G. Gordon Liddy, 90, undercover operative whose bungling of the Watergate break-in triggered the gravest constitutional crisis in U.S. history and led to the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon, died March 30 at his daughter’s home in Fairfax County, Virginia. He had Parkinson’s disease and had been in declining health, according to his family.
Liddy’s combination of can-do ruthlessness, loyalty to Nixon and ends-justify-the-means philosophy made him a natural fit in a White House determined to get even with its political enemies. As general counsel for the committee to reelect Nixon, Liddy was responsible for planning and supervising the Watergate break-in to bug the Democratic Party headquarters in June 1972.
Sarah Onyango Obama, 99, who as the second wife of former President Barack Obama’s grandfather raised the president’s father Barack Obama Sr., died March 29 of natural causes at a hospital in Kisumu, Kenya. In his memoir, “Dreams from My Father,” the former president described meeting Sarah Obama during his 1988 trip to his father’s homeland. Widely known among Kenyans as Mama Sarah, she was revered for her work on behalf of orphans and attended Obama’s 2009 inauguration.
Beverly Cleary, 104, the grande dame of children’s literature who wrote humorously and realistically about the anxieties of childhood in such enduringly popular books as “Henry Huggins” and “Beezus and Ramona,” died March 25 in Carmel, California, where she had lived since the 1960s. More than a decade ago, the Library of Congress declared Cleary a living legend, and her birthday — April 12 — is celebrated with a national Drop Everything and Read Day, held annually in libraries and schools.
In an oft-told story, Beverly used to recall the spark that drove her to write for children: She was a librarian in Yakima when “A grubby little boy” had asked, “Where are the books about kids like us?”
With witty yet economic prose and a gift for recalling the inner emotions of childhood, she wove timeless tales that took young readers back to the Portland of her youth. Eventually, Cleary sold more than 75 million books around the world.
Larry McMurtry, 84, prolific novelist and screenwriter who demythologized the American West with his unromantic depictions of life on the 19th-century frontier and in contemporary small-town Texas, died March 25 at home in Archer City, Texas. The cause was congestive heart failure.
Over more than five decades, McMurtry wrote more than 30 novels and many books of essays, memoir and history and screenplays. But he found his greatest commercial and critical success with “Lonesome Dove,” an 843-page novel about two retired Texas Rangers who drive a herd of stolen cattle from the Rio Grande to Montana in the 1870s. The book won a Pulitzer Prize in 1986 and was made into a popular television miniseries.
Bertrand Tavernier, 79, French filmmaker who directed acclaimed movies such as “A Sunday in the Country,” “Captain Conan,” “The Judge and the Assassin,” “The Watchmaker of St. Paul” and “Round Midnight,” died March 25 at home in Sainte-Maxime, in southeastern France. The cause was not given.
Tavernier worked for more than a decade as a film critic, assistant director and publicist before making his first feature, “The Watchmaker of St. Paul,” which he adapted from a Georges Simenon novel and shot with a handheld camera in his hometown of Lyon. The film established Tavernier as a leader of a new generation of French filmmakers, succeeding the New Wave directors of the late 1950s and ’60s.
The winner of five César Awards, the French equivalent of the Oscars, Tavernier worked with actors including Isabelle Huppert, Julie Delpy and Dirk Bogarde, whose last screen role came in Tavernier’s bittersweet “Daddy Nostalgia.”
Bill Brock, 90, Tennessee Republican who served in both houses of Congress, helped rebuild the GOP after the Watergate scandal in the 1970s and then held Cabinet-level positions in the administration of President Ronald Reagan, died of pneumonia March 25 at a hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Brian Rohan, 84, a Tacoma native who was known as San Francisco’s “dope lawyer” for representing 1960s counterculture clients like the Grateful Dead and Ken Kesey documented in Tom Wolfe’s “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” died March 23 at his home in the Bay Area city of Larkspur after a six-year battle with cancer.
Buddy Deppenschmidt, 85, jazz drummer who learned the rhythms of Brazilian music on a State Department tour, and then performed on a bestselling 1962 album, “Jazz Samba,” which helped launch a worldwide bossa nova boom, died March 20 at a nursing facility in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. “Jazz Samba,” which featured saxophone great Stan Getz and guitarist Charlie Byrd, was the first bossa nova recording by American musicians to become a major hit and remains the only jazz instrumental album to reach No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart.
Paul Brock, 89, former public relations consultant, radio news broadcaster, movie producer and Democratic National Committee communications official who in 1975 was one of the principal organizers of the National Association of Black Journalists, died March 14 of complications from diabetes at home in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
The NABJ began with 44 members and with Brock as founding executive director. In ensuing years, he rarely missed the group’s annual conference. The association, which has grown to a membership of more than 4,000 media professionals and journalism students, provides professional training, promotes diversity in newsrooms and scrutinizes media outlets’ coverage of minority communities.