A roundup of notable obituaries from the week ending Dec. 16.
Craig Sager, 65, the sartorially splendid sideline reporter for Turner Sports and one of the NBA’s most well-liked figures, died Thursday in Atlanta, ending a long battle with acute myeloid leukemia. Sager shared much of that battle publicly in a way that was in keeping with a personality as colorful and cheerful as his famously garish fashion choices, and turned him into a basketball folk hero of sorts in his last years.
Halfdan T. Mahler, 93, who headed the United Nations health agency’s Tuberculosis Unit and served as its director-general from 1973 until 1988, died Wednesday, in Geneva after he was hospitalized Saturday and slipped into a coma. The Danish physician began his career at the World Health Organization with the National Tuberculosis Program in India and headed the agency through its most turbulent period, when AIDS emerged.
Bernard Fox, 89, the mustachioed actor known to TV viewers as Dr. Bombay on “Bewitched” and Col. Crittendon on “Hogan’s Heroes,” died Wednesday of heart failure at a Los Angeles-area hospital. The Welsh-born actor’s extensive, wide-ranging film and TV credits included “The Mummy,” “Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo,” “The Dyke Van Dyke Show,” “McHale’s Navy” and “Columbo.”
Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns, 95, one of the Catholic Church’s most prominent pro-democracy voices in Latin America, died in Brazil on Wednesday after a long struggle with lung and kidney problems. Arns, who served the archdiocese of São Paulo from 1970 to 1998, became famous for challenging leaders of the brutal military dictatorship of 1964-1985 and for his fight against torture in Latin America.
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Arns’ political links led Pope John Paul II to intervene in his archdiocese, the second biggest in the world after Mexico City, to split his powers. He lived his last years in silence on the outskirts of São Paulo.
Lawrence Manley Colburn, 67, a helicopter gunner in the Vietnam War who helped end the slaughter of hundreds of unarmed Vietnamese villagers by U.S. troops at My Lai, died Tuesday in Caton, Ga., near Atlanta. The cause was cancer. Colburn was the last surviving member of a U.S. Army crew that placed itself between civilians and American soldiers of Charlie Company who were killing women, children and elderly. The My Lai massacre of March 16, 1968, claimed as many as 504 civilian lives.
Colburn was nominated, along with crewmates, for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 for their actions and received the Soldier’s Medal, the highest U.S. military award for bravery not involving conflict with the enemy.
Thomas Schelling, 95, an economist who won a Nobel Prize for using game theory to explain nuclear strategy, died Tuesday in Bethesda, Md.
Awarded the Nobel Prize in economics in 2005, Schelling’s best-known book was “The Strategy of Conflict” (1960), in which he used game theory, the mathematical analysis of strategies used in competitive situations, to analyze negotiations between nuclear powers. That, along with an article he wrote about the prospect of an accidental nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union, attracted the attention of director Stanley Kubrick, who ended up adapting a novel on the subject into “Dr. Strangelove,” his satirical masterpiece about nuclear war, on which Schelling was a consultant.
Schelling also used game theory to study what led white homeowners to flee mixed-race cities for the suburbs. His ideas were later popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his best-selling book “The Tipping Point.” He continued his studies into his 90s and was planning to give two talks on global climate change.
Alan Thicke, 69, a versatile performer who gained his greatest renown as the beloved dad on a long-running sitcom, died from a heart attack on Tuesday in Los Angeles. The Canadian-born writer and composer of theme songs for game shows and TV shows also hosted a late-night TV show, “Thicke of the Night,” from 1983-84. He starred on the 1985-92 ABC series “Growing Pains,” playing Dr. Jason Seaver, a psychiatrist and father-knows-best who worked from home so his wife could work as a reporter.
Shirley Hazzard, 85, the Australian-born author of an acclaimed if small portfolio of fiction peopled with characters whose lives, much like her own, toss them up far from home, died on Monday night at her home in Manhattan. Hazzard’s fiction is dense with meaning, subtle in implication and tense in plot, often with disaster looming: A shipwreck tears away the parents of tiny children. A man who has waited a lifetime for a woman loses her at the last moment. “The Transit of Venus,” won the 1980 National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction and fans had to wait more than 20 years for “The Great Fire,” which won the 2003 National Book Award for fiction.
Joe Ligon, 80, whose raspy, throbbing vocals and preaching style helped make the Mighty Clouds of Joy one of the most successful gospel quartets of all time, died last Sunday, Dec. 11. Details about where he died or what was the cause were not available.
Ligon, a full-throttle singer with a powerful voice reminiscent of Wilson Pickett’s, founded the multiple-Grammy-Award winner Mighty Clouds of Joy in the 1950s and in a break with tradition, the group added bass, drums and keyboards to the standard guitar backup and developed a funky sound that split the difference between gospel and rhythm and blues. Purists balked, but younger listeners responded. Ligon, for his part, insisted that the group, while exploring new styles, never strayed: “We’re still singing to lift the name of the Lord.”
Esma Redzepova, 73, one of the most powerful voices in the world of Gypsy music, died last Sunday, Dec. 11, in Skopje, Macedonia, after a brief illness. Called the “Queen of Gypsy music,” Redzepova in 2010 was ranked among the 50 greatest voices in the world by National Public Radio.