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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, December 28, 2019

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Jerry Herman, Broadway composer of music for 'Hello, Dolly!'Don Imus, radio personalityEdward Aschoff, SPN college football reporterBaba Ram Dass, counterculture spiritual leaderDavid Foster, film producerKelly Fraser, Canadian singerGen. Ahmed Gaïd Salah, Algerian rulerFred P. Graham, legal affaira reporter and TV anchorWilliam Greider, political writerJ. Charles Jones, civil rights activistMamie Lang Kirkland, oldest resident of Buffalo, NYSleepy LaBeef, rockabilly singer and musicianSue Lyon, actress who played 'Lolita'Ronald Melzack, Canadian psychologist who studied painLee Mendelson, TV producer of 'A Charlie Brown Christmas'Karl E.. Meyer, journalist, columnist, and editorialistNeal R. Peirce, urban affairs columnist and authorFrederick W. Richmond, disgraced US congressman from New YorkJohn Rothchild, journalist and author of books on personal financePeter Schreier, German operatic tenorJack Sheldon, jazz trumpeter and TV actorArthur L. Singer Jr., 'father of. public TV'Elizabeth Spencer, Southern author of 'Light in the Piazza'Gary Stakweather, inventor of laser printerBob Wade, sculptor of Texas-sized artAllee Willis, Grammy-winning songwriter

Art and Literature

Elizabeth Spencer (98) grande dame of Southern literature who navigated between the Jim Crow past and the open-ended present in her novels and stories, including the celebrated novella Light in the Piazza. It was first published in the New Yorker in 1960, then adapted into a '62 movie and a six-Tony-winning Broadway musical in 2005. Spencer taught at the University of Mississippi, Concordia University in Montreal, and, most recently, at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, where she died on December 22, 2019.

Bob Wade (76) Texas artist whose 40-foot-long iguana sculpture once perched atop the Lone Star Cafe in Manhattan and whose 63-foot-high saxophone lured patrons to a blues nightclub in Houston. For more than 40 years Wade built whimsical, outsize public art that nodded to Texas’s culture of bigness, gaining renown for his uninhibited style but also drawing attention as a serious artist in some circles. Like most of his creations, his iguana, which he christened Iggy, could not be ignored. Inspired by a stuffed iguana a friend had brought him from Mexico, Wade used wire mesh and polyurethane foam to fabricate the work, a ferocious-looking monster with an open, spiky-toothed mouth, knifelike spines running down its back, and an impressively large dewlap. Wade died of cardiac arrest in Austin, Texas on December 24, 2019.

Business and Science

Ronald Melzack (90) Canadian psychologist who, with a physiologist colleague, Patrick Wall (died 2001), at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), developed a theory of pain perception circa 1960 that became the basis for the field of modern pain studies. Melzack's subsequent work deepened medicine’s understanding of pain and how it is best measured and treated. He died in Montreal, Canada on December 22, 2019.

Gary Starkweather (81) engineer and inventor who designed the first laser printer. Starkweather was working as a junior engineer in the offices of the Xerox Corp. in Rochester, New York in 1964—several years after the company had introduced the photocopier to American offices—when he began working on a version that could transmit information between two distant copiers, so that a person could scan a document in one place and send a copy to someone else in another. He decided that this could best be done with a laser, another recent invention, which can use amplified light to transfer images onto paper. But then he had a better idea: rather than sending grainy images of paper documents from place to place, what if he used the precision of a laser to print more refined images straight from a computer? At the Palo Alto (Calif.) Research Center, or PARC, Starkweather built the first working laser printer in 1971 in less than nine months. By the ‘90s it was a staple of offices around the world; by the new millennium, it was nearly ubiquitous in homes as well. Starkweather died of leukemia in Orlando, Florida on December 26, 2019.

News and Entertainment

David Foster (90) movie producer whose career spanned 60 years. Foster was the producer behind such hits as The Getaway (1972) and the Oscar-nominated western McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971). He was born in the Bronx, New York in 1929 to Polish Jewish immigrant parents who moved the family to La Jolla, then to Los Angeles when he was 17. He served in the Korean War and later as head speechwriter for Gen. (“Iron Mike”) Daniels at Pearl Harbor. Foster later formed his own public relations firm with three partners, representing such clients as Steve McQueen, Robert Redford, Peter Sellers, and Clint Eastwood. McQueen convinced Foster to leave publicity in 1970 and focus on producing. Foster partnered with Lawrence Turman in 1974 to launch the Turman Foster Co., where they produced films including The Drowning Pool (1975), Heroes (1977), The Thing(1982), Running Scared (1986), and The River Wild (1994). He died in Los Angeles, California on December 23, 2019.

Kelly Fraser (26) Canadian singer who gained attention for an Inuit-language cover of Rihanna’s song “Diamonds.” Fraser, who grew up in Sanikiluaq, Nunavut, Canada and was living in Winnipeg, Manitoba, released Isuma, her debut album, in 2014. She released Sedna in 2017 and was nominated for indigenous music album of the year at the Junos, Canada’s annual music awards. She became known for writing and translating songs into Inuktitut, an Inuit language, often mixing English and Inuktitut in her recordings, and blended traditional Inuit sounds and themes with contemporary pop. Fraser was working on a third album, Decolonize, when she died in Winnipeg, Canada on December 26, 2019.

Fred P. Graham (88) legal affairs reporter, TV anchor, and author who covered the US Supreme Court, the Justice Department, and the major trials and controversies of the '60s for the New York Times, CBS News, and Court TV. Graham was a Yale, Vanderbilt. and Oxford University scholar who went to Washington in 1963 as chief counsel to Sen. Estes Kefauver’s subcommittee on constitutional amendments, then served two years as a special assistant to Labor Secretary W. Willard Wirtz. With his legal and Washington background, Graham began life in journalism at the top in 1965, as the first lawyer hired as the Times’s Supreme Court correspondent. In an era of racial tension and political transition, he brought solid legal expertise and experience in government to the task. Blending news, analysis, and background, he detailed cases arising from civil rights murders in the South, free press versus privacy issues, questions over prayer in public schools, and, in 1971, the Nixon administration’s losing fight to suppress publication by the Times and the Washington Post of the Pentagon Papers, the secret Defense Department history of the government’s duplicity in Vietnam. He died of Parkinson’s disease in Washington, DC on December 28, 2019.

Jerry Herman (88) Tony Award-winning composer who wrote the cheerful, good-natured music and lyrics for such classic shows as Mame, Hello, Dolly!, and La Cage aux Folles. The creator of 10 Broadway shows and contributor to several more, Herman won two Tony Awards for best musical: Hello, Dolly! in 1964 and La Cage aux Folles in ’83. He also won two Grammys—for the Mame cast album and “Hello, Dolly!” as song of the year—and was a Kennedy Center honoree. He had three original Broadway productions playing at the same time from February–May 1969. Herman was an optimistic composer at a time when others in his profession were exploring darker feelings and material. Just a few of his song titles revealed his depth of hope: “I’ll Be Here Tomorrow,” “The Best of Times,” “Tap Your Troubles Away,” “It’s Today,” “We Need a Little Christmas,” and “Before the Parade Passes By.” Even the title song to Hello, Dolly! is an advertisement to enjoy life. Jerry Herman died in Miami, Florida on December 26, 2019.

Don Imus (79) radio personality whose career was made, then undone by his acid tongue during a decades-long rise to stardom and an abrupt public plunge after a nationally broadcast racial slur. Imus survived drug and alcohol problems, a raunchy appearance before President Bill Clinton, and several firings during his long career behind the microphone. But he was vilified and eventually fired after describing a women’s college basketball team as “nappy-headed hos.” His April 2007 racist and misogynist crack about the mostly black Rutgers squad, an often-replayed 10-second snippet, crossed a line that Imus had long straddled as his rants catapulted him to prominence. The remark was heard coast to coast on 60 radio stations and on a simulcast aired each morning on MSNBC. At the time, his Imus in the Morning show was home to presidential hopefuls, political pundits, and his favorite musicians, a must-listen in the media and political corridors of New York and Washington. In 1997 Time magazine had named him one of the 25 most influential Americans. But the remark made him an immediate pariah, and he was dropped by CBS Radio and MSNBC. Imus had been hospitalized since Christmas Eve when he died of lung disease in College Station, Texas on December 27, 2019.

Sleepy LaBeef (84) early rockabilly performer (born Thomas LaBeff) who helped to fuel a resurgence of that genre in the ‘70s and ’80s, especially with his propulsive live shows. LaBeef claimed to know 6,000 songs and played, as he put it at the time, “…root music: old-time rock ’n’ roll, Southern gospel, and hand-clapping music, black blues, Hank Williams-style country.” Elvis Presley was a contemporary (six months older), and, like Presley, LaBeef made his first records in the ‘50s. He was living in Texas at the time, recording on small labels there, but in the mid-‘60s he moved to Nashville. Eventually he signed with Presley’s original label, Sun Records. In the ‘70s and ’80s LaBeef maintained an exhausting touring schedule—200–300 shows a year—playing clubs all over the US and finding surprising success in Europe, which embraced rockabilly. He died in Siloam Springs, Arkansas on December 26, 2019.

Sue Lyon (73) actress forever linked to her teenage portrayal of the title role in Lolita (1962). The movie was director Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s controversial novel about a man in his 40s who becomes obsessed with a young girl. James Mason, Peter Sellers, and Shelley Winters also starred in the film. Lyon was just 14 years old and had only a few minor screen credits when she beat out more than 800 other young women for the part in Lolita. She won a Golden Globe award for most promising female newcomer. Lyon later appeared in John Huston’s 1964 adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ The Night of the Iguana and continued to act steadily throughout the ‘60s and ’70s in both film and TV. She died in Los Angeles, California on December 26, 2019.

Lee Mendelson (86) producer who changed the face of the holidays when he brought A Charlie Brown Christmas to TV in 1965 and wrote the lyrics to its signature song, “Christmas Time Is Here.” Mendelson headed a team that included “Peanuts” cartoonist Charles Schulz, director Bill Melendez, and pianist and composer Vince Guaraldi, whose music for the show, including the opening “Christmas Time Is Here,” has become as much a Christmas staple as the show itself. The show won an Emmy and a Peabody Award and has aired on TV annually ever since. The team that made it later created more than 50 network specials, four feature films, and many other “Peanuts” projects. Mendelson, who won a dozen Emmys in his long career, died in Hillsborough, California of congestive heart failure after a long struggle with lung cancer, on December 25, 2019.

Karl E. Meyer (91) third-generation journalist who backed up his reporting as a foreign correspondent and editorial writer for the Washington Post and the New York Times with historical context. Meyer covered Fidel Castro’s revolution in Cuba, the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion there, the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia, and much more. As a columnist and editorialist with a doctorate in politics, he shaped and supported his opinions through first-hand reporting. Meyer died of prostate cancer in New York City on December 22, 2019.

John Rothchild (74) journalist who used humor to turn books about personal finance into engaging reads, including several in collaboration with successful investor Peter Lynch. Rothchild began his journalism career in the ‘70s as a political editor at Washington Monthly before becoming a free-lance writer for outlets like Time, GQ, and Outside. He wrote about Florida, where he was raised; mountain climbing and cycling, hobbies he adopted later in life; and personal finance, having picked up the personal finance bug in the ‘80s. One of his best-known books, A Fool & His Money (1988), subtitled The Odyssey of an Average Investor, was recognized for its absurd guarantee: readers would not earn a penny from the information it contained. Rothchild died of Alzheimer’s disease in Virginia Beach, Virginia on December 27, 2019.

Peter Schreier (84) German tenor renowned for his performances in Mozart operas and Bach oratorios and for the balance of vocal elegance and dramatic urgency he brought to the German art song. Midway through his career, Schreier also turned to conducting and would sometimes sing the Evangelist roles in Bach’s St. Matthew and St. John passions as he led the performances. He specialized in lighter lyric opera roles and German lieder but won consistent praise for a combination of technical know-how and musical insight. Schreier died in Dresden, Germany on December 25, 2019.

Jack Sheldon (88) jazz trumpeter, singer, and bandleader who had a parallel career as an actor on TV sitcoms. Sheldon's playing, singing, and stand-up comedy were heard for nearly 20 years on the Merv Griffin TV show. While his career spanned music, TV, and film, he was the first to credit his jazz trumpet playing as fuel for his far-reaching successes in the entertainment world. In the ‘50s he was one of the leading participants in the West Coast jazz movement. Sheldon died on December 27, 2019.

Arthur L. Singer Jr. (90) father of public TV in the late ‘60s after commercial networks were accused of broadcasting a “vast wasteland” of programs. In the formative years of government- and subscriber-funded public TV and radio, Singer was instrumental in galvanizing federal officials, philanthropies, and academics to infuse the public airwaves with quality programming and to finance future development. His efforts came in the wake of a speech in 1961 by Newton N. Minow, newly named Federal Communications Commission chairman, to a roomful of 2,000 TV executives in Washington, in which he dismissed their product as a “vast wasteland.” In 1965 Singer, an executive assistant at the Carnegie Corp. of New York, persuaded its president, John W. Gardner, to create a commission that, with the endorsement of the White House, studied the future of educational TV. The 15-member Carnegie Commission on Educational Television produced a report, Public Television: A Program for Action, that laid the groundwork for the Public Broadcasting Act, which President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law in 1967, setting up the Corp. for Public Broadcasting, which began the formation of PBS and NPR and an infusion of high-quality programming. Singer died in Westport, Connecticut on December 25, 2019.

Allee Willis (72) one of the music industry’s most colorful figures whose credits as a songwriter and collaborator include Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September.” Willis won her first Grammy in 1986 for cowriting Patti LaBelle’s “Stir It Up” for the soundtrack to Beverly Hills Cop. In 1995 she was nominated for an Emmy for “I’ll Be There for You,” performed by the Rembrandts, best known as the theme song for the sitcom Friends. Along with Stephen Bray and Brenda Russell, she wrote the music for the Tony-winning musical adaptation of Alice Walker’s novel The Color Purple, which ran on Broadway from 2005–08. In 2018 she was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Willis died of cardiac arrest in Los Angeles, California on December 24, 2019.

Politics and Military

Gen. Ahmed Gaïd Salah (79) Algeria’s de facto ruler who this year managed the ouster of one president and the ascent of another amid civil unrest. Gaïd Salah’s unexpected death less than two weeks after the army’s favored candidate was elected president created a power vacuum in the North African nation, a major oil and gas producer. A survivor from the generation that led Algeria to independence from France in the early ‘60s, Gaïd Salah blocked the demands of the popular protest movement that has rocked the country’s politics since last February. As chief of staff, he ordered a crackdown on the movement, imposed a presidential election that the protesters rejected, and demanded that the demonstrators back off. The movement has rejected the newly elected president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, as a mere figurehead, put in place to carry out the general’s wishes. Earlier this year he appeared to be bidding for the protest movement’s allegiance, forcing out in April the longtime president he had steadfastly backed, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, by having him declared unfit for office. Gaïd Salah was also behind the arrests of numerous businessmen associated with Bouteflika and several of his prime ministers. The general died of a heart attack in Algiers on December 23, 2019.

William Greider (83) longtime political writer for The Nation, Rolling Stone, and the Washington Post. Greider’s books included Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country, Who Will Tell the People? The Betrayal of American Democracy, and One World, Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism. He died of congestive heart failure in Washington, DC on December 25, 2019.

Neal R. Peirce (87) Washington-based urban affairs columnist and author who explored nearly every corner of the US to identify innovations in local government that helped cities to recover from decades of blight. Peirce covered the affairs of local governments and states, paying close attention to fresh approaches that were succeeding in economic development, transit, housing, public education, recreation, public safety, and government management. He found drama and fascinating detail in government process—the steps local leaders take to produce showcase projects: streets that became safer and livelier, public schools that improved, rivers and harbors that got cleaner, new transit systems that got built, deteriorated neighborhoods that recovered, and new economic sectors that developed. His work, spanning 60 years and encompassing hundreds of communities in every state, reflected his optimism about the capacity of cities to reinvent themselves. Peirce died in Washington, DC of glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, on December 27, 2019.

Frederick W. Richmond (96) New York philanthropist and civic leader who helped to save Carnegie Hall from demolition but whose tenure in Congress—and public life—ended abruptly in 1982 when he pleaded guilty to corruption charges. Before his fall, Richmond had been a successful businessman and a prominent civic participant. A liberal Democrat, he was elected to the House of Representatives from Brooklyn in 1974 as part of a congressional class of post-Watergate reformers. As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, he helped to expand the food stamp program, promoted urban gardens, and held hearings to investigate Latin American coffee cartels. Ahead of his time, he grew an organic vegetable garden on the roof outside his House office building. And with a net worth of $34 million, he was one of the wealthiest members of Congress. In April 1978 Richmond was arrested in Washington for soliciting sex from a 16-year-old boy and an undercover cop. After receiving a slap.on the wrist, in his campaign for reelection that year he made hefty donations to local charities and easily won a third term. But he soon became enmeshed in a financial scandal and was ultimately forced to resign from Congress. He died of pneumonia in New York City on December 28, 2019.

Society and Religion

Baba Ram Dass (88) ‘60s counterculture spiritual leader who experimented with LSD and traveled to India to find enlightenment, returning to share it with Americans. Over the years, Ram Dass—born Richard Alpert— associated with the likes of Timothy Leary (they were psychology professors at Harvard, both later kicked out for drug experimentation) and Allen Ginsberg. Ram Dass wrote about his experiences with drugs, set up projects to help prisoners and those facing terminal illness, and tried to enlighten others about the universal struggle with aging. But he was best known for the 1971 spiritual primer Be Here Now, written after his trip to India. Ram Dass suffered a severe stroke in 1997 that left him paralyzed on the right side and, for a time, unable to speak. He said the stroke brought physical and spiritual suffering but that he came to see the suffering as a source of insight that he could share with others facing their own battles with illness and aging. He died on the island of Maui, Hawaii on December 22, 2019.

J. Charles Jones (82) civil rights activist both in Charlotte, NC and nationally who helped to organize pivotal events and groups in the ‘60s. Jones, who came from a family of ministers, was a seminary student at Johnson C. Smith University of Charlotte in early February 1960 when he heard on the radio that four black men had staged a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, 90 miles to the northeast. Jones had been tracking the emerging civil rights movement throughout the ‘50s and saw Greensboro as his personal call to action. At a meeting of his university’s student council on February 8, he and a few others announced that they intended to challenge the segregation at the Charlotte Woolworth’s the next day. Jones, who later earned a law degree, became a spokesman for that protest, one of several that sprang up across the South. It resulted in the desegregation of many Charlotte lunch counters that summer. Jones died of Alzheimer’s disease and sepsis in Charlotte, North Carolina on December 27, 2019.

Mamie Lang Kirkland (111) mother of nine, matriarch of another 158, longtime saleswoman for Avon Products, and, at her death, the oldest resident of Buffalo. Kirkland was also the embodiment of the black experience of the 20th century, her life’s journey altered repeatedly by the racial violence and bigotry then rampant in the US. Lynchings, riots, the Ku Klux Klan—Kirkland survived it all and spent her last years working to ensure that those realities never slipped from collective memory. Her life helped to inspire the creation, in 2018, of the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace & Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. Both document the country’s history of racial terrorism and encourage social justice. Kirkland died in Buffalo, New York on December 28, 2019.


Edward Aschoff (34) ESPN college football reporter known for his outgoing and friendly personality, dapper dress, and great love of sports. Aschoff joined ESPN in 2011 as part of the SEC blog network, which covers the NCAA Southeastern Conference. Over the past three seasons he reported from college campuses across the US for, SportsCenter, SEC Network, and ESPN radio. He was both a TV and a radio sideline reporter during games. A native of Oxford, Mississippi and a 2008 graduate of the University of Florida, Aschoff previously covered recruiting and Florida football for the Gainesville Sun. With fellow ESPN reporter Adam Rittenberg, he won first place in 2016 for enterprise writing in the Football Writers Association of America’s contest for their look at the role of race in college football. In a recent Instagram post, Aschoff indicated that he had contracted pneumonia. He was planning to marry his fiancée, Katy Berteau, in New Orleans in April. He died on his 34th birthday, December 24, 2019.

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