A roundup of notable obituaries from the week ending June 29.
Harlan Ellison, 84, the prolific, pugnacious author of “A Boy and His Dog,” and countless other stories that blasted society with their nightmarish, sometimes darkly humorous scenarios, died Wednesday in his sleep.
During a career that spanned more than half a century, Ellison wrote some 50 books and more than 1,400 articles, essays, TV scripts and screenplays. Although best-known for his science fiction, which garnered nearly a dozen Nebula and Hugo awards, Ellison’s work covered virtually every type of writing from mysteries to comic books to newspaper columns. Stephen King tweeted on Thursday: “Angry, funny, eloquent, hugely talented. If there’s an afterlife, Harlan is already kicking ass and taking down names.”
Anne Tolstoi Wallach, 89, who rose to the executive ranks in the male-dominated New York advertising world, then wrote a saucy, much-discussed best-seller about a fictional woman who does the same, died Wednesday at her home in Manhattan. The cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease.
Wallach shook up the publishing industry in 1981 with “Women’s Work,” her debut novel, which had brought an $850,000 advance from the New American Library publishing house, a staggering figure (the equivalent of about $2.4 million today) for a first-time novelist.
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The main character, Domina Drexler, was a reflection of her own experiences. She used her newfound prominence to draw attention to issues of concern to women in the workplace, like maternity leave, which didn’t exist in the 1950s. That was something she had not had the benefit of when she had her children, she told People magazine; at the advertising agency where she worked in the 1950s, women had to use their vacation time for childbirth.
Joseph Jackson, 89, the fearsome stage dad of Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson and their talented siblings, who took his family from poverty and launched a musical dynasty, died Wednesday at Nathan Adelson Hospice in Las Vegas. A guitarist who put his own musical ambitions aside to work in the steel mills to support his wife and nine children in Gary, Indiana, he far surpassed his own dreams through his children, particularly his seventh child, Michael, who fronted the Jackson 5 to stardom in 1969 and became a superstar.
Phil Rodgers, 80, a five-time winner on the PGA Tour who became one of golf’s top instructors, died Tuesday morning at his home near San Diego, after a long battle with leukemia. Rodgers won all five of his PGA Tour events in his 20s, and that included two close calls in the majors. Rodgers played his last full season in 1977, then became an instructor and was listed annually in golf magazines as among the best in the country. Jack Nicklaus pointed to Rodgers as the person responsible in getting his game back on track in the late ’70s.
Constance Adams, 53, an architect who gave up designing skyscrapers to develop structures that would help travelers live with reasonable comfort on the International Space Station, Mars or the moon, died Monday at her home in Houston. The cause was colorectal cancer.
Working with Kriss Kennedy, a NASA space architect, Adams helped design the TransHab (short for Transit Habitat), a three-level inflatable module that, attached to the outside of the space station, would have augmented the cramped quarters in which astronauts have lived and worked since the craft was first launched in 2000. It would have also been used on a Mars mission.
David Goldblatt, 87, a photographer who for more than 50 years documented with a cool fury the oppressive racial dynamics of his native South Africa during apartheid and after, died on Monday at his home in Johannesburg. The cause was cancer.
He was not the kind of photographer who was often found in the middle of violent confrontations. “I’m a coward; I run away from violence,” he told the photography site ASX in 2013. “I’m not interested in events as such as a photographer. As a citizen of the country, yes, of course I am. But as a photographer, I am interested in the causes of events.”
Frank Heart, 89, the engineer who oversaw development of the first routing computer for the Arpanet, the precursor to the internet, died last Sunday at a retirement community in Lexington, Massachusetts. The cause was complications of melanoma.
In 1969, Heart led a small team of talented young engineers to build the Interface Message Processor, or IMP, a computer whose special function was to switch data among the computers on the Arpanet. Data networking was so new that Heart and his team had no choice but to invent technology as they went. To this day, many of the principles Heart emphasized — reliability, error resistance and the capacity for self-correction — remain central to the internet’s robustness.
Kathy Shaw, 72, a journalist who doggedly investigated allegations of sexual abuse by clergymen and compiled a national register of misconduct accusations so the public could grasp the dimensions of the crisis, died last Sunday in a hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts. The cause was complications of pneumonia.
By surveying thousands of cases and posting them on a blog called Abuse Tracker, Shaw played a meaningful if largely unheralded role in helping fellow journalists and victims of abuse.
Donald Hall, 89, a prolific, award-winning poet admired for his sharp humor and painful candor about nature, mortality, baseball and the distant past, died June 23 in Wilmot, New Hampshire, after being in hospice care for some time. Hall was the nation’s 2006-2007 poet laureate.
Hall was one of the leading poets of his generation, frequently mentioned in the company of Robert Bly, James Wright and Galway Kinnell. In evoking a bucolic New England past and expressing a deep veneration of nature, he used simple and direct language, though often to surreal effect.
Willie Lee Rose, 91, a historian who upended the scholarly consensus of her time by shifting the primary blame for the failure of Reconstruction after the Civil War from freed slaves and Northern interlopers to irresolute federal officials, died on June 20 in Baltimore.
Reviewing her seminal work, “Rehearsal for Reconstruction: The Port Royal Experiment” (1964) for The New York Times Book Review, the Amherst professor Henry Steele Commager wrote: “In the rewriting of history, which is continuous, historians are coming increasingly to emphasize not the sufferings of Southern whites but the betrayal of Southern Negroes as perhaps the most significant feature of the Reconstruction era.”
Diana Hanbury King, 90, a master teacher who helped generations of students struggling to read fluently, write and spell — and being stigmatized for it — because of an often undiagnosed learning disability called dyslexia, died June 15 at her home in Lakeville, Connecticut.
She was instrumental in transforming the popular perception of people with dyslexia from being backward or unteachable to being often highly intelligent despite their learning difficulties. Often they were endowed with keen powers of observation and original thinking, innate charm, a sense of balance and high energy.