Back to Life In Legacy Main Page Pages for Previous Weeks Celebrity Deaths Message Board
Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, April 6, 2019

Hold pointer over photo for person's name. Click on photo to go to brief obit.
Click on name to return to picture.

Sydney Brenner, Nobel-winning biologistJean-Louis David, French hairdresserKim English, house music vocalistDavid Fechheimer, private investigator inspired by Sam SpadeNatalia Fileva, one of Russia's richest womenDr. Richard Green, dissenting psychiatristErnest F. ('Fritz') Hollings, South Carolina governor and US senatorNipsey Hussle, Grammy-nominated rapperJoan Jones, US racial crusader in Nova ScotiaMarilyn Mason, concert organistVonda N. McIntyre, science fiction writerSam Pilafian, virtuoso tuba playerRabbi Yisroel Avrohom Portugal, Hasidic grand rabbiJim Rissmiller, concert promoterDan Robbins, creator of paint-by-numbersJacob A Stein, Washington lawyerDavid J. Thouless, Nobel Prize-winning scientistLy Tong, South Vietnamese patriot

Art and Literature

Vonda N. McIntyre (70) science fiction writer whose tales featured female protagonists—among them the healer in a postapocalyptic earth who cures the ill with snake venom—and wrote five Star Trek novels. When McIntyre began reading science fiction as a young girl, male writers dominated the genre. By her 30s, she was one of the category’s leading women, following a path established by Ursula K. Le Guin, Kate Wilhelm, and Anne McCaffrey. McIntyre then became an inspiring mentor to many younger female writers. She died of pancreatic cancer in Seattle, Washington on April 1, 2019.

Dan Robbins (93) artist who created the first paint-by-numbers pictures and helped to turn the kits into an American sensation during the ‘50s. Robbins’ works were dismissed by some critics but later celebrated by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. Robbins was working as a package designer for the Palmer Paint Co. in Detroit when he came up with the idea for paint-by-numbers in the late ‘40s. He said his inspiration came from Leonardo da Vinci. He had been in good health until a series of falls in recent months. He died in Sylvania, Ohio on April 1, 2019.

Business and Science

Sydney Brenner (92) South African-born biologist who helped to determine the nature of the genetic code and shared a Nobel Prize in 2002 for developing a tiny transparent worm into a test bed for biological discoveries. Brenner was a central player in the golden age of molecular biology, which extended from the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953 to the mid-‘60s. He then showed, in experiments with a roundworm known as C. elegans, how it might be possible to decode the human genome. That work laid the basis for the genomic phase of biology. Later, in a project still coming to fruition, he focused on understanding the functioning of the brain. Brenner died in Singapore on April 5, 2019.

Jean-Louis David (85) French hairdresser who created looks for women that emphasized practicality and style. David founded a worldwide chain of salons that bear his name. The first two Jean Louis David salons—without the hyphen—opened in Paris in the '60s. Unlike more traditional salons, which tended to specialize in stiff, heavily coifed styles that required regular upkeep, his salons aimed to appeal to a contemporary customer: a busy modern woman who wanted hair that felt less rigid, was easier to maintain, frequently looked slightly tousled, and had pronounced sex appeal. By the mid-‘90s there were nearly 1.000 Jean Louis David salons in North America and Europe. David died in Épalinges, Switzerland, a suburb of Lausanne, of complications from shingles, which he contracted last spring, on April 3, 2019.

David Fechheimer (76) flower child of the ‘60s and aspiring English professor who was inspired overnight by fictional gumshoe Sam Spade to switch careers and become one of the nation’s leading private investigators. By dint of personality and practice, Fechheimer was inconspicuous compared with many of his colleagues and most of his clients. He handled cases involving the Black Panthers, Kobe Bryant, Angela Davis, Robert Durst, John Gotti, Daniel Ellsberg, Patty Hearst, Timothy McVeigh, Roman Polanski, and Martha Stewart, among others. He died in Redwood City, California after open-heart surgery, on April 2, 2019.

Natalia Fileva (55) Russian airline operator S7 Group co-owner, one of Russia’s richest women. Fileva was killed in the crash of a small plane in Germany. She was aboard a single-engine, six-seat Epic-LT aircraft that crashed in a field on approach to the small airport in the town of Egelsbach in southwestern Germany. German police said there appeared to be three people aboard the plane, including the pilot of the flight, which originated in France. German aviation authorities were probing the cause of the crash. Fileva’s fortune was estimated at $600 million when she died on March 31, 2019.

Dr. Richard Green (82) one of the earliest and most vocal critics of psychiatry’s classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder. Also an advocate for gay and transgender rights in a series of landmark discrimination trials, Green became aware of the marginalization of people because of their sexual and gender identities while training to be a doctor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, a leader in the study of sexuality. In 1972, shortly after completing his specialty in psychiatry, he defied the advice of colleagues and wrote a paper in The International Journal of Psychiatry questioning “the premise that homosexuality is a disease or a homosexual is inferior.” In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association sided with Green and other influential figures and decided to drop homosexuality from its diagnostic manual. Brooklyn-born Green died of esophageal cancer in London, England on April 6, 2019.

David J. Thouless (84) shared the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics for discoveries that used mathematics to explain strange states of matter like superconductivity and superfluidity. Born in Scotland to English parents, Thouless had taught at Cambridge but received his Nobel while affiliated with the University of Washington. His research dealt with condensed-matter physics and specifically with what happens when matter changes phases—as, for example, when ice melts and becomes a liquid or water boils and becomes steam. Although phase transitions seem deceptively simple, the mathematics turn out to be exceedingly complex and important—particularly when one looks at such a transition at the microscopic level using quantum mechanics. Thouless died in Cambridge, England on April 6, 2019.


Jacob A. Stein (94) Washington lawyer who won the only major acquittal of a Watergate defendant, gained immunity for former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky to testify against President Bill Clinton, and, as an independent counsel, cleared Edwin Meese 3rd to become attorney general in 1984. A rare second-generation Washington lawyer, Stein rose to become unofficial dean of the District of Columbia bar. He seldom left a courtroom without earning the respect of his colleagues, the judge, the jury, and even his client, the defendant, win or lose. He successfully defended Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) against criminal charges of influence peddling. But the senator said he would have been impressed with Stein’s legal advocacy regardless of the verdict. Stein died of multiple myeloma in Washington, DC on April 3, 2019.

News and Entertainment

Kim English (48) singer whose vocals and spiritual perspective anchored more than a dozen house-music hits that reverberated in dance clubs beginning in the ‘90s. Dance music’s euphoria and church music’s rapture have been conceptual relatives for years, but English’s joyful 12-inch singles often made the connection explicit, speaking plainly about her Christianity and soaring with the fervor of gospel music. Like house music itself—a form of electronic dance music that emerged in the early ‘80s—English was born in Chicago, but she became best known through her relationship with New York garage, a strain of dance music that embraced production and melodies more amenable to gospel and soul. Her breakthrough was “Nite Life,” a 1994 12-inch disc given a luxurious mix by the New York garage producers Masters at Work and a harder-edged remix by Armand Van Helden. It became an enduring club staple. English suffered kidney failure and had been on dialysis for years. She died in Chicago, Illinois on April 2, 2019.

Nipsey Hussle (33) rapper fatally shot outside the clothing store he founded to help rebuild his troubled South Los Angeles neighborhood, cutting short a career that earned him a Grammy nomination this year for his major-label debut. Hussle was one of three men shot outside Marathon Clothing, his store in South LA. The other two were in stable condition. Detectives were canvassing the area for witnesses and looking to see if any surveillance video captured the shooting. Hussle, who had two children and was engaged to actress Lauren London, was Eritrean-American. He was born Ermias Asghedom in 1985 in the same Crenshaw neighborhood where he died and where he had been working to provide youths with alternatives to the hustling he did when he was younger, in Los Angeles, California on March 31, 2019.

Marilyn Mason (93) concert organist who championed living composers and shaped generations of organists over a record-breaking 67 years on the faculty at the University of Michigan. Mason’s concert career took her to churches and halls on five continents. In 1957 she was the first American woman to play an organ concerto at Westminster Abbey. By then she had established herself as a performer of new music, thanks in part to her 1951 recording of Arnold Schoenberg's Variations on a Recitative (Op. 40). Mason, who had taken lessons with Schoenberg in 1949 in Los Angeles, became one of the most prominent advocates for that piece. She commissioned more than 70 works from new composers. Mason died in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on April 4, 2019.

Sam Pilafian (69) virtuoso tuba player who performed an eclectic mix of classical, jazz, pop, and rock music and brought exuberance to teaching young tubists. As a busy soloist, a founding member of the influential Empire Brass quintet, and a partner to acoustic guitarist Frank Vignola in the jazz group Travelin’ Light, Pilafian expanded the musical possibilities of his lumbering instrument. He played with Broadway singers Bernadette Peters and Barbara Cook; the Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton orchestras; the ensemble on the Philip Glass album Koyaanisqatsi (1982); the New York Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, as a substitute or soloist; and Pink Floyd, on the 1979 album The Wall. Pilafian died of colon cancer in Tempe, Arizona on April 5, 2019.

Jim Rissmiller (76) for a generation of southern California music fans, the phrase “Wolf & Rissmiller Presents” was synonymous with live performances by the cream of the crop of rock and pop music superstars, from the Rolling Stones to Elton John. As one of the region’s premier concert promoters, the team of Steve Wolf and Jim Rissmiller helped to usher in the era of “arena rock” as pop music blossomed and moved out of the clubs, theaters, and concert halls into sports arenas and stadiums, establishing practices and traditions that continue to play out in the concert business decades later. Their partnership came to an abrupt end on November 20, 1977, when Wolf was killed after apparently surprising burglars at his home. A 19-year-old man was later convicted of second-degree murder in his death. Rissmiller died of a stroke in Cleveland, Ohio on April 3, 2019.

Politics and Military

Ernest F. ('Fritz') Hollings (97) Democrat who helped to shepherd South Carolina through desegregation as governor and later served six terms in the US Senate. Hollings, whose long and colorful political career included an unsuccessful bid for the Democrat presidential nomination, retired from the Senate in 2005, one of the last of the larger-than-life Democrats who dominated politics in the South. He had served 38 years and two months, making him the eighth longest-serving senator in US history. Nevertheless he remained the junior senator from South Carolina for most of his term. The senior senator was Strom Thurmond, first elected in 1954. Thurmond retired in January 2003 at age 100 as the longest-serving senator in history and died five months later. In his final Senate speech, made in 2004, Hollings lamented that lawmakers came to spend much of their time raising money for the next election. He died on the Isle of Palms, South Carolina on April 6, 2019.

Ly Tong (74) South Vietnamese Air Force veteran who dropped anti-Communist leaflets over Vietnam from hijacked planes long after the war’s end, playing out the fantasies of many defeated soldiers of the south. A man who never accepted defeat, Ly Tong considered it his personal mission to take back his country from the Communists, who have ruled it since winning the Vietnam War in 1975. He became a hero to many Vietnamese refugees in 1992 when he hijacked a commercial airliner after takeoff from Bangkok, ordered the pilot to fly low over Ho Chi Minh City—known as Saigon, South Vietnam’s capital, before the Communist victory—and dumped thousands of leaflets calling for a popular uprising, then strapped on a parachute and followed the leaflets down to certain capture. He was released six years later in an amnesty and returned to the US, where he had become a citizen after the war. In 2000, under the guise of taking flying lessons in Thailand, Ly Tong made a second trip over Ho Chi Minh City, sending down a new cascade of leaflets, which he had signed “Global Alliance for the Total Uprising Against Communists.” He was arrested on his return to Thailand and spent another six years in prison for hijacking. He was not armed, and no one was hurt on either of his flights. He died of lung disease in San Diego, California on April 6, 2019.

Society and Religion

Joan Jones (79) crusader for racial justice and equality in Nova Scotia, whose black population has faced discrimination and hostility for centuries. American-born Jones went to the province in the mid-‘60s with her husband, Burnley Jones, and the two set about galvanizing black residents on housing, employment, and other issues. Racism was entrenched. Although the black population had roots going back centuries—some people were the descendants of slaves who had fought with the British during the American Revolution and had resettled there—the black community was never large and had never had much political power. School segregation persisted into the ‘50s. Black residents (there are about 22,000 today out of a population of 965,000) had disproportionately high dropout, incarceration, and unemployment rates. Over the years Jones held several jobs with Canada’s public works department, was a consultant to the provincial government, was a co-owner of two boutiques, and worked for Nova Scotia Legal Aid, retiring from that agency in 2008. She died in Halifax, Nova Scotia on April 1, 2019.

Rabbi Yisroel Avrohom Portugal (95) Hasidic grand rabbi who had no more than a few hundred followers and no cavernous synagogue or prestigious yeshiva as his base. Yet Portugal, grand rabbi of the tiny Skulen Hasidic sect, was revered throughout the growing ultra-Orthodox world. Portugal may have been the last of the Hasidic grand rabbis who survived the ordeals of both the Holocaust and the Iron Curtain and rebuilt their communities in New York and Israel. He died in Baltimore, Maryland, succumbing to an infection he had had for months, on April 1, 2019.

Previous Week
Next Week

Return to Main Page
Return to Top