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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, December 21, 2019

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Fazle Abed, founder of relief agency in BangladeshClaudine Auger, French actress known for Bond film, 'Thunderball'Herman Boone, inspiration for 'Remember the Titans'JoAnn Buss, mother of LA Lakers co-ownersMama Cax, runway model with prosthetic legDa Chen, Chinese authorHayden Fry, revived Iowa footballY. C. Fung, father of biomechanicsJunior Johnson, NASCAR driver and ownerWard Just, Vietnam journalist turned fiction writerBentley Kassal, NYC lawyer and judgeJames R. Kennedy, inspiration for movie 'Radio'Peter Larkin, Tony-winning designer of stage sets, with 'Mothership'Nancy Lewis, publicist, early US champion of British comedy troupe, Monty PythonRobert D. Moir, Harvard scientist with new approach to Alzheimer's diseaseEarl C. Paysinger, LAPD leaderChuck Peddle, computer engineer and entrepreneurJoseph Segel, founder of QVCAbbey Simon, classical pianistBarbara Testa, LA librarian who found literary treasureWoody Vasulka, video artistJoe Walsh, last surviving active member of San Diego County's Pearl Harbor Survivors Assoc.Peter Wollen, British film director and screenwriter

Art and Literature

Da Chen (57) storyteller who drew from the hardships he suffered as a persecuted child growing up in China to create the critically acclaimed memoir Colors of the Mountain (2011), in which he recounted the abuses he and his family suffered during that country’s Cultural Revolution. It was a time when the Communist Party and its leader, Mao Zedong, were cementing their grip on power after the country’s 1949 revolution. Chen’s family, who had been prosperous landowners, became pariahs, as did many others. Chen was bullied in school and eventually kicked out to work in farm fields as a preteen while his father and grandfather, college-educated intellectuals, were tortured and sent to reeducation camps. Chen died of lung cancer in Temecula, California on December 17, 2019.

Barbara Testa (91) Los Angeles librarian who solved a 100-year-old literary mystery when she discovered the missing first half of Mark Twain's original hand-written manuscript for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in her late grandfather's steamer trunk. Twain had donated the second half of the manuscript to the Buffalo & Erie County (New York) Public Library, which pressured Testa to hand over her find. Twain, who had befriended and corresponded with Testa’s grandfather, James Gluck, had always been casual about the whereabouts of the hand-written copy of Huckleberry Finn. When asked by Gluck to donate the manuscript to the Buffalo library, he sent the second half of the book but said he couldn’t find the first half. The Buffalo library filed suit to prevent Testa or her family from selling the document. They eventually settled, and the manuscript was sent to Buffalo, where literary experts discovered that editors had chopped out chunks of Twain’s story before its first publication. Testa died in Santa Cruz, California on December 16, 2019.

Woody Vasulka (82) experimental video artist who found inspiration in sources as diverse as nuclear war and technology and was a founder of the Kitchen, the landmark avant-garde performance space in Manhattan. In the early ‘70s Vasulka was one of a group of avant-garde artists who saw video as an emerging medium as compelling as film, sculpture, and painting. He died in Santa Fe, New Mexico on December 20, 2019.

Business and Science

Mama Cax (30) advocate of people with disabilities and a rising model who helped to challenge the fashion industry’s standard of beauty by not shying away from displaying her prosthetic leg on the runway and in fashion campaigns. As a teenager, Cax learned she had bone and lung cancer and had a hip replacement after her treatment. But her body rejected the hip, and she had her right leg amputated. She landed campaigns for Tommy Hilfiger and Sephora and graced the September 2018 cover of Teen Vogue. She walked in a fashion show at the White House and in shows for Chromat and Savage X Fenty, a brand by Rihanna, who called Cax a “powerhouse beauty.” Cax shared in a post on Dec. 12 that she had experienced severe abdominal pain while in London and sought medical attention. She later learned that she had blood clots in her leg, thigh, and abdomen and near her lungs. She died in London, England on December 16, 2019.

Y. C. Fung (100) UC San Diego researcher who blended biology, medicine, and engineering into a field that has given rise to heart valves, wireless health monitors, and automobile crash bags. Scholars described Fung as a seminal figure in 20th century science who got his contemporaries to think of human health in more precise and practical ways by combining medicine with the principles and rigors of engineering and biology—“bioengineering,” for short. Fung, so-called father of biomechanics, died in San Diego, California on December 15, 2019.

Robert D. Moir (58) Harvard scientist whose radical theories of the brain plaques in Alzheimer’s defied conventional views of the disease but whose research ultimately led to important proposals for how to treat it. Moir, who grew up on a farm in Australia, did not learn to read or write until he was nearly 12. His theory involved the protein beta amyloid, which forms plaques in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Conventional wisdom held that beta amyloid accumulation was a central part of the disease and that clearing the brain of beta amyloid would be a good thing. Moir proposed instead that beta amyloid is the way the brain defends itself against infections. Beta amyloid, he said, forms a sticky web that can trap microbes. The problem is that sometimes the brain goes overboard producing it, and when that happens the brain is damaged. The goal would be to remove some of the sticky substance but not all of it. The idea, which Moir first proposed in 2007, was at first met with skepticism. He died of glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer, in Milton, Massachusetts on December 19, 2019.

Chuck Peddle (82) engineer and entrepreneur who helped to launch the age of the personal computer after designing a microprocessor that sold for a mere $25. In 1974 Peddle and several other engineers were designing a new silicon chip at the Motorola Corp. in Phoenix when the company sent him a letter demanding that he shut the project down. Peddle envisioned an ultra-low-cost chip that could bring digital technology to a new breed of consumer devices, from cash registers to personal computers. But his bosses saw it as unwanted in-house competition for the $300 processor Motorola had unveiled that year. So Peddle moved the project to MOS Technology, a rival chip maker near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, taking seven other Motorola engineers with him. There they built a processor called the 6502. Priced at $25—the cost of a dinner for four and the equivalent of about $130 today—that chip soon powered the first big wave of personal computers in both the US and Britain, including the Apple II and the Commodore PET. Peddle died of pancreatic cancer in Santa Cruz, California on December 15, 2019.

Joseph Segel (88) “quintessential entrepreneur” who founded the home-shopping network QVC. Segel was remembered as an innovator for creating QVC, short for “Quality Value Convenience.” It launched in 1986 and was played by nearly 60 cable stations. It now reaches 380 million homes throughout the world. In 1993 Segel retired as chairman of QVC but stayed on as a company adviser until 2013. He also founded the Franklin Mint, a private mint company that produces commemorative coins and other collectibles. It is now owned by Sequential Brands Group. Segel died of congestive heart failure in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania on December 21, 2019.


Bentley Kassal (102) former New York lawyer and judge whose clients and cases reflected the urgencies of the court system over nearly 80 years—from the trial of comedian Lenny Bruce for obscenity to that of Bernard Goetz for subway vigilantism to the city’s liability for sheltering the homeless. Kassal was a World War II hero, a progressive Democrat politician, and an elected and appointed judge. He died in New York City on December 19, 2019.

Earl C. Paysinger (64) pillar of the Los Angeles Police Department and a respected leader in South LA credited with driving down crime by focusing on community partnerships. During 41 years with the LAPD, Paysinger rose through the ranks from patrol officer to first assistant chief, the second-highest-ranking post in the department. He was instrumental in Chief William J. Bratton’s success in reducing violence, first as deputy chief of the South Bureau and later as head of operations. One of the LAPD’s highest-profile black leaders, Paysinger was an advocate for diversifying the force and helped to quell friction that arose between officers and city residents, particularly in South LA. He died of lung cancer in Los Angeles, California on December 16, 2019.

News and Entertainment

Claudine Auger (78) Sean Connery’s costar in Thunderball and the first French actress to play James Bond’s love interest. Auger was 24 when Thunderball (1965), the fourth film in the long-running Bond franchise, was released. Because she spoke English with a heavy accent, Auger’s voice was dubbed by another actress. But because she was an excellent swimmer, she did her own underwater scenes in the film, which was shot largely in the Bahamas. Over the next 30 years she made more than 50 feature films—many of them French, Italian, or Spanish productions—and more than a dozen TV movies and miniseries, including the 1994 British miniseries The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. She also worked in both the science fiction and horror thriller genres. Auger died in Paris, France on December 18, 2019.

Ward Just (84) journalist for whom the Vietnam War was both a personal trauma and a national tragedy, inspiring him to write novels about people whose lives are shaped by war, political intrigue, myopic diplomats, and various forces beyond their control. Just was recognized not only as a prominent reporter on the Vietnam War, like David Halberstam, Neil Sheehan, Peter Arnett, and several others, but also as a novelist and short-story writer of the first rank. His prose in a score of novels and numerous short stories was compared to Ernest Hemingway’s, while his perceptions about American society reminded some critics of Henry James. Just died of Lewy body dementia in Plymouth, Massachusetts on December 19, 2019.

Peter Larkin (93) when Parliament-Funkadelic, George Clinton’s music collective, played arena shows in the ‘70s, the crowds would reach a fever pitch midway through the concert when a fire-spitting flying saucer descended from the rafters, landing onstage amid smoke and blaring horns. Most of those fans probably didn’t know that the prop—the Mothership, it was called, one of the most outlandish stage effects in a decade full of rock spectacles—was the work of a noted Broadway lighting designer, Jules Fisher, and a four-time Tony Award-winning set designer, Peter Larkin. He designed sets for 45 Broadway productions and worked as production designer on more than two dozen movies, including Tootsie (1982), House of Cards (1993), and Miss Congeniality (2000). Larkin won his Tonys in the mid-‘50s, for Ondine, The Teahouse of the August Moon, No Time for Sergeants, and Inherit the Wind. The last three of those plays were running simultaneously on Broadway. Larkin was still in his 20s. He was nominated for Tonys six more times. He died in Bridgehampton, New York on December 16, 2019.

Nancy Lewis (76) whose belief that Americans would find a quirky British comedy troupe amusing was instrumental in getting that troupe’s breakthrough show, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, broadcast on American TV. Lewis was head of publicity for Buddah Records, an American company, when in 1971 it struck a distribution deal with the British label Charisma Records that included two albums by Monty Python. The troupe had become famous in Britain after the debut of Flying Circus on the BBC in 1969 but was virtually unknown in the US. Lewis championed the albums, then the TV series, finally getting it on the air on PBS in 1974. She died of leukemia in New York City on December 20, 2019.

Abbey Simon (99) American pianist celebrated for a style that harked back to an earlier, golden age of keyboard prowess. Simon, who had appeared on concert stages around the world since the early ‘40s, was often called a pianist’s pianist—greatly admired by musicians and critics if not strictly a household name. Known in particular for his interpretations of the Romantic literature, he was lauded for the fleetness of his fingers, the lightness of his tone, and the thoughtfulness of his interpretations. Simon died in Geneva, Switzerland on December 18, 2019.

Peter Wollen (81) wrote the film theory book Signs & Meaning in the Cinema, directed or codirected films, wrote screenplays for others, and curated art exhibitions in New York and elsewhere. Signs & Meaning in the Cinema (1969) resulted from work Wollen was doing for the British Film Institute on a book series called Cinema One. The book is widely credited with helping to reenergize film studies. It had three sections: on Soviet director and theorist Sergei Eisenstein and his influence, on auteur theory, and on “The Semiology of the Cinema,” or the language of film. The book was published at the end of an eventful decade in England and the US, both in politics and in the arts, and Wollen argued that cinema studies needed to be less cloistered. He had Alzheimer’s disease and had been in institutional care in England for 14 years when he died in West Sussex, England on December 17, 2019.

Politics and Military

Joe Walsh (100) in 1987, World War II veteran Walsh cofounded the north San Diego County chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association because he believed the men he served with on that fateful day of December. 7, 1941, “deserved to be remembered.” Walsh was the last surviving active member of the association’s Chapter 31, after the death in February 2019 of chapter cofounder John Quier (98) of Fallbrook, California. As the chapter’s longtime president, Walsh organized Pearl Harbor Memorial Day services each December 7 at Oceanside Harbor. Over the years he never missed a service, including one held earlier this month. He died in Vista, California on December 21, 2019.

Society and Religion

Fazle Abed (83) Bangladeshi who started a temporary relief effort for refugees in Bangladesh that became one of the largest nongovernmental organizations in the world. Abed founded what was originally known as the Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee in 1972 and is now known simply as BRAC, to help refugees returning to their homeland after the Bangladesh Liberation War of ’71. Today it has about 90,000 employees in 11 countries and aids more than 100 million people in gaining access to health care, education, and microfinancing to start businesses. Abed believed that oppressed groups could free themselves from poverty through hard work if they were given the right conditions to succeed. He died of glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer, in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, on December 20, 2019.


Herman Boone (84) double graduate of North Carolina Central University. A native of Rocky Mount, NC and graduate of Booker T. Washington High School, Boone was best known as the high school football coach whose story inspired the hit movie Remember the Titans (2000), starring Oscar-winner Denzel Washington as Boone. After earning bachelor's and master’s degrees from NCCU, Boone decided to be a teacher and coach so he could motivate youngsters. His journey landed him in a racially divided Alexandria, Virginia as head football coach at T. C. Williams High School in 1971. He was able to unite a diverse team and coaching staff into the most powerful football team in the state of Virginia. The Titans posted an unblemished 13-0 record, winning the state championship title and earning a No. 2 ranking from the national polls. Boone died of lung cancer in Alexandria, Virginia on December 18, 2019.

JoAnn Buss (86) mother of Los Angeles Lakers co-owners Jeanie, Janie, Johnny, and Jim Buss. JoAnn Buss was the wife of the late Lakers owner Jerry Buss (died 2013) until the couple divorced in 1972. Born JoAnn Mueller in Boise, Idaho, she met Jerry Buss while they both attended the University of Wyoming. The two married in 1952 and moved to LA together in ’53. JoAnn Buss died in Los Angeles, California on December 16, 2019.

Hayden Fry (90) Texan who revived Iowa football and became a Hawkeye State institution over 20 years as a Big Ten coach. Fry had never been to Iowa before taking over the Hawkeyes in 1979, hired by then-athletic director Bump Elliott, former Michigan star who died earlier this month. The Hawkeyes had slogged through 17 consecutive years without a winning season when Fry arrived and changed everything. He had the uniforms redesigned to make them look more like the black-and-gold ones worn by the Pittsburgh Steelers, the NFL’s dominant team at the time. The familiar Tigerhawk logo was unveiled during Fry’s tenure. He had the visitors’ locker room painted pink, a tradition that still stands. Roaming the sidelines in his familiar dark sunglasses and white pants, Fry coached the Hawkeyes for 20 seasons, winning 238 games and three Big Ten championships. His greatest season at Iowa was 1985, when the Hawkeyes were No. 1 in the Associated Press rankings for five weeks and had Heisman Trophy runner-up Chuck Long at quarterback. Iowa finished 10-2 as Big Ten champions and ranked 10th in the country. Fry coached three Rose Bowls with Iowa, although he never won one. He died of cancer in Dallas, Texas on December 17, 2019.

Junior Johnson (88) moonshine runner turned NASCAR driver, winner of 50 races as a driver and 132 as an owner. Johnson was a member of the inaugural class inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010 and was described as “The Last American Hero” by author Tom Wolfe in a 1965 article for Esquire. Johnson was named one of NASCAR’s greatest drivers in 1998 after a 14-year career that ended in ‘66 and included a win in the ‘60 Daytona 500. He honed his driving skills running moonshine through the North Carolina hills, a crime for which he received a federal conviction in 1956 and a full presidential pardon in ‘86 from President Ronald Reagan. He was first immortalized by Wolfe in 1965 and later in a ‘73 movie adaptation starring Jeff Bridges. As a car owner for drivers that included Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, Bill Elliott, and Terry Labonte, Johnson claimed six Cup championships. His last race win as an owner was the 1994 Southern 500 with Elliott. He died of Alzheimer’s disease in Charlotte, North Carolina on December 20, 2019.

James R. Kennedy (72) inspired the 2003 film Radio and was a staple on the sidelines of his high school’s football team in South Carolina. Kennedy, who had developmental disabilities, showed up on the football field at T. L. Hanna High School in South Carolina in the mid-‘60s and became an integral part of the school. James could barely speak, was unable to read or write, and carried a transistor radio that led to his nickname of Radio. The movie Radio, which starred Cuba Gooding Jr. as Kennedy and chronicled the friendship between him and Harold Jones, a T. L. Hanna football coach, was inspired by a 1996 Sports Illustrated article, “Someone to Lean On,” by Gary Smith. Both the article and the film detailed how Kennedy, under Jones’s mentorship, went from being an outcast to a beloved member of the community. The high school is in Anderson County School District Five, about 125 miles west of Columbia. Kennedy died on December 15, 2019.

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