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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, November 2, 2019

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Gerald Baliles, former governor of VirginiaAl Bianchi, basketball player and coachRudy Boesch, Navy SEAL on 'Survivor'Vladimir Bukovsky, Soviet dissidentPeter Collier, conservative biographerJohn Conyers Jr., former US congressman from MichiganAnn Crumb, Tony-nominated actress and singerRon Fairly, baseball player and broadcasterBarry Frank, TV sports agentDon Fraser, LA boxing promoterBogaletch Gebre, Ethiopian woman who fought for women's rights in her countryFrank Giles, British newspaper editorKay Hagan, former US senator from North CarolinaWilliam J. Hughes, US congressman from New JerseyMarie Laforêt, French actress and singerRina Lazo, Guatemalan painter in MexicoJohanna Lindsey, romance novelistMustapha Matura, Caribbean playwrightWalter Mercado, TV astrologerWayne Merry, among first rock climbers to conquer El CapitanJack O'Dell, aide to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.Narayana Reddy, Indian cookJames I. Robertson Jr., historianBernard Slade, TV writer and Broadway playwrightAzam Taleghani, Iranian women's rights activistJerome L. Wilson, NY state senator who pushed for more liberal state divorce lawJohn Witherspoon, actor-comedian

Art and Literature

Peter Collier (80) writer who midway into his career made a high-profile ideological shift from left to right, becoming a leading conservative voice and a publisher of others. Collier, who often wrote with David Horowitz, was well regarded as a biographer of dynastic families. The two produced books on the Rockefellers (1976), the Kennedys (1984), and the Fords (1987), and in 1994 Collier wrote on the Roosevelts, with Horowitz contributing. The biographies were only part of his output. Collier also wrote a novel (Down River, 1979), a children’s book (The King’s Giraffe, with his wife, 1996), and books honoring military figures like Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty (2003). After working together on the New Left journal Ramparts in the ‘60s and ’70s, Collier and Horowitz made a 180-degree turn and began writing books and articles from the conservative side of the spectrum. Collier died of acute myeloid leukemia in Sacramento, California on November 1, 2019.

Rina Lazo (96) Guatemalan-born painter who in her youth was an assistant to Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. Lazo lived in Mexico for the rest of her life, assisting Rivera until he died while also finding her own voice as an artist. Mexican muralism taught her the importance of expressing a political and social consciousness, but she softened the militancy that was common in the postrevolutionary era. In allegorical paintings, prints, and murals with a subtle yet richly colorful palette, Lazo celebrated Mesoamerican cultures, especially the Maya, and the spiritual abundance of the natural world. She died in Mexico City, Mexico on November 1, 2019.

Johanna Lindsey (67) author whose best-selling romance novels told stories of unbridled passion, revenge, submission, and abductions among aristocrats, debutantes, pirates, and fearless heroines. Lindsey wrote her first novel on a whim and turned out nearly 60 more. Her most recent, Temptation’s Darling, published last July, told of a countess’s plans to have her daughter marry an arrogant rogue in 19th-century England. Lindsey's books sold at least 60 million copies, according to her publisher, Simon & Schuster, and she ranked among the leading romance writers of her era, most notably Jude Deveraux, Judith McNaught, Kathleen Woodiwiss, and Rosemary Rogers. Lindsey died in Nashua, New Hampshire from complications of treatment for Stage 4 lung cancer, on October 27, 2019.


James I. Robertson Jr. (89) authority on the Civil War who published several dozen deeply researched books that humanized historical figures like Stonewall Jackson. Robertson, who went by Bud, wrote books that appealed to both general audiences and academics. Robertson's most lauded book was Stonewall Jackson: The Man, the Soldier, the Legend (1997). More than 900 pages long, it was the product of seven years of research. Thomas Jonathan Jackson, better known as Stonewall, was a critical military leader for the Confederacy—so much so that many historians point to his death in 1863, days after he was mistakenly shot by Confederate soldiers during the Battle of Chancellorsville, as the beginning of the end for the South. Robertson had taught at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg for 44 years. He died of metastatic cancer in Richmond, Virginia on November 2, 2019.

News and Entertainment

Ann Crumb (69) Tony Award-nominated actress who originated the role of Rose Vibert in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Aspects of Love. Crumb made her Broadway debut in the original cast of Les Miserables in 1987, appeared in Chess in ‘88, then starred in Aspects of Love opposite Michael Ball in London’s West End in ‘89 and on Broadway in ’90. She received a Tony nomination for the title role in the musical adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, which ran for 18 previews and 46 performances in 1992. She starred opposite John Cullum in a US tour of Man of La Mancha in 1995. Her TV appearances included Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and One Life to Live. Also known as a classical and jazz singer, Crumb died from ovarian cancer at her parents’ home in Media, Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia suburb, on October 31, 2019.

Frank Giles (100) in 1983 the Sunday Times of London claimed to have Adolf Hitler’s diaries, written in the Führer’s own hand. Renowned historian Hugh Trevor-Roper had authenticated them. What it actually had were forgeries. The newspaper’s top editors discovered the truth at the last minute and tried to stop their publication. But the paper’s owner, Rupert Murdoch, dismissed their concerns and ordered that the presses roll, leaving the Sunday Times, one of the world’s great news organizations, with serious egg on its face. The editor of the paper, mild-mannered, urbane Giles, took the fall and was fired, bringing a distinguished career to an abrupt end. Giles died in London, England on October 30, 2019.

Marie Laforêt (80) French actress and singer known in Europe as “the girl with the golden eyes (la fille aux yeux d’or).” Laforêt appeared in some 35 feature films and numerous TV movies and miniseries, but her music career was even more successful than her work onscreen. She sold more than 35 million records, counting among her biggest hits “Vendanges l’Amour,” “Ivan, Boris et Moi,” “Viens, Viens,” and “Il A Neigé sur Yesterday” (“It Has Snowed on Yesterday”), a 1977 tribute to the Beatles. Her songs were strongly influenced by folk music, and she even recorded versions of American folk songs, including “House of the Rising Sun.” Laforêt died in Genolier, Switzerland, a small town in the Nyon district north of Geneva, on November 2, 2019.

Mustapha Matura (79) playwright from Trinidad and Tobago, formerly a British colony, who achieved theatrical fame in '70s London by exploring themes of racial independence and cultural transition in writing about the lives of Caribbeans, both in London and in his homeland, against the backdrop of their colonial past. Matura wrote 20 or so plays from 1971–94, some of them staged in the US and elsewhere, earning the admiration of black writers throughout Britain. He gained attention early in his career with his satire, Play Mas, which opened at the London Royal Court in 1974, making him the first playwright of color to have a play produced in London’s West End. He died in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, after suffering a heart attack on a flight from New York City on October 29, 2019.

Walter Mercado (88) TV astrologer whose persona made him a star in Latin media and an icon for gay people in most of the Spanish-speaking world. Mercado was known throughout Latin America for the melodrama of his daily horoscopes, delivered on internationally broadcast networks such as Univision with an exaggerated trilling of the “r.” He favored colorful brocaded capes and huge gemstone rings, which he flashed while pointing at viewers. He never publicly discussed his sexual orientation, but his screen presence was a source of comfort for many people in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual communities throughout Latin America and Latin communities in the US. Mercado died from kidney failure in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He had been living in the suburb of Cupey and had spent several days in the hospital before his death on November 2, 2019.

Narayana Reddy (73) Indian cook whose YouTube channel, Grandpa Kitchen, attracted more than six million followers with videos of him preparing huge amounts of food to feed orphaned children and other hungry people. Reddy began the Grandpa Kitchen channel in 2017 by posting videos that followed a formula: adorable children, heart-warming music, inspirational sayings, and seemingly absurd amounts of food. The food Reddy cooked came from many different culinary traditions, and he grinned as he explained the recipes and prepared the food. Working outside over an open fire, Reddy and his helpers, often his relatives, prepared mountains of chicken and lamb biryani and enough macaroni and cheese to fill an inflatable kiddie pool. Several times he made pizzas the size of small trampolines. In the two years that Reddy posted on YouTube, he fed dozens, if not hundreds, of children, and his videos have been viewed more than 626 million times. Reddy died in the southern state of Telangana, India on October 27, 2019.

Bernard Slade (89) writer who created the ‘70s TV series The Partridge Family, among other shows, and wrote one of the most successful plays in Broadway history, Same Time, Next Year. Slade was a stage actor and theatrical producer before he turned his attention to writing. After success in Canada, he signed a contract with Screen Gems to write three TV pilots a year. With Harry Ackerman he created Love on a Rooftop, a romantic comedy seen on ABC in the 1966–67 season. Slade fared somewhat better as a creator of The Flying Nun, which premiered in 1967 and ran for three seasons, advancing the career of its young star, Sally Field. The Partridge Family, a comedy about a musical family that finds success as a pop band, made its debut in September 1970, with Shirley Jones as the matriarch and her stepson, David Cassidy, playing the resident heartthrob. Slade died in Beverly Hills, California of Lewy body dementia on October 30, 2019.

Brian Tarantina (60) character actor most recently known for his role in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. On the show, Tarantina played an emcee at a comedy club called the Gaslight. He had roles on several TV shows and in movies, including Gilmore Girls and BlacKkKlansman. New York police officers responded to a call from his apartment shortly before 1 a.m. They found Tarantina on his couch, fully clothed but unconscious and unresponsive. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of death was being determined by the medical examiner. Tarantina’s manager Laurie Smith said he had recently had a severe illness. He died in New York City on November 2, 2019.

John Witherspoon (77) actor-comedian who memorably played Ice Cube’s father in the Friday films. The actor had a prolific career, costarring in three Friday films, appearing on The Wayans Bros. TV series, and voicing the grandfather in The Boondocks animated series. His film roles included Vampire in Brooklyn and Boomerang, and he was a frequent guest on Late Show with David Letterman. For many, his most recognizable role was “Pops,” Ice Cube’s father in the stoner comedy Friday and its two sequels, a crude but affectionate father trying to guide his son to be better. Witherspoon died in Sherman Oaks, California on October 29, 2019.

Politics and Military

Gerald Baliles (79) former Virginia governor, a Democrat known as the “transportation governor” for his work to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and increase foreign trade. Baliles, who served from 1986–90, pushed through a 10-year, $10 billion transportation initiative during the first year of his administration that required increases in the gas and sales taxes. He continued pushing for better transportation long after he left the Executive Mansion, calling for Virginia to install tolls on interstates to raise money for transportation projects. He once accused his successors of squandering the progress made during his administration. Baliles died of cancer in Richmond, Virginia on October 29, 2019.

Rudy Boesch (91) retired tough-as-nails Navy SEAL and fan favorite on the inaugural season of Survivor. Boesch joined the Navy in 1944 and became one of the first SEALs in 1962. He served two combat tours during the Vietnam War, earning a Bronze Star for heroism, and retired from the Navy in 1990 as a master chief petty officer. Before his retirement, Boesch was honored as “Chief SEAL,” or “Bullfrog.” The title marks his time as the longest-serving SEAL still on active duty. He remained involved after he left the Navy, serving on the board of directors of the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) Seal Association. Boesch died in Virginia Beach, Virginia after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease, on November 1, 2019.

Vladimir Bukovsky (76) Soviet-era dissident who became internationally known for exposing Soviet abuse of psychiatry. Bukovsky spent 12 years in Soviet prisons and psychiatric hospitals for his criticism of the Communist government, becoming a symbol of Soviet persecution of dissent. In 1961 he was expelled from Moscow State University, where he studied biology, for writing a thesis critical of the Komsomol, the Soviet Union’s Communist youth organization. He was first arrested in 1963 for possession of books banned in the Soviet Union, declared mentally ill, and sent for treatment to a psychiatric hospital where he spent almost two years—the first of several stints in Soviet psychiatric institutions. He was arrested again and handed a prison term in 1967 for a street protest. In 1971 Bukovsky smuggled out materials documenting the Soviet use of psychiatry for punishing dissenters. Their publication drew international outrage, and he was quickly arrested. In 1972 he was sentenced to seven years in prison and labor camp to be followed by another five years of internal exile. His fate attracted global attention, and in December 1976 the Soviet authorities agreed to trade him for imprisoned Chilean Communist Party leader Luis Corvalan. Bukovsky died of cardiac arrest in Cambridge, England, where he had settled after being deported from the Soviet Union, on October 27, 2019.

John Conyers Jr. (90) advocate of liberal causes for 50 years and the longest-serving black in the history of Congress. Conyers, a Democrat, resigned in 2017 after accusations of unwelcome sexual advances by two women. His lawyers denied the accusations, but both Paul Ryan, a Republican and then-speaker of the House, and Nancy Pelosi, House Democrat leader at the time and current speaker, found the complaints credible and demanded that Conyers step down. He was the only member of the House Judiciary Committee to participate in impeachment inquiries against both Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton. Conyers died in Detroit, Michigan on October 27, 2019.

Kay Hagan (66) former US senator who defeated North Carolina's first female Republican US senator, Elizabeth Dole, to become the state’s first female Democrat senator. Hagan served a single term in the Senate and lost her 2014 reelection bid to Republican NC House Speaker Thom Tillis, who is seeking reelection in 2020. Hagan won a seat as a Democrat in the NC state Senate in 1998. In 2008 the state legislator sought and won the US Senate seat held by Dole. Although at first reluctant, Hagan backed the Affordable Care Act pushed by President Barack Obama. In June, Hagan made a rare public appearance at a groundbreaking ceremony for Piedmont Triad International Airport’s new air traffic control tower, for which she helped to gain funding. She contracted Powassan virus in late 2016, and the subsequent brain inflammation made speaking and walking difficult for her. She died in Greensboro, North Carolina of encephalitis, or brain inflammation, caused by the rare virus, which spreads from ticks to humans, on October 28, 2019.

William J. Hughes (87) longtime congressman from New Jersey who became US ambassador to Panama. Hughes was one of dozens of Democrats elected to the House in 1974 in the wake of the Watergate scandal and served until his retirement in 1995. He was then appointed ambassador to Panama by President Bill Clinton and served in that role until 1998. During his years in Congress, representing southern New Jersey's Second District, Hughes served on the House Judiciary Committee and chaired the Subcommittee on Crime. He was instrumental in passing legislation to ban fully automatic firearms. He died in Ocean City, New Jersey on October 30, 2019.

Jack O'Dell (96) by mid-1963, O’Dell had been working for Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference for about 18 months, raising funds and helping to register voters. He brought a diverse résumé to the job, having worked as a merchant seaman, union activist, and insurance salesman. But he had also been a member of the Communist Party, which alarmed President John F. Kennedy and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. So when civil rights groups gathered at the White House on June 22, 1963, two months before the March on Washington, Kennedy pulled King aside in the Rose Garden. The president told King that he had to fire O’Dell and Stanley Levison, a white businessman and King aide, for ties to the party, according to multiple historical accounts. Levison was under FBI surveillance at the time. O’Dell died of a stroke in Vancouver, British Columbia, on October 31, 2019.

Azam Taleghani (76) dissident politician and women’s rights activist who repeatedly fought to become the first female presidential candidate in Iranian history and each time was denied. Taleghani was best known for her recurrent attempts to run for the presidency. In stipulating the qualifications for the office, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s constitution, although mostly written in Persian, uses an Arabic phrase that could be read as “men of politics.” Taleghani made it her mission to challenge that reading, asserting that it meant something closer to “political personalities” and that it could thus include women. She had been elected to the first Parliament assembled after the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and registered as a presidential candidate in ‘97, 2001, ‘05, ’09, and ’17. But each time the Guardian Council, the body of clerics and jurists that decides who is qualified to run, threw out her candidacy. Taleghani refused to give up. In her last attempt, at age 74, she had to be helped up the stairs of the Interior Ministry to register. She had been hospitalized in Tehran, Iran with a brain disorder and died there on October 30, 2019.

Jerome L. Wilson (88) former Democrat state senator from Manhattan who helped to liberalize an 18th-century law that had left New York the sole state that required a spouse to prove adultery as the only legal ground for divorce. Wilson was chairman of the state’s Joint Legislative Committee on Matrimonial Law, which recommended that the legal grounds for divorce be broadened. The amended act, which took effect on September 1, 1967, added four other grounds for divorce: cruel treatment, abandonment for two years, the sentencing of a spouse to prison for five years or more, and a couple’s living voluntarily apart for at least two years. As a sop to the Roman Catholic Church, which does not recognize divorce and which for decades had resisted attempts to broaden the legal justification for dissolving marriages, the Legislature also instituted a compulsory conciliation procedure in a last-ditch effort to preserve marriages. Wilson died of pneumonia in Essex, Connecticut on November 1, 2019.

Society and Religion

Bogaletch Gebre (66) Ethiopian woman who galvanized thousands of people in Ethiopia and the US to champion women’s rights and fight against the practice of female genital mutilation in her homeland. Gebre founded Kembatti Mentti Gezzima-Toppe, or KMG Ethiopia, an organization that draws attention to the violence women endure in Ethiopia. The rate of female genital mutilation in areas where her organization worked decreased from nearly 100 per cent in 1999 to less than 3 per cent by 2008. By 2013 the organization employed 106 people and had 6,000 volunteers spread across 700 villages, serving about 2.5 million people. In recent years Gebre periodically came to Los Angeles to receive medical treatment after a car accident in the late ‘80s left her with nerve damage. She died in a hotel room in LA shortly after arriving from Ethiopia, on November 2, 2019.


Al Bianchi (87) played for the Philadelphia 76ers and was later an NBA coach and executive. Bianchi was the team’s general manager from 1987–91, signing future All-Star John Starks. He was an original member of the 76ers, starting his 10-year career with the Syracuse Nationals in 1956–57 and remaining with the team after its move to Philadelphia. He spent two seasons as coach of the Seattle SuperSonics before moving to the American Basketball Association, where he was Coach of the Year in 1970–71 with the Virginia Squires. He also had two stints as an assistant coach with the Phoenix Suns and one season with Chicago. Bianchi died of congestive heart failure in Phoenix, Arizona on October 28, 2019.

Ron Fairly (81) outfielder and first baseman who spent more than 50 years in baseball—21 years as a player, first with the Dodgers and lastly with the Angels, and 30 more as a broadcaster. A former University of Southern California standout, Fairly played his first 11-plus years (1958–69) in the big leagues with the Dodgers, helping the team to three World Series championships, and closed his playing career with the Angels in 1978. He died in Indian Wells, California after a year-long battle with pancreatic cancer, on October 30, 2019.

Barry Frank (87) TV sports impresario who over 50 years negotiated deals for sportscasting stars like John Madden, developed or created popular shows like The Skins Game and Superstars, and helped to engineer high-priced network rights deals. Frank had once dreamed of being an actor but ended up as a network official, chiefly as an executive at the International Management Group (IMG), the sports and entertainment agency founded by Mark McCormack in the early ‘60s. He died in San Francisco, California of pulmonary problems after choking on some food, on October 29, 2019.

Don Fraser (92) longtime Los Angeles boxing promoter with a reputation for a colorful wardrobe and offbeat promotional gimmicks. Fraser was a boxing historian, too. He lived on both sides of the ropes, first as a fighter, then a writer, publicist, matchmaker, promoter, and regulator. At the height of his career, Fraser was involved in promotions that included Muhammad Ali, Floyd Patterson, and Sugar Ray Robinson. He began promoting at the Pico Palace in LA, then moved on to the Spruce Goose in Long Beach and the Marriott Hotel in Irvine. He also promoted fights at the Olympic Auditorium, the Forum, the Long Beach Auditorium, and Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Fraser was remembered best for working with Art Aragon, one of the most legendary names in the history of LA boxing. Aragon, the original Golden Boy, was lightweight and welterweight champion in the ‘50s. Fraser died in Toluca Lake, California on October 30, 2019.

Wayne Merry (88) one of three rock climbers who, on November 12, 1958, became the first to reach the top of El Capitan, a sheer granite wall that towers 2,900 feet above Yosemite National Park in California, one of the most famous climbs in the world. The speed record on a route called the Nose, set in 2018 by Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell, is a little under two hours. But for climbers in the first half of the 20th century, limited by rudimentary tools and techniques, El Capitan was unknown. The rock face is very smooth, without many of the vertical cracks climbers rely on, and many alpinists considered it insurmountable. Most climbers who did try were content to scale a pitch or two near the base, but Merry, Warren Harding, and George Whitmore were determined to go higher. Their climb took 45 days, spread out over about 18 months. In each leg of the climb they secured fixed ropes to the highest point they had reached so that they could later resume the climb with relative ease. Merry died of metastatic prostate cancer in Atlin, British Columbia, Canada on October 30, 2019.

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