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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, June 8, 2019

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Yannick Bellon, French filmmakerEllen Bree Burns, US district judgeLewis B. Cullman, investment banker and arts patronJohn Gunther Dean, US diplomat and ambassadorRobert Earle, second and last moderator of 'GE College Bowl'D. Kenneth Forde, surgeon who promoted colonoscopy for cancer detectionDonald M. Fraser, former US congressman from MinnesotaMaida Heatter, 'Queen of Cake'Dr. Teruko Ishizaka and her husband, Dr. Kimishige Ishizaka, immunologistsLennart Johansson, European soccer officialLawrence Leathers, jazz drummerDr. Henry T. Lynch, showed that cancer can be hereditaryLowell North, sailmaker and sailing championJoe Overstreet, abstract painterMac Rebennak, New Orleans singer and piano player known as 'Dr. John'Tony Rodham, younger brother of Hillary ClintonSemyon Rozenfeld, last known survivor of Sobibor death campHerb Sandler, banker and philanthropistStanley Tigerman, Chicago architect

Art and Literature

Joe Overstreet (85) artist and activist who in the ‘60s took abstract painting into the sculptural dimension and later created a home in New York for artists who had been ignored by the mainstream. Overstreet belonged to a generation of contemporary black visual artists who came of age in the civil rights era and addressed the burning political issues of the day in a wide variety of forms and styles, from overt protest work to the subtlest geometric abstraction. He was particularly notable for removing canvases from the wall and suspending them in space, giving painting a sculptural dimension. He saw such pieces as, among other things, experiments in how to situate art and viewers in physical space. In 1974 he opened Kenkeleba House, a nonprofit interdisciplinary residential center for artists—including many of African, Asian, Latin, or Native American descent—to whom the New York art world was inhospitable. Overstreet died of heart failure in New York City on June 4, 2019.

Stanley Tigerman (88) architect noted for playful buildings that offered alternatives to the glass and steel boxes that characterized Chicago for much of the 20th century. Tigerman was raised in his grandparents’ boardinghouse in Chicago, a city in thrall to the pristine modernist towers of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who died in 1969. By the ‘70s his acolytes were cranking out uninspired imitations of his buildings. Tigerman took a different tack, insisting that if Chicago was to remain a creative center of architecture, it had to get beyond the glass box. He did that with buildings that featured exaggerated neo-Classical details and shapes derived from pop cultural imagery. He died in Chicago, Illinois on June 3, 2019.

Business and Science

Lewis B. Cullman (100) investment banker and arts patron who, with his second wife, Dorothy, gave hundreds of millions to cultural and educational institutions in New York over many years and helped charities to raise millions more. The scion of a family that owned the Benson & Hedges and Philip Morris tobacco companies, Cullman was born into wealth, made fortunes in business and on Wall Street, and sat on the boards of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the New York Botanical Garden, and many hospitals, universities, and corporations. He died in Stamford, Connecticut on June 7, 2019.

Dr. Kenneth Forde (85) pioneering surgeon who helped to educate the public about cancer risks in 2000 by performing a colonoscopy on Katie Couric, then host of the Today Show, that was later televised. For much of Forde’s 40 years teaching clinical surgery, he was the only black person on Columbia University's medical school faculty. He promoted the colonoscopy as a routine nonsurgical means of detecting early signs of gastrointestinal and colorectal cancer and removing precancerous polyps. Nearly 7 million TV viewers witnessed the videotaped procedure, generating a nationwide spike in the number of colonoscopies. Researchers described it as the Couric Effect. Forde died of heart failure in Scarborough, New York on June 2, 2019.

Maida Heatter (102) whose cookbooks with recipes for star-spangled banana cake, brown sugar icing, and other dessert fare earned her the nickname “the Queen of Cake.” The daughter of legendary radio broadcaster Gabriel Heatter (“Ah, there's good news tonight!”), Maida Heatter had an early career as a fashion illustrator and jewelry designer before she opened a café, the Inside, in Miami Beach in the ‘60s. In 1974 she published Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts, the first of a string of titles that included Happiness Is Baking: Favorite Desserts from the Queen of Cake (2019). She died in Miami Beach, Florida on June 6, 2019.

Dr. Teruko Ishizaka (92) immunologist whose joint research with her husband in the ‘60s advanced the monitoring, treatment, and prevention of asthma, hay fever, and drug and food allergies. Ishizaka was formerly head of the allergy division at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in San Diego, California, where her husband, Dr. Kimishige Ishizaka (died July 2018), was director and president. Together they discovered a novel class of antibodies that trigger wheezing, itching, rashes, and various allergic reactions. They retired to their native Japan in 1996. Dr. Teruko Ishizaka died in Yamagata, Japan on June 4, 2019.

Dr. Henry T. Lynch (91) 50 years ago, when researchers said all cancers were caused by exposure to toxins in the environment, Lynch objected. Many cancers, he said, were hereditary. To prove his point, he traveled to gatherings of families that he suspected had histories of hereditary cancer and asked: Who in the family had cancer? What kind of cancer? Could he get medical records, and blood samples, that he could freeze and store? He hand-drew family trees, with squares for men and circles for women, marking who got cancer and what kind. He was soon insisting to a doubting world that he had found compelling evidence of genetic links. In time the medical world accepted his claims, and his work—the family trees, the blood samples—eventually contributed to the discovery, by others, of a gene that when mutated can lead to colon cancer and an array of other cancers. Lynch also contributed work that led to the discovery of gene mutations that greatly increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. He died of congestive heart failure in Omaha, Nebraska on June 2, 2019.

Lowell North (89) pioneering sailmaker who won an Olympic gold medal and four world championships in the Star Class. North opened his first North Sails loft on Shelter Island, New York in 1957. His methodical and scientific approach to sailmaking changed the industry. He won the bronze medal in the Dragon Class in the 1964 Olympics and the gold medal in the Star Class in the ‘68 Games. He won four Star world championships as a skipper and finished second five times. North Sails was the world’s biggest sailmaker when he sold it in 1984 and retired. North suffered a stroke June 1 and died in Point Loma, California on June 2, 2019.

Herb Sandler (87) banker and philanthropist who with his wife, Marion, provided the initial financing for ProPublica, the nonprofit investigative-reporting organization that seeks to be an alternative model for sustaining vigorous journalism. Sandler and his wife, who died in 2012, made their fortune by building a small bank in Oakland, California into Golden West Financial, a multibillion-dollar lender. They had long supported progressive causes when, in 2007, their Sandler Foundation provided almost all ProPublica’s initial funding. ProPublica, which often collaborates with traditional news organizations, has since won five Pulitzer Prizes and numerous other awards. Sandler was its board chairman from its beginning until 2016. He died in San Francisco, California on June 5, 2019.


Ellen Bree Burns (95) retired US District judge, first woman to serve on the federal bench in Connecticut and widely admired as a pioneer and role model. Burns was one of the first female Connecticut state judges and first woman to serve on the state Superior Court bench, after having worked as an attorney for the legislature for 24 years. President Jimmy Carter nominated her for a federal judgeship in Connecticut in 1978, and she was confirmed by the Senate. She served nearly 40 years on the federal bench, including as chief judge of the federal courts in Connecticut, until her retirement in 2015 at age 91. Mobsters, Hells Angels, and drug dealers were among the people she sent to prison. Burns died in New Haven, Connecticut on June 3, 2019.

News and Entertainment

Yannick Bellon (95) French filmmaker with a feminist point of view whose movies in the ‘70s and ’80s explored divorce, breast cancer, and the effects of rape on a young woman and her family. Bellon had been writing and directing short films and documentaries for 25 years before she moved into features. One of them, Jean’s Wife (1974), follows a woman from depression, after her husband of 18 years leaves her, to her discovery of a new life. Bellon died in Paris, France on June 2, 2019.

Robert Earle (93) tested the wits of hundreds of students and countless TV viewers as moderator of the long-running quiz show The General Electric College Bowl. Earle was moderator of the show from 1962 until it went off the air in ’70. A version of the program had begun on radio in 1953 under the title College Quiz Bowl, and in ‘59 it moved to TV with Allen Ludden as host. On the show, teams of four students from two universities competed to answer quiz questions, with scholarship money at stake. The show, which started on CBS, then moved to NBC, was broadcast live on Sundays from New York. Earle was working in community relations at GE’s Advanced Electronics Center in Ithaca when he read in the paper that Ludden was leaving to concentrate on the game show Password. It was then that Earle, who had more than 10 years of experience on local radio and TV, called the show’s producer and was hired on the basis of a demo tape he put together. He died of cancer in Ithaca, New York on June 5, 2019.

Lawrence Leathers (37) jazz drummer found dead outside a Bronx apartment. Leathers was found in a stairwell outside the apartment he shared with 41-year-old Lisa Harris. Police said he was involved in a physical dispute with Harris and another man. They say Harris punched Leathers, and the other man, Sterling Aguilar (28) of Brooklyn, placed him in a chokehold. Leathers was pronounced dead at the scene. Both Harris and Aguilar were arrested the next day on assault charges. A native of Lansing, Michigan, Leathers worked on two Grammy Award-winning albums by Cecile McLorin Salvant. He died in New York City on June 2, 2019.

Mac ('Dr. John') Rebennak (77) New Orleans singer and piano player, known as “Dr. John,” who blended black and white musical styles with a hoodoo-infused stage persona and gravelly bayou drawl. Rebennak’s 1968 debut “Gris-Gris” combined rhythm and blues with psychedelic rock and startled listeners with its implications of other-worldly magic, using a piano style both rollicking and haunting. He later had a Top 10 hit with “Right Place, Wrong Time,” collaborated with numerous top-tier rockers, won multiple Grammy awards, and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Rebennak died of a heart attack in New Orleans, Louisiana on June 6, 2019.

Politics and Military

John Gunther Dean (93) veteran American diplomat and five-time ambassador forever haunted by his role in the evacuation of the US Embassy in Cambodia during the dying days of the Khmer Republic. Later in his career Dean fell out with the Washington foreign policy establishment over allegations against Israel and was forced to retire in the late ‘80s. The US Embassy in India was his last post, where he was ambassador from 1985-89. Although he was ambassador to Denmark, Lebanon, Thailand, and India, he was perhaps best known for his 1974–75 tour as the top US diplomat in Cambodia. He oversaw the evacuation of the embassy in Phnom Penh as the capital fell to the Khmer Rouge, trying desperately to secure passage out of the city for Cambodian officials and others who had battled against the Communist insurgents even after the US ended military assistance to the government. Dean died in Paris, France on June 6, 2019.

Donald M. Fraser (95) former Minnesota congressman whose hearings exposed Koreagate, a conspiracy by South Korean intelligence officials and Rev. Sun Myung Moon in the ‘70s to buy political influence in America and manipulate US foreign policies and currency laws. A liberal Democrat and protégé of Hubert H. Humphrey, former Minnesota senator and vice president under Lyndon B. Johnson, Fraser served eight terms in the House of Representatives, from 1963–79. Like Humphrey, he also was a former mayor of Minneapolis, in his case for a record four terms. In the House he established a strong record on human rights, foreign aid, and environmental conservation. He was also one of the nation’s most outspoken opponents of American involvement in the Vietnam War. But Fraser was best known as chairman of a panel whose hearings in 1977–78 concluded that the Korean Central Intelligence Agency and Moon—Korean businessman, self-proclaimed messiah, and founder of the Unification Church—had conspired to bribe American officials to influence national policies and illegally raise and move millions of dollars across international borders. Fraser died in Minneapolis, Minnesota on June 2, 2019.

Tony Rodham (64) younger brother of Hillary Clinton. Rodham held a variety of jobs over the years, including stints as a prison guard, insurance salesman, repo man, private detective, and business investor. He attended but never graduated from Iowa Wesleyan College and the University of Arkansas. While his brother-in-law Bill Clinton was US president, Rodham worked on the Democrat National Committee as an outreach coordinator. He also became one of the few people to ever get married at the White House. He wed Nicole Boxer, daughter of former US senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), in the Rose Garden in 1994; they were divorced in 2001. Tony and his brother Hugh were most notable for drawing unwelcome controversy to the Clinton administration. The White House in 1999 had to publicly rebuke the brothers for a politically conflicting business venture. Tony Rodham died on June 7, 2019.

Semyon Rozenfeld (96) escaped death in the gas chambers by inventing a trade for himself when he arrived at Sobibor, a Nazi death camp in occupied Poland, in the fall of 1943. Questioned by a German officer, Rozenfeld said he was a glazier and was taken aside for work detail. About a month later he was among about 600 prisoners who staged a historic uprising against their captors and tried to escape. Only about 300 made it to the fences, and most of the rest were recaptured in the surrounding countryside. But some managed to make it to freedom, Rozenfeld among them. He was believed to be the last known survivor of Sobibor after the death of Selma Wynberg Engel (96) in December 2018 in East Haven, Connecticut. Engel had been one of the first to tell the world of the camp’s existence. Born in 1922 in the Ukraine, Rozenfeld was drafted by the Red Army before falling prisoner to the Germans and was held first in Minsk, in today’s Belarus, and later in Sobibor. He died in Rehovot, Israel, near Tel Aviv, on June 3, 2019.


Lennart Johansson (89) oversaw the introduction of the Champions League during a 17-year reign as president of European soccer’s governing body. Johansson led the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) from 1990–2007 and was eventually beaten in a presidential election by former France great Michel Platini. Johansson also was vice president of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) but lost a contest for the presidency to Sepp Blatter in 1998. Johansson said creating the Champions League to replace the European Cup was his proudest achievement at UEFA. It evolved into club soccer’s most lucrative and prestigious competition, with expansion that saw nondomestic champions given entry. Johansson died in Stockholm, Sweden on June 4, 2019.

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