A roundup of notable obituaries from the week ending Jan. 12
Edgar Ray Killen, 92, a 1960s Ku Klux Klan leader who was convicted decades later in the “Mississippi Burning” slayings of three civil rights workers, died Thursday inside the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. Killen was serving three consecutive 20-year terms for manslaughter. His conviction came 41 years to the day after James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, all in their 20s, were ambushed and killed by Klansmen.
The slayings shocked the nation, helped spur passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and were dramatized in the 1988 movie “Mississippi Burning.” The movie title came from the name of the FBI investigation.
Doreen Tracy, 74, a former child star who played one of the original cute-as-a-button Mouseketeers on “The Mickey Mouse Club” in the 1950s, died from pneumonia in Thousand Oaks, Calif. on Wednesday after battling cancer for two years.
Lorraine Santoli, a former executive at Disney who wrote “The Official Mickey Mouse Club Book,” said Tracey remained close to her Disney roots, maintaining long-time friendships with her fellow Mouseketeers.
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Anna Mae Hays, 94, a front-line nurse who was named the United States military’s first female general after serving in three wars, died Monday after a heart attack in Washington. During her three decades in the military, which culminated in her appointment to chief of the nurse corps, she witnessed extraordinary medical advances, from the introduction of lifesaving antibiotics and painkillers to helicopter airlifts of wounded soldiers. “If I had it to do over again,” she said after her retirement in 1971, “I would do it longer.”
Donnelly Rhodes, 81, Canadian-born character actor best remembered by U.S. television audiences for playing an escaped convict on the sitcom “Soap” and a brusque doctor on the recent reboot of “Battlestar Galactica,” died Monday at a hospice facility near his home in Maple Ridge, British Columbia. He had cancer.
Denise LaSalle, 78, a durable blues and soul singer and songwriter who in a half-century-long career delved in song into love, cheating, pleasure and heartache, mixing romance with raunchiness, died Monday in Jackson, Tennessee. The cause was complications after a surgery.
LaSalle recorded blues, soul, gospel and even zydeco music. But at the core of her catalog were down-to-earth story-songs, written or chosen by LaSalle, that revolved around lust. She wrote hundreds of songs, among them “Your Husband Is Cheating on Us,” “Married, But Not to Each Other,” “I Wanna Do What’s on Your Mind” and “It’s Lying Time Again.”
John Running, 77, an Arizona man celebrated for the humanity that was showcased in his photographs of people across the Colorado Plateau and the world, died last Sunday of complications from a brain tumor at his Flagstaff home.
His love of people, places and their cultures took him down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, to Mexico to photograph the Tarahumara and across the U.S. to highlight what he saw as injustices against Native Americans. He photographed children near the sea in Trinidad and honored another photographer with pictures of farmers, fishermen, homemakers and children in Scotland.
Dr. Robert Day, 87, who led the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center for 16 years and spent much of his retirement working on public-health issues, died at his Seattle home on Jan. 6. Day had been battling liver cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
A graduate of the University of Chicago (internal medicine) and the University of California, Berkeley (epidemiology), he joined the University of Washington and was named dean of the School of Public Health in 1972. In 1981, he was appointed director of Fred Hutch, as the institute was broadening its funding beyond its initial federal grants, moving toward grant-funded research and outside fundraising, and building out its research units. After his departure from Fred Hutch in 1997, Day stayed active in medical startups, boards and advisory work.
Jerry Van Dyke, 86, who after decades in show business finally emerged from the shadow of his older brother, Dick, with an Emmy-nominated role in the long-running ABC sitcom “Coach,” died Jan. 6 at his ranch in Arkansas. His health had deteriorated since a traffic accident in 2015.
From the beginning, Mr. Van Dyke’s television career was intertwined with his brother’s. One of his earliest TV appearances was in 1962 in a two-part episode of “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” as Stacey Petrie, the would-be comedian brother of Dick’s character, Rob Petrie.
But in 1989, Jerry Van Dyke landed the role of Luther Van Dam, the assistant coach to Craig T. Nelson’s head football coach, Hayden Fox, on “Coach.” Van Dam, a bumbling, subservient second banana who had occasional moments of pathos, was a reliable source of laughs on the show, which ran until 1997. The role earned him four Emmy nominations and wide recognition.
Dave Toschi, 86, the San Francisco police detective who led the unsuccessful investigation into the Zodiac serial killing a half-century ago, died Jan. 6 after a lengthy illness.
Five people were fatally stabbed or shot to death in Northern California in 1968 and 1969, and their killer sent taunting letters and cryptograms that included astrological symbols and references to the police and newspapers. The killer was never caught. Duffy Jennings, who covered the killings for the San Francisco Chronicle, said Toschi visited the San Francisco murder scene on the anniversary of the killing for many years in a row to see if he overlooked any clues. Actor Mark Ruffalo portrayed Toschi in the 2011 movie “Zodiac.”
John Young, 87, the legendary astronaut who walked on the moon and later commanded the first space-shuttle flight, died Jan. 5 at home in Houston after complications from pneumonia.
NASA called Mr. Young one of its pioneers, the only agency astronaut to go into space as part of the Gemini, Apollo and space-shuttle programs, and the first to fly into space six times. He was the ninth man to walk on the moon.
His NASA career lasted 42 years, longer than any other astronaut’s, and he was revered among his peers for his dogged dedication to keeping crews safe — and his outspokenness in challenging the space agency’s status quo.
Carole Hart, 74, a writer and television producer who was part of the startup of “Sesame Street” before having an instrumental role in Marlo Thomas’ groundbreaking children’s project, “Free to Be … You and Me,” died Jan. 5 in Manhattan. The cause was cancer.
Her best known project was “Free to Be … You and Me,” in the 1970s. The music album and TV special featured Thomas, a familiar star from her ABC series “That Girl,” and other celebrities in songs and skits that offered children alternatives to the entrenched roles society urged upon them. It was all right for a girl to want to be an astronaut, “Free to Be” said, or for a boy to want a doll.
Ray Thomas, 76, a founding member of British rock group The Moody Blues, died Jan. 4 in Surrey, England, only months before the band is due to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Thomas disclosed in 2014 that he had prostate cancer.
Tatsuro Toyoda, 88, former Toyota Motor president who led the company’s climb to become one of the world’s top automakers, died Dec. 30 of pneumonia, the Japanese automaker said last weekend.
Toyoda, a son of the company’s founder, was instrumental in setting up the California joint venture with U.S. rival General Motors called NUMMI, or New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., which began production in 1984. At that time, it was heralded as a pioneer in international collaborations in the industry.