Tony Lee, 72, former advocacy director at the anti-poverty organization Solid Ground, died Nov. 12 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly called ALS.
Lee spent his life fighting in Seattle and at the state Legislature in Olympia for funding for social programs to help poor and immigrant communities. Much of his work was dedicated to combating the effects of Reagan-era cuts, ’90s welfare reform, and reduced social services spending after the Great Recession. He helped save cash assistance programs for disabled or mentally ill people, worked to expand Medicaid to cover dental care and helped create a public-private partnership to help new immigrants become naturalized citizens.
Lootas, 23, the Seattle Aquarium’s oldest sea otter, and the oldest living sea otter in a North American aquarium or zoo, died Nov. 15. Lootas came to the aquarium in 1997 after her mother was killed in a boating accident in Alaska. Aquarium staff raised her by hand and she later raised three pups, becoming the star of the aquarium’s breeding program. Aniak, one of her pups, still resides in Seattle, but Lootas went on to be an “iconic” part of the aquarium and a teacher to new aquarium staff.
Vincent Reffet, 36, French stuntman known for limit-defying jumps from the world’s tallest towers and highest mountains, and aerial feats alongside planes using a jet pack, died in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, during a training session Tuesday.
A free-flying world champion and avid BASE jumper, Reffet had undertaken breathtaking feats including a record-breaking jump of more than 2,700 feet from a platform above Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, and a midair dive into a plane from a 13,000-foot mountain in Switzerland. Details of the fatal accident were not provided.
Peter Sutcliffe, 74, British serial killer known as the “Yorkshire Ripper,” died Nov. 13 at University Hospital of North Durham after being transferred there from maximum security HMP Frankland. British media reported that he had refused treatment after testing positive for the coronavirus and was suffering from a number of underlying health conditions.
He was serving a life sentence for the murders of 13 women and the attempted murders of seven in Yorkshire and northwest England between 1975 and 1980. He was arrested on Jan. 2, 1981, in Sheffield. He admitted he was the Ripper during a 24-hour interview with police, but during his trial he denied the killings. After his May 1981 conviction, he was sentenced to 20 concurrent life terms. Sutcliffe was dubbed the Yorkshire Ripper because he mutilated his victims’ bodies.
Jerry Rawlings, 73, former Ghanaian air force officer who led two military coups before steering his country toward democracy with an authoritarian hand, died Nov. 12 in the nation’s capital, Accra.
He entered Ghana’s political stage as an archetypal African military ruler, seizing power in 1979. He executed former heads of state, ordered the flogging of market women accused of profiteering, and jailed dozens of businessmen for corruption. By the time he left office voluntarily 22 years later, he had served two presidential terms brought about by free elections and had established Ghana as a rare democratic example on the continent. Today, peaceful handovers of power are routine in the country, hardly the case with the country’s neighbors.
Ken Spears, 82, Scooby-Doo co-creator who set the Mystery Machine in motion, died Nov. 6, less than three months after his creative partner Joe Ruby’s death on Aug. 26. His son Kevin Spears said he died at an assisted-living center in Brea, California, of complications of Lewy body dementia.
Spears and Ruby’s most famous creation for the Hanna-Barbera animation studio was a mystery and comedy series involving four teenage detectives, a cowardly Great Dane and a psychedelic van called the Mystery Machine. “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” became a pop-culture phenomenon, premiering on CBS in 1969 and remaining on-screen in one form or another for the next five decades. Scooby-Doo characters appeared in more than a dozen television series and two live-action films, and were licensed for underwear, dog biscuits, action figures and fruit snacks.
Jack Block, 86, who in his 28 years on the Port of Seattle Commission helped transform Seattle’s waterfront from a rat-infested row of crumbling piers into a destination for massive container ships, cruise vessels and tourists, died Nov. 1 of cancer. Block, the only longshore worker ever elected to the commission, also holds the title of longest-serving commissioner.
Block deserves much of the credit for how Seattle’s waterfront looks today, former colleagues said. In the 1980s, he pushed a major waterfront redevelopment plan through the commission when public meetings and feasibility studies threatened to filibuster it out of existence, according to contemporary news reports. The port has “an obligation to do something with this waterfront … [which] quite frankly looks like somebody’s armpit,” he said at the time.
Dr. Reimert Ravenholt, 95, who, at the Seattle-King County health department in the 1950s organized the first mass immunization of Seattle schoolchildren against polio, died at his Seattle home Oct. 1.
The list of his battles in public health reads like the history of the field itself. When rates of postpartum infections among new mothers started to soar, he traced the problem to poor sanitation and handwashing in local hospitals. A water-testing program he devised measured the human waste seeping into Lake Washington and helped spur cleanup and construction of a sewer system. He investigated the way mutagenic chemicals from smoking circulate throughout the body and pushed the University of Washington Hospital to get rid of cigarette vending machines. His battles continued at the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Agency for International Development, where he advocated family planning.