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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, November 9, 2019

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Gert Boyle, business executiveWilliam B. Branch, playwright and TV writerGay Byrne, Irish TV presenter and radio hostRichard Cerutti, San Diego archaeologistStephen Dixon, novelist and short-story writerLouis Eppolito, 'Mafia Cop'Robert Freeman, photographer of Beatles' album coversErnest J. Gaines, Louisiana novelistLaurel Griggs, child actressFred Krinke, owner of LA's Fountain Pen ShopMaria Perego, Italian puppeteer who created Topo GigioU Tun Lwin, Myanmar meteorologist

Art and Literature

Stephen Dixon (83) author whose realistic novels and short stories reflected his fascination with personal loss, sex, heartbreak, disaster, marriage, and old age. Working on a portable typewriter, Dixon published 18 novels and about 600 stories. His final story—about a man who was 80, like him, and had a cat like his cat—was published in Heavy Feather Review in October while he was in hospice. He never found fame or big sales, but his quirky storytelling drew praise. He tinkered with syntax and diction and used an array of narrative tricks that made his fiction compelling but sometimes challenging; his paragraphs could seem to run forever. Dixon died of Parkinson’s disease and pneumonia in Towson, Maryland on November 6, 2019.

Robert Freeman (82) British photographer who helped to define the image of The Beatles with some of the band’s best-known album covers. Freeman began his career as a photojournalist for London’s Sunday Times and captured portraits of leading jazz musicians before working with The Beatles. He shot the black-and-white cover for the 1963 album With the Beatles, picturing the Fab Four’s faces in part-shadow. It became a defining image of the group and was used for the 1964 US album Meet the Beatles! Freeman died of pneumonia in London, England on November 6, 2019.

Ernest J. Gaines (86) novelist whose poor childhood on a small Louisiana plantation inspired stories of black struggles. A Lesson Before Dying (1993) was an acclaimed classic. Gaines was awarded a “genius grant” that year by the MacArthur Foundation, receiving $335,000. Both The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1971) and A Gathering of Old Men (1984) became TV movies. The author of eight books, Gaines died in his sleep of cardiac arrest at his home in Oscar, Louisiana on November 5, 2019.


Business and Science

Gert Boyle (95) colorful chairwoman of Oregon-based Columbia Sportswear Co. who starred in ads proclaiming her as “One Tough Mother.” Boyle took over the small outdoor clothing company in 1970 after her husband died from a heart attack. At the time she was a 46-year-old housewife and mother of three with no real business experience. But she helped to build the struggling company into a national brand and retailer. She died in Portland, Oregon on November 3, 2019.

Richard Cerutti (78) archaeologist whose name was attached to perhaps the most contentious discovery in North America when in 1992 he found in a highway-widening project the tusk of a mastodon. The discovery, linking man to the site, became controversial when preliminary dating of the specimens challenged the conventional assumption that man arrived in North America no earlier than 14,000 years ago. Cerutti belonged to a generation of postwar scientists drawn to the coastal valleys of San Diego County for their wealth of fossil deposits. He died of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma on November 3, 2019.

Fred Krinke (91) third-generation proprietor of the Fountain Pen Shop in Los Angeles, which from its beginning supplied the writing instruments and bottles of midnight-black ink that lawyers, judges, note takers, letter writers, and shopkeepers required in bustling downtown LA. By the time Fred Krinke took over the shop, the ballpoint pen was bearing down, and eventually the keyboard and touch screen threatened to do in the fountain pen altogether. But Krinke weathered the cultural storms and became the go-to source in LA when someone needed a fresh nib, an ink cartridge, or a pricey made-to-order Montblanc. The Fountain Pen Shop was a museum, repair shop, and retail outlet squeezed into one room, its glass cases filled with curiosities that attracted collectors, investors, and those who preferred the free flow of ink. Krinke died in Los Angeles, California on November 3, 2019. The fate of his store, said to be the oldest pen shop in the US operated continuously by the same family, is uncertain.

U Tun Lwin (71) Myanmar’s top weather official who, in the spring of 2008, noticed that a tropical cyclone was barreling toward the country from the Indian Ocean. But the generals who ruled the country were unable—critics say unwilling—to take preventive action before the storm, Cyclone Nargis, which ended up killing at least 140,000 people. It proved to be among the deadliest storms in recorded history. Tun Lwin, an American-educated meteorologist widely known in his country as the “people’s weatherman,” spent his last years sounding the alarm about climate change. He had suffered from diabetes and heart and kidney ailments for about 10 years when he died of a heart attack in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, on November 4, 2019.


Law

Louis Eppolito (71) was practically born into the Mafia. His father was a Gambino family soldier known as Fat the Gangster. An uncle known as Jimmy the Clam, a grandfather, and a cousin were made men too. By age 10, Louis was joining his father on his bookmaking rounds. A life in organized crime seemed preordained, but Louis’s interest faded after several relatives were killed by rival gangsters. So after graduating from high school, he joined the New York Police Department. It was an unlikely career that earned him many medals and headlines. But Eppolito ended up at the center of one of the biggest scandals in department history. In 2006 he and a fellow detective, Stephen Caracappa, were convicted of moonlighting as mob assassins, involved in eight gangland slayings while on the payroll of Anthony Casso, a Luchese crime family underboss known as Gaspipe. After their arrest, Eppolito and Caracappa (died in 2017) became widely known as the “Mafia Cops.” Eppolito died in Tucson, Arizona while serving a life sentence at the high-security US penitentiary there, on November 3, 2019.


News and Entertainment

William B. Branch (92) playwright, TV writer, producer, and actor who explored black life and challenged its stereotypes. As a playwright Branch portrayed the black experience, both in the 20th century and earlier, in Off-Broadway plays like A Medal for Willie, about the bitterness felt when a black World War II veteran who had been mistreated in the service is decorated posthumously; A Wreath for Udomo, with its theme of colonial oppression in South Africa; and In Splendid Error, about the tangled relationship between abolitionists Frederick Douglass and John Brown. Branch also wrote for TV. In one instance he was commissioned by husband-and-wife actors and producers Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee to write A Letter from Booker T, a historical drama, for public TV. On radio he directed The Jackie Robinson Show on NBC in the late ‘50s. For two years he was also the ghostwriter for Robinson’s nationally syndicated column for the New York Post. Branch died of metastatic cancer in Hawthorne, New York on November 3, 2019.

Gay Byrne (85) former TV presenter and radio host who became a fixture in Irish households and used his celebrity to shine a light on the shadier aspects of Irish society. A staple of Irish households, Byrne did a decades-long stint as host of The Late Late Show and hosted other radio and TV programs for Ireland’s national broadcaster. Known affectionately as Uncle Gaybo, he championed social causes and used his celebrity to illuminate the darker corners of Ireland. Byrne died in Dublin, Ireland after undergoing treatment for cancer, on November 4, 2019.

Laurel Griggs (13) child actress who found early success in the 2013 Broadway revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and in the musical adaptation of the Irish film Once. Laurel made a few appearances on Saturday Night Live as an uncredited cast member. She also appeared in the film Café Society, a romantic comedy starring Steve Carell that Amazon released in 2016, and did voice work for the animated series Bubble Guppies. Laurel wrote and directed a short film about a school shooting called This Is Not a Drill, screened at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2018. She died of a massive asthma attack in New York City on November 5, 2019.

Maria Perego (95) Italian puppeteer and creator of Topo Gigio, the lovable mouse who became famous to American audiences as a frequent guest on The Ed Sullivan Show in the ‘60s and early ’70s and was known worldwide. Perego came up with the 10-inch-tall Topo Gigio in the late ‘50s, a sort of cross between a puppet and a marionette; three puppeteers, hidden in a black background, moved its body parts with rods. Sullivan (died 1974) saw a tape of the puppet from Italian TV and booked Topo Gigio for a series of appearances on his popular Sunday-night CBS variety show. The first was on April 14, 1963. Perego and two other puppeteers were there to make the movements, and a fourth provided Topo Gigio’s voice—but Sullivan had not realized that someone would also have to be the puppet’s straight man. Famously wooden on camera, he stepped into that role for the first appearance, figuring he would arrange for a professional comic to take over for later ones if the bit caught on. But the chemistry between man and puppet revealed a warmer Ed Sullivan, and he remained in the role of sidekick for some 50 appearances by Topo Gigio over the years. Perego died in Milan, Italy on November 7, 2019.


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