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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, August 10, 2019

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David Berman, indie rock songwriter and poetNuon Chea, right-hand man of Pol PotErnie Colón, comic book artistBarbara Crane, abstract photographerTim Dundon, California environmental activistPaul Findley, former Illinois congressmanMyrna Katz Frommer, cocreator of oral histories with husband HarveyThomas S. Gulotta, Long Island Republican leaderLee Bennett Hopkins, editor and poetDr. Donald F. Klein, psychiatrist who boosted psychopharmacologyJean-Pierre Mocky, French film directorToni Morrison, Nobel-winning authorKary B. Mullis, Nobel-winning chemist who developed PCRGerry Murray, roller derby starPaco Navarro, New York radio disc jockeyAnn Nelson, theoretical  physicistNancy Reddin Kienholz, created large-scale art with husbandAnn Snitow, feminist writer, teacher, and activistSushma Swaraj, Indian politicianPiero Tosi, Italian film costume designerPanayiotis ('Takis') Vassilakis, Greek sculptorAlla Verber, Russian retail executive

Art and Literature

Ernie Colón (88) comic book artist known to his fans for drawing “Richie Rich” and a warrior princess (“Amethyst”) but found an even wider readership with a best-selling adaptation of The 9/11 Commission Report. Colón teamed up with writer Sid Jacobson, his longtime collaborator and friend, to create a graphic novel version of the 9/11 report, the government-commissioned study that became a surprise best-seller in 2004, three years after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In their 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation (2006), Colón and Jacobson turned a long and dense government document into an accessible, visually striking book that itself became a best-seller on the paperback nonfiction list. They called it “graphic journalism.” In dramatic detail, the book chronicles the events of September 11, 2001, tracking the four jetliners that had been hijacked by Al Qaeda terrorists until three struck their targets and the fourth crashed in a Pennsylvania field after passengers on it had tried to seize control. Colón died of colorectal cancer in Huntington, New York on August 8, 2019.

Barbara Crane (91) abstract photographer whose camera transformed mundane objects into provocative, playful, and sometimes frightening fantasies. In contrast to the work of many of her colleagues, what Crane viewed from behind the lens was rarely what museumgoers and collectors eventually saw. The experimental techniques she used over a 70-year career typically created exaggerated effects: overexposures, wide-angle close-ups, out-of-focus foregrounds, striking shadows cast by a flash, compositions formed by superimposing one image on another. She died in Chicago, Illinois on August 7, 2019.

Myrna Katz Frommer (80) writer who channeled the voices of comedians and busboys in the Catskills and teachers and rabbis in Brooklyn through oral histories she created with her husband, sports historian Harvey Frommer. Myrna Frommer edited her husband’s many books, which were frequently about baseball, before he submitted them. But Myrna was not a sports fan. When the couple began to work on oral histories in the late ‘80s, they found common ground. Their first book, It Happened in the Catskills (1991), started as a conventional narrative history of the fast-fading world of summer resorts and bungalow colonies known as the borscht belt. But the Frommers recognized that the stories they were hearing from waiters, guests, agents, bellhops, and other personalities would be better told in their own voices. Myrna Frommer died of Alzheimer’s disease in Lyme, New Hampshire, just a week after the death of her husband, on August 8, 2019.

Lee Bennett Hopkins (81) in scores of anthologies he edited and in his own writings, Hopkins used poetry as a tool to teach and fire the imaginations of young readers. He was famed in the children’s book world for championing poetry and for the sheer volume of his output. Beginning in the late ‘60s he published more than 100 anthologies over 50 years. There were volumes on particular subjects, about animals, space, inventions, art, punctuation, and the different people youngsters were likely to encounter when they began attending school. Hopkins drew on writers known mostly within the children’s literature universe and on household names like Carl Sandburg, Langston Hughes, and e. e. cummings. And he wrote poetry himself, often slipping one of his works into the anthologies he edited. Hopkins died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in Cape Coral, Florida on August 8, 2019.

Toni Morrison (88) Nobel laureate, a pioneer and reigning giant of modern literature whose imaginative power in Beloved, Song of Solomon, and other works transformed American letters by dramatizing the pursuit of freedom within the boundaries of race. Few authors rose in such rapid, spectacular style. Morrison was nearly 40 when her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was published. By her early 60s, after just six novels, she had become the first black woman to receive the Nobel literature prize, praised in 1993 by the Swedish academy for her “visionary force.” Earlier this year she was featured in an acclaimed documentary, Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am. She helped to raise American multiculturalism to the world stage and to uncensor her country’s past, unearthing the lives of the unknown and the unwanted. She died in New York City on August 5, 2019.

Nancy Reddin Kienholz (75) artist best known for large-scale installation work laced with social commentary that she created in collaboration with her husband. Nancy Reddin met Edward Kienholz in 1972, soon after he had finished his landmark “Five Car Stud,” a life-size circle of cars and a pickup truck, at the center of which four white figures pin down a black man to castrate him. The two married, moved to Berlin, and later built a studio in Idaho, splitting their time between those two locales for the next 20 years. After Edward died in 1994, Nancy kept making art, often with a strong feminist point of view. She was instrumental in the restoration of “Five Car Stud,” which in 2011 was installed at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as part of the Pacific Standard Time series of exhibitions—the first time the work had been publicly seen in nearly 40 years. Nancy Reddin Kienholz died in Houston, Texas on August 7, 2019.

Panayiotis ('Takis') Vassilakis (93) Greek sculptor known for artworks that made use of technology, motion, and light and were displayed in art galleries and museums around the world. Athens-born Takis began producing art in his 20s before moving to Paris, where his career took off. He experimented with magnetic fields, technology, electricity, and light, creating what Britain’s Tate Modern, which is currently running an exhibition of his work until October, describes as “some of the most innovative art of the 20th century.” He founded the Takis Foundation, Research Center for the Art & the Sciences on the outskirts of Athens in the ‘80s. Inaugurated in 1993, the foundation includes a museum, a garden, and the sculptor’s studio and aims to promote the appreciation of the visual arts. Takis died on August 9, 2019.

Business and Science

Tim Dundon (77) rhyming whiz known widely by his alter ego “Zeke the Sheik” whose legendary, mountainous compost pile in Altadena, California delighted some and troubled others. Dundon defended himself in court in rhyme. The self-proclaimed “Guru of Doo Doo” peacefully tended to his 40-foot-high and nearly 200-foot-wide compost heap for 35 years. His concoction of animal poop, household garbage, and mulch from a neighboring cemetery nourished his lush one-acre jungle and fertilized many of San Gabriel Valley’s organic gardens. He also provided compost free to the Altadena Community Garden for more than 15 years. After the compost mound spontaneously combusted in February 1990, the Los Angeles County Department of Health, deeming the heap a health hazard and an illegal dump, ordered him to tear it down. Despite efforts of supporters to save it, the compost mass was bulldozed in April 2005. Dundon died in West Hills, California on August 5, 2019.

Dr. Donald F. Klein (90) whose research into panic attacks, depression, childhood anxiety disorders, and related areas reshaped how such conditions are thought about and treated. In the ‘50s Klein, a psychiatrist with a background in biology, brought a new rigor to the study of whether some psychiatric problems might have a biological basis that could be treated with drugs. Psychotherapy was the go-to tool for treating depression and other problems at the time, and the use of medications was somewhat haphazard. Klein's work helped to refine the definitions of certain psychiatric disorders and to establish the legitimacy of treating them with drugs—a field known as psychopharmacology—along with traditional psychotherapy. He died of cardiopulmonary arrest in New York City on August 7, 2019.

Kary B. Mullis (74) LSD-dropping, climate-change-denying, astrology-believing, board surfing, Nobel Prize-winning chemist who was both widely respected and equally criticized for his controversial views. Deemed an “untamed genius” by fellow researchers, Mullis shared a 1993 Nobel for developing a technique called polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, that allowed scientists to create millions of copies of a single DNA molecule. It was hailed as one of the most important scientific inventions of the 20th century, a discovery that—among countless other applications and research—gave scientists the ability to study DNA from a 40,000-year-old frozen mammoth and helped investigators to take tiny amounts of DNA to identify or exonerate crime suspects. It’s the technique that Hollywood used to revive dinosaurs from fossilized DNA in the 1993 movie Jurassic Park. Mullis died in Newport Beach, California from heart and respiratory failure, on August 7, 2019.

Ann Nelson (61) theoretical physicist who helped to plug holes and solve contradictions in the Standard Model, the template that forms the backbone of our understanding of fundamental particles and the universe. Nelson stood out in the world of physics not only because she was a woman, but also because of her brilliance. In 2018 she was jointly awarded, with Michael Dine of UC Santa Cruz, the J. J. Sakurai Prize, considered the highest prize in particle physics outside the Nobel. She also received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2004 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in ’11. Particle physics focuses on the basic building blocks of everything in the universe. The fundamental particles identified so far have been given names like quarks, leptons, muons, and taus. Electrons, the negatively charged particles that circle the nuclei of atoms, are leptons, while protons and neutrons, which form the nuclei of atoms and therefore make up most of the visible mass in the universe, are each composed of three quarks. Together, all those particles form the Standard Model of particle physics, the creation of which is one of the signature accomplishments of physicists in the 20th century and underlies the field of quantum physics. Nelson was killed in a hiking accident. She was hiking with her husband, physicist David Kaplan, and friends when she slipped and fell into a gully in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in Washington State, on August 4, 2019.

Alla Verber (61) retail executive who paved the way for the arrival of Western luxury brands in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union and helped to modernize the country’s leading department stores. Verber, who lived in Moscow, was fashion director for both TSUM and the historic DLT department store in St. Petersburg, both holdings of the Mercury Group, Russia’s largest luxury retail goods distributor. She was a vice president of the company. At times called the most powerful woman in Russian fashion, Verber was a fashion industry veteran of 40 years and a flamboyant front-row fixture at international runway shows. She died of blood cancer while on vacation in the seaside town of Forte dei Marmi in Tuscany, Italy on August 6, 2019.

News and Entertainment

David Berman (52) songwriter and poet whose baritone and wordy compositions anchored Silver Jews, a staple of the ‘90s indie-rock scene. As the sole constant member of Silver Jews, which sometimes included well-known musicians like Stephen Malkmus of Pavement, Berman released six albums using the band name, beginning with Starlite Walker (1994) and continuing through Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea (2008) before disbanding the group in ’09. Berman’s association with Pavement—he had founded Silver Jews in 1989 with Malkmus, once a fellow student at the University of Virginia—brought him a certain level of underground fame in the early ‘90s. He also earned the respect of critics, who saw him as a rare poetic voice in the noisy world of ’90s rock. Berman died on August 7, 2019.

Jean-Pierre Mocky (90) independent filmmaker who directed some of France’s most famed actors over a 60-year career. Mocky’s stars included Gérard Depardieu, Catherine Deneuve, Charles Aznavour, Jeanne Moreau, and others. His career included directing more than 60 films from 1954–2017 and acting in others. Mocky was associated with France’s New Wave cinema and made a mark with his provocative style, although his movies didn’t achieve great commercial success. They included the 1963 comedy Un drole de paroissien (Heaven Sent) and the ‘83 drama A mort l’arbitre! (Kill the Referee!). Mocky died of renal failure in Paris, France on August 8, 2019.

Paco Navarro (82) disc jockey who became the voice of disco in New York in the late ‘70s, helping WKTU-FM to become the highest-rated radio station in the city. Navarro spent much of his career playing Latin music on Spanish-language radio stations in Los Angeles, New York, and his native Puerto Rico both before and after his time at WKTU. The station had played relatively mellow rock music, reaching a minuscule share of the New York market, before Navarro arrived. At the time, many stations programmed mainly Top 40 hits (as many still do). The rock-’n’-roll station WABC-AM had long dominated the New York airwaves. Many stations played disco records, but few if any had experimented with an all-disco format. WKTU switched to disco months after John Travolta created a sensation in the hit film Saturday Night Fever (1977), just as the music’s popularity peaked. Navarro tailored his on-air persona to help sell the new format. Within months WKTU had become the highest-rated station in the New York market, deposing WABC. But the disco era had waned by the early ‘80s, and Navarro’s ratings plummeted. WKTU switched to rock and adopted the call letters WXRK. Navarro left in 1985. He died of liver cancer in Saddle River, New Jersey on August 8, 2019.

Ann Snitow (76) feminist writer, teacher, and activist who insisted on turning an analytical—even critical—eye toward feminism even as she organized relentlessly at its grass-roots. Over nearly 50 years, Snitow mobilized feminists, often at her kitchen table in Soho, and chronicled their ebbs and flows in six books and scores of articles in publications including the Village Voice, The Nation, and Dissent. In the ‘70s she became a regular commentator on Womankind, one of the first American radio shows dedicated to feminism, which aired on WBAI in New York. In the ‘80s Snitow established gender studies at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan, where she also taught literature. In the ‘90s she became a kind of ambassador of feminism to eastern Europe after the fall of communism. Snitow died of bladder cancer in New York City on August 10, 2019.

Piero Tosi (92) costume designer whose research and intuitive eye were prized by leading Italian directors like Vittorio De Sica, Mauro Bolognini, and especially Luchino Visconti. Tosi dressed some of the biggest stars of the day—Sophia Loren, Maria Callas, Claudia Cardinale, Marcello Mastroianni, Burt Lancaster. He was nominated for the costume design Oscar five times—for the Visconti films The Leopard (1963), Death in Venice (1971), and Ludwig (1973); for Édouard Molinaro’s La Cage Aux Folles (1979); and for Zeffirelli’s La Traviata (1982). Although he never won that prize, in 2013 he did receive an Honorary Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ Board of Governors, the first costume designer to do so. Tosi died in Rome, Italy on August 10, 2019.

Politics and Military

Nuon Chea (93) chief ideologue of the Communist Khmer Rouge regime that destroyed a generation of Cambodians. Nuon Chea was known as Brother No. 2, right-hand man of Pol Pot, leader of the regime that ruled Cambodia from 1975–79. The group’s fanatical efforts to realize a utopian society led to the deaths of some 1.7 million people—more than a quarter of the country’s population at the time—from starvation, disease, overwork, and executions. Researchers believe Nuon Chea was responsible for the extremist policies of the Khmer Rouge and was directly involved in its purges and executions. He was serving life in prison after convictions by the United Nations-backed tribunal on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. But Nuon Chea never admitted his guilt. At the long-awaited Khmer Rouge trials, he told a court that he and his comrades were not “bad people,” denying responsibility for any deaths. He died in Cambodia on August 4, 2019.

Paul Findley (98) former Republican US representative from Illinois who spent 22 years in Congress. Findley supported civil rights, opposed the Vietnam War, and advocated agriculture and engagement with Palestinians and others in the Arab world. US Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat, defeated Findley in 1982 for a House seat. Findley was first elected to Congress in 1960. He died of congestive heart failure in Jacksonville, Illinois, his birthplace. on August 9, 2019.

Thomas S. Gulotta (75) former Republican Nassau County executive on Long Island whose political career ended with his government verging on bankruptcy and his party’s once impregnable machine losing its grip on one of the nation’s wealthiest strongholds. Abandoned by his own party, Gulotta chose not to seek reelection to another four-year term in 2001, ending a 24-year political career. His father, Frank A. Gulotta Sr., was elected Nassau district attorney in 1949, the first Italian-American to win a countywide race in Nassau, and became a State Supreme Court justice. Undefeated in 11 races, Thomas Gulotta was first elected to the State Assembly in 1976. In 1981 he became presiding supervisor of the Town of Hempstead (of which Oceanside is a part), succeeding Alfonse M. D’Amato, who was elected to the US Senate. Gulotta was first appointed Nassau County executive in 1987 when Francis T. Purcell, also a Republican, resigned to become a political commentator for Cablevision. Gulotta was elected to the post later that year and remained in it for 14 years. On taking office, he announced a tentative budget that would lower the average annual property tax bill by about $42. He was returned to office four times. He died in Oceanside, New York on August 4, 2019.

Sushma Swaraj (67) India’s former external affairs minister and a leader of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. Swaraj was external affairs minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet from 2014–19. After undergoing a kidney transplant during her tenure as minister, Swaraj decided not to run for this year’s general election, citing health issues. She died of a heart attack in New Delhi, India on August 6, 2019.

Society and Religion

Diet Eman (99) western Michigan woman who wrote a book chronicling her efforts that helped to save hundreds of Jews in the Netherlands during the Nazi Occupation of World War II. Eman was born in the Netherlands and was part of an underground resistance after Nazi Germany’s 1940 invasion of the northern European nation. Her 1994 memoir, Things We Couldn’t Say, detailed how she provided forged identification cards and shelter for Jews and how she helped allied pilots shot down by the German military. She later immigrated to the US and died in Grand Rapids, Michigan on September 10, 2019.


Gerry Murray (98) aggressive roller derby star who began her career in the late ‘30s—and, after retiring, resumed it in the ‘70s—and whose teammates included her two husbands and her only son. Murray joined the roller derby circuit as a teenager three years after a promoter, Leo Seltzer, conceived the sport in 1935. She stayed long enough to be part of its postwar surge of popularity, which brought large crowds to arenas and millions of viewers to TV sets. An exceptionally fast skater, Murray could dispatch rival skaters on the sport’s banked oval track by jabbing them with a sharp elbow or thrusting a hip at them. She died in Des Moines, Iowa on August 9, 2019.

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