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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, January 4, 2020

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John Baldessari, conceptual artistNinez Cacho-Olivares, Philippine journalistMarion Chesney, Scottish author of mysteriesEdith Kunhardt Davis, author of children's booksGeorges Duboeuf, French wine merchantPete Dye, golf course designer, with his TPC SawgrassCourtney Everts-Mykytyn, founder of California nonprofit Integrated SchoolsMarian Finucane, Irish radio broadcasterJack Garfein, Holocaust survivor turned director, producer, and acting teacherNick Gordon with Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of Whitney HoustonAlasdair Gray, Scottish novelist and illustratorGertrude Himmelfarb, conservative historianNeil Innes, British comedy writer and actor with Monty PythonGen. Paul X. Kelley, US Marine Corps commandantHarry Kupfer, German opera directorDon Larsen, pitched only no-hitter in World Series historyLorenza Mazzetti, Italian filmmaker and novelistSyd Mead, visual futurist designer for sci-fi filmsSonny Mehta, head of Alfred A. Knopf publishersVery Rev. James Parks Morton, retired dean of St. John the DivineGeorge Nicolau, MLB arbiterCharles Noxon, son of TV producer Jenji KohanVaughan Oliver, British designer of record album covers for 4AD labelJohn M. Pawasarat, analyst and researcherMaj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani, head of Iranian securityDavid Stern, longtime NBA commissionerNorma Tanega, '60s rock singer and songwriterSam Wyche, football player and coach

Art and Literature

John Baldessari (88) in 1970, Los Angeles conceptual artist Baldessari gathered up paintings he had made between 1953–66, took them to a mortuary, and had them cremated—the remains laid to rest in an urn for what eventually was called “Cremation Project”; 47 years later he was in the midst of five new series of works, with an exhibition of sculptural prints opening at the LA studio Mixografia and a retrospective at the Museo Jumex in Mexico City. The 6-foot-7-inch artist towered over most of his students at CalArts, UCLA, and UC San Diego, as he did over an art movement that valued ideas more than objects. He died in his sleep in Venice, California on January 2, 2020.

Marion Chesney (83) in midlife, Scottish journalist Chesney began writing novels and produced more than 150, including mystery series written under the pseudonym M. C. Beaton that featured crime solvers Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth. Before publishing her first novel in 1978, she wrote romances, then turned to mysteries in 1985 with Death of a Gossip, the first of more than 30 Hamish Macbeth stories. A BBC-TV series based on the books, with Robert Carlyle as the constable, ran in Britain from 1995–97. In 1992, again writing as M. C. Beaton, Chesney introduced Agatha Raisin, a London publicist who retires to Carsely, a fictional village in the Cotswold region of England. Agatha isn’t a detective, but, like Jessica Fletcher of Murder, She Wrote, she is better at deducing whodunits than the paid professionals. Agatha too got a TV series, with Ashley Jensen in the lead role. It premiered in 2014 on Britain’s Sky 1; a new season, on Acorn TV, began in October 2019. Chesney died in Gloucester, in western England, on December 31, 2019.

Edith Kunhardt Davis (82) had an idyllic childhood, growing up on a big run-down estate in rural New Jersey. Her mother, Dorothy Kunhardt, was a famous author of children’s books and wrote Pat the Bunny (1940)—a novelty that contained movable parts and invited young readers to touch and feel the textures on its pages. It remains one of the best-selling children’s books of all time. Edith followed in her mother’s footsteps as an author of children’s books and wrote sequels to Pat the Bunny. But she didn’t start writing until she had recovered from alcoholism. Long after she had become sober, she was confronted with the possibility that her excessive drinking while pregnant had led to the death of her son when he was 27. His death from heart disease in 1990 became the subject of Davis’s 1995 memoir, I’ll Love You Forever, Anyway. An account of her grief made all the more agonizing by her guilt, it was a stark contrast to the cheerful children’s tales for which she was known. Davis stopped drinking in 1973, after which she produced more than 70 children’s books, some of them nonfiction, and illustrated more than a dozen of them. She died of acute pneumonia and lung failure in New York City on January 2, 2020.

Alasdair Gray (85) wrote some of Scotland’s most celebrated—and strange—fiction, which he often illustrated with his own etchings. Gray’s first novel, Lanark: A Life in Four Books (1981), wasn’t published until he was 46, but it was hailed as a masterpiece. He wrote six more novels and six collections of short stories. In a wide-ranging career, he also created artwork, much of it seen in the streets of Glasgow. The narrative of Lanark unfolds out of order—it begins with Book Three—and the focus shifts between the parallel universes of postwar Glasgow and a futuristic, hellish universe called Unthank. As the two main characters, Duncan Thaw and Lanark, explore their cities—one mundane, the other fantastical—they fixate on the mechanics of their societies and the inefficient nature of their governments. Gray’s illustrations are interspersed throughout the nearly 600-page novel, accompanied by curiously formatted sidebars and indexes. He died of pneumonia in Glasgow, Scotland on December 29, 2019.

Syd Mead (86) visual futurist designer behind the science fiction landscapes of Blade Runner and Tron. Mead was known for his artistic reimaginings of Los Angeles cityscapes, as seen in his famous dystopian set design for Blade Runner (1982), starring Harrison Ford. Mead’s credits include Disney’s groundbreaking visual-effects experiment Tron, and 2010, Star Trek, Short Circuit, Mission: Impossible III, and Aliens. He used his knowledge of technology to create realistic visions of the future. Mead died in Pasadena, California on December 30, 2019.

Sonny Mehta (77) head of Alfred A. Knopf who guided one of the book world’s most esteemed publishers to new heights through a blend of prize-winning literature by Toni Morrison and Cormac McCarthy among others and blockbusters such as Fifty Shades of Grey and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Mehta helped Knopf to thrive even as the industry faced the changes of corporate consolidation, the demise of thousands of independent stores, and the rise of e-books. An accomplished publisher and editor since his mid-20s, Mehta succeeded Robert Gottlieb in 1987 as just the third Knopf editor-in-chief in its 72-year history and over the ensuing decades fashioned his own record of critical and commercial success. He died of pneumonia in New York City on December 30, 2019.

Vaughan Oliver (62) to those coming of age in the ‘80s and ‘90s, album cover designer Oliver created not only the look of the British record label 4AD but also an imaginary realm that influenced generations of artists, graphic designers, and pretty much anyone with an eye on image. Oliver crafted abstract, Dada-esque record covers for dozens of bands including the Pixies, Cocteau Twins, Modern English, the Breeders, and His Name Is Alive. In the process his work helped to drive listeners to consider the ways in which sound could influence image, and vice versa. He died on December 29, 2019.


Business and Science

Georges Duboeuf (86) transformed a Beaujolais harvest ritual celebrating the year’s first wine into the global phenomenon of Beaujolais Nouveau, in the process turning his family’s small business into a worldwide powerhouse. Duboeuf was already a successful Beaujolais merchant in the ‘70s when he set out to mass-market the local tradition of making the first wine from the year’s new grapes. Many wine regions observed a similar harvest ritual. Beaujolais expanded to Paris bistros in the ‘50s, when distributors began to compete in a race to see who could deliver the first bottles to the capital. Beginning at 12:01 a.m. on the mid-November day that it became legal to ship the new wine, cartons were loaded onto trucks. The official release date shifted from year to year, but authorities eventually settled on the third Thursday in November. Duboeuf enlisted French chefs, restaurants, and celebrities to the cause. A crucial ingredient in the promotion was a little suspense. As the clock struck 12:01, he made sure that cases of the wine were photographed being loaded onto trucks, ships, and planes for shipment around the world. That much of the wine had already been shipped was irrelevant. Duboeuf died of a atroke in Romanèche-Thorins, France on January 4, 2020.


Education

Courtney Everts-Mykytyn (46) Los Angeles mom troubled by the state of her neighborhood schools. Everts Mykytyn mobilized a local, then national effort that challenged white parents like herself to integrate schools—then resist the urge to take over. She left high school without a diploma but later earned a doctorate, then concentrated on winning over one white parent at a time while also finding a way to work with other constituencies. Her nonprofit, Integrated Schools, survived on her volunteer efforts and those of other volunteers who have opened 19 chapters across the US. She was killed when she was struck by a car while standing near her Highland Park, California home talking to a neighbor, an apparent accident caused when a driver mistakenly hit the accelerator while attempting to park, on December 30, 2019.

Gertrude Himmelfarb (97) matriarch of one of the right’s most prominent families and a scholar of Victorian England who argued for conservatives in the modern “culture wars.” Himmelfarb was the widow of neoconservative “godfather” Irving Kristol. While her husband helped to organize an influential network of politicians, think tanks, and media outlets, and her son, William Kristol, became a leading Republican pundit and strategist, Himmelfarb concentrated on social criticism and history’s lessons for the present. In dozens of books and essays, she scrutinized the life and culture of England before, during, and after the reign of Queen Victoria, from the philosophies of Jeremy Bentham and Edmund Burke to the novels of Charles Dickens and George Eliot. Himmelfarb died of congestive heart failure in Washington, DC on December 30, 2019.


News and Entertainment

Ninez Cacho-Olivares (78) one of an extraordinary cadre of newswomen who faced down dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the ‘80s when most of their male colleagues allowed themselves to be cowed or co-opted—but later unexpectedly turned around and supported President Rodrigo Duterte in his crackdown on independent journalists. The emergence of the courageous, mostly young female journalists who criticized Marcos was a remarkable phenomenon in the history of Philippine journalism and political opposition. Several of those women, including Cacho-Olivares, were interrogated and warned by the military. While working as a TV newsreader, she telegraphed her skepticism when reading government propaganda by smirking and rolling her eyes until the palace told her editors that she had to stop. Later, as a columnist for the newspaper Bulletin Today, she used parables, fairy tales, and sly innuendo to poke fun at Marcos and his flamboyant wife, Imelda. Cacho-Olivares suffered from cancer but died of a heart attack on January 3, 2020.

Marian Finucane (69) broke taboos as a radio broadcaster in Ireland by addressing topics like divorce, rape, contraception, homosexuality, and the female orgasm, becoming one of the country’s most popular on-air personalities. As presenter of Women Today, a ground-breaking show that was introduced on state-owned RTE radio in 1979, Finucane broached topics that had largely been off-limits in a society dominated at the time by restrictive Roman Catholic teachings. Frank discussions of those subjects on her program led to protests by clergy and conservative leaders, but they also helped to propel a secular tide that has since transformed Ireland into one of Europe’s most liberal societies, where popular votes have legalized divorce, gay marriage, and abortion. Finucane died of heart failure in Naas, County Kildare, Ireland on January 2, 2020.

Jack Garfein (89) Holocaust survivor who became a noted director, producer, and acting teacher, working with some of the greatest actors and playwrights of his era. Garfein was at the heart of the Actors Studio in Manhattan in the ‘50s, when it was staging attention-getting work based on the Method-acting principles of Konstantin Stanislavski. He first drew wide notice as director of End as a Man, Calder Willingham’s adaptation of his own novel about harsh life in a Southern military academy. The play, which featured Ben Gazzara in his breakout role, opened in the West Village, then moved to Broadway. Garfein, seven years after arriving in New York speaking no English, was only 23. It was a remarkably fast start to a career that included five more Broadway credits as director or producer, countless Off-Broadway productions, and a major role in establishing a West Coast branch of the Actors Studio in 1966. He died of leukemia in New York City on December 30, 2019.

Nick Gordon (30) ex-partner of singer Whitney Houston’s late daughter. Gordon’s death came nearly five years after Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of singers Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, was found face-down and unresponsive in a bathtub in January 2015. The 22-year-old died after six months in a coma. Houston had drowned in a bathtub in 2012. Investigators were not able to determine exactly how Bobbi Kristina died. An autopsy showed that she had morphine, cocaine, alcohol, and prescription drugs in her body, but the medical examiner couldn’t determine if she killed herself, if someone else killed her, or if her death was accidental. Her family blamed Gordon, accusing him in a wrongful death lawsuit of giving her a “toxic cocktail” before putting her face-down in the water. Gordon was never charged in the case, but he was found responsible. An Atlanta judge ordered him to pay $36 million to Brown’s estate. He was found unresponsive in a Maitland, Florida hotel room and later died in a hospital on January 1, 2020.

Neil Innes (75) comedic writer and actor who created a Beatles parody group called the Rutles and frequently worked with the members of Monty Python. Innes was such a frequent collaborator of the Monty Python troupe that he sometimes was called the “seventh Python.” A musician and a writer, he wrote songs for the popular film Monty Python & the Holy Grail, appeared in Life of Brian, and toured the United Kingdom and Canada with the group. He was also a member of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, later renamed the Bonzo Dog Band. One of the band’s hit songs, “I’m the Urban Spaceman,” won Innes an Ivor Novello award. He died near Toulouse, France, where he had lived in recent years, on December 29, 2019.

Harry Kupfer (84) longtime opera director of Berlin’s Komische Oper. Kupfer’s career began in Stralsund, then part of Communist East Germany, in 1958. After stations in Chemnitz—formerly Karl-Marx-Stadt—Weimar, and Dresden, he became director at the Komische Oper in 1981, a position he held for 21 years. Kupfer gained international attention with his 1978 production of The Flying Dutchman in Bayreuth. He worked closely with conductor Daniel Barenboim, first on the 1988 production of Wagner’s Ring cycle—also in Bayreuth—and on a wider selection of the German composer’s works at the Berliner Staatsoper from ‘92 onward. Kupfer also directed performances in Sydney, Barcelona, Helsinki, Salzburg, Shanghai, and New York. He returned to the Komische Oper a final time earlier this year, with Handel’s Poro. He died in Berlin, Germany on December 30, 2019.

Lorenza Mazzetti (92) as a child in Italy, Mazzetti survived the wartime killings of her family by German soldiers and later helped to create an influential British film movement and wrote a prize-winning novel based on her experiences. Her work spanned film, TV, painting, and book-writing. She even ran a popular puppet theater in Rome’s Campo de’ Fiori neighborhood in the ‘80s. Her searing experience in World War II shaped her most acclaimed book, Il Cielo Cade (1961), a best-seller that won Italy’s prestigious Viareggio Prize. It was published in English in 1962 as The Sky Falls. She died in Rome, Italy on January 4, 2020.

Charles Noxon (20) son of TV producer Jenji Kohan, who created the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black and the Showtime series Weeds. Noxon was killed in a New Year’s Eve skiing accident in Utah. He was pronounced dead after skiing into a sign on an intermediate-level trail at Park City Mountain resort. He was alone, and there were no witnesses to the crash, but it appears that it happened as he tried to navigate a fork in the trail. He was quickly discovered by other skiers and pronounced dead by an air ambulance crew before reaching a hospital. Noxon had experience skiing and was wearing a helmet. He was on a trip with his siblings and father, journalist Christopher Noxon. They were farther down the mountain at the time of the accident. Charles Noxon died in Park City, Utah on December 31, 2019.

Norma Tanega (80) in 1966, when Tanega released her first single, rock fans were becoming used to unusual lyrics. But as it turned out, that song, “Walkin’ My Cat Named Dog,” wasn’t as quirky as the title suggested: The song was inspired by her cat, whose name was indeed Dog. The song reached No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was covered by various artists, including Barry McGuire, whose “Eve of Destruction” had reached No. 1 a year earlier, and jazz artists like drummer Art Blakey & the Jazz Crusaders. Decades later, versions of the song were recorded by Yo La Tengo and They Might Be Giants. But Tanega never had another hit. She was later an adjunct professor of art at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona and taught music, art, and English as a second language in Claremont public schools. She died of colon cancer in Claremont, California on December 29, 2019.


Politics and Military

Gen. Paul X. Kelley (91) highly decorated Vietnam veteran who rose to become 28th commandant of the US Marine Corps from 1983–87. Kelley's career survived the devastating bombing of a Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon that killed 241 service members in 1983, but the bombing hurt him deeply. The Marine Corps was also embarrassed by the role played by Lt. Col. Oliver North in the Iran-Contra affair and by an espionage scandal involving elite guards at diplomatic outposts in the Soviet Union. Kelley came to be viewed by many of his peers as an embodiment of the Marine Corps, a leader who took to heart all that happened to those he led. He died of Alzheimer’s disease in McLean, Virginia on December 29, 2019.

John M. Pawasarat (70) analyst and researcher who examined data to address social problems like poverty, mass incarceration, and the barriers to employment and voting faced by people of color who do not have driver’s licenses. Pawasarat found in 2005 that in Wisconsin, only 53 per cent of black adults and 52 per cent of Hispanic adults had driver’s licenses, compared with 85 per cent of white adults. The finding underpinned a May 2014 decision by a federal judge that Wisconsin’s law requiring citizens to present photo identification—usually a driver’s license—to vote was unconstitutional because blacks, Hispanics, and other minority group members were disproportionately unable to participate. The US Supreme Court agreed and blocked the law from going into effect ahead of the 2014 election. Pawasarat’s findings were widely cited in other states, including Indiana, Michigan, and Georgia, that were confronting similar voting rights issues, and it was cited by black members of Congress who unsuccessfully sought a federal ban on voter ID laws. Pawasarat died of prostate cancer in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee, on January 2, 2020.

Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani (62) Iranian general who changed the shape of the Syrian civil war and tightened Iran’s grip on Iraq. Soleimani was behind hundreds of American deaths in Iraq and militia attacks against Israel, and for 20 years his every move lit up the communications networks of intelligence operatives across the Middle East. He was at the vanguard of Iran’s revolutionary generation, joining the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in his early 20s after the 1979 uprising that installed the country’s Shiite theocracy. He rose quickly during the brutal Iran-Iraq war of the ‘80s. Since 1998 he was head of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, the foreign-facing arm of Iran’s security apparatus, melding intelligence work with a military strategy of nurturing proxy forces across the world. In the West he was seen as a clandestine force behind an Iranian campaign of international terrorism. Soleimani and other Iranian officials were designated as terrorists by the US and Israel in 2011, accused of a plot to kill the ambassador of Saudi Arabia, one of Iran’s chief enemies in the region, in Washington. In April 2019 the entire Quds Force was listed as a foreign terrorism group by the Trump administration. The head of Iran’s security machinery was killed by an American drone strike near the Baghdad airport in Iraq on January 3, 2020.


Society and Religion

Very Rev. James Parks Morton (89) in 25 years as dean of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in Upper Manhattan, Morton transformed it from a religious backwater into a vibrant center for the arts, the homeless, circus performers, household pets, endangered animals, and interfaith engagement. St. John the Divine, seat of the Episcopal diocese of New York, sits on a 13-acre campus in Morningside Heights. It is said to be the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and one of the biggest church buildings anywhere. Morton was appointed dean in 1972. He opened a homeless shelter on the cathedral grounds, but he also wanted to empower the poor by creating the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, an organization devoted to helping people to rebuild, occupy, and own their own apartments in abandoned buildings. On the cultural side he founded music and dance programs, turning the cathedral into a cultural destination. Morton died of Alzheimer’s disease in New York City three days before his 90th birthday, on January 4, 2020.


Sports

Pete Dye (94) never thought golf was meant to be fair, inspiring him to build courses that intimidated recreational players and pros alike: The island green at the Tournament Players Club (TPC) at Sawgrass in Point Vedra Beach, Florida, near Jacksonville, with railroad ties that delineate putting surfaces fronted by water; and more bunkers than can be counted at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. Dye was at the forefront of modern golf course architecture. He had several courses on the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) Tour, most notably the TPC Sawgrass, where the Stadium Course has held The Players Championship since 1982. It was little more than swampland that the PGA Tour purchased for $1. Dye turned it into a challenging course. He died of Alzheimer's disease in the Dominican Republic on January 9, 2020.

Don Larsen (90) pitcher who reached the heights of baseball glory when he threw a perfect game in 1956 with the New York Yankees for the only no-hitter in World Series history. Larsen was the unlikeliest of players to attain what so many Hall of Famers couldn’t pull off in the Fall Classic. He was 81-91 lifetime, never won more than 11 games in a season, and finished 3-21 with Baltimore in 1954, the year before he was dealt to the Yankees in an 18-player trade. In the 1956 World Series, won in seven games by the Yankees, Larsen was knocked out in the second inning of Game 2 by the Brooklyn Dodgers and didn’t think he would have another opportunity to pitch. But when he reached Yankee Stadium on the morning of October 8, he found a baseball in his shoe, the signal from manager Casey Stengel that he would start Game 5. He struck out seven, needed just 97 pitches to beat the Dodgers, and only once went to three balls on a batter—against Pee Wee Reese in the first inning. In winning 2-0, the Yankees managed only five hits against the Dodgers’ Sal Maglie but scored on Mickey Mantle’s home run and a run-batted-in single by Hank Bauer. Larsen, selected Most Valuable Player of the 1956 Series, died of esophageal cancer in Hayden, Idaho on January 1, 2020.

George Nicolau (94) Major League Baseball arbiter who ruled against baseball owners in two collusion cases and was president of the National Academy of Arbitrators. Nicolau took over as independent chairman of MLB's arbitration panel in 1986 after owners fired Thomas Roberts, who ruled that teams acted in concert against free agents after the 1985 season. Nicolau decided that teams acted in concert against free agents after the 1986 and ‘87 seasons. The cases were settled in 1990 when management agreed with the players’ union to pay those affected players $280 million. In another no-table decision, Nicolau decided in 1987 to cut short a season-long suspension of free agent pitcher LaMarr Hoyt to 60 days. Hoyt had been penalized for his involvement in three illegal drug incidents during 1986. Nicolau decided to reinstate Steve Howe in November 1992, overturning a lifetime ban imposed by Commissioner Fay Vincent the preceding June. The pitcher was suspended seven times for infractions related to drug or alcohol use. Nicolau determined that Howe had a psychiatric disorder and the commissioner’s office didn’t adequately test him. Nicolau died in New York City on January 2, 2020.

David Stern (77) longtime National Basketball Association commissioner who shepherded the NBA from the edges of disaster to unimaginable success. Stern spent 30 years as the NBA’s longest-serving commissioner and one of the best in sports history. He had been involved with the NBA for nearly 20 years before he became its fourth commissioner in 1984. By the time he left in 2014, a league that had fought for a foothold before his tenure had grown to a more than $5 billion-a-year industry and made NBA basketball perhaps the world’s most popular sport after soccer. Stern suffered a brain hemorrhage on December 12 and underwent emergency surgery. He died in New York City on January 1, 2020.

Sam Wyche (74) football player and coach who pushed the boundaries as an offensive innovator with the Cincinnati Bengals and challenged the NFL’s protocols. One of the Bengals’ original quarterbacks, Wyche was known for his offensive innovations as a coach. He led the Bengals to their second Super Bowl during the 1988 season by using a no-huddle offense that forced the league to change its substitution rules. A nonconformist in a button-down league, Wyche refused to comply with the NFL’s locker room policy for media, ran up the score to settle a personal grudge, and belittled the city of rival Cleveland during his eight seasons in Cincinnati. He was signed by the Bengals for their inaugural season and played three seasons with Cincinnati, throwing for 12 touchdowns with eight interceptions. He later spent two years in Washington as a backup and a year each in Detroit and St. Louis. Wyche, who had a history of blood clots in his lungs and had a heart transplant in 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina, died of melanoma on January 2, 2020.


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