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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, May 9, 2020

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Roy Horn, half of Siegfried & Roy duoLittle Richard, rock pioneerMichael Armstrong, political reformerAldir Blanc, Brazilian song lyricistBenedict Chijioke, rapper known as 'Ty'Walter Dallas, director, playwright, and musician in black theaterRosalind Elias, operatic mezzo-sopranoJean Erdman, dancer for Martha Graham companyBarry Farber, conservative radio talk show hostBradley Fields, illusionist and educatorDave Greenfield, keyboard player for punk band The StranglersMichael Halkias, owner of Brooklyn banquet hallAndre Harrell, founded Uptown RecordsNelson Henry Jr., WWII veteran who waited 70 years for 'honorable' dischargeMotoko Fujishiro Huthwaite, last of Monuments WomenJohn Macurdy, Metropolitan Opera bassMichael McClure, among Beat Poets of San FranciscoAnn McBride Norton, first woman to lead Common CauseThomas Reppetto, former police officer turned police historianJaquelin Tayjor Robertson, urban architectCecile Rol-Tanguy, French Resistance fighterDick Rosenzweig, 'Playboy' executiveDon Shula, pro football's winningest coachMillie Small, Jamaican singerJerry Snyder, LA real estate developerThomas Sokolowski, director of Andy Warhol MuseumMike Storen, sports executiveFrederick C. Tillis, musician and composerPaul Vasquez, mountain man thrilled by double rainbowJune A. Willenz, human rights activist, champion of women in militaryGreg Zanis, Illinois carpenter who made crosses for mass shooting victims

Art and Literature

Motoko Fujishiro Huthwaite (92) part of a team of 345 people from 14 countries—collectively known as the Monuments Men and Monuments Women—who preserved cultural treasures and artworks during and after World War II. Huthwaite was the last of the Monuments Women, who originally numbered 27. Richard M. Barancik remains the last of the 318 Monuments Men. They were immortalized in a 2014 movie, The Monuments Men, directed by George Clooney and starring him and Matt Damon. During the war a small, special force of American and British art historians, museum directors, curators, and others started out steering Allied bombers away from cultural targets in Europe and overseeing temporary repairs when damage occurred. Their numbers grew, and after the war they tracked down more than four million objects stolen by Nazi Germany and returned them to the countries from which they came. Huthwaite died of the coronavirus in Taylor, Michigan, outside Detroit, on May 4, 2020.

Michael McClure (87) one of the famed Beat poets of San Francisco whose career as a poet eclipsed many others in popular culture. Then 22-year-old McClure helped to organize the famous Six Gallery beat poetry reading on October 7, 1955 and later read at the Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park that launched the Summer of Love in '67 and at The Band’s “Last Waltz” concert at Winterland in ’76. McClure suffered a stroke in 2019. He died in Oakland, California on May 5, 2020.

Jaquelin Taylor Robertson (87) architect who grew up on a grand estate in Virginia before becoming one of New York's most prominent advocates of urban design. The scion of an aristocratic Virginia family, Robertson designed a wide range of buildings in many styles but never lost his love for classicism. He first came to public notice not as an architect of individual buildings but as one of the ambitious young designers around John V. Lindsay when he was elected mayor of New York in 1965. Robertson came up with the notion of a cadre of architects who would turn their design skills to public service. He convinced Lindsay to establish the Urban Design Group, a special municipal agency intended to help the mayor raise the level of public design in the city. He later was the first director of the Mayor’s Office of Midtown Planning & Development, whose projects included devising zoning provisions that allowed new skyscrapers to house a mix of offices, apartments, retail stores, and, in the case of the theater district, new Broadway theaters. Robertson died of Alzheimer’s disease in East Hampton, New York on May 9, 2020.

Thomas Sokolowski (70) organizer of early and influential art-world responses to the AIDS crisis and later longtime director of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. Sokolowski began his career in museum work in the early ‘80s, at a time when AIDS was seldom acknowledged publicly in hard-hit cultural spheres. He used his position as a museum professional to connect the art world and the gay community and to put art in the service of activism. His gift for outreach and for viewing art through a political lens later shaped his approach to directing the fledgling Warhol Museum. Sokolowski died of cardiac arrest after emergency surgery for a subdural hematoma in New Brunswick, New Jersey on May 6, 2020.


Business and Science

Michael Halkias (82) real estate, travel, and employment agent who was also the longtime owner of the Grand Prospect Hall in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. For nearly 40 years it hosted weddings, concerts, corporate functions, holiday parties, birthday parties, and other special events. The Hall became familiar to generations of New Yorkers with its long-running commercials, featuring Halkias and his wife, Alice, making a promise with wide-open arms and big smiles: “We make your dreams come true!” The commercial, first filmed in 1988, became a staple on local late night New York TV. They were even spoofed on Saturday Night Live. Halkias died in New York City from the coronavirus, on May 6, 2020.

Jerry Snyder (90) Los Angeles real estate developer who built thousands of homes and millions of square feet of commercial buildings in a 70-year career. Snyder started building professionally at age 19 and was overseeing construction of a high-rise apartment tower near the LA County Museum of Art at his death from cancer in Bel Air, California on May 8, 2020.


Law

Thomas Reppetto (88) former Chicago police officer who became a respected historian of policing and leader of a nonpartisan watchdog group that researches ways to reduce crime in New York. Reppetto brought a street cop’s experience and a scholarly perspective to the Citizens Crime Commission of New York, a small, business-funded organization, which he joined as president at its inception in 1979. He quickly became a prominent advocate for solutions to criminal justice problems like the need for more police officers and stemming the sale of illegal firearms. He was also a go-to expert when the news media needed a Harvard-educated former officer to discuss crime and policing. The author of several books on crime, Reppetto died of congestive heart failure in Mount Vernon, New York on May 5, 2020.


News and Entertainment

Aldir Blanc (73) wanted to be a doctor and was studying psychiatry in Rio de Janeiro. But Blanc also dabbled in music, and in 1970 he had a chance encounter with a guitarist named João Bosco that changed the course of his life. That meeting led to a collaboration that extended the boundaries of samba and helped to turn Blanc into one of the most revered lyricists of his generation. The two men began working together, with Bosco writing the music and Blanc the words, and helped to develop a new form of samba that delved into social issues and politics during the restrictive years of Brazil’s military dictatorship. Blanc became adept at skirting government censors through allegory and wordplay. One of the duo’s most famous songs, “O Bêbado e a Equilibrista” (“The Drunk & the Tightrope Walker”), written in 1978, was ostensibly about a Charlie Chaplin film. The song subtly criticized Brazil’s government and called for the peaceful return of political refugees. Sung by Elis Regina, it became a kind of amnesty anthem and a popular call for the reinstitution of democracy. Blanc died of the coronavirus in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on May 4, 2020.

Benedict ('Ty') Chijioke (47) British rapper billed simply as “Ty,” known for a thoughtful approach to hip-hop and for serving as a bridge between generations of British rap. In the late ‘90s and 2000s, Ty was among the most adventurous British emcees—using wordplay and American movements like the Native Tongues and the New York underground. Born in London to Nigerian immigrants, he didn’t fit neatly into any hip-hop archetypes, in England or anywhere else. But even though he was difficult to neatly categorize, Ty was widely respected for his relaxed but complex storytelling. He was hospitalized with complications of the coronavirus and later died of pneumonia in London, England on May 7, 2020.

Walter Dallas (73) powerful force in black theater, chiefly as a director but also as a playwright, musician, and teacher. In a career that spanned more than 50 years, Dallas was recognized for his work Off-Broadway and in regional theater. But he was best known for his leadership of Freedom Theater in Philadelphia, one of the nation’s top black companies, from 1992–2008. He also worked at the Public Theater and the Negro Ensemble Co. in New York and at the Yale Repertory Theater, the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, and Baltimore Center Stage. He directed more than 25 world premieres, including August Wilson’s Seven Guitars at the Goodman Theater in Chicago. Dallas worked with James Baldwin, Denzel Washington. and Viola Davis, among many other well-known black writers and actors. He died of pancreatic cancer in Atlanta, Georgia on May 3, 2020.

Rosalind Elias (90) American mezzo-soprano who created roles in a pair of Samuel Barber world premieres and made her Broadway debut in Stephen Sondheim's Follies at age 81. Elias sang 687 performances of 54 roles at the Metropolitan Opera over 42 years. She was slim and striking, and her noted performances included the title role in Bizet’s Carmen, Octavian in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, Dorabella in Mozart’s Cosí fan tutte, Laura in Ponchielli’s La Gioconda, and Preziosilla in Verdi’s La Forza del Destino. She created Erika in Barber’s Vanessa, which premiered at the Met in 1958 and was Charmian in his Antony & Cleopatra, which opened the Met’s new house at Lincoln Center in '66. She had been treated recently for congestive heart failure and died in New York City on May 3, 2020.

Jean Erdman (104) modern dancer, choreographer, and theater director whose work was inspired by myth and legend. A former principal dancer for Martha Graham, Erdman first came to wide notice as a choreographer in the ‘40s, and she remained at the forefront of the field for decades. She later created performance pieces for the Theater of the Open Eye, an avant-garde New York stage she founded in 1972 with her husband, Joseph Campbell, scholar of literature and myth. Erdman was among the first choreographers to exploit the theatricality of dance, combining it with drama, poetry, music, and visual art to form a whole, or “total theater,” as it was known then. Today it might be described as performance art. Her dances, among them “The Transformations of Medusa” and “Ophelia,” often focused on the inner lives of women. She was known in particular for her collaborations with some of the world’s leading contemporary composers, including John Cage, Lou Harrison, Ezra Laderman, and Alan Hovhaness. Erdman died in Kailua, Hawaii on May 4, 2020.

Barry Farber (90) pioneering radio host of a conservative talk show for decades in New York who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 1977. Farber worked in New York for his entire career and was still doing a regular digital talk show for CRN until last week. He began on the air at WINS-AM, the only talk host on a rock ’n’ roll station. He moved to WOR-AM in 1962 and worked in the evening and through the night. He left the station for his mayoral run and, after losing as a Conservative Party candidate to Democrat Ed Koch with 4 per cent of the vote, he went to work for WMCA-AM for 11 years. Farber was a member of the National Radio Hall of Fame, a traditional conservative working in one of the nation’s most liberal cities. He died in New York City a day after his 90th birthday, on May 6, 2020.

Bradley Fields (68) illusionist, actor, and educator who used magic to teach math to children. Fields got his start in the folk clubs of Greenwich Village, opening for musicians like Dion or Tim Hardin, then graduated to headlining around the country and abroad, emphasizing stories and an emotional connection with the audience over flashy spectacle. He spent a year teaching elementary school in Manhattan’s Chinatown, which inspired him to create MatheMagic, a show for children that he performed up to 200 times a year. He died of Covid-19 in Washington, DC on May 5, 2020.

Dave Greenfield (71) keyboard player with British punk band The Stranglers who wrote the music to their biggest hit, “Golden Brown.” Greenfield was known for his distinctive sound and playing style, using instruments such as the harpsichord and Hammond electric organ. He joined the band in 1975, which later became one of the most innovative during Britain’s punk explosion in the late ‘70s. It had recently postponed a farewell tour from this summer because of the pandemic. Greenfield contracted the coronavirus after a hospital stay for heart problems. He died in London, England on May 3, 2020.

Andre Harrell (59) Uptown Records founder who shaped the sound of hip-hop and rhythm and blues in the late ’80s and ’90s with acts such as Mary J. Blige and Heavy D and launched the career of mogul Sean (“Diddy”) Combs. Harrell was vice chairman at REVOLT. He launched his New York-based label in 1986, eventually dominating the urban music scene with multiple hit songs and platinum-selling albums. He first found success in the late ’80s with debut albums from Heavy D & the Boyz, Al B. Sure!, and Guy, the R&B trio that also included megaproducer Teddy Riley, leader of the New Jack Swing movement. In 1990 Diddy entered Harrell’s office, received an internship at Uptown, and quickly rose through the ranks after finding success with just-signed acts including R&B group Jodeci and Blige, dubbed the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul with the release of her 1992 debut, What’s the 411? Uptown also released Notorious B.I.G.’s first single, “Party & Bull--” (1993), featured on a film soundtrack. Harrell died of heart failure in West Hollywood, California on May 7, 2020.

Roy Horn (75) of Siegfried & Roy, the duo whose magic tricks astonished millions until Horn was critically injured in October 2003 when a white tiger named Montecore attacked him on stage at the Mirage hotel-casino in Las Vegas. Horn had severe neck injuries, lost a lot of blood, and later suffered a stroke. He underwent lengthy rehabilitation, but the attack ended the long-running Las Vegas Strip production. The darker-haired of the flashy duo, Horn was credited with the idea of introducing an exotic animal—his pet cheetah—to the magic act. Siegfried & Roy became an institution in Las Vegas, where their magic and artistry consistently attracted sellout crowds. The pair performed six shows a week, 44 weeks per year. They returned to the stage in February 2009 for what was billed as their one and only comeback performance, to raise funds for the new Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas. Horn and Siegfried Fischbacher, both natives of Germany, first teamed up in 1957 and made their Las Vegas debut in ’67. They began performing at the Mirage in 1990. When they signed a lifetime contract with the Mirage in 2001, it was estimated they had performed 5,000 shows at the casino for 10 million fans since 1990 and had grossed more than $1 billion. Horn died of complications from the coronavirus in Las Vegas, Nevada on May 8, 2020.

John Macurdy (91) bass who sang 1,001 performances at the Metropolitan Opera over 40 years and created characters in notable world premieres. Macurdy’s career included world premieres of Carlisle Floyd’s Wuthering Heights at the Santa Fe Opera in 1958, Hugo Weisgall’s Six Characters in Search of an Author at the New York City Opera in ‘59, Abraham Ellstein’s The Golem at the City Opera in ‘62, Samuel Barber’s Antony & Cleopatra on the opening night of the Met’s new house in ’66, and Marvin David Levy’s Mourning Becomes Electra at the Met in ’67. While he did take star turns, his many “comprimario” roles, as opera’s supporting roles are known, increased his performance total to sixth among basses in Met history. He sang 62 roles with the company. Macurdy died in Stamford, Connecticut on May 7, 2020.

Little Richard (87) one of the chief architects of rock ‘n’ roll whose piercing wail, pounding piano, and towering pompadour irrevocably altered popular music while introducing black rhythm and blues to white America. Little Richard was one of rock ‘n’ roll’s founding fathers who helped to shatter the color line on the music charts, joining Chuck Berry and Fats Domino in bringing what was once called “race music” into the mainstream. His hyperkinetic piano playing, combined with his howling vocals and hairdo, made him an implausible sensation—a gay black man celebrated across America during the buttoned-down Eisenhower era. He sold more than 30 million records worldwide, and his influence on other musicians was equally staggering, from the Beatles and Otis Redding to Creedence Clearwater Revival and David Bowie. In his personal life, he wavered between raunch and religion, alternately embracing the Good Book and outrageous behavior and looks—mascara-lined eyes, pencil-thin mustache, and glittery suits. Born Richard Penniman, Little Richard died of bone cancer in Tullahoma, Tennessee on May 9, 2020.

Dick Rosenzweig (84) onetime Playboy Enterprises Inc. executive and arts supporter. Rosenzweig was seen as instrumental to Playboy, joining the magazine in 1958 in its early days in Chicago as an assistant to the vice president of advertising. He got the job by happenstance—a parade blocked his route, so he passed the time by visiting a friend who worked at the new Playboy office. The friend told him about a job opening in the advertising department. Rosenzweig stayed at Playboy for decades, taking on a variety of jobs and working as friend and assistant to the magazine’s late founder, Hugh Hefner. He rose through the ranks to executive vice president of Playboy Enterprises and moved to an advisory role in 2011. He was also chairman of Playboy’s production company, Alta Loma Entertainment, and president and executive producer of the Playboy Jazz Festival. Rosenzweig had been receiving treatment for pancreatic cancer when he died in Beverly Hills, California on May 6, 2020.

Millie Small (73) Jamaican singer whose 1964 hit, “My Boy Lollipop,” introduced the upbeat rhythms of ska to international audiences. Although the song was Small’s only major hit, reaching No. 2 on both the American and British charts, it was a turning point in Jamaican music that brought the island’s signature sound to a wider audience, opening the door for artists, like Bob Marley, who popularized ska’s successor, reggae. “My Boy Lollipop” was the first big success for Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, whose label later released music by Marley, Toots & the Maytals, Roxy Music, U2, and others. As ska’s breakthrough act, Small was a global ambassador with a spunky personality and a high-pitched singing voice. Just 17 and a country girl, she toured the world, performed at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, and became a star in swinging London, where her dancing captivated TV audiences. Small died of a stroke in London, England on May 5, 2020.

Frederick C. Tillis (90) American composer who straddled the worlds of jazz and classical music. Tillis began his career at age 12, playing jazz in nightclubs. He became a prolific composer who merged European and black influences. He died in Amherst, Massachusetts from complications of a hip operation he underwent after a fall, on May 3, 2020.


Politics and Military

Michael Armstrong (79) longtime Democrat political reformer and publisher of two New York neighborhood newspapers. Armstrong's involvement in politics began in 1970 when he managed the congressional campaign of Peter G. Eikenberry, a liberal candidate, in an unsuccessful attempt to unseat an entrenched incumbent, John J. Rooney. Armstrong was best known for the Phoenix newspaper, a Brooklyn publication run on a shoestring that he founded in 1972. It championed the borough’s brownstone revitalization movement and proved a training ground for reporters and writers. Both the Phoenix and its sister publication in Greenwich Village, the Villager, won awards. Armstrong sold both papers in the early ‘90s, then returned to politics and government, working for Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden and others. Armstrong lost his wife Dnynia (80) to the novel coronavirus a month before he died from the same disease. They had been married 45 years. Dnynia had been fighting a kidney disorder that put her in a Brooklyn nursing home that has lost at least 55 residents to the virus. The home was locked down because of the outbreak; then the coronavirus struck Dnynia as well. Armstrong died of the virus in New York City on May 4, 2020.

Nelson Henry Jr. (96) in World War II Henry was given an insulting “blue discharge.” He was among the many black US Army troops initially given “blue discharges” (so called for the color of the paper they were printed on), a discriminatory bit of militarese used to designate soldiers regarded as homosexual. A blue discharge was neither honorable nor dishonorable but was a stain that affected future employment. Henry waited more than 70 years for his upgrade to “honorable.” He died of the coronavirus in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 9, 2020.

Ann McBride Norton (75) rose from being a part-time volunteer at Common Cause, the nonpartisan public-interest group, to becoming the first woman to lead the organization. Ann McBride, as she was known, started as a volunteer at Common Cause in 1972 and spent more than 25 years at that watchdog organization. The daughter of Louisiana Republicans, McBride volunteered at Common Cause just as the Watergate scandal was mushrooming. The organization then moved beyond its original purpose of opposing the Vietnam War and began to focus on accountability and integrity in government. McBride was soon the organization’s chief lobbyist on Capitol Hill and its national voice on its biggest issue, reducing the influence of money in politics. She became president and chief executive in 1995, succeeding longtime president Fred Wertheimer and working closely with John W. Gardner, the group’s founder. She died of Alzheimer's disease in Washington, DC on May 5, 2020.

Cecile Rol-Tanguy (101) French Resistance member who risked her life during World War II by working to liberate Paris from Nazi occupation. Rol-Tanguy joined the Resistance at age 21, typing out calls for rebellion on the day German troops occupied Paris in June 1940. With her husband, Henri Rol-Tanguy, a prominent fighter in the French Resistance, Cecile became a liaison officer for the French Forces of the Interior (FFI). The couple had to hide their relationship and use fake identities to keep their activities secret. Cecile used their children’s strollers to transport messages, weapons, and explosive material. In August 1944, when her husband was leader of FFI fighters in the Paris region, she helped him to set up a command post in an underground shelter in central Paris. On Aug. 19, 1944, they wrote and published a pamphlet calling citizens to arms in Paris. The French capital was liberated six days later. Her husband died in 2002. Cecile Rol-Tanguy died in Monteaux, in central France, as Europe commemorated the 75th anniversary of the surrender of Nazi Germany to Allied forces, on May 8, 2020.

June A. Willenz (95) longtime human rights activist and champion of women in the military. Willenz was an advocate for women in the armed forces at a time when they were largely ignored. Her 1983 book, Women Veterans: America’s Forgotten Heroines, provided one of the first comprehensive examinations of women in the armed services. It exposed inequities between men and women and led to congressional hearings and to improved benefits, services, and career opportunities for women. As devoted as she was to women veterans, Willenz never served in the military herself. Her focus on the subject was sparked by a broader interest in social injustice. She died of a heart attack after emergency hip surgery in Bethesda, Maryland on May 3, 2020.


Society and Religion

Paul Vasquez (57) mountain man whose awestruck reaction upon seeing a double rainbow propelled him to Internet stardom and turned him into a folk hero. In January 2010, Vasquez posted on YouTube a video shot from his mountainside house of a set of rainbows overlooking the Yosemite valley. He noted in the caption that the camera couldn’t capture the rainbows’ intensity and brightness. But that wasn’t what led to 46 million views of the video. It was Vasquez’s reaction. Over the course of the 3-minute video, he repeatedly said “Whoa!,” laughed, and even sobbed as he marveled at the sight of the rainbows. Vasquez, who called himself Yosemitebear on social media, had gone to get tested for COVID-19 but learned he had another unspecified ailment. He died in Mariposa County, California on May 9, 2020.

Greg Zanis (69) carpenter from Illinois whom many people knew simply as “the cross man.” From Newtown, Connecticut to Las Vegas and El Paso, Zanis made more than 26,000 wooden memorials—most of them crosses—for victims of mass shootings and other tragedies over the last 20 years. He first gained national attention in April 1999, when he drove to Littleton, Colorado to memorialize 12 students and a teacher who had been killed by two teenage gunmen at Columbine High School. Zanis's calling took him tens of thousands of miles to places like the scene of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, in which three people were killed, and to Lee County, Alabama, where 23 people died in ‘19 in a tornado. After a gunman stormed into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in December 2012, killing 20 first graders and six educators, Zanis made wooden memorials for each of the victims. He died in Aurora, Illinois on May 4, 2020.


Sports

Don Shula (90) on his way to becoming pro football’s winningest coach, Shula lost what many consider the sport’s most memorable upset—a crushing defeat to the underdog New York Jets and their trash-talking quarterback, Joe Namath. Shula, who was only 33 when he stepped into his first head-coaching job, coached only two NFL teams, the Baltimore Colts and the Miami Dolphins, and either despite or because of his dictatorial style, he ended his career with a 347-173-6 record, the NFL’s only perfect season—17-0 with the 1972 Dolphins—and six Super Bowl appearances. He won two of them, capping that historic 1972 season with a 14-7 victory over the Washington Redskins, then beating the Minnesota Vikings a year later in Super Bowl VIII. In his 33 seasons as a head coach—no one else has coached as many consecutive seasons in pro ball—he averaged 10 regular-season victories and had only two losing seasons. Only one other coach, George Halas, founder of the Chicago Bears and one of the founders of the league, made the 300-victory plateau, winning 325. Shula died in Miami Lakes, Florida on May 4, 2020.

Mike Storen (84) former American Basketball Association commissioner, multisport marketing whiz, and father of ESPN broadcaster Hannah Storm. Known for his hearty laugh and creative mind, Storen rose to executive spots in basketball, football, baseball, and tennis during a 40-year career in sports. He was general manager of the Indiana Pacers and the Kentucky Colonels and president of the Atlanta Hawks. He owned the ABA’s Memphis Sounds with musician Isaac Hayes and was commissioner of the Continental Basketball Association. Storen died of cancer in Atlanta, Georgia on May 7, 2020.


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