A roundup of notable obituaries from the week ending Dec. 29
Sue Grafton, 77, a prolific author of detective novels known for an alphabetically titled series that began in 1982 with “A Is for Alibi,” has died early Friday in Santa Barbara, California. The cause was cancer.
With the publication of her latest book in August, Grafton’s alphabetical series had reached “Y Is for Yesterday.” She had said she was planning to conclude it with “Z Is for Zero.” According to her daughter Jamie, “[Grafton] would never allow a ghost writer to write in her name … as far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y.”
Recy Taylor, 97, a black Alabama woman whose rape by six white men in 1944 drew national attention, died Thursday in her sleep at a nursing home in Abbeville. She would have been 98 today.
Taylor was 24 when she was abducted and raped as she walked home from church in Abbeville. Her attackers left her on the side of the road in an isolated area. The NAACP assigned Rosa Parks to investigate the case, and she rallied support for justice for Taylor. Two all-white, all-male grand juries declined to indict the six white men who admitted to authorities that they assaulted her. The Alabama Legislature passed a resolution apologizing to her in 2011.
A documentary on her case, “The Rape of Recy Taylor,” was released this year. “It is Recy Taylor and rare other black women like her who spoke up first when danger was greatest,” Nancy Buirski, the documentary’s director, told NBC News in an email. “It is these strong women’s voices of the ‘40s and early ’50s and their efforts to take back their bodies that led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott and other movements that followed, notably the one we are witnessing today.”
Rose Marie, 94, who became a radio star as a toddler in the 1920s and a television star on the hit sitcom “The Dick Van Dyke Show” in the 1960s — and who continued performing into the 21st century — died in her sleep Thursday in the Van Nuys neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Originally known as Baby Rose Marie, she is probably best remembered for her “Dick Van Dyke Show” role as Sally Rogers, a fictional comedy writer. Last month, she was the subject of a documentary, “Wait for Your Laugh,” directed by Jason Wise. Along with Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett, she is seen by critics as one of the most important female comic voices in America.
Jack Van Berg, 81, who walked the barns of Southern California race tracks for more than 40 years and remained haunted by the Triple Crown he never won, died Wednesday in Little Rock, Ark., from complications of cancer.
Van Berg, always adorned in a cowboy hat befitting his upbringing in rural Nebraska, is most known for being the trainer of Alysheba. The colt won the 1987 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes and was one race — the Belmont Stakes — from Triple Crown immortality. But Van Berg will be remembered for more than one horse. He was inducted into the hall of fame in 1985, before his Triple Crown run with Alysheba.
Johnny Bower, 93, the Hall of Fame goaltender who helped take the Toronto Maple Leafs to four Stanley Cup championships in the 1960s and became the oldest full-time goalie in National Hockey League history, playing until he was 45, died Tuesday. The cause was pneumonia. He had been living in Mississauga, Ontario, outside Toronto.
Bower was one of hockey’s most talented and durable goalies. Facing flying pucks without donning a mask until his final full season, he lost almost all his teeth and needed at least 200 stitches in his face. He was called the China Wall because it was hard to get the puck past him. Bower was a four-time All-Star, recorded 37 NHL shutouts and had a 2.51 goals-against average, leading the league in that category three times.
Marcus Raskin, 83, who channeled his discontent as a young aide in the Kennedy administration into helping to found the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank that became an abundant source of research about nuclear disarmament, the Vietnam War, economic inequality, civil rights and national security, died last Sunday in Washington. The cause was heart failure.
Raskin and his partner, Richard Barnet, were also the conduit in 1970 between Dan Ellsberg and The New York Times, when the disillusioned analyst for the RAND Corp. who had drafted the study known as the Pentagon Papers decided to reveal it to the public.
Jerry Kindall, 82, the first man to win College World Series titles as both a player and a head coach, died last Sunday. He died of complications from a stroke suffered on the previous Thursday.
Kindall coached Arizona to national titles in 1976, 1980 and 1986 after starring at shortstop on the University of Minnesota’s 1956 championship team. He spent nine seasons in the Major Leagues with the Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins. He was elected to the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1991, the University of Minnesota Athletics Hall of Fame in 1995, and the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.
Heather Menzies-Urich, 68, who played one of the singing von Trapp children in the hit 1965 film, “The Sound of Music,” died last Sunday in Frankford, Ontario. She recently had been diagnosed with brain cancer. Her husband, actor Robert Urich, died in 2002.
Roswell Rudd, 82, who helped establish a place for the trombone in the jazz avant-garde, then disappeared from the national stage for almost 20 years before enjoying a late-career resurgence in which he explored a wide array of styles, died Dec. 21 at his home in Kerhonkson, New York, in the Catskills. The cause was prostate cancer.
William Graham, 69, son of Washington Post former publisher Katharine Graham, died Dec. 20 at his home in Los Angeles of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, his brother said. William Graham worked as a lawyer in Washington before moving to Los Angeles, where he taught trial law, according to the Post.
His father, Philip Graham, died after shooting himself at his farm in Virginia in August 1963 after being released from a psychiatric hospital where he had been for six weeks. His death at age 48 was ruled a suicide.
Diane Straus, 66, the publisher of two liberal policy magazines who was also a championship platform tennis player, died Dec. 20 at her home in Washington. The cause was cancer.
Diane Straus had been president and publisher of The American Prospect when she joined Washington Monthly in 2008, nearly 40 years after it was founded by Charles Peters. At the time, the magazine was in danger of going out of business. Straus brought in new revenue by reaching out to foundations.
“A decade ago, foundations didn’t want to interfere in the market,” Straus once told The Chronicle of Philanthropy. But in recent years, she added, they decided “that they need to for serious independent journalism to survive.”
William Agee, 79, a rising corporate star in the 1970s whose relationship with a female subordinate, Mary Cunningham, raised issues of gender and behavior in the workplace that resonate today, died Dec. 20 at the Swedish Hospital in Seattle. The cause was respiratory failure as a complication of scleroderma.
Larry Harris, 70, who helped his second cousin Neil Bogart found Casablanca Records, a flamboyant company that brought Kiss, Donna Summer and other splashy acts to the mainstream spotlight in the 1970s, died Dec. 18 in Port Angeles. The cause was an abdominal aneurysm.
Casablanca was absorbed by PolyGram and later went dormant, although the label name has been revived several times since. Harris later moved to Port Angeles and in 2002 opened a comedy club, Seattle Improv.
Ralph Carney, 61, a saxophonist and jokingly self-described “man of a thousand instruments” heard on albums by Tom Waits, the Black Keys, St. Vincent, Elvis Costello, the B-52’s and Allen Ginsberg, died Dec. 16 in Portland.
His long list of studio credits reflects not a colorless sideman for hire but a versatile musician with a distinct sensibility: whimsical, rowdy, eclectic, wry, historically informed, sometimes spooky, sometimes absurd. He could make his saxophones honk, croon, cackle and lament.
Z’ev, born Stefan Joel Weisser, 66, a percussionist, performer, composer, instrument builder, visual artist, poet and theorist who explored visceral and mystical dimensions of sound — becoming a pioneer of industrial music along the way — died Dec. 16 in Chicago, where he lived. The cause was pulmonary failure.
Performing solo and with others, Z’ev improvised, surrounded by homemade percussion instruments. He delved into attacks and resonances, propulsion and meditation. He worked with found objects and later with digital processing. He was intrigued by the properties of materials and by the paths linking sounds, images, the body, nature and spirituality.
Many of his instruments will be housed at APO-33, an experimental arts organization in Nantes, France.
Don Hogan Charles, 79, who was the first black photographer to be hired by The New York Times, and who drew acclaim for his evocative shots of the civil-rights movement and everyday life in New York, died on Dec. 15 in East Harlem. Story on A13.