Dick Thornburgh, 88, who as Pennsylvania governor won plaudits for his cool handling of the 1979 Three Mile Island crisis and as U.S. attorney general restored credibility to a Justice Department hurt by the Iran-Contra scandal, died Thursday morning at a retirement community facility outside Pittsburgh. He suffered a mild stroke in June 2014.
Thornburgh built his reputation as a crime-busting federal prosecutor in Pittsburgh and as a moderate Republican governor. As the nation’s top law enforcement official, he prosecuted the savings and loan scandal. He also shepherded the Americans with Disabilities Act; one of his sons had been severely brain damaged in an auto accident.
Dawn Wells, 82, who played the wholesome Mary Ann in a misfit band of shipwrecked castaways on the 1960s sitcom “Gilligan’s Island,” died Wednesday in Los Angeles of COVID-19. Besides TV, film and stage acting credits, her other real-life roles included teacher, motivational speaker and conservationist. Wells, a native of Reno, Nevada, and a University of Washington graduate, represented her state in the 1959 Miss America pageant and quickly pivoted to an acting career. Her early TV roles were on shows including “77 Sunset Strip,” “Maverick” and “Bonanza.”
Samuel Little, 80, the man the FBI says was the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history — with nearly 60 confirmed victims — died Wednesday in California. Little, who had diabetes, heart trouble and other ailments, died at a hospital. He was serving a life sentence for multiple counts of murder. He confessed to killing 93 people between 1970 and 2005. Authorities continue to investigate his claims.
Phyllis McGuire, 89, the lead singer and last surviving member of the McGuire Sisters, who bewitched teenage America in the 1950s with chart-topping renditions of “Sincerely” and “Sugartime” in a sweet, innocent harmony that went with car fins, charm bracelets and duck-tail haircuts, died Tuesday in Las Vegas. The sisters epitomized a 1950s sensibility that held up a standard of unreal perfection, wearing identical coifs, dresses and smiles, moving with synchronized precision and blending voices in wholesome songs for simpler times.
Pierre Cardin, 98, the fashion trendsetter, who radically transformed men’s and women’s fashion in the 1960s and redefined the field of commercial branding by licensing his name to products including toiletries, jewelry, luggage, linens, furniture, eyeglasses, candy, mattresses, skis, wine, wigs and coffee pots, died Tuesday in Neuilly-sur-Seine, just outside Paris.
In 1959, at the Paris department store Printemps, Cardin became the first designer to introduce a ready-to-wear — or “prêt-à-porter” — women’s line for a broad audience. With that act of independence, Cardin steered himself away from the haute couture houses that dominated the Paris fashion scene.
“It was Cardin who first equated fashion design with the masses, and he made the notion of luxury for everyone into an international currency,” fashion writer Elisabeth Langle wrote in a 2005 book, “Pierre Cardin: Fifty Years of Fashion and Design.”
Joe Clark, 82, disciplinarian principal of a troubled New Jersey high school in the 1980s who gained fame for restoring order as he roamed its hallways with a bullhorn and sometimes a baseball bat, died Tuesday of an unspecified illness at home in Gainesville, Florida. When Clark, a former Army drill sergeant, arrived at Eastside High School in Paterson, New Jersey, in 1982, he declared it a “caldron of violence.” In his first week, he expelled 300 students for disciplinary problems. When he tossed out — “expurgated,” he said — about 60 more students five years later, he called them “leeches, miscreants and hoodlums.” He succeeded in restoring order and improving some test scores. He was portrayed by Morgan Freeman in the 1989 film “Lean on Me,” based on Clark.
Luke Letlow, 41, Louisiana’s newest Republican member of the U.S. House, died Tuesday night from complications related to COVID-19 only days before being sworn into office. The incoming congressman, elected in a December runoff and set to take office in January, was admitted to a Monroe hospital on Dec. 19 after testing positive for the coronavirus disease. He was later transferred to the Shreveport facility and placed in intensive care. Letlow is survived by his wife, Julia Barnhill Letlow, and two children.
Armando Manzanero, 85, the Mexican ballad singer and composer best known for songs like “Somos Novios,” which, with translated English lyrics, became the 1970s hit “It’s Impossible” for Perry Como, died Dec. 28, in a Mexico Citty hospital. Manzanero was hospitalized in recent weeks with COVID-19, according to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who praised the Yucatan native as “a great composer, and the country’s best … a man with sensitivity, on social questions as well.”
Manzanero was proud of his roots in the largely Maya indigenous state, noting “I am a Mexican of Mayan ancestry, I am a Mayan Indian.”
Barbara Rose, 84, an influential art historian and critic who wrote about culture with an authority informed by her close friendships with two generations of artists in New York and abroad, died Dec. 25 in Concord, New Hampshire. Her death, in a hospice, was confirmed by her husband, Richard Du Boff, who said that she had breast cancer for a decade.
Rose is probably best known as the author of the textbook “American Art Since 1900,” and was an art critic for Vogue and New York magazines and produced eight documentary films. Rose probably did as much as any critic of the postwar era to advance the art careers of women. In 1971, she wrote the first major monograph on Helen Frankenthaler. In 1983, she organized the first museum retrospective of Lee Krasner’s work, a year before Krasner’s death.
Tony Rice, 69, the master bluegrass picker known for rapid, fluid licks on his storied Martin D-28 guitar playing with everyone from Jerry Garcia to Dolly Parton and who got a 1993 Grammy for best country instrumental, died Dec. 25 at his home in Reidsville, North Carolina, according to the International Bluegrass Music Association. Rice released dozens of albums, including several as a member of the David Grisman Quintet; “Skaggs & Rice” with Ricky Skaggs; “Manzanita” as leader of “The Tony Rice Unit”; and such solo efforts as “Tony Rice” and “Me & My Guitar.”
K.C. Jones, 88, the basketball Hall of Famer, Olympic gold medalist and two-time NCAA champion who won eight straight NBA titles during the Celtics’ Bill Russell era and then coached the Boston teams with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish to two more championships in the 1980s, died Dec. 26 at an assisted living facility in Connecticut, where he had been receiving care for Alzheimer’s disease for several years.
“K.C. was the nicest man I ever met. He always went out of his way to make people feel good, it was such an honor to play for him,” fellow Hall of Famer Bird said in a statement. “His accomplishments are too many to list, but, to me, his greatest accomplishment was being such an outstanding person to all who had the privilege of knowing him, I will miss him dearly.”
Hank Adams, 77, who was called the “most important Indian” by influential Native American rights advocate and author Vine Deloria Jr., because he was involved with nearly every major event in American Indian history from the 1960s forward, died at Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia on Dec. 21, following repeated bouts with illness, according to the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, which announced his death. A prolific thinker and strategist, Adams was perhaps best known for his work to secure treaty rights, particularly during the Northwest “fish wars” of the 1960s and ’70s.
Bill Holm, 95, a Seattle artist, curator and teacher, who was , from boyhood, insatiably curious about the cultures of Native American people died on his sleep Dec. 16.
His family moved when he was still a boy from Montana to Seattle — where he quickly immersed himself in the collections at the Washington State Museum — now the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. It was the beginning of his long association with the museum and the University of Washington. Although Holm was not a member of a tribe, Native artists acknowledged his deep expertise and his sincerity and respect for Native art and traditions. It was Holm’s passion for detail, and deep curiosity, not only in Northwest Coast art but how it was made, that set him so apart as an artist and a teacher.