Archive for the ‘Obits’ Category

Obit watch: July 29, 2014.

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

James Shigeta passed away yesterday. I wasn’t sure if I was going to note this, but the A/V Club ran an excellent obit for him that I believe deserves attention.

He was the lead in the film version of “Flower Drum Song”. If you look at his IMDB page, he had bit parts in basically everything during the 1970′s: the original “Mission: Impossible”, “Rockford”, “SWAT”, “Kung Fu”, “Emergency”, “Ironside”, the original “Hawaii 5-0″, etc.

He was perhaps best known (at least to my brother) as Joseph Takagi in the first “Die Hard”.

Also, the NYT is reporting the passing of Theodore VanKirk, the last surviving crew member of the Enola Gay.

Obit watch: July 28, 2014.

Monday, July 28th, 2014

Bel Kaufman has passed away at the age of 103.

For those of you who need an introduction, Ms. Kaufman wrote the hugely successful 1965 novel Up the Down Staircase, based on her experiences teaching in New York city schools.

Over the years, Ms. Kaufman was often asked whether the memorandums in “Up the Down Staircase” were real. Though they were inane enough to look real, she explained, in fact, she had invented most of them. (Ms. Kaufman did include a few actual New York City Board of Education memos, but had to tone them down to make them credible.)

Obit watch: July 22, 2014.

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Novelist Thomas Berger.

For those who may not be aware, Berger’s most famous book was the Western Little Big Man, which in turn became the basis for the Dustin Hoffman movie.

Obit watch: July 21, 2014.

Monday, July 21st, 2014

For the historical record: James Garner. NYT. LAT.

I don’t have much to add beyond what’s in the obits: I can’t find my favorite Garner moment online. But I will say he was a man who classed up everything he was in.

Your loser update: July 14, 2014.

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Red Klotz has passed away.

Klotz was a prep basketball standout in Philadelphia, twice being named that city’s high school player of the year before going on to play at Villanova. He was on the Baltimore Bullets’ 1947-48 NBA championship team. At 5 feet 7, he is tied with six others as the third-shortest NBA player ever, and was the shortest player ever to be on an NBA championship team.

He’s more famous, perhaps, as a coach, having lost “tens of thousands of games” while coaching such teams as the Boston Shamrocks, New Jersey Reds, New York Nationals, International Elite, Global Select, World All-Stars…and, perhaps most famous of all, the Washington Generals.

Klotz himself was responsible for the Globetrotters’ last recognized loss, hitting a last-second shot in 1971 at age 51 while player-coach of the New Jersey Reds. He played against the Globetrotters until he was 68, and still played pickup games until a few years before his death.


Since we’re at the All-Star break, it seems like a good time to do a baseball loser update. Unfortunately, it really isn’t a good year for losers.

Surprisingly, Houston isn’t at the bottom of the list. Heck, they’re not even at the bottom of their division. The Astros are 40-56, with a .417 winning percentage; a mark they share with Arizona. Colorado is 40-55, .421, and my Cubs are 40-54, .426.

At rock bottom are your Texas Rangers, at 38-57, for a .400 winning percentage. I’m not saying any of these records are “good”, but compared to where the Astros were at the break last year (33-61, .351), this looks like a ray of sunshine.

Obit watch: July 14, 2014.

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Lorin Maazel.

He projected an image of an analytical intellectual — he had studied mathematics and philosophy in college, was fluent in six languages (French, German, Portuguese, Spanish and Italian, as well as English) and kept up with many subjects outside music — and his performances could seem coolly fastidious and emotionally distant. Yet such performances were regularly offset by others that were fiery and intensely personalized.

I know that Mike the Musicologist had strong feelings about Mazel; perhaps he will comment here or on his own blog.

Nadine Gordimer, noted South African writer.

Obit watch: June 30, 2014.

Monday, June 30th, 2014

There’s an interesting obit in today’s NYT for Michael Brown, who passed away on June 11th at 93.

Brown (no relation, AFAIK) was one of the major figures in the “industrial musical”, which I have touched on previously.

Mr. Brown, whose clients included the J. C. Penney Company, Singer sewing machines and DuPont, was among the genre’s most sought-after creators. His shows — he supplied music, lyrics and direction and often took part as a singer — were known, Mr. Young said, for “their high quality and general buoyancy and fun.”


His most widely seen show was without doubt “Wonderful World of Chemistry.” Presented in the DuPont pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, it was a rare example of an industrial musical open to the public. The show, written, produced and directed by Mr. Brown, was performed at least 40 times a day, by at least eight companies, for months on end.

If that was all Brown had done, this would still be a pretty interesting obit. But there’s another story: Brown and his wife had a good pot of money, and knew an aspiring writer who was living in New York and having trouble balancing her writing and her job.

So for Christmas of 1956, they gave their friend a present:

…an envelope with her name on it in the branches of their tree.
“I opened it and read: ‘You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.’”

That writer was Harper Lee. And now you know…the rest of the story.

The Good, the Bad, and the Obit Watch for June 25, 2014.

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Even though it has been widely reported (and I had a busy morning), I can’t let Eli Wallach pass without notice.

NYT. LAT. A/V Club.

This brought a smile to my face:

He graduated from Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn and attended the University of Texas at Austin (“because the tuition was $30 a year,” he once said), where he also learned to ride horses — a skill he would put to good use in westerns.

Edited to add: According to (I know, I know) Wikipedia, he graduated in 1936 with a history degree. Assuming he started in 1932, $30 then is about $520 now. If I’m reading this chart right, a history major today would be paying $4,673 a semester if they were a Texas resident.

Not that I’m grinding an axe or anything…

Obit watch: June 18, 2014.

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

Stanley Marsh 3, “legendary West Texas eccentric“.

This is Marsh’s most famous creation:

And Marsh spent the last years of his life entangled in civil suits and criminal accusations involving his alleged abuse of young men.

Texas Monthly
has the best coverage I’ve been able to find so far. Nothing in the papers of record yet, and the DFW papers are just running the AP obit.

Daniel Keyes has also passed away at the age of 86. Keyes was most famous for the novella “Flowers for Algernon”, later expanded into a novel, turned into the movie “Charly”, and the subject of countless popular culture parodies.

Obit watch: June 14, 2014.

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

By way of Lawrence: Chuck Noll, legendary coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Noll had been the defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Colts before the Steelers made him the youngest head coach in NFL history at the age of 34. They first offered the job to Joe Paterno, who opted to stay at Penn State, before hiring Noll in 1969.

Huh. History is a funny thing, isn’t it?

Edited to add: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette obit.

Noted for the historical record.

Friday, June 6th, 2014


Charles Myers was my mother’s uncle, which would make him my grand-uncle. Not mentioned in his obituary, but told to me by my mother: he was on the beach at Normandy.


Obit watch: June 5, 2014.

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Don Zimmer: NYT. ESPN.

Lady Mary Soames passed away last Saturday. Mrs. Soames was the last surviving child of Winston Churchill, and wrote extensively (and, by all the accounts I’ve seen, well) about her family.

And we are obligated to note the passing of Chester Nez, Navajo code talker.

Nez, a painter, earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the University in Kansas in 2012.