Ernest J. Gaines, 86, who wrote of the inner struggle for dignity among Southern black people before the civil-rights era in “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” and other acclaimed novels, died Tuesday at his home in Oscar, Louisiana.
“Miss Jane Pittman,” completed in 1971, made him famous, and the next year he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 1974, CBS adapted the book into a television movie starring Cicely Tyson as the title character. The production won nine Emmy Awards. Two subsequent books, also widely acclaimed, were made into movies as well: “A Gathering of Old Men” (1983) and “A Lesson Before Dying” (1993). He became a writer in residence at what is now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 1981. Gaines was named a MacArthur Fellow — the “genius grant” — in 1993. In 2000, he received the National Humanities Medal from President Bill Clinton.
Gay Byrne, 85, beloved Irish radio and television personality who broke codes of silence over sexual practices, abuse and hypocrisy in Ireland’s conservative Roman Catholic society, died Monday at home in Dublin. He hosted the weekend “Late Late Show” for 37 years, helping to make it the flagship program of the state broadcaster Radio Telefs Eireann, known as RTE. In the process he became a celebrated national figure. The Irish Times dedicated an eight-page supplement to his death. He was so revered that RTE did a live broadcast of his funeral in Dublin on Friday.
Eli Pasquale, 59, the Canadian Olympic basketball star and Canadian Basketball Hall of Famer died Monday, of cancer. Pasquale was drafted in 1984 by the Seattle SuperSonics but didn’t make the team. He played professionally in Argentina, West Germany and Switzerland.
Gert Boyle, 95, the colorful chairwoman of Oregon-based Columbia Sportswear who starred in ads proclaiming her as “One Tough Mother,” died Nov. 3. The cause of deah was not diclosed.
Boyle took over the small outdoor clothing company in 1970 after her husband died from a heart attack. At the time, she was a 46-year-old housewife and mother of three with no real business experience. But she helped build the struggling company into a national brand and retailer. “Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise,” Boyle often said, among other pet phrases.
It was her role in an advertising campaign in the 1980s that gave her national exposure. The ads showed Boyle putting her son, Tim, president of the company, through treacherous outdoor feats to ensure the products met her standards. An iconic photo from the campaign, which has her flexing her arm emblazoned with a “Born to Nag” tattoo, still hangs in the company’s Beaverton headquarters.
William B. Branch, 92, a playwright, television writer, producer and actor who, in his work, explored African American life and sought to challenge the stereotypes that burdened it in off-Broadway plays like “A Medal for Willie,” about the bitterness of a black World War II veteran mistreated in the service and decorated posthumously, died of metastatic cancer Nov. 3, in Hawthorne, New York. He also wrote “A Letter From Booker T,” a historical drama, for public television. On radio, he directed “The Jackie Robinson Show” on NBC in the late 1950s; for two years he was also the ghostwriter for Robinson’s nationally syndicated column for The New York Post.
Brian Tarantina, 60, a character actor who had roles in a number of television shows and movies, including “Gilmore Girls” and “BlacKkKlansman,” and most recently in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” was found dead Nov. 2 in his Manhattan home. The cause of death was being determined by the medical examiner. His manager Laurie Smith said he had recently had a severe illness.
Walter Mercado, 88, a television astrologer whose glamorous persona made him a star in Latin media and a cherished icon for gay people in most of the Spanish-speaking world, died from kidney failure at the Auxilio Mutuo Hospital in San Juan on Nov. 2.
Mercado was known throughout Latin American for the melodrama of his daily horoscopes, delivered on internationally broadcast networks such as Univision with an exaggerated trilling of the “r“. He favored colorful brocaded capes and huge gemstone rings, which he flashed while pointing at viewers.
Narayana Reddy, 73, Indian cook whose YouTube channel, Grandpa Kitchen, garnered more than 6 million followers with videos of him preparing gargantuan amounts of food to feed orphaned children and other hungry people, died Oct. 27 in India. No details were provided. Local news media reported that he lived in the southern state of Telangana. He began the Grandpa Kitchen channel in 2017 by posting videos that followed a straightforward formula: adorable children, heartwarming music, inspirational sayings and seemingly absurd amounts of food.