Noted English mystery writer P.D. James has passed away. She was 94.
Archive for the ‘Obits’ Category
Gus Vlahavas, owner of Tom’s Restaurant in Brooklyn.
Noted here because this is a great example of the kind of obit the paper of record does well. Also because there’s a lot of dust in the room:
Mr. Vlahavas lived for Tom’s, almost literally so. To make sure he arrived promptly at 5 a.m. to fire up the grill, he bought a brownstone around the corner at a time when few people were moving into the neighborhood. His dedication was reciprocated by the loyalty of his neighbors, who by the 1960s were mainly blacks from the American South and the Caribbean, who replaced the Irish, Italians and Jews. During the blackout of 1965, when rioting erupted, local people formed a human chain to protect Tom’s.
“All my neighbors, my black American friends, they all held hands around the store, 70 of them,” Mr. Vlahavas told The Daily News in 2009. “It made me feel terrific because these people were very thoughtful and kind enough to protect me,” he continued. “This doesn’t happen every day in anyone’s life.”
Also among the dead: Jane Byrne, former mayor of Chicago.
A long time ago, I was a huge fan of “Car Talk”. My Monday nights were not complete without listening to the latest episode, and I tended to get cranky if that schedule was interrupted. (Kids, ask your parents about the time before podcasts.) I even – hold on to your hats, folks – donated money to our local NPR station at one point so I could show my support of “Car Talk”. (Oh, yeah. Like you never did anything stupid when you were young.)
Then our local station changed the schedule around so “Car Talk” was on at an inconvenient time, and I kind of dropped away from it. Then Tom and Ray started taking truly idiotic political positions (for example, advocating a federally enforced limit on horsepower to weight ratios) and I stopped being a “Car Talk” fan. As a matter of fact, I began to find the show grating. Not quite “I’d rather listen to Prairie Home Companion” grating, but grating enough. And frankly, I don’t understand why it is still on the air, since it has been nothing but re-runs since 2012. (Actually, I think I do understand why: I guess it brings in the bucks at pledge time.)
On the other hand, 77 is too damn young. Alzheimer’s sucks. I do kind of want to hear the tribute show. And he had a great beard.
He is perhaps most famous for an incident that occurred during the Vietnam War. At the time, Col. Broughton was vice commander of the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing. One of his pilots approached him after a raid and stated that he might have accidentally hit a Soviet ship with cannon fire while he was bombing Vietnamese anti-aircraft positions located nearby. The next day, the Soviets complained that one of their ships had been bombed; Col. Broughton, in an attempt to protect his pilots, ordered the gun camera film from their aircraft destroyed.
Col. Broughton and two of his pilots were court-martialled for allegedly bombing the Soviet ship. However, the gun camera film was the only evidence of what happened; since it had been destroyed, there wasn’t any evidence that the ship had actually been bombed, and Col. Broughton and the pilots were acquitted on that charge. Col. Broughton was, however, found guilty of “destruction of government property” (the gun camera film, with an estimated worth of $5). His conviction was later overturned due to “undue command influence”.
One observer on the Board for the Correction of Military Records called the court-martial ‘the grossest example of injustice in history.’ As Broughton himself wrote in his book, Going Downtown: The War Against Hanoi and Washington, ‘I found it interesting that in the entire history of the United States flying forces, only one other officer had ever had a general court-martial set aside and voided. His name was Billy Mitchell.’
Here’s a pretty good article reprinted from Vietnam magazine that covers the cases of Col. Broughton and Jack Lavelle. (I’ve also written about the Lavelle case; the linked article is from 1997, and doesn’t cover the more recent developments.)
Apologies. It was a busy morning and a busy afternoon.
Probably the only Ben Bradlee obit you need to read. I think Bradlee’s legacy and influence (good and bad) will be debated in the coming days. And I note that the WP doesn’t shy away from mentioning “Jimmy” along with Watergate and the Pentagon Papers. But I like this:
Mr. Bradlee’s three years in the wartime Navy had a lasting influence on him. As a young officer, he learned empathy for the enlisted men and developed a style of leadership that he relied on throughout his professional life. As recounted in his memoirs, it combined an easy authority with tolerance for the irrepressible enthusiasm of those under his command. Even as a young officer, he never enjoyed a confrontation and preferred accommodation to the aggressive use of authority.
Also among the dead: Nelson Bunker Hunt, of silver fame.
Obit watch: Elizabeth Pena. The name may not ring a bell at first, but she was in John Sayles’ “Lone Star”, “La Bamba”, “Jacob’s Ladder”, and was the voice of Mirage in “The Incredibles”, among a whole bunch of other credits. And I have to give a shot-out to this bit of trivia:
She also starred in I Married Dora, a sitcom about a green card marriage between an architect and his El Salvadoran housekeeper that aired for 13 episodes in 1987. The show is remembered by fans of obscure and weird TV for the conclusion of its final episode, when the actors announced on camera that the story cliffhanger they’d been building toward had been “resolved” by the series’ cancellation.
(Video at the link.)
People who know me are aware that I’m kind of a map geek. The very small handful of people I’ve let into my apartment can attest to this; my decorating theme is “maps”.
So I think this is kind of cool, for obvious reasons: free downloadable USGS topographic maps.
We haven’t heard much recently from the notoriously corrupt California city of Vernon.
His death appears to have been the result of natural causes (and not in the “he was shot in the head six times, so naturally he died” sense).
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.
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”.)
Edited to add: now the NYT gets around to it.
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.