A roundup of notable obituaries from the week ending Feb. 2
Jon Huntsman Sr., 80, the Utah billionaire and philanthropist who overcame poverty to become one of the state’s most successful and powerful people, died Friday in Salt Lake City. The cause of death was not disclosed.
Huntsman was the founder and longtime executive chairman of Huntsman Corp., a $13 billion company that refines raw materials that go into thousands of products. He was also the father of Jon Huntsman Jr., the U.S. ambassador to Russia and former Utah governor, presidential candidate and ambassador to China and Singapore.
Pierre Godé, 73, a French lawyer whose steely negotiation skills and strategic vision made him the éminence grise of the world’s largest luxury group, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, has died in Nice, France. His death was announced Friday but no further details were disclosed.
Polished, charming and deliberately low profile, Godé was for 30 years rarely far from the side of Bernard Arnault, LVMH’s chairman and chief executive and France’s richest man. The two men set about building a brand portfolio that today includes more than 70 fashion houses, among them Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Bulgari.
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Nicholas von Hoffman, 88, a provocative author, broadcast commentator and syndicated columnist who examined American politics and culture for five decades from a left-wing perspective, died on Thursday in Rockport, Maine. The cause was kidney failure.
He contributed to major newspapers and magazines, aired his views on national television and radio and wrote more than a dozen books, including “Citizen Cohn” (1988), a best-selling biography of Roy M. Cohn, the chief counsel to Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy in his 1950s anti-communist crusades.
In the early 1970s, he became a familiar commentator on the CBS program “60 Minutes,” paired on the “Point/Counterpoint” segment with the conservative James J. Kilpatrick. Don Hewitt, the producer, fired von Hoffman in 1974 after he called Nixon, on the air, “a dead mouse on the kitchen floor that everyone was afraid to touch and throw in the garbage.”
Oscar Gamble, 68, an outfielder who hit 200 home runs over 17 major league seasons and was famous during his playing days for an Afro that spilled out of his helmet, died Wednesday of a rare tumor of the jaw, in Alabama. His wife said he never chewed tobacco.
A left-handed hitter known for the crouch in his batting stance, Gamble had a .265 batting average and 666 RBI while playing for seven big league teams.
Andre Surmain, 97, who transformed his cooking school’s Manhattan town house into Lutèce, an epicurean mecca defined by haute cuisine, even higher prices and a high-and-mighty clientele, died Wednesday at his home in Saint-Paul-en-Forêt, in the South of France.
After its opening in 1961, Lutèce’s reputation rose slowly by word-of-mouth, very much like a soufflé, as its menu steadily improved, until it was known in culinary quarters as America’s greatest restaurant. It became a fixture for bon-vivants at dinner and a hub for the ladies who lunch.
Louis Zorich, 93, the Tony Award-nominated actor who played a grumpy Greek diner owner in “The Muppets Take Manhattan” and the father of Paul Reiser’s character on the NBC sitcom “Mad About You,” died Tuesday at his home in New York.
“Believe me when I say there has never been a more joyful and delicious human being to see every morning when you show up for work,” Reiser said in a tweet. “Louis had the heartiest laugh and the biggest heart. I will miss him dearly.”
Gene Sharp, 90, a lifelong advocate of nonviolent resistance who founded the Albert Einstein Institution in Massachusetts, died at his Boston home last Sunday.
Sharp was inspired by his early studies of Gandhi, and his first book published in 1960 was “Gandhi Wields the Weapon of Moral Power: Three Case Histories.” He wrote dozens of books and articles on nonviolent resistance that have been translated into more than 50 languages.
He spent nine months in jail after an arrest for protesting military conscription during the Korean War. In 1983, he founded the Albert Einstein Institution to advance the study and use of strategic nonviolent action as an alternative to violent conflict.
Robert McCormick Adams, 91, the former chief of the Smithsonian Institution who played a critical role in opening new museums and sought to make “confrontation, experimentation and debate” part of the Smithsonian’s mandate, died Jan. 27 at a care center in Chula Vista, California.
During Adams’ tenure, he oversaw the opening of the National Postal Museum, the National Museum of African Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. Plans were advanced for an annex of the National Air and Space Museum near Washington Dulles International Airport, the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Museum of African American History and Culture; all opened long after his departure.
Adams saw his leadership as a corrective to a historical lack of cultural diversity in museum administration. “There is a new awareness now,” he told Smithsonian magazine in 1994, describing how he pushed for Native American representatives to be involved in the process of planning for the American Indian museum. “Minorities are concerned with how they’re represented. The white-coated curator who can’t be questioned is gone. Curators now are working with communities of people who have a real stake in how their ancestors are seen.”
Dennis Peron, 72, a Vietnam War veteran and activist who was among the first people to argue for the benefits of marijuana for AIDS patients and a driving force behind a San Francisco ordinance allowing medical marijuana that helped legalize medical pot in California, died Jan. 27. Peron had lung cancer.
Mort Walker, 94, the comic-strip artist and World War II veteran who satirized the Army and tickled millions of newspaper readers with the antics of the lazy private “Beetle Bailey,” died Jan. 27, at home in Stamford, Connecticut.
Mort Walker began publishing cartoons at age 11 and was involved with more than a half-dozen comic strips in his career, including “Hi and Lois,” “Boner’s Ark” and “Sam & Silo.” But he found his greatest success drawing slacker Beetle, his hot-tempered sergeant and the rest of the gang at fictional Camp Swampy for nearly 70 years.
Ingvar Kamprad, 91, a Swedish entrepreneur who grew a childhood business selling matches and lingonberries into Ikea, a build-it-yourself furniture empire that introduced sleek Scandinavian designs into tens of millions of homes around the world, died Jan. 27 at home in Smaland, a province in southern Sweden.
Mr. Kamprad built Ikea into the world’s largest furniture retailer, making a fortune with products whose bright colors and minimalist designs have become a ubiquitous part of middle-class bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms, dens and children’s play areas.
The central tenet of his business model was simple, spurred by an idea from one of his chief designers, Gillis Lundgren, to take the legs off tables the company was storing in its warehouses. It was not the first time unbuilt goods had been sold to consumers, but the idea — “flat-pack” furniture for flat-wallet families — had never been tried on such a large scale.
Elizabeth Ann Hawley, 94, an American journalist who chronicled Mount Everest expeditions for more than 50 years and whose attention to detail and sharp sense of humor inspired fear and respect among climbers, died Jan. 26, in Kathmandu. She was being treated for a stroke and pneumonia.
Ms. Hawley, one of the founders of the Himalayan Database, a compilation of records for all climbing expeditions in the Himalayas in Nepal from 1905 to 2017, spent nearly her entire adult life in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital. She moved there in 1960 to work as a correspondent with Time. Climbers nicknamed her the “living archive” and the “Sherlock Holmes of the mountaineering world.” To those who knew her well, she was simply Liz.
Her indomitable spirit persisted until the very end. When she was admitted to the hospital, she brought four books and joked with doctors that she “didn’t die last night.”
John Morris, 91, a composer who had a long list of movie, theater and television credits but was best known for a long association with Mel Brooks that earned him Academy Award nominations for “Blazing Saddles” and “The Elephant Man,” died Jan 25 at home in Red Hook, New York. The cause was a respiratory infection.
“He was my emotional right arm,” Brooks said in a telephone interview. “Music tells you what to feel and he knew what I wanted you to feel. He composed it and made it happen.”
Connie Sawyer, 105, who began performing in vaudeville and nightclubs more than eight decades ago and continued to appear on stages and screens until she became known as the oldest working actress in Hollywood, died Jan. 21 in Los Angeles. Miss Sawyer, as she liked to be known, died at the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s retirement home. Her memoir, self-published last year, was titled, “I Never Wanted to Be a Star — And I Wasn’t.”
Wendell Castle, 85, the whimsical designer who coaxed wood into weird, mind-bending shapes that blurred the boundary between serviceable furniture and fine art, died on Jan. 20 at his home in Scottsville, New York, near Rochester. The cause was complications of leukemia.
“Wendell is the most important postwar American furniture designer, by a longshot,” Glenn Adamson, senior research scholar at the Yale Center for British Art and the former director of New York’s Museum of Arts and Design, told Hyperallergic, an online arts forum.
It is telling that his favorite tool was a pencil.
Allison Shearmur, 54, a studio executive and independent producer who helped bring a string of box-office hits to the screen, including the “Bourne” franchise, the “Hunger Games” series and the yet-to-be-released “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” died Jan. 19, in Los Angeles. The cause was lung cancer.
Allison Shearmur, who died at UCLA Medical Center, had received the diagnosis in 2016 but disclosed it only to her family and closest associates as she continued working on movie projects, including “Rogue One,” an earlier installment in the Star Wars Anthology series, and “Solo.”
Dr. Arno G. Motulsky, 94, a refugee from Nazi Germany who became a founder of medical genetics, recognizing the connection between genes and health long before mainstream medicine did, died Jan. 17 at home in Seattle.
Dr. Motulsky also founded pharmacogenetics, which studies inherited differences in the way people respond to medications. As technologies emerged to decode DNA, the fields that Dr. Motulsky helped originate came to the forefront of medicine, leading to improved diagnosis and treatments for a host of diseases.
In 1957, at the University of Washington’s medical school in Seattle, Dr. Motulsky started one of the first divisions of medical genetics in the United States. Dr. Mary Claire King, a geneticist at the University of Washington who discovered the role of certain genetic mutations in breast cancer, said that because of Dr. Motulsky’s work in medical genetics, “the field is now integrated into every other field of medical practice, and has become the soul of precision medicine.”
Mona Bailey, 85, who served in more than a dozen public-education roles in Seattle and statewide over her storied 30-plus-year career and is credited with championing equity for underserved students at each level, died Jan. 12. The cause was cancer, her family said.
Her push for helping black children overcome barriers was personal. She grew up in the segregated South and received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Florida A&M University in 1954, when the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) field was dominated by white men. “She had to overcome so many barriers,” said Erin Jones, who worked with Mrs. Bailey. “For her it was about ‘how do I pay this back to the next generation?’ ”