Diego Armando Maradona, 60, the mop-haired boy from a Buenos Aires slum who dribbled and dazzled his way to world fame, becoming one of the greatest soccer players of all time, but also one of the most self-destructive, died Wednesday from a heart attack. Maradona had been plagued by health issues in recent years, recently suffering a subdural hematoma, which required brain surgery.
Like that other famous Argentine export, the tango, Maradona brought flair, passion and an undeniable sense of darkness to his sport and his life. On the field, few could match his artistry, skill and creativity, but he could also be a devious, angry player. Off the field, he was a volatile man of prodigious appetites whose excesses often landed him in the hospital. His career reached its summit when he led Argentina’s national team to victory in the 1986 World Cup. But drug abuse tainted his final years as a player and he retired in 1997, just a whisper of his former self.
Paolo Gabriele, 54, the butler to Pope Benedict XVI who gave hundreds of secret papal documents to an Italian journalist, setting off a 2012 scandal known as VatiLeaks, died Tuesday in Rome. The documents revealed allegations of corruption and negligence and later were seen as influencing Benedict XVI’s decision to step down. Gabriele was convicted of stealing the documents by a Vatican court, and served two months in jail before being pardoned by Benedict XVI and exiled from Vatican City.
David N. Dinkins, 93, a barber’s son who became New York City’s first Black mayor on the wings of racial harmony but who was turned out by voters after one term in a storm of criticism over his handling of four days of racial violence in 1991 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, died Monday.
Cautious, deliberate, a Harlem Democrat who climbed to City Hall through relatively minor elective and appointive offices, Dinkins was a compromise selection for voters exhausted with racial strife, corruption, crime and fiscal turmoil, historians say, and proved to be an able caretaker rather than an innovator of grand achievements. He inherited huge budget deficits that grew larger. He faced some of the worst crime problems in the city’s history and dealt with them by expanding the police to record levels. He kept city libraries open, revitalized Times Square and rehabilitated housing in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Harlem. But the racial amity that was his fondest hope remained a distant dream, and his lapses in responding to the Crown Heights crisis became an insurmountable legacy.
Bruce Carver Boynton, 83, a civil rights pioneer from Alabama who inspired the landmark “Freedom Rides” of 1961, died Monday.
Boynton was arrested 60 years ago for entering the white part of a racially segregated bus station in Virginia and launching a chain reaction that ultimately helped to bring about the abolition of Jim Crow laws in the South. Boynton contested his conviction, and his appeal resulted in a U.S. Supreme Court decision that prohibited bus station segregation and helped inspire the “Freedom Rides.”
Pat Quinn, 37, who helped raise $220 million to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, by promoting the Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014, died Nov. 22, at St. John’s Riverside Hospital in Yonkers, New York, seven years after he learned he had the disease. Quinn did not create the challenge, in which people dumped buckets of ice water on their heads while pledging to donate money to fight ALS. But he and his friend Pete Frates, who also had ALS, are credited with amplifying it and helping to make it a sensation in the summer and fall of 2014, raising tens of millions of dollars for research, as well as wider awareness of the disease.
Jan Morris, 94, acclaimed British journalist, travel writer and historian who wrote about history’s sweep and the details of place with equal eloquence and chronicled her life as a transgender woman, died Nov. 20 in a hospital in Wales near the village of Llanystumdwy, where she lived. As James Morris, she was a military officer in one of Britain’s most renowned cavalry regiments and then a daring journalist who climbed three-quarters of the way up Mount Everest for an exclusive series of dispatches from the first conquest of that mountain. She continued a brilliant writing career with reports on wars and revolutions from a score of countries. Morris also married and had five children. At 46, James Morris underwent transition surgery, telling the story in a 1974 memoir, “Conundrum,” written two years after the operation under a new byline, Jan Morris.
Masatoshi Koshiba, 94, who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 2002 for studies of the ghostly cosmic particles known as neutrinos, died Nov. 16 in Edogawa Hospital in Tokyo. Koshiba, widely known as Toshi, was a driving force in molding high-energy physics in Japan as it emerged from a postwar cocoon in the latter part of the 20th century.
Dr. Mary Fowkes, 66, a neuropathologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan whose autopsies of COVID-19 victims early in the pandemic discovered serious damage in multiple organs — a finding that led to the successful use of higher doses of blood thinners to treat patients — died Nov. 15 at her home in Katonah, New York, in suburban New York City. The cause was a heart attack.
Drew S. Days III, 79, who was the first African American to head the civil rights division of the Justice Department and later became solicitor general under President Bill Clinton, died on Nov. 15 at a long-term care facility in East Haven, Connecticut. The cause was complications of dementia.
Born in the segregated South, Days went to Yale Law School, fought for civil rights through the courts and enjoyed a meteoric career. He eschewed the traditional path of clerking for an important judge or networking at a corporate firm. Rather, he started out working against housing discrimination in Chicago with Martin Luther King Jr. and later joined the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, where he argued several school desegregation cases — including a lawsuit, which he won, to desegregate the same schools in Tampa, Florida, that he had attended as a boy. Later, he joined the Yale law faculty in 1981 and remained there for 35 years.
Andrew White, 78, a profusely talented and proudly eccentric musician and scholar best known in jazz circles for transcribing more than 800 of John Coltrane’s saxophone solos, died Nov. 11 at an assisted-living facility in Silver Spring, Maryland. The cause was complications of two strokes he had recently suffered.
White rightly described himself as a man of “various artistic gifts of excess.” To even gesture at the breadth of his career would require a half-dozen labels: saxophonist, multi-instrumentalist, composer, author, business owner, teacher. He leaves behind one of the largest troves of self-released recordings, books and musical transcriptions by a single musician in jazz history.
Walid al-Moallem, 79, Syria’s Foreign Minister, a career diplomat, who became one of the country’s most prominent faces to the outside world during the uprising against President Bashar Assad, died on Nov. 9. A close confidant of Assad, known for his loyalty and hard-line position against the opposition, he was a soft-spoken, jovial man with a dry sense of humor, and he had the ability to defuse tensions with a joke. He held the Foreign Minister post since 2005.
Bruno Barbey, 79, a French photographer for the Magnum Photos agency who produced powerful, empathetic work in war zones as well as in peacetime, died Nov. 9 in Orbais-l’Abbaye, in northeastern France. A colleague of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Marc Riboud, Barbey spoke to the world through photography. Photography “is the only language that can be understood anywhere in the world,” Barbey once said.
Nancy Darsch, 68, who helped turn Ohio State into a women’s basketball powerhouse and then joined the professional ranks, becoming the first coach of the New York Liberty and leading the team to the WNBA’s inaugural championship game, died Nov. 2 at her home in her hometown, Plymouth, Massachusetts. She suffered from Parkinson’s disease.
In her 12 years at Ohio State, her teams won four Big Ten titles, made seven NCAA tournament appearances and played in one championship game, in 1993, when the No. 3 Buckeyes lost to No. 5 Texas Tech, 84-82. It was the first time a Big Ten women’s team had made it to the NCAA championship.
Albert R. Jonsen, 89, who brought the field of bioethics to the bedside and whose way of reasoning influenced generations of medical ethicists, died on Oct. 21 at his home in San Francisco. Jonsen’s field, bioethics, is concerned with helping medical professionals, patients and families make difficult decisions on topics like the right to die and informed consent. Jonsen was a distinguished academic for most of his career, including the chair of the department of medical history and ethics at the University of Washington. In 2003, he left academia to apply his ideas in the intensive-care and surgical wards of San Francisco’s hospitals.
Jill Paton Walsh, 83, a British writer who began her career in the 1960s writing young adult books that challenged her readers in both plotting and messaging, to great acclaim, but later had a difficult time transitioning to adult fiction, died Oct. 18 at a hospital in Huntingdon, England, near Cambridge. The cause was heart and kidney failure.
“Knowledge of Angels,” a genre-defying medieval fable about an atheist and a girl raised by wolves, was rejected by 19 publishers before Walsh decided to publish it herself — and have the last laugh. The book was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, one of the top literary awards in the world, and is said to be the first self-published book to make that elite list.
Don Pellmann, 105, who could sprint, jump and throw at track and field meets at the age of 100 years old, died Oct. 11. He developed neurological complications after surgery to fix a broken hip. Five years ago, Pellmann became the first centenarian to run faster than 27 seconds in the 100 meters and the first to clear a height — any height — in the high jump. He also broke records in the discus, long jump and shot put at the San Diego Senior Olympics in 2015.