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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, May 30, 2020

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Peter Alexander, sculptorGuy Bedos, French comedian, actor, and scriptwriterJimmy Cobb, jazz drummer who played with Miles DavisGloria DeNard, founder of Manna House Workshops in East Harlem, NYCElsa Dorfman, photographer with larger viewRichard Herd, actor best known as George's boss on 'Seinfeld'Stanley Ho, casino tycoon of MacaoOleh Hornykiewicz, pharmacologist who studied Parkinson's diseaseSam Johnson, former US congressman from TexasLarry Kramer, playwright and AIDS activistRobert Laughlin, anthropologist and linguist who studied Mayan cultureJohn Loengard, 'Life' photographerVladimir M. Lopukhin, Russian energy ministerMady Mesplé, French coloratura sopranoBobby Morrow, 1956 Olympic gold sprinterLennie Niehaus, saxophonist and composerJoel Revzen, opera and classical conductorNicholas Rinaldi, professor and novelistRev. Louis P. Sheldon, founder of Traditional Values CoalitionWilliam J. Small, TV news executiveMary J. Wilson, Baltimore zookeeperRavi Zacharias, intellectual evangelist

Art and Literature

Peter Alexander (81) sculptor who experimented with industrial materials, like resin, which led to the creation of sculptures that evoked the shifting nature of light, color, and environment. Alexander's early sculptures put him among the vanguard of southern California’s Light & Space artists, a movement that lightened up Minimalism, which until then had been dominated by more austere forms emerging from the East Coast. One of Alexander’s early pieces, “Cloud Box,” from 1966, consisted of a resin cube that within its modest dimensions (it’s only 10 inches tall) seems to encase an entire atmosphere of billowing clouds over an open plain. His later “wedge” sculptures, slender prisms of color that can reach heights of 8 feet, seemed to disappear into nothingness at the top. He died of the coronavirus in Los Angeles, California on May 26, 2020.

Elsa Dorfman (83) in 1980, little-known Boston photographer Dorfman got a chance to use a rare Polaroid camera that weighed 200 pounds and produced prints 2 feet high. It could not have been more different from the small cameras she used to shoot friends and poets like Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman. But Dorfman was smitten with the Polaroid’s power to render a painting-size image so rapidly that she and her subject could watch the likeness materialize together before their eyes. Dorfman’s work is now found in collections around the world, including at the National Portrait Gallery, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Harvard Art Museums. She died of kidney failure at her birthplace and hometown of Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she lived and worked for over 50 years, on May 30, 2020.

Nicholas Rinaldi (86) author and professor of literature and creative writing at Fairfield University in Connecticut, where he taught for 30 years, established a creative-writing program, and was a dean and chairman of the English department. Among Rinaldi's four novels was The Remarkable Courtship of General Tom Thumb (2014). He died in Connecticut of pneumonia, which he developed as a complication of the novel coronavirus, on May 27, 2020.


Business and Science

Stanley Ho (98) casino tycoon whose business empire dominated the Portuguese gambling enclave of Macao for decades. Considered the father of modern gambling in China, Ho’s long and eventful life tracked the ebb and flow of southern China’s fortunes. After a swashbuckling start as a kerosene trader, he ended up as Macau’s richest person, a lavish spender and debonair ballroom dancer. Tall, handsome, and of mixed Chinese and European heritage, Ho fathered 17 children with four women, an extended family that engaged in high-profile squabbles over his legacy during his later years. He had stakes in businesses running everything from the ferries and helicopters connecting Hong Kong and Macao to department stores, hotels, Macao’s airport, and its horse-racing tracks. But Ho said he avoided the gambling floor because “It's a house game.” He died in his sleep in Hong Kong on May 26, 2020.

Oleh Hornykiewicz (93) pharmacologist whose breakthrough research on Parkinson’s disease has spared millions of patients the tremors and other physical impairments it can cause. Hornykiewicz's research into dopamine led to the mainstay treatment still used today to treat millions of people with Parkinson’s. He taught at the University of Toronto from 1967 until his retirement in ’92. He died in Vienna, Austria on May 26, 2020

Robert Laughlin (85) anthropologist and linguist whose extensive work in the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico documented and helped to revitalize Mayan languages and culture. Laughlin’s monumental dictionary, after years of field work, documented the Tzotzil language in southern Mexico. But that was just the start of his efforts to preserve the culture. He wrote or collaborated on numerous collections of folks tales. Laughlin died of the coronavirus in Alexandria, Virginia on May 28, 2020.

Mary J. Wilson (83) first black senior zookeeper at what is now the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. Wilson had a way with animals, especially loose ones: The time Bianca the jaguar got out; the time Spunky the chimpanzee got loose and bit a worker’s ear nearly off. Wilson bullied both animals back into their cages, Bianca with a hose that she had picked up while running toward the cat, Spunky just by facing him down until he whimpered, then taking his hand and walking him back where he belonged. She often cared for zoo babies at home at night—a baboon, a gorilla, all kinds of monkeys, even snakes. It was a different era for zoos. Wilson died of the new coronavirus in Randallstown, Maryland on May 25, 2020.


Education

Gloria DeNard (93) studied voice at the Juilliard School, sang on CBS Radio, and toured the world as a USO performer. But it was offstage, as an educator and activist, that DeNard made her biggest impact. She created her own Juilliard in East Harlem. DeNard opened Manna House Workshops in 1967. She named it after the food that God provided the Israelites in the desert, and her purpose was to bring enrichment to an impoverished community in the form of jazz and dance education. DeNard died in East Harlem, New York City, on May 30, 2020.


News and Entertainment

Guy Bedos (85) French scriptwriter, stand-up comedian, and actor (mostly known for his part in the film Nous irons tous au paradis). Bedos drew inspiration from Lenny Bruce in becoming one of France’s most popular and satirical comics in a 60-year career that took him from nightclubs to movies, TV, and the theater. He died of Alzheimer’s disease in Paris, France on May 28, 2020.

Jimmy Cobb (91) percussionist and last surviving member of Miles Davis’s 1959 Kind of Blue groundbreaking jazz album that transformed the genre and sparked several careers. Cobb said in 2019 that he listened to jazz albums and stayed up late to hear disc jockey Symphony Sid playing jazz in New York before launching his professional career. It was saxophonist Cannonball Adderley who recommended him to Davis, and Cobb played on several Davis recordings. But his role as a drummer on the Kind of Blue jam session headed by Davis forever changed his career. That album also featured Adderley and John Coltrane and captured a moment when jazz was transforming from bebop to something newer, cooler, and less structured. Cobb died of lung cancer in New York City on May 24, 2020.

Richard Herd (87) character actor who played lawmen, tough guys, a general, an alien commander, and a Watergate burglar but was best known as Mr. Wilhelm, a Yankee executive and George Costanza’s boss, on 11 episodes of Seinfeld. As Wilhelm, who reported to the team’s owner, George Steinbrenner (voiced by Larry David), Herd brought a grandfatherly and slightly daffy demeanor to his dealings with George (played by Jason Alexander), lazy assistant to the Yankees’ traveling secretary. Herd died of colon cancer in Los Angeles, California on May 26, 2020.

Larry Kramer (84) playwright whose angry voice and pen raised theatergoers’ consciousness about AIDS and roused thousands to militant protests in the early years of the epidemic. Kramer, who wrote The Normal Heart and founded the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, or ACT UP, lost his lover to acquired immune deficiency syndrome in 1984 and was himself infected with the virus. He also suffered from hepatitis B and received a liver transplant in 2001 because the virus had caused liver failure. He was nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay for Women in Love, the 1969 adaptation of D. H. Lawrence’s novel. It starred Glenda Jackson, who won her first Oscar for her performance. Kramer also wrote the 1972 screenplay Lost Horizon; a novel, Faggots; and the plays Sissies’ Scrapbook, The Furniture of Home, Just Say No, and The Destiny of Me, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1993. But for many years he was best known for his public fight to secure medical treatment, acceptance, and civil rights for people with AIDS. He died of pneumonia in New York City on May 27, 2020.

John Loengard (85) photographer for Life magazine who photographed the Beatles on their first trip to the US in 1964. Loengard also photographed stars like Judy Garland and Jayne Mansfield and heads of state like President John F. Kennedy walking in Frankfurt with German officials in 1963 and Queen Elizabeth II on a trip to Ethiopia in ’65. He captured Louis Armstrong spreading balm over his chapped lips; Myrlie Evers comforting her 9-year-old son, Darrell, at the funeral in 1963 of her husband, murdered civil rights leader Medgar Evers; and poet Allen Ginsberg nearly hidden by a veil of cigarette smoke. Loengard died of heart failure in New York City on May 24, 2020.

Mady Mesplé (89) French coloratura soprano whose technical precision and crystalline sound made her a favorite among European audiences and record collectors worldwide. Mesplé achieved distinction in Europe with French opera roles and songs, but audiences also cherished her performances of operetta and works by Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc, and Sati. She learned she had Parkinson’s disease in the ‘90s. She died in Toulouse, France on May 30, 2020.

Lennie Niehaus (90) prominent figure on the ‘50s Los Angeles jazz scene and a longtime collaborator with his old Army buddy Clint Eastwood in films such as Bird and Unforgiven. In the ‘50s when jazz clubs dotted South LA and fans could have their pick of trumpet players or saxophonists on any given night, Niehaus was a constant along with other fabled musicians—Chet Baker, Hampton Hawes, Shorty Rogers, and Bill Holman, among others. But it was on the road with Stan Kenton that Niehaus earned national exposure as the bandleader’s vibrant alto saxophonist. They played together for years, recorded albums, and commanded stages from New York to LA. When the crowds thinned out in the ‘60s as rock took over the airwaves, Niehaus found steady work in Hollywood, writing scores for shows such as Charlie’s Angels and McMillan & Wife. Active as a composer and a muse to Eastwood until late in life, Niehaus died in Redlands, California on May 28, 2020.

Joel Revzen (74) conductor who thrived in regional opera and music festivals but whose career also took him to the Metropolitan Opera and the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia. Critics often noted Revzen’s clarity and instinct for shaping drama in music. He died of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in New York City on May 25, 2020.

William J. Small (93) longtime broadcast news executive who led CBS News’s Washington coverage during the civil rights movement, Vietnam War, and Watergate and was later president of NBC News and United Press International. Small’s career spanned from overseeing the news operation at a small radio station to testifying in Congress about press freedom. During a 60-year career he supervised, guided, and in some cases hired generations of some of the best-known reporters and anchors in TV news, among them: Dan Rather, Eric Sevareid, Daniel Schorr, Connie Chung, Diane Sawyer, 60 Minutes correspondents Ed Bradley and Lesley Stahl, and Face the Nation anchor Bob Schieffer. Small died in New York City after a brief illness unrelated to the coronavirus, on May 24, 2020.


Politics and Military

Sam Johnson (89) former Texas congressman, a military pilot who spent years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam before serving more than 20 years in the US Congress. Johnson flew nearly 100 combat missions in Korea and Vietnam. He was flying a bombing mission in 1966 when he was shot down and wounded, then imprisoned at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” for nearly seven years, mostly in solitary confinement. He retired from the US Air Force as a colonel in 1979 after a 29-year career. The ardent conservative and anti-Communist was elected to Congress in 1991 after six years in the Texas House of Representatives. He vowed to stay no more than 12 years, although he served more than double that. He had been a PoW with US Sen. John McCain, and although they clashed in Congress, Johnson defended McCain in 2015 when then-presidential candidate Donald Trump suggested he wasn’t a hero because he’d been captured. Johnson announced in January 2017 that he would retire at the end of his term. When he stepped down in 2019, at age 88, he was the oldest member of the US House. Johnson died in Plano, Texas of natural causes unrelated to the coronavirus, on May 27, 2020.

Vladimir M. Lopukhin (68) became energy minister of the Russian Federation, the biggest component of the Soviet Union, in November 1991—taking charge of a vast but crumbling oil and gas sector and the backbone of the economy. Within weeks, the Soviet empire collapsed. His appointment made Lopukhin a key member of the government that led Russia’s exit from the Soviet Union and put him at the center of some of the fiercest battles over the nation’s future. He pushed for the creation of so-called vertically integrated oil companies in place of a Soviet setup in which oil exploration, drilling, transport, and sales were each handled by separate state-owned companies. That and other proposals quickly ran into opposition from veteran managers and from some fellow ministers who believed that assets should first be privatized and only then reorganized. Lopukhin nonetheless presided over what later became major private Russian oil companies, including Lukoil. But perhaps his most important legacy was the preservation of Russia’s enormous natural gas industry as a single entity. The state-controlled company that resulted, Gazprom, still has near monopoly control of Russian gas. Lopukhin died of the new coronavirus, a day after his 68th birthday, in Moscow, Russia on May 24, 2020.


Society and Religion

Rev. Louis P. Sheldon (85) founded the Traditional Values Coalition, a lobbying group largely known for opposing homosexuality and gay rights. An unapologetic Christian conservative, Sheldon lived in California but commuted weekly to Washington and was close to political leaders, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. He founded the Traditional Values Coalition in 1980 to uphold conservative positions, including opposing abortion and homosexual rights. The group had a significant impact in antigay rights circles in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Sheldon and his daughter visited the White House nearly 70 times and personally met eight times with President George W. Bush, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which in 2010 designated the Traditional Values Coalition as an anti-LGBT hate group. Sheldon contended that there was a “homosexual agenda” to not only promote acceptance of gay rights but to recruit children into homosexuality. He died in Southern California on May 29, 2020.

Ravi Zacharias (74) evangelist who built an international ministry, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, that strives to defend Christianity on intellectual grounds. Rev. Billy Graham invited Zacharias to preach at the inaugural International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists in Amsterdam in 1983, and from that he rose to prominence as a defender of the “intellectual credibility” of Christianity. The ministry’s mission is “helping the thinker believe and the believer think.” Zacharias died in Atlanta, Georgia after a brief battle with sarcoma, on May 26, 2020.


Sports

Bobby Morrow (84) Texas sprinter who won three gold medals in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics while a student at Abilene Christian University. Morrow won the 100 and 200 meters in Melbourne and anchored the US champion 400 relay team, matching the world record of 20.6 seconds in the 200 and helping the relay squad to set a world record. Earlier in 1956 he successfully defended his AAU 100-yard title and swept the sprints for Abilene Christian at the national college championships. He was honored as “Sportsman of the Year” by Sports Illustrated and won the AAU’s James E. Sullivan Award the next year. Morrow had received diagnoses of anemia and neuropathy. He died in San Benito, Texas on May 30, 2020.


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