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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, April 11, 2020

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Kamal Ahmed, leader of Bangladesh Society of New YorkBruce Baillie, Bay Area independent filmmakerHonor Blackman, British actressRev. Harry Blake, civil rights leaderRichard Brodsky, NY State legislatorRobby Browne, NYC real estate agentE. Margaret Burbidge, pioneering astrophysicistWilhelm Burmann, ballet master and teacherStanley L. Chera, NYC real estate developer and friend of US President Donald TrumpJean-Laurent Cochet, France's most renowned acting teacherJohn Horton Conway, Princeton mathematicianShirley Douglas, Canadian actress and activist, and son, actor Kiefer SutherlandMort Drucker, 'Mad' magazine cartoonistJames Drury, star of 'The Viirginian'Allen Garfield, veteran character actorHenry Geller, lawyer who helped to end TV cigarette commercialsCraig Gilbert, creator of 'An American Family'Andy González, jazz bassistHenry F. Graff, Columbia professor who studied US presidentsEarl Graves Sr., champion of black businessOnaje Allan Gumbs, versatile pianist and accompanistWynn Handman, stage director and acting teacherIrene Hirano Inouye, widow of US senator from HawaiiAhmed Ismail Hussein, Somalian musicianAl Kaline, Detroit Tigers' right fielder and broadcasterJoel Kupperman, former 'quiz kid'Ruth Mandel, Holocaust survivorVirginia Savage McAlester, Dallas architectural historianHelen McGehee, dancer and teacherJoseph Migliucci, owner of Mario's restaurant in the Bronx, NYThomas Miller, TV and Broadway producerBobby Mitchell, Washington Redskins' first black playerNobuhiko Obayashi, Japanese filmmakerRabbi Yaakov Perlow, Brooklyn clericNorman Platnick, authority on spidersWilliam R. Polk, historian, diplomat, and Middle East scholarJohn Prine, singer-songwriterDiane Rodriguez, theater group directorChynna Rogers, hip-hop rapperIsrael Sauz, new fatherYvonne Sherwell, Greenwich Village bohemianS. Fred Singer, climate change-doubting physicistHerb Stempel, '50s TV quiz show whistleblowerRichard Teitelbaum, composer of electronic musicAbigail Thernstrom, social scientistLinda Tripp, recorded conversations with Monica LewinskyTom Webster, hockey player and coachHal Willner, music producer

Art and Literature

Bruce Baillie (88) San Francisco Bay Area independent filmmaker who became known in the mid-‘60s for his landscape films—one of which, Castro Street (1966), was selected for the National Film Registry in 1992—and for his evidence of the landscape’s despoliation in films like Mass (1964) and Quixote (1965). Six of Baillie's movies, including those three, are regularly screened by Anthology Film Archives in New York as part of the institution’s “essential cinema.” He died on Camano Island, Washington on April 10, 2020.

Mort Drucker (91) Mad magazine cartoonist who for decades spoofed politicians, celebrities, and popular culture. Mad magazine was a cultural institution for millions of baby boomers, and Drucker was an institution at Mad. He joined the magazine in its early days, the mid-‘50s, and remained well into the 21st century. Few major events or public figures during that time escaped Drucker’s satire, whether Star Trek and The Godfather or Steve Martin and Jerry Seinfeld. Drucker took in every crease, crevice, and bold feature. The big jaws of Kirk Douglas and Jay Leno bulged even larger, while the ears of Barack Obama looked like wings about to take flight. Being drawn by Drucker became a kind of show business rite of passage, with Michael J. Fox once telling Johnny Carson that he knew he had made it when he appeared in a Drucker cartoon. Drucker fell ill last week, having difficulty walking and developing breathing problems. He was not tested for the coronavirus before he died in Woodbury, New York on April 8, 2020.

Virginia Savage McAlester (76) architectural historian, author, and preservationist widely known as the “Queen of Dallas Preservation.” Born and raised in Dallas, McAlester was an early organizer of efforts to landmark her city’s historic neighborhoods. She was a formidable opponent and a powerful activist in a town where demolition and development are still a religion. It was McAlester’s 1984 book, A Field Guide to American Houses, written with her second husband, A. Lee McAlester, a geologist, that made her a household name among preservationists and architecture buffs. The Field Guide was an exhaustive encyclopedia of US architecture that encompassed stately Victorians, Cape Cod saltboxes, and humble ranch houses—a feat of classification in more than 500 pages. It was revised by McAlester in 2013 to include contemporary styles and clocked in at over 900 pages. She died of complications from a stem cell transplant in 2013 to treat her myelofibrosis, a chronic form of leukemia, in Dallas, Texas on April 9, 2020.

Business and Science

Robby Browne (72) Manhattan real estate VIP. One of Browne’s biggest deals took place in 2003, when he orchestrated the $43 million sale of a penthouse apartment at the Time Warner Center. The buyer was David Martinez, founder of Fintech, a financial advisory firm, and the price was among the highest ever for a Manhattan residence. Browne wasn’t arrogant about his success. He entered the real estate business in 1986 after numerous vocational false starts, and his greatest skill as a salesman was managing not to come off like one. After more than three years struggling with multiple myeloma and a two-week bout with the new coronavirus, he died in New York City on April 11, 2020.

E. Margaret Burbidge (100) astrophysicist who made groundbreaking discoveries about the state of the cosmos, not the least of which was demonstrating precisely what it entailed to succeed as a woman in a male-dominated universe at mid-20th century. A native of England who worked largely in the US, Burbidge was considered one of the foremost astronomers in the world, long regarded as a trailblazer for women in the field. She was the first woman to serve as director of the Royal Observatory, the storied British institution. She was also a contributor to the design of instruments carried aboard the Hubble Space Telescope and a recipient of the National Medal of Science, bestowed in 1985 by US President Ronald Reagan. Burbidge died of complications from a fall, in San Francisco, California on April 5, 2020.

Stanley L. Chera (77) major New York real estate developer, a prominent philanthropist, and a friend and donor to President Donald Trump who the president had said was in a coma and seriously ill after becoming infected with the coronavirus. Trump had spoken at recent White House briefings about a friend who had fallen ill with the virus, which killed more than 20,600 Americans as of midday April 12. He first spoke about his friend on March 29 as he described the “viciousness” of the disease. Chera died of the virus in New York City on April 11, 2020.

Earl Graves Sr. (85) champion of black businesses as founder of the first black-owned magazine focusing on black entrepreneurs. Graves launched his magazine, Black Enterprise, in 1970. He later said his aim was to educate, inspire, and uplift his readers. He served on the boards of several major corporations, including American Airlines, Daimler Chrysler, and Rohm & Hass and backed the presidential bids of Jesse Jackson and Barack Obama. The author of How to Succeed in Business Without Being White (1997), Graves died in White Plains, New York after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease, on April 6, 2020.

Joseph Migliucci (81) Migliucci’s parents wanted more for him than the family restaurant business, so they gave him the hardest jobs, like cleaning the floors and washing dishes, thinking he would hate it. But Joseph stayed on at the restaurant, Mario’s, for nearly 50 years more, maintaining its tradition as a red-sauce cornerstone of the Bronx’s Little Italy on Arthur Avenue in the Belmont section. The restaurant was opened in 1919 by his great-grandmother, Scholastica Migliucci, an Italian immigrant, as a pizzeria with six tables. His father, Mario Migliucci, and his Uncle Clemente took over management in the ‘30s, expanded the menu, and renamed it Mario’s. Joseph took a job in the restaurant at around age 13 and in recent decades ran it with his daughter, Regina Migliucci-Delfino. He died of the coronavirus in White Plains, New York on April 6, 2020.

Norman Platnick (68) world authority on spiders. Platnick was curator emeritus of the division of invertebrate zoology for the American Museum of Natural History in New York, which holds the world’s largest spider collection. He added 158 genera and 2,023 species to the taxonomic database and helped to expand the known world of spiders to 48,000 species. He died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania after a fall at home, on April 8, 2020.

Israel Sauz (22) couldn’t wait to see his first child, a baby boy named Josiah, born in March. Three weeks later Sauz was dead from Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. A familiar face in Tulsa, he was an assistant night manager at a busy QuikTrip gas station and convenience store about a mile east of downtown. He was still a teenager when he first started working for QuikTrip, a popular chain based in Tulsa. Sauz and his wife, Krystal, had celebrated their first wedding anniversary two weeks before Josiah was born. Two GoFundMe pages have been started for Sauz, one for his funeral expenses and another for his widow and son. The two pages have raised more than $30,000. Sauz died in Tulsa, Oklahoma on April 5, 2020.

S. Fred Singer (95) physicist whose efforts to refute climate science earned him the enmity of experts. Singer argued that the threat of climate change was overblown, that efforts to blunt its effects would cause grievous economic damage, and that the effects of global warming would be largely beneficial. He died in Rockville, Maryland on April 6, 2020.


Jean-Laurent Cochet (85) most renowned acting teacher in France and one of the strictest. But Cochet’s demanding nature—some have said it bordered on sadism—led to success. His former students included Gérard Depardieu, Isabelle Huppert, and a host of French TV, movie, and stage stars. Cochet died of the coronavirus in Paris, France on April 6, 2020.

John Horton Conway (82) English-born Princeton mathematician whose work ranged from the highbrow to frivolous fun, earning him prizes and a reputation as a creative, iconoclastic, and even magical genius. Conway’s curiosity produced profound contributions to number theory, game theory, coding theory, group theory, knot theory, topology, probability theory, algebra, analysis, combinatorics, and more. Foremost, he considered himself a classical specialist in geometry. In 1985, with four coauthors, he published The ATLAS of Finite Groups, one of the most important books on group theory. Conway died of Covid-19 in New Brunswick, New Jersey on April 11, 2020.

Henry F. Graff (98) Columbia University professor who studied the past and present as a scholar of the presidency and, as an Army translator during World War II, foreshadowed the future from decrypted Japanese diplomatic messages. An author of 12 books and countless articles, Graff was best known as a keen observer of the men who occupied the White House—17 of whom presided during his lifetime. He knew several personally, including Harry S. Truman and Gerald R. Ford, who sat in on his popular seminar at Columbia, and Lyndon B. Johnson and Bill Clinton, both of whom appointed him to presidential panels. Among Graff's books was The Presidents: A Reference History (1984). He died of the new coronavirus in Greenwich, Connecticut on April 7, 2020.

Joel Kupperman (83) they called him the midget Euclid and baby Einstein. In 1944, the New York Times said he lisped in logarithms. For a time, during World War II and its aftermath, Joel Kupperman was one of the most famous children in the US, and one of the most loathed. From ages 6–16, Joel was a star on The Quiz Kids, a popular radio program that later migrated to TV. He captivated Marlene Dietrich and Orson Welles by performing complex math problems, joked with Jack Benny and Bob Hope, and charmed Eleanor Roosevelt and Henry Ford. He played himself in a movie (Chip Off the Old Block [1944]), addressed the United Nations, and was held up as an exemplar of braininess to a generation of children. But his early fame became a taboo subject for his family in his adulthood, most of which was spent teaching philosophy at the University of Connecticut. Kupperman had struggled with dementia for years. His death certificate lists an “influenzalike illness (probably Covid-19)” as the cause of his death in Brooklyn, New York on April 8, 2020.

Ruth Mandel (81) was an infant when she and her parents fled Germany on the eve of World War II. They were among the 937 passengers, almost all of them Jewish refugees, aboard the ocean liner St. Louis on what was often called the “Voyage of the Damned.” The Nazis had allowed the ship to sail with the expectation that the Jews would never be allowed to disembark—thus, the Nazis claimed, proving Hitler’s point that Jews were unwanted and justifying his persecution of them. Indeed, Cuba spurned them. So did the US and Canada. The ship was forced back to Europe, where roughly a quarter of the passengers died in Hitler’s death camps. A lucky few, including the Mandels, made it safely to England. They moved to the US after the war, and Ruth Mandel became director of the influential Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University in New Jersey. She also became an official with the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and spent years bearing witness, preserving memory, and educating new generations about how the past can inform the present. Mandel died of ovarian cancer in Princeton, New Jeraey on April 11, 2020.


Henry Geller (96) former legal counsel to the Federal Communications Commission in the '60s who helped to end cigarette commercials on TV. Geller suggested that one antismoking public service message be broadcast free for every paid cigarette advertisement. That proposed formula so unnerved station owners afraid of jeopardizing their licenses and tobacco companies concerned about competing with powerful antismoking commercials that Congress was finally able to ban the advertising altogether. Geller later profoundly influenced American politics by successfully challenging the equal time doctrine as a private citizen, which led to a ruling allowing for televised debates between the major presidential candidates. Such debates have been held before every presidential election since 1976. Geller died of bladder cancer in Washington, DC on April. 7, 2020.

News and Entertainment

Honor Blackman (94) British actress who took James Bond’s breath away as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger and starred as leather-clad, judo-flipping Cathy Gale on the ‘60s spy TV series The Avengers. Blackman first became a household name when she joined the show in its second season as Gale, an anthropologist with martial arts skills. But her most famous role was as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (1964), the third Bond movie. The actress was 39 when she landed the role of Bond’s love interest, and she long maintained that the term “Bond girl” didn’t apply to her. In the film, Pussy Galore is the leader of a group of women aviators enlisted by villain Auric Goldfinger. She uses judo (a skill carried over from The Avengers) to attack Bond, who later holds her down to kiss her. Blackman considered Pussy Galore a kind of early feminist and a different breed from the average Bond woman. She was a breast cancer survivor, having undergone a lumpectomy in 2003. She died in Lewes, southeast England, on April 5, 2020.

Wilhelm Burmann (80) German-born ballet master and teacher who trained generations of dancers. With wit and a dry, sometimes withering delivery, Burmann could get to the essence of a dancer, ballet or otherwise. His advanced professional ballet class, which he started teaching in 1984 at Steps on Broadway, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, drew students from the modern dance world too. Burmann was a principal dancer at Frankfurt Ballet, Grand Théâtre du Genève, and Stuttgart Ballet and danced with New York City Ballet for four years. He was a ballet master for the Washington Ballet and the Ballet du Nord. He had recently tested positive for the coronavirus but died of renal failure in New York City on April 6, 2020.

Shirley Douglas (86) Canadian activist and veteran actress, mother of actor Kiefer Sutherland and daughter of Canada medicare founder Tommy Douglas. Shirley Douglas worked with directors including Stanley Kubrick (Lolita) and David Cronenberg (Dead Ringers) and won a Gemini Award for her performance in the 1999 TV film Shadow Lake. She supported a variety of causes throughout her life, including the civil rights movement, the Black Panthers, and the fight to save Canada’s public health care, pioneered by her politician father. In 1965 she married Canadian actor Donald Sutherland, with whom she had two children before they divorced—twins Rachel, a production manager, and Kiefer, who became a film and TV star in his own right. Douglas died of pneumonia not related to COVID-19, in Canada, three days after her 86th birthday, on April 5, 2020.

James Drury (85) actor best remembered as the title character of the long-running NBC western The Virginian. Drury appeared on TV westerns like Broken Arrow, Cheyenne, and Wagon Train before he landed the role on The Virginian. The show began airing in 1962. Drury’s character, foreman of the Shiloh Ranch in Wyoming, was never named, and little of his history was revealed. He tussled with cattle rustlers and other outlaws threatening the ranch until the show was canceled in 1971 after 249 episodes. Only two other TV westerns, Gunsmoke and Bonanza, lasted longer. The Virginian’s weekly episodes were, unusual for a primetime series, 90 minutes long, requiring a grueling shooting schedule that Drury compared to “making a movie a week.” He died in Houston, Texas on April 6, 2020.

Allen Garfield (80) veteran character actor, a vital player in classic ‘70s films like The Conversation and Nashville. Garfield first set out as a boxer and a sportswriter. While covering sports for the Newark (New Jersey) Star-Ledger, he studied acting at night and was eventually taken in by the Actor’s Studio. There he studied under Lee Strasberg and found he could transfer journalism into acting. He became a supporting-player mainstay of some of the best films of the ’70s, including Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, The Candidate with Robert Redford, Robert Altman’s Nashville, Woody Allen’s Bananas, Billy Wilder’s The Front Page, William Friedkin’s The Brinks Job, and Richard Rush’s The Stunt Man. Garfield often played talky, anxious characters—salesmen, corrupt businessmen, and sweaty politicians. He died of the coronavirus in Los Angeles, California on April 7, 2020.

Craig Gilbert (94) TV producer who created what is widely considered the first reality TV show, An American Family, in 1973, then all but disappeared amid a storm of criticism and bitter disputes among its participants. An American Family was the last film Gilbert made. But in the early ‘70s he was the envy of many documentarians, having produced well-received films about anthropologist Margaret Mead and disabled Irish writer Christy Brown. Gilbert was a producer at WNET, the New York public TV outlet, when he came up with the idea to follow a real American family for months, capturing moments mundane and emotional in an unvarnished, unrehearsed style known as cinéma verité. He then persuaded WNET to finance the project with $1.2 million (about $7.6 million in today’s money) and sought an appropriate family for the venture. Enter the Louds—Bill, Pat, and their five children, Lance, Kevin, Grant, Delilah, and Michele. In 300 hours of filming over seven months in 1971, the cameras recorded scenes that startled viewers when the program was broadcast nearly two years later as a 12-part series. Gilbert died in New York City on April 10, 2020.

Andy González (69) one of the great bassists in Latin jazz who, in a career that stretched more than 40 years, played with numerous influential groups—notably the Fort Apache Band, which he formed with his brother Jerry. González was a versatile player, arranger, composer, music historian, and producer of other musicians’ records. He embraced African, Cuban, and Puerto Rican styles, various strains of jazz, and other influences, often merging them into something fresh. He grew up in a musical household in the Bronx. Andy and Jerry, a trumpeter and percussionist who was 18 months older, would practice together in the basement. Their father, a vocalist in his own band in the ‘50s and ’60s, was their earliest musical influence. Andy played with the bands of percussionist Ray Barretto and pianist Eddie Palmieri as he was establishing himself. He died of pneumonia and diabetes in the Bronx, New York on April 9, 2020.

Onaje Allan Gumbs (70) whose talents as a pianist, composer, and arranger made him a trusted right-hand man for stars across musical styles. By his mid-20s, Gumbs was already a close collaborator with, among others, soul singer Phyllis Hyman; Norman Connors, a jazz drummer who crossed over into rhythm and blues stardom; fusion guitarist Stanley Jordan; and post-bop trumpeter Woody Shaw. Gumbs’s devotion to a variety of musical genres was borne out not only by his extensive résumé but also by the various albums he made under his own name. They ranged from solo piano efforts like Onaje (1977) to That Special Part of Me (1988), which featured a mix of dance music and balladry and broke the Top 10 on Billboard’s jazz albums chart, to the straight jazz of Return to Form (2000), recorded live at the Blue Note in New York. Gumbs died in Yonkers, New York on April 6, 2020.

Wynn Handman (97) director and acting teacher who shaped the careers of Dustin Hoffman, Joel Grey, Faye Dunaway, Richard Gere, and other stars in his acting classes and at the influential American Place Theater in Manhattan, which he cofounded. Besides mentoring actors, Handman was an advocate of new American plays and those who wrote them. He founded the American Place Theater in 1963 with actor Michael Tolan and Sidney Lanier, vicar of St. Clement’s Episcopal Church on West 46th Street in Manhattan, where the theater was located in its early years. Their mission was to promote new voices, approaches, and subjects, an alternative to the often constricted commercial offerings nearby in the Broadway houses. Handman died in New York City of pneumonia related to the coronavirus, on April 11, 2020.

Ahmed Ismail Hussein (91) Somalian musician whose melancholic melodies captivated generations of Somalis and made him one of that country's most important musicians. Hussein was famous for playing the oud, the pear-shaped lutelike instrument that is central to Arab and Middle Eastern music. He moved among Somalia, Djibouti, and Britain over the course of his recording and performing career. His music was influential in defining and popularizing the traditional Somali style known as qaraami, which involves a singer or a poet backed by the oud or drum. Hussein died of the coronavirus in London, England, eight days before his 92nd birthday, on April 7, 2020.

Helen McGehee (98) dancer in Martha Graham’s company since the ‘40s and a prominent teacher known for her tough love. While dancing with the Graham troupe for 29 years, McGehee created original roles that included a joyous young girl in love in “Diversion of Angels” and the vengeful Electra in “Clytemnestra.” In 1947 she took on her most celebrated role as the ferocious leader of a Greek chorus in “Night Journey,” Graham’s retelling of the Jocasta-Oedipus story. McGehee also became an independent choreographer and costume designer. In the ‘70s and ’80s, she taught the Graham technique at the Harvard Summer Dance Center, where she pushed her students to develop the muscular body core needed to execute demanding choreography. She died in Lynchburg, Virginia on April 9, 2020.

Thomas Miller (79) produced a string of hit TV comedies including Full House and Perfect Strangers before beginning a new chapter as a Broadway producer. Miller worked at 20th Century-Fox and Paramount Studios, where he developed programs including The Odd Couple and Love, American Style before striking out as an independent producer. In 2000 he moved east to work in theater, collaborating on productions including War Horse, the 2011 Tony winner for best play; the Tony-nominated Tootsie; a current revival of Company; and the upcoming Mrs. Doubtfire. Miller died of heart disease in Salisbury, Connecticut on April 5, 2020.

Nobuhiko Obayashi (82) one of Japan’s most prolific filmmakers who devoted his works to depicting war’s horrors and extolling the power of movies. Obayashi stayed stubbornly true to his core pacifist message through more than 40 movies and thousands of TV shows, commercials, and other videos. His films have fairy-talelike imagery repeating his trademark motifs of colorful Japanese festivals, dripping blood, marching doll-like soldiers, shooting stars, and winding cobblestone roads. His last film, Labyrinth of Cinema, had been scheduled to be released in Japan on the day of his death. The date was pushed back because of the coronavirus pandemic, which closed theaters. The film was showcased at the Tokyo International Film Festival in 2019, which honored Obayashi as a “cinematic magician” and screened several of his other works. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2016 and was told he had just a few months to live but continued working, appearing frail and often in a wheelchair. He died in Tokyo, Japan on April 10, 2020.

John Prine (73) singer-songwriter who explored the heartbreaks, indignities, and absurdities of everyday life in “Angel from Montgomery,” “Sam Stone,” “Hello in There,” and scores of other tunes. Winner of a lifetime achievement Grammy earlier this year, Prine sang his conversational lyrics in a voice roughened by a hard-luck life, especially after throat cancer left him with a disfigured jaw. He joked that he fumbled so often on the guitar, taught to him as a teenager by his older brother, that people thought he was inventing a new style. He began playing as a young Army veteran who invented songs to fight boredom while delivering the US mail in Maywood, Illinois. Prine and his friend, folk singer Steve Goodman, were still polishing their skills at the Old Town School of Folk Music when Kris Kristofferson, a rising star at the time, heard them sing one night in Chicago and invited them to share his stage in New York. Suddenly noticed by America’s most popular folk, rock, and country singers, Prine signed with Atlantic Records and released his first album in 1971. He died of the coronavirus in Nashville, Tennessee on April 7, 2020.

Diane Rodriguez (68) stage artist, passionate for the work of Latino and Latina artists, and former associate artistic director of Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles. Rodriguez had been part of the artistic staff of Center Theatre Group for 24 years and had worked with other major companies across the country. She performed in, directed, or produced projects with top artists including playwrights Luis Valdez and Young Jean Lee and the group Culture Clash. Rodriguez died of cancer in Los Angeles, California on April 11, 2020.

Chynna Rogers (25) hip-hop artist, billed as “Chynna,” who first turned heads on the modeling runway, then with her talent as a rapper. Rogers lived in both Manhattan and Philadelphia and was known for her solo recordings and her collaborations with hip-hop collective ASAP Mob. Death was a recurring theme in Chynna’s music, including in her album, in case i die first, also the title of one of her tours. Her viral hits included “Selfie” and “Glen Coco.” Chynna died in her native Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 8, 2020.

Yvonne Sherwell (92) if a quintessential denizen of bohemian Greenwich Village in Manhattan existed, it might have been Sherwell, who appeared in a small-budget movie, acted in plays, sang cabaret, and wrote a memoir. She led an artistic existence in bohemian New York. But there were other sides to her eclectic life: She was a member of the leadership of the Village Independent Democrats political club and worked as a coat checker at the Algonquin Hotel in the early ‘80s. Sherwell died of the coronavirus in New York City on April 6, 2020.

Herb Stempel (93) fall guy and whistleblower of early TV whose confession to deliberately losing on a ‘50s quiz show helped to drive a national scandal and joined his name in history to winning contestant Charles Van Doren (died 2019). Stempel’s life was changed and defined by a TV face-off late in 1956, when he and Van Doren put on a fraudulent display of knowledge, gaps in knowledge, and sportsmanship on Twenty-One, part of a wave of programs that offered big prizes for trivia experts. Confessions by Stempel and others badly tainted the young medium and helped to lead to Congress’s banning of what had been technically legal—rigging game shows—and to the cancellation of Twenty-One, among other similar shows. Interest was revived by the 1994 movie Quiz Show, directed by Robert Redford and starring John Turturro as Stempel and Ralph Fiennes as Van Doren. The undoing of Twenty-One was set off by declining ratings and a producer’s refusal to keep his promises to Stempel for taking a dive. Stempel died in New York City on April 7, 2020.

Richard Teitelbaum (80) composer and improviser widely admired in both contemporary classical and avant-garde jazz circles for his work with synthesizers and electronics. A trailblazer in the field of electronic-music performance, Teitelbaum viewed making music with machines from a perspective rooted in physicality and intuition—a stance that set him apart from an earlier generation of studio-bound technicians. He engaged synthesizer pioneer Robert Moog to design an interface that would enable brain waves, pulse, breath, and galvanic skin response to trigger sonic responses from a synthesizer. Teitelbaum died of a stroke in Kingston, New York on April 9, 2020.

Hal Willner (64) music producer and longtime Saturday Night Live music supervisor. Willner had selected music for skits on SNL since 1980. He produced albums for Lucinda Williams, Lou Reed, and Marianne Faithfull. Willner was also known for curating a host of tribute albums starting off with Amarcord Nino Rota (1981). He had tribute projects dedicated to Thelonious Monk and music for Disney films. He recruited a variety of music artists for tribute projects including Sting, Keith Richards, and Ringo Starr. Willner produced a live tribute concert in New York for Tim Buckley in 1991. The concert helped to launch the career of Buckley’s son, Jeff, who performed at the event. Willner had symptoms consistent with those caused by the coronavirus, but he had not been diagnosed with it. He died in Los Angeles, California on April 7, 2020.

Politics and Military

Richard Brodsky (73) 14-term Democrat assemblyman from Westchester, New York who persuaded his fellow state legislators to impose a monitor over 700 quasi-public authorities that had borrowed $150 billion on behalf of New Yorkers with no oversight. Brodsky was regarded as a sometime conscience of the State Legislature. Representing the Lower Hudson Valley from 1983 through 2010, he was a champion of the environment, a critic of safety precautions at the Indian Point nuclear power plant, and a supporter of universal Internet access. He also opposed New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s proposal to charge motorists a fee to enter the Manhattan business district, arguing that it amounted to a regressive tax. Brodsky had shown symptoms of the coronavirus but also had a heart condition. Test results received after his death showed he did not have the disease. He died of a heart attack in Greenburgh, New York on April 8, 2020.

Irene Hirano Inouye (71) widow of the late US Sen. Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii and founding chief executive of the Japanese-American National Museum in Los Angeles. Hirano Inouye had most recently been president of the US-Japan Council, which aims to develop and connect leaders to strengthen the US-Japan relationship. Irene Hirano married Hawaii’s longest-serving US senator in 2008 when he was 83 and she was 59. She was divorced, and he had been widowed since his wife of nearly 60 years died two years earlier. They were married until the senator died in office in 2012. Hirano Inouye spent 20 years at the helm of the Japanese-American National Museum, the largest museum in the US dedicated to sharing the experience of Americans of Japanese ancestry. She died in Los Angeles, California of leiomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer that affects muscle tissue, on April 7, 2020.

William R. Polk (91) historian, diplomat, and Middle East scholar who helped to negotiate resolutions to several conflicts, including the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Over 60 years Polk delved into multiple careers, working in and out of government, writing, cowriting, or editing more than two dozen books and traveling the globe, often to hot spots. His academic background was in Middle East studies. In the late ‘50s he started writing articles for The Atlantic, Foreign Affairs, and other publications detailing what he saw as the failures of American policy in the region. In 1961 President John F. Kennedy put Polk in charge of planning policy for most of the Islamic world. He also served on Kennedy’s three-man “crisis management committee” during the Cuban Missile Crisis. President Lyndon B. Johnson called Polk back to the White House during the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War to write a draft of a peace treaty. He also helped to bring about a resolution to the Algerian War and in 1970 negotiated a cease-fire in the Suez Canal. Polk died of leukemia in Vence, in southeast France near the Mediterranean Sea, on April 6, 2020.

Abigail Thernstrom (83) social scientist whose remedies for racial disparities in educational achievement, voting, and employment made her a leading skeptic of affirmative action programs. Raised in a community of Communist fellow-travelers, Abigail Mann became a foe of affirmative action, gerrymandering to create minority districts, and other measures to foster racial preferences. She laid out those arguments in her first book, Whose Votes Count?: Affirmative Action & Minority Voting Rights (1987) and amplified them in America in Black & White: One Nation Indivisible (1997), which she wrote with her husband, Harvard historian Stephan Thernstrom. Her neoconservative voice was heard in public appearances, through think-tank publications, and as President George W. Bush’s appointee to the US Commission on Civil Rights in 2001. Abigail Thernstrom died of multiple organ failure in Arlington, Virginia after a week in a coma, on April 10, 2020.

Linda Tripp (70) former White House and Pentagon employee whose secretly taped conversations with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky provided evidence of an affair with President Bill Clinton that led to his impeachment. Tripp was a 48-year-old divorced mother of two when she became a controversial national figure as the Clinton impeachment investigation unfolded in 1998. For some she was a heroine who stood up for the rule of law; for others, she was a schemer for profit who betrayed a friend while posing as a motherly confidant. Lewinsky was 22 when she worked as a White House intern in summer 1995. That November she and Clinton began their affair, which continued after she was hired for a West Wing job. Reassigned to the Pentagon in April 1996, Lewinsky met Tripp and they became friends. Tripp provided nearly 20 hours of recorded conversations with Lewinsky to special counsel Ken Starr, who had been investigating a variety of allegations against the president. Starr's blockbuster report, which included a graphic account of the sex scandal, became a best-seller. Tripp was treated for breast cancer in 2001. She died on April 8, 2020.

Society and Religion

Kamal Ahmed (69) spent decades catering to dignitaries, diplomats, and presidents as a banquet worker at the Millennium Hilton Hotel at One United Nations Plaza in Manhattan. Outside work, Ahmed, who immigrated to the US in 1977 from Bangladesh, was twice elected leader of the Bangladesh Society of New York, which has 28,000 registered members. In that role he helped newcomers from his homeland to find jobs and apartments. More recently Ahmed also helped dozens of society members who died from the novel coronavirus to find a grave, in burial plots the society had bought on Long Island and in New Jersey for members who could not afford them. He died of the coronavirus in Elmhurst, Queens, New York on April 5, 2020.

Rev. Harry Blake (85) leader in the civil rights movement in north Louisiana who put his life on the line in the fight for racial equality. Blake joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1960. In October of that year, as he drove home from the SCLC’s annual convention, a gunman tried to kill him, firing bullets into Blake’s car window, Blake recalled during an oral history project for the Library of Congress. He also recalled being beaten by several police officers during a memorial service at Little Union Baptist Church in Shreveport to honor the four girls killed at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in early September 1963. Blake required stitches for cuts to his scalp as a result. He held high-ranking positions in both the Louisiana Baptist State Convention where he was president and the National Baptist Convention where he was general secretary. The pastor emeritus at Mt. Canaan Baptist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana died after possibly being exposed to the coronavirus, on April 8, 2020.

Rabbi Yaakov Perlow (89) inherited the leadership of the Novominsker Hasidic dynasty founded in Poland by his grandfather and transplanted to Brooklyn a century ago. The rabbi, known as a persuasive orator and respected scholar, had been president of the organization since 1998 and was chairman of its rabbinical Council of Torah Sages. He straddled two worlds, defending Haredi, or strict Orthodox, tradition but at times going outside the insular Hasidic community to opine on public policy. Most recently he urged his followers to heed the advice of medical experts in the coronavirus pandemic and avoid the gatherings that are integral to religious rituals. Perlow died of the coronavirus in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, New York on April 7, 2020.


Al Kaline (85) youngest player to win the American League batting title, in 1955 at age 20 with a .340 average. Kaline was Detroit’s right fielder in 1954 and quickly became a fan favorite at Briggs Stadium, later renamed Tiger Stadium. He was an All-Star in 15 seasons and won 10 Gold Gloves. He finished his career with 3,007 hits and 399 home runs. He scored 1,622 runs and had 1,582 runs batted in. In his only World Series, Kaline hit .379 with two home runs and eight RBIs as the Tigers overcame a 3-1 deficit to beat St. Louis for the 1968 championship. In retirement he sat behind a microphone as a Tigers broadcaster and was a special assistant to the general manager. Kaline, who played his entire 22-season career for Detroit, died in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan on April 6, 2020.

Bobby Mitchell (84) football Hall of Famer who became the Washington Redskins’ first black player. Mitchell split his career between the Cleveland Browns and the Redskins and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983. When he joined the Redskins in 1962, they became the last NFL team to integrate. After playing his first four seasons in Cleveland, Mitchell spent seven more with Washington and retired with the second-most combined offensive yards. He became a Redskins scout and later was assistant general manager. He died on April 5, 2020.

Tom Webster (71) former National Hockey League and World Hockey Association forward who later coached the New York Rangers and the Los Angeles Kings. Webster scored 53 goals and helped the franchise—then the New England Whalers—to win the WHA's first title in 1972–73. He had 33 goals and 42 assists in 102 career NHL games with Boston, Detroit, and California. He had 30 goals and 37 assists in 78 games for Detroit in 1970–71, then played only 12 games for the Red Wings and the Golden Seals the next season. Then he jumped to the WHA, where he had 220 goals and 205 assists in 352 WHA games in six seasons with the Whalers. Webster died on April 10, 2020.

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