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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, December 5, 2020

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Norman Abramson, computer pioneerMiguel Algarin, cofounder of NYC Nuyorican Poets CaféIrina Antonova, Russian art historianEddie Benton-Banai, cofounder of American Indian MovementWarren Berlinger, TV and film character actorBen Bova, editor pf 'Analog'Frank Carney, cofounder of Pizza HutNoah Creshevsky, composer of electronic musicScott Donaldson, literary biographerValéry Giscard d'Estaing, former president of FranceGuido Goldman, used wealth and friends to rebuild US-German postwar relationshipRafer Johnson, Olympics decathlon championNarinder S. Kapany, 'father of fiber optics'Grace Knowlton, outdoor sculptorDavid L. Lander, right, actor who played Squiggy on 'Laverne & Shirley,' with Michael McKean as LennyAlison Lurie, Pulitzer-winning novelistMarv Marinovich, tough football fatherElizabeth J. McCormack, former nun and college presidentPat Patterson, wrestling starArnie Robinson, Olympic track and field championJackie Saccoccio, abstract painterDavid Sheehan, entertainment journalist and criticDr. Suhaila Siddiq, Afghan surgeon and military officerBetsy Wade, first female news copy editor at NY Times

Art and Literature

Miguel Algarin (79) poet, professor, and a founder of New York's Nuyorican Poets Café performance space. Born in Puerto Rico, Algarín and his family came to New York when he was a child. After he had returned to the city with degrees from the University of Wisconsin and Penn State, he held gatherings with other poets in his apartment in the early ‘70s, exploring Puerto Rican identity and other themes. Out of that was created the Nuyorican Poets Café, which by 1981 had moved to a building on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where it remains. Algarín was a prolific writer with multiple books of poetry to his name, and edited several anthologies as well. He spent years at Rutgers University in New Jersey, where he taught classes on Shakespeare, creative writing, and ethnic literature. He died of sepsis in New York City on November 30, 2020.

Irina Antonova (98) art historian who led Moscow’s Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts for more than 50 years, used it to bring outside culture to isolated Soviet citizens, and turned it into a major cultural institution. Antonova steered the museum through the isolationist and rigid cultural policies of the Soviet Union and into the period after the fall of communism. In recent years she expanded it to adjacent buildings to accommodate mushrooming exhibitions. From early on she built connections with the world’s leading museums. She brought Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1974. Hundreds of thousands of people stood in long lines to see it, the only queues the Soviet government was proud of at the time. Many knew that with the country’s borders shut, it might be the only opportunity to see the famous work during their lifetime. Exhibitions of 100 paintings from New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and of the treasures of Tutankhamen further opened the world to Soviet people. Antonova died of heart failure, complicated by a coronavirus infection, in Moscow, Russia on December 1, 2020.

Scott Donaldson (92) biographer who specialized in literary giants, among them Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and John Cheever, although he called the task of capturing such personages between the covers of a book “the impossible craft.” Donaldson began his career as a newsman but eventually made his way to academia, teaching American literature at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia for 27 years. He found himself drawn to the life stories of literary figures and the relationship between their experiences and their writings. His first biography, Poet in America: Winfield Townley Scott (1972), told the story of a not-very-famous poet whose work Donaldson found intriguing. For his next subject, he went considerably higher up the literary ladder: By Force of Will: The Life & Art of Ernest Hemingway (1977). Plenty of books had already been written about Hemingway, who committed suicide in 1961, but Donaldson took an unusual approach. Each chapter examined what Hemingway thought, wrote, and did in relation to a particular theme—sports, religion, politics, sex, and more. Donaldson died of lung cancer in Scottsdale, Arizona on December 1, 2020.

Grace Knowlton (88) sculptor who favored the elegance of the sphere and presented it in multiple materials and distended shapes and in sizes that ranged from the ornamental ball to an eight-foot boulder. Knowlton, one of the few female modernists to break into the masculine world of outdoor sculpting, created orbs of all kinds, with surfaces that were rough, smooth, or sometimes cut into shards, or broken and left with gaping holes. All were part of what she called her “work in the round.” Her spheres have been exhibited at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, and the Corcoran Gallery in Washington. She liked to show them in groupings that she arranged spontaneously, creating their own internal dynamic in relation to one another. Knowlton, a highly eclectic artist, was also a painter and a photographer and liked to draw. She created an artists’ colony on her property in the exclusive hamlet of Snedens Landing, in Palisades, New York, along the west side of the Hudson River. She died of dementia in Old Tappan, New Jersey on December 4, 2020.

Alison Lurie (94) Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist whose tales of love and academia included the marital saga The War Between the Tates and the comedy of Americans abroad, Foreign Affairs, winner of the 1985 Pulitzer. Set in London, that novel was consciously based on old-fashioned narratives of manners and customs, with one character imagining himself trapped in a Henry James story. Foreign Affairs was adapted into a 1993 TV movie starring Joanne Woodward and Eric Stoltz. The War Between the Tates became a 1977 TV production featuring Elizabeth Ashley and Richard Crenna. Academics and artists were often featured in Lurie's work, which combined storytelling with social and intellectual commentary. Lurie, a professor emerita at Cornell University, died in Ithaca, New York on December 3, 2020.

Jackie Saccoccio (56) painter known for abstract paintings that exploited paint’s fluidity in the tradition of Jackson Pollock, Paul Jenkins, and Helen Frankenthaler. Saccoccio belonged to a generation of female artists now in their 40s and 50s who added a new vitality to abstract painting beginning around the turn of the 21st century. Most of them saw new potential in the art of the past, and several, like Saccoccio, experimented with paint handling and randomness. Inspired equally by the Abstract Expressionists and the Italian Baroque, she specialized in large canvases on which expansive waves and splashes of bright, luminous color seemed to swirl and clash amid networks of dripped lines running in several directions. Saccoccio died of cancer in New York City on December 4, 2020.

Business and Science

Norman Abramson (88) leader of a group of scientists and engineers who pioneered the development of wireless computer networks. Abramson’s project at the University of Hawaii was originally designed to transmit data to schools on the far-flung Hawaiian islands by means of a radio channel. But the solution he and his group devised in the late ‘60s and early ’70s proved widely applicable. Some of their technology is still in use in today’s smartphones, satellites, and home WiFi networks. The technology they created allowed many digital devices to send and receive data over that shared radio channel. It was a simple approach that did not require complex scheduling of when each packet of data would be sent. If a data packet was not received, it was simply sent again. The approach was a departure from telecommunications practices at the time, but it worked. Abramson died in San Francisco, California of skin cancer that had metastasized to his lungs, on December 1, 2020.

Ben Bova (88) was a hard-science guy—and a space program booster—and his visions of the future covered a range of technological advances, from cloning to climate change, the nuclear arms race, Martian colonies, and the search for extraterrestrials. In newspaper articles, short stories, and more than 100 books, Bova explored those and other knotty problems. He had a background in journalism and technical science writing, and his work was based on facts. He was not a fantasy author. But it was his role as editor of Analog magazine that made him beloved in the sci-fi world, now a sprawling community but a bit smaller in 1971, when he took over after the death of John W. Campbell, the magazine’s celebrated editor. Analog was the latest incarnation of Astounding Science Fiction, the paperback-size pulp magazine that began in 1930 and ignited the careers of Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard (founder of Scientology), and others from the so-called golden age of the genre, which ranged from the late ‘30s to mid-20th century. Bova died of a stroke in Naples, Florida on November 29, 2020.

Frank Carney (82) founded Pizza Hut in 1958 with his brother Dan and helped to build it into the world’s largest pizza chain. With $600 borrowed from their mother, the two Carney brothers opened the first Pizza Hut on South Bluff Street in downtown Wichita. Frank was 19, a student at Wichita University (now Wichita State U) looking to pay his way through college. Dan was 26, studying for a master’s degree in business and seeking a promising opportunity. They rented a 600-square-foot building with a pointed roof, inspiring Dan’s wife to suggest the name Pizza Hut. They bought second-hand equipment for the kitchen. On opening night they offered free pizza to attract customers. The restaurant was an immediate hit. The brothers incorporated the company the next year and began to sell franchises. Frank became president of the company. The original Pizza Hut pizza, created by John Bender, a onetime partner with the brothers, was thin and crispy. A few years later Frank developed the restaurant’s signature “original pan pizza,” a recipe that endured for 40 years. By 1966 there were 145 Pizza Hut franchises in the US. By 1971 Pizza Hut had emerged as the world’s largest pizza chain, with 1,000 global outlets. By 1977, as sales reached $436 million (the equivalent of about $1.9 billion today), there were more than 3,400 domestic and international outlets. That year the brothers sold the company to PepsiCo for $300 million. Frank Carney had recently recovered from Covid-19 and had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for the last 10 years. He died of pneumonia in Wichita, Kansas on December 2, 2020.

Narinder S. Kapany (94) for decades researchers across Europe had been studying ways to transmit light through flexible glass fibers. But a host of technical challenges, not to mention World War II, had set them back. As a young science graduate student in London, Kapany persuaded one of those scientists, Harold Hopkins, to hire him as a research assistant. In 1954 the pair announced a breakthrough in the journal Nature, demonstrating how to bundle thousands of impossibly thin glass fibers together, then connect them end to end. Their paper, along with a separate article by another author in the same issue, marked the birth of fiber optics, the now-ubiquitous communications technology that carries phone calls, TV shows, and billions of cat memes around the world every day. In later years, journalists took to calling Kapany the “father of fiber optics.” He died in Redwood City, California on December 3, 2020.

Dr. Suhaila Siddiq (82) Afghanistan’s first female lieutenant general, also a renowned surgeon who became a feminist role model in a largely patriarchal society. Siddiq rose through the ranks of the Afghan Army during the Cold War and ran the Daud Khan hospital through the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Afghan civil war, and the Taliban’s rule. She was also one of Afghanistan’s few female ministers, overseeing the public health ministry until 2004 under the transitional government led by Hamid Karzai, after the US invasion. In that role she helped to implement polio vaccinations across the country after the disease had become endemic following years of instability and violence. In the mid-‘80s, at the height of the Soviet-Afghan war, the Communist-backed government in Kabul promoted her to surgeon general of the Afghan Army after she had saved the lives of the hundreds of wounded soldiers and civilians who poured into the 400-bed Daud Khan hospital. Known as “General Suhaila,” Siddiq had Alzheimer’s disease for several years. She died of the coronavirus on December 4, 2020 in Kabul, Afghanistan at the same hospital where she had treated the wounded in her country’s unending war for decades. It was her second battle with the virus.


Elizabeth J. McCormack (98) former Catholic nun who brought sweeping changes at Manhattanville College in the ‘60s and ’70s who later advised major foundations on philanthropic strategies. In recent decades McCormack had been one of the nation’s most influential philanthropic counselors, guiding the Rockefeller family, the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and other donors on the arts of humanitarian giving but was best known as the president of Manhattanville, an independent liberal arts college in Purchase, New York in Westchester County, from 1966–74. She oversaw Manhattanville’s transformation from a women’s college to a coeducational institution. It was an era of cultural turmoil, when the relevancy and even the survival of small Catholic women’s colleges were in doubt. To many traditional Catholics, McCormack had some unthinkable ideas. She saw a contradiction in a college culturally bound to church traditions but dedicated to intellectual freedom. And in what the church regards as a cardinal sin but what she called compassion, she quietly advised a student on how to get an abortion. McCormack was a nun for 30 years, but as she came to question church teachings on several issues she obeyed her conscience and left her order, the Society of the Sacred Heart. At 54 she married a divorced Jewish father of five children. McCormack died in New York City on December 4, 2020.

News and Entertainment

Warren Berlinger (83) whose career as a character actor spanned more than 60 years and featured numerous roles in film and on TV dramas and comedies. On TV in the ‘60s–’80s, Berlinger's roles included appearances on Operation Petticoat, Too Close for Comfort, and Murder, She Wrote. He also appeared on Friends, Columbo, and Charlie’s Angels. A nephew of comedian Milton Berle, American TV's first star in the late '40s, Berlinger appeared in several episodes of the sitcom Happy Days in the ‘70s and ’80s, in roles including Dr. Logan, Mr. Vanburen, and Army Sgt. Betchler. in film, he acted in I Will … I Will … for Now (1976) with Diane Keaton, The Cannonball Run (1981), and The World According to Garp (1982). Berlinger died of cancer in Santa Clarita, California on December 2, 2020.

Noah Creshevsky (75) composer of sophisticated electroacoustic works that mixed scraps of vocal and instrumental music, speech, outside noise, TV snippets, and other bits of sound. Creshevsky studied composition with some of the most prominent figures in modern music, including French pedagogue Nadia Boulanger and Italian composer Luciano Berio. Rather than pursuing a career that might have resulted in concert-hall celebrity, Creshevsky found his calling in the studio-bound world of electronic music. Using the prevailing technologies of the day—at first cutting and splicing magnetic tape, later using samplers and digital audio workstations—he made music that was complex in its conception and construction. But because he built his works from everyday sounds, voices, and instruments, his compositions felt accessible, engaging, and witty. The term he used to describe his music, and the philosophy that animated it, was “hyperrealism.” Creshevsky died of cancer in New York City on December 3, 2020.

David L. Lander (73) actor who played Squiggy on ABC’s Laverne & Shirley. Lander’s Andrew (“Squiggy”) Squiggman, opposite Michael McKean’s Lenny, was a staple of ‘70s and ‘80s TV. The distinctive character—whose voice was simultaneously nasal and squeaky—was a thug wannabe minus the muscle who had a thing for neighbor Shirley and entered every room with his signature “Helloooo.” Lander and McKean developed the characters in 1965 when they were freshmen at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, then called Carnegie Tech, where they studied theater. The two met while painting a chair for a school theater set and hatched Lenny and Squiggy over late-night improvisation sessions in Lander’s dorm. They remained close friends their entire lives. Lander died in Los Angeles, California after having battled multiple sclerosis for 37 years, on December 4, 2020.

Pat Patterson (79) first major wrestling star to announce that he was gay. After decades of working his way up through regional wrestling circuits in Montreal, Boston, and San Francisco, Patterson found fame in the late ‘70s when he joined the World Wrestling Federation, which later became World Wrestling Entertainment. In the ring, Patterson was fond of surprise. Normally cast as a “heel,” the wrestling term for a villain, he attacked opponents at the exact moment a fight began, slipped off his belt, and wielded it like a whip. Digging into his tights, his hand would emerge wearing brass knuckles. His theatrics often drew booing frenzies. Patterson died of liver failure in Miami Beach, Florida on December 2, 2020.

David Sheehan (82) one of the most prominent entertainment journalists and critics in the Los Angeles TV news arena for more than 30 years. Sheehan became the first entertainment interviewer and reviewer on local TV after joining KCBS-TV Channel 2 in 1970, first as a daily broadcaster, then as entertainment anchor. He jumped to KNBC Channel 4 in 1984, covering entertainment for the next 10 years. While at that station he also produced and hosted a series of network entertainment specials including Macho Men at the Movies and Hollywood’s Leading Ladies. He returned to KCBS in 1994, where he worked until 2004. He also hosted several specials previewing the Oscars titled And the Winners Are.... After leaving local news, Sheehan focused on producing specials for syndicated TV. His Summer Movie Magic, Holiday Movie Magic, and Academy Award Movie Magic aired annually on more than 200 stations around the country for several years. In 2019 Sheehan revealed that he had been fighting cancer, including small-cell lung cancer and prostate cancer. Sheehan died in Los Angeles, California from a stroke he suffered last week, on December 1, 2020.

Betsy Wade (91) first woman to edit news copy for the New York Times and lead plaintiff in a landmark sex discrimination lawsuit against the newspaper on behalf of its female employees. In a 45-year Times career, Wade also became the first woman to lead the Newspaper Guild of New York, the largest local in the national journalism union (now known as the NewsGuild). She was revered among peers for her role in the 1974 class-action suit against the Times, one of the industry’s earliest fights over women’s rights to equal treatment in hiring, promotion, pay, and workplace protections under federal antidiscrimination laws. Four years after being fired as a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune for being pregnant, Wade landed at the Times in 1956 and instantly broke a 105-year-old practice of male copy editing in the news department, where women were rare, relatively underpaid, and confined largely to reporting on fashions, cooking, and other subjects considered “women’s news” by male colleagues or to clerical or secretarial jobs. Wade died of colon cancer in New York City on December 3, 2020.

Politics and Military

Valéry Giscard d'Estaing (94) former president of France from 1974–81 who became a champion of European integration. In a January 2020 interview with the Associated Press, Giscard d’Estaing recounted details from his meetings as French president in the ‘70s with then-US President Jimmy Carter and then-Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat, whose photos graced his office walls. He wrote the article in the European Union charter that allowed Brexit to happen—the brief measure that allows a member state to leave the bloc. On the eve of Britain’s departure this year, Giscard told the AP it was a “step backward” geopolitically but took the long view. He died in the Loir-et-Cher region in central France after contracting COVID-19, on December 2, 2020.

Guido Goldman (83) renaissance man who used his vast wealth and extensive network of friendships in politics and the arts, from Henry A. Kissinger to Harry Belafonte, to help rebuild America’s relationship with Germany after World War II. Goldman’s fingerprints can be found on many of the leading postwar academic and cultural institutions linking the US and Germany, from the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard, which he founded with his mentors Kissinger and Stanley Hoffmann, to the German Marshall Fund, which he persuaded Willy Brandt, chancellor of West Germany, to endow in 1972. But more than any single institution, Goldman’s greatest contribution to trans-Atlantic relations was himself: witty, generous, and cosmopolitan in his imposing 6-foot frame, he was at ease among presidents and chancellors, civil rights leaders and artists—relationships he drew on to create the sort of person-to-person ties critical to lasting international harmony. When the new US Embassy opened in Berlin in 2008, he arranged a performance by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, of which he was a longtime board member. Goldman died of prostate cancer in Concord, Massachusetts on November 30, 2020.

Society and Religion

Eddie Benton-Banai (89) helped to found the American Indian Movement partly in response to alleged police brutality against Indigenous people. Benton-Banai, who was Anishinaabe Ojibwe, was born and raised on the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation in northern Wisconsin. He made a life of connecting American Indians with their spirituality and promoting sovereignty and was grand chief, or spiritual leader, of the Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge. His place in the American Indian Movement, a grassroots group formed in 1968, can be traced to his launch of a cultural program in a Minnesota prison. Cofounder Clyde Bellecourt was in solitary confinement when he met Benton-Banai, a fellow inmate, recognizing him as an Indigenous man. Benton-Banai approached Bellecourt about helping incarcerated Indigenous people, and they started the prison’s cultural program to teach American Indians about their history and encourage them to learn a trade or seek higher education. Benton-Banai thought they could do the same work in the streets, and the program morphed into the American Indian Movement, an organization that persists today with various chapters. Benton-Banai died in Hayward, Wisconsin on November 30, 2020.


Rafer Johnson (86) won the decathlon at the 1960 Rome Olympics and helped to subdue Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin in ’68. Johnson was among the world’s greatest athletes from 1955 through his Olympic triumph in ‘60, winning a national decathlon championship in ‘56 and a silver medal at the Melbourne Olympics that same year. His Olympic career included carrying the US flag at the 1960 Games and lighting the torch at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to open the ‘84 Games. He set world records in the decathlon three different times. Johnson won a gold medal at the Pan American Games in 1955 while competing in just his fourth decathlon. At a welcome home meet afterward in Kingsburg, California, he set his first world record, breaking the mark of two-time Olympic champion and his childhood hero, Bob Mathias. On June 5, 1968, Johnson was working on Kennedy’s presidential campaign when the Democrat candidate was shot in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in LA. Johnson joined former NFL star Rosey Grier and journalist George Plimpton in apprehending Sirhan Sirhan moments after he shot Kennedy, who died the next day. Johnson died in Sherman Oaks, California on December 2, 2020.

Marv Marinovich (81) captain of the University of Southern California's 1962 national championship team whose turn as a domineering football father became a cautionary tale. Long before he groomed his son from birth to be the perfect quarterback, Marinovich was a two-way lineman known for his toughness. Under Trojans coach John McKay, he captained the 1962 team to an 11-0 record and USC’s first national championship in more than 20 years. Marinovich played briefly for the Oakland Raiders, the same franchise his son, Todd, later quarterbacked, before retiring to serve as strength and conditioning coach, one of the first named to that position in the league’s history. He parlayed that experience into opening his own sports performance center in Orange County, where he trained professional athletes in the same methods from the former Eastern bloc he’d so notoriously used to train his own son. Both his sons, Todd and Mikhail, had careers in football; but it was his rigorous—and often ruthless—work with Todd, the older, that earned Marv the distinction as an infamous football father. The stories of Todd and Marv Marinovich are legend in the history of sports parentage. Marv Marinovich died of Alzheimer's disease in Mission Viejo, California on December 3, 2020.

Arnie Robinson (72) learned to long-jump using a discarded mattress in the driveway of his San Diego home. Winning a gold medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal revealed his talent, focus, and commitment. Beyond the world-class ability, the global track and field fame, titles at the USA Outdoor Championships, the NCAA championships with San Diego State, the Pan American Games and more, Robinson’s legacy reverberates because of a blend of humility and service in the shadows. Robinson, who had fought an aggressive brain tumor since 2005, died on December 1, 2020.

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