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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, September 12, 2020

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Kevin Dobson, actor who played two popular TV detectivesDiana Rigg, British TV, film, and stage actressSwami Agnivesh, Hindu monkRonald ('Khalis') Bell, cofounder of Kool & the GangGeorge Bizos, antiapartheid campaigner and Nelson Mandela’s lawyerHenrietta Boggs, former First Lady of Costa RidaLou Brock, champion base stealerGene Budig, last president of baseball's American LeagueTerence Conran, British designerSimeon Coxe, songwriter and singer with Silver Apples bandVasilis Dimitriou, Greek painter of movie billboardsNancy Dine with ex-husband, artist Jim DineChristiane Eda-Pierre, operatic coloratura sopranoForrest Fenn, antiquities dealerRonald Harwood, Oscar-winning screenwriterToots Hibbert, cofounder and star of reggae musicShere Hite, whose 'Hite Report' advanced sexual liberation of womenFlorence Howe, founded Feminist PressJack ('Murph the Surf') Murphy, thief and killerDr. Rebecca Shadowen, Kentucky infectious disease specialistTony Tanner, British actor, writer, and directorHenry van Ameringen, philanthropistJohn Wasson, UCLA scientist who collected meteoritesCarter Williams, helped to transform nursing homesBruce Williamson Jr., singer with Temptations

Art and Literature

Vasilis Dimitriou (84) artist who tried to keep the art of the painted Hollywood billboard from fading away, creating more than 8,000 works for Greek theaters that virtually chronicled the history of movies since World War II. Dimitriou was one of the last surviving movie billboard painters in Europe. A self-taught painter from a poor family that survived the Nazi invasion and Greece’s military junta, he began immortalizing legends of the silver screen at age 15. For more than 60 years he painted one or two billboards a week, inspired by studio handouts featuring stars ranging from Gary Cooper to Leonardo DiCaprio. Using homemade paints suffused with glue to keep the billboards from running in the rain, Dimitriou created romanticized images that seemed torn from the pages of a comic book. The billboards’ look, with brush strokes reminiscent of ‘40s noir, turned the Athinaion into the most recognizable movie house in Athens. Dimitriou died of Parkinson’s disease in Athens, Greece on September 6, 2020.

Nancy Dine (83) filmmaker, muse, and former wife of artist Jim Dine, whose documentary about her husband, Jim Dine: A Self Portrait on the Walls, earned her an Oscar nomination in 1996. In 1958 Nancy and Jim Dine were 21 and 22, married just a year when they moved to New York from Ohio and were immediately swept up in the art scene. Along with Allan Kaprow, Claes Oldenburg, and others, Jim Dine was an instigator of so-called Happenings, performance art pieces that both rattled and inspired the art world. In one instance, he doused himself in paint and pretended to drink it. Nancy was his project manager—part hostess, seamstress, aide-de-camp, and audience, whatever was necessary. She was also his favorite muse as he created more enduring work, sometimes affixed with objects, mostly tools, and sometimes body parts. Over the many decades of their marriage, Dine made hundreds of drawings and prints of his wife. The Dines separated in 1997 and divorced in 2007. Nancy Dine died of lung cancer in New York City on September 6, 2020.


Business and Science

Terence Conran (88) British designer, retailer, and restaurateur who built a furniture empire around the world; founded the Design Museum in London; and modernized the everyday lives of British people. Conran, who was knighted in 1983 for his services to design and retail, helped to break down class boundaries in Britain by broadening the lifestyle horizons of much of the population. He died at his 18th-century country home in Barton Court, west of London, England on September 12, 2020.

Forrest Fenn (90) antiquities dealer who gained fame after hiding a treasure chest filled with gold, jewels, and other valuables that drove hundreds of thousands of people to search remote corners of the US West for the riches. It was only in recent months that Fenn announced his treasure had supposedly been found in Wyoming by someone he didn’t name. He said he hid the loot 10 years ago in the Rocky Mountains and dropped clues to its whereabouts in a poem published in his 2010 autobiography. He had said he packed and repacked his bronze treasure chest for more than 10 years, sprinkling in gold dust and adding hundreds of rare gold coins and gold nuggets. Pre-Columbian animal figures went in, along with prehistoric “mirrors” of hammered gold, ancient Chinese faces carved from jade, and antique jewelry with rubies and emeralds. Fenn died of natural causes in Santa Fe, New Mexico on September 7, 2020.

Shere Hite (77) startled the world in the ‘70s with her ground-breaking reports on female sexuality and her conclusion that women did not need conventional sexual intercourse—or men, for that matter—to achieve sexual satisfaction. Hite's most famous work, The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality (1976), challenged assumptions about how women achieved orgasm. It was not necessarily through intercourse, Hite wrote. Women, she found, were quite capable of finding sexual pleasure on their own. However obvious her conclusions might seem today, they were seismic at the time and “sparked a revolution in the bedroom,” as Ms. magazine reported. For all the women who had faked orgasm during intercourse, the Hite Report helped to awaken their sexual power and was seen as advancing the liberation of women that was rapidly under way. The book became an instant best-seller and has been translated into a dozen languages. More than 48 million copies have been sold worldwide. Hite had been treated for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. She died in London, England on September 9, 2020.

Dr. Rebecca Shadowen (62) Kentucky infectious disease specialist hailed by Gov. Andy Beshear as a “front-line hero.” Shadowen led Med Center Health’s work in National Institutes of Health trials of patients’ treatment for the coronavirus. She had said she believed she contracted the virus after an elderly family member received care at home from an infected caregiver. Shadowen tested positive for the virus on May 13 and died in Bowling Green, Kentucky after a nearly four-month battle against COVID-19, on September 11, 2020.

Henry van Ameringen (89) low-key philanthropist, an early and major donor to LGBTQ and AIDS causes. Van Ameringen, whose father made a fortune in the fragrances business, gave away some $200 million and was among the first openly gay major donors to fund LGBTQ and AIDS-related organizations, both large and small, at a time before they enjoyed more mainstream support. The Van Ameringen family had a long history of giving, especially in the arts and mental health, and as a board member of the family foundation Henry van Ameringen furthered that, but he also established his own foundations that departed from the family’s core interests. He died in New York City on September 9, 2020.

John Wasson (86) chemist and passionate promoter of California science. Wasson chased after meteorites around the world and studied their crystalline interiors, hoping for new revelations on how the planets were formed. He amassed a trove of meteorites that eventually filled a large room on the third floor of UCLA’s Geology Building. It became the UCLA Meteorite Collection, the largest such display in the West. The centerpiece of the display is the Canyon Diablo Meteorite, a mammoth 357-pound chunk of iron and nickel that slammed to Earth roughly 50,000 years ago, carving out a 560-foot-deep crater outside what is now Flagstaff, Arizona. It is among 1,500 pieces of space debris in the collection, ranging from meteorites the size of a boulder to others no bigger than a grain of rice. Wasson died in Los Angeles, California on September 8, 2020.

Carter Williams (97) in journal articles, conferences, congressional hearings, and meetings with regulators, Williams enumerated the miseries of nursing home residents. She told stories like that of Miss Cohen, whose restrictive diet prohibited the chunk of challah she had eaten on Friday nights her whole life, causing Cohen to refuse food entirely; and of Mr. Denby, a former executive who lost his identity when he could no longer rise to greet his guests because he was tied to his chair. Williams amassed hundreds of accounts along those lines. They helped her to influence the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act, which required skilled nursing facilities to maintain the “physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being of each resident.” The law transformed common practices in nursing homes and strengthened a reform movement, some of whose arguments have been vindicated by the devastation of Covid-19. Williams died of a heart attack in Gloucester, Virginia on September 8, 2020.


Education

Florence Howe (91) activist, educator, and major contributor to American literature and culture who as cofounder of the Feminist Press helped to revive such acclaimed and influential works as Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wall-Paper and Rebecca Harding Davis’s Life in the Iron Mills. Howe was a key architect of the women’s studies movement. The Feminist Press is a literary nonprofit dedicated to promoting social justice and amplifying overlooked voices. When Howe began teaching in colleges and universities in the ‘50s, women’s studies was not an established academic discipline. In fact it was rare to find a course catalogue or syllabus that mentioned scholarship by women at all. With the Feminist Press, founded in 1970, she sought to diversify the materials used in schools around the US and beyond. She died of Parkinson's disease in New York City on September 12, 2020.


Law

George Bizos (92) antiapartheid campaigner and Nelson Mandela’s personal lawyer. Bizos, who came to South Africa as a 13-year-old fleeing the Nazi occupation of Greece, played a key role in the legal fight to end apartheid, the racist system used to oppress South Africa’s black majority for decades. He represented Mandela from his treason trial in 1964 until the former South African president’s death in 2013. Bizos was credited with getting Mandela to add the words “if needs be” to his speech from the dock in which he said he was prepared to die for his ideals. The addition was seen as an escape clause, avoiding any impression that Mandela was goading the court to impose the death penalty. Bizos died in Johannesburg, South Africa on September 9, 2020.

Jack ('Murph the Surf') Murphy (83) party-loving beach boy from Miami behind one of the biggest jewel heists in US history. Murphy gained membership in a surfing hall of fame and served time for murder. He was best known for a daring heist in 1964 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where he and other thieves stole the famed Star of India sapphire—bigger than a golf ball—along with other precious gems. The heist became the subject of a 1975 movie, Murph the Surf. Actor Don Stroud portrayed Murphy. The thieves didn’t get far, with Murphy and the others arrested two days later. Murphy was sentenced to three years in prison, and the Star of India was found in a locker at a Miami bus station. By his own account Murphy had been a concert violinist with the Pittsburgh Symphony at 18, a star athlete who won the University of Pittsburgh’s first tennis scholarship, and a two-time national surfing champion. Also a daring thief and self-promoter, an author, a prison missionary, and a TV evangelist, he created his own myths and let the news media and Hollywood embellish them. In 1969 he was convicted of killing Terry Rae Frank (24) and sentenced to life in prison. In 1970 he received a second life sentence, plus 20 years, for conspiracy and assault to commit robbery against Olive Wofford. Yet he was paroled in 1986 after a religious awakening. Murphy died of heart and organ failure in Crystal River, Florida on September 12, 2020.


News and Entertainment

Ronald ('Khalis') Bell (68) cofounder, singer, and producer of the group Kool & the Gang, which grew from jazz roots in the ‘60s to become one of the major groups of the ‘70s, blending jazz, funk, rhythm and blues, and pop. After a brief downturn, the group enjoyed a return to stardom in the ’80s. Bell started the group with his brother Robert (“Kool”) Bell, along with neighborhood friends Dennis (“D. T.”) Thomas, Robert (“Spike”) Mickens, Charles Smith, George Brown, and Ricky West. Kool & the Gang won a Grammy in 1978 for their work on the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever. As a self-taught musician, Bell created his own signature sound using horn lines, bass, and synthesizer. He wrote and composed some of the group’s biggest songs including “Celebration,” “Cherish,” “Jungle Boogie,” and “Summer Madness,” which was used in several films including Rocky and Baby Boy. Bell was working on a series of collaborations including a solo endeavor, “Kool Baby Brotha Band.” He died in the US Virgin Islands on September 9, 2020.

Simeon Coxe (82) songwriter, singer, and inventor whose psychedelic-era band Silver Apples was one of the first to put a synthesizer at the center of its music. Silver Apples was a two-man band: Dan Taylor on drums and Coxe, billing himself simply as Simeon, playing a protosynthesizer that he had built himself and that his label named the Simeon. With its debut album, called simply Silver Apples in 1968, the duo foreshadowed the minimalist repetition, drones, dissonances, and unearthly electronic sounds of krautrock bands like Can, Suicide’s electropunk, and countless synth-pop and electronic dance music efforts to come. Coxe died of pulmonary fibrosis in Fairhope, Alabama on September 8, 2020.

Kevin Dobson (77) actor best known for playing a pair of detectives on TV—Telly Savalas’s protégé on Kojak and Michelle Lee’s love interest on the primetime soap opera Knots Landing. Dobson landed his first TV role in 1968, playing a governor on the ABC daytime soap opera One Life to Live. He later played numerous characters on crime and medical series like The Mod Squad, Emergency!, and Cannon. He became a more familiar face to viewers in 1973 as Detective Bobby Crocker, a sidekick of Savalas’s Lt. Theo Kojak, on Kojak, the popular crime drama about Manhattan detectives. Four years after that show’s run came to an end in 1978, Dobson was cast as Detective Mack MacKenzie for the fourth season of Knots Landing, a CBS soap opera revolving around married couples in suburban Los Angeles. He remained with the show until it was canceled in 1993. Dobson died in French Camp, California of an autoimmune deficiency that led to heart failure, on September 6, 2020.

Christiane Eda-Pierre (88) coloratura soprano, among France’s first black opera stars, whose New York résumé included a performance seen by some 150,000 people in 1980. Born on the Caribbean island of Martinique, Eda-Pierre made her debut in 1958 in Nice and was soon a regular on French opera and recital stages and on radio in the operas of Mozart, Bizet, and French Baroque composer Jean-Philippe Rameau and in contemporary works. In 1966 she made her American debut at the Lyric Opera of Chicago as Leïla in Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers, and by the mid-‘70s she was turning up on New York stages. She made her Metropolitan Opera debut in April 1980 as Konstanze in Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio, a role that includes a notoriously difficult aria, “Martern aller Arten.” Eda-Pierre died in Deux-Sèvres, in western France, on September 6, 2020.

Ronald Harwood (85) British author, playwright, and screenwriter who earned three Oscar nominations and won for best adapted screenplay in 2003 for The Pianist. Harwood was one of Britain’s leading playwrights in the latter half of the 20th century. His plays included The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold, adapted from a novel by Evelyn Waugh; After the Lions, about French stage actress Sarah Bernhardt; and, perhaps most notably, The Dresser, which opened on Broadway in 1981 and received a Tony nomination for best play in ’82. Like many of Harwood’s works, The Dresser explored the world of performers and the theater. It centers on an aging Shakespearean actor and his backstage dresser. Harwood’s screenplay for the 1983 film version of The Dresser, which starred Albert Finney as the actor and Tom Courtenay in the title role, earned him his first Oscar nomination. Harwood died in Sussex, England on September 8, 2020.

Toots Hibbert (77) frontman of Toots & the Maytals, one of reggae’s founders who gave the music its name and later helped to make it an international movement through such classics as “Pressure Drop,” “Monkey Man,” and “Funky Kingston.” An ex-boxer, Hibbert was a bandleader, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and showman whose concerts sometimes ended with dozens of audience members dancing with him on stage. He was also, in the opinion of many, reggae’s greatest singer. His raspy tenor was likened to the voice of Otis Redding and made him more accessible to American listeners than many reggae artists. Original songs such as “Funky Kingston” and “54-46 That’s My Number” had the emotion and arrangements familiar to soul and gospel fans. Hibbert even recorded an album of American hits, Toots in Memphis, which came out in 1988. He had been in a medically induced coma since being admitted to intensive care after complaints of having breathing difficulties and was awaiting results from a COVID-19 test after showing symptoms. He died in Kingston, Jamaica on September 11, 2020.

Diana Rigg (82) British actress whose career stretched from the iconic ‘60s spy series The Avengers to fantasy juggernaut Game of Thrones. Rigg starred in The Avengers as secret agent Emma Peel alongside Patrick Macnee’s bowler-hatted John Steed. The pair were an impeccably dressed duo who fought villains and traded quips on a show whose mix of adventure and humor was long influential. Rigg also starred in the 1969 James Bond thriller On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as Tracy di Vicenzo, the only woman ever to marry, albeit briefly, Agent 007 (played by George Lazenby in his only appearance as Bond). In later life Rigg played Olenna Tyrell—the formidable “Queen of Thorns”—on Game of Thrones, receiving an Emmy nomination for the role. Her other TV roles included the Duchess of Buccleuch on the period drama Victoria. She also starred alongside her daughter, Rachael Stirling, on the British sitcom Detectorists. Rigg spent several years in the ‘60s as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Co. and combined screen work with a major stage career. She died of cancer in London, England on September 10, 2020.

Tony Tanner (88) versatile actor, writer, and director whose biggest Broadway success was directing Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 1982, a production that helped to make that musical a staple of American community and high school theater. Tanner had careers in his native Britain and in the US, with his staging of Joseph perhaps the high point. A telling of the biblical story of Joseph, it had started out in the ‘60s as a school project of Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) and Tim Rice (lyrics) and had been performed regularly in Britain and the US over the years. But Tanner’s Broadway version elevated its profile considerably. The show started Off-Broadway at the Entermedia Theater in the East Village before transferring to Broadway, where it ran for more than 18 months and earned Tanner two Tony Award nominations, for best direction of a musical and best choreography. He died in Los Angeles, California on September 8, 2020.

Bruce Williamson Jr. (49) when Williamson was a child growing up in Los Angeles and singing gospel music at local churches and on the radio, he was billed as “the little boy with the big voice.” Years later, when he’d become a professional singer and a member of the Temptations, the longtime rhythm and blues hitmakers, Williamson acquired a new nickname. A large but nimble man, a shouter who flirted with audiences, he was known as “Big Sexy.” He sang on the Temptations albums Back to Front and Still Here and toured the world with the group. The Temptations have had many members since they scored hit after hit (“My Girl,” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” “Get Ready,” “Just My Imagination”) in the ‘60s and ’70s for Gordy Records, a subsidiary of Motown. Williamson died of the coronavirus in Las Vegas, Nevada after he contracted pneumonia, on September 6, 2020.


Politics and Military

Henrietta Boggs (102) adventurous Alabama girl who in 1941 married José Figueres Ferrer (died 1990), a Costa Rican coffee farmer, and was that country's First Lady when he became president of a governing junta after an exile and a revolution in the late '40s. Boggs helped to win Costa Rica's female and minority citizens the right to vote. Her husband established a democracy and enacted economic reforms modeled on those of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Depression. Under pressure from his wife, he granted women and Afro-Costa Ricans the right to vote. The marriage ended in 1951. Born during the influenza pandemic of 1918, Boggs died of the novel coronavirus in Montgomery, Alabama on September 9, 2020.


Society and Religion

Swami Agnivesh (80) longtime campaigner against child labor and indentured servitude in India. A pacifist Hindu monk who renounced worldly possessions and relations at a young age, Agnivesh led a decades-long crusade against village money-lenders, landlords, and brick kiln owners who forced landless, debt-ridden farmers into bonded labor or indentured servitude. In 1981 he founded the Bandhua Mukti Morcha, or the Bonded Labour Liberation Front, which he headed until his death. From 1994–2004 he was chairman of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery. Agnivesh was a champion of many social justice causes and a trusted mediator when conflicts arose. He fought on behalf of tribal communities that had few rights to land ownership even though they populated much of the country’s forests. In the ‘80s, when environmentalists objected to settling bonded laborers on protected forest land, he helped to defuse the situation. Agnivesh died of multiple organ failure in New Delhi, India on September 11, 2020.


Sports

Lou Brock (81) Hall of Famer, one of baseball’s lead-off hitters and base stealers who helped the St. Louis Cardinals to win three pennants and two World Series in the ‘60s. The man later nicknamed the Running Redbird and the Base Burglar arrived in St. Louis in June 1964, swapped from the Cubs for pitcher Ernie Broglio in what became one of baseball’s most lopsided trades. Brock stole 938 bases in his career, including 118 in 1974—both of those were big league records until they were broken by Rickey Henderson. Along with starter Bob Gibson and center fielder Curt Flood, Brock was an anchor for St. Louis as its combination of speed, defense, and pitching made it a top team in the ’60s and a symbol of the National League's more aggressive style at the time in comparison to the American League. The Cards were World Series champions in 1964 and ‘67 and lost to the Detroit Tigers in seven games in ’68. Brock lost a leg from diabetes in recent years and was diagnosed with cancer in 2017. He died in St. Louis, Missouri on September 6, 2020.

Gene Budig (81) educator and baseball fan from small-town Nebraska who became head of three major universities and the last president of the American League. Budig succeeded Bobby Brown as AL president in 1994 and augmented his staff with Larry Doby, the first black player in the AL. Budig held the job until baseball owners abolished league presidents under a reorganization urged by former Comissioner Bud Selig in 2000. By then, with interleague play already a part of the game and umpires under the control of the commissioner’s office, it was clear those longtime positions were being phased out. Budig died of fatty liver disease in Charleston, South Carolina on September 8, 2020.


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