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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, February 29, 2020

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Chloe Aaron, former PBS executiveJohnny Antonelli, NY Giants pitcherLee Phillip Bell, cocreator of two hit soap operasBetsy Byars, award-winning author of children's booksDiana Serra Cary, silent films' 'Baby Peggy'Joe Coulombe, creator of Trader Joe's food chainClive Cussler, adventure writerFreeman J. Dyson, Princeton physicistGrace F. Edwards, Harlem mystery writerRaymond C. Fisher, federal judge in LANick Apollo Forte, singer who appeared in Woody Allen film 'Broadway Danny Rose'John Franzese, Mafia chieftainJoyce Gordon, actress who wore her glasses in early TV commercialsKazuhisa Hashimoto, Japanese video game producerNexhmije Hoxha, widow of Albanian dictatorKatherine Johnson, NASA mathematicianHosni Mubarak, former Egyptian leaderDavid Roback, rock musicianBill Smith, clarinetist and composerEva Szekely, Hungarian Olympic swimming championFloyd Tidwell, former San Bernardino County sheriff

Art and Literature

Betsy Byars (91) author who drew from life to write award-winning children’s books that often portrayed young people grappling with abandonment. Byars’ more than 60 books, usually aimed at readers on the cusp of adolescence, included The Summer of the Swans (1970), which won the Newbery Medal, one of the most prestigious awards in children’s literature, in 1971, and The Night Swimmers (1980), which won the National Book Award for children’s books in ’81. Byars died in Seneca, South Carolina of complications after a fall last November, on February 26, 2020.

Clive Cussler (88) million-selling adventure writer and real-life thrill-seeker who wove personal details and spectacular fantasies into his page-turning novels about underwater explorer Dirk Pitt. Cussler dispatched Pitt and pal Al Giordino on exotic missions highlighted by shipwrecks, treachery, espionage, and beautiful women in popular works including Cyclops, Night Probe!, and his commercial breakthrough, Raise the Titanic! He sent Pitt around the world in plots that ranged from the bold to the incredible. The Treasure features an aspiring Aztec despot who murders an American envoy, the hijacking of a plane carrying the United Nations secretary-general, and soldiers from ancient Rome looting the Library of Alexandria. In Iceberg, the presidents of French Guiana and the Dominican Republic are in danger during a visit to Disneyland. In Sahara, a race across the desert somehow leads to new information about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Cussler died in Scottsdale, Arizona on February 24, 2020.

Grace F. Edwards (87) although she began writing at age 7, Edwards waited until she was 55 to publish her first novel. That book, In the Shadow of the Peacock, was a lush portrayal of Harlem during World War II, a girl’s coming-of-age story set against the race riots of the time. It was a placeholder for the six detective stories she later wrote, mysteries set in Harlem starring a female cop turned sociologist and accidental sleuth named Mali Anderson, always with a backbeat of jazz. The first of those, If I Should Die, was published in 1997 when Edwards was 64. She died in New York City on February 25, 2020.


Business and Science

Joe Coulombe (89) creator of Trader Joe's, a quirky little grocery store filled with nautical themes and staffed not by managers and clerks but by “captains and mates.” From the time he opened his first store in Pasadena in 1967, Coulombe watched his namesake business rise from a cult favorite of educated but underpaid young people—and a few hippies—to a retail giant with more than 500 outlets in over 40 states. In more than 50 years Trader Joe's has never lost its reputation for friendly service from employees decked out in goofy Hawaiian shirts, a newsletter that looks like it was published in the 1890s, and rows and rows of high-quality, moderately priced healthy food and great wine, even if you sometimes can’t ever again find exactly the same thing. Coulombe died in Pasadena, California on February 28, 2020.

Freeman J. Dyson (96) mathematical prodigy who left his mark on subatomic physics before turning to messier subjects like Earth’s environmental future and the morality of war. As a young graduate student at Cornell University in 1949, Dyson wrote a landmark paper—worthy, some colleagues thought, of a Nobel Prize—that deepened understanding of how light interacts with matter to produce the palpable world. The theory the paper advanced, called quantum electrodynamics, or QED, ranks among the great achievements of modern science. But it was as a writer and technological visionary that Dyson gained public renown. He imagined exploring the solar system with spaceships propelled by nuclear explosions and establishing distant colonies nourished by genetically engineered plants. Dyson had fallen on February 25 at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, his academic home for more than 60 years. He died three days later at a hospital near Princeton, New Jersey on February 28, 2020.

Kazuhisa Hashimoto (61) Japanese video game producer whose “Konami Code” allowed players to cheat their way to superhuman strength, additional firepower, and extra lives. On classic video game consoles, such as the Nintendo Entertainment System widely used in the ‘80s, the Konami Code was a sequence of button-pushes: up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start. In the decades since its creation, it has become a famous hack. Many players first used it to get more lives in the 1988 Nintendo game Contra, and it has since been featured in several games, including Dance Dance Revolution, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Fortnite. Hashimoto died on February 25, 2020.

Katherine Johnson (101) mathematician who worked on NASA’s early space missions and was portrayed in the film Hidden Figures, about pioneering black female aerospace workers. Johnson was one of the so-called “computers” who calculated rocket trajectories and earth orbits by hand during NASA’s early years. Until 1958, she and other black women worked in a racially segregated computing unit at what is now called Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Their work was the focus of the Oscar-nominated 2016 film. In 1961 Johnson worked on the first mission to carry an American into space. In 1962 she verified computer calculations that plotted John Glenn’s earth orbits. At age 97, Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. She focused on airplanes and other research at first, but her work eventually shifted to Project Mercury, the US's first human space program. She died on February 24, 2020.


Law

Raymond C. Fisher (80) champion for police reform in Los Angeles and a veteran liberal judge who served on the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals. Fisher helped to implement the reforms that rebuilt the LA Police Department after the Rodney G. King scandal and the 1992 riots. In 1991 he was deputy counsel for the Christopher Commission, an independent panel that reviewed the LAPD in the wake of the King beating and sought to detail issues of excessive force. Later, as a member of the city’s police commission under Mayor Richard Riordan, Fisher steered efforts for disciplinary reforms. During his 20 years on the federal appellate circuit court that oversees California and the western US, he wrote opinions that helped to protect the rights of undocumented immigrants, upheld affirmative action in public schools, and protected the rights of the press and public to witness executions. Fisher died of cancer in Sherman Oaks, California on February 29, 2020.

John Franzese (103) one of the deadliest, most prosperous, and longest-living Mafia chieftains who basked in the company of celebrities like Frank Sinatra and Rocky Graziano. Well into his 90s—an age when most mobsters are retired or dead—Franzese remained a significant underworld figure, identified by the federal authorities as underboss, or second-in-command, of the Colombo crime family in the New York area. At 94, in a trial in which he appeared using a wheelchair and hearing aids, he was convicted on federal charges of running extortion rackets in Manhattan and on Long Island. He was released from federal detention in Massachusetts in June 2017 after turning 100. The authorities said at the time that he was the oldest inmate in the federal prison system. Prosecutors portrayed him in his prime as one of the Mafia’s top “earners,” generating many millions of dollars in loot, and as one of its most fearsome killers. In 1967 prosecutors asserted that an informer had heard Franzese boast that he had been involved in 40–50 underworld executions. At his last trial, in 2011, prosecutors said a turncoat had secretly recorded him graphically describing how hit men should dismember and dispose of bodies to evade arrest. Franzese died in New York City almost three years after he was released from prison, on February 24, 2020.

Floyd Tidwell (90) former San Bernardino County sheriff who guided the department from a small force of deputies who roamed southern California’s outback to a modern law enforcement agency. Hard to miss with his turquoise jewelry, cowboy boots, and a cheekful of chewing tobacco, Tidwell led the department for nearly 10 years, overseeing the creation of an aviation division, a gang task force, and sophisticated communications systems. He retired in 1991, saying he wanted to spend more time with his grandchildren and on the rodeo circuit. In 2004—long retired—Tidwell, an avid gun collector, pleaded guilty to four felony counts of concealing stolen property after investigators said he took more than 500 guns from department evidence rooms. At sentencing, the charges were reduced to misdemeanors and Tidwell was fined $10,000; he never spent a day in jail. He died on February 25, 2020.


News and Entertainment

Chloe Aaron (81) when she became senior vice president of programming at PBS in 1976, Aaron was believed to be the highest-ranking woman executive at the network level in the history of TV. During her 4.5 years in the PBS post, she sought ways for the service to compete against the big three commercial networks that existed at the time—ABC, CBS, and NBC—all the while fighting its budgetary woes. She made a mark with arts programming, starting, among other programs, Live from the Metropolitan Opera (also known as The Metropolitan Opera Presents). She helped PBS to establish a national identity. When she arrived, the local affiliates that made up PBS were largely going their own way in programming. Aaron brought uniformity to the prime-time hours. She implemented that system in 1979, and that October more than half of all TV households in the US watched at least some PBS programs, the service’s best showing ever to that point. Aaron died of cancer in Washington, DC on February 29, 2020.

Lee Phillip Bell (91) cocreator of The Young & the Restless and The Bold & the Beautiful who hosted her own daytime talk show in Chicago for 33 years. Bell and her husband William J. Bell (died 2005) cocreated two of daytime TV’s most successful soaps. Y&R has been on the air since 1973, while B&B will mark its 33rd anniversary in March. Lee Bell began her career as a broadcast journalist in her hometown, where she hosted and produced her daytime talk show from 1953–86 on WBBM-TV, the local CBS affiliate. She explored timely social issues and concerns while also interviewing Presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, Judy Garland, Clint Eastwood, Oprah Winfrey, Lucille Ball, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones. Her show won 16 regional Emmy Awards. Bell also produced and narrated several award-winning specials and documentaries on such topics as foster children, rape, and divorce. She won a Daytime Emmy award for outstanding drama series for Y&R in 1975 and received a lifetime achievement award from the Daytime Emmys in 2007. Bell died in Los Angeles, California on February 25, 2020.

Diana Serra Cary (101) author, film historian, and probably the last surviving child superstar of the silent film era nearly 100 years ago who spent decades coming to terms with a bizarre childhood of triumphs, heartbreaks, and parents who squandered her fortune. Peggy-Jean Montgomery was born in 1918 in San Diego, and her family moved frequently until her father found work in Hollywood as a stuntman. Peggy was just a toddler when her mother took her along on a visit to Century Studio. The director, Fred Fishbach, spotted her on a stool, and a star was born. Peggy was a precocious 2½-year-old in 1921 when Century Studio cast her as Baby Peggy opposite Brownie the Wonder Dog. America soon fell in love with the little girl as she fled burning buildings, held thugs at bay with a pistol, and clung to the underside of a train. A Century fire in 1926 and decaying celluloid have left only a few of her vintage films in museum archives, in the Library of Congress, and on the Internet, including Playmates (1921), Miles of Smiles (1923), Helen’s Babies (1924), and Captain January (1924). By age 5 she had made more than 150 pictures for Century, Universal, and Principal Pictures and was a multimillionaire. By age 7, she was a has-been. Peggy changed her name to Diana Serra and married artist Bob Cary, who died n 2001. Diana Cary died in Gustine, California on February 24, 2020.

Nick Apollo Forte (81) actor and cruise-ship singer best known for playing over-the-hill crooner Lou Canova in Woody Allen’s 1984 movie Broadway Danny Rose. Forte had a very brief acting career, appearing in the film as a burly (6 foot 1, 235 pounds) has-been musician with a big ego and a drinking problem who becomes a client of Danny Rose (Allen), a small-time agent and personal manager whose stable of talent includes skating penguins, a balloon act, and a woman who plays melodies on water glasses. Forte’s character was not all that unlike Forte himself: He had spent 30 years performing in cabarets, nightclubs, and hotel lounges before he was discovered by Allen’s casting agent. Forte died in Waterbury, Connecticut, his birthplace, on February 26, 2020.

Joyce Gordon (90) actress who became famous as “The Girl with the Glasses” for wearing her glasses on camera as she delivered live, on-air advertising pitches for products like Crisco and Duncan Hines cake mixes. Gordon was also known for her voice. She reached radio listeners and TV viewers through commercials and promotional announcements. Moviegoers heard her in dubbed foreign films—as a stand-in, for example, for Claudia Cardinale in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West, released in the US in 1969; and she was the voice in the ubiquitous recording that advised telephone callers in the ‘80s and ’90s that “the number you have reached is no longer in service.” Gordon died in New York City on February 28, 2020.

David Roback (61) reclusive musician whose guitar tones as founder of Los Angeles bands including Mazzy Star, Opal, and the Rain Parade helped to define the sound of the city’s ‘80s and ’90s rock underground. Along with Mazzy Star singer Hope Sandoval, Roback earned international attention for hits including “Fade into You,” “Blue Flower,” and “Into Dust.” Stubbornly press-shy, he was opposed to pop music’s cult of personality and didn’t care to reveal much about himself. He died of metastatic cancer in Los Angeles, California on February 24, 2020.

Bill Smith (93) clarinetist and composer who forged collaborations with some of the preeminent jazz and classical artists of the 20th century, including an especially long and close alliance with pianist Dave Brubeck (died 2012). When he was a teenager, Bill Smith both led a jazz ensemble and performed with the Oakland Symphony, an early sign of the double musical life that marked his career. As William O. Smith, he pioneered unorthodox techniques for his instrument and developed ways to notate them for other players. His own compositions were performed and recorded by artists like pianist André Previn and singer Marni Nixon. As Bill Smith, he enjoyed a lively career as a jazz clarinetist, admired for his bright tone and buoyant swing, most visibly in bands led by Brubeck. Smith died of prostate cancer in Seattle, Washington on February 29, 2020.


Politics and Military

Nexhmije Hoxha (99) woman who joined with her husband, Enver Hoxha (died 1985), Communist dictator of Albania, in overseeing an oppressive regime that isolated the country after World War II, executed dissenters, and drove the economy into the ground. In the decades after the war, Nexhmije Hoxha was a top Communist official in her own right in her small mountainous Balkan nation, Europe’s most secretive and poorest country. When her husband was incapacitated by ill health, she became more influential, controlling Albania’s secret police and orchestrating purges, arrests, and show trials. Of the many spouses of dictators, Albanian writer Ismail Kadare said, she was “the most evil, the most perverse.” Nexhmije Hoxha died near the Albanian capital, Tirana, on February 26, 2020.

Hosni Mubarak (91) Egyptian leader, autocratic face of stability in the Middle East for nearly 30 years before being forced from power in an Arab Spring uprising. Mubarak was a stalwart US ally, a bulwark against Islamic militancy and guardian of Egypt’s peace with Israel. But to the hundreds of thousands of young Egyptians who rallied for 18 days of unprecedented street protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and elsewhere in 2011, he was a latter-day pharaoh and a symbol of autocratic misrule. But his overthrow plunged the country into years of chaos and uncertainty and set up a power struggle between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood group that he had long outlawed. Mubarak died in Cairo, Egypt after an unspecified surgery, on February 25, 2020.


Sports

Johnny Antonelli (89) five-time All-Star, a key pitcher on the World Series-winning New York Giants in 1954. The left-hander won 126 games over 12 seasons, including his memorable 1954, when he had a 21-7 record and National League-leading 2.30 earned run average. Antonelli was also a 20-game winner in 1956. He gave a stellar performance for the Giants when they swept the Cleveland Indians in four games to win the 1954 World Series. He threw a complete game in Game 2, giving up just one run over nine innings, then came in on relief in Game 4, getting the final five outs to earn the save and clinch the series. The Rochester native made his debut with the Boston Braves in 1948 when he was just 18 years old. His best years came with the Giants from 1954–59, and he was part of the franchise when it made the move from New York to San Francisco after the ‘57 season. Antonelli died of cancer in Rochester, New York on February 28, 2020.

Eva Szekely (92) Olympic champion swimmer and an athletic hero in her native Hungary who narrowly escaped being murdered by Fascists before she could achieve greatness. Already a promising swimmer as a girl, Szekely was forced off her swim team in Budapest in 1941 because she was Jewish. Fascist forces within Hungary made things progressively worse for Jews there, well before the Nazis occupied the country in 1944. An official in the Arrow Cross Party, a Hungarian Fascist organization that controlled the country with Nazi support, at one point ordered Szekely to march to the Danube River, where the Fascists killed about 20,000 Hungarian Jews that winter. Her father told her to lie down and act too ill to move. She survived and later won a gold medal in the 200-meter breaststroke at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland and a silver in the same event at the Olympics in Melbourne, Australia in ’56. Szekely died in Budapest, Hungary on February 29, 2020.


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