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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, March 7, 2020

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Bobbie Battista, CNN news anchorAlexei Botyan, Russian who saved Krakow, Poland from Nazi explosion in WWIIAndreas Brown, owner of landmark Gotham Book MartRafael Cancel Miranda, last of four Puerto Rican nationalists who fired on US Congress in 1954Ernesto Cardenal, Nicaraguan priest and poetHenry N. Cobb, architect of Boston's John Hancock TowerTroy Collings, founded budget tour companyMart Crowley, playwrightWendell Goler, former White House correspondent for Fox NewsAmory Houghton Jr., former US congressman from New YorkStanislaw Kania, former Polish Communist leaderGray Kunz, Swiss chefFrank Uwe ('Ulay') Laysiepen, performance artistJames Lipton, host of 'Inside the Actors Studio'Barbara Neely, mystery writerJavier Pérez de Cuéllar, former UN secretary-generalGeorge Preti, organic chemistHenri Richard, Canadian hockey starElinor Ross, operatic sopranoBill Stern, food critic turned ceramic curatorCharles ('Chuck') Trimble, Native American journalistTom Turnipseed, South Carolina lawyerMcCoy Tyner, jazz pianistCharles J. Urstadt, NY State housing officialRosalind Palmer Walter, first 'Rosie the Riveter,' as depicted by artist Norman Rockwell in 1943Jack Welch, former CEO of GE

Art and Literature

Henry N. Cobb (93) in 70 years as an architect—more than half of them in partnership with I. M. Pei—Cobb designed some of the US’s most prominent buildings, including Boston’s blue-glass John Hancock Tower, the tallest building in New England. He played a crucial role in remaking the city by designing a series of striking buildings, including the John Joseph Moakley Federal Courthouse, a catalyst in the revitalization of the south Boston waterfront, and the Center for Government & International Studies at Harvard University, where he was chairman of the architecture department from 1980–85. His greatest mark on Boston is the Hancock building, an 800-foot-tall glass parallelogram. Cobb covered his tower entirely in mirrored panels. He died in New York City on March 2, 2020.

Barbara Neely (78) award-winning mystery writer who created the first black female sleuth series in mainstream American publishing. Neely was perhaps best known for her four-book Blanche White series, which had at its center a nomadic amateur detective and domestic worker who uses the invisibility inherent to her job as an advantage in pursuit of the truth. The Blanche White series includes Blanche on the Lam (1992), Blanche Among the Talented Tenth (1994), Blanche Cleans Up (1998), and Blanche Passes Go (2000). The books push past mystery into political and social commentary, tackling violence against women, racism, class boundaries, and sexism. Neely died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 2, 2020.

Bill Stern (79) food critic turned curator who later founded the Museum of California Design, a project that examined underexplored California design, including design by women. Stern’s primary area of interest was commercial ceramics. California pottery became his greatest obsession, and it began with collecting. In 1981 he acquired his first set of dishes—bright Vernonware, made in Vernon, California. That sent him down a rabbit hole of flea markets and estate sales in search of more. The collecting habit ultimately led Stern to curating. In 1999 he established the Museum of California Design as a way to organize programming on the topic, including numerous exhibitions staged in Los Angeles, San Framcisco, and Palm Springs. Among the more notable shows Stern organized was the 2012 group show “California’s Designing Women, 1896–1986,” featuring more than 200 works by 46 female industrial designers from California. Stern died in his sleep in Los Angeles, California on March 7, 2020.

Business and Science

Andreas Brown (86) book lover since childhood who bought the Gotham Book Mart in Midtown Manhattan from its founder, Frances Steloff, and kept it alive as a literary shrine for 40 more years. Brown was a book and manuscript appraiser in his 30s and a regular visitor to the Gotham from California when, in 1967, Steloff invited him out to lunch. About to turn 80, she offered to sell him the overstuffed repository of avant-garde publications that she had opened in 1920. Brown had never dreamed of moving to New York or becoming a retailer, but here was an offer he couldn’t refuse—even if, as it turned out, Steloff never completely left the Gotham. She remained at her post in an alcove in the store, located in a five-story townhouse on West 47th Street, and in her apartment upstairs, and collected a paycheck until she died in 1989 at 101. Brown died of pneumonia in New York City on March 6, 2020.

Troy Collings (33) New Zealander whose tour-guide company, Young Pioneer Tours, specialized in taking young budget travelers to risky places like North Korea, where one of his clients, American Otto F. Warmbier, was imprisoned and fell into a fatal coma. After Warmbier’s death, Washington banned Americans from traveling to North Korea. Collings' company expanded to market trips to other off-the-beaten-path destinations like Chernobyl in Ukraine, East Timor in Asia, or remote islands in the Pacific, like tiny Nauru in Micronesia, northeast of Australia. In North Korea, foreign tourists are monitored by government minders. The authorities there impose strict restrictions on what foreign visitors are allowed to see. Collings died of a heart attack on March 5, 2020.

Gray Kunz (65) Swiss chef who grew up in Singapore, cooked in Hong Kong, and broadened New York's vision of fine dining in the ‘90s at the luxurious Manhattan restaurant Lespinasse. After a culinary apprenticeship in Switzerland that began at age 16, Kunz led kitchens in Hong Kong, New York, and Shanghai. In 1994 his cooking at Lespinasse received a four-star review from restaurant critic Ruth Reichl, who cited its “Old World” comforts combined with “aggressive” and “exciting” flavors. Kunz was born in Singapore and spent his first 10 years there. Malay was his first spoken language, and he learned about food in Singapore’s markets and food stalls. Asian ingredients were not entirely new to American fine dining in 1994, but few Western chefs had as much expertise in the cuisines of Asia as Kunz, who worked at Hong Kong’s Regent hotel for five years after leaving Switzerland and spoke Cantonese along with French, German, and English. He died of a stroke in Poughkeepsie, New York on March 5, 2020.

George Preti (75) organic chemist who devoted his career to studying bodily odors and how they can be weaponized in detecting disease. Ever since he was a regular passenger on the New York subways, Preti had thrived on pungency, discovering how individual smells can distinguish human beings like fingerprints. His studies of the chemistry and biology of human body odors examined their potential for diagnosing disease. He collaborated with cancer specialists and animal behaviorists, for example, to train dogs to identify odor profiles of ovarian cancer from blood samples. Preti died of bladder cancer in Hatboro, Pennsylvania on March 3, 2020.

Jack Welch (84) former head of General Electric who turned the company into a highly profitable multinational conglomerate and parlayed his legendary business acumen into a retirement career as a corporate leadership guru. Welch became one of the US's best-known and highly regarded corporate leaders during his 20 years as GE’s chairman and chief executive, from 1981–2001. He personified the so-called “cult of the CEO” during the late-‘90s boom, when GE’s soaring stock price made it the most valuable company in the world. A chemical engineer by training, Welch transformed the company from a maker of appliances and light bulbs into an industrial and financial services powerhouse. During his tenure, GE’s revenue grew nearly fivefold and the firm’s market capitalization increased 30-fold. Welch’s results-driven management approach and hands-on style were credited with helping GE to turn a financial corner, although some of the success came at the expense of thousands of employees who lost their jobs in his relentless efforts to cut costs and rid the company of unprofitable businesses. He died of renal failure on March 1, 2020.


Tom Turnipseed (83) South Carolina lawyer who, after working on the presidential campaign of segregationist George C. Wallace in 1968, became a champion of civil rights. In 1968 when Wallace, former governor of Alabama, was American Independent Party candidate for president, Turnipseed was the campaign’s executive director. Wallace, he saw, was tapping into something ugly, not just in the South but among white blue-collar supporters in the North. Turnipseed was in Webster, Massachusetts, arranging to use a Polish-American club’s building there for a campaign event. Club officials were such Wallace fans that they told him he could use it at no charge. Then the club manager asked him to affirm that, if elected, Wallace would line up all the black people—the man used a racial epithet—and shoot them. After the 1968 election, in which Wallace won 13 per cent of the popular vote, Turnipseed established a law practice and worked for civil rights and other progressive causes. He died of chronic respiratory failure in Columbia, South Carolina on March 6, 2020.

News and Entertainment

Bobbie Battista (67) among the original anchors for CNN Headline News who hosted CNN’s Talk-Back Live. During her 1981–2001 career with the cable news company, Battista anchored coverage of major events including the Challenger space shuttle explosion, the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan, and the Gulf War. When she moved from CNN Headline News to CNN in 1988, Battista anchored shows that included CNN NewsHour. In her early career she worked as a local news anchor and producer for WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina. in 1981 she was writer and assistant producer for the Peabody Award-winning documentary Fed Up with Fear. Battista died in Davenport, Iowa after a four-year battle with cervical cancer, on March 3, 2020.

Mart Crowley (84) playwright whose 1968 play, The Boys in the Band, put gay characters and their stories front and center in a way that had rarely been seen in a mainstream New York theater. Previous plays and movies often tiptoed around a character’s homosexuality or, worse, demonized gay characters, but Crowley’s play presented gay men talking forthrightly and in depth about their lives. It featured nine men at a birthday party in which alcohol flowed and conversation grew brutally honest as a result. It was made into a movie directed by William Friedkin in 1970. Crowley wrote several other plays, including The Men from the Boys, which looked in on the apartment and some of the characters from The Boys in the Band 30 years later. He died in New York City of complications from heart surgery, on March 7, 2020.

Wendell Goler (70) longtime White House correspondent for Fox News Channel who reported on government since the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Goler was a Fox News original, joining the network at its inception in 1996 and working his way up to senior White House foreign affairs correspondent. He worked for the Associated Press and Washington-area TV stations before joining Fox. In 2007 he was a panelist for Republican presidential debates in South Carolina and New Hampshire. He interviewed Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state, and former First Lady Laura Bush. Goler jokingly referred to himself as a “dinosaur” upon his retirement in 2014 but said he was glad to work during a golden era in broadcasting. He died of apparent kidney failure on March 3, 2020.

Frank Uwe ('Ulay') Laysiepen (76) performance artist whose collaborations with Marina Abramovic often led them to push each other to extremes. Ulay, whose real name was Frank Uwe Laysiepen, and Abramovic were also romantic partners, from 1976–88. The pair’s work was designed to show audiences the intensity of their bond. In “Rest Energy,” from 1980, they faced each other, a bow and arrow between them. Abramovic held the bow while Ulay leaned back, pulling the arrow taut and aiming it at her chest. One slip could have caused him to fire the arrow straight into her. In “Light/Dark,” they slapped each other repeatedly. In “Nightsea Crossing,” the couple sat at a table for seven hours at a stretch, not moving and barely blinking. That work came about after the couple had spent a year living together in the Australian Outback. Abramovic said it was an attempt to bring the spiritual contemplation possible in the desert into a city. Ulay had long suffered from cancer of the lymphatic system. He died in Ljubljana, Slovenia on March 2, 2020.

James Lipton (93) actor-turned-academic who became an unlikely celebrity and got hundreds of master actors and Hollywood luminaries to open up about their craft as the longtime host of Inside the Actors Studio. Lipton began the Bravo show in 1994. It also served as a class for his students at the Actors Studio Drama School, where he was then dean. He often said his only requirement for a guest was whether they had something to teach his students. His first guest, Paul Newman, set a standard of stardom for those that followed, including Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro, Glenn Close, Steven Spielberg, and Barbra Streisand. Lipton was known, and often parodied, for his highbrow and sometimes worshipful tone with his subjects and for his intensive preparation, represented by a stack of blue notecards that held his meticulously researched questions. He died of bladder cancer in New York City on March 2, 2020.

Elinor Ross (93) soprano who made a dramatic Metropolitan Opera debut in 1970 as a last-minute replacement in the title role of Turandot but whose career was over by the end of the decade, cut short by Bell's palsy, an illness that paralyzed her facial muscles. Ross, who began singing professionally in the late ‘50s, was best known in regional houses and overseas until June 6, 1970, when she stepped in at the Met for Birgit Nilsson, who was sidelined by a virus. In between the Met debut and her final performance, Ross had a nice run at the house, singing numerous roles over nine years in the company. She stepped in several more times when another singer was unable to perform. She died of renal failure in New York City on March 6, 2020.

Charles ('Chuck') Trimble (84) former leader of the National Congress of American Indians and founder of the American Indian Press Association. Trimble founded the AIPA in the ‘70s, citing a lack of coverage of Native American issues. It operated a news service for tribal newspapers across the US. Trimble was then elected executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, an organization established to protect tribes’ sovereign rights. He held the position from 1972–78, calling it both a stressful and deeply rewarding time. He died in Omaha, Nebraska on March 2, 2020.

McCoy Tyner (81) jazz pianist and last surviving member of the John Coltrane Quartet. Tyner met Coltrane and joined him for the 1961 album My Favorite Things, a major commercial success that highlighted the remarkable chemistry of the John Coltrane Quartet. The album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998. The quartet later released more revered projects, becoming an internationally renowned group and one of the seminal acts in jazz history. Tyner eventually found success on his own, releasing more than 70 albums. He also won five Grammy Awards. In 2002 he was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts. He died in northern New Jersey on March 6, 2020.

Politics and Military

Alexei Botyan (103) veteran of Soviet intelligence hailed for saving the Polish city of Krakow from being blown up by the Nazis during World War II. Botyan grew up in Poland and took part in fighting with the Nazis as a Polish army soldier at the start of the war, then moved to the Soviet Union and was trained as an intelligence operative. When the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, he was sent behind enemy lines to join Soviet guerrilla groups in Ukraine and Belarus. In 1944, when the Soviet Red Army pushed the Nazis back beyond the Soviet border, Botyan was dispatched to Poland. In January 1945 he oversaw an operation to destroy a depot of explosives that the Nazis had planned to use to blow up Krakow. The operation was later featured in a popular Soviet spy novel and a movie. After the war Botyan continued to work as an intelligence officer until he retired from the KGB in 1989. In recent years he gave numerous interviews to Russian TV and other media to describe his Krakow actions. Botyan died in Moscow, Russia just three days after his 103rd birthday, on March 5, 2020.

Rafael Cancel Miranda (89) one of the Puerto Rican nationalists arrested for opening fire inside the US Congress in 1954. Cancel Miranda was the last survivor of the group that opened fire in Congress on March 1, 1954 as part of a campaign to win independence for Puerto Rico. Five members of Congress were wounded, none fatally. The attack on Congress was carried out by Cancel Miranda and fellow nationalists Lolita Lebrón, Irving Flores Rodríguez, and Andrés Figueroa Cordero, who were all swiftly arrested. Cancel Miranda was sentenced to 84 years in prison and served more than 25. President Jimmy Carter commuted the nationalists’ sentences in 1979. Cancel Miranda continued to campaign for the independence of Puerto Rico and participated in marches and demonstrations. He also actively participated in the campaign for the release of nationalist Oscar López Rivera and published nine books. He died in San Juan, Puerto Rico after being hospitalized for several weeks for multiple health problems, on March 2, 2020.

Amory Houghton Jr. (93) led his family’s glass company in upstate New York and later spent nearly 20 years in Congress as a Republican with a reputation for breaking with his party. Known as “Amo,” Houghton was first elected at age 60 after spending nearly 20 years as chief executive of Corning Glass Works, started by his great-great-grandfather in 1851 and one of the world’s biggest glass makers. The descendant of businessmen and ambassadors, Houghton was elected in 1986 to represent the Corning area and its blue-collar families. Considered a moderate Republican who was able to get along with politicians across the aisle, he was reelected eight times. Among the richest politicians of the time, owing to Corning stock and other investments, he was a fiscal conservative and social-policy moderate who often strayed from the party line during times of contention and war. Houghton died in Corning, New York on March 4, 2020.

Stanislaw Kania (92) as Poland’s Communist leader for 13 months in the early ‘80s, Kania avoided both open confrontation with Solidarity, the rising independent labor movement, and military intervention by the Soviet Union. As first secretary of Poland’s Communist Party, Kania, a colorless career party functionary, led the government in Warsaw from September 1980 through October ’81. After surviving several attempts to oust him, he was finally deposed by party hardliners under pressure from the Soviet leader at the time, Leonid I. Brezhnev. A Soviet invasion was averted, but within two months martial law was imposed by Kania’s successor, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski. Kania died of heart failure and pneumonia in Warsaw, Poland, five days before his 93rd birthday, on March 3, 2020.

Javier Pérez de Cuéllar (100) two-term United Nations secretary-general who brokered a historic cease-fire between Iran and Iraq in 1988 and later came out of retirement to help reestablish democracy in his Peruvian homeland. Pérez de Cuéllar’s long diplomatic career brought him full circle from his first posting as secretary at the Peruvian embassy in Paris in 1944 to his later job as Peru’s ambassador to France. Serving as UN undersecretary-general for special political affairs, he emerged as the dark horse candidate in December 1981 after a six-week election deadlock between UN chief Kurt Waldheim and Tanzanian Foreign Minister Salim Ahmed Salim. When he began his tenure as UN secretary-general on January 1, 1982, he was a little-known Peruvian, a compromise candidate at a time when the UN was held in low esteem. Once elected, he quickly made his mark. Disturbed by the UN’s dwindling effectiveness, he sought to revitalize the world body’s faulty peacekeeping machinery. Pérez de Cuéllar died in Lima, Peru on March 4, 2020.

Charles J. Urstadt (91) major influence in New York State housing who helped to ease rent controls and laid the groundwork for the construction of Battery Park City in Lower Manhattan. Urstadt, whose career in real estate spanned 50 years, also lobbied legislators to create the state’s Urban Development Corp., a housing and economic development agency established in 1968 under Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller. The corporation, a public and private partnership now known as the Empire State Development Corp., was empowered to override local zoning to build more low-income housing. As founding chairman of the Battery Park City Authority, a state agency, Urstadt helped to pave the way for construction of Battery Park City, the housing and office complex that became home to about 15,000 people on 92 acres of landfill in the Hudson River. He was chairman of the authority from 1968–73 and chief executive from 1973 through ‘78, a period in which a master plan was developed. He died of a stroke in Bronxville, New York on March 3, 2020.

Society and Religion

Ernesto Cardenal (95) poet and Roman Catholic cleric who became a symbol of revolutionary verse in Nicaragua and around Latin America and whose suspension from the priesthood by St. John Paul II lasted over 30 years. Known for his trademark black beret and loose white peasant shirts, the author of works such as Epigrams and Zero Hour was one of the most important and honored poets in Nicaraguan history. Cardenal wrote verse that went around the world. He was also an essayist and sculptor, and the herons he fashioned from stone and metal are highly prized in Central American cultural circles. Cardenal died two days after being hospitalized with a heart problem in Nicaragua’s capital, Managua, on March 1, 2020.

Rosalind Palmer Walter (95) When the US entered World War II, Rosalind Palmer (as she was then) chose to join millions of other women in the home-front crusade to arm the troops with munitions, warships, and aircraft. She worked the night shift driving rivets into the metal bodies of Corsair fighter planes at a plant in Connecticut—a job that had almost always been reserved for men. A newspaper column about her inspired a morale-boosting 1942 song that turned her into the legendary Rosie the Riveter, the archetype of the hard-working women in overalls and bandanna-wrapped hair who kept the military factories humming. Other women became models for Rosie posters and magazine covers as well. But Rosie was just Walter’s first celebrated act. She was a major philanthropist and one of PBS’s principal benefactors, her name intoned with others on programming like Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour, Nature, and documentaries by Ken and Ric Burns. Walter was the largest individual supporter of WNET in New York, helping to finance 67 shows or series starting in 1978. She died in New York City on March 4, 2020.


Henri Richard (94) hockey center who won a record 11 Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens. Richard was better known as the younger brother of superstar Maurice (“Rocket”) Richard and was nicknamed the Pocket Rocket for his 5-foot-7, 160-pound frame. Known for his tenacity, Richard was captain of the Canadiens from 1971 until his retirement in ’75. He succeeded the legendary Jean Beliveau, with whom he shared the record of playing 20 seasons for the National Hockey League club. Richard played 1,256 regular-season games, another Canadiens record. He scored 358 goals and had 1,046 points, third in team history behind Guy Lafleur (1,246) and Beliveau (1,219). He added 129 points in 180 playoff games. His 11 Stanley Cups, one more than Beliveau and former Canadiens captain Yvon Cournoyer, is unlikely to be surpassed. Seven were won when the NHL had only six teams. Richard died of Alzheimer’s disease in Laval, Quebec, Canada on March 6, 2020.

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