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Life In Legacy - Week ending April 28, 2007

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David Halberstam, Pulitzer-winning writerMstislav Rostropovich, Russian master cellistJack Valenti, developer of movie rating systemBoris N. Yeltsin, first freely elected leader of RussiaWarren Avis, founder of Avis Rent a CarAlan Ball, former British soccer starWalter Bareiss, art collectorHelen Barth, one of NY State’s oldest residentsYanis Chimaras, Venezuelan soap actorLawson J. Deming, actor who hosted Detroit TV horror moviesRyan Dickson, Texas killerKarel Dillen, Belgian political party founderPaul E. Erdman, best-selling novelistSan Fadyl, drummer for The Ladybug TransistorJames Filiaggi, Ohio murdererBill Forester, former Green Bay linebackerMagda Gerber, infant education expertDabbs Greer, veteran character actorLei Guiying, WWII sex slave to JapanesePolly Hill, horticulturistLouis G. Hill Jr., former Tuskegee AirmanIda R. Hoos, critic of systems analysisLindsey Hughes, historian of RussiaHenry Jefferson Jr., sought daughter’s killerRoy Jenson, movie bad guyRay Kurtzman, entertainment lawyerWilliam B. Lawless, law educatorHenry LeTang, master tap dancer and teacherAxel Madsen, biographer of the famousJim Moran, Toyota distributorTommy Newsom, former “Tonight Show’’ backup bandleaderJohn L. O’Brien, Washington state politicianLouis J. Papan, longtime California assemblymanJohnny Perkins, NY Giants wide receiverBobby (Boris) Pickett, Karloff impersonatorAnne Pitoniak, late-blooming actressSilvo Plut, Slovenian murdererDr. James R. Richards, feline veterinarianLt. Col. Robert L. Riedenauer, former USAF test pilotSonia Rios Risken, murder suspectHeather Robertson, daughter of actors Cliff Robertson and Dina MerrillWayne Schenk, NY state lottery winnerJames E. Slosson, California geologistMary Carter Smith, radio storytellerMichael Smuin, award-winning choreographerCarl Friedrich von Weizsaecker, German physicistRobert M. Warner, former director of National ArchivesRgt. Rev. Robert M. Wolterstorff, first Episcopal bishop of San Diego

Art and Literature

Walter Bareiss (87) businessman who amassed vast collections of African, Western classical, and contemporary art, much of which found homes in museums. Bareiss was also briefly an interim director (1969-70) of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. He died of congestive heart failure in Stamford, Connecticut on April 23, 2007.

Paul E. Erdman (74) economist and banker known for his best-selling novels of suspense and intrigue in the world of high finance. Erdman’s books, which include The Crash of ’79 and The Swiss Account, have been translated into 32 languages and spent a combined 152 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. Erdman died of cancer in Healdsburg, California on April 23, 2007.

Business and Science

Warren Avis (92) founder of Avis Rent a Car who built what became the world’s largest car rental system until it was overtaken by Hertz after years of ferocious competition. Avis sold the nation’s first car rental business to be located at airports for $8 million in 1954. He said he got the idea for the business when he was a pilot and couldn’t find ground transportation once he arrived at airports. He died in Ann Arbor, Michigan on April 24, 2007.

Polly Hill (100) horticulturist who stretched the boundaries of plant hardiness by gathering seeds from around the world, especially those of trees and shrubs that thrive in warmer climates, and studying which would sprout, then endure New England winters at the Polly Hill Arboretum on Martha’s Vineyard. Hill died in Hockessin, Delaware on April 25, 2007.

Ida R. Hoos (94) prominent critic of assessing technology solely on the basis of mathematical models that failed to take account of societal factors. A sociologist, Hoos was widely recognized as an outspoken critic of systems analysis, which came to prominence after World War II. She died of pneumonia in Boston, Massachusetts on April 24, 2007.

Lindsey Hughes (57) British historian and world-renowned expert on Russian history of the 17th and 18th centuries, especially Peter the Great and Petrine Russia. Hughes had written the book Russia in the Age of Peter the Great. She died of cancer in London, England on April 26, 2007.

Jim Moran (88) automotive businessman and philanthropist. Moran founded his Deerfield Beach (Fla.)-based company, JM Family Enterprises Inc., in 1968. It had a 2006 year-end revenue of $11.1 billion. Its flagship subsidiary, Southeast Toyota Distributors LLC, is the world’s largest independent distributor of Toyota vehicles. Moran died in Hillsboro Beach, Florida on April 24, 2007.

Dr. James R. Richards (58) prominent veterinarian, a recognized authority on cat care. Richards was director of the Feline Health Center at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, a leading center for feline medical research and treatment. He died of injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident on April 22 when he was thrown from his motorcycle after he tried without success to avoid hitting a cat that had run into the road, in Johnson City, New York on April 24, 2007.

James E. Slosson (84) former state geologist who helped to establish the California Seismic Safety Commission, which provides guidelines for reducing earthquake hazards. Slosson was part of a team that developed basic procedures for promoting seismic safety. He died of congestive heart failure in Tarzana, California on April 28, 2007.

Carl Friedrich von Weizsaecker (94) physicist who helped to research atomic weapons for the Nazis during World War II but later dedicated his life to pacifism and philosophy. Von Weizsaecker said he worked on the atomic bomb to avoid being conscripted into the Nazi army. He died in Söcking, near Stamberg, Germany on April 28, 2007.


Magda Gerber (90s) infant education expert who taught thousands of parents and caregivers the importance of respecting babies and following their cues as the best way to foster their growth. Gerber died in Silver Lake, California on April 27, 2007.

William B. Lawless (84) retired New York State Supreme Court justice, a former president of Western State College of Law in Fullerton, California (1982-87). An attorney committed to educating aspiring lawyers, Lawless also was a former dean of the University of Notre Dame law school in South Bend, Indiana (1968-71). He died in San Francisco, California on April 23, 2007.

News and Entertainment

Yanis Chimaras (51) Venezuelan soap opera actor whose murder reignited concerns about rampant violent crime in that South American country. The capital city of Caracas is considered one of the most violent cities in Latin America. Dozens of people are often killed in a single weekend. The Justice Ministry reported 9,402 homicides nationwide in 2005 but had yet to reveal figures for ’06. Chimaras was stabbed to death when he came upon a robbery in the Caracas suburb of Guatire, Venezuela on April 24, 2007.

Lawson J. Deming (94) actor who gained cult status as Sir Graves Ghastly, the comical-yet-scary vampire host of horror films on Detroit TV. At the beginning of each Sir Graves Show, Deming's blood-sucking alter ego arose from a dusty coffin, told corny jokes, and prepared his audience to view the low-budget monster movie of the week. He died one day after his 94th birthday, in Cleveland, Ohio on April 24, 2007.

San Fadyl (??) drummer for the Brooklyn-based indie pop band The Ladybug Transistor. The group had released six albums (1995-2003). Fadyl died of complications of asthma in Zürich, Switzerland on April 26, 2007.

Dabbs Greer (90) veteran character actor who played Rev. Robert Alden in the TV show Little House on the Prairie. Greer played “everyman’’ roles, from bus drivers to preachers and shopkeepers, in nearly 100 movies and hundreds of TV show episodes. He died of kidney and heart disease in Pasadena, California on April 28, 2007.

David Halberstam (73) Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author who chronicled the Vietnam War generation, civil rights, and the world of sports. Launching his career as a journalist, Halberstam quit daily journalism in 1967 and wrote 21 books covering such topics as Vietnam, civil rights, the auto industry, and a baseball pennant race. On his way to an interview for a new book, he was killed when the car in which he was a passenger was broadsided by another vehicle, in Menlo Park, California on April 23, 2007.

Roy Jenson (80) former UCLA football player known for portraying menacing bad guys in the movies, most notably in Chinatown (1974), in which he played Roman Polanski’s ominous sidekick who holds Jack Nicholson while Polanski cuts Nicholson’s nose with a knife. Jenson was first recruited as a stunt double for River of No Return (1954) with Robert Mitchum. He died of cancer in Los Angeles, California on April 24, 2007.

Ray Kurtzman (79) entertainment lawyer, one of the original 20 employees when Creative Artists Agency was launched in the ’70s. Kurtzman died of Alzheimer’s disease in Beverly Hills, California on April 23, 2007.

Henry LeTang (91) master dancer, teacher, and Tony-winning choreographer who for 75 years taught the leading lights of Broadway and Hollywood how to tap dance, often with show-stopping results. LeTang choreographed some of Broadway’s best-known musicals, among them Black & Blue (1989), for which he shared a Tony with Cholly Atkins, Frankie Manning, and Fayard Nicholas. For the movies, he choreographed The Cotton Club (1984), directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and Tap (1989), starring Gregory Hines, Savion Glover, and Sammy Davis Jr. LeTang was active until shortly before dying in his sleep in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 26, 2007.

Axel Madsen (76) prolific writer best known for his richly detailed biographies of Hollywood celebrities, fashion pioneers, and business titans including Barbara Stanwyck, Coco Chanel, and John Jacob Astor. Madsen also tackled such nonfiction topics in his books as cross-country truck drivers and the CBS-TV news magazine 60 Minutes. He died of pancreatic cancer in Los Angeles, California on April 23, 2007.

Tommy Newsom (78) former backup bandleader on The Tonight Show whose “Mr. Excitement’’ nickname was a running joke for Johnny Carson. Newsom, who played saxophone, joined The Tonight Show in 1962 and rose from band member to assistant music director. He retired along with Carson in 1992. He died of cancer in Portsmouth, Virginia, his birthplace, on April 28, 2007.

Bobby ("Boris") Pickett (69) entertainer whose dead-on Boris Karloff impression propelled the Halloween anthem “The Monster Mash’’ to the top of the charts in 1962, making him one of pop music’s most enduring one-hit wonders. Pickett died of leukemia in Los Angeles, California on April 25, 2007.

Anne Pitoniak (85) actress who began her stage career in late middle age but earned a Tony nomination for her Broadway debut in ’night, Mother and had an enduring career playing strong-willed older women. Pitoniak died of cancer in New York City on April 22, 2007.

Heather Robertson (38) actress, dancer, screenwriter, director, and filmmaker, daughter of actors Cliff Robertson and Dina Merrill. Heather Robertson died of ovarian cancer in Buenos Aires, Argentina on April 28, 2007.

Mstislav Rostropovich (80) ebullient Russian master cellist who courageously fought for the rights of Soviet-era dissidents and later triumphantly played Bach suites below the crumbling Berlin Wall. Rostropovich’s opposition to the Communist leaders of his homeland started with the denunciations of his teachers, composers Dmitri Shostakovich and Sergei Prokofiev, during the Stalin era. Rostropovich, who lived in Paris in self-imposed exile, was hospitalized there in early February, and after he took a turn for the worse, his family arranged for him to be flown back to Moscow, Russia, where he died of intestinal cancer on April 27, 2007.

Mary Carter Smith (88) radio personality known as “Mother Griot,’’ a storyteller and folklorist. Smith often wore headdresses, colorful clothing, and bracelets, appearing at many Baltimore schools and libraries and performing at the Smithsonian Institution, at the Kennedy Center, and on Nigerian TV. She died in Baltimore, Maryland on April 24, 2007.

Michael Smuin (68) award-winning choreographer, former coartistic director (1973-85) of the San Francisco Ballet who later founded his own dance company. Smuin won a Tony for his choreography for the 1988 Broadway revival of Anything Goes and an ’84 Emmy for an episode of PBS-TV’s Dance in America. He collapsed of an apparent heart attack during rehearsal with his company, Smuin Ballet, and died in San Francisco, California on April 23, 2007.

Jack Valenti (85) former Presidential aide who became Hollywood’s emissary to Washington and developer of the US movie rating system. Valenti was an aide to President Lyndon B. Johnson before heading the Motion Picture Association of America as the movie industry’s No. 1 lobbyist for 38 years. He retired in 2004. He had a stroke in March and died in Washington, DC on April 26, 2007.

Politics and Military

Karel Dillen (81) founder of the extreme right Flemish Interest party, which aims to turn northern Belgian Flanders into an independent nation and has thrived on anti-immigrant rhetoric. Dillen, who had long suffered from health problems, died in Brussels, Belgium on April 27, 2007.

Lei Guiying (79) Chinese woman who testified that she was forced to work in a brothel run by Japan’s Imperial Army during World War II. Lei’s death marked the passing of one of the few remaining known victims of sexual slavery during Japan’s brutal invasion and occupation of much of China. She died of a brain hemorrhage in Shanghai, Chinaon April 25, 2007.

Louis G. Hill Jr. (90) one of the Tuskegee Airmen, the nation’s first black military pilots. Hill was a B-25 bomber pilot and flight leader, but World War II ended before his unit deployed. He died of a stroke in Sarasota, Florida on April 25, 2007.

John L. O'Brien (95) former Washington State House Speaker who served in the state House for more than 50 years. A master parliamentarian, O’Brien served 26 terms under nine governors. He died in Olympia, Washington on April 22, 2007.

Louis J. Papan (78) former California state assemblyman. Known as Dean of the Assembly, Papan—a Democrat who represented San Mateo County—served 10 terms (1972-86, ’96-2002) in the California State Assembly. He died of a heart attack in Burlingame, California on April 28, 2007.

Lt. Col. Robert L. Riedenauer (70) test pilot who flew top-secret aircraft later used in military missions. A retired USAF lieutenant colonel, Riedenauer spent his lengthy military career flying aircraft under development, including the high-flying U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird spy planes. After leaving the Air Force, he worked for Lockheed Martin’s renowned Skunk Works design unit and was listed as one of Lockheed’s principal test pilots during the initial flight tests of the F-117 stealth fighter. He died of cancer in Palmdale, California on April 23, 2007.

Robert M. Warner (79) former director (1980-85) of the National Archives, the depository for the nation’s historical documents, from the Declaration of Independence to the Nixon tapes. When Warner started the job, the archives were a division of the General Services Administration, facing severe budget and staffing cuts ordered by political appointees subject to Presidential whims, and morale was low. He sought to turn his institution into an independent federal agency, capable of requesting its own budget from Congress, rather than relying on executive branch decisions. He died of a heart attack after a year-long battle with cancer, in Ann Arbor, Michigan on April 24, 2007.

Boris N. Yeltsin (76) former president of Russia who hastened the collapse of the Soviet Union by scrambling atop a tank to rally opposition against a hard-line coup and later pushed Russia to embrace democracy and a market economy. Yeltsin rocketed to popularity in the Communist era on pledges to fight corruption, but he proved unable or unwilling to prevent the looting of state industry as it moved into private hands during his nine years in power. His career was punctuated by bizarre behavior that the public chalked up to alcohol. He died of heart failure in Moscow, Russia on April 23, 2007.

Society and Religion

Helen Barth (109) one of the oldest residents of New York state who lived in three centuries and was credited for her longevity while still being active and independent. Barth died in Brighton, New York on April 23, 2007.

Ryan Dickson (30) gang member convicted of fatally shooting an Amarillo, Texas couple during a botched beer theft at their grocery store. Dickson, who had frequent run-ins with the law dating to age 9, was just two weeks past his 18th birthday when he killed Carmelo Surace (61) and his wife, Marie (60) in 1994. He was the 13th prisoner to be executed this year in the nation’s busiest capital punishment state, in Huntsville, Texas on April 26, 2007.

James Filiaggi (41) Ohio man convicted of the 1994 shooting murder of his ex-wife, Lisa Huff Filiaggi, during a domestic dispute. James Filiagi had stopped appealing his sentence in 2006 but reconsidered last week, asking the Ohio Supreme Court to grant an emergency delay. He was executed by lethal injection in Lucasville, Ohio on April 24, 2007.

Henry Jefferson Jr. (64) Vietnam veteran well known for his nearly 19-year search for his daughter’s killer. Jefferson and his wife took part in an episode of the TV show Unsolved Mysteries to help find the man who murdered their daughter, Tina Jefferson, in 1988. DNA evidence finally pointed to Alfredo Prieto, a career criminal set to stand trial for Tina’s rape and murder on May 29, 2007. Henry Jefferson died in Lawton, Virginia on April 27, 2007.

Silvo Plut (38) Slovenian murderer sentenced to 30 years in prison for the brutal murder of Ljubica Ulcar (25) and the attempted murder of her husband in Serbia in November 2004. Plut had been released from probation after 13 years in prison for the 1990 rape and murder of a former schoolmate. He committed suicide in his prison cell in Ljubljana, Slovenia on April 28, 2007.

Sonia Rios Risken (60) California hair stylist investigated in the slayings of her two husbands 19 years apart in the Philippines. Authorities believed that murder for insurance was a possible motive in the second husband’s death. Risken had recently been threatened by a gunman at her hair salon and was found shot to death at her home in Los Angeles, California on April 27, 2007.

Wayne Schenk (51) winner of $1 million in the New York state lottery in January 2007, shortly after finding out he had terminal cancer. Schenk’s prize pays out in $50,000 annual installments over 20 years. He tried to get the lottery to give him a lump sum; lottery officials said they were sympathetic but couldn’t break the rules. Schenk died in Syracuse, New York on April 23, 2007.

Rgt. Rev. Robert M. Wolterstorff (92) first bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego when it was carved out of the sprawling Los Angeles Diocese in 1974. Wolterstorff died in his sleep 10 days after suffering a heart attack, in San Diego, California on April 24, 2007.


Alan Ball (61) youngest member of the England team that won the World Cup in 1966. The former midfielder won 72 caps in a 10-year England career. Ball was found collapsed outside his home after attempting to fight a fire in his garden and died of an apparent heart attack in London, England on April 24, 2007.

Bill Forester (74) former Green Bay Packers linebacker. The Dallas native spent his entire 11-year NFL career (1953-63) with the Packers. Forester had 21 interceptions and three fumble recoveries in 138 games. He also averaged 13.9 yards on 17 kickoff returns during his career and recorded a safety. He died in Dallas, Texas on April 27, 2007.

Johnny Perkins (54) former wide receiver who caught 163 passes in a seven-year NFL career spent entirely with the New York Giants. A second-round draft pick in 1977, Perkins played in 71 games and had 2,611 yards receiving and 18 touchdowns. He died of complications after heart surgery, in Fort Worth, Texas on April 25, 2007.

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