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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, August 22, 2020

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Mercedes Barcha, muse and widow of Nobel laureateJeanette Carlson, antiapartheid activistRay Cave, former managing editor of 'Time' magazineCharles Cook, 9/11 volunteerBen Cross, actor known for two roles generations apartFrank Cullotta, mobster turned government witnessChi Chi DeVayne, dancer on 'Ru-Paul's Drag Race'Justin Townes Earle, country and blues singer-songwriterAmer Fakhoury, US restaurant owner detained in LebanonRon Gorchov, abstract painterSlade Gorton, Washington state politicianDale Hawerchuk, Canadian hockey starPandit Jasraj, Indian classical singerWalter Lure, rocker turned stockbrokerIstvan Rabovsky, Hungarian ballet dancer, with first wife Nora KovachSir Ken Robinson, British teacher, author, and lecturerJack Sherman, guitarist for Red Hot Chili PeppersClaire Shulman, first female borough president of Queens, NYHal Singer, saxophonist and bandleaderCathy Smith, convicted of involuntary manslaughter in death of John Belushi

Art and Literature

Mercedes Barcha (87) was credited by her late husband, Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez, with making it possible for him to write his masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude. Barcha married García Márquez in 1958 and managed the couple’s finances through some hard times while the author wrote. The Colombian couple had moved to Mexico in 1961. García Márquez died in 2014. Barcha was praised by Colombian President Iván Duque, Mexican authorities, and prominent figures in Latin American art and culture for her role as a muse and lifelong companion to her husband. The celebrated writer was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1982 and was considered one of the most important Spanish-language writers of all time. Barcha had been suffering from respiratory problems and died in Mexico City, Mexico on August 22, 2020.

Ron Gorchov (90) abstract painter widely known for vividly colored, saddle-shaped canvases that curve away from the wall and warp the viewer’s perception. Gorchov attracted a broad following among younger painters, particularly in the last 15 years, when his work enjoyed a new prominence. He was one of many painters who, in the ‘70s, ignored rumors of the medium’s death while rejecting the scale, slickness, and purity of Minimalist abstraction. He died of lung cancer in Red Hook, Brooklyn, New York on August 18, 2020.

Business and Science

Amer Fakhoury (57) American who was jailed for months in Lebanon and later released over decades-old murder and torture charges that he denied. Fakhoury had been visiting family in Lebanon in September 2019 when he was detained. Lebanese officials accused him of torturing prisoners in the ‘90s at a prison run by the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army. Fakhoury’s family and lawyer said he worked at the former Khiam Prison but had no direct contact with inmates and was never involved in any interrogation or torture. They said he was illegally detained. Last March, a judge dismissed the charges after US officials worked to free him. They felt his detention was led by the militant Hezbollah organization, which the South Lebanon Army opposed. Fakhoury, a restaurant owner in Dover, New Hampshire, died of Stage 4 lymphoma in Boston, Massachusetts on August 17, 2020.


Sir Ken Robinson (70) advocate of stimulating the creativity of students that has too often been squelched by schools in the service of conformity. A British-born teacher, author, and lecturer, Robinson viewed large school systems as rigid and unresponsive, squeezing the creative juices out of children by overemphasizing standardized testing and subjects like mathematics and science over the arts and humanities. He consulted with governments and schools around the world, conducted workshops, and wrote books, including Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative (2001) and You, Your Child & School: Navigate Your Way to the Best Education (2018), with Lou Aronica. Robinson preached that schools needed not only to broaden their curricula but also to support teachers as creative professionals and to personalize learning by breaking large classrooms—artificial environments that invite boredom, he said—into small groups. Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003, Robinson died of cancer in London, England on August 21, 2020.


Jeanette Carlson (91) antiapartheid activist who with her husband fought against the racist South African government and with her family was eventually deported. In her native South Africa, Carlson was a leader of the Black Sash, an organization of white women that protested the disenfranchisement of the black majority. Its members wore a black sash across their chests, a sign of mourning for the death of constitutional rights, including the right to vote, for nonwhites at the hands of the government. Carlson led one of the Black Sash chapters in Johannesburg, rallying against apartheid nearly every week outside courthouses and on roadsides. She expanded her chapter’s work to include educational seminars and pro bono legal work and joined forces with her husband, Joel Carlson (died 2001), a civil rights lawyer, who used political trials to expose the government’s practices of secretly detaining and torturing black people who were caught without the identification papers required of them and political prisoners whose only crime was opposing the government. Joel Carlson represented Nelson and Winnie Mandela, among other prominent opponents of apartheid. Jeanette Carlson died of a bone marrow disorder in Silver Spring, Maryland on August 18, 2020.

Frank Cullotta (81) former mobster turned government witness who had a cameo role in the 1995 movie Casino and later was a Las Vegas mob museum tour guide. In the Martin Scorsese film, Cullotta had a brief appearance playing the role of a hit-man who carries out several murders. In real life, he arrived in Las Vegas from his Chicago hometown in 1979 and later admitted to killing a former friend and grand jury witness suspected of informing on a money exchange scam he was working on. Cullotta formed a burglary group known as the Hole in the Wall gang that gained entry to homes and buildings by drilling through the exterior walls and ceilings. In July 1981 he and five others were arrested after a robbery and charged with burglary, conspiracy to commit burglary, attempted grand larceny, and possession of burglary tools. While in prison, Cullotta was approached by the FBI and agreed to testify against his former mob boss. Cullotta died of the coronavirus in Las Vegas, Nevada on August 20, 2020.

News and Entertainment

Ray Cave (91) as managing editor of Time magazine for eight years, Cave oversaw a revamping of its stodgy look, introduced new sections, expanded its lifestyle coverage, and promoted single-subject issues like “Children of War.” He became Time's top editor in the fall of 1977, when the magazine was still a journalistic force, unimpeded by competition from the Internet. Time was the leading newsweekly when weekly magazines were still flourishing. Under Cave there were more lifestyle cover articles on subjects like cats, ice cream, and cholesterol; new sections like American Scene, Computers, Video, and Food; and, in 1982, the anointing of the Machine of the Year (the personal computer), a departure from the traditional Man or Woman of the Year (now Person of the Year) issue. Single-subject issues included in-depth looks at Japan and prisons. Cave died in Boothbay, Maine on August 17, 2020.

Ben Cross (72) British actor best known to one generation for playing a determined runner in the 1981 Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire and to another audience decades later for his role in a reboot of Star Trek. Chariots of Fire tells the true story of two track stars representing Britain in the 1924 Paris Olympics who are vying for medals and world records but also for something greater. Cross played Harold Abrahams, a competitive athlete and a son of Jewish immigrants who fights anti-Semitism as a Cambridge student while seeking visibility in Anglo-Saxon society. In 2009 Cross appeared in the Star Trek reboot playing Spock’s father, Sarek. He died in Vienna, Austria of causes unrelated to Covid-19, on August 18, 2020.

Chi Chi DeVayne (34) self-proclaimed Southern bayou princess who dazzled viewers of Ru-Paul’s drag show competitions with impassioned lip-sync performances and head-over-heels dance routines. DeVayne competed in Season 8 of Ru-Paul’s Drag Race in 2016 and on Season 3 of Ru-Paul’s Drag Race All Stars in ‘18, gaining a following for delivering splits and high kicks on the runway. She died of scleroderma in Shreveport, Louisiana on August 20, 2020.

Justin Townes Earle (38) singer-songwriter, a leading performer of American roots music known for his introspective and haunting style. Earle was the son of country star Steve Earle. A conscious throwback to old-time country and blues music, the younger Earle released such albums as Harlem River Blues and The Saint of Lost Causes and was named Emerging Act of the Year at the 2009 Americana Honors & Awards ceremony. He wrote often of loneliness, flight, and forgiveness, as in the mid-tempo rocker “I Wanna Be a Stranger.” He died on August 20, 2020.

Pandit Jasraj (90) Indian classical vocalist who mesmerized audiences around the world. Jasraj’s voice and multioctave range made him one of the most famous performers in Indian classical music. An exponent of the north Indian style of Hindustani classical music, he was the last surviving member of a generation of virtuoso singers. He was also a teacher, instructing generations of musicians in the nuances of the 19th century style known as Mewati gharana. Indian history is replete with stories of musicians who were said to summon rains or light lamps by singing ragas. Jasraj was one such artist. During an early morning concert in Varanasi in 1996 on the grounds of the Sankat Mochan temple, he was immersed in the Todi raga when a deer bounded up to the stage and stayed to listen until the end. Jasraj died of cardiac arrest in New Jersey on August 17, 2020.

Walter Lure (71) played rhythm guitar for the Heartbreakers, a pioneering band of the ‘70s New York punk scene, but later had a second career on Wall Street. The Heartbreakers were together for a brief three years and recorded only one studio album, LAMF, released in 1977 on the British label Track Records. But among the bands that clustered around downtown clubs like Max’s Kansas City and CBGB during the early punk years, the Heartbreakers had an outsize reputation. In the early ‘80s, through his father’s connections, Lure got a Wall Street job running financial data for a computing company. That led to a position at a brokerage firm overseeing a team of 125 and a long career in finance that lasted until he retired, in 2015. He died of liver cancer in Flushing, Queens, New York on August 21, 2020.

Istvan Rabovsky (90) leading Hungarian ballet dancer who stunned audiences in the West with his bravura in 1953 after he and his first wife, ballerina Nora Kovach, became the first highly publicized dance defectors from the Communist bloc. Trained in Hungary and the Soviet Union, Rabovsky and Kovach created a sensation with their technical virtuosity and an energetic style virtually unknown to Western audiences until the Bolshoi Ballet appeared in London and New York in 1956 and ’59. The Cold War context and headlines provided Rabovsky and Kovach with a warm welcome. They had defected from a guest performance in East Berlin in 1953 by taking a train to West Berlin from a subway station under their hotel. Kovach died in 2009. Rabovsky was hospitalized on August 17 with a gastric ailment and died the next day in New York City, on August 18, 2020.

Jack Sherman (64) guitarist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers who was featured on their debut album. Sherman replaced founding guitarist Hillel Slovak on the band’s 1984 debut, The Red Hot Chili Peppers. He helped to write songs for the band’s next album, Freaky Styley, but had been replaced by a returning Slovak by the time it came out in 1985. Sherman also contributed to The Abbey Road EP (1988) and Mother’s Milk (1989). After his time with the Chili Peppers, Sherman played on albums by other artists, including Bob Dylan. He died on August 18, 2020.

Hal Singer (100) tenor saxophonist and bandleader whose 1948 hit record “Corn Bread” helped to establish a new sound in popular music. Singer’s saxophone carried him through a long career that was rooted in jazz but also paralleled the birth of rhythm and blues and rock-’n’-roll in the ‘40s and ’50s. He shared stages with the likes of Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, and Ray Charles and earned the nickname by which he became known professionally, Cornbread, with “Corn Bread,” an instrumental that topped the R&B charts and put him on the musical map. Singer died in Chatou, France, a suburb of Paris, on August 18, 2020.

Cathy Smith (73) woman who in June 1982 admitted, during an interview with the National Enquirer (for which she was paid $15,000), to injecting actor John Belushi with a lethal combination of heroin and cocaine, or speedball, three months earlier. The article resulted in a renewed investigation and, in 1983, Smith's indictment by a grand jury in Los Angeles County on one count of second-degree murder and 13 counts of administering a dangerous drug. Before Belushi’s death, Smith occasionally sang backup on records and traveled with hard-partying groups like the Band and the Rolling Stones. She pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter and three drug counts. Smith was paroled after serving 15 months of a three-year sentence and deported back to her native Canada. She died in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada on August 16, 2020.

Politics and Military

Slade Gorton (92) politician from Washington state, a US Senate Republican leader before he was ousted by the growing Seattle-area liberal electorate in 2000. Gorton was the Chicago-born scion of the New England frozen fish family. His 40-year-plus political career began in 1958 when he won a legislative seat soon after arriving in Seattle as a freshly minted lawyer. He was state attorney general, a three-term US senator, and member of the 9/11 Commission—the last of which he considered the singular achievement of his life in public service. Gorton was known for his aggressive consumer-protection battles as attorney general and for going to federal court to end SeaWorld’s capture of orcas in Puget Sound, for his defeat in 1980 of the state’s legendary Democrat Sen. Warren Magnuson at the height of his power, and for his work on the GOP inner team in the US Senate. He died of Parkinson’s disease in Seattle, Washington on August 19, 2020.

Claire Shulman (94) first woman to rise to Queens borough president, taking office when her predecessor and boss resigned in a corruption scandal, then won election after election over 16 years as she sought to restore the office’s integrity. Shulman was deputy to Donald R. Manes, borough president for 14 years and one of New York's most powerful politicians, when he resigned in February 1986 in the wake of scandal and a suicide attempt. He had been found in his car bleeding heavily from self-inflicted slashes on his wrist and leg in January. Shulman died of lung cancer in Beechhurst, Queens, New York on August 16, 2020.

Society and Religion

Charles Cook (79) when the planes crashed into the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001, Cook, a 60-year-old retiree living in Harlem, pulled on work clothes and headed downtown. Ground zero was nearly 10 miles from his home on West 146th Street, and all public transportation was shut down. So he walked. He was outraged by the attacks and wanted to help. An Army veteran and a former conductor for the New York subway system, he was familiar with chaos and was not afraid to see dismembered bodies. When he arrived, he was put to work, digging through the rubble by hand in search of people who might still be alive. With hundreds of other volunteers, he spent three months at ground zero, sleeping on the floor of a nearby Brooks Brothers store. Cook often said his respiratory problems after 9/11 were a small price to pay for the rewards he found in helping others. In 2005 he volunteered in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, one of the deadliest storms in American history, left that city in ruins. Cook died in New York City of pancreatitis and gall bladder disease on August 19, 2020.


Dale Hawerchuk (57) Canadian hockey phenom who became the face of the Winnipeg Jets en route to the Hall of Fame. A teenage star, Hawerchuk was drafted first overall by the Jets in 1981. He played nine seasons in Winnipeg and five in Buffalo before finishing up his distinguished 16-year NHL career with stints in St. Louis and Philadelphia. He had 518 goals and 1,409 points in 1,188 regular-season games and added 30 more goals and 99 assists in 97 playoff games. The five-time All-Star had a knack of getting to loose pucks, then creating something out of nothing. Hawerchuk could breeze past opponents and knew what to do when he neared the goal. The longest-serving coach in the Barrie Colts history, he was going into his 10th season. He had led the Colts to the playoffs in six of his nine previous seasons. He died of stomach cancer in Barrie, Canada on August 18, 2020.

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