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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, May 4, 2019

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John Singleton, youngest Oscar-nominated film directorSusan Beschta, punk rocker turned federal judgeRichard A. Brown, NYC district attorneyBeth Carvalho, Brazilian samba singerWayson Choy, Chinese authorEva De La O, Hispanic lyric sopranoMichael Doyle, champion surferRachel Held Evans, progressive Christian authorRafael Hernández Colón, former governor of Puerto RicoNurit Karlin, 'New Yorker' cartoonistDamon Keith, pioneering federal judgeRed Kelly, Canadian hockey player and coachChuck Kinder, novelistTerry Allen Kramer, Tony-winning Broadway producerArt Kunkin, founder of early LA underground newspaperJo Sullivan Loesser, singer and widow of hit Broadway songwriter Frank LoesserRichard Lugar, former US senator from IndianaGino Marchetti, Baltimore Colt defensive endPeter Mayhew, British actor who played Chewbacca in 'Star Wars'Karol Modzelewski, Polish historian and Solidarity activistLes Murray, Australian poetNils Nilsson, computer scientistMichel Roux, French liquor executiveRuben Rueda, Hollywood bartenderGloria Schiff, glamorous modeling twinRabbi Menachem Mendel Taub, Holocaust survivorEllen Tauscher, former congresswoman from CaliforniaTyrone Thompson, Nevada state assemblyman

Art and Literature

Wayson Choy (80) wrote of the Chinese-Canadian experience in memoirs and novels like The Jade Peony, which became a mainstay in Canadian classrooms and led to a revelation about the writer’s own past. Choy's debut novel, published in 1995 when he was 56, it was one of the first to detail life in a Chinese-Canadian community. It follows a Chinese immigrant family in Vancouver in the ‘30s and ’40s as they struggle to make a home in a sometimes hostile country, drawing what support they can from shared traditions, community, and folklore, navigating between the Chinese cultural mores still observed at home and the Western influences outside it. The novel sold in the hundreds of thousands and was critically well received. Choy died in Toronto, Canada of a heart attack brought on by asthma, on April 28, 2019.

Nurit Karlin (80) cartoonist whose simply drawn cartoons were subtle sight gags, mainly for the New Yorker, rendered largely without captions. It was a familiar approach to New Yorker readers, who had long known the work of Saul Steinberg. But in Karlin’s case it was coming from an unusual source: when she began contributing to the magazine in 1974, she was the only woman in the ranks of its cartoonists, long a largely male preserve. Karlin drew whimsical but thoughtful cartoons: an office worker sitting in what is actually one of his desk’s drawers, a lumberjack peering at a heart pierced by an arrow carved inside the rings of a felled tree, a harpist taking his bows on a concert stage with the strings of his instrument dangling from one hand. She died in Tel Aviv, Israel, where she had been living since the mid-2000s, on April 30, 2019.

Chuck Kinder (76) novelist who became known for inspiring the central character in Michael Chabon’s 1995 novel Wonder Boys. Kinder published his first novel, Snakehunter, in 1973, followed by The Silver Ghost (1979), Honeymooners: A Cautionary Tale (2001), and Last Mountain Dancer: Hard-Earned Lessons in Love, Loss & Honky-Tonk Outlaw Life (2004). The last, set mainly in the Bay Area in the ‘70s, was perhaps his most famous work and became something of a myth to those who knew him, because the author was believed to have struggled with it for more than 10 years. It tells the story of two bad-boy American writers and is based on Kinder’s real-life friendship with short-story author and poet Raymond Carver. Kinder died of heart failure in Miami, Florida on May 3, 2019.

Les Murray (80) Australian poet with an international reputation whose verse ruminated on death, his native bushland, and his own turbulent life. Considered Australia’s unofficial poet laureate and for years discussed as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature, Murray published nearly 30 volumes. His last, Collected Poems (2018), contains more than 700 poems. He died in Taree, New South Wales, Australia on April 29, 2019.

Business and Science

Nils Nilsson (86) computer scientist who helped to develop the first general-purpose robot and was a coinventor of algorithms that made it possible for the machine to move about efficiently and perform simple tasks. Nilsson was a member of a small group of computer scientists and electrical engineers at the Stanford Research Institute (now known as SRI International) who pioneered technologies that have proliferated in modern life, whether in navigation software used in more than a billion smartphones or in such speech-control systems as Siri. The researchers had been recruited by Charles Rosen, a physicist at the institute, who had raised Pentagon funding in 1966 to design a robot that would be used as a platform for doing research in artificial intelligence. Nilsson died in Medford, Oregon on April 28, 2019.

Michel Roux (78) French-born liquor executive who used a distinctive and witty advertising campaign to turn Absolut, a little-known Swedish brand, into the top imported vodka in the US. The Absolut campaign, appearing largely in upscale magazines, started in 1980 when Roux was No. 2 executive at Carillon Importers, which marketed and distributed Absolut in America. Conceived by the agency TBWA, the ads imbued Absolut with a sophisticated image. Roux, who became Carillon’s president in 1982, added to the campaign by commissioning Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, Ed Ruscha, and many other artists and photographers to reimagine the bottle in a long-running series of ads. He died of cardiac arrest in Palm Coast, Florida on April 30, 2019.

Ruben Rueda (67) longtime bartender at Hollywood’s legendary Musso & Frank Grill. Rueda was a bridge from old Hollywood to today, often regaling patrons with stories of yesteryear while mixing a perfect cocktail. For more than 50 years he crossed paths with Los Angeles icons like poet Charles Bukowski, whom he’d often drive home when Bukowski was drunk, and Steve McQueen. Rueda made martinis for Orson Welles and served a potent pecan punch to Bing Crosby. Keith Richards once gifted him with a Gibson electric guitar, and author Gore Vidal was hoisted from his wheelchair to a barstool for one last drink from Rueda before his death in 2012. Rueda died in Los Angeles, California on May 3, 2019.

Goro Shimura (89) Princeton mathematician (1964-99) whose insights provided the foundation for the proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem and led to tools widely used in modern cryptography. In 1955 Yutaka Taniyama, a colleague and friend of Shimura’s, posed some questions about mathematical objects called elliptic curves. Shimura helped to refine Taniyama’s speculations into an assertion now known as the Taniyama-Shimura conjecture. But no one knew how to prove it. The conjecture appeared unconnected to Fermat’s Last Theorem, a seemingly simple statement made by French mathematician Pierre de Fermat in 1637. if Fermat’s Last Theorem were wrong, and there indeed existed a set of integers that fit the equation, that would generate an elliptic curve that violated the Taniyama-Shimura conjecture. Thus, a proof of a form of the Taniyama-Shimura conjecture would also prove Fermat’s Last Theorem. In the ‘90s Andrew Wiles, then also at Princeton, figured out how to do just that, and Fermat’s Last Theorem was finally proved true. Shimura died in Princeton, New Jersey on May 3, 2019.


Susan Beschta (67) performed in the ‘70s art-punk band the Erasers as frontwoman Susan Springfield before taking an unlikely career turn, becoming a human rights lawyer, then an immigration judge. When punk rock burst on the music world, Beschta, a self-taught guitarist and vocalist, could be found in crowded, raucous downtown Manhattan nightclubs belting out attitude-laced three-chord rockers in the Patti Smith vein. By the end of the ’80s she had gone in a completely new direction, earning a law degree and working for a charity representing abuse victims and immigrants. By the early 2000s she was a federal government lawyer in New York handling immigration cases. And by early 2019 she had become a federal judge, also in New York—not long after she learned of her cancer diagnosis. She died of brain cancer in New York City on May 2, 2019.

Richard A. Brown (86) New York prosecutor and judge whose 40-plus years in criminal justice stretched from the “Mean Streets” era of the ‘70s to today’s opioid crisis. Brown was first appointed district attorney in 1991 by then-Gov. Mario Cuomo, a Democrat, and was reelected to six terms in office, running unopposed. He announced in January that he would not seek reelection but would serve out the end of his term. Then in March he said he would step down on June 1 because of health problems associated with Parkinson's disease. He was a judge for 18 years before serving as a prosecutor and was known universally as “Judge Brown.” As DA, Brown oversaw the creation of programs including drug courts, a domestic violence bureau, an office of immigrant affairs, and most recently the Queens Treatment Intervention Program, intended to help addicts avoid prosecution. He died in Redding, Connecticut on May 4, 2019.

Damon J. Keith (96) grandson of slaves and figure in the civil rights movement who as a federal judge was sued by President Richard Nixon over a ruling against warrantless wire-taps. Keith served more than 50 years in the federal courts and still heard cases about four times a year at the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. He captured the nation’s attention with the wiretapping case against Nixon and Attorney General John Mitchell in 1971. Keith said they couldn’t engage in the warrantless wiretapping of three people suspected of conspiring to destroy government property. The decision was affirmed by the appellate court, and the Nixon administration appealed and sued Keith personally. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, where the judge prevailed in what became known as “the Keith case.” Keith revisited the civil liberties theme roughly 30 years later in an opinion that said President George W. Bush couldn’t conduct secret deportation hearings of terrorism suspects. He died in Detroit, Michigan on April 28, 2019.

News and Entertainment

Beth Carvalho (72) singer and songwriter known in Brazil as the “godmother of samba.” In a career that lasted more than 50 years and regularly brought her gold and platinum albums in Brazil, Carvalho championed generations of samba songwriters at crucial stages of their careers. Her voice was a smoky alto, and her music was upbeat, drawing on various samba styles and modernizing samba without succumbing to pop trends. In 2009 she became the first female samba singer to receive a Latin Grammy Award for lifetime achievement. Hospitalized since January, Carvalho died of sepsis in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on April 30, 2019.

Eva De La O (88) lyric soprano who founded a chamber music ensemble that introduced Hispanic classical composers and performers to new audiences for nearly 40 years. Besides performing herself at places including Carnegie Recital Hall, De La O appeared with the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater and the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra. She established Musica de Camara (chamber music, in Spanish), a nonprofit ensemble, in 1979. The group has put on more than 300 concerts, many of them at El Museo del Barrio in Manhattan, and at Lincoln Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and other sites, to promote Puerto Rican, Caribbean, and Latin American musicians. It also organizes educational performances in public schools. De La O died of lung cancer in New York City on May 4, 2019.

Terry Allen Kramer (85) Broadway producer who won five best-production Tony Awards in 16 years but was just as well known as the grande dame of Palm Beach, Florida. Kramer’s first Tony was for Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? (2002), the story of a married architect who falls in love with a female of another species. It was named best play. Her last Tony was for Hello, Dolly (2017), the Bette Midler production about Thornton Wilder’s 19th-century larger-than-life widowed matchmaker. It was named best musical revival. In between, Kramer won Tonys for two shows that featured drag performers as major characters: La Cage aux Folles (2004), best musical revival, and Kinky Boots (2013), best musical. She also produced the family drama The Humans (2016), by Stephen Karam, which won four Tonys, including best play. Kramer contracted pneumonia while visiting Lyford Cay in the Bahamas in April and died in New York City on May 2, 2019.

Art Kunkin (91) captured the discontent and creativity of the emerging counterculture in 1964 when he founded the Los Angeles Free Press, one of the first and most successful of the underground newspapers that appeared in those times. Kunkin’s eclectic life included time as a machinist; explorations of socialism, Sufism, and alchemy; and running a meditation school. But he was best known for The Freep, as his newspaper came to be called, a publication fueled by sex advertisements and featuring articles on subjects, like police oppression, the antiwar movement, and rock ’n’ roll, that were not being well covered by the mainstream press. He died in Joshua Tree, California on April 30, 2019.

Jo Sullivan Loesser (91) soprano who starred in Frank Loesser’s hit Broadway show The Most Happy Fella, married Loesser, and, after he died in 1969, preserved his legacy with revivals, revues, and recordings. Jo Sulivan’s path to success personified the script for a Hollywood musical. She arrived in New York in the mid-‘40s as a star-struck Midwesterner, paid her way through composition and music theory classes at Columbia University by working at the Lord & Taylor department store, then appeared on the radio competition Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts but lost to a harmonica duo. Her big break came in 1956, when she auditioned for the part of mail-order bride Rosabella in The Most Happy Fella, the operatic story of a May-December romance for which Frank Loesser (Guys & Dolls, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying) wrote the book, music, and lyrics. Jo Loesser died of heart failure in New York City on April 28, 2019.

Peter Mayhew (74) British-born actor best known for portraying gentle giant Chewbacca in the Star Wars movie franchise. Mayhew, who was 7-feet-3, climbed into a shaggy costume to play Chewbacca, the menacing-seeming yet cuddly Wookiee who was Han Solo’s sidekick and copilot aboard the spaceship Millennium Falcon. He appeared in all three films of the original Star Wars trilogy and in the prequel Revenge of the Sith in 2005 and the sequel The Force Awakens in ’15. He died of a heart attack in Texas on April 30, 2019.

John Singleton (51) director who made one of Hollywood’s most memorable debuts with the Oscar-nominated Boyz N the Hood and continued over the ensuing decades to probe the lives of black communities in his native Los Angeles and beyond. Singleton was in his early 20s, just out of the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, when he wrote, directed, and produced the film. Based on his own upbringing and shot in his old neighborhood, the low-budget production starred Cuba Gooding Jr. and Ice Cube and centered on three friends in south central LA, where college aspirations competed with the pressures of gang life. It was a critical and commercial hit, given a 20-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival, and praised as a groundbreaking extension of rap to the big screen, a realistic and compassionate take on race, class, peer pressure, and family. Singleton later called it a “rap album on film.” For many the 1991 release captured the explosive mood in LA in the months after the videotaped police beating of Rodney King. Singleton became the first black director to receive an Oscar nomination. At 24 he was also the youngest director nominee in Oscar history. He suffered a major stroke on April 17 and died in Los Angeles, California after being taken off life support, on April 28, 2019.

Politics and Military

Rafael Hernández Colón (82) former Puerto Rico governor who oversaw one of the US territory’s most prosperous periods. Hernández Colón was governor from 1973–77 and again from ‘85–93. He was an attorney and considered one of the most influential politicians of the Popular Democratic Party, which supports the island’s current political status. Before becoming governor, he was Puerto Rico’s justice secretary and president of the island’s Senate. He died of leukemia in San Juan, Puerto Rico on May 2, 2019.

Richard Lugar (87) former US senator from Indiana, a Republican foreign policy sage known for leading efforts to help the former Soviet states to dismantle and secure much of their nuclear arsenal, but whose reputation for working with Democrats cost him his final campaign. A former Rhodes Scholar, Lugar dominated Indiana politics during his 36 years in the US Senate. That popularity gave him the freedom to concentrate on foreign policy and national security matters—a focus highlighted by his collaboration with Democrat Sen. Sam Nunn on a program under which the US paid to dismantle and secure thousands of nuclear warheads and missiles in the former Soviet states after the Cold War ended. Lugar died in Fairfax, Virginia from complications related to chronic inflammatory demylinating polyneuropathy, or CIPD, a rare neurological disorder, on April 28, 2019.

Karol Modzelewski (81) historian who became a driving force in Solidarity, the labor movement that helped to topple the Communist regime in Poland, and its first spokesman. Modzelewski, who inspired and guided generations of dissidents both in his home country and abroad, was credited with coining the name Solidarity. His opposition to the regime dated to the ‘50s, and he was frequently arrested and imprisoned. He was believed to have spent more time behind bars than any other dissident in Communist Poland—a total of eight years and six months. A scholar of medieval history by trade, Modzelewski was known as an independent thinker whose nonconformity often set him on a collision course not only with his political enemies but also with allies and friends. He had suffered two strokes in recent years and died in Warsaw, Poland on April 28, 2019.

Ellen Tauscher (67) former Democrat congresswoman of California, a trailblazer for women in the world of finance who served in Congress for more than 10 years before joining the Obama administration. At age 25, Tauscher was the youngest woman and one of the first to hold a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. Her first foray into politics was chairing her friend Dianne Feinstein’s first two US Senate campaigns in 1992 and ’94. In 1996 Tauscher unseated two-term Republican Bill Baker for the 10th congressional district seat in the San Francisco Bay Area. She died of pneumonia in Stanford, California on April 29, 2019.

Tyrone Thompson (51) Nevada state assemblyman. Thompson joined the Assembly in 2013 and later was chair of the education committee. He worked on bills that increased student educational opportunities and stopped employment discrimination against people with criminal records. He represented a swath of north Las Vegas in Clark County. He was appointed to the 17th District seat in 2013 and was serving his third elected term. Before joining the Legislature, Thompson worked for the Clark County Organizational Development Center, the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition, and the city of Las Vegas. He also spent nearly 20 years volunteering as a court-appointed special advocate for abused and neglected children in the foster care system. He died suddenly and unexpectedly while receiving emergency care in Carson City, Nevada on May 4, 2019.

Society and Religion

Rachel Held Evans (37) progressive Christian author who challenged the evangelical community by addressing sexism and racism and championing voices of people who have been marginalized in the church, including the LGBTQ community. Evans' books include Faith Unraveled, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, and Searching for Sunday. She served on former President Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships, speaking at churches, conferences, and universities around the country. She was placed in a medically induced coma after her brain experienced seizures during treatment for an infection. Doctors tried to reduce swelling in her brain but could not save her. Evans died in Nashville, Tennessee after spending two weeks in a hospital for treatment for an infection and brain seizures, on May 4, 2019.

Gloria Schiff (90) former fashion editor at Vogue, a philanthropist, and half of a pair of glamorous twins in mid-20th-century New York society. Schiff and her sister, Countess Consuelo Crespi (died 2010), caught the eye of a fashion photographer in New York when they were 15, and they began modeling and appearing in newspaper articles that highlighted their lives as impeccably dressed identical twins. In 1947 they were the first models for Toni Home Permanent, which allowed women to give their hair a permanent wave at home. “Which twin has the Toni?” became a famous ad slogan, asking consumers to pick out the one with the home perm versus the beauty parlor treatment. Schiff became a public relations assistant to cosmetics entrepreneur Helena Rubinstein, then became a fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar under Diana Vreeland, the editor often referred to as the high priestess of fashion. When Vreeland was named editor in chief at Vogue in 1962, Schiff soon followed. She oversaw photo shoots with the magazine’s star photographers, Richard Avedon and Irving Penn, and rose to become senior fashion editor. She died of congestive heart failure in New York City on May 2, 2019.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Taub (96) Hassidic rabbi who survived Auschwitz and championed Holocaust remembrance among ultra-Orthodox Jews. Taub helped to produce a two-volume encyclopedia documenting Jewish religious martyrs killed in the Holocaust. His death came days before Israel marked Holocaust Remembrance Day, honoring six million Jews killed by Nazi Germany. He died in Jerusalem, Israel on April 28, 2019.


Michael Doyle (78) surfer who rose to global fame in the ‘60s for both his skill and his embodiment of the sport’s early carefree nature. Doyle’s passion and skill took him around the world. In 1964 he was runner-up at the World Surfing Championships, according to The Encyclopedia of Surfing. In tandem surfing, he won both the US and world championships in 1965. Doyle died in San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, on April 30, 2019.

Red Kelly (91) Hockey Hall of Famer who packed several careers into his lifetime—sometimes at the same time. Kelly won eight Stanley Cups during a stellar 20-season playing career, moonlighting as a Canadian Member of Parliament as he won National Hockey League championships with Toronto in the mid-‘60s after starring in Detroit. He then took up coaching, making headlines in 1976 for “Pyramid Power” with the Maple Leafs. He died in Toronto, Canada on May 2, 2019.

Gino Marchetti (93) Hall of Fame defensive end who helped the Baltimore Colts to win consecutive NFL championships in the late ‘50s. Marchetti was named to the Pro Bowl during 11 of his 14 NFL seasons. Although undersized for the position by today’s standards—6-feet-4, 244 pounds—he effectively tracked down quarterbacks and stuffed the run. He died of pneumonia in Paoli, Pennsylvania on April 29, 2019.

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