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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, August 24, 2019

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Patty Abramson, entrepreneur who encouraged women in businessKenneth J. Bialkin, corporate lawyer and Jewish leaderKathleen Blanco, former governor of LouisianaRichard Booth, Welsh second-hand booksellerClora Bryant, self-described 'trumpetiste'Russ Conway, hockey writerMario Davidovsky, Pulitzer-winning composerBobby Dillon, Green Bay Packers starFelice Gimondi, Italian cyclistWang Guodong, painter of Mao Zedong portraitAl Jackson, NY Mets pitcherArun Jaitley, former finance minister of IndiaDavid Koch, younger of two Koch brothersWerner Kramarsky, NYC public officialGina Lopez, short-tenured Philippine environmental secretaryStanley Love, experimental choreographer and dancerGerard O'Neill, investigative reporterJack Perkins, TV news reporter and hostCelso Piña, Mexican singer, songwriter, and accordionistSidney Rittenberg, American who spent 35 years in ChinaJan Ruff-O'Herne, WWII victim of Japanese occupationCharles Santore, illustrator of classic children's booksOrlando Suero, celebrity photographerJack Whitaker, longtime sports broadcaster

Art and Literature

Richard Booth (80) bookseller who collected a million titles to transform Hay-on-Wye, a fading 12th-century Welsh market town, into a mecca for second-hand book fanciers and celebrated his success one April Fools’ Day by crowning himself with a title he made up—“King Richard Coeur de Livre.” Using inherited wealth and capitalizing on fire-sale bargains offered by cash-hungry colleges, monasteries, bankrupt distributors, and crumbling country estates, Booth in the early ‘60s embarked on a wholesale buying spree that imported hundreds of thousands of second-hand books to his adopted hometown, filling six of his own stores, spawning nearly 30 others, and in 1988 inspiring Hay’s first annual literary festival, which drew tens of thousands of visitors. The festival elevated a hamlet on the river Wye that for hundreds of years had exported wool, corn, and beef rather than books. Hay was never home to more than 2,000 people and lacked any distinctive literary basis but became an internationally renowned “Book Town.” Booth died in nearby Cusop, Wales on August 20, 2019.

Wang Guodong (88) artist whose portraits were among the most recognizable in the world, rivaling the Mona Lisa. But few have heard of Wang, the Chinese artist who for years was responsible for painting the enormous portrait of Mao Zedong—replaced annually—that gazes down on Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Wang was chosen in 1964, when he was in his early 30s, to be official painter of the 15-by-20-foot oil portrait of Mao that hangs steps from the party’s central seat of power, at the Gate of Heavenly Peace. Portraits of Mao have been installed there since 1949, when the Communists took power in China. They are frequently replaced because they are exposed to the elements. The job was one of the highest—and most intimidating—honors available to a painter in China. Wang died in Beijing, China on August 23, 2019.

Charles Santore (84) illustrator known for his richly detailed and whimsical interpretations of classic children’s books. Santore spent over 30 years reimagining classic children's tales like L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Grimm's fairytales, and Aesop’s fables. Santore died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he was born and raised, on August 18, 2019.

Orlando Suero (94) photographer who captured Shirley MacLaine dancing with Rudolf Nureyev at a party in Malibu; shot actor Dennis Hopper and singer Michelle Phillips during their eight-day marriage, including a joint-smoking moment in the bathtub (both were fully clothed); and caught Princess Margaret all but swooning over Paul Newman as Alfred Hitchcock stared straight ahead. Suero chronicled the lives of stars from 1962 to the mid-‘80s, as the golden age of Hollywood dipped into its twilight. He took particular delight in capturing celebrities with one another, in their element or not. But he was perhaps best known for his portraits. Among his more stunning photographs was one of an elegant Jacqueline Kennedy lighting candles at a formal dinner table in Georgetown in 1954. Suero called it his Iwo Jima photo—his career-defining shot. He had survived several strokes before he died in Los Angeles, California on August 19, 2019.


Business and Science

Patty Abramson (74) entrepreneur who founded a venture capital fund among the first in the country to exclusively back businesses owned by women. Abramson spent the first few decades of her career in advertising and public relations. In 1979 she joined two other women as a partner in Hager, Sharp & Abramson, a communications firm, but left 10 years later to start her own company, Abramson Communications. She shifted to a new field in 1997, teaming with investors to create the Women’s Growth Capital Fund. At the time, the Small Business Administration estimated that just 2 per cent of venture capital funding went to businesses owned by women. Abramson saw that as both an unfair barrier and a financial opportunity. She died of cancer in Nantucket, Massachusetts on August 24, 2019.

Kenneth J. Bialkin (89) corporate lawyer who played an important role in the merger that created the world’s largest financial services company. As a partner at the Manhattan law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Balkin represented Travelers Group in its merger with Citicorp to form Citigroup Inc. When the union was announced in 1998, it was the largest corporate merger on record at the time, creating the world’s biggest financial services company. Also a leader of Jewish organizations who helped to negotiate freedom for Soviet Jews, Bialkin was chairman of the national Anti-Defamation League when it won a posthumous pardon for Leo M. Frank, the Jewish pencil factory superintendent convicted in 1913 of raping and murdering a 13-year-old girl in Georgia. Two years after his questionable conviction was commuted to life imprisonment, Frank was lynched in an outbreak of anti-Semitism that shocked the nation and led to the formation of the league. Bialkin died of a stroke in New York City on August 23, 2019.

David Koch (79) billionaire industrialist who influenced conservative politics for decades along with his brother, Charles. The brothers have co-owned Koch Industries, a Wichita, Kansas-based energy and chemical company, since 1983. David Koch stepped down from the company in 2018 owing to declining health. Forbes ranked him in 2018 as the 11th-richest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of $51 billion. Koch was a major philanthropist, donating hundreds of millions of dollars to New York's Lincoln Center, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, and numerous hospitals. Beginning in the ‘80s, the Koch brothers helped to create an influential conservative network of donors and advocacy groups to lobby lawmakers and candidates in favor of libertarian-leaning economic policies. David Koch was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1992. He died on August 23, 2019.


News and Entertainment

Clora Bryant (92) trumpeter widely considered one of the finest jazz musicians on the West Coast—but Bryant ran into gender-based limitations on how famous she could become. A self-described “trumpetiste,” she came of age in the ‘40s, aligning herself with the emerging bebop movement. Often faced with sexist discrimination, without support from a major record label or an agent, she did not come forth as a bandleader until middle age. By that time the jazz mainstream had moved on to fusion, a style she never embraced. And even when jazz history became a subject of major academic concern in the late ‘70s and ’80s, Bryant was rarely celebrated at the level of her male counterparts, who had enjoyed greater support throughout their careers. But among themselves, those same musicians often recognized her virtuosity, and she played with many of them. Dizzy Gillespie, an inventor of bebop, was dazzled upon first hearing her in the mid-‘50s and took to calling her his protégé. Bryant died of a heart attack in Los Angeles, California on August 23, 2019,

Mario Davidovsky (85) Pulitzer Prize-winning composer who opened up new vistas in chamber music by pairing live acoustic instruments with electronics. Like many of his fellow composers in the ‘50s and ’60s, Davidovsky was drawn to the new possibilities offered by technology. But he was uneasy with the prospect of music that was immune to human interpretation. Beginning in 1963 with “Synchronisms No. 1” for flute and tape, he coaxed electronic sounds into partnership with traditional instruments to create musical combinations that were full of mystery and drama. His “Synchronisms No. 6” for piano and electronic sounds won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1971. Davidovsky died of heart failure in New York City on August 23, 2019.

Stanley Love (49) experimental choreographer who built a loyal following for creating dances instilled with vibrant physicality and his own wild imagination. Love, who created numerous works for his company, the Stanley Love Performance Group, embraced spectacle and pop music, dance history, and social dancing. He was a staple of the downtown dance world, and even off the stage Love made an instant impression. He was found dead at his home in Brooklyn, New York on August 22, 2019.

Gerard O'Neill (76) Boston Globe investigative reporter who helped to expose gangster James (“Whitey”) Bulger as an FBI informant. O’Neill was a founding member of the Spotlight investigative team and helped it to win a 1972 Pulitzer Prize for exposing widespread public corruption in Somerville, Massachusetts. He also led the team when it was named a Pulitzer finalist for investigative reporting in 1997. Black Mass, the book he cowrote about Bulger in 2000, was the basis for the '15 movie of the same title, which starred Johnny Depp as the notorious mobster. O'Neill died of interstitial lung disease in Boston, Massachusetts on August 22, 2019.

Jack Perkins (85) former NBC News reporter and anchor and host of the A&E program Biography. Starting as a writer for NBC News in the early ‘60s, Perkins later became a reporter and covered the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, and the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in a 25-year career at the network and its station in Los Angeles. He made appearances on the Nightly News, The Today Show, and the series NBC Magazine and Prime Time Sunday. In 1985 he won a local Emmy Award for a commentary on KNBC in LA in which he criticized NBC, the station’s parent network, for joking about drug abuse on Saturday Night Live. He was also host or narrator of numerous other TV programs, notably the documentary series Biography from 1994–99. Perkins died in Nokomis, Florida on August 19, 2019.

Celso Piña (66) Mexican singer, songwriter, arranger, and accordionist of the cumbia genre. Piña was a pioneer, known for his fusion of cumbia and tropical sounds as a base, combining them with popular genres from the north, to sonidero, ska, reggae, rap, and hip-hop, among others. He was known by the nicknames “rebel of the accordion” and “Chief of the Bell.” Piña began playing regional music with his brothers Eduardo, Rubén, and Enrique, serenading neighborhood girls. His musical career took off in the ‘80s when his father gave him an accordion and he began playing cumbia. He gained popularity in the neighborhood where he grew up in Monterrey, at family parties and public dances, as a self-taught accordionist and formed the musical band “Celso Piña y su Ronda Bogotá.” Piña died of a heart attack in Monterrey, Mexico on August 21, 2019.


Politics and Military

Kathleen Blanco (76) first elected female governor of Louisiana whose political career was ended by Hurricane Katrina. A Democrat, Blanco held Louisiana’s top elected job from 2004–08 and served in state government offices for more than 20 years. But her legacy rests with Katrina, the devastating August 2005 hurricane that killed more than 1,400 people in Louisiana, displaced hundreds of thousands, and inundated 80 per cent of New Orleans. Historians will continue to debate whether any governor could have been prepared for such a catastrophe, but Blanco shouldered much of the blame after images of thousands stranded on rooftops and overpasses were broadcast to the world and the government was slow to respond to the desperation. Blanco was criticized as unprepared, overwhelmed, and indecisive. While she successfully fought for billions in federal aid, the recovery she guided moved ploddingly. She died of melanoma in Lafayette, Louisiana on August 18, 2019.

Arun Jaitley (66) former Indian finance minister, a key member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first-term Cabinet. Jaitley held the finance portfolio in Modi’s Hindu nationalist-led government from 2014–19 but chose not to run for reelection because of poor health. A lawyer who first got involved in politics as a student leader at Delhi University in the ‘70s, he also was a minister in the Bharatiya Janata Party government led by then-PM Atal Behari Vajpayee from 1999–2003. In Modi’s government, Jaitley held the portfolios of finance, defense, and corporate affairs. In Vajpayee’s government, he controlled information and broadcasting, disinvestment, and later law and justice and company affairs. From 2009–14 he was leader of the opposition in India’s upper house of Parliament. He carried out some of Modi’s more controversial economic initiatives, including tax and welfare reforms and overnight demonetization—which took 86 per cent of cash out of circulation, leaving hundreds of millions of people temporarily without funds. Jaitley was diabetic and underwent bariatric—weight-loss—surgery in 2014, received a kidney transplant in ’18, and traveled to the US last January for unspecified medical care. He was hospitalized two weeks ago complaining of breathlessness. Jaitley died in New Delhi, India on August 24, 2019.

Werner Kramarsky (93) public official who helped to expand the delivery of health care in New York City and the scope of human rights protections statewide. In private life Kramarsky was a patron of artists and a collector of drawings. He played a prominent role in the world of state and local politics and in the more rarefied sphere of collecting and promoting fine art. As a special assistant to Mayor John V. Lindsay from 1966–70, Kramarsky made improving medical care his top priority. He played a key role in consolidating municipal agencies and institutions into the city’s Health & Hospitals Corp. (now known as New York Health + Hospitals). As commissioner of the State Division of Human Rights under Gov. Hugh L. Carey from 1975–82, Kramarsky ruled that a minimum height requirement for male prison guards was discriminatory, that the NYC Marathon must allow competitors in wheelchairs to participate, that tennis clubs could not offer discounts to married couples, and that job applicants could not be denied work simply for being obese or drug users in treatment. He died of pneumonia in New York City on August 22, 2019.

Gina Lopez (65) former environmental activist who introduced a broad crackdown on Philippine mining companies after she was appointed the country’s environmental secretary in 2016. Lopez landed the job of acting environment secretary when President Rodrigo Duterte came to power in 2016 and wasted no time in going after major mining companies that she said had flagrantly violated the country’s environmental laws. She ordered 23 mines to shut down and about five others to suspend operations. She also canceled 75 lucrative contracts for mines that she said threatened watersheds. In moving to halt the operations of 28 of the country’s 41 mining companies, she was taking aim at businesses that accounted for about half of Philippine nickel production, which environmentalists said had left rivers, rice fields, and watersheds stained red with nickel laterite. But Lopez’s swift assault on the industry faced stiff opposition from influential mining groups, and she was forced from her job when the Philippine Congress denied her confirmation to the post after just 10 months. Lopez died from multiple organ failure in Makati, Philippines on August 19, 2019.

Sidney Rittenberg (98) American soldier-linguist who stayed in China for 35 years after World War II as an adviser and political prisoner of the Communist Revolution and later made millions as a counselor of Western capitalists exploiting booming Chinese markets. Rittenberg was a dedicated aide to Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai as a party propagandist known across China by his Mandarin name, Li Dunbai—the mysterious foreigner in Mao’s government. But he ran afoul of Mao’s suspicions, offended Mao’s wife, and spent 16 years in prison, falsely accused of espionage and counterrevolutionary plotting. In the US after his release, he used his extensive knowledge and contacts in China to build his own capitalist empire, advising corporate leaders, including Bill Gates of Microsoft and computer magnate Michael S. Dell, on how to cash in on China’s vast growing economy. Still welcome in China, he took entrepreneurs on guided tours, introducing them to the country’s movers and shakers. Rittenberg died in Scottsdale, Arizona, 10 days after his 98th birthday, on August 24, 2019.

Jan Ruff-O'Herne (96) Dutch woman, among as many as 200,000 women in Japanese-occupied territory who were forced into sex slavery during World War II. Most of them were Korean. Jan O’Herne was one of the few Europeans. In 1992 she became the first white European woman to step forward and publicly describe the rapes, beatings, and abuse at the hands of the Japanese. She spent the rest of her life seeking justice for the so-called comfort women—a term she rejected as appallingly euphemistic. The “comfort women” issue quickly became an issue of women’s rights and human rights, and Ruff-O’Herne dedicated the rest of her life to speaking up for women in wartime. But her appeals for an official apology from Japan, and for compensation, were never fully addressed to her satisfaction. She died in Australia on August 19, 2019.


Sports

Russ Conway (70) hockey writer, a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1992 for his stories about corruption in the NHL Players Association that helped to bring down union head Alan Eagleson. A longtime Boston Bruins beat writer, Conway published a series of articles that exposed Eagleson’s lucrative conflicts of interest as union boss, player agent, and organizer of international tournaments. Conway’s reporting spawned investigations in both the US and Canada that resulted in Eagleson serving six months in prison and forfeiting his Order of Canada. The Hockey Hall of Fame kicked Eagleson out and gave Conway its Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award in 1999 for bringing honor to journalism and hockey. Conway died in Haverhill, Massachusetts on August 20, 2019.

Bobby Dillon (89) lost his left eye as a result of childhood accidents but became an All-American defensive back at the University of Texas and a four-time Pro Bowl safety for the Green Bay Packers of the ‘50s. Playing for Green Bay from 1952–59, Dillon set a franchise record that still stands for interceptions with 52, including four against the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day 1953, a single-game NFL record shared by many players. Dillon returned five interceptions for touchdowns and led the NFL in interception yardage in 1956, with 244. He averaged nearly 19 yards per interception return but never played on a winning Packer team until 1959, when Green Bay went 7-5 in Vince Lombardi’s first season as coach and general manager. Dillon had planned to retire after the 1958 season, but Lombardi, impressed by film of him in action, persuaded him to return. After that one season, Dillon left football to enter the business world, missing out on the dynasty that Lombardi built. He died of dementia in Temple, Texas on August 22, 2019.

Felice Gimondi (76) one of only seven cyclists to have won all three Grand Tours. Gimondi won the Tour de France in 1965 as a 22-year-old in his first year as a professional. He later won the Giro d’Italia in 1967, ’69, and ‘76, and the Spanish Vuelta in ’68. The other cyclists to win all three Grand Tours are Belgian rider Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault of France, Alberto Contador of Spain, Vincenzo Nibali of Italy, and Britain’s Chris Froome. The Italian Cycling Federation (FCI) said efforts to resuscitate Gimondi failed after the Italian suffered a heart attack while swimming on vacation in Sicily and died on August 22, 2019.

Al Jackson (83) left-hander whose pitching provided hope for the woeful New York Mets of the early ‘60s. The 1962 Mets, an expansion team in its first season, won 40 games and lost a record 120, but Little Al Jackson, as he was known—was 5 feet 10 and weighed about 165 pounds—threw all four of the Mets’s shutouts that season, among them a one-hitter. He won eight games and lost 20 for a team that finished in 10th place, but did not lead the team in losses. Former Dodger right-hander Roger Craig, also victimized by the Mets’s dreary lineup, went 10-24. Throwing breaking balls along with fastballs, Jackson was a mainstay for the Mets through their first four seasons but was then traded to the St. Louis Cardinals and was a member of their pennant-winning 1967 team. He pitched for the Mets again in 1968 and briefly at the beginning of their “Miracle” season of ‘69, when they became World Series champions. He was later a pitching coach and instructor, mostly in the Mets organization. Jackson had a stroke in 2015. He died in Port St. Lucie, Florida on August 19, 2019,

Jack Whitaker (95) whose Hall of Fame broadcasting career ranged from the first Super Bowl to Secretariat’s Triple Crown to short essays from major sporting events. A Philadelphia native who was wounded on Omaha Beach three days after the D-Day Invasion, Whitaker began his broadcast career at WCAU-TV in Philadelphia and spent 22 years with CBS Sports. He worked for ABC from 1982 in the news and sports divisions and was part of the network’s Olympics coverage in ‘84 and ‘88. Whitaker died in his sleep in Devon, Pennsylvania on August 18, 2019.


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