Julien Gracq (97) celebrated French writer known for surrealism and solitude and for having turned down France's top literary prize. Infuriated by criticism of some of his early works and defensive of his privacy, in 1951 Gracq turned against French literary circles and rejected the Goncourt Prize, awarded for Le Rivage des Syrtes (The Opposing Shore), his best-known novel. He died of a digestive hemorrhage in Angers, France on December 22, 2007.
Caroline Keck (99) pioneer of art conservation. Keck and her husband, Sheldon (d. 1993), were two of the most influential conservators of the modern era. They were instrumental in converting the centuries-old craft of art restoration into a profession based on scientific research, the use of modern technology, and adherence to shared methodological standards. Caroline Keck died in Cooperstown, New York on December 17, 2007.
Stephen Radich (85) New York art gallery owner who became entangled in a famous legal case involving flag desecration in the late '60s. In December 1966, Radich presented works by Marc Morrel, a little-known artist who incorporated American flags into works protesting the Vietnam War. In one piece the flag was stuffed and hanged like a corpse. Radich was convicted of casting contempt on the American flag and ordered to pay a $500 fine or serve 60 days in jail. The case went all the way to the US Supreme Court, where the vote was 4 to 4, with one abstention. Finally, in 1974, a federal judge overturned the conviction. Radich died of heart failure in New York City on December 18, 2007.
Alexander ("Sandy") Taylor (76) cofounder of a nonprofit publishing company in eastern Connecticut. Taylor taught at Eastern Connecticut State University before he and his wife established Curbstone Press in 1975. The press, which focused on works by Latino and Vietnamese authors, promoted human rights and brought writers and programs into the community to promote literacy, knowledge about different cultures, and an appreciation of literature. Taylor died of a stroke in Willimantic, Connecticut on December 21, 2007.
Jack Zander (99) master animator who in 1947 was among the first to apply his art to a brand-new form of communication—the TV commercial. In the early years of TV, commercials, like the shows themselves, were broadcast live, a disaster-prone enterprise. By the late '40s, advertisers, in search of TV spots that were captivating, consistent, and error-free, had begun to explore animation. To make the spots, they turned to successful theatrical animators, among them Zander, one of the last living artists from the heyday of Hollywood animation. In 1954 he formed his first studio, Pelican Films, an ad for which demonstrated his style. Zander died in Pound Ridge, New York on December 17, 2007.
O. B. Goolsby Jr. (60) chief executive since 2004 who built Pilgrim's Pride Corp. into the nation's largest chicken producer by acquiring a rival. Based in Pittsburg, Texas, in 2006 Pilgrim's Pride started a hostile $1.1 billion takeover of rival Gold Kist Inc. The move succeeded after Pilgrim's Pride sweetened its first offer, and the deal vaulted the Texas company to the top of the chicken-producing industry. Goolsby suffered a stroke while on a hunting trip with customers in south Texas. He was airlifted to a hospital in San Antonio, where he died on December 17, 2007.
Ken Hendricks (66) 91st richest man in the US and a roofing company billionaire. Hendricks was founder, chairman, and chief executive of ABC Supply Co., the nation's largest wholesale distributor of roofing. The Beloit, Wisconsin-based company does about $3 billion in business a year. Hendricks was checking on construction on the roof over his garage at his home in Afton, Wisconsin when he fell off the top of a subfloor, suffering massive head injuries. He was pronounced dead at a hospital in Rockford, Illinois on December 21, 2007.
Samuel J. Karlin (83) mathematician who applied his theories to such varied areas as economics and population studies before helping to find ways to analyze DNA swiftly and comprehensively. Karlin died of a heart attack in Palo Alto, California on December 18, 2007.
Dan Martin (57) guitar vendor whose clientele included Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, and Eddie van Halen. Martin had suffered from congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, and diabetes. He had been hospitalized for about two weeks before he died in St. Charles, Missouri on December 21, 2007.
Rose Tani (90) mother of NASA astronaut Daniel M. Tani (46), now aboard the international space station and scheduled to remain there until January 8, 2008. Rose Tani was killed when a train struck her vehicle. A preliminary investigation showed that she stopped behind a school bus pausing at a train crossing, then apparently drove around the bus, bypassing the lowered crossing gate. The train struck her vehicle on the passenger side and pushed it down the tracks before stopping. She was pronounced dead at a hospital in the Chicago suburb of Lombard, Illinois on December 19, 2007.
John A. Garraty (87) historian who edited the huge reference work American National Biography, which in 24 volumes and 20 million words tells the story of the US through the life histories of thousands of its citizens. Although an emeritus professor at Columbia University, where he had taught since 1959, Garraty was perhaps best known as general editor of American National Biography, whose 23,040 pages chronicle the lives of 17,450 people who shaped the US. He died of heart failure in Sag Harbor, New York on December 19, 2007.
Lewis C. Solmon (65) economist and former dean (1985-91) of UCLA's Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, a national voice for teaching reform. In 1991 Solmon became founding president of the Milken Institute, an economic think tank based in Santa Monica. In 1997 he joined the Milken Family Foundation to oversee efforts to improve teacher quality. He died of a stroke in Westwood, California on December 17, 2007.
Marnesba Tillmon Tackett (99) civil rights activist who worked to eliminate inequities in education and played a key role in the battle over desegregation in Los Angeles public schools. Tackett died in her sleep in Los Angeles, California on December 17, 2007.
Marvin Wachman (90) professor of American history, a former president of both Lincoln and Temple Universities and interim president of two other Pennsylvania colleges. Wachman became president of Lincoln, the nation's oldest college established to educate blacks, in 1961 at the urging of Thurgood Marshall, a Lincoln alumnus and trustee who in '67 became the first black justice of the US Supreme Court. Wachman brought in new faculty members, raised money, and increased enrollment, greatly contributing to reestablishing the college's academic credentials. He died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 22, 2007.
Beverly Allen (90) longtime professional dancer who joined the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies late in life and at 87 was the oldest showgirl regularly performing in a chorus, according to the 2005 Guinness Book of World Records. Allen died of pneumonia in Tarzana, California on December 16, 2007.
Joe Ames (86) baritone anchor and eldest member of the '50s hit singing group the Ames Brothers. Joe and brothers Ed, Gene, and Vic were one of the most popular quartets before the advent of rock 'n' roll. For 30 years, the Ames Brothers built a career that included eight gold records and regular appearances on TV. They had international hits such as "The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane" and sang a variety of styles. They were named Billboard magazine's best vocal group of the year in 1958. The group disbanded in the early '60s. Joe Ames died of a heart attack in Los Angeles, California on December 22, 2007.
Walter Bowart (68) cofounder of one of the '60s first underground newspapers that chronicled the cultural chaos of the era. Bowart helped to launch the biweekly East Village Other in Greenwich Village, New York in 1965, a year when the Beatles, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam War were rocking American society. He died of colon cancer in Inchelium, Washington on December 18, 2007.
Frank Capra Jr. (73) producer who helped to build a major TV and movie studio and whose father directed the Christmas classic It's a Wonderful Life (1946). Under the younger Capra's leadership, EUE Screen Gems' credits include several major films, including 28 Days, The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Domestic Disturbance, Black Knight, and A Walk to Remember. Capra also was at the helm when Dawson's Creek—starring a then-unknown Katie Holmes—was filmed at the studio, and kept all nine of its sound stages full in recent years between movies and the filming of another successful teenage soap, One Tree Hill. He died of prostate cancer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 19, 2007.
Jeanne Carmen (77) "little country girl" who became a '50s pinup, actress, and trick-shot golfer and hobnobbed with Frank Sinatra and other stars. Carmen was still a teenager when she ran away from Arkansas to New York and, despite having no experience, immediately became a dancer in a Broadway show called Burlesque, with comic Burt Lahr. She later went into modeling, gaining some success with a series of cheesecake shots in men's magazines. One gig turned into a new career as a trick golfer. On tour with golfer Jack Redmond, Carmen would perform stunts such as hitting a ball out of a man's mouth. She claimed that she later hustled golfers with Las Vegas mobster Johnny Roselli. She went to Hollywood while still in her 20s, where she appeared in low-budget movies with such titles as Guns Don't Argue and The Monster of Piedras Blancas. Carmen died of lymphoma in Orange County, California on December 20, 2007.
James Costigan (81) three-time Emmy-winning TV writer who worked with some of the leading actors of the postwar years. Costigan was perhaps best known for the TV film Love Among the Ruins. Directed by George Cukor, it starred Katharine Hepburn and Sir Laurence Olivier as two aging ex-lovers. Costigan's original screenplay won an Emmy in 1975. His other Emmys were for his original screenplay Little Moon of Alban (1959), an episode of the Hallmark Hall of Fame later adapted for Broadway, and for the TV film Eleanor & Franklin (1976), an adaptation of the biography by Joseph P. Lash. Costigan had lived as a recluse for many years on Bainbridge Island, Washington and was found dead of heart failure in his apartment there on December 19, 2007.
Joel Dorn (65) veteran record producer who worked with such artists as Roberta Flack, Max Roach, and the Neville Brothers. A one-time disk jockey at a Philadelphia jazz radio station, Dorn was perhaps best known for his work with Atlantic Records' prestigious jazz stable (1967-74). He died of a heart attack in New York City on December 17, 2007.
Dan Fogelberg (56) singer and songwriter whose hits helped to define the soft-rock era. Fogelberg broke into the music industry in the early '70s and became known for his angelic vocals and lyrics that celebrated beauty and romance. He hit his commercial and creative peak in 1981 with the album The Innocent Age, which yielded three top-10 singles: "Hard to Say," "Same Old Lang Syne," and "Leader of the Band," the last a tribute to his father, a bandleader. Fogelberg died of prostate cancer in Maine on December 16, 2007.
Roelle Hoohuli (22) younger sister of beauty queen Radasha Hoohuli, winner of the 2006 Miss Hawaii USA Pageant. Roelle Hoohuli was killed in a car accident in Oahu, Hawaii on December 18, 2007.
Jack Linkletter (70) son of former daytime radio and TV host Art Linkletter (now 95; host of People Are Funny and House Party) who followed in his father's footsteps in the '50s and became the host of such TV shows as Hootenanny and special events like the Miss Universe pageant. The younger Linkletter was later president of Linkletter Enterprises, developer and operator of commercial and industrial real estate and manager of diversified family investments. He died of lymphoma in Cloverdale, California on December 18, 2007.
Lydia Mendoza (91) Tejano music pioneer known as the "Lark of the Border." Mendoza, who scored her first big hit, "Mal Hombre" ("Evil Man"), in the '30s, became one of the first Mexican-American superstars by singing to the poor and downtrodden. She recorded more than 200 songs on more than 50 albums, including boleros, rancheras, cumbias, and tangos. She died in San Antonio, Texas on December 20, 2007.
Damien Morris (27) lead singer and vocalist of the Melbourne-based Victorian death metal band The Red Shore, which had been supporting the US-based band All Shall Perish on their Christmas Carnage tour in eastern Australia. Morris was killed in a van accident near Coffs Harbour (on the mid north coast of New South Wales), Australia on December 19, 2007.
Alan Wagner (76) former CBS programming executive who became the first president of the Disney Channel. As East Coast vice president of programming at CBS (1976-82), Wagner was in charge of developing and overseeing hit shows like All in the Family, Kojak, M*A*S*H, The Bob Newhart Show, The Waltons, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. In 1982 the Walt Disney Co. hired him to oversee the development of what was then a novel idea, a cable channel dedicated to children and family programming. Starting as a 16-hour-a-day cable service, the Disney Channel had its premiere in April 1983. Wagner died in New York City on December 18, 2007.
Ruth Wallis (87) cabaret singer of the '40s-'60s, known as the Queen of the Party Song for the risqué numbers she performed for delighted, and sometimes scandalized, audiences worldwide. Wallis, who began her career performing jazz and cabaret standards, soon became known for the novelty songs—more than 150 of them—she wrote herself, all loaded with double entendres. She died of Alzheimer's disease in South Killingly, Connecticut on December 22, 2007.
J. Russell Coffey (109) last World War I veteran in Ohio and one of only three known remaining US veterans of the conflict. Born in 1898, Coffey did not see action overseas; he enlisted in the Army in October 1918, a month before the Allied powers and Germany signed a cease-fire agreement. He drove his car until he was 104 and lived independently until 2004. He died in North Baltimore, Ohio, about 35 miles south of Toledo, on December 20, 2007.
Glenn W. Ferguson (78) former US ambassador to Kenya (1966-69) and a former president of the University of Connecticut (1973-78). Ferguson held various posts (1961-69) in the administrations of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, including with both the Peace Corps and VISTA. He died of cancer in Santa Fe, New Mexico on December 20, 2007.
Tom Murphy (83) former Georgia state legislator, longest-serving state House speaker in the nation (since 1973) when he was voted out of office in 2002. That election marked the beginning of the state's "Republican revolution." Murphy suffered a stroke in 2004, and his health had declined since. He died in Atlanta, Georgia on December 17, 2007.
Albert L. ("Dapper") O'Neil (87) longtime Boston city councilman, a colorful politician known for a gruff style and distaste for liberals. O'Neil was an unabashed conservative in a liberal city. Some thought him a bigot, but his politically incorrect style endeared him to others. He smoked into his 70s and endured numerous health problems in recent years, including a knee replacement, gall bladder surgery, and a heart attack in 2001. He also suffered from a rare degenerative neurological disease that at one point reduced his weight to 127 pounds. After years of deteriorating health that left him legally blind and with limited mobility, O'Neil died in his sleep in West Roxbury, Massachusetts on December 19, 2007.
Arabella Spencer-Churchill (58) granddaughter of Britain's wartime prime minister, Sir Winston Churchill (d. 1965), and a founder of the Glastonbury rock festival. Spencer-Churchill died of pancreatic cancer in Glastonbury, Sussex, England on the same day her son, Nicholas Jake Barton (34), was sentenced to three years in prison in Australia for his part in an ecstasy drug racket, on December 20, 2007.
Bill Strauss (60) founder of the political satire group Capitol Steps. A Harvard-trained lawyer and Senate subcommittee staffer, Strauss got the idea of forming Capitol Steps in 1981 after hosting a party that ended with a jam session around the piano in which partygoers riffed on parodies of Reagan-era newsmakers. The original group consisted of Senate staffers who satirized the people and places that employed them; they regularly performed for free at parties and in church basements. Today, Capitol Steps is a $3 million-a-year industry with more than 40 employees, mostly Republicans, who sing and satirize both political parties at venues across the country. Strauss had been battling pancreatic cancer since 1999. He died in McLean, Virginia on December 18, 2007.
Kristine K. Brown (110) oldest person in Oklahoma, a retired mathematics teacher at Northwestern State College, now Northwestern Oklahoma State University, whose husband, Kenneth E. Brown, served in the military during the Korean War. Kristine Brown died in Alva, Oklahoma on December 19, 2007.
Frederick Fretz (45) registered sex offender serving a 20-year sentence at a federal penitentiary after he pleaded guilty in 2005 to the kidnapping of 11-year-old Adam Kirkirt, later found alive. Fretz died after allegedly choking on a hot dog in Atwater, California on December 19, 2007.
Tina Hagenbuch (42) Michigan woman who had been enjoying an uneventful multiple pregnancy but was hospitalized after seven months with preeclampsia, a complication characterized by high blood pressure and other symptoms. Hagenbuch was having trouble breathing, so doctors decided to perform a cesarean section. She died unexpectedly while giving birth to triplets in Kalamazoo, Michigan on December 18, 2007.
Nataline Sarkisyan (17) leukemia patient whose health insurance company reversed its decision not to pay for a liver transplant only hours before her death. Sarkisyan had received a bone marrow transplant from her brother but developed a complication that caused her liver to fail. Philadelphia-based Cigna HealthCare had at first refused to pay for the liver transplant on grounds it was experimental. Sarkisyan died in Glendale, California on December 20, 2007.
Leila Bertha Backman Shull (113) oldest verified person in South Carolina, believed to be the fourth-oldest person in the US and the seventh-oldest in the world. Shull became the state's new record-holder, breaking the previous record of 112 years and 272 days set by Yettie Wilson in 2005. She was married to Lee Shull for 45 years and never remarried in the 47 years after he died. She had four children, 15 grandchildren, 34 great-grandchildren, and 40 great-great-grandchildren. She died in Columbia, South Carolina on December 22, 2007.
Tommy Byrne (87) longtime New York Yankees pitcher nicknamed "Wild Man" for his hard-thrown pitches and struggles with control, which meant that he led the American League several times in hit batters and walks. Byrne joined the Yankees in 1943 and pitched in four World Series during his two stints with the club. In 1955, the left-hander had his best season, winning a career-high 16 games. That same year he was named the AL's comeback player of the year. He later served two terms as mayor of Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he died of congestive heart failure on December 20, 2007.
Don Chevrier (69) longtime Canadian sports broadcaster who called several Olympics and the Toronto Blue Jays' first game. Chevrier worked on TV and radio for several networks, including ABC, NBC, ESPN, and the Canadian Broadcasting Co. (CBC). At the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, he called the USA-USSR "Miracle on Ice" hockey game for ABC Radio. He was found dead at his home in Palm Harbor, Florida on December 17, 2007.
Michal Polchlopek (19) son of professional wrestler Bart Gunn, first-ever WWE Brawl for All Winner, who appeared in the battle royal at the RAW show on December 10. Polchlopek died after being accidentally shot in the head as a friend was cleaning his gun, in Melbourne, Florida on December 19, 2007.