Christopher Tolkien, 95, son of writer J.R.R. Tolkien who guarded his father’s legacy and edited posthumous works like “The Silmarillion,” died Wednesday in France. Long after his father died in 1973, Mr. Tolkien worked to keep the stories he created in “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” — the spiders of Mirkwood, the Eye of Mordor, the elves of Rivendell and thousands of pages of others — alive for readers. As literary executor for the Tolkien estate, he compiled and edited much of his father’s work, including “The Silmarillion” and the collection “The History of Middle-earth.”
Rocky “Soulman” Johnson, 75, a WWE Hall of Fame wrestler who became better known as the father of actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, has died. He and Tony Atlas became the first black world tag team champions in WWE history when they defeated The Wild Samoans on Dec. 10, 1983. Mr. Johnson later helped train his son, who adopted the Rocky moniker from his father. Johnson came to his son’s aid after a match at WrestleMania in 1997. The Rock inducted his father into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008.
Harold Burson, 98, a public-relations giant who co-founded Burson-Marsteller and built it into one of the world’s largest PR firms, developing a reputation for deft crisis management that made him a favorite of embattled corporations and foreign governments, died Jan. 10 at a rehabilitation center in Memphis. The cause was complications from a fall.
Gladys Bourdain, 85, a longtime copy editor at The New York Times who helped kick-start the writing career of her son Anthony, the chef who became a world-famous memoirist and television host, died Jan. 10 at a hospice facility in the Bronx. Gladys Bourdain began her career at The Times in 1984 and worked there until 2008, developing a reputation as a strict grammarian on the culture and metropolitan desks.
Ivan Passer, 86, a director who, along with Milos Forman and others, ushered in the filmmaking movement known as the Czech New Wave in the 1960s, then went on to direct American features including “Born to Win,” and “Cutter’s Way,” died Jan. 9 at his home in Reno, Nevada. Passer’s debut feature, “Intimate Lighting,” released in Czechoslovakia in 1965, was widely hailed as helping to establish a new level of cinema there.
Neil Peart, 67, the pyrotechnical drummer and high-concept lyricist for the Canadian progressive-rock trio Rush, died Jan. 7 in Santa Monica, California. The cause was brain cancer.
Rush was formed in 1968 but found its long-term identity as the trio of Geddy Lee on vocals, keyboards and bass, Alex Lifeson on guitars and Peart on drums. Peart’s lyrics transformed the band’s songs into multisection suites exploring science fiction, magic and philosophy, often with the individualist and libertarian sentiments that informed songs like “Tom Sawyer” and “Freewill.” And his drumming was at once intricate and explosive, pinpointing odd meters and expanding the band’s power-trio dynamics; countless drummers admired his technical prowess.
In a recording career that continued into the 2010s, Rush headlined arenas and had more than a dozen platinum albums. Peart was also an author, writing books about his travels and his memoirs.
George Nicolau, 94, a prominent arbitrator whose determinations that Major League Baseball teams colluded in the 1980s to restrict bidding for free agents led club owners to pay players $280 million in damages, died on Jan. 2 in Manhattan. The cause was kidney failure.
Marion Chesney, 83, who in midlife began writing novels and produced more than 150, including mystery series written under the pseudonym M.C. Beaton that featured the endearing crime solvers Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth, died Dec. 31 at a hospital in Gloucester, in western England. She held an assortment of jobs, including several in journalism, before publishing her first novel in 1978. She wrote romances before turning to mysteries in 1985 with “Death of a Gossip,” the first of more than 30 Hamish Macbeth stories. A BBC television series based on the books, with Robert Carlyle as the constable, ran in Britain from 1995 to 1997. In 1992, she introduced Agatha Raisin, a London publicist who retires to Carsely, a fictional village in the Cotswold region of England. Agatha isn’t a detective, but she is better at deducing whodunit than the paid professionals are. Agatha, too, got a TV series, with Ashley Jensen in the lead role.
Gary Starkweather, 81, engineer who invented the laser printer in defiance of his corporate boss at Xerox, making the direct printing from computer terminals possible in homes and offices, died of leukemia Dec. 26 at a hospital in Orlando, Florida. Mr. Starkweather, who also won an Academy Award for technical advances in filmmaking, went on to work at Apple and Microsoft, before retiring in 2005.