A roundup of notable obituaries from the week ending Feb. 23
The Rev. Billy Graham, 99, a North Carolina farmer’s son who preached to millions in stadium events he called crusades, becoming a pastor to presidents and the nation’s best-known Christian evangelist for more than 60 years, died Wednesday at home in Montreat, North Carolina. Graham had dealt with a number of illnesses in his last years.
Graham spread his influence across the country and around the world through a combination of religious conviction, commanding stage presence and shrewd use of radio, television and advanced communication technologies.
A central achievement was his encouraging evangelical Protestants to regain the social influence they had once wielded, reversing a retreat from public life that had begun when their efforts to challenge evolution theory were defeated after the Scopes trial in 1925. But in his later years, Graham kept his distance from the evangelical political movement he had helped engender, refusing to endorse candidates and avoiding the volatile issues dear to religious conservatives.
Max Destor, 104, a former Associated Press photographer whose photo of hundreds of Korean War refugees crawling across a damaged bridge in 1950 helped bring him a Pulitzer Prize, died Monday.at his apartment in Silver Spring, Maryland.
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One of his photos from the Korean War had particular meaning to him: Walking near a field he spotted two hands, blue from cold, sticking up in the snow, and photographed them. The hands, which had been bound, belonged to one of several civilians taken prisoner and executed, their bodies left to be covered by snowfall.
“I labeled that picture, later on, ‘Futility,’ because it’s always been — I’ve always felt that it’s the civilians caught in the crossfire, the civilians, the innocent civilians — how futile it is for war,” he said for an AP oral history. “That epitomized it to me.”
Günter Blobel, 81, a molecular biologist who was awarded the 1999 Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering that proteins in any living cell have virtual ZIP codes that guide them to where they can help regulate body tissues, organs and chemistry, died last Sunday in New York. The cause was cancer.
Because all diseases have a molecular basis, medical experts say, Blobel’s achievement was a fundamental step on the road to improved health, holding out the promise of understanding the mechanisms behind cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer’s disease, leukemia, schizophrenia, the virus that causes AIDS and other immune-system deficiencies, hereditary conditions and cellular aberrations, including cancers.
Didier Lockwood, 62, the French jazz violinist whose eclectic career spanned more than four decades and the world’s most prestigious festivals and concert halls, died suddenly last Sunday, a day after he performed in Paris.
As a composer and an improviser while performing, Lockwood enjoyed crossing musical genres, from jazz-rock to classical. He was known for experimenting with different sounds on the electric violin.
Jim Bridwell, 73, a flamboyant — some said reckless — climber who took daring routes up daunting mountains in Alaska, the Andes and, especially, Yosemite National Park, died Feb. 16 in Palm Springs, California. The cause was kidney failure and hepatitis C. He was one of the central figures among the renegade climbers who populated Yosemite in the 1970s, a group that became known as the Stonemasters.
Arthur J. Robinson, 74, or “Mr. Okra,” as pretty much everyone called him, who rolled each day through the streets of New Orleans in a loudly painted pickup truck-cum-fruit stand singing his sales pitch like the roving food vendors once common in the city, died Feb. 15 at his home there. The cause was a heart attack. He was certainly the most celebrated representative of the street-peddling tradition in New Orleans. Several months after Hurricane Katrina, one could spot a message spray-painted on a refrigerator left out along the road, “Please find Mr. Okra, we need him.”
Nini Theilade, 102, who won wide acclaim for her dancing in the fabled 1935 film version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and later performed with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo during its tour of the United States as World War II was beginning, died Feb. 13 in Svendborg, Denmark.
Catherine Wolf, 70, an experimental psychologist whose research focused on enhancing interactions between humans and computers, such as voice recognition — and who, after illness left her paralyzed, relied on her laptop to communicate, using a system that let her wiggle an eyebrow to pick out letters — died Feb. 7 at her home in Katonah, New York. The cause was sepsis, a complication of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.