967. A fall through an open window at a rehabilitation facility turned his fortunes around in summer 1981. Grba never drank again. Within a year he had returned to baseball as a minor league pitching coach and was a scout for the Phillies in the ‘90s before retiring. He died in Florence, Alabama after a three-month battle with pancreatic cancer, on January 14, 2019.

Mel Stottlemyre (77) made his mark on the pitcher’s mound: started Game 7 of the World Series, earned five championship rings as a pitching coach, and wound up with a plaque at Monument Park. But his most enduring impression might have come with the bat—more than 50 years later, he remains the last pitcher to hit an inside-the-park grand slam. Stottlemyre was the ace who later oversaw stellar staffs for both the New York Yankees and Mets. Arriving at Yankee Stadium in August 1964, he posted a 9-3 record while helping the Yankees to win a fifth straight pennant. He then faced Bob Gibson, the St. Louis Cardinals’ future Hall of Fame pitcher, three times in the World Series. The Yankees were beaten by the Cardinals in seven games, but Stottlemyre became an anchor of their pitching staff. In his 11 seasons with the Yankees, a long stretch of largely lean years after decades of dominance, he was one of their few bright spots. A right-hander featuring a superb sinkerball, he was a five-time All-Star and a three-time 20-game winner. Stottlemyre had suffered from multiple myeloma for nearly 20 years. He died in Seattle, Washington on January 13, 2019.

Glen Wood (93) patriarch of the famed Wood Brothers Racing team, the oldest living member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Wood Brothers is the longest continuous Cup team in NASCAR and has weathered lean years over nearly seven decades, including seasons in which the organization ran only a partial schedule. The team has been credited with revolutionizing pit stops from routine service calls into carefully orchestrated strategic events that can win or lose races. Wood and his younger brother Leonard cofounded Wood Brothers Racing in 1953. Glen Wood won only four races as a driver over an 11-year racing career but in 1998 was named one of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers—a list that included 20 drivers who had once raced a Wood Brothers car. He died in Stuart, Virginia on January 18, 2019.

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