Archive for the ‘Obits’ Category

Obit watch: October 30, 2014.

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Col. Jack Broughton (USAF – ret.) passed away last Friday.

Col. Broughton was a former Thunderbird and wrote several books, including Thud Ridge and Going Downtown.

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.)

Obit watch: October 22, 2014.

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

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.

(NYT obit for another perspective.)

Also among the dead: Nelson Bunker Hunt, of silver fame.

Random notes: October 16, 2014.

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

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.

Obit watch: September 30, 2014.

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

We haven’t heard much recently from the notoriously corrupt California city of Vernon.

The first council member to get elected in a competitive race since the Nixon presidency in the small city of Vernon — population about 100 — has died.

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).

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.