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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, April 27, 2019

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Chris Albertson, biographer of blues singer Bessie SmithPatricia Battin, librarian who championed digital reformatting of crumbling booksHenry W. Bloch, cofounder of H&R BlockGiuliano Buglialli, Italian chef and cookbook authorEdwin Drummond, mountaineer and poetHannelore Elsner, German TV and film actressSteve Golin, Oscar-winning film producerDr. David A. Hamburg, behavioral scientistHeather Harper, Irish opera singerVerna Hart, jazz-inspired painterJohn Havlicek, Boston Celtics starBen Heller, NYC art collector and dealer with Jackson Pollock's 'Blue Poles'Heidi Hetzer, drove around worldKen Kercheval, 'Dallas' actorMartin Kilson, first tenured black professor at HarvardMichael Koskoff, Connecticut lawyerVerena Wagner Lafferentz, last grandchild of composer Richard WagnerJohn L'Heureux, former priest turned authorManuel Luján Jr., former US Secretary of InteriorMark Medoff, playwright and screenwriterJean, Grand Duke of LuxembourgDavid Winters, Broadwa,y, film, and TV dancer and choreographerMichael Wolf, photographer of megacities

Art and Literature

Chris Albertson (87) Danish disc jockey, superfan of US blues singer Bessie Smith (died 1937), who later produced a widely praised multivolume reissue of her recordings and wrote an equally acclaimed biography. In all, 10 LPs of her work were released in five two-disc sets. The first, Bessie Smith: The World’s Greatest Blues Singer (1970), earned Albertson a Grammy Award for best liner notes. The other four were released through 1972. He was found dead at his home in New York City on April 24, 2019.

Verna Hart (58) artist who knew what she wanted to be when she was only 5. Encouraged by her parents, Verna made the walls of her family’s home in Queens her canvas, drawing cartoons and other scenes on them. Her colorful expressionist paintings, usually inspired by the jazz she heard in New York nightclubs, have been shown in gallery exhibitions, featured on record album covers (including one for Branford Marsalis), and used on the sets of movies and TV shows—including Spike Lee’s 1990 film, Mo Better Blues, for which he commissioned her “Piano Man.” Her work appeared on a commemorative postal stamp in Anguilla (where her painting “Fresh Catch” won first place in its International Arts Festival in 1998). Her work “Jammin’ Under the El” was installed at the Myrtle Avenue-Broadway elevated station of the J&M subway lines in Brooklyn in 1999. Hart’s paintings were inspired by the dynamic improvisation of jazz. She died of a seizure while she slept, in Wilmington, Delaware on April 26, 2019.

Ben Heller (93) New York art collector and dealer best known for his early embrace of Abstract Expressionism and the sale of one of its masterworks to an Australian museum, which caused an international furor. Heller’s sale of Jackson Pollock’s “Blue Poles” to the National Gallery of Australia, then under construction in Canberra, the nation’s capital, was announced in September 1973. The news caused an uproar in the New York art world. In Australia it nearly brought down the Labor government of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, who had to sign off on the $2 million sale. In New York Heller was criticized for letting the painting leave the country and for blurring the lines between collector and dealer. Most startling of all was the astronomically high “Rembrandt class” price, so called because the amount paid was more typical of old master paintings. It was the largest sum offered for an American painting—a record that held for 10 years—and it made the investment potential of modern and contemporary art starkly clear. Heller died of a stroke in Sharon, Connecticut on April 24, 2019.

John L'Heureux (84) author and former Jesuit priest whose fiction grappled with morality, redemption, and transcendence. A professor of English at Stanford for 36 years, L’Heureux wrote more than 20 books and numerous short stories and poems. His best-known novels include A Woman Run Mad (1988), a psychological thriller; The Shrine at Altamira (1992), a horrific tale of spurned love and the cycle of child abuse; and The Medici Boy (2014), a historical novel about Donatello, the 15th-century Florentine sculptor. Many of his short stories appeared in The Atlantic, Esquire, and the New Yorker. L’Heureux died of Parkinson’s disease in Palo Alto, California on April 22, 2019.

Michael Wolf (64) award-winning Hong Kong-based photographer known for his work depicting megacities. Wolf won a first prize in the World Press Photo competition in 2005 and ’10. His work covered Tokyo, Chicago, and Paris, but his favorite city was Hong Kong, where he moved in 1994. Born in Munich, Germany, Wolf worked as a photojournalist and began focusing on his own projects in 2001. He published several books including Architecture of Density (2012), which portrays Hong Kong’s dense urban development. Wolf died in his sleep in Cheung Chau, an outlying island near Hong Kong, on April 23, 2019.

Business and Science

Henry W. Bloch (96) pitchman who helped to found tax preparation giant H&R Block. Bloch founded the company in 1955 in a tiny office on Main Street in his hometown, Kansas City, Mo., with his brother, Richard (died 2004), angling to take advantage of the vacuum left as the Internal Revenue Service stopped providing free income tax return service. The company rapidly expanded, aided by the concept of franchising H&R Block tax offices. In 1962 H&R Block became a public company, with an initial public offering of 75,000 shares at $4 each. Today there are more than 12,000 H&R Block offices. Henry Bloch retired as H&R Block's chief executive in 1992 and as chairman of the board of directors in 2000. He died in Kansas City, Missouri on April 23, 2019.

Giuliano Buglialli (88) championed traditional Italian cuisine with authoritative cookbooks and culinary schools that taught future chefs and the occasional celebrity how to prepare its classic dishes. Bugialli spurred a new interest in the food of Italy with his cooking schools and, in 1977, with his book, The Fine Art of Italian Cooking, which has been reissued several times and is regarded as a standard in the field. French cuisine was being celebrated in the ‘70s, but Bugialli made the argument that Italian cooking also deserved to be taken seriously, beginning with the understanding that it varies by region. He died in Viareggio, Italy on April 26, 2019.

Dr. David A. Hamburg (93) behavioral scientist with a broad public profile who got to test his theories on conflict resolution with Soviet leaders during the Cold War and in negotiations with African guerrillas holding his students hostage. Hamburg advanced biological and genetic research into the causes of aggression and violence as a psychiatrist, taught at major universities (Stanford, Harvard), championed the sciences as leader of two major professional organizations, and, as president of one of the world’s best-endowed foundations, was able to jump-start many of the programs and policies that until then he had been able only to espouse. His résumé included appointments as president of the Carnegie Corp. of New York from 1982–97, president of the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine from ‘75–80, and president and chairman of the American Association for the Advancement of Science from ‘84–86. Hamburg died of ischemic colitis in Washington, DC on April 21, 2019.

Heidi Hetzer (81) German businesswoman whose late-in-life decision to drive around the world in an American vintage car won her fans wherever she went. A trained mechanic who once lost a finger repairing an engine, Hetzer took over the family car business in 1969, turning it into one of Berlin's biggest. Having taken part in various car rallies for decades and driven from Germany to China in 2007, Hetzer decided to take her ‘30s Hudson Greater Eight on a world tour in 2014. She received a hero's welcome at the Brandenburg Gate when she returned to Berlin in 2017. Her trip took her through eastern Europe, across China, then to Australia. After reaching New Zealand, she and her car were transferred to the Americas, where she drove across Canada, then headed south through the US, Mexico, and Central and South America. She then sailed to Africa and finally back home. Hetzer died in Berlin, Germany on April 21, 2019.


Patricia Battin (89) librarian who in the ‘70s and '80s became a champion of reformatting books and old newspapers, using microfilm, computers, and the emerging Internet to preserve material and make it accessible while creating more shelf space for new items. In the ‘80s Battin led a national campaign to save millions of disintegrating books that were published between 1850–1950, persuading Congress to increase its funding for microfilming those so-called brittle books. To many librarians, she was a pioneer and a visionary. Horrified that the printed word seemed to be crumbling to dust before her eyes, she helped to lead the profession out of the dark ages and embraced the digital revolution. Battin died of heart-related complications in Mitchellville, Maryland on April 22, 2019.

Martin Kilson (88) leftist scholar, fierce debater, and follower of W.E.B. Du Bois who became the first tenured black professor at Harvard. A son of a Methodist minister, Kilson was a prolific writer, an expert on ethnic politics in Africa and the US, and a mentor to generations of students. He also found vigorous public debate irresistible during his nearly 40 years as a professor of government at Harvard. Kilson died of congestive heart failure in Lincoln, Massachusetts on April 24, 2019.


Michael Koskoff (77) Connecticut litigator who defended Black Panthers, won record malpractice awards, mounted racial job-discrimination battles, and sued gunmakers whose weapons were used in the Sandy Hook school massacre. Koskoff was a longtime Westport resident who for more than 40 years defended people’s civil rights and protected residents from medical malpractice. As senior partner of the local law firm Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, he won some of the largest civil verdicts in state history on behalf of clients. He died of pancreatic cancer in New York City on April 24, 2019.

News and Entertainment

Hannelore Elsner (76) actress who defined the role of smart-talking female police inspector in one of Germany’s most widely watched TV series and gained acclaim for her portrayal of a despondent novelist in the movie No Place to Go. Since her first appearance onscreen, in 1959, Elsner had been a fixture of German TV. She was one of the country’s best-known actors, both on TV and in movies. But it was not until she was in her late 50s that she made her international breakthrough, in No Place to Go (2000), shown at the Cannes Film Festival and released in other countries. It won Germany’s highest film award, the Deutscher Filmpreis (German Film Prize) in Gold, and Elsner won the Deutscher Filmpeis for best actress for her performance as a tormented West German writer despairing over the collapse of communism in East Germany and confronting her past. She died of breast cancer in Munich, Germany on April 21, 2019.

Steve Golin (64) independent film producer whose career began with low-budget movies like Hard Rock Zombies in the ‘80s and reached its peak when he and three colleagues won the best-picture Oscar in 2016 for Spotlight. The 2016 Academy Awards ceremony was a capstone for Golin. Not only was Spotlight, Tom McCarthy's film about the Boston Globe’s investigation of child abuse by Roman Catholic priests named best picture, a second film that Golin and his company Anonymous produced, The Revenant, about an early-19th-century frontiersman fighting for his life after being mauled by a bear, was also nominated in that category that year and won for best actor, Leonardo DiCaprio, and best director, Alejandro G. Iñárritu. Those films, although wildly different, represented the type of compelling human stories that Golin preferred to tell. He died of Ewing sarcoma in Los Angleles, California on April 21, 2019.

Heather Harper (88) Northern Irish-born soprano known for her voice and musical sensitivity in repertory ranging from Baroque to contemporary music, and a notable interpreter of the music of Benjamin Britten. Harper’s sound, focused tone, and technical agility made her ideal for lighter, lyric repertory. Yet the penetrating richness of her voice took her into weightier roles, like Richard Strauss’s Arabella and Wagner’s Elsa in Lohengrin, a part she sang at the Bayreuth Festival in Germany under conductor Rudolf Kempe. She died in London, England on April 21, 2019.

Ken Kercheval (83) actor who played perennial punching bag Cliff Barnes to Larry Hagman’s scheming oil baron J. R. Ewing on the hit TV series Dallas. Kercheval was on the show for its full run, from 1978–91, and returned as oilman Cliff opposite Hagman (died 2012) for a revival of the prime-time drama that aired from 2012–14. Cliff was a nice guy, Kercheval said, but with brother-in-law J. R .’s constant battering he had to defend himself. Cliff constantly struggled against J. R.’s machinations on Dallas, which revolved around a wealthy, feuding Texas family and became famous for extravagant plot devices like an entire season that turned out to have been a dream and a season-ending cliffhanger that made audiences wait months to learn who shot J. R. Kercheval died of lung cancer in Clinton, Indiana on April 21, 2019.

Verena Wagner Lafferentz (98) last surviving grandchild of opera composer Richard Wagner and one of the last people alive who knew Adolf Hitler intimately. Lafferentz was the youngest of the composer’s four grandchildren and was distinguished by her lack of artistic ambition. She died in Nussdorf, Germany on April 26, 2019.

Mark Medoff (79) playwright whose Children of a Lesser God won Tony and Olivier awards and whose screen adaptation of his play earned an Oscar nomination. Medoff wrote 30 plays and wrote, produced, or directed 19 movies. He found his greatest success with Children of a Lesser God, the tale of a love affair between a speech teacher and a deaf woman who struggle to overcome the communication gap between their two worlds. Phyllis Frelich won a Tony in 1980 for her Broadway portrayal of Sarah Norman, the deaf woman at the heart of the play, which ran for almost 900 performances. It was later made into a movie in 1986 that won an Oscar for actress Marlee Matlin, who costarred opposite William Hurt. Medoff's work often tackled social issues, including animal testing and AIDS in the play Prymate, American myths and disorders in the Obie-winning stage work When You Comin' Back, Red Ryder?, and poverty in India in his screenplay for the 1992 film City of Joy. His 2015 play Marilee & Baby Lamb: The Assassination of an American Goddess, is about the last days of Marilyn Monroe. Medoff had been battling multiple myeloma and renal failure. He died in Las Cruces, New Mexico on April 23, 2019.

David Winters (80) danced in the original Broadway production of West Side Story (1957) and in the 1961 film version, then fashioned a show business career as a choreographer for Ann-Margret, Elvis Presley, and others. Winters had an energetic style as a dancer and later as a choreographer, then as creator of dances for Ann-Margret and Presley in the movie Viva Las Vegas (1964) and for the ‘60s musical variety TV shows Shindig! and Hullabaloo. He died of congestive heart failure in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on April 23, 2019.

Politics and Military

Manuel Luján Jr. (90) spent 20 years as a Republican congressman and later as a US Interior Secretary who drew fire from environmentalists for challenging the Endangered Species Act. Luján represented New Mexico's 1st District from 1969–89. He gained a reputation as an advocate for Native Americans, business, and constituents in a majority-Democrat district. As Luján’s final term wound down, President George H. W. Bush tapped him for his Cabinet. As interior secretary, Luján sought to strike a balance between business interests and the Endangered Species Act, which he said was too tough on regional economies. He said proposed federal protection of the northern spotted owl in the Pacific Northwest would cost 31,000 timber jobs. Calling those consequences unacceptable, Luján launched an exemption process by convening a little-used committee with the power to allow logging to continue despite the threat to the owl. He died in Albuquerque, New Mexico on April 25, 2019.

Jean, Grand Duke of Luxembourg (98) decorated combat veteran of World War II whose 36-year reign coincided with a period of great prosperity for his country. Jean took the throne when his mother, Grand Duchess Charlotte, abdicated in 1964. Jean, in turn, abdicated in favor of his eldest son Henri in 2000. He was the eighth sovereign of Luxembourg since it became a grand duchy in 1815, sharing borders with Belgium, France, and Germany. It is the only grand duchy in the world. The constitutional role of head of state is largely ceremonial. Luxembourg saw unprecedented levels of growth during Grand Duke Jean’s reign. From the mid-‘80s to 2000 its average rate of growth of gross domestic product outpaced that of most other European countries. It is now one of the wealthiest countries in the world in terms of gross domestic product per capita. During Jean’s reign the country moved from being an industrial center to a financial services hub. Jean died of a lung infection in Luxembourg on April 23, 2019.

H. Johannes Witteveen (97) Dutch economist and politician who, as head of the International Monetary Fund from 1973–78, helped to steer the world economy through some of the worst turbulence since World War II. As the IMF’s fifth managing director, Witteveen took over a demoralized and sidelined institution. Only six months earlier, the justification for the fund’s very existence had been put into question when the world abandoned the system of fixed currency values the fund had been created to supervise, switching to a market-based regimen of floating exchange rates. Within months of his arrival, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries quadrupled the price of oil, plunging the world into a nightmarish combination of recession and inflation, quickly labeled “stagflation.” Witteveen used both those seemingly unfavorable developments to revive the institution’s fortunes, creating new functions for the IMF and giving it renewed relevance and prestige. He died in Wassenaar, Netherlands on April 23, 2019.


Edwin Drummond (73) mountaineer and poet who made international headlines by scaling landmarks like the Statue of Liberty as a form of protest. Drummond was already well known in climbing circles as a sort of alpine poet laureate before he decided, in the late ‘70s, to use the talents he honed on European peaks and El Capitan in Yosemite National Park to draw attention to causes he considered important. He faced legal repercussions for climbing various buildings and monuments, which he saw as a small price to pay for battling injustice. Drummond had had Parkinson’s disease since 1994 but died of pneumonia in Oakland, California on April 23, 2019.

John Havlicek (79) force for the Boston Celtics over 20 years and two championship eras and one of the greatest clutch stars in NBA history. Havlicek showed an unyielding consistency throughout a 16-season Hall of Fame career. His legacy was built over 16 years with the Boston Celtics, eight of them as NBA champions, making him among the best to ever play the game. Voted one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players, he won eight titles with Boston, and his steal of Hal Greer’s inbounds pass helped the Celtics to hold off Philadelphia in the 1965 Eastern Conference final. He died of Parkinson's disease in Jupiter, Florida on April 25, 2019.

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