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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, January 23, 2021

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Hank Aaron, broke Babe Ruth's home run recordLarry King, longtime talk show hostGen. Nikolai Antoshkin, Chernobyl disaster heroBob Avian, Tony-winning Broadway choreographerWalter Bernstein, blacklisted Hollywood screenwriterHarry Brant, rising young modelDr. Andrew Brooks, developed first saliva test for coronavirusMira Furlan, TV actress known for sci-fi rolesHal Holbrook, star of one-man stage show 'Mark Twain Tonight'Junior Mance, jazz pianistRandy Parton, musician and singer, brother of Dolly PartonSharon Kay Penman, author of historical novelsJimmie Rodgers, '50s pop and country singerJoseph M. Sheidler, militant antiabortion figureDon Sutton, LA Dodgers stalwartTed Thompson, longtime general manager of Green Bay PackersEleanor Ford Torrey West, conservationist who inherited and preserved Georgia islandHarthorne Wingo, NY Knicks forward

Art and Literature

Sharon Kay Penman (75) former tax lawyer whose best-selling epics about medieval England and Wales drew legions of admirers for her meticulous research and commitment to historical facts. Starting with her first book, The Sunne in Splendour (1982), about King Richard III, Penman loaded her novels with material she gathered from years of research, both on the ground in Britain and in the stacks at the University of Pennsylvania library, near her home. Before the Internet made finding obscure history books easy, she would scour second-hand shops in England, shipping home boxes and boxes of texts, amassing a library of several thousand volumes. Although many of her books topped 1,000 pages, she developed an extensive fan base, and several of her later works made the New York Times best-seller list. Penman died of pneumonia in Atlantic City, New Jersey on January 22, 2021.

Business and Science

Dr. Andrew Brooks (51) research professor at Rutgers University who developed the first saliva test for the coronavirus. In April 2020, when coronavirus tests were scarce and lines to get them long, Brooks made worldwide news when the Federal Drug Administration gave emergency approval to his technique, which promised to radically increase the speed and safety of the testing process. In the 10 months since Brooks received approval, health-care workers have performed more than four million tests using his approach, and it remains one of the most reliable means of determining whether someone has the coronavirus. Brooks died of a heart attack in New York City on January 23, 2021.

Eleanor Ford Torrey West (108) dedicated her life to preserving Ossabaw Island, a 26,000-acre inheritance off the coast of Georgia so large, lush, and varied in terrain that visitors could walk among hardwood forests, palm tree stands, and salt water marshes. West was a pioneer of mainstream environmental conservation, embracing it well before most Americans. In the ‘60s, for instance, although struggling with the financial burden of maintaining the Island, which her parents bought in 1924, she rebuffed lucrative offers from developers and instead sold the island to the State of Georgia for $8 million, half of its appraised value. The third largest of Georgia’s barrier islands, Ossabaw in 1978 became the first parcel of land protected under the Heritage Trust Act, established in 1975 to preserve natural areas from development and allow public access for recreation and research. West died in Savannah, Georgia on January 17, 2021.

News and Entertainment

Bob Avian (83) Tony Award-winning choreographer who had a role in some of the most beloved and influential shows on Broadway, including Dreamgirls, A Chorus Line, Follies, and Miss Saigon. Avian rose from a dancer in West Side Story and Funny Girl to work alongside such theater luminaries as Michael Bennett (died 1987), Cameron Macintosh, Stephen Sondheim, and Andrew Lloyd Webber. It was with Bennett that Avian enjoyed a long professional partnership, working as associate choreographer or assistant director on such Bennett-choreographed productions as A Chorus Line, Promises, Promises, Coco, Company, Follies, Seesaw, and God’s Favorite. Avian died of cardiac arrest in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on January 21, 2021.

Walter Bernstein (101) screenwriter, among the last survivors of Hollywood’s anti-Communist blacklist whose Oscar-nominated script for The Front drew upon his years of being unable to work under his own name. A World War II correspondent for the military who also had been published in the New Yorker, Bernstein was at the start of what seemed a promising film career when the Cold War and anti-Communist paranoia led to his being blacklisted in 1950, a fate that ruined the lives of many of his peers and led some to suicide. Job offers to Bernstein were rescinded, and one-time friends stopped speaking to him. FBI agents looked through his trash, showed up at his door, and followed him outside. Bernstein died of pneumonia in New York City on January 23, 2021.

Harry Brant (24) rising model and son of supermodel Stephanie Seymour and publisher Peter M. Brant. The younger Brant had appeared in Italian Vogue and in campaigns for the fashion house Balmain. He had previously released a unisex makeup line with his brother—Peter Brant Jr.—for MAC cosmetics. Brant had been planning to enter rehab this year and hoped to play a role in the creative side of Interview magazine, which his father publishes. He died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs on January 17, 2021.

Mira Furlan (65) actress best known for her roles on the fantastical TV series Babylon 5 and Lost. From 1993–98, Furlan was one of the stars of Babylon 5, a space opera that followed the relationships, politics, interspecies tensions, and galactic conflicts aboard a United Nations-type space station in the mid-23rd century. Her character, Ambassador Delenn, represented an alien race, the Minbari, on the space station. Furlan died of the West Nile virus in Los Angeles, California on January 20, 2021.

Hal Holbrook (95) award-winning character actor who toured the world for more than 50 years as Mark Twain in a one-man show and uttered the immortal advice “Follow the money” in the classic political thriller All the President’s Men. Holbrook had a busy career in theater, TV, and movies, winning five Emmys and a Tony. His more than two dozen film credits ranged from Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln to Oliver Stone’s Wall Street. He appeared on such TV shows as The West Wing, Grey’s Anatomy, and Bones. But his most famous movie role was as a key source for Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward (played by Robert Redford) in the 1976 adaptation of All the President’s Men, the best-selling account by Woodward and fellow Post reporter Carl Bernstein about their investigation of the Watergate scandal that led to President Richard Nixon's resignation. Holbrook played the mysterious informant “Deep Throat” (later revealed as FBI official Mark Felt) who provided key information to Woodward. The most famous tip, uttered from the shadows of a parking garage—“Follow the money”—became an instant catch-phrase but was never said in real life; the line was invented by screenwriter William Goldman. It may have been Holbrook’s most famous film words, but Twain was his defining role. He died in Beverly Hills, California on January 23, 2021.

Larry King (87) in living rooms across America, King was as comfortable a guest as a favorite uncle dropping by to schmooze with the family. Never too pushy, never going directly for the jugular, King—with his trademark suspenders, horn-rimmed glasses, and rolled-up sleeves—would chat it up with presidents, authors, actors, psychics, villains, heroes, or anyone with a product to push, a political race to win, or an image in need of a makeover. In a career that spanned half a century, he became one of the most famous talk show hosts and opinion shapers in the world with his breezy, rarely confrontational style of banter, leading his guests this way and that, wherever his curiosity took him. Seldom out of the spotlight for long, he ended his long-running CNN program in 2010 but returned to TV again and again as a moderator and, occasionally, pitchman. During his 25 years presiding over Larry King Live, the first international live phone-in TV talk show, the jacketless King would sit at his desk with its prop antique microphone and—leaning forward, shoulders hunched—do what he felt he did best: interview guests. He was predeceased by a son and a daughter who died within a week of each other in 2020. King was hospitalized with COVID-19 earlier this month and died in Los Angeles, California on January 22, 2021.

Junior Mance (92) bluesy jazz pianist who worked with some of the biggest names in jazz, including Lester Young, Dizzy Gillespie, Cannonball Adderley, and Dinah Washington before establishing himself as leader of his own groups. Mance had a strong affinity for the blues—wrote a book, How to Play Blues Piano (1967)—but also played the standard repertoire with aplomb. He had Alzheimer’s disease but died in New York City of a brain hemorrhage caused by a fall in December, on January 17, 2021.

Randy Parton (67) younger brother of country star Dolly Parton, who sang and performed with her at her Dollywood theme park. They were among 12 children in the Parton family, raised in Sevierville, Tennesee. Randy Parton sang, played guitar and bass in his sister’s band, and had hosted his own show at the Tennessee theme park since its opening in 1986. He also released music on his own. Randy Parton died of cancer in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina on January 21, 2021.

Jimmie Rodgers (87) singer of the 1957 hits “Honeycomb” and “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” whose career in music and movies was disrupted by a severe head injury 10 years later. Rodgers performed for $10 a night around Nashville while stationed there with the US Air Force after the Korean War. He appeared on a talent show and got an audition with Roulette Records, which signed him after hearing him perform “Honeycomb,” a song by Bob Merrill. With a style of singing and playing guitar that included elements of country, folk, and pop, Rodgers recorded many other Top 10 hits during the late ‘50s, including “Secretly,” “Oh-Oh, I’m Falling in Love Again,” and “Are You Really Mine?” He continued making albums for the better part of the ‘60s, producing music that ranged from covering traditional songs like “The Wreck of the John B.” and “English Country Garden” to popular fare such as the ballad “Child of Clay.” He had tested positive for COVID-19 but died from kidney disease in Palm Desert, California on January 18, 2021.

Politics and Military

Gen. Nikolai Antoshkin (78) commander of a dangerous helicopter firefighting operation in which he and other Russian pilots faced radiation exposure to contain the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Antoshkin was a leader of the so-called liquidators, the hastily assembled teams of military and civilian workers sent to the Chernobyl disaster site north of Kyiv in Ukraine. Taking enormous risks, they became heroes and are now widely revered in Russia for preventing the crisis from becoming worse. The No. 4 reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear plant exploded on April 26, 1986, spewing radiation into the atmosphere and threatening to release much more as a fire raged in the open reactor core, spreading radioactive smoke. The firefighting and cleanup task began in secrecy but later became public. The goal was to contain as much radiation as possible on site before it contaminated fields and sickened people throughout Europe. After members of a firefighting crew developed acute radiation sickness, the tactic shifted to fighting the fire from the air with helicopters. Antoshkin survived and had a 30-year career in the Russian Air Force, then served in Parliament. He had been hospitalized with Covid-19 and died on January 17, 2021.

Society and Religion

Joseph M. Sheidler (93) former advertising executive who became a leading figure in the antiabortion movement by combining media savvy with confrontational tactics. At a time in the late ‘70s when public approval of abortion was growing and many religious leaders were wary of taking on the issue directly, Scheidler pioneered a style of militant direct action—staging sit-ins at clinics, picketing doctors’ homes—that he said he had modeled on the civil rights activism of the ‘60s. Scheidler and his organization, the Pro-Life Action League, were often at odds with the National Right to Life Committee, the more mainstream antiabortion group, which believed that his incendiary rhetoric encouraged violence and public backlash. Scheidler insisted that he did not advocate violence, calling it “an admission of defeat,” but he refused to moderate his tone. He died of pneumonia in Chicago, Illinois on January 18, 2021.


Hank Aaron (86) at what should have been the peak of Aaron's long career in baseball, he was getting bags of hate mail—many containing death threats—and living in a storage room at the stadium, accompanied by bodyguards when he ventured out. It was 1973, the US remained divided along racial lines, and Aaron, a black American playing for the Atlanta Braves, was closing in on Babe Ruth’s career record of 714 home runs. To some, it was sacrilegious that a black man would threaten the record of the immortal Babe. Aaron eventually tied, then surpassed Ruth’s record, finishing his remarkable 23-year career with 755 homers. And although his record was broken during the steroid era in 2007 by Barry Bonds, who finished with 762 homers, Aaron is viewed by most baseball purists as the legitimate record holder. Bonds, who had become a prodigious hitter with the San Francisco Giants, was accused of using illegal steroids toward the end of his career when his muscle mass and home run production jumped dramatically. In April 2011 he was found guilty of obstructing justice for impeding a grand jury investigation into illegal steroid distribution, but a federal appeals court overturned that conviction in ’15. Aaron died in his sleep in Atlanta, Georgia on January 22, 2021.

Don Sutton (75) Hall of Fame pitcher, a stalwart of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ rotation spanning an era from Sandy Koufax to Fernando Valenzuela. A four-time All-Star, Sutton had a career record of 324-256 and an earned run average of 3.26 while pitching for the Dodgers, Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics, California Angels, and the Dodgers again in 1988, his final season. He never missed a turn in the rotation in 756 big league starts. Only Cy Young and Nolan Ryan made more starts than Sutton, who never landed on the injured list in his 23-year career. A master of changing speeds and pitch location, he recorded just one 20-win season but earned 10 or more wins every year except 1983 and ’88. Of his victories, 58 were shutouts, five were one-hitters, and 10 were two-hitters. The right-hander is seventh on the career strikeout list with 3,574. Sutton ranks third all-time in games started and seventh in innings pitched (5,282 1/3). He worked at least 200 innings in 20 of his first 21 seasons, with only the strike-shortened 1981 season interrupting his streak. He died of cancer in Rancho Mirage, California on January 19, 2021.

Ted Thompson (68) whose 13-year run as Green Bay Packers general manager included their 2010 Super Bowl championship season. Thompson was general manager from 2005–17 and drafted many notable players on the current roster, including two-time Most Valuable Player, quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Thompson acquired 49 of the 53 players on the Packers’ 2010 championship team. He spent more than 20 years in the Packers’ front office and was the team’s director of pro personnel when the Packers won the Super Bowl for the 1996 season and captured the NFC title in ’97. He announced in May 2019 he had been diagnosed with an autonomic nerve disorder. He died in Atlanta, Texas on January 20, 2021.

Harthorne Wingo (73) high-jumping basketball forward who played for the New York Knicks in the '70s. Wingo stood a gangly 6-foot-6, prompting fans to chant his name (“Wing-o!, Wing-o!”) to beseech Knicks Coach Red Holzman to put him in the game. The Beastie Boys used his name in their 1989 song “Lay It on Me.” Wingo joined the Knicks as a reserve during the 1972–73 season, when they won their second NBA championship (and their last to date). He stayed a reserve through three more seasons and had his best season in 1974–75, when he averaged 20.6 minutes, 7.4 points, and 5.6 rebounds a game. Wingo had long suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He died in New York City on January 20, 2021.

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