Mikis Theodorakis, 96, celebrated Greek composer best known for his music for “Zorba the Greek” and whose life of political defiance won acclaim abroad and inspired millions at home, died at home in Athens on Thursday.
His prolific career that started at age 17 produced a varied body of work that ranged from somber symphonies and an anthem for the PLO to popular television and the film scores for “Serpico,” “Z” and “Zorba the Greek.” During World War II, he was arrested by the country’s Italian and German occupiers for his involvement in left-wing resistance groups.
The Greek flag was lowered to half-staff at the Acropolis as three days of national mourning were declared. “Today we lost a part of the soul of Greece,” Culture Minister Lina Mendoni wrote on Twitter, calling him “the one who made all Greeks sing poetry.”
Junior Coffey, 79, who broke racial barriers as a star running back for the Washington Huskies and played in the NFL before spending decades as a local Thoroughbred trainer, died Monday from congestive heart failure in Federal Way.
A native of Texas Coffey had not played sports before high school when he became the school’s first Black athlete. Blessed with great speed and athletic ability, he rushed for 1,294 yards as a junior and for 1,562 as a senior. He also had 185 tackles as a senior linebacker. He was the first Black athlete to play in the Texas state boys basketball tournament and twice led his team to the championship game. In 1997, Coffey was inducted into the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame, and in 2015, he was inducted into the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame. Coffey accepted a scholarship to UW, and he quickly excelled. As a sophomore in 1962, Coffey led the AAWU (Athletic Association of Western Universities) in rushing with 581 yards (averaging 5.9 yards per carry) despite starting in just one game. At the NFL, he was lauded by Vince Lombardi as “the most valuable special-teams player” the Green Bay Packers had.
His football career ended after the 1971 season, having rushed for 2,037 yards as a pro, and he was ready for the next phase of his life as a horse trainer. Coffey was introduced to horse racing while working at Longacres racetrack in Renton as he was attending UW. When he reached the NFL, he started buying racehorses. According to Equibase, Coffey had horses in 3,820 races from 1976-2018, with 625 victories. He was usually among the top trainers in win percentage at Longacres until it closed, and then at Emerald Downs in Auburn once it opened in 1996. Coffey ranks No. 5 in all-time win percentage at 20.13% at Emerald Downs. He won eight stakes races at Emerald Downs, and Raise the Bluff ran second for him in the 2005 Longacres Mile.
Ed Asner, 91, an actor and liberal activist who twice had the role of a lifetime in the character of Lou Grant, the irascible newsman he played first on the hit 1970s sitcom “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and then on an acclaimed spin-off series — and later starred in film hits like “Up” and “Elf” — died Aug. 29.
Asner also served as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1981 to 1985 and was active in political causes both within and beyond the entertainment industry. He spoke out for labor (in particular the air traffic controllers’ strike of 1981), animal rights and against the U.S. military presence in El Salvador.
The son of an immigrant junk dealer, Asner had a fireplug build, jowly countenance and workingman’s semblance that are not traditionally considered the raw materials of stardom. Those attributes were perfect, however, for the gruff, middle-aged news director of WJM-TV, the fictional Minneapolis television station at the center of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” ran on CBS from 1970 to 1977, and Asner was nominated for the Emmy for best supporting actor in a comedy series every year. He won in 1971, 1972 and 1975. He went on to win twice for best lead actor, in 1978 and 1980, for the spinoff “Lou Grant,” making him the first performer to have received Emmys for playing the same character in both a comedy and a drama series.
Gail Omved, 80, an anti-caste crusader, scholar and prolific author who championed the cause of India’s marginalized communities and was a leader in the country’s feminist movement, died Aug. 25 at her home in the western state of Maharashtra.
Omvedt, whose death was widely reported in the Indian news media, was a sociologist who helped pioneer the study of caste systems in South Asia, drawing wider attention to the lives of Dalits, an oppressed caste once more commonly called the untouchables.She was also a lifelong activist who chose to live among those she worked with and wrote about in Maharashtra, the second most populated state in India. A native of MInneapolis, she spoke flawless Marathi, the local language, and spent considerable time doing work in poor communities fighting caste oppression in rural regions. Omvedt gave up her U.S. citizenship and became an Indian citizen in 1983.
Vivian L. Caver, 93, a community and civil rights activist, former legislator and King County Democratic Party organizer, and a trailblazing public servant who worked for change behind the scenes and on the front lines in Seattle for more than a half-century, died Aug. 22.
Interviews, archival articles, and state and University of Washington sources depict Caver as a ceaseless campaigner over the decades. Most notably, she helped found and spent more than a decade at the Seattle Human Rights Commission, serving as director from 1975-81. She also briefly served in the Legislature, finishing out Locke’s term as state representative for the 37th District, which covers much of south Seattle, in 1994-95 after he became King County executive.
That really doesn’t scratch the surface of her accomplishments. Her activism — probably instilled by her mother, Christine, a social worker — started decades earlier. While raising three daughters Caver began working toward a goal of open housing in the 1960s, establishing race relations councils in white neighborhoods where redlining and racial covenants were common at the time.
Bill Emerson, 83, acclaimed banjo player who co-founded the Country Gentlemen, a venerable band that helped bridge the gap between bluegrass music and urban folk music, and established the U.S. Navy Band’s country-bluegrass ensemble, died Aug. 21 of pneumonia at a hospitaMikis Theodorakisl in Fairfax County, Virginia. Dozens of musicians passed through the band, and its repertoire embraced the music of Bob Dylan, the Beatles and Gordon Lightfoot, greatly broadening the audience for bluegrass.
William G. Clotworthy, 95, who as the in-house censor for “Saturday Night Live” from 1979 to 1990 decided whether Eddie Murphy could say “bastard,” whether Joe Piscopo could make fart jokes and whether inebriated Romans could vomit on network television, died Aug. 19 at a hospice in Salt Lake City. Clotworthy’s predecessors often rejected entire skits. He was different. Clotworthy, who described himself as “a professional square,” was also a trained actor who fell in love with the show, and he worked with its writers to tweak questionable material. “A writer once asked me what was the first thing I did when I read a script, and I said, ‘I laugh,’ ” he wrote in his memoir, “Saturday Night Live: Equal Opportunity Offender.”
Yasuhiro Wakabayashi, 90, the Japanese American photographer known as Hiro, whose fashion and still-life images captured a relentlessly inventive vision of American life that critics likened to those of his idol and mentor, Richard Avedon, died Aug. 19 at his country home in Erwinna, Pennsylvania.
In his early 20s, he had an insight: that photographs that juxtaposed the mundane and the exotic could transform an ordinary object into something desirable — and salable. Its practical application was in fashion. But fascinating surprises like gems on a bovine hoof or a ghost’s nightgown, he realized later, could also arise in a still life, a model’s portrait or an action shot of a cock fight.
The trade magazine American Photographer wrote in 1982: “Hiro stands as one of the preeminent photographers of his adopted country. With the pragmatic brilliance of a Renaissance master, Hiro has changed the way photographs look, and with an endlessly inventive technique has changed the way photographers work.”
Don Poynter, 96, the inventor who in a colorful life was also a drum major, an entertainer at Harlem Globetrotters games, a puppeteer and a golf course developer, died Aug. 13 in Cincinnati. The cause was cancer.
Some of Don Poynter’s creations, it must be admitted, had a certain whoopee-cushion quality. There was, for instance, the Talking Toilet, a chatty gizmo that could be concealed on a toilet; when someone sat down, a recorded voice would exclaim “Move over, you’re blocking the light!” or something similar.
But then there is the subtle subtle brilliance of one of his earliest and most successful ones: the Little Black Box. Created in 1959, it was an unadorned box with a switch on top. Activate the switch and the box vibrated a bit; then a hand emerged from it and turned the switch off. That was it: a device whose only purpose was to turn itself off. And he sold 14 million of it.
Lila Gleitman, 91, whose pioneering work in linguistics and cognitive science expanded our understanding of how language works and how children go about learning it, died Aug. 8 at a hospital in Philadelphia. The cause was heart attack.
Until the 1970s, most linguists believed that the structure of language existed out in the world, and that the human brain then learned it from infancy. Building on the work of her friend Noam Chomsky, Gleitman argued the opposite: that the structures, or syntax, of language were hard-wired into the brain from birth, and that children already have a sophisticated grasp of how they work.
Gleitman continued to produce new work even in recent years, after macular degeneration left her nearly blind. Trueswell said that the last email he received from her arrived the day before she died. It was a short note catching him up on her latest paper — which she had just submitted for publication.