Kay Tobin Lahusen, 91, a prominent gay rights activist whose photographs documented the movement’s earliest days and depicted lesbians who were out when they were virtually absent from popular culture, died Wednesday at a hospital in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
Lahusen and her longtime partner, Barbara Gittings, were at the forefront of the lesbian rights movement, determined to make whom they loved a source of pride rather than shame. They were early members of the Daughters of Bilitis, the first national lesbian organization, and soon became outspoken about their sexuality and their demands for equality at a time when gay rights groups were less outspoken. They helped organize protests during the 1960s at a National Council of Churches meeting, the Pentagon and the White House, well before the Stonewall uprising in 1969.
They also helped lesbians realize they were not alone by producing The Ladder, a newsletter published by the Daughters that was the first nationally distributed lesbian journal in the United States. Lahusen also photographed many of the earliest gay rights protests, providing important documentation of a period when many gay activists chose to remain in the closet.
John Warner, 94, the Republican senator of Virginia, a genteel former Navy secretary who shed the image of a dilettante to become a leading voice on military policy during 30 years in the Senate, died Tuesday night at home in Alexandria, Virginia. The cause was heart failure. For a time, Warner may have been best known nationally as the dashing sixth husband of actress Elizabeth Taylor. The couple divorced in 1982, and remained friends.
Although a popular figure in his state, Warner was often at odds with Virginia conservatives. He angered the National Rifle Association with his backing of an assault weapons ban. He infuriated some state Republicans in 1994 when he refused to support Oliver North, the former White House aide at the center of the Iran-contra scandal during the Reagan administration, in North’s bid for the Senate. And he opposed President Ronald Reagan’s ultimately unsuccessful Supreme Court nomination of Judge Robert Bork. He retired on 2008.
Anna Halprin, 100, a dancer and choreographer who sought to move beyond what she saw as the constraints of modern dance, and whose experiments inspired, challenged and sometimes perplexed generations of dancers and audiences, died on Monday at her home in Kentfield, in Marin County, California.
In a career that began in the late 1930s and took off after she moved to San Francisco in the mid-1940s, Halprin sometimes attracted controversy. But she also attracted students, disciples and enthusiasts fascinated by the creative issues she explored and the way she explored them. Among the dancers and choreographers who studied with her before going on to successful careers were Meredith Monk, Simone Forti, Yvonne Rainer, Trisha Brown, and the team of Eiko and Koma.
Samuel E. Wright, 72, a veteran stage actor who earned two Tony Award nominations but was best known for voicing the headstrong crab Sebastian in the 1989 animated film “The Little Mermaid,” died Monday at his home in Walden, New York. The cause was prostate cancer.
Wright performed in eight Broadway shows beginning with “Jesus Christ Superstar” in 1971. His most prominent role was as Mufasa in the original cast of Disney’s “The Lion King,” which brought him one of his Tony nominations for best featured actor in a musical in 1998. He received another nomination for the same award in 1984 for his role in “The Tap Dance Kid.”
Eric Carle, 91, beloved children’s author and illustrator whose classic “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and other works gave millions of kids some of their earliest and most cherished literary memories, died May 23 at his summer studio in Northampton, Massachusetts. The cause was kidney failure, said his son Rolf, announcing the death on Wednesday.
“The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” Carle’s best-known book, has sold more than 55 million copies around the world since it was first published in 1969, its mere 224 words translated into more than 70 languages. It is one of more than 70 books that Carle published over his career, selling more than 170 million copies, according to his publisher, Penguin Random House.
In 2003, he received the prestigious Laura Ingalls Wilder Award (now called the Children’s Literature Legacy Award) from the American Library Association, which recognizes authors and illustrators whose books have created a lasting contribution to children’s literature.
Yuan Longping, 90, a Chinese scientist who developed higher-yield rice varieties that helped feed people around the world, died May 22 at a hospital in the southern city of Changsha, the Xinhua news agency reported. Yuan spent his life researching rice. Worldwide, a fifth of all rice now comes from species created by hybrid rice after Yuan’s breakthrough discoveries, according to the website of the World Food Prize, which he won in 2004.
In the 1970s, Yuan achieved the breakthroughs that would make him a household name. He developed a hybrid strain of rice that recorded an annual yield 20% higher than existing varieties, meaning it could feed an extra 70 million people a year, according to Xinhua. His work helped transform China from “food deficiency to food security” within three decades, according to the World Food Prize, which was created by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Norman Borlaug in 1986 to recognize scientists and others who have improved the quality and availability of food.
Roman Kent, 92, who as an orphaned teenager endured the horrors of Auschwitz and other death camps and later channeled his sorrow and rage into helping to lead a U.S. movement to memorialize the Holocaust and provide reparations for aging Jewish survivors, died May 21 at home in Manhattan. At the time of his death, Kent was chairperson of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants, which documents the lives of survivors and works with educators to teach about the Holocaust. He also spent time on the board of the Conference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which negotiated monetary settlements for survivors.
Roger Hawkins, 75, who played drums on numerous pop and soul hits of the 1960s and ’70s and was among the architects of the funky sound that became identified with Muscle Shoals, Alabama, died May 20 at his home in Sheffield, Alabama, from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other conditions. Hawkins was a member of the house band at producer Rick Hall’s FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, playing on Percy Sledge’s gospel-steeped “When a Man Loves a Woman,” a No. 1 pop single in 1966. He was also a driving force behind Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” a No. 1 pop hit the next year, as well as her Top 10 singles “Chain of Fools” (1967) and “Think” (1968).
William Shakespeare, 81, the first man to receive a clinically approved COVID-19 vaccine, has died of an unrelated illness, British officials said. He was the second person to get a Pfizer jab after Britain approved the experimental shots in early December. The first person to get a jab was Margaret Keenan, 90. Shakespeare died May 20 of a stroke, according to the BBC. The Coventry resident had reportedly worked at Rolls-Royce and served as a parish councilor for many years in the city’s Allesley community. He made international headlines after getting inoculated at University Hospital Coventry. His name helped draw even more attention — and jokes — to that special moment.
Mark York, 55, actor best known for playing Billy Merchant on the NBC sitcom “The Office,” died of natural causes May 19 in a Dayton, Ohio, hospital. He appeared in four episodes of “The Office” from 2006 to 2009 as the property manager of the office park where Dunder Mifflin, the fictional paper company at the center of the series, made its home. Merchant, who like York was a paraplegic, was introduced in the second season when Michael Scott, the bumbling branch manager played by Steve Carell, brought him to the office for a cringe-inducing meeting on disability awareness.
Michael Serkin-Poole, 65, a key figure in the decades-long battle to legalize marriage equality in Washington and, with his partner, among the first gay couples to adopt children, died May 15 of pancreatic cancer at his Bellevue home.
Serkin-Poole and David Serkin-Poole were among six gay and lesbian couples who were denied licenses to wed in King County. Their concerted effort, part of a test-case groundswell in 2004, was immediately followed by a lawsuit against the county that several legal groups also joined. The case went all the way to the Washington Supreme Court, but given the state’s passage of DOMA in 1998, which recognized only heterosexual marriages, defeated.
Michael often faced uphill battles for social progress by asking authorities a simple question: Why not? When he and David followed their mid-1980s commitment ceremony with a decision to adopt children, they had no idea they would be among the first same-sex Washington couples to apply. The “boring, middle class Bellevue family” life Michael and his partner created helped to bring acceptance of gays.
Rahul Vohra, 35, Indian actor, vlogger and YouTube star, died of complications of COVID-19 on May 9 at a hospital in New Delhi. After he and Jyoti Tiwari married in December, she joined him in producing short, scripted videos in Hindi about issues like gender disparity, rising gas prices and the difficulties of working from home during the pandemic. Several received more than 1 million views, and Vohra swiftly became one of India’s most popular YouTube stars.