June 18, 2013

Obits of note and beautiful appreciations

Professor George Gray who died at 86 led the team of chemists who made the scientific breakthrough that allows displays to be made from liquid crystals, giving birth to a multi-billion, international industry.

Andrew Doughty who died at 96 was a pioneering anaesthetist who developed the “Doughty gag”, a device which facilitates anaesthesia during the removal of tonsils and adenoids, and also promoted the use of epidural anaesthesia during childbirth.

Squadron Leader Howard (“Bert”) Houtheusen, who has died aged 97, was a noted jazz musician in the 1930s and was later awarded a DFC for landing his Sunderland flying boat on the sea off North Korea to rescue a US Navy pilot who had ditched in enemy waters.

Esther Williams, who has died aged 91, was a champion swimmer whose good looks and trim figure, especially in a one-piece bathing suit, earned her an unexpected career as a Hollywood film star.

By her own admission, she could not sing, dance or act, yet in the 1940s she was second only to Betty Grable as the world’s biggest female boxoffice draw. India named her its No 1 pin-up. What she did superlatively well was swim like an aquatic Fred Astaire.
MGM always left the swimming scenes, which the star herself referred to as “the wet stuff”, until the end of shooting. Many of her male co-stars could not swim a stroke and, in case of accident, it was deemed prudent to ensure that “the dry stuff” was already in the can. If the actor drowned, the swimming scenes could always be covered by stand-ins or doubles.
In reality, however, Esther Williams often swam for her co-stars, using a one-armed back stroke that enabled her to support her weaker partners underwater with the other arm. In rare cases, MGM would build a platform beneath the surface so that the actor would appear to be swimming while in fact walking along the bottom of the pool.

The Quiet American Harold Benz died at 91.  As a young sailor on a destroyer minesweeper in the Pacific.  he used to hang around the radio shack because he was also  a tinkerer and eager to learn how radar worked and the guys showed him.

Then came Iwo Jima. The radio shack took a direct hit from a Japanese kamikaze. All Harold’s buddies were wiped out in an instant. The transmitters and receivers were badly damaged. It was total chaos. Without its ears, the ship was a sitting duck.

Amid the devastation, Harold was able to rig up the wires so the ship could keep fighting. From his perch in the radio tower, he saw the marines raise the flag on Mount Suribachi.
After the war, Harold vowed never to go near the ocean again….Once, when the kids were teenagers, they convinced Harold to come with them to the Jersey shore. They didn’t understand why he was so hung up about the ocean. This was the 1970s. World War II was ancient history. They practically had to drag him out of the car. He took one look at the waves and turned his back. “Still the same,” he said.
It was never clear whether Harold was born quiet or if the war had done it to him….They say the only ones who talk about war are the ones who never saw the real action. The ones who saw the real action never talk about it.    Harold never said a word.

John  Podheretz on My Sister Rachel who died at 62 after a three year battle with stomach cancer.

So Rachel had a mother, who loved her, and she chose Norman, who loved her, and because she chose Norman she was healed to choose Elliott, who loved her, and then she made Jake and Nani and Joey with him, and they loved each other, and Nani and Josh made her first grandchild, Rapha, who loved her as she loved him. Who knows who will come next from this great choosing.

It was not enough, though. Not nearly enough. She should have had more.
Posted by Jill Fallon at June 18, 2013 11:01 AM | Permalink