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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, November 21, 2020

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Soumitra Chatterjee, Indian actorDaniel Cordier, operative of WWII French ResistanceDrew S. Days 3rd, first black to head Justice Department's civil rights divisionDena Dietrich, TV's 'Mother Nature'Ian Finkel, 'world's greatest xylophonist'Dr. Mary Fowkes, NYC neuropathologistArthur E. Imperatore Sr., NYC entrepreneurBetty Jones, modern dancer mentored by José LimónLeonard Kamsler, golf photographerJan Morris, British transgender authorFred (“Curly”) Morrison, '50s Chicago Bears playerVincent Reffet, French stuntman and BASE jumperMichel Robin, French theater, film, and TV actorJake Scott, Miami Dolphins 1972 MVPSheldon H. Solow, Manhattan real estate developerBruce Swedien, recording engineer who worked with Michael JacksonJudith Jarvis Thomson, former MIT philosophy professorBen Watkins, young culinary star

Art and Literature

Leonard Kamsler (85) photojournalist whose award-winning pictures of professional golf for nearly 50 years pushed the envelope of sports strobe photography as he amassed a trove of more than 200,000 images on the Professional Golfers Association Tour. Beginning in 1963, Kamsler covered 40 consecutive Masters tournaments, 17 PGA championships, and 22 US Opens, freezing moments of action in indelible images. His technical innovations in high-speed strobe photography broke down the complete arc of a golf swing from beginning to end in stop-motion exposures—from address to backswing to contact to follow-through—each position of the hands, arms, feet, legs, torso, head, and club contained in a single sequential image suggestive of a pinwheel (see above). Kamsler died of organ failure in Bethel, New York on November 18, 2020.

Jan Morris (94) journalist, historian, world traveler, and fiction writer who in middle age became a pioneer of the transgender movement. The British author lived as James Morris until the early ‘70s, when he underwent surgery at a clinic in Casablanca, then renamed herself Jan Morris. Her best-selling memoir, Conundrum, which came out in 1974, continued the path of such earlier works as Christine Jorgensen’s A Personal Autobiography in presenting her decision as natural and liberating. Morris died in Wales on November 20, 2020.

Business and Science

Dr. Mary Fowkes (66) neuropathologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan whose autopsies of Covid-19 victims early in the pandemic discovered serious damage in multiple organs—a finding that led to the successful use of higher doses of blood thinners to treat patients. When Fowkes and her team began their autopsies, little was known about the novel coronavirus, believed to be largely a respiratory disease. The first few dozen autopsies revealed that Covid-19 affected the lungs and other vital organs and that the virus probably traveled through the body in the endothelial cells, which line the interior of blood vessels. in an interview on the CBS News program 60 Minutes, little more than two weeks before her death, Fowkes said that blood clots found in the brains of Covid victims suggested that there had been strokes. She died of a heart attack in Katonah, New York, in Westchester County, on November 15, 2020.

Arthur E. Imperatore Sr. (95) entrepreneur who parlayed a trucking fortune into a ferryboat operation that grew to be a critical link in New York's transit network. Imperatore steered the ferry service, New York Waterway, through legal and financial straits and disputes with government officials. But he also reveled in moments of glory, when his boats rode to the rescue on September 11, 2001 and in '09 when a commercial jet splashed down in the Hudson River. He died of progressive kidney failure in New York City on November 18, 2020.

Sheldon H, Solow (92) Manhattan real estate developer who built a commercial and residential empire from scratch over 50 years but left his son to finish his crowning project, a line of towers down the East River from the United Nations complex. Solow built scores of high-end rental structures, including his signature Solow Building at 9 West 57th Street, a 50-story office tower whose front-and-back glass façades are steep concave slopes. But his most ambitious undertaking was his unfinished $4 billion project to transform the 9.2-acre site of a former Con Edison power plant on the East River into seven glass towers, with 4.8 acres of gardens, lawns, and esplanades. The site, just south of the UN headquarters, was the largest undeveloped, privately owned plot in Manhattan. Solow's first (and only) building on the site, a 42-story condominium-and-rental tower on the west side of First Avenue between 39th and 40th Streets, was finished in 2018. He died in New York City on November 17, 2020.

Ben Watkins (14) rising young culinary star who appeared in the sixth season of MasterChef Junior on Fox in 2018 at age 11. Ben was one of six Chicago-area children to appear on the program that year. In the show’s premiere episode, which had 40 contestants between the ages of 8–13 competing for 24 slots and a chance at a $100,000 prize in the finale, Ben snagged the final white apron of the night by making a peach cobbler with whipped cream and caramel sauce. He placed in the top 18 on the show and became a fan favorite, especially as viewers learned of his family history. In September 2017, Ben’s father, Michael Watkins, shot and killed Ben’s mother, Leila Edwards, before killing himself in Gary, Indiana. Ben’s grandmother and uncle became his legal guardians. Ben had expressed his hopes of becoming a chef and had dreamed of having his own restaurant, much like his father, who had opened Big Ben’s Bodacious Barbecue & Deli in Gary; the restaurant was named after Ben. The boy had also worked at the restaurant, running the cash register, taking orders, and selling his own homemade cookies, brownies, cinnamon rolls, and banana bread. Not long after his 13th birthday, Ben was diagnosed with angiomatoid fibrous histiocytoma. He died on November 16, 2020.


Judith Jarvis Thomson (91) created new fields of inquiry in philosophy through her writings on abortion and a moral thought experiment that she called the “Trolley Problem.” Thomson, who taught philosophy for most of her career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, made her imagination her most powerful intellectual tool. She invented her best known hypothetical case in “A Defense of Abortion,” a 1971 essay widely regarded as a classic in contemporary American philosophy. Thomson died in Cambridge, Massachusetts on November 20, 2020.


Drew S. Days 3rd (79) first black to head the civil rights division of the Justice Department who later became solicitor general under President Bill Clinton. Born in the segregated South, Days went to Yale Law School, fought for civil rights through the courts, and enjoyed a meteoric career that might have led to a seat on the US Supreme Court if not for his legal opinion in an obscure child pornography case. Days died of dementia in East Haven, Connecticut on November 15, 2020.

News and Entertainment

Soumitra Chatterjee (85) legendary Indian actor with more than 200 movies to his name and famed for his work with Oscar-winning director Satyajit Ray. Chatterjee had a career in Bengali-language films that spanned 60 years and was best known for his work with Ray, one of the world’s most influential Indian directors, whose films garnered critical acclaim and won multiple awards worldwide, putting India on the global cinema map. Chatterjee’s films with Ray that won global recognition include Apur Sansar (The World of Apu), the third in the director’s internationally recognized Apu Trilogy; Charulata (The Lonely Wife); Aranyer Din Ratri (Days and Nights in the Forest); Ghare Baire (The Home & the World); and Ganashatru (Enemy of the People). He died of the coronavirus in the city of Kolkata, India in West Bengal state, on November 15, 2020.

Dena Dietrich (91) actress who brought serenity and the power of Mother Nature to American TV viewers in the ‘70s. Dietrich was in her early 40s in 1971 when she filmed the first of the TV commercials that made her image famous. Dressed as a goddess in a white gown, wearing fresh flowers in her hair, she strolled serenely through forests and fields, stopping to dip her pinkie into a small bowl for a taste of “my sweet, creamy butter.” When an offscreen voice informed her that what she was tasting was actually Chiffon margarine, the goddess snapped, declaring in a threatening voice, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!” During the ‘80s and ’90s Dietrich had guest roles on dozens of series, including the comedies Murphy Brown, Mad About You, and Life with Lucy and the dramas NYPD Blue and Thirtysomething. She died in Los Angeles, California on November 21, 2020.

Ian Finkel (72) self-proclaimed “world's greatest xylophonist.” Finkel’s career took him from the borscht belt resorts in the Catskills to playing with the New York Philharmonic. He also worked as a composer and musical arranger for stars like Sid Caesar, Tito Puente, and Ginger Rogers. As a percussionist, Finkel worked in orchestras that accompanied Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Diana Ross, and Tony Bennett. His father was Fyvush Finkel (died 2016), a Yiddish theater actor who also appeared in films and on TV. Ian Finkel died in New York City from complications of Covid-19. He tested positive in March while hospitalized for a stroke, spent seven months in hospitals and a rehabilitation center, then returned home earlier this month, only to die suddenly after a respiratory infection, on November 16, 2020.

Betty Jones (94) dancer known for memorable performances as an original member of José Limón’s (died 1972) famed company and later a respected dance teacher. Jones was 23 and relatively new to modern dance in August 1949, when she originated the role of the Desdemona character, known as the Moor’s Wife, in Limón’s take on Othello, which he called The Moor’s Pavane. The work, using only four dancers, caused a sensation when it premiered at the American Dance Festival in New London, Connecticut. The piece, Limón’s best-known work, became a staple for the young company, and Jones performed it all over the world. As a teacher at the Juilliard School and, for 40 years, at the American Dance Festival (which relocated to North Carolina in 1978), Jones passed on the techniques developed by Limón—who thought of the body as an orchestra and emphasized movement of its individual parts to create a harmonious whole—and enhanced them with her own. She died in Honolulu, Hawaii on November 17, 2020.

Michel Robin (90) award-winning French actor who became a familiar face from his roles in more than 100 movies and TV shows. From 1958–64 Robin was part of a theater company near Lyon led by playwright Roger Planchon before moving on to the Renaud-Barrault company in Paris. His career in theater spanned over 50 years, and he distinguished himself in classics by authors like Molière, Chekhov, and Brecht. Robin was especially fond of Samuel Beckett and played Lucky in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in 1970 and, in ‘80, Clov in his Endgame. In 1994 Robin joined the Comédie-Française and became a staple of its productions for 15 years, often playing the classic supporting role of elderly servants. Starting in the late ‘60s, he also appeared in movies by several directors, including Costa-Gavras, Claude Chabrol, and Alain Resnais. Robin died of Covid-19 on November 18, 2020.

Bruce Swedien (86) recording engineer whose Grammy-winning work in the studio with Quincy Jones on Michael Jackson’s classic solo albums Off the Wall, Thriller, and Bad helped to define the sound of pop music in the ‘80s and beyond. Swedien engineered crucial jazz and soul records by artists including the Ramsey Lewis Trio, Rev. Cleophus Robinson, the Chi-Lites, Herbie Hancock, and Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers. As a producer, he oversaw New Edition’s 1986 hit “Once in a Lifetime Groove,” several solo albums by Doobie Bros. singer Michael McDonald, much of actor David Hasselhoff’s musical oeuvre, and Rene and Angela’s “Your Smile.” But it is for his ground-breaking engineering work for Jones and Jackson that he was best known. He died on November 16, 2020.

Politics and Military

Daniel Cordier (100) one of the last surviving operatives of the wartime French Resistance, who parachuted into his country from exile to run networks of agents and maintain covert radio communications in a cat-and-mouse duel with Hitler’s Gestapo. After the war, Cordier distanced himself from his activities in occupied France and became a successful modern art collector and Parisian dealer. But the war years drew him back as a historian to defend the record of Jean Moulin, Gen. Charles de Gaulle’s most senior representative in occupied France and organizer of the French Resistance. Cordier was a personal assistant to Moulin in 1942–43. The Nazi occupation left deep scars in the French psyche, combining the humiliation of military defeat and the shame of collaboration with the heroic myths and chronicles of the Resistance. In 1944 Cordier was honored in France as a companion of the liberation, a title awarded to about 1,000 Resistance figures. He died in Cannes, France on November 20, 2020.


Fred (“Curly”) Morrison (94) in 1950 the Chicago Bears had just drafted Morrison 10th overall, but the $6,000 salary was not enough for him and his wife, Sophie, who was pregnant. Coach George Halas agreed, giving Morrison an extra $1,000, but deducted it after the season for equipment costs. But Morrison adapted, and his play on the field led to opportunities off it. After retiring, he started careers in media and as a sports executive. He was a two-time NFL champion and the 1950 Rose Bowl Most Valuable Player. He died in Murrieta, California after developing complications from hip surgery six weeks earlier, on November 15, 2020.

Vincent Reffet (36) French stuntman known for limit-defying jumps from the world’s tallest towers and highest mountains, and aerial feats alongside planes using a jetpack. A free-flying world champion and avid BASE jumper (involving leaps from towering static objects rather than from a plane), Reffet had undertaken breathtaking feats including a record-breaking jump of over 2,700 feet from a platform above the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, and a midair dive into a plane from a 13,000-foot mountain in Switzerland. Reffet was killed in a training accident in Dubai on November 17, 2020.

Jake Scott (75) star safety Most Valuable Player in the Super Bowl that completed the Miami Dolphins’ 1972 perfect season. Scott played in three consecutive Super Bowls, won back-to-back championship rings, and made the Pro Bowl five years in a row with Miami. He had two interceptions, including a 55-yard return from the end zone, against Billy Kilmer and the Washington Redskins as the ’72 Dolphins won 14-7 to finish 17-0. After retirement, Scott became reclusive and harbored hard feelings toward Dolphins coach Don Shula and his coach at Georgia, Vince Dooley. Scott lived for years on a remote Hawaiian island and traveled the world but seldom attended Dolphins or Bulldogs reunions. He played with the Dolphins from 1970–76 and remains their career leader in interceptions and punt return yardage. He also started for the Redskins in 1976–78 and finished with 49 career interceptions. He paired with Dick Anderson to form perhaps the NFL’s best safety tandem during that era. Scott died in Atlanta, Georgia after a fall down a stairway that left him in a coma, on November 19, 2020.

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