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

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Jack Charlton, British footballerNick Cordero, Tony-nominated Broadway actorCharlie Daniels, country music starRagaa el-Gedawy, Egyptian actressEddie Gale, jazz trumpeter and educatorRobert Gnaizda, crusading lawyerRonald L. Graham, mathematician and jugglerMilos Jakes, Communist Party leader in the former CzechoslovakiaRudolph ('Lil Marlo') Johnson, Atlanta-based rapperMary Kay Letourneau, teacher who raped, then married former pupil, Vili FualaauE. Walter Miles, pioneering professor at San Diego StateEnnio Morricone, Italian composer of music for 'spaghetti westerns'Brad Pye Jr., longtime LA radio sports directorMike Ryan, Boston Red Sox backup catcherGen. Paik Sun-yup, controversial South Korean army officerGabriella Tucci, Italian operatic sopranoJane Walentas, artist who restored historic carouselBrad Watson, novelist and short-story writerFlossie Wong-Staal, molecular biologist who established cause of AIDSPark Won-soon, mayor of Seoul, South Korea

Art and Literature

Jane Walentas (76) artist who spent more than 20 years restoring a century-old carousel as a gift to the Brooklyn waterfront neighborhood that she helped her husband, David Walentas, to develop. In the late ‘70s, David Walentas bought two million square feet for $12 million in what used to be Fulton’s Landing, a rough industrial wasteland between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges that had been colonized by homesteading artists. It took decades to transform the area into the now-prosperous ZIP code of Dumbo, as Walentas battled the city, which had stalled on rezoning it, and community groups, which were concerned about gentrification. Jane Walentas died of lung cancer in Southampton, New York on July 5, 2020.

Brad Watson (64) whose short stories and novels—including one book inspired by a great-aunt’s anatomical anomaly—came to life largely on the southern Gulf Coast of his birth. In his acclaimed novels and short stories, most of them set in his native Mississippi, Watson wrote about characters who had to transcend difficult moments. His two novels and two short-story collections did not make him a major literary star. But his fiction was often praised for its surreal, bizarre, funny, wild, and tender stories about characters who inevitably must transcend difficult moments in their lives. His first novel, The Heaven of Mercury (2002), was a National Book Award finalist. Watson died of cardiac failure in Laramie, Wyoming on July 8, 2020.

Business and Science

Ronald L. Graham (84) gained renown with wide-ranging theorems in a field known as discrete mathematics that have found uses in diverse areas, ranging from making telephone and computer networks more efficient to explaining the dynamics of juggling. Graham was preeminent in the field of discrete mathematics. He died in the La Jolla section of San Diego, California of bronchiectasis, a chronic lung condition, on July 6, 2020.

Flossie Wong-Staal (73) molecular biologist who helped to establish HIV as the cause of AIDS, revealed the virus’s inner workings by cloning it, then took it apart to understand how it evades the immune system. Wong-Staal laid the foundation for treatments. She died in La Jolla, California of pneumonia not related to Covid-19, on July 8, 2020.


Mary Kay Letourneau (58) teacher who married her former sixth-grade pupil after she was convicted of raping him in a case that drew international headlines. Letourneau was a married mother of four in 1996 when she taught 12-year-old Vili Fualaau in her class at Shorewood Elementary in Burien, a south Seattle suburb. Police discovered them at about 1:20 a.m. on June 19, 1996, parked in a minivan at the Des Moines (Wash.) Marina. Letourneau, then 34, initially told officers the boy was 18. At the police station, the pair claimed Letourneau had been babysitting the boy and took him from her home after she and her husband had a fight. About two months later, Letourneau was pregnant; they had a daughter—then, later, another one, conceived in 1998, after Letourneau had pleaded guilty to child rape but before she began serving a 7.5-year prison term. They married on May 20, 2005 in Woodinville, Washington after her release. Fualaau asked for a legal separation from Letourneau on May 9, 2017. Letourneau died of cancer in Seattle, Washington on July 7, 2020.

E. Walter Miles (86) his specialty as a pioneering black political science professor at San Diego State was the US Constitution, and Miles saw that founding document as a living thing that needed exercise now and then. So he was an activist and an academic. He had a social-justice résumé that included desegregating restaurants in Indiana, boycotting businesses that discriminated in Texas, and pushing for equitable housing in North Carolina. In the '50s and '60s, Miles was the only black professor on the SDS campus. He spent more than 30 years there, including a term as head of the political science department, and was remembered for starting public law classes that are still taught there today. He died in San Diego, California on July 8, 2020.


Robert Gnaizda (83) lawyer whose powers of persuasion in defending the civil and economic rights of the poor and minority groups often rendered messy and costly lawsuits against their adversaries a needless last resort. Gnaizda risked his life gathering evidence in the South in the ‘60s to help fight the intimidation that kept black citizens from registering and voting. He was also an advocate for farm workers and the rural poor, fought discrimination in hiring by police and fire departments, and successfully challenged banks that victimized black and Hispanic borrowers. He died of a heart attack in San Francisco, California on July 11, 2020.

News and Entertainment

Nick Cordero (41) Tony Award-nominated actor who specialized in playing tough guys on Broadway in such shows as Waitress, A Bronx Tale, and Bullets over Broadway. Cordero originated the menacing role of husband Earl opposite his estranged wife, played by Jessie Mueller, in Waitress and the role of Sonny in Chazz Palminteri’s A Bronx Tale. He played a mob soldier with a flare for the dramatic in Broadway’s adaptation of Bullets over Broadway, Woody Allen’s 1994 film, for which he received a Tony nomination for best-featured actor in a musical. On the small screen, Cordero appeared in several episodes of Blue Bloods and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. He was hospitalized on March 30 and had a succession of health setbacks, including ministrokes, blood clots, septic infections, a tracheostomy, and a temporary pacemaker implanted. He had been on a ventilator and unconscious and had his right leg amputated. A double lung transplant was being explored when he died in Los Angeles, California after suffering severe medical complications from contracting the coronavirus, on July 5, 2020.

Charlie Daniels (83) went from being an in-demand session musician to a staple of Southern rock with his hit “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” A singer, guitarist, and fiddler, Daniels started out as a session musician, even playing on Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline sessions. Beginning in the early ‘70s, his five-piece band toured endlessly, sometimes doing 250 shows a year. He performed at the White House, at the Super Bowl, throughout Europe, and often for troops in the Middle East. Daniels played himself in the 1980 John Travolta movie Urban Cowboy and was closely identified with the rise of country music generated by that film. Some of his other hits were “Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye,” “Boogie Woogie Fiddle Country Blues,” and “Uneasy Rider.” He died of a stroke in Hermitage, Tennessee on July 6, 2020.

Ragaa el-Gedawy (85) was rarely the leading lady of the movies she starred in, but that did little to diminish her standing as one of Egypt’s most beloved actors. In a career that spanned 60 years, from the golden age of Egyptian cinema in the ‘50s until a few months ago, Gedawy had roles in more than 300 plays, films, and TV series. Her combination of grace, naturalism, and comic skill, honed by a relentless work ethic, made her a cherished favorite of successive generations. She died in her hometown, Ismailia, Egypt, on the Suez Canal, after a six-week battle with COVID-19, on July 5, 2020.

Eddie Gale (78) jazz trumpeter and educator who performed with Cecil Taylor and Sun Ra and saw the music he made with his own bands as a way of communicating the richness of black life. Gale drew notice in the ‘60s for his playing with Taylor and Sun Ra and on his own records. Later he devoted most of his time to teaching. On his recordings as a leader—including two significant albums for the Blue Note label in the late ‘60s, Eddie Gale’s Ghetto Music and Black Rhythm Happening—Gale drew on the black church, his Cub Scout marching band, astrology, street-corner funk, and African polyrhythms to concoct a densely layered urban stew. He died of prostate cancer in northern California on July 10, 2020.

Rudolph ('Lil Marlo') Johnson (30) Atlanta-based rap artist known as Lil Marlo. Johnson emerged in 2017 collaborating with rapper and friend Lil Baby on “2 The Hard Way.” Earlier this year the up-and-coming rapper released his project “1st & 3rd” featuring Future, Gucci Mane, and Lil Baby. A statement from the Atlanta Police Department said a man named Rudolph Johnson was killed in what investigators believe was a targeted shooting. Officers responded to a single-car wreck on Interstate 285 in Atlanta, Georgia at about 11:30 p.m. on July 11, 2020 and found the driver, later identified as Johnson, dead inside his vehicle. Investigators believe he was shot while driving and was the intended target.

Ennio Morricone (91) Oscar-winning Italian composer who created the coyote-howl theme for the iconic Spaghetti Western The Good, the Bad & the Ugly and often haunting soundtracks for such classic Hollywood gangster movies as The Untouchables and the epic Once Upon a Time in America. During a career that spanned decades and earned him an Oscar for lifetime achievement in 2007, Morricone collaborated with some of Hollywood’s and Italy’s top directors, including on The Untouchables by Brian de Palma, The Hateful Eight by Quentin Tarantino, The Battle of Algiers by Gillo Pontecorvo, and Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, a nostalgic ode to the importance of movie houses in Italian small-town life, by Giuseppe Tornator. The Tarantino film won Morricone the Oscar for best original score in 2016. “The Maestro,” as he was known, died in a Rome, Italy hospital of complications following surgery after a recent fall in which he broke a femur, or thigh bone, on July 6, 2020.

Gabriella Tucci (90) Italian soprano whose expressive voice and stage presence made her a mainstay at major international houses—including, for 13 consecutive seasons, the Metropolitan Opera. Tucci brought refinement to her singing. She sang 20 roles at the Met, where her heyday was the ‘60s. From the start of her career in the ‘50s in Italy, Tucci was praised for her lustrous sound and the smoothness and refinement of her singing. An unaffected and compelling actress, she was best known for her interpretations of the spinto repertory, like her rendition of the title role of Verdi’s Aïda, which demands both lyric soprano lightness and the vocal heft to lift soaring phrases over an orchestra. She died in Rome, Italy on July 9, 2020.

Politics and Military

Milos Jakes (97) Communist Party leader in the former Czechoslovakia at the time of the 1989 Velvet Revolution. Jakes was appointed secretary general of the party in 1987. From the conservative wing of the party, he opposed a brief period of liberal reforms in 1968 known as the Prague Spring, which was later crushed on August 20 that year by troops from the Warsaw Pact. Jakes was part of the hard-line regime that took over after the invasion. He had been general secretary of the party for only two years before the Velvet Revolution led by late writer Vaclav Havel ended 40 years of Communist rule. Jakes died in Prague, Czech Republic on July 9, 2020.

Gen. Paik Sun-yup (99) former South Korean army officer celebrated as a major war hero for leading troops in several battle victories against North Korean soldiers during the 1950–53 Korean War. Paik graduated from a Japanese military academy in Manchuria when the Korean Peninsula was under Japanese colonial rule and was a lieutenant in the Japanese army during World War II. In the early ‘40s he participated in several Japanese military operations to eliminate Korean guerrilla groups fighting for independence in northeastern China, a record his critics saw as a huge blot on his legacy. Paik returned to Korea after the war, which also liberated the peninsula from Japanese rule, and joined the army of the US-controlled South. He headed the army’s intelligence unit that carried out a dramatic purge of Communists within the military, which followed a 1948 mutiny of soldiers led by members of the South Korean Workers’ Party. He died in Seoul, South Korea on July 10, 2020.

Park Won-soon (64) mayor of Seoul, South Korea, that country’s second-most powerful official and a potential presidential candidate. Park was found dead just days after a secretary in his office told the police that he had sexually harassed her since 2017. He vanished after leaving a cryptic message for his daughter. The body of the mayor was discovered on a hill in northern Seoul, several hours after his daughter had reported him missing, on July 9, 2020.


Jack Charlton (85) central defender who won the 1966 World Cup with England alongside his brother, Bobby, before coaching Ireland to its first major tournaments. Nicknamed “Big Jack,” and celebrated for his earthy “beer and cigarettes” image, Charlton was Footballer of the Year in England in 1967. He spent all his club career at Leeds from 1952–73, tying its all-time record of 773 appearances. He won every domestic honor, including the league title in 1969. Charlton received a diagnosis of lymphoma in 2019 and had suffered in recent years from dementia. He died in his native Northumberland in northeast England on July 10, 2020.

Brad Pye Jr. (89) sports director for four black Los Angeles radio stations—KGFJ, KJLH, KACE, and KDAY—for 21 years. Pye was also sports editor of the Los Angeles Sentinel, a black-owned and -operated newspaper in the city, for nearly 30 years. He wrote and spoke on sports news of the day with a black perspective and created personal catch-phrases during his radio broadcasts such as “switch reels” and “have a ball.” Most notably, Pye aggressively used his platform to advance equality among black athletes and journalists. He died in his sleep in Los Angeles, California on July 5, 2020.

Mike Ryan (78) backup catcher on the Boston Red Sox’s 1967 “Impossible Dream” team during a 35-year career in professional baseball. Ryan appeared in 636 games with the Red Sox, Phillies, and Pirates from 1964–74. He was Boston’s backup catcher for the American League championship team in 1967, going hitless in his only two World Series at-bats when the Red Sox lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. He had a .991 fielding percentage and threw out 43.6 per cent of runners trying to steal a base. Ryan later managed the Pirates’ Single-A affiliate and worked for the Phillies as a minor league catching instructor and Triple-A manager. He also was bullpen coach in Philadelphia for 16 years, including the 1980 World Series championship team. He died in his sleep in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire on July 7, 2020.

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