Archive for the ‘Obits’ Category

Obit watch: September 29, 2014.

Monday, September 29th, 2014

Don Keefer passed away earlier this month. He was 98 years old.

Mr. Keefer was one of those actors who knocked around a lot; he was in “The Caine Mutiny” and the original Broadway cast of “Death of a Salesman”.

But he was perhaps most famous as Don Hollis, the man who ends up wished into the cornfield by Anthony in the Twilight Zone episode “It’s A Good Life”.

Also: James Traficant.

Obit watch: September 11, 2014.

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Colonel Bernard F. Fisher (USAF – ret) passed away on August 16th, though his death does not appear to have been widely reported until today.

Col. Fisher (he was a major at the time) received the Medal of Honor for pulling off one of the greatest rescue missions in the history of the Vietnam War.

(I swear that I read this story in Reader’s Digest when I was a child, maybe as a “Drama In Real Life”.)

The paper of record does not seem to have deigned to note the passing of Richard “Jaws” Kiel, but the LATimes and the A/V Club have.

Edited to add: now the NYT gets around to it.

Obit watch: August 30, 2014.

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

Werner Franz passed away on August 13th at the age of 92, though his death does not appear to have been widely reported until now.

Mr. Franz is believed to have been the last surviving crew member of the Hindenburg.

At least one other survivor of the crash, Werner Doehner, who was 8 years old and traveling with his family at the time, is thought to be still living.

Obit watch: August 29, 2014.

Friday, August 29th, 2014

This has been circulating for a couple of days, but I wanted to wait until I was able to confirm it.

Jeremiah Healy, mystery writer.

I haven’t read any of the John Francis Cuddy mysteries, though they’ve been on my radar. Healy did one of the essays for In Pursuit of Spenser: Mystery Writers on Robert B. Parker and the Creation of an American Hero; it was…interesting. (That’s shorthand for “There was some good stuff in it, but I also had issues.”)

The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).

Obit watch: August 26, 2014.

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

Missed this over the weekend, but notorious Alaskan serial killer Robert Hansen descended into hell last week.

Bill James, in his book Popular Crime, devotes some space to Hansen and makes two good points:

  1. Hansen’s criminal career was largely symptomatic of the way the criminal justice system worked at the time:

    Robert Hansen was the end product of a criminal justice system that really didn’t want to convict people, a criminal justice system that had lost track of its responsibility to protect the public. But you know what? That was 30 years ago, when Hansen was running wild and nobody would step up to stop him. It was a long time ago. It isn’t that way anymore. The system has, to a large extent, healed itself.

    Specifically, Hansen had a long career, mostly involving petty theft but including some serious crimes against women. Yet somehow he managed to make the charges against him mostly disappear, and minimized the severity of the ones that remained. He was convicted of rape in 1971 and sentenced to five years in prison; Hansen was paroled after three months. And as far as I can tell, that, and a year and half for setting a school bus barn on fire when he was young, are the only time he did until his arrest for the killings; he was at one point sentenced to five years for stealing a chainsaw, but that sentence was overturned on appeal and he ended up on parole again.
    In short, the courts and the cops had plenty of opportunities to stop him before and while he was hunting women, and botched them all.

  2. Hansen, unlike many serial killers, was publicity shy. So much so that, according to James, he used that as a negotiating tool; “I’ll answer your questions about what I did, as long as you keep the press and the people writing books away from me.” This would explain why he wasn’t as well known as Bundy or Gacy, even though his crimes were equally sensational.

Obit watch: August 13, 2014.

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Lauren Bacall. NYT. LAT. A/V Club.

Robin Williams.

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Lawrence. Popehat I. Popehat II. NYT. LAT. A/V Club. Incomparable “Bonus Track”.

Edited to add: The Bloggess.

Somehow this seems appropriate:

Edited to add 2: Cracked. Damn.

So when I hear some naive soul say, “Wow, how could a wacky guy like [insert famous dead comedian here] just [insert method of early self-destruction here]? He was always joking around and having a great time!” my only response is a blank stare.
That’s honestly the equivalent of, “How can that cow be dead? She had to be healthy, because these hamburgers we made from her are delicious!”

Depression lies.

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Robin Williams, the Oscar-winning actor and comedian whose performances careened from dazzling pop-culture riffs to intense dramatic roles, died Monday at the age of 63, in an apparent suicide that marked the grim end of his recent battles with severe depression.

I’ll have more to say about this in the morning. In the meantime, the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.

Obit (sort of) watch: August 1, 2014.

Friday, August 1st, 2014

There’s a nice story in today’s NYT. And I wonder why I’m reading it there, rather than in the Statesman.

Background: Gary Lavergne wrote what is widely considered the definitive book on Charles Whitman, A Sniper in the Tower: The Charles Whitman Murders.

Claire Wilson was one of Whitman’s victims. She was walking with her boyfriend, Thomas Eckman, when Whitman shot her in the belly. He then shot and killed Eckman. Ms. Wilson survived, but she was eight months pregnant; Whitman’s bullet killed the baby.

Ms. Wilson (now Ms. Jones) got in touch with Mr. Lavergne after the book was published (he was unable to find her previously) and they became friends. Sometime later, Mr. Lavergne began researching a question, and found the answer last year.

In November 2013, he was preparing the materials from his most recent work, “Before Brown,” a history of Heman Marion Sweatt’s efforts to integrate the university beginning in the 1940s. Mr. Lavergne revisited a database of nearly 23,000 graves at Austin Memorial Park Cemetery, where Theophilus S. Painter, the university president of that era, is buried.

The end result is that Ms. Jones now knows where her baby was buried. And the grave has a headstone, paid for by Mr. Lavergne.

Pretty much everyone has acknowledged this, but: Dick Smith. A/V Club.

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.