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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, May 25, 2019

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Jake Black, cowrote theme from 'The Sopranos'Curtis Blake, left, with his brother at their first Friendly's ice cream storeDumiso Dabengwa, Zimbabwe insurgency leaderBaby Jane Dexter, cabaret singerMaryetta Dussourd, blew the whistle on Boston pedophile priestMurray Gell-Mann, Nobel-winning physicist who gave quarks their nameTerese Hayden, founder of 'Players' Guide,' directory of stage performersJudith Kerr, British children's book author and illustratorMachiko Kyo, Japanese film actressNiki Lauda, Formula One racing championDr. LaSalle D. Leffall Jr., first black president of American Cancer SocietyEdmund Morris, presidential biographerLouis Osteen, South Carolina chefJohn Pinto, New Mexico state senator and WWII Navajo Code TalkerClaus von Bulow, socialite accused of trying to kill his wealthy wifeRudolf von Ribbentrop (left and center), son of Hitler's foreign minister, Joachim (right)Binyavanga Wainaina, African writer

Art and Literature

Judith Kerr (95) author and illustrator of the best-selling The Tiger Who Came to Tea and other children’s books. The story of the tea-drinking tiger has been shared by parents with young children since it was first published in 1968 and has never been out of print. It has sold more than 5 million copies. Kerr’s next book introduced Mog the cat, who starred in some 15 books and developed a large following until Goodbye Mog was published in 2002. The popular feline was brought back in 2015 for Mog’s Christmas Calamity, which raised more than £1 million for a literacy campaign with the charity Save the Children. Kerr's third book, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, was an autobiographical story based on her family’s escape from Nazi Germany in the ‘30s. Kerr was born in Berlin but left Germany with her family in 1933 to escape Nazi tyranny. The family settled in England, where Judith studied art and worked as a scriptwriter at the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC). She died in London, England on May 22, 2019

Edmund Morris (78) presidential biographer best known for writing a book about the life of Ronald Reagan. Morris was a polished prose stylist whose career took off with the success of his first book, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1980. But what cemented his legacy was Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan. Aides to Reagan, who took office in 1981, thought Morris an ideal candidate for a book on him. Morris received a seven-figure contract from Random House and access most historians could only dream of: ongoing time with a sitting president, from meetings to private interviews, including with Reagan’s family. But as Morris began work on the book, he realized that Reagan himself was a puzzle—an amiable man unknowable even to those closest to him. Morris died in Danbury, Connecticut a day after suffering a stroke, on May 24, 2019.

Binyavanga Wainaina (48) one of Africa’s best-known authors and gay rights activists. Wainaina, who won the 2002 Caine Prize for African Writing, was a key figure in the artistic community who promoted local authors. Friends and supporters shared his work, including his biting essay “How to Write about Africa.” He also helped to create tolerance for the LGBT community by coming out publicly in 2014 as gay in Kenya, a country where laws still criminalize homosexual behavior. He also revealed he was HIV-positive and published an essay online to mark his 43rd birthday. He said he came out to help preserve his dignity. He died in Nairobi, Kenya on May 21, 2019.

Business and Science

Curtis Blake (102) with his older brother, Blake built a single Massachusetts ice cream store into Friendly’s, a homey restaurant chain in the eastern US. Curtis and S. Prestley Blake opened Friendly (the chain became Friendly’s in 1989) with a $547 loan from their parents in their hometown, Springfield, Massachusetts, in the summer of 1935. It was the height of the Great Depression, and the brothers enticed customers by selling two scoops of ice cream for a nickel, about half the price their competitors charged. In time the menu expanded to include specialties like the Fribble, a thick milkshake, elaborate ice cream sundaes, and hamburgers, French fries, and grilled cheese sandwiches. The brothers eventually expanded the business into hundreds of locations, competing with similar chains like Howard Johnson’s and Brigham’s. After passing through several ownerships over the years, Friendly’s is now owned by an affiliate of Sun Capital Partners, a private equity firm that bought it for $337 million in 2007. Curtis Blake died in Hobe Sound, Florida on May 24, 2019.

Murray Gell-Mann (89) physicist who transformed the field with his ability to find hidden patterns among the tiny particles that make up the universe, earning a Nobel Prize. Much as atoms can be slotted into the rows and columns of the periodic table of the elements, Gell-Mann found a way, in 1961, to classify their smaller pieces—subatomic particles like protons, neutrons, and mesons, which were being discovered by the dozen in cosmic rays and particle accelerator blasts. Arranged according to their properties, the particles clustered in groups of 8 and 10. Gell-Mann named his system the Eightfold Way after the Buddha’s eight-step path to enlightenment. He realized that the patterns of the Eightfold Way could be further divided into triplets of even smaller components and decided to call them quarks after a line from James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake: “Three quarks for Muster Mark.” Before long there were up quarks and down quarks, strange quarks and charm quarks, top quarks and bottom quarks, all stuck together with particles called gluons. Gell-Mann died in Santa Fe, New Mexico on May 24, 2019.

Dr. LaSalle D. Leffall Jr. (89) surgeon and educator who, as first black president of the American Cancer Society, was a leader in promoting awareness of the risks of cancer, particularly among blacks. Leffall was also first black president of the American College of Surgeons in 1979 and the first black person to head the Society of Surgical Oncology and the Society of Surgical Chairs. Beginning in 1978, he launched a campaign to promote early diagnosis and other preventive measures to reduce the higher rates of lung, stomach, pancreatic, and esophageal cancer among black men and uterine cancer among black women—diseases attributed in part to social and environmental factors, like insufficient access to health care and exposure to industrial carcinogens. Leffall died of cancer in Washington, DC on May 25, 2019.

Louis Osteen (77) chef whose South Carolina restaurants helped to elevate Southern cuisine to a new respectability in the ‘80s and ’90s. In 1980, in the coastal vacation town of Pawleys Island, about 70 miles north of Charleston, Osteen and his wife Marlene turned what had been a casual sandwich joint into a high-end restaurant, the Pawleys Island Inn, offering local dishes and ingredients. The catch of the day, from nearby waters, might be served over stone-ground grits. In 1989, their Pawleys Island lease expiring, they opened Louis’s Charleston Grill in Charleston, putting themselves at the beginning of that city’s rise as a culinary destination. Osteen died of liver cancer in Highlands, North Carolina on May 19, 2019.


Claus von Bulow (92) Danish-born socialite who was convicted but later acquitted of trying to kill his wealthy wife in two trials that drew intense international attention in the ‘80s. The tall, aristocratic Von Bulow was charged with putting his wife, Martha (“Sunny”) von Bulow, into an irreversible coma to gain her fortune so he could live with his mistress, a raven-haired soap opera actress. He was convicted of attempted murder in 1982 at a trial in Newport, Rhode Island that was widely followed with its high society overtones about possible attempted murder by insulin injection. The conviction was overturned on appeal, and he was acquitted at his second trial in 1985. The case split his family: Sunny von Bulow’s two children from her first marriage to an Austrian prince accused their stepfather of attempted murder, while the couple’s daughter maintained her father was innocent. Von Bulow, who moved to London, England after he was cleared, died there on May 25, 2019.

News and Entertainment

Jake Black (59) cowriter of the song that opened The Sopranos and cofounder of the British electronic band Alabama 3. Black formed the group with Rob Spragg in 1995. Their song “Woke Up This Morning” was featured on their 1997 album Exile on the Coldharbour Lane. It was used as the opening theme music for the HBO series about a New Jersey mob boss. Black, who performed as the Very Reverend D. Wayne Love, fell ill after performing at England’s Highpoint Festival on May 17 and died four days later of an acute respiratory illness in London, England on May 21, 2019.

Baby Jane Dexter (72) cabaret singer who, after a 10-year hiatus, returned with performances that made her problems inspirational. Dexter’s mother was an actress who performed as Jane Dexter. Because they shared a name and were both in show business, when singer Jane was about to sign a TV contract, she reluctantly settled on the stage name Baby Jane, even though she was already a teenager at the time. The name conveyed a vulnerability that she later invoked in her performances and in motivational workshops for women, in which she recounted the date rape she immortalized in “15 Ugly Minutes,” one of her signature songs. After beginning her professional career in earnest in the ‘70s, Dexter all but vanished from the cabaret scene in the ’80s. When she reemerged in the early ’90s, after a long bout with depression and a grim eight-year struggle with an emotionally abusive, drug-addicted partner, she displayed a newfound grit that resonated with club audiences. Dexter died in Englewood, New Jersey of heart failure and diabetes on May 21, 2019.

Terese Hayden (98) whose Players’ Guide, a directory of job-seeking actors, helped to begin, sustain, and revive the careers of generations of performers. Hayden spent 50 years in the theater as an actress; a teacher at Circle in the Square Theater School, where her students included Kevin Bacon, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Lady Gaga; and a director and producer who promoted the careers of James Dean, Patricia Neal, Eli Wallach, and dozens of others. She also championed Off-Broadway theater—both as a founder of Equity Library Theater, a nonprofit group that organized low-cost productions for unemployed actors, and through her role in buttressing the Theater de Lys in Greenwich Village, where she staged well-received plays in the ‘50s. But her most enduring legacy was probably The Players’ Guide: A Pictorial Directory for the Legitimate Theater, a listing of actors for casting directors that included their photographs, stage credits, résumés, and telephone numbers. Hayden died in New York City on May 23, 2019.

Machiko Kyo (95) actress whose many roles in postwar Japanese films included the female lead in Akira Kurosawa’s groundbreaking Rashomon. In 1950, a year after being discovered by a film scout while performing in an all-female dance revue, Kyo appeared in Rashomon opposite Toshiro Mifune, the screen idol who was on his way to international stardom. In that movie, four contradictory accounts are given of the rape of Kyo’s character and the murder of her husband (Masayuki Mori) by a bandit played by Mifune. With its portrayal of the unreliability of storytelling, Rashomon soon became recognized as a cinema classic. Kyo’s only American film was The Teahouse of the August Moon (1956), an adaptation of the hit Broadway comedy by John Patrick set in Japan during the postwar Allied occupation of Okinawa. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for best actress in a comedy or musical for her performance as geisha Lotus Blossom, opposite Marlon Brando and Glenn Ford. Kyo died in Tokyo, Japan on May 19, 2019.

Politics and Military

Dumiso Dabengwa (79) Moscow-trained intelligence and insurgent leader in Zimbabwe’s liberation war whose fortunes tracked Cold War rivalries and the political and ethnic score-settling that followed independence from Britain. Such was Dabengwa’s reputation among the white minority of Zimbabwe, the former Rhodesia, that he earned the sobriquet “the Black Russian” because of his close ties to the Soviet Union, where he underwent training by the KGB in the ‘60s. Yet when the seven-year bush war ended shortly before independence in 1980, he played a persuasive role in trying to unite the rival guerrilla armies that had fought white minority rule. His own Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army, or Zipra, was loyal to Joshua Nkomo. The Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army, or Zanla, fought in the name of Robert Mugabe, who later ruled Zimbabwe for more than 30 years until he was deposed in a military coup in 2017. Dabengwa died in Kenya while on his way back to Zimbabwe from India, where he had been treated for an unspecified liver ailment, on May 23, 2019.

John Pinto (94) Navajo Code Talker in World War II who became one of the nation’s longest-serving Native American elected officials as a New Mexico state senator. After serving as a Marine, Pinto was elected to the New Mexico state Senate in 1976 and represented a district that includes the Navajo Nation for more than 40 years. The region is one of the poorest in the country. Born in Lupton, Arizona on the Navajo Nation to a family of sheep herders, Pinto didn’t start formal schooling until he was nearly a teenager. He died in Gallup, New Mexico on May 24, 2019.

Rudolf von Ribbentrop (98) SS officer who shortly before the end of World War II in Europe accompanied his father, Joachim—Nazi Germany’s foreign minister—on a visit to a deluded Adolf Hitler in his bunker in Berlin. Rudolf joined an SS infantry regiment shortly after the war began in 1939 and served in military units in Czechoslovakia, France, and the Soviet Union. He was a tank commander during the Battle of the Bulge. By early 1945 he was a battalion commander, temporarily quartered in Berlin. His father met him there on February 3 and asked if he would join him with Hitler in the bunker, beneath the Reich Chancellery building, which had been heavily damaged in Allied air raids. Then only 23, Rudolf had known Hitler since childhood and was shocked by his physical deterioration. Nearly three months later, Hitler committed suicide in the bunker. Rudolf handed himself over to American troops and was sent to a succession of prisons and camps for three years before being released from a French military prison in 1948. His father was convicted of war crimes at the Nuremberg trials and was one of 10 Nazis hanged on October 16, 1946. Rudolf von Ribbentrop died in Ratingen, Germany, near Düsseldorf, on May 20, 2019.

Society and Religion

Maryetta Dussourd (74) young mother in Boston in the late ‘70s, caring for her daughter, three sons, and a niece’s four sons, when her parish priest took an interest in the boys. As a devout Roman Catholic, Dussourd was honored that the priest, Rev. John J. Geoghan, visited often, taking the boys out for ice cream and going up to their rooms at night to pray with them. While the priest was upstairs, Dussourd and her husband, Ralph, watched TV. Sometimes they saw as many as three half-hour programs before Father Geoghan came back down. He made regular visits over two years. Then the couple learned that the priest had been sexually molesting all seven boys; the oldest was 12, the youngest 4. Dussourd reported the abuse to Catholic officials, but the church suppressed her complaints and quietly transferred the priest from her parish, St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Boston, to other parishes, where he continued to abuse children. Still she persisted, and after 20 years Dussourd, hundreds of other families, and victims of pedophile priests broke through the church’s fortress of secrecy, leading to a full-blown scandal, first reported by the Boston Globe in 2002. In Boston, as many as 250 priests were accused of molesting and in some cases raping about 1,000 children over 40 years. The scandal spread to dioceses around the country and abroad. Dussourd died of breast cancer in Boston, Massachusetts on May 24, 2019.


Niki Lauda (70) Formula One racing great who won two of his world titles after a horrific crash that left him with serious burns. Lauda later became a prominent figure in the aviation industry. He won the F1 drivers’ championship in 1975 and ‘77 with Ferrari and again in ‘84 with McLaren. In 1976 he was badly burned when he crashed during the German Grand Prix, but he made an astonishingly fast return to racing just six weeks later. Lauda remained closely involved with the F1 circuit after retiring as a driver in 1985 and in recent years was nonexecutive chairman of the Mercedes team. He died in Zürich, Switzerland on May 20, 2019.

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