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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, February 22, 2020

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Owen Bieber, former UAW leaderZoe Caldwell, Tony-winning Australian actressJohni Cerny, chief genealogical researcher for PBS's 'Finding Your Roots'Jean Daniel, French journalistThich Quang Do, Buddhist monkJeanne Evert Dubin, left, with sister Chris EvertJa'Net DuBois, 'Good Times' actressTony Fernandez, shortstop with five All-Star teamsHerb Goldsmith, created Members Only racing jacketAnn Grifalconi, author of children's booksMichael Hertz, helped to design NYC subway mapMike ('Mad Mike') Hughes, daredevilGerald Krone, theater manager and producerDawn Mello, retailer who revived Bergdorf GoodmanLisel Mueller, Pulitzer-winning poetKellye Nakahara, played Nurse Yamato on 'M*A*S*H'Peregrine Pollen, auctioneer with flairCharles Portis, novelistBarbara Smith, lifestyle guru known as 'B. Smith'Pop Smoke, rising young rapperSy Sperling, founder of Hair Club for MenLawrence Tester, computer scientist who invented 'cut, copy, and paste'Rita Walters, former LA school board member who fought for busingAndrew Weatherall, British music producerLinda Wolfe, true crime writerMickey Wright, champion golferJack Youngerman, abstract artist

Art and Literature

Ann Grifalconi (90) author who drew on different cultures to write and illustrate dozens of well-regarded children’s books, notably the award-winning The Village of Round & Square Houses (1986), set in Central Africa. Grifalconi, who was white, often based her books on the traditions and experiences of people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, especially Africans. She said a trip to a remote hamlet in Cameroon had inspired her to write and illustrate The Village..., which recounts a local folk tale describing how women there came to live in round houses and men in square ones after a volcanic eruption. She died of advanced dementia in New York City on February 19, 2020.

Lisel Mueller (96) Pulitzer Prize-winning poet whose work drew on nature, her experiences as a parent, folklore, and history, including her own flight from Nazi Germany as a teenager. Mueller won the 1997 Pulitzer for Alive Together: New & Selected Poems, which appeared some 30 years after her first collection, Dependencies (1965). She died in Chicago, Illinois after a bout with pneumonia, on February 21, 2020.

Charles Portis (86) novelist, a favorite among critics and writers for such shaggy dog stories as Norwood and Gringos and a bounty for Hollywood whose bloody Western True Grit was a best-seller twice adapted into Oscar-nominated films, including the 1969 John Wayne feature. Portis was among the most admired authors to nearly vanish from public consciousness in his own lifetime. His fans included Tom Wolfe, Roy Blount Jr., and Larry McMurtry, and he was often compared to Mark Twain for his plain-spoken humor and wry perspective. Portis saw the world from the ground up, from bars and shacks and trailer homes, and few spun wilder and funnier stories. In a Portis novel, usually set in the South and south of the border, characters embarked on journeys that took the most unpredictable detours. A former newspaper reporter, Portis had been suffering from Alzheimer’s in recent years. He died in Little Rock, Arkansas on February 17, 2020.

Linda Wolfe (87) writer who took her readers behind the scenes of true crimes and into the minds of their perpetrators, including the young man who committed the so-called preppie murder and the judge who stalked his socialite ex-mistress and landed in jail. Wolfe studied literature and planned to write short stories. She worked at Partisan Review and Time-Life Books and wrote short fiction besides writing and editing an anthology cookbook, The Literary Gourmet (1962), which consisted of dining scenes and recipes from literature. All the while she was clipping out newspaper accounts of true crimes, thinking they would help her to plot her fiction. A turning point came in 1975, when twin doctors, Cyril and Stewart Marcus, both gynecologists, were found dead in their trash-filled apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. It turned out that Wolfe had been the patient of one of them, years before—only briefly, but that was enough to inspire her to investigate the case and turn to a life of writing about crime. She died after bowel surgery in New York City on February 22, 2020.

Jack Youngerman (93) French-trained American artist whose invention of abstract shapes in two and three dimensions opened up a new aesthetic vocabulary in the period immediately after Abstract Expressionism. Like many American artists in the late ‘40s, Youngerman studied in Paris on the GI Bill. Unlike them, he remained there, developing a distinctive style of abstraction based on organic shapes, drawing inspiration from the woodblock prints of Jean Arpand Wassily Kandinsky and the ink drawings of Henri Matisse. Youngerman’s shapes embraced flatness and frontal views in bold primary colors. He died of complications from a fall in Stony Brook, New York on February 19, 2020.

Business and Science

Herb Goldsmith (92) men’s clothing entrepreneur who had an instinct for capturing the public eye. In the ‘50s, when he was working for his father’s apparel company, Goldsmith was among the first to use celebrities, among them Tony Curtis and Bing Crosby, to sell clothing. In the ‘80s he again used well-known figures to sell his Members Only racing jacket. Soon stars like Frank Sinatra and Johnny Carson were sporting the jacket, as were Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush. Then Goldsmith did something that few if any brands had ever done: he stopped all conventional advertising of his apparel and devoted his entire ad budget to public service announcements. The first public service campaign addressed the crack epidemic of the ‘80s, using sports figures like Lou Piniella, manager of the Yankees at the time, and country singer Larry Gatlin of the Gatlin Brothers, who struggled with addiction. Goldsmith died of lymphoma in Roslyn, Long Island, New York on February 22, 2020.

Michael Hertz (87) whose design firm produced one of the most consulted maps in human history, the chart that New York subway riders peer at to figure out which stop they want. In the mid-‘70s the Metropolitan Transit Authority gave Hertz’s firm, Michael Hertz Associates, the task of coming up with a map of the NYC subway system that would help riders to make sense of it. There was already a system map (or “diagram,” as some preferred to call it), a colorful Modernist thing created by Italian designer Massimo Vignelli and introduced in 1972. It was fun to look at—the Museum of Modern Art in NYC now has that version in its collection—but few users liked it, in part because the Vignelli map didn’t relate the underground to any landmarks aboveground. The map that Hertz’s firm came up with included streets, neighborhoods, and other surface reference points, and it depicted the city and places like Central Park in a more realistic way. Hertz died in East Meadow, Long Island, New York on February 18, 2020.

Dawn Mello (88) visionary retailer who forged a career in the mid-‘70s and ’80s, recasting Bergdorf Goodman, a once musty relic on Fifth Avenue, as a temple of high-end consumption. In the ’90s Mello helped to restore luster to Gucci and a cluster of fading brands. Her keen eye helped to shift the landscape of American fashion and retailing. To admirers she was a force field, one of the few women to rise to leadership positions in retailing, wielding clout, first as Bergdorf’s vice president and fashion director, then as president. She was also among the first to snap up and promote designers including Donna Karan, Giorgio Armani, Azzedine Alaïa, Kate Spade, and Tom Ford at the start of their careers. Mello died in New York City on February 16, 2020.

Peregrine Pollen (89) auctioneer who brought showmanship to the New York auction scene of the ‘60s and early ’70s while helping to consolidate two auction-house giants. In 1960 Pollen was in charge of the New York operation of the British auction house Sotheby’s as it began to take more interest in art and other collections held by Americans. He scored several coups for the house, striking agreements to auction important American-owned works in England, including, in June 1964, Vasily Kandinsky paintings offered by the Guggenheim Foundation that sold for $1.5 million. Such successes were irritating for the Parke-Bernet Galleries, the dominant New York auction house at the time and a bitter rival of Sotheby’s. But the friction ended in July 1964 when Sotheby’s acquired a controlling interest in Parke-Bernet and made Pollen its president. Pollen began adding flair to auctions. In February 1967 he conducted an auction of items from a fleet of Spanish ships wrecked off Florida during a storm in 1715. Before the auction began, the lights were dimmed and silhouettes of ships being flung about on stormy seas were projected on a screen. The Times of London reported that Pollen died after being struck by a truck on February 18, 2020.

Sy Sperling (78) Hair Club for Men founder, famous for the TV commercials where he proclaimed, “I’m not only the Hair Club president, but I’m also a client.” In the late ‘60s Sperling was a balding New York swimming pool salesman, growing frustrated with toupees. Using a weaving technique he learned from his hair stylist, he took $10,000 in credit card debt to open his own salon on Madison Avenue, where he perfected a system in which a nylon mesh cap was glued to the scalp. The client’s remaining hair would grow through it, then hair purchased from women that matched the color was woven into the mesh. The clients would then come in several times a year for adjustments. Business took off but by the late ‘70s had stagnated. Word of mouth was unreliable because many clients weren’t eager to tell their friends they were using a hair-replacement system. Sperling began advertising on TV, and in 1982 he went national with commercials running 400 times daily on late-night TV. They became so ubiquitous they were spoofed on the Tonight show and Saturday Night Live. Sperling sold the business to a group of investors in 2000 for $45 million. He died in Boca Raton, Florida on February 19, 2020.

Lawrence Tesler (74) pioneering computer scientist who in his work at Xerox and with Steve Jobs at Apple devoted himself to making it easier for users to interact with computers. Tesler worked at several of Silicon Valley’s most important companies. But it was as a young researcher at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center in the ‘70s that he did his most significant work, helping to develop today’s style of computer interaction based on a graphical desktop metaphor and a mouse. Early in his Xerox career (began there in 1973), working with another researcher, Tim Mott, Tesler developed a program known as Gypsy, which did away with the restrictive modes that had made text editing complicated. For example, until Gypsy, most text-editing software had one mode for entering text and another for editing it. Tesler was passionate about simplifying interaction with computers. At Apple he was responsible for the idea that a computer mouse should have only one button. He died in Portola Valley, California on February 16, 2020.

News and Entertainment

Zoe Caldwell (86) actress who won Tony Awards—four in all—in the ‘60s, ’80s, and ’90s, the last for portraying opera star Maria Callas in Master Class, Terence McNally’s study of the end of the singer’s career. Born in Australia, Caldwell began her acting career in that country. She joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in England in 1959. Then, after a stop at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, she was part of the first season of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis in 1963. In 1966 she was in a bill of two short Tennessee Williams plays on Broadway, combined under the title Slapstick Tragedy. The run lasted only seven performances, but Caldwell made an impression: She won a Tony Award for best featured actress in a play. A more memorable performance came in 1968 when she starred on Broadway in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Jay Allen’s play based on a Muriel Sparks novel about an imperious teacher in the ‘30s. Caldwell died of Parkinson’s disease in Pound Ridge, New York on February 16, 2020.

Johni Cerny (76) chief genealogist (2012–19) for the PBS series Finding Your Roots who helped some 200 famous people—among them Oprah Winfrey, Quincy Jones, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—to trace their ancestry. Cerny’s passion for the field began in childhood. She was an editor and author of The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy (1984) and The Library: A Guide to the LDS Family History Library (1986). She began working on PBS projects with Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., host and executive producer of Finding Your Roots, in 2006 as a researcher on African American Lives, a TV documentary. Cerny died in Lehi, Utah, near Salt Lake City, of coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure, on February 19, 2020.

Jean Daniel (99) French journalist who, on a secret mission to Havana in the fall of 1963, delivered a proposal from President John F. Kennedy to Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. It was an offer to explore a rapprochement. Despite the distrust and raw feelings of the Cuban missile crisis, which had nearly plunged the world into nuclear war a year earlier, Daniel, a confidant of political leaders in many capitals during the Cold War, found Castro cautiously receptive to Kennedy’s overture. Three days later—it was November 22, 1963—over lunch at Castro’s seafront retreat on Varadero Beach, they were still discussing the offer when the phone rang with the news of Kennedy's assassination. Both knew instantly that rapprochement had died with the president. Daniel died in Paris, France on February 19, 2020.

Ja'Net DuBois (87) actress who played neighbor Willona Woods on Good Times and composed and sang the theme song for The Jeffersons. DuBois’s song “Movin’ on Up” provided an upbeat introduction to The Jeffersons during the show’s 10-season run. She had a prolific career beyond the ‘70s hit Good Times, winning two Emmy Awards for her voice work on the WB series The PJs. Her Willona was the single, sexy neighbor and best friend of star Esther Rolle’s Florida Evans. Although the comedy had plenty of one-liners, DuBois’s appearances gave an extra dose of comedic relief. Her career started in theater, where she appeared in Broadway productions of Golden Boy and A Raisin in the Sun. She died in Glendale, California on February 17, 2020.

Gerald Krone (86) theater manager and producer who in 1967 joined with Douglas Turner Ward and Robert Hooks to found the Negro Ensemble Co., a New York theater troupe that championed black writers, actors, and themes in what was then a largely white theatrical landscape. Krone, who was managing various Off-Broadway theaters at the time, brought administrative savvy to the new enterprise, while Hooks, an actor and producer, and Ward, an actor and playwright, concentrated on the creative side. Krone stood out in the partnership because he was white. Black activism was gaining a new militance in the second half of the ‘60s, and before long the company, which took up residence at St. Marks Playhouse in the East Village, was drawing criticism over, among other things, the participation of Krone and other white people. Nevertheless the partnership enjoyed quick success, and the Negro Ensemble Co. sent three plays to Broadway: The River Niger in 1973, The First Breeze of Summer in ’75, and Home in ’80. Less than two years after it was founded, the company received a special Tony Award. Krone died of Parkinson’s disease in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania five days before his 87th birthday, on February 20, 2020.

Kellye Nakahara (72) film and TV actress best known for playing Lt. Nurse Kellye Yamato on M*A*S*H. A native of Hawaii, Nakahara also appeared in the film Clue and in John Hughes’s She’s Having a Baby. More recently she worked as a watercolor artist and was involved in her local arts community. M*A*S*H, the acclaimed sitcom set during the Korean War, ran from 1972–83. Nurse Kellye carried a secret crush on the show’s major character, womanizing surgeon Hawkeye Pierce, played by Alan Alda. In a memorable scene, Kellye reveals her feelings, scolding Hawkeye for having his “eyes ... on every nurse” except her. Nakahara died in Pasadena, California on February 16, 2020.

Barbara Smith (70) model, restaurateur, and lifestyle guru known professionally as “B. Smith.” Smith wrote three cookbooks, founded three successful restaurants, and launched a nationally syndicated TV show and a magazine. Her successful home products line was the first from a black woman to be sold at a nationwide retailer when it debuted in 2001 at Bed Bath & Beyond. In 1976 she became the second black model to be on the cover of Mademoiselle magazine, after Joli Jones in ’69. Some described Smith as a “black Martha Stewart,” a comparison she said she didn’t mind, although she believed the two lifestyle mavens were quite different. She died on Long Island, New York on February 22, 2020, after battling early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, with which she was diagnosed in 2013.

Pop Smoke (20) rising Brooklyn rapper, born Bashar Barakah Jackson, who had a breakout year of hit songs and albums. Smoke was fatally shot during a break-in at a Hollywood Hills, California home, his label said. Police found him shortly before 5 a.m. after responding to a 911 call from someone who reported that intruders, including one armed with a handgun, were breaking in. The home is owned and rented out by Edwin Arroyave and his wife Teddi Mellencamp, daughter of Rock & Roll Hall-of-Famer John Mellencamp and a star of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Teddi Mellencamp said she and her husband were not aware of any further details beyond what they learned through media reports. Police said the 911 call came from “back East” and reported the break-in was occurring at a friend’s home. Pop Smoke came onto the rap scene in 2018 and broke out last spring with “Welcome to the Party” a gangsta anthem in which he brags about shootings, killings, and drugs. Earlier this month he released the album Meet the Woo 2, which debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart. It was the follow-up to his first official release, Meet the Woo, last July. He died on February 19, 2020.

Andrew Weatherall (56) British music producer and disk jockey who helped to bring the underground sounds of acid house to a mass audience. Born in Windsor, near London, Weatherall began his career as a club disk jockey and founded the record label Boy’s Own Recordings and the production outfit Bocca Juniors. He was renowned and respected for his remixes of songs by Happy Mondays, New Order, and others, and produced Primal Scream’s 1991 landmark album Screamadelica. Weatherall gave the rock band’s sound a multilayered, dance music edge, producing one of the most acclaimed and best-loved British albums of the ‘90s. He died in London, England from a pulmonary embolism, on February 17, 2020.

Politics and Military

Owen Bieber (90) US labor leader who led the United Auto Workers union from the auto industry’s dark days of the early ‘80s to the prosperity of the mid-‘90s. Taking over as its president in 1983, Bieber shepherded the UAW through a recession, the Reagan era, industry downsizing, and expanding global competition. He led the UAW through contract talks that won its members wages, benefits, and job and income security that were unmatched in other major US industries. Under Bieber, the UAW also actively supported the Solidarity labor movement, which challenged Poland’s Communist government, and the antiapartheid movement in South Africa. Bieber traveled to South Africa twice, raising the alarm about the imprisonment of labor activists and smuggling images of torture out of the country. In 1986 he was arrested while marching at the South African embassy in Washington, DC. When former South African President Nelson Mandela toured the US after his release from prison, Bieber stood at his side during a rally in Detroit. Bieber died on February 17, 2020.

Rita Walters (89) black leader who argued for racial equality on the Los Angeles school board from 1979 through ‘91, then on the LA City Council in the ‘90s. Walters was largely on the losing side of the city’s bitter integration wars, but she never gave up on her belief that children of different backgrounds would benefit by going to school together. During the battle over mandatory busing in LA public schools in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, Walters was the only black member of a school board whose majority opposed forced integration. When her pro-busing side won in court, she expressed dismay over an integration plan that excluded the black children of Watts. Through decades of public service she extended her commitment to fighting for black workers and other minorities to gain equal access to employment. Walters died in Los Angeles, California of complications from Alzheimer’s disease and an infection, on February 17, 2020.

Society and Religion

Thich Quang Do (91) Buddhist monk who became the public face of religious dissent in Vietnam while the Communist government kept him in prison or under house arrest for more than 20 years. Do was the highest leader of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, which has constantly tangled with the government over issues of religious freedom and human rights. Do was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and received several awards for his activism, including the Rafto Prize for Human Rights and the Hellman/Hammett award, which the New York-based group Human Rights Watch gives to writers for courage in the face of political persecution. Do died in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on February 22, 2020.


Jeanne Evert Dubin (62) former world-ranked tennis player and a younger sister of 18-time Grand Slam champion Chris Evert. One of five tennis-playing children raised by teaching pro Jimmy Evert and his wife, Colette, Evert Dubin had a standout junior career in which she was the nation’s top-ranked player in her age group. She turned pro in 1973 at age 15 after having already beaten established stars Rosie Casals and top-ranked Margaret Court. For two years Jeanne teamed with sister Chris in doubles, and they were ranked as high as No. 4. Evert Dubin was the youngest to represent her country in Wightman Cup competition in 1973. She didn’t lose a match in helping the US to reach the Fed Cup final in 1974. She reached a career-high 28th in the world in 1978, when she retired from competition. She met future husband Brahm Dubin while she was competing at a tournament in Montreal in 1978. They married in 1979 and were the parents of Eric and Catie. Evert Dubin later coached for many years at the Delray Beach Tennis Center. Her husband died in 2006. Jeanne Evert Dubin died of ovarian cancer in Delray Beach, Florida on February 20, 2020.

Tony Fernandez (57) shortstop who made five All-Star teams during his 17 seasons in the major leagues and helped the Toronto Blue Jays to win the 1993 World Series. Fernandez won four straight Gold Gloves with the Blue Jays in the ‘80s and held club records for career hits and games played. A clutch hitter in five trips to the postseason, he had four separate stints with Toronto and played for six other teams, including the New York Yankees, who replaced him at shortstop in 1996 with 21-year-old Derek Jeter. Fernandez was slated to slide over to second base and stick around as insurance, but he broke his right elbow (for the second time in his career) lunging for a ball late in spring training and missed the entire season. The next year he caught on at second with the Cleveland Indians and was instrumental in their 1997 American League pennant. He batted .357 in the AL Championship Series against Baltimore and homered in the 11th inning at Camden Yards to give Cleveland a 1-0 victory in the clinching Game 6—his only postseason home run. Fernandez, who had waited years for a new kidney, was in a medically induced coma when he died of kidney disease in Weston, Florida on February 16, 2020.

Mike ('Mad Mike') Hughes (64) daredevil, limousine stunt driver, and self-taught astronaut who professed to believe that the Earth was flat and was known to supporters as Mad Mike. Hughes once worked for NASCAR, was a self-taught rocket scientist, and earned a Guinness World Record in 2002 for longest ramp jump in a limousine, but his legacy may be dominated by his purported belief in a flat Earth. The Associated Press once quoted Hughes as saying that he believed the Earth was shaped like a Frisbee. He was killed in a rocket launch in the California desert on private property in Barstow, California, about 120 miles northeast of Los Angeles. A video of the launch shows his steam-powered rocket shooting off into the sky and a parachute falling down to earth. Moments later the rocket plummets and crashes near the launch site. The launch was being filmed for Homemade Astronauts, a new TV series for the Science Channel, owned by Discovery. Hughes died on February 22, 2020.

Mickey Wright (85) golf great with a magnificent swing who won 13 majors among her 82 victories and gave the fledgling Ladies Professional Golf Association a crucial lift. Wright joined the LPGA in 1955, and the Hall of Famer’s 82 wins place her second on the all-time list behind Kathy Whitworth, who won 88. The Associated Press in 1999 named Wright the Female Golfer of the Century and Female Athlete of the Year in 1963 and ’64. A Golf magazine poll of experts in 2009 called her the best female golfer ever, and men’s champions Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson said Wright had the best swing they ever saw. Wright had been hospitalized in Florida the last few weeks after a fall. She died of a heart attack three days after her 85th birthday, on February 17, 2020.

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