October 6, 2014

The last thing he ever saw

 Last Photo

Final photograph:

Izumi Noguchi took this incredible photograph of a huge cloud of ash from Japanese volcano Mount Ontake just moments before he was killed. His body and camera were found near Mount Ontake's summit shrine compound

His wife Hiromi has now opted to make the images public as a tribute to Mr Noguchi's memory.
The images emerged as doctors determined that almost all of those killed  on Mount Ontake died of injuries relating to rocks flying out of the volcano.

Rescuers have retrieved 47 bodies from the ash-covered summit area of Mount Ontake since Saturday's eruption. Authorities this morning announced that another 16 people are still missing, with search efforts suspended once again due to rain.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:52 PM | Permalink

September 29, 2014

Raymond Alan "Big Al" Brownley RIP

A wonderful obituary in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for Big Al.

RAYMOND ALAN "BIG AL" BROWNLEY, December 30, 1931 - September 21, 2014

Affectionately known as Big Al by his family and many friends, he was a plumber by trade, a tremendous gardener and avid hunter. He also enjoyed fishing and proudly displayed the stuffed barracuda he caught back in 1965, much to the dismay of his wife, Agnes Bargo Brownley, to whom he was married to for 24 years.

He despised canned cranberry sauce, wearing shorts, cigarette butts in his driveway, oatmeal, loud-mouth know-it-alls, Tabasco sauce, reality TV shows, and anything to do with the Kardashians.

But Big Al had many loves, too. He loved his wife, Agnes Bargo Brownley, who preceded him in death in 1990. He also dearly loved his children and grandchildren. Famously opinionated and short-tempered, Big Al handed these qualities down to his daughter, Jill Ann Brownley of Phoenix, Arizona, a sharp-tongued character in her own right. Attending trade school to be a plumber instead of going to college, Big Al's strong work ethic and keen sense of wisely saving and investing his money live on with his son, Jeffrey Allen Brownley (Jill Shafranek Brownley), of New York. He took extreme pride in his two adorable grandchildren Derek Brownley (5) and Alexis Brownley (3), who affectionately called him Grandpa Al. He also loved milk shakes, fried shrimp, the Steelers, the Playboy channel, Silky's Gentlemens Club, taking afternoon naps in his recliner, hanging out at the VFW, playing poker, eating jelly beans by the handful, and his hunting dogs-his favorite being Holly Hill Rip Van Winkle, a loyal beagle that answered to the nickname of Rip.

Big Al was world-renowned for his lack of patience, not holding back his opinion, and a knack for telling it like it is. He was highly proficient at cursing. He liked four-letter words just about as much as four-wheel drive pick-up trucks. He was a connoisseur of banana cream pie and a firm believer that ham sandwiches should only be served on Mancini's bread. He always told you the truth, even if it wasn't what you wanted to hear. He was generous to a fault, a pussy cat at heart, and yet he sugar-coated absolutely nothing. To quote Winston Churchill: "He was a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma."

His fondness of spaghetti Westerns was only surpassed by his love of bacon, beer and butter pecan ice cream. He fondly reminisced about good friends, good drinks and good times at the Tri-Valley Sportsmens Club in Burgettstown. He was a long-time member of the Elks Club in McKees Rocks where he frequently bartended and generously donated his tips to charity. Quite a teller of tales, Big Al's elaborate stories often were punctuated with the phrase, "And that's when I kicked his ass." He enjoyed outlaw country music: Waylon, Willie, Hank, Johnny. He was also on a first-name basis with the Four Horsemen of liquor: Jack, Jim, Johnnie and Jose.

Big Al had strong beliefs in which he never waivered: dog shit makes the best garden fertilizer; Heinz ketchup does not belong on a hotdog; and PennDOT should be embarrassed of the never-ending construction, detours and potholes on Route 28.

With his love for gardening and passion for hunting, Big Al was locally sourcing his food for decades long before it was the "in thing" to do. While a necessity in his youth growing up during the Depression, this passion for being self-sufficient was carried throughout his whole life. This Depression baby was ahead of his time with "being green," as evidenced by the approximately 87 "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" containers stacked neatly in his kitchen cupboard. The biggest challenge was actually finding the butter in his refrigerator with 13 containers of leftovers that all looked the same.

Big Al was known for his timeless words of wisdom, including "Life is hard; but it's harder if you're stupid" and "Don't be a jackass." He had a life-long ménage a trois with his homemade chili and Gas-X. He had a great fondness for sardines on crackers, stuffed cabbage (which he lovingly called hunky hand grenades), making turtle soup, and eating BLTs. And his famous holiday eggnog had enough whiskey to grow hair on your chest.

Also known as the Squirrel Whisperer, he communicated with the local red-tailed squirrels and fed them peanuts out of his hand. He took pride in his time served in the Navy on the USS San Marcos during the Korean War, often waxing nostalgia that the worst meal he'd ever eaten was Shit on a Shingle (creamed chipped beef on toast). His mantra of a girl in every port often led to a fight in every port. With a stink eye towards organized religion, Big Al was more spiritual than religious and enjoyed reading the Bible before bed each night and watching "church on TV" every Sunday morning.

What he lacked in stature, he compensated with an over-abundance of charisma, charm and feistiness. Big Al took fashion advice from no one. With his trademark white, v-neck t-shirts and strategically coiffed comb-over, his comfort far outweighed any interest in the latest fashion trends. He was well-stocked with white shoe polish to keep his tennis shoes looking pristine for prime rib dinners at Longhorn Steakhouse.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:50 AM | Permalink

September 17, 2014

"Love story worthy of a Hollywood script" "

'I can't live without him': Last words of wife, 97, who 'died of a broken heart' just hours after her husband of 76 years passed away

It is a love story worthy of a Hollywood script.  A devoted couple who were inseparable for more than seven decades of marriage have died within hours of each other – on their 76th wedding anniversary.

War hero Clifford Hartland passed away on July 29 at the age of 101 and his 97-year-old wife Marjorie followed him 14 hours later.

 Clifford+Marjorie Hartland
Their daughter Christine said her mother had 'died of a broken heart'.  A frail Clifford passed away at Saint Martin's Rest Home in Coventry hours after his wife was discharged from hospital with a broken leg.  'We think he was waiting for her to come back to the room they shared before he died,' said Christine.

'Afterwards, Mum just kept saying, 'I can't live without him'. That night, Mum rang me.  'She was upset and I told her to think about all the happy times they'd shared in their marriage while she drifted off to sleep.  'She died at 1am, and I like to think that's exactly what she was doing.

'It's a perfect love story. I'm devastated they're gone but so happy for them - they've never really had to live without one another.'
The couple fell met in Cardiff before the war and married soon after in 1938.

But their love story was soon dealt a blow when Clifford, a gunner in the 7th Coast Regiment Royal Artillery, was sent to Singapore on October 1, 1941. When his regiment surrendered to the Japanese in 1942, Clifford was one of four survivors and he was forced to work as a prisoner of war on the infamous Thailand-Burma railway line.  Conditions were brutal, and 13,000 prisoners died and were buried along the route.

An 11-stone young man when he left Liverpool Dock, Clifford weighed a pitiful five stone when he returned.  Clifford and Marjorie's daughter Christine, 67, said: 'I don't know how Dad survived - mainly luck and determination, I think. There were 700 men in his regiment when they went out, but only four ever came back. Dad was the last to die from his regiment.

'But every day, on her way to work, Mum would go into the church she passed and pray that Dad would come home. She lived without him for four years, but she never believed he was dead.'  Clifford had been mercilessly tortured, starved, and worked to the brink of death by the Japanese.  He was forced to trek for miles each day through leech-filled swamps.
Mother-of-two Christine said her father had once been caught smoking banana leaves in one of the 15 prison camps he had been sent to.  The Japanese officer who discovered him pushed a poisoned bamboo shoot through his leg, leaving a lifelong scar.
Last year, Clifford said: 'The worst thing was when we had to dig our own graves. We were due to be shot on the day the war ended.

'Then the 'all-clear' sounded. You can guess how I felt.' Clifford came home to a street party in Cardiff, and even a letter of thanks from the King. But his wife's welcome was the most treasured of all.

The war hero was discharged from the army in 1945, and Christine - the couple's only child - was born a year later.
The family moved to Hipswell Highway in Wyken, Coventry in 1947, and Clifford worked for Morris Engines as a factory foreman until he retired. Christine said: 'Dad was in hospital for a while after he came back from Burma, but neither of them cared. They were just so happy to be together again.

'They had an incredible marriage. They never, ever argued. Dad idolised Mum and she adored him.
'When they'd go to a restaurant, Dad would eat the same thing that Mum ordered.
'They loved dancing together, and they loved singing, too. Dad had been a choirboy at Gloucester Cathedral.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:41 PM | Permalink

August 28, 2014

Obituaries of note

The London Telegraph consistently offers the best-written obituaries in the world.  Here are just a few from the past two weeks.

Jean Redpath - a  Scottish folk singer who shared an apartment with Bob Dylan and recorded the ballads of Robbie Burns

BKS Iyengar - an Indian yoga teacher who popularized the 3,000-year-old practice among disciples across the world after 'retuning’ the violinist Yehudi Menuhin.

Ciro de Quadros - a pioneering epidemiologist who eradicated smallpox in Ethiopia then wiped out polio in Latin America, undeterred by revolutionaries and Shining Path guerrillas

Richard Attenborough - a pillar of British cinema who achieved fame as an actor before becoming a director and winning Oscars for his epic and sweeping biography of Gandhi who was knighted in 1976.

Father Jean-Marie Charles-Roux - a priest who prayed for the restoration of the Holy Roman Empire

Lady Berlin -  a French amateur golfer who fled the Nazi occupation in her Bentley coupé and later won the heart of the philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin

Lauren Bacall -  the actress whose partnership with Humphrey Bogart brought a new allure and electricity to the big screen

Robin Williams -a comedian and actor whose live-wire delivery could express both depth of character and pathos

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:19 PM | Permalink

August 15, 2014

Photo farewells

Photo Farewells: The Last Known Photographs Of 15 Icons

 Lastphotophiliphoffman

After two decades of sobriety, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman had fallen off of the wagon, and hard. With his life spiraling out of control due to a heroin addiction, Hoffman posed for this tintype portrait at the Sundance film festival of this year at his final public appearance. The photo shows a broken man, who soon after would be found dead in his apartment with 70 bags of heroin and 20 used needles. The Oscar-winning actor had recently been kicked out of the home of his longtime partner Mimi O’Donnell for the sake of their three young children.

 Lastphotoabrahamlincoln

Though there are numerous blurry photos claiming to be the official final picture taken of President Abraham Lincoln, this is without question the final official portrait taken of the nation’s 16th President. It was taken on February 5th, 1865 – a little more than two months before the infamous assassination at the hands of John Wilkes Booth.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:14 AM | Permalink

August 10, 2014

Major General Harold Green, RIP

 Major Gen Harold Greene American two-star general, 55, shot dead by 'insider' at Afghan military training facility in attack that left 15 troops wounded

Harold J. Greene, the two-star Army general who on Tuesday became the highest-ranking U.S. military officer to be killed in either of America's post-9/11 wars, was an engineer who rose through the ranks as an expert in developing and fielding the Army's war materiel. He was on his first deployment to a war zone.

Greene was killed when a gunman believed to be an Afghan soldier opened fire at a military academy near Kabul. More than a dozen other coalition soldiers were wounded, including about eight Americans, according to early accounts of the attack. It was among the bloodiest insider attacks of the war in Afghanistan….He was on a routine visit to the British operated training facility just outside the capital Kabul when a man dressed in the uniform of the Afghan military opened fire.
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Maj. General Greene who is survived by his wife and two children, is the highest ranking member of the military to die in a war zone since Vietnam.  In a 34-year career that began at Fort Polk, Louisiana, Greene, a native of upstate New York, earned a reputation as an inspiring leader with a sense of humility. He had been in Afghanistan since January, serving as deputy commander of a support command called the Combined Security Transition Command, in Kabul.
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Greene flourished in the less glamorous side of the Army that develops, tests, builds and supplies soldiers with equipment and technology. That is a particularly difficult job during wartime, since unconventional or unanticipated battlefield challenges like roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, call for urgent improvements in equipment.
In 2009-2011, for example, he served as deputy commanding general of the Army's Research, Development and Engineering Command and senior commander of the Natick Soldier System Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Aberdeen, Maryland. During that tour of duty he gained the rank of brigadier general, and at his promotion ceremony in December 2009 he was lauded for his leadership skills and ability to inspire those around him.
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His awards include the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Service Medal, a Meritorious Service Award and an Army Commendation Medal.

Obama on first combat death of an American general in decades: (Silence)

But Obama had nothing to say, issued no White House statement. Wednesday during several public events, including a 40-minute pre-vacation news conference, the commander-in-chief uttered not a single word about the violent death of one of only about 200 Army generals.  Strange behavior from someone who so often pays lip service to the devotion and sacrifice of U.S. military volunteers and behavior likely to confirm widespread skepticism of the Democrat's sincerity.
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Aides hinted to White House reporters that Obama did not want to elevate one soldier's death over any other. Well, in his 34-year military career the two-star general was elevated regularly above his peers, as was his wife Sue, a retired Army colonel.  In 13 years, 2,322 Americans have died in Afghanistan, 74% of them during Obama's five-year presidency.

Here's the real reason for no White House comment: Afghan soldiers turning on Americans undermine Obama's entire hasty withdrawal narrative, that our job is done and Afghans are ready to take on their own security by year's end.

Gen. Greene was to begin a two-week home leave tomorrow. He planned to take his wife, their grown children and his 85-year-old father to a pair of Sox games at Fenway Park. Instead, the family will assemble at Arlington National Cemetery for the funeral of the man whose service and sacrifice the Obama White House refused to acknowledge.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:22 AM | Permalink

August 8, 2014

Major General Harold Green, RIP

 Major Gen Harold Greene American two-star general, 55, shot dead by 'insider' at Afghan military training facility in attack that left 15 troops wounded

Harold J. Greene, the two-star Army general who on Tuesday became the highest-ranking U.S. military officer to be killed in either of America's post-9/11 wars, was an engineer who rose through the ranks as an expert in developing and fielding the Army's war materiel. He was on his first deployment to a war zone.

Greene was killed when a gunman believed to be an Afghan soldier opened fire at a military academy near Kabul. More than a dozen other coalition soldiers were wounded, including about eight Americans, according to early accounts of the attack. It was among the bloodiest insider attacks of the war in Afghanistan….He was on a routine visit to the British operated training facility just outside the capital Kabul when a man dressed in the uniform of the Afghan military opened fire.
--
Maj. General Greene who is survived by his wife and two children, is the highest ranking member of the military to die in a war zone since Vietnam.  In a 34-year career that began at Fort Polk, Louisiana, Greene, a native of upstate New York, earned a reputation as an inspiring leader with a sense of humility. He had been in Afghanistan since January, serving as deputy commander of a support command called the Combined Security Transition Command, in Kabul.
----
Greene flourished in the less glamorous side of the Army that develops, tests, builds and supplies soldiers with equipment and technology. That is a particularly difficult job during wartime, since unconventional or unanticipated battlefield challenges like roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, call for urgent improvements in equipment.
In 2009-2011, for example, he served as deputy commanding general of the Army's Research, Development and Engineering Command and senior commander of the Natick Soldier System Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Aberdeen, Maryland. During that tour of duty he gained the rank of brigadier general, and at his promotion ceremony in December 2009 he was lauded for his leadership skills and ability to inspire those around him.
--
His awards include the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Service Medal, a Meritorious Service Award and an Army Commendation Medal.

Obama on first combat death of an American general in decades: (Silence)

But Obama had nothing to say, issued no White House statement. Wednesday during several public events, including a 40-minute pre-vacation news conference, the commander-in-chief uttered not a single word about the violent death of one of only about 200 Army generals.  Strange behavior from someone who so often pays lip service to the devotion and sacrifice of U.S. military volunteers and behavior likely to confirm widespread skepticism of the Democrat's sincerity.
--
Aides hinted to White House reporters that Obama did not want to elevate one soldier's death over any other. Well, in his 34-year military career the two-star general was elevated regularly above his peers, as was his wife Sue, a retired Army colonel.  In 13 years, 2,322 Americans have died in Afghanistan, 74% of them during Obama's five-year presidency.

Here's the real reason for no White House comment: Afghan soldiers turning on Americans undermine Obama's entire hasty withdrawal narrative, that our job is done and Afghans are ready to take on their own security by year's end.

Gen. Greene was to begin a two-week home leave tomorrow. He planned to take his wife, their grown children and his 85-year-old father to a pair of Sox games at Fenway Park. Instead, the family will assemble at Arlington National Cemetery for the funeral of the man whose service and sacrifice the Obama White House refused to acknowledge.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:04 PM | Permalink

August 2, 2014

Poignant Last Photo: "We just stood and hugged and we didn’t want to do anything else.”

 Last Photo Israeli Soldier

The last time she would ever see him. Sad photo making way across Israeli media this morning. Killed soon thereafter
pic.twitter.com/UJKpFmhQqD

— Daniel Gordis (@DanielGordis) July 30, 2014

Before the briefing began, photographer Erez caught sight of the hugging couple and captured the moment.  Briga was killed in a Hamas cross-border mortar attack Monday, just three days after the photo was taken, before he entered Gaza.

Sokolov told Ynet that she hadn’t seen her boyfriend in two weeks before visiting to bring him and his friends food. “I reached him at the exact place he was killed, and we didn’t do anything except stand and hug for a half hour,” Sokolov said. “I saw photographers taking pictures of us, and I whispered to Adi, ‘Look, we’re like celebrities, we have paparazzi,’ and we both laughed. We just stood and hugged and we didn’t want to do anything else.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:09 AM | Permalink

July 23, 2014

"Bye, babe. I hope I call you."

Brian Sweeney's last words preserved in 9/11 museum.

‘Jules, This is Brian’

The 9/11 Museum’s main exhibit is a by-the-minute walkthrough of the events of the day in question, housed in what was once a sub-basement of the World Trade Center’s North Tower. Shortly after beginning it, one encounters the following artifact: the final recorded words of Brian Sweeney. The visitor listens to them by using a telephone mounted on the exhibit’s wall.

Sweeney was a 38-years-old aeronautics consultant and former Navy fighter pilot. He left this message on his wife Julie Sweeney’s phone at 8:59 a.m. on September 11, 2001:

Jules, this is Brian listen, I’m on an airplane that’s been hijacked. If things don’t go well, and it’s not looking good, I just want you to know I absolutely love you, I want you to do good, go have good times, same to my parents and everybody, and I just totally love you, and I’ll see you when you get there. Bye, babe. I hope I call you.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:34 PM | Permalink

July 20, 2014

James Garner RIP

London Telegraph James Garner: an actor of gentle gallantry  The star of The Rockford Files and The Great Escape was a reminder of a bygone age.

James Garner, who died on Saturday at the age of 86, had a career that shuffled from TV to film to TV and back to film with the relaxed, unflappable gait of a cowboy – the type of role he was initially and really always associated with, from his first successes in the series Cheyenne (1955-7) and Maverick (1957-62). As a standalone film star, he caught some good breaks early on – starring opposite Shirley MacLaine and Audrey Hepburn in William Wyler’s terrific second adaptation of The Children’s Hour (1961), and as part of the whopping alpha-male line-up in The Great Escape (1963). There, his part as Flight Lt Hendley, the American in the RAF able to procure everything from cameras to ID cards, even threatened to steal the movie away from Steve McQueen. (McQueen was allegedly envious of his strapping co-star’s screen time, and “that goddamn white turtleneck” he was always wearing.)

 James-Garner 1

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Garner was almost too good-looking for his own good, a throwback to the Rock Hudson age when square jaws were bankable. He was a natural co-star for a specifically wholesome brand of leading lady – it’s telling that he worked twice with Doris Day (in the 1963 double bill of Move Over, Darling and The Thrill of it All) and three times with Julie Andrew

The man every woman in the world was just a little bit in love with: He was Hollywood's most amiable star - but James Garner's brutal childhood gave him a core of steel

A lifelong smoker — he even continued after undergoing open-heart surgery in 1988 — Garner had suffered a stroke six years ago. Over a six-decade career that included more than 50 films, he had made acting look so natural and effortless.  As tributes were made to him last night — particularly in praise of his under-stated style — perhaps the  veteran arts critic Clive James put it best, describing the super-articulate Garner as ‘every sane person’s favorite movie star… though tall and handsome, he was never remote: he had an air of belonging down here with us’.

Permanently harassed and frequently roughed up by villains — especially as private eye Jim Rockford — Garner played flawed heroes with whom audiences could relate.  And he was a refreshingly different kind of star off-screen, too. Shy and self-effacing, Garner was the classic plain-speaking Midwesterner who moved to Hollywood but never fell for its puffed up, underhand ways.
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Garner’s love life was very different from most of his libidinous co-stars, too. Married only once, he remained with Lois, his wife of 58 years, until the day he died — and never once attracted any accusations of infidelity. The couple had one child, daughter Greta.
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In his 2011 autobiography — which the typically modest actor waited until he was 83 to produce — he revealed a deeply troubled childhood in Depression era Oklahoma.His father, Weldon Bumgarner, ran a hardware store-cum-post-office on a country road. The family — including James and his two older brothers — lived in the back of the shop, which didn’t have indoor plumbing. His half-Cherokee mother died when he was four, probably during a botched abortion, Garner believed.
Then the family shop burned down  and Garner’s father, a feckless  alcoholic, became a carpet layer. Often arriving home drunk, he would expect  his three young sons to join him in rousing sing-songs. If they refused — literally — to sing for their supper, they were beaten.
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Finding it increasingly hard to cope without a mother figure, he split up his children and sent them to live with various relatives, eventually reuniting them when he remarried six years later.  His NEW wife, a redhead named Wilma, terrorised the boys. She would hit them with willow switches she had made them cut down. James was treated the worst.  ‘Whenever I did anything wrong she’d put me in a dress and make everyone call me “Louise”,’ he recalled. At 14, he finally snapped after years of violence. Throwing his stepmother to the ground during one of the beatings, he began to throttle her — convinced she would kill him if he didn’t kill her first.
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Garner won two Purple Hearts  (America’s oldest military medal) when he was wounded twice, first  in the face and hand by shrapnel  from a mortar round, and later in the buttocks from ‘friendly fire’ from a U.S. fighter jet.
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Back in the U.S., he eked out a living helping his father lay carpets. Having never considered acting, he might not have got into the profession but for a complete accident  At one point, he had worked as a petrol station attendant with a  man called Paul Gregory, an aspiring theatrical agent, who observed that Garner’s rugged good looks could work well for him in Hollywood. Some years later, Garner was  driving through LA when he spotted a sign for ‘Paul Gregory & Associates’. On impulse, he went inside.
Sure enough, his old colleague was now a theatrical producer and got Garner a non-speaking part in a 1954  Broadway production of The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, a play based on a novel, The Caine Mutiny (the story of shipboard conflict aboard a World War II naval vessel).  ‘I had no lines and I had trouble staying awake,’ Garner said. But  he claimed he learned to act from running through lines with fellow cast members and watching them — in particular Henry Fonda — perform each night.  ‘I swiped practically all my acting style from him,’ said Garner, as self-effacing as ever.

Randy Barnett remembers Remembering Maverick: The Garner Files – A Memoir

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:08 PM | Permalink

July 16, 2014

Couple laid to rest in one casket

'The way they looked at each other - you could see their love': Couple who were married for 63 years die hours apart and are laid to rest in one casket

 Bob+Barbara Pettis 2  Before they were married                                                                                                           Bob+Barbara Pettis  On their 50th wedding anniversary
A couple who were happily married for 63 years have been laid to rest together after they both passed away on the same day.  Bob, 85, and 82-year-old Barbara Pettis of Holdenville, Oklahoma, had both been battling health problems for several years when they died mere hours apart on June 30.

Their oldest son Clay, 59, told NewsOK that they were so close in life, it was no surprise that they ended up leaving the earth together.  Clay - who, with his wife Jana, had been his parents' primary caretakers for two years - said it took him a while to fully realize just how special they were.  'We had something growing up that a lot of kids don't get. The thought of them divorcing was inconceivable to me,' he said. 'We had that kind of security with them that it never crossed our minds growing up.'
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Per Barbara's wishes, she was cremated. Clay and his two siblings, Leslie and Jim, laid their parents to rest on July 2nd, placing their mother's urn in Bob's casket so they could be eternally together…..

Their lives were celebrated at a joint memorial service at Calvary Baptist Church in Holdenville, where they were both active members - Bob a deacon and song leader, and Barbara a pianist and organist.

The couple are survived by their three children, 11 grandchildren five great-grandchildren, with another great-grandkid due to be born this month.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:03 AM | Permalink

July 10, 2014

Funny epitaphs

Harry Edsel Smith of Albany, New York:
Born 1903--Died 1942.

Looked up the elevator shaft
to see if the car was on the way down.
It was.

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In a Thurmont, Maryland, cemetery:

Here lies an Atheist, all dressed up
and no place to go.

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On the grave of Ezekial Aikle in
East Dalhousie Cemetery, Nova Scotia:

Here lies Ezekial Aikle, Age 102. Only the good die young.

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In a London , England cemetery:

Here lies Ann Mann,
who lived an old maid
but died an old Mann.
Dec. 8, 1767

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In a Ribbesford, England, cemetery:

Anna Wallace The children of Israel wanted bread, And the Lord sent them manna. Clark Wallace wanted a wife, And the Devil sent him Anna.

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In a Ruidoso, New Mexico, cemetery:

Here lies Johnny Yeast. Pardon him for not rising.

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In a Uniontown, Pennsylvania, cemetery:

Here lies the body of Jonathan Blake, Stepped on the gas instead of the brake.

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In a Silver City, Nevada, cemetery:

Here lays The Kid, We planted him raw. He was quick on the trigger, But slow on the draw.

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A lawyer's epitaph in England:

Sir John Strange. Here lies an honest lawyer, and that is Strange.

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John Penny's epitaph in the Wimborne, England, cemetery:

Reader, if cash thou art in want of any, Dig 6 feet deep and thou wilt find a Penny.

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In a cemetery in Hartscombe, England:

On the 22nd of June,
Jonathan Fiddle went out of tune.

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Anna Hopewell's grave in Enosburg Falls, Vermont:

Here lies the body of our Anna, Done to death by a banana. It wasn't the fruit that laid her low, But the skin of the thing that made her go.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:15 PM | Permalink

May 29, 2014

Maya Angelo, RIP

 Maya-Angelou Telegraph

Telegraph Maya Angelou: 'her autobiographies secure her place in literary history'

Was there anything Maya Angelou didn’t do? Anyone she didn’t know? Any significant moment of black American history from the last 86 years that passed her by?

When Joe Louis fought Primo Carnera in 1935, she was a child in Arkansas listening to the radio and wondering "if the announcer gave any thought to the fact that he was addressing as ‘ladies and gentlemen’ all the Negroes around the world who sat sweating and praying, glued to their ‘master’s voice'". In 1958 she was in Los Angeles when Billie Holiday visited her house and sang Strange Fruit. Angelou had to scold her son for interrupting to ask "What’s a pastoral scene, Miss Holiday?", but Holiday’s "scornful" answer – "it means when the crackers are killing the niggers" – reveals another historical moment.

When she was 16 Angelou became San Francisco’s first African-American streetcar conductor. Her friends included Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, and at Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993, she recited a poem that urged Americans "to give birth again / To the dream". In 2010 Barack Obama awarded Angelou with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor. Is it surprising to learn that her most famous poem is entitled "Phenomenal Woman"?

But it’s not her poems nor her performances that will ensure Angelou a place in American literary history, but her autobiographies, particularly the first of the seven, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings…..

 Maya Angelo Caged Bird

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings explores the poverty and violence of racial segregation in 1930s Arkansas and relates the story of Angelou’s rape at the age of seven by a boyfriend of her mother. Angelou testified at the man's trial but he was released and kicked to death outside the courthouse. In response Angelou stopped speaking for five years, believing that her voice was a "killing machine". "When I pick up the pen to write," she told an interviewer once, "I have to scrape it across those scars to sharpen the point." Harold Bloom has spoken of her "almost unique tone" as one that "blends intimacy and detachment".
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As she relates it, the turning point in Angelou’s life came when she heard her teacher, Mrs Flowers, read from Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities: "Her voice slid in and curved down through and over the words. She was nearly singing."
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By the time she was 19, she had worked as a short-order cook, a prostitute, a nightclub waitress and dancer, and had a two-year-old son to support. Many more jobs and relationships followed, before she became a successful dancer, singer and actor, adapting her first husband’s name to become, finally, Maya Angelou. And that was only the start. We read of meetings with Martin Luther King, life as a journalist in Ghana and an editor in Egypt, directing plays and films, playing the part of Kunte Kinte’s grandmother in the acclaimed television adaptation of Alex Haley’s Roots, romance, motherhood and inspiration.

While she eventually became a kind of one-woman industry, lending her name to all manner of inspirational souvenirs, including a series of Hallmark cards, and acting as mentor for another phenomenon, Oprah Winfrey,

Daily Mail.  The caged bird who helped free the minds of racist America: Poet Maya Angelou is found dead aged 86 after final prophetic tweet
Maya Angelou was found dead by her caretaker Wednesday morning at her home in Winston-Salem North Carolina… Her son Gary B. Johnson, her only child, issued a statement about the author's death: 'Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension.
'She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.'
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On Thursday - just one day after her death - her official portrait will be installed in the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington.

 Maya Angelo Old

Angelou had been struggling with health problems in recent weeks ….She remained active, even as her health began to deteriorate. On May 23, five days before her death, she tweeted, 'Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.'

Peggy Noonan

Reaction to Maya Angelou’s death is going to be broader and deeper than people realize. They’ll say she was a great writer, a teller of experience, a witness. All true. But at the end she was a mystic. A friend who saw this interview, with Oprah Winfrey, said: “She was so close to Heaven.”

Angelou said love is an invisible electric current that lights the world and everything in it, and we don’t even notice. She spoke of the shattering yet building moment when she understood for the first time that “God. Loves. Me.” “It still humbles me that this force which made the leaves and fleas and stars and rivers and you—loves me. Me, Maya Angelou. It’s amazing. I can do anything and do it well, any good thing, I can do it.”

She was not embarrassed to talk like this. She wanted you to understand what she knew; she wanted, graciously, to share it, so you’ll know the current too.

On YouTube and with Oprah The Revelation That Changed Dr. Maya Angelou's Life

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:05 AM | Permalink

April 10, 2014

How the New York Times decides whether an obituary is warranted

Margalit Fox who has written over 1000 obituaries for The New York Times Answers the Question:  'Why That Life?'

As we often say to one another ruefully, running the Obituary department of The Times is like presiding over the admissions committee of the most selective college in the world.
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Besides the monarchs and captains of industry, likely candidates for our page include another, lesser-known group. These are history’s backstage players who, working quietly, have nonetheless managed to reshape our culture – the men and women who have put enduring creases in the social fabric. And it is these unsung actors whom obit writers love best.

In my decade in the job, I have had the great narrative pleasure of writing about Jack A. Kinzler, the NASA employee who designed a humble parasol that saved the imperiled Skylab space station; Ophelia DeVore-Mitchell, who almost single-handedly opened the modeling profession to African-Americans; Ruth M. Siems, the General Foods home economist who invented Stove Top stuffing, and Leslie Buck, who designed the Anthora, the blue-and-white Greek-themed cardboard cup from which decades of New Yorkers drank their coffee.

Each day, it is our job to come to know such strangers intimately, inhaling their lives through telephone calls to their families, through newspaper and magazine profiles culled from electronic databases and through the crumbling yellowed clippings from the Times morgue that can fall to dust in our fingers as we read them. ….

If all has gone well, we have also arrived at the solution to the mystery, for in the course of the day we have learned not only how our subjects got from A to B to C in their lives – and how much of that progress was a product of free will and how much a result of pure blind fate – but also how, and why, they embodied the age in which they lived.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:50 PM | Permalink

April 1, 2014

The Death of a True Hero

Jeremiah A. Denton Jr., Vietnam POW and former U.S. senator, dies at 89

Jeremiah A. Denton Jr., a retired Navy rear admiral and former U.S. senator who survived nearly eight years of captivity in North Vietnamese prisons, and whose public acts of defiance and patriotism came to embody the sacrifices of American POWs in Vietnam, died March 28 at a hospice in Virginia Beach. He was 89….

Adm. Denton was a native of Alabama, where in 1980 he became the state’s first Republican to win election to the Senate since Reconstruction…..he remained widely known for his heroism as a naval aviator and prisoner of war, and particularly for two television appearances that reached millions of Americans through the evening news during the Vietnam War.

In the first, orchestrated by the North Vietnamese as propaganda and broadcast in the United States in 1966, he appeared in his prison uniform and blinked the word “torture” in Morse code — a secret message to U.S. military intelligence for which he later received the Navy Cross.

In the second television appearance, during Operation Homecoming in 1973, he became the first freed POW to step off a plane at a U.S. air base in the Philippines. He spoke through tears before cameras, expressing his gratitude for having had the opportunity to serve his country under “difficult circumstances.”
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Adm. Denton was subjected to four years in solitary confinement. Living in roach- and rat-infested conditions, he endured starvation, delirium and torture sessions that sometimes lasted days.
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Adm. Denton once reflected on his survival in North Vietnam.

“If I had known when I was shot down that I would be there more than seven years, I would have died of despondency, of despair,” he told Investor’s Business Daily. “But I didn’t. It was one minute at a time, one hour, one week, one year and so on. If you look at it like that, anybody can do anything.”

Jeremiah Denton for the Ages   Remembering an exceptionally courageous POW and an American hero.

Here he is blinking morse code - T-O-R-T-U-R-E

RIP with the thanks of a grateful nation.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:24 AM | Permalink

March 31, 2014

Funny Epitaphs

From Cemetery Humor at Stories, Etc.

Harry Edsel Smith of Albany, New York:  Born 1903--Died 1942.

Looked up the elevator shaft 
to see if the car was on the way down.
It was.

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In a Thurmont, Maryland, cemetery:

Here lies an Atheist, all dressed up
and no place to go.

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On the grave of Ezekial Aikle in East Dalhousie Cemetery, Nova Scotia:

Here lies Ezekial Aikle, Age 102. Only the good die young.

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In a London , England cemetery:

Here lies Ann Mann,
who lived an old maid
but died an old Mann.
Dec. 8, 1767

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In a Ruidoso, New Mexico, cemetery:

Here lies Johnny Yeast. Pardon him for not rising.

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A lawyer's epitaph in England:

Sir John Strange. Here lies an honest lawyer, and that is Strange.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:45 AM | Permalink

March 25, 2014

"She taught him the value of good manners and courtesy, and that hospitality is no small thing."

The actor James Rebhorn who died last week at 65 after a long battle with melanoma, wrote his own obituary.

He spent a lot more time talking about the people he loved than himself, and he allotted just one paragraph to talk about his career as an actor.

James Robert Rebhorn was born on Sept. 1, 1948, in Philadelphia, PA. His mother, Ardell Frances Rebhorn, nee Hoch, loved him very much and supported all his dreams. She taught him the value of good manners and courtesy, and that hospitality is no small thing. His father, James Harry Rebhorn, was no less devoted to him. From him, Jim learned that there is no excuse for poor craftsmanship. A job well done rarely takes more or less time than a job poorly done. They gave him his faith and wisely encouraged him to stay in touch with God.

He is survived by his sister, Janice Barbara Galbraith, of Myrtle Beach, SC. She was his friend, his confidant, and, more often than either of them would like to admit, his bridge over troubled waters.

He is also survived by his wife, Rebecca Fulton Linn, and his two daughters, Emma Rebecca Rebhorn and Hannah Linn Rebhorn. They anchored his life and gave him the freedom to live it. Without them, always at the center of his being, his life would have been little more than a vapor. Rebecca loved him with all his flaws, and in her the concept of ceaseless love could find no better example.

His children made him immensely proud. Their dedication to improving our species and making the world a better place gave him hope for the future. They deal with grief differently, and they should each manage it as they see fit. He hopes, however, that they will grieve his passing only as long as necessary. They have much good work to do, and they should get busy doing it. Time is flying by. His son-in-law, Ben, also survives him. Jim loved Ben, who was as a son to Jim, especially through these last months.

His aunts Jean, Dorothy and Florence, numerous cousins and their families, and many devoted friends also survive Jim. He loved them all, and he knows they loved him.

Jim received his BA at Wittenberg University and his MFA at Columbia. He was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha Nu Zeta 624, a life-long Lutheran, and a longtime member of both the AMC and ACLU.

Jim was fortunate enough to earn his living doing what he loved. He was a professional actor. His unions were always there for him, and he will remain forever grateful for the benefits he gained as a result of the union struggle. Without his exceptional teachers and the representation of the best agents in the business, he wouldn’t have had much of a career. He was a lucky man in every way.

 James Rebhorn R.I.P.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:29 AM | Permalink

February 6, 2014

Leonard Smith, R.I.P.

His obituary

Leonard Mason Smith, 86, a veteran of World War II and Korea and longtime resident of Pine Island, Florida passed away on November 27th, 2013.

Leonard Smith was a very private man. If you wanted to know his cause of death, he would have told you that it was none of your business. If you asked Penny, his beloved wife, she would tell you that he had cancer, but not to tell anyone. Although his prognosis was dire, he battled on, lived his life and survived several years beyond the experts' expectations. He did not want his obituary to suggest that he lost a long battle with cancer. By his reckoning, cancer could not win, and could only hope for a draw. And so it was. Leonard Smith hated losing.

He was born to Leonard Henry Smith and Charlotte deCamp on July 20th, 1927 in New York City. As a young man he resided in New Rochelle, NY, where he attended the Iona School. He graduated from the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, and then matriculated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was president of the Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity and earned an engineering degree. He joined the Army Air Corps after his first term at M.I.T., and attained the rank of colonel, but only on the telephone when facilitating personnel discharges and equipment requisitions. He was discharged as a private. After his graduation from M.I.T., he enlisted in the Air Force during the Korean War, and served in Japan and the Philippines. After the war, he began a career as a management executive. He worked for Bamberg Rayon Company, American Enka, Union Carbide, General Dynamics, Cognitronics and Computer Transceiver Systems Incorporated. By virtue of his education, training and temperament, his assignments tended to be companies and divisions that were experiencing financial or operational deficiencies. He liked the challenge.
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Leonard Smith hated pointless bureaucracy, thoughtless inefficiency and bad ideas born of good intentions. He loved his wife, admired and respected his children and liked just about every dog he ever met. He will be greatly missed by those he loved and those who loved him. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you cancel your subscription to The New York Times.


A good man and a great obituary.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:33 AM | Permalink

February 5, 2014

Leonard Smith, R.I.P.

His obituary

Leonard Mason Smith, 86, a veteran of World War II and Korea and longtime resident of Pine Island, Florida passed away on November 27th, 2013.

Leonard Smith was a very private man. If you wanted to know his cause of death, he would have told you that it was none of your business. If you asked Penny, his beloved wife, she would tell you that he had cancer, but not to tell anyone. Although his prognosis was dire, he battled on, lived his life and survived several years beyond the experts' expectations. He did not want his obituary to suggest that he lost a long battle with cancer. By his reckoning, cancer could not win, and could only hope for a draw. And so it was. Leonard Smith hated losing.

He was born to Leonard Henry Smith and Charlotte deCamp on July 20th, 1927 in New York City. As a young man he resided in New Rochelle, NY, where he attended the Iona School. He graduated from the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, and then matriculated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was president of the Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity and earned an engineering degree. He joined the Army Air Corps after his first term at M.I.T., and attained the rank of colonel, but only on the telephone when facilitating personnel discharges and equipment requisitions. He was discharged as a private. After his graduation from M.I.T., he enlisted in the Air Force during the Korean War, and served in Japan and the Philippines. After the war, he began a career as a management executive. He worked for Bamberg Rayon Company, American Enka, Union Carbide, General Dynamics, Cognitronics and Computer Transceiver Systems Incorporated. By virtue of his education, training and temperament, his assignments tended to be companies and divisions that were experiencing financial or operational deficiencies. He liked the challenge.
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Leonard Smith hated pointless bureaucracy, thoughtless inefficiency and bad ideas born of good intentions. He loved his wife, admired and respected his children and liked just about every dog he ever met. He will be greatly missed by those he loved and those who loved him. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you cancel your subscription to The New York Times.



A good man and a great obituary.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:54 AM | Permalink

January 30, 2014

Nancy Wake, dead at 95, left a Great Legacy

Blisteringly sexy, she killed Nazis with her bare hands and had a 5 million-franc bounty on her head. As she dies at 98, the extraordinary story of the real Charlotte Gray

A male comrade-in-arms in the French Resistance summed her up as: ‘The most  feminine woman I know, until the fighting starts. And then she is like five men.’ She lived up to both parts of that compliment.

So feminine was she that when escaping from pursuers on one notable occasion, she dressed in a smart frock, silk stockings, high-heeled shoes and a camel-hair coat, arguing that she didn’t want to look like a hunted woman. In that same outfit, she jumped from a  moving train into a vineyard to avoid capture at a Nazi checkpoint.

 Nancy Wake

And so aggressive was she that, after being parachuted into France as a Special  Operations Executive agent, she disposed of a German guard with her bare hands and liked nothing better than bowling along in the front seat of a fast car through the countryside, a Sten gun on her lap and a cigar between her teeth, in search of Germans to kill.

Passionate and impulsive, with a tendency to draw attention to herself, she was not the ideal undercover agent. Her superiors didn’t think she would last long behind enemy lines.

But Wake proved them wrong and died this week, aged 98, in a nursing home for retired veterans in London. Her death brought to an end a life of such daring, courage and glamour that she was the inspiration for the Sebastian Faulks novel Charlotte Gray, which was made into a film starring Cate Blanchett.

Much of Wake’s extraordinary life was lived under assumed identities. She carried papers as Nancy Fiocca (her married name) and Lucienne Cartier. Her official SOE identity was Andree, though a gay friend in the  service called her ‘Gertie’. On one operation she was tagged ‘Witch’. But the best-known name was the one the Gestapo gave her when they put her on their ‘most wanted’ list, with a five million franc price on her head — that of ‘the White Mouse’, because she always managed to wriggle out of their traps.

Nancy Wake was born in New Zealand and brought up in Australia, a difficult child who took the first opportunity to leave the Antipodes for Europe. There, she partied between assignments as a journalist, before marrying a rich businessman from Marseille who could indulge her taste for champagne, caviar and the good life.

Nancy was visiting London, for, of all things, a slimming course, when war was declared in September 1939. When she tried to join up to fight she was pointed, to her disgust, in the direction of a Naafi (Navy, Army and Air Force) canteen. So she went back to France and, when that country fell to the invading Germans, she proved herself as brave and as aggressive as any man — and more than most.

In 1940, in the half of France unoccupied by the Nazis, Marseille was a magnet for downed RAF crew and British soldiers left behind after the Dunkirk evacuation, all hoping to make their way home via Spain.  An escape route over the Pyrenees was organised underneath the noses of the pro-German French authorities. Nancy’s wealthy husband, Henri, financed operations, while Nancy herself, dressed up to the nines, carried messages between members of the group.

Then she progressed to escorting the ‘packages’ — escaped Allied soldiers and airmen — along the coast to the border. It was dangerous work, with constant fear of discovery or betrayal. At one stage, she was arrested by French police and interrogated in prison for four days. The leader of the escape line bluffed his way in and  secured her release. After that, it was clear her days were numbered and she went to ground.

Six weeks before D-Day, she was parachuted into the heavily-forested and mountainous Auvergne region of central France to prepare local Resistance groups, the Maquis, for the job of harrying the Germans and delaying their reinforcements once the invasion began

The 7,000 partisans were disorderly, disorganised and riven by personal rivalries, more of a  rabble than an underground army that would do damage to the Germans. They had little interest in newcomers from across the Channel sorting them out, particularly a woman.

Nancy proved her mettle, arranging air drops and hiding supplies of weapons, travelling between the groups, paying out money, urging them to co-operate, knocking them, as best she could, into shape. She was as tough as the old army boots she eschewed for heels. With an escort of Maquisards, she shot her way through enemy patrols and roadblocks.
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The sadness was that after the liberation she returned to  Marseille to discover that Henri was dead. Shortly after her flight from the city, he had been caught, imprisoned and tortured. The Gestapo shot him.
She blamed herself for his death. If he’d told them where she was, he might have lived. But he refused.
She was festooned with honours — a British George Medal, the French Legion d’Honneur and three Croix de Guerre. She remarried, returned to Australia to live, took up politics for a while, then came back to Britain to retire in 2001.

Her body is to be cremated, but at her request the ashes will be scattered in the Auvergne.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:55 AM | Permalink

December 20, 2013

Telegraph readers' obituaries of the year

A roster of the worthy dead by Harry de Quetteville, The Telegraph's Obituary Editor

Well, as expected, celebs and actors (Michael Winner, Richard Griffiths, Nigel Davenport and Lewis Collins) were strongly represented. But they did not do as well as royals (HRH Princess Lilian of Sweden and HRH Prince Friso of Orange-Nassau). And more popular still were heroes and soldiers like Flight Lieutenant Tony Snell (who achieved the small distinction of escaping a German firing squad) and Mavis Batey.

It was my immense pleasure, however, to discover that our 2013 most-read chart was not exclusively filled by such eminent and worthy figures. For on it also figured Pamela Jennings, “who has died aged 48, and was known in her central London stamping ground as 'Soho Pam'; a professional beggar, she nightly brought her considerable powers of persuasion to the clientele of such establishments as The French House and the Coach & Horses.”

And at the very top of the pile, most popular by click of you, was Peter Scott, who was “a highly accomplished cat burglar, and as Britain’s most prolific plunderer of the great and good took particular pains to select his victims from the ranks of aristocrats, film stars and even royalty”.

Ah well, dear reader. All is forgiven. For this is, frankly, hugely reassuring. My faith is restored. Telegraph obits have always been about celebrating irreverence as much as much as achievement, about toasting idiosyncrasy as much as aristocracy (though it’s true the two do frequently go together). And you seem to agree.

Of course, as Fred Sanger goes to show, such rankings have nothing whatsoever to do with personal merit. But who cares? If you continue to lap up the odd cat burglar I hope you won’t mind if we continue to run the odd double Nobel Prize winner. There really aren’t very many.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:04 PM | Permalink

December 4, 2013

The Last Letter of a Loving Mother

From Letters of Note,  Your Loving Mother

On January 22nd of 1919, during her freshman year at college, 19-year-old Margaret Mitchell received word that her mother had fallen ill as a result of a deadly flu pandemic that was sweeping the globe, along with instructions from her father to return home. A few days later, she did just that, only to be greeted at the train station by her brother with the tragic news that their mother had succumbed to pneumonia the day before. As they travelled home from the station, he passed her the following letter.

January 23, 1919

Dear Margaret,

I have been thinking of you all day long. Yesterday you received a letter saying I am sick. I expect your father drew the situation with a strong hand and dark colors and I hope I am not as sick as he thought. I have pneumonia in one lung and were it not for flu complications, I would have had more than a fair chance of recovery. But Mrs. Riley had pneumonia in both lungs and is now well and strong. We shall hope for the best but remember, dear, that if I go now it is the best time for me to go.

I should have liked a few more years of life, but if I had had those it may have been that I should have lived too long. Waste no sympathy on me. However little it seems to you I got out of life, I have held in my hands all that the world can give. I have had a happy childhood and married the man I wanted. I had children who loved me, as I have loved them. I have been able to give what will put them on the high road to mental, moral, and perhaps financial success, were I going to give them nothing else.

I expect to see you again, but if I do not I must warn you of one mistake a woman of your temperament might fall into. Give of yourself with both hands and overflowing heart, but give only the excess after you have lived your own life. This is badly put. What I mean is that your life and energies belong first to yourself, your husband and your children. Anything left over after you have served these, give and give generously, but be sure there is no stinting of attention at home. Your father loves you dearly, but do not let the thought of being with him keep you from marrying if you wish to do so. He has lived his life; live yours as best you can. Both of my children have loved me so much that there is no need to dwell on it. You have done all you can for me and have given me the greatest love that children can give to parents. Care for your father when he is old, as I cared for my mother. But never let his or anyone else's life interfere with your real life. Goodbye, darling, and if you see me no more then it may be best that you remember me as I was in New York.

Your Loving Mother

Can a parent give a greater gift then to leave such a letter behind for each child?  What comfort Margaret Mitchell must have taken from this letter.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:03 AM | Permalink

November 26, 2013

Obituaries of note: Mavis Batey and Joy Johnson

Mavis Batey -Mavis Batey was Bletchley Park codebreaker whose Enigma breakthrough proved crucial to the success of D-Day

Mavis Batey, who has died aged 92, was one of the leading female codebreakers at Bletchley Park, cracking the Enigma ciphers that led to the Royal Navy’s victory at Matapan in 1941. She was the last of the great Bletchley “break-in” experts, those codebreakers who found their way into new codes and ciphers that had never been broken before.

 Mavis Batey In 1999  Mavis Batey in 1999.

Mavis Batey also played a leading role in the cracking of the extraordinarily complex German secret service, or Abwehr, Enigma. Without that break, the Double Cross deception plan which ensured the success of the D-Day landings could never have gone ahead.

Joy Johnson, oldest woman to run New York City Marathon, dies at 86
Johnson, of San Jose, Calif., completed her 25th run in the marathon on Sunday. She stumbled and hit her head near the 20th mile, but still managed to complete the race and carry out her annual interview with the 'Today' show's Al Roker the next day. '

Joy Johnson, the oldest woman to compete in the ING New York City Marathon on Sunday, died in her sleep the next day, her sneakers still laced on her feet…..said she wanted to die running.

 Joy Johnson Runner Joy Johnson, 86-year-old runner in the NYC marathon.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:48 AM | Permalink

November 20, 2013

“Life is a creeping tragedy,” the minister used to say. “That’s why we must be cheerful.”

Why does a brush with death make people turn to religion?

Sir John Tavener’s final broadcast on the BBC's Today programme brought home with force the truths of faith.

 John-Tavener-Simone-Canetty-Clarke John Tavener

I listened with unusual interest to Start the Week (Radio 4) on Monday. In January, the programme’s presenter, Andrew Marr, though only in his early fifties, suffered a stroke. He has recently returned to broadcasting. His post-stroke speech has the vocal equivalent of a very slight limp. On Monday, this made what he had to say the more affecting.

Marr told his audience that he is not religious but that, as he has convalesced, he has found himself reading religious poetry and listening to religious music. He has encountered “the possibility of sudden death”, and it has changed him. He reads the 17th-century poems of George Herbert and listens to the cantatas of JS Bach. Why might this be, he wanted to know. Why, in a culture which seems less and less interested in the formal teachings of religion, do many people feel that religious poetry and religious music matter more than ever?
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Sir John explained that he had recently had a near-death experience. Since he had been ill, he had been looking back on his life a lot. Although he had moved from the Presbyterianism of his childhood, through Roman Catholicism, to a rather unorthodox version of eastern Orthodoxy, he remembered fondly a Protestant pastor of his youth. “Life is a creeping tragedy,” the minister used to say. “That’s why we must be cheerful.”
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At first, Sir John’s illness had “shut everything down. God seemed to have vanished”; but then, as he recovered strength, his belief in God and his capacity to compose music – which, he said, had always gone together – returned. Now his music had become “more essential; more terse”.
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Tavener complained that there was “a notable lack of joy in modern art”. He had just set three of Herbert’s poems to music (they will be performed for the first time next year). He quoted Dante: “All my thoughts speak of love.”
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John Drury read out one of Herbert’s most famous poems, Love (III). It takes the form of a dialogue between the unworthy soul and Love (who is God, though not so named). The soul is inclined to refuse Love’s invitation to sit at his table, but Love, the perfect host, persuades him. In the dialogue, said Dr Drury, “Love has fewer words, but they are sprightly. In the end, it is Love that matters.” On Tuesday, the end came for John Tavener.
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George Herbert, though high-born and ambitious, eventually chose the simple life of a parish priest. He wrote his poems, but never attempted to publish them in life. As he was dying, he asked them to be given to a trusted friend, saying that they were “a picture of the many spiritual conflicts which have passed between God and my soul, before I could subject mine to the will of Jesus my Master”. He asked him to read the book and “if it may turn to the advantage of any poor dejected soul, let it be made public”; if not, he should burn it.

For Herbert, that dejection he referred to was important. It was a horrible thing, but also a grace. In one of his most famous and beautiful poems, The Flower, Herbert compares his formerly depressed self to the plant that seems to die, but doesn’t: “And now in age I bud again,/After so many deaths I live and write;/I once more smell the dew and rain,/And relish versing: /Oh my only light,/ It cannot be/That I am he/On whom thy tempests fell all night.”
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[I]f  people do not believe what religion says, why do they turn to its utterances when sick or dying or in fear?

The obvious, cynical, but not completely wrong answer is “Any port in a storm”. But I would argue that something else is going on, too. The chief message of 21st-century Western culture is one of self-empowerment. With technology, money, know-how, rights, medicine, problems can be solved: “You can do it!” Often this is true. But an encounter with really serious things – and nothing is more serious than death – tells you that ultimately you cannot. When you realise this, the paradoxes that are central to the great religions (especially to Christianity, which is the most paradoxical) come home with unique force. When I am weak, then am I strong; you must die to live.

In our culture, millions of people only think about these things too late, if at all. So the people who think about them all the time are helpful – and brave. Which is good reason to give thanks for the life and work of Sir John Tavener.

 Sir John Tavener

Sir John Tavener -  obituary

Sir John Tavener, who has died aged 69, was one of the leading British composers of the day; his predominantly religious and contemplative music — dubbed “holy minimalism” by some critics — was as passionately admired by large numbers of listeners as it was derided by others.
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On the occasion of Tavener’s 50th birthday in 1994, the BBC honoured him with a four-day festival of his works on Radio 3, with broadcasts from Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral and the Barbican.

A striking figure, 6ft 6in tall, with long, flowing hair and the ascetic face of a monk, Tavener was received into the Orthodox faith in 1977. Mother Thekla, an Orthodox nun, was not only his spiritual guide but also the librettist of several of his works
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:56 AM | Permalink

October 30, 2013

Deathbed confession

 Cheeky Gnome

Deathbed confession solves mystery of phantom gnomes

FOR years residents in a picturesque village had hunted in vain for the joker who had been sneaking around late at night and placing gnomes in their gardens.

Over the past decade the ornaments have also appeared at the bus stop, by the duck pond and on the village green in Brattleby, Lincs and all attempts to unmask the culprit failed.

Now the mastermind behind the prank has been revealed following his deathbed confession.

The mystery was finally solved when mourners attended the funeral of Peter Leighton, 61, who died from prostate cancer earlier this month.

Mr Leighton’s son and co-conspirator, David, 32, made the admission as he read out his father’s eulogy on Monday.

Mr Leighton, who works for a pharmaceutical firm in Australia, said: “My cousin came round one day after his first ever visit to a pound shop in Lincoln and one of the items he bought was a gnome. Dad said it would be funny to scatter gnomes around the village. Me and my friend Ben had a map of the village and worked out a route of who had security lights and who didn’t.

“We carried two big rucksacks full of gnomes and had to contend with barking dogs and gravel. It was so much fun dad decided we should do it again.”

He added that his father once told him that reporters and film crews had descended on the village in an attempt to uncover the truth. “He was really laughing. He couldn’t believe it.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:30 PM | Permalink

October 10, 2013

Her Great Legacy was the development of wrinkle-free cotton

Woman who developed wrinkle-resistant cotton - freeing generations from hours of tedious housework- dies at the age of 97

The inventor who developed wrinkle-resistant cotton has died at the age of 97.  Dr. Ruth Benerito, who created the material in the 1950s, died on Saturday at her home in Louisiana.  She is credited with saving the cotton industry as the introduction of synthetic fibres in the 1930s and 1940s led many consumers to turn to the the easy-care fabric.

The achievement 'is considered one of the most significant technological developments of the 20th century.'

 Dr. Ruth Benerito


Her obituary in the New York Times reads: 'A chemist long affiliated with the United States Department of Agriculture, Dr. Benerito helped perfect modern wrinkle-free cotton, colloquially known as permanent press, in work that she and her colleagues began in the late 1950s,'.

Dr Benerito grew up in New Orleans, and started at H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College of Tulane University at 15.  The daughter of a civil engineer and an artist, she credited her parents as being her inspiration saying: 'My father was the one who believed in education. He said the only thing we would get would be a good education and nobody could take them away from you.'
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She went to work at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Southern Regional Research Laboratories in New Orleans, where she spent most of her prolific career.
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In the 1950s Benerito’s research team began to look into cotton and discovered how to treat cotton fibers so that these chainlike cellulose molecules were chemically joined. 

The Chemical Heritage Foundation writes: 'At the time, chemists knew that cellulose molecules could stick to each other by way of hydrogen bonds, but hydrogen bonds are weak and easily broken, making cotton fabric prone to wrinkling.

'The new treatment strengthened the bonds between cellulose molecules by inserting short organic molecules between them, rather like the rungs of a ladder. The new product was one enormous molecule with different properties from the original cellulose molecules. This “crosslinking” made cotton wrinkle-resistant.'
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The same chemistry also faciliated the ability to incorporate flame retardants into children's sleepwear, mattresses and uniforms for firefighters and the military.
But Benerito repeatedly denied she was the sole inventor of wrinkle-free cotton.

'I don’t like it to be said that I invented wash-wear, because there were any number of people working on it, and there are various processes by which you give cotton those properties,' she said.

'No one person discovered it or was responsible for it. But I contributed to new processes of doing it.'

In later years, while she continued to research cotton fibers, Benerito taught classes part-time at Tulane and at the University of New Orleans.
She retired from the USDA in 1986 but kept on teaching at the University of New Orleans until she was aged 81.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:43 PM | Permalink

October 7, 2013

What people talk about when they are dying

My Faith: What people talk about before they die

Today, 13 years later, I am a hospice chaplain.  I visit people who are dying – in their homes, in hospitals, in nursing homes.  And if you were to ask me the same question - What do people who are sick and dying talk about with the chaplain?  – I, without hesitation or uncertainty, would give you the same answer. Mostly, they talk about their families: about their mothers and fathers, their sons and daughters.

They talk about the love they felt, and the love they gave.  Often they talk about love they did not receive, or the love they did not know how to offer, the love they withheld, or maybe never felt for the ones they should have loved unconditionally.

They talk about how they learned what love is, and what it is not.    And sometimes, when they are actively dying, fluid gurgling in their throats, they reach their hands out to things I cannot see and they call out to their parents:  Mama, Daddy, Mother.
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This crucible of love is where we start to ask those big spiritual questions, and ultimately where they end.
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We don't learn the meaning of our lives by discussing it.  It's not to be found in books or lecture halls or even churches or synagogues or mosques.  It's discovered through these actions of love.

If God is love, and we believe that to be true, then we learn about God when we learn about love. The first, and usually the last, classroom of love is the family.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:15 AM | Permalink

September 9, 2013

"If you’re about to throw away an old pair of pantyhose, stop."

The best obituary you will ever read

Mullaney, Mary A. “Pink”

If you’re about to throw away an old pair of pantyhose, stop.

Consider: Mary Agnes Mullaney (you probably knew her as “Pink”) who entered eternal life on Sunday, September 1, 2013. Her spirit is carried on by her six children, 17 grandchildren, three surviving siblings in New “Joisey”, and an extended family of relations and friends from every walk of life.
We were blessed to learn many valuable lessons from Pink during her 85 years, among them: Never throw away old pantyhose. Use the old ones to tie gutters, child-proof cabinets, tie toilet flappers, or hang Christmas ornaments. Also: If a possum takes up residence in your shed, grab a barbecue brush to coax him out. If he doesn’t leave, brush him for twenty minutes and let him stay. Let a dog (or two or three) share your bed. Say the rosary while you walk them. Go to church with a chicken sandwich in your purse. Cry at the consecration, every time. Give the chicken sandwich to your homeless friend after mass. Go to a nursing home and kiss everyone. When you learn someone’s name, share their patron saint’s story, and their feast day, so they can celebrate. Invite new friends to Thanksgiving dinner. If they are from another country and you have trouble understanding them, learn to “listen with an accent.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:14 AM | Permalink

September 4, 2013

"Nolle Timere"

Nolle Timere, Don't Be Afraid:  The last words of Seamus Heaney who texted them to his wife.

At his funeral, his son Michael revealed

Michael spoke briefly at the end of the service to thank those who cared for his father, who died on Friday aged 74, and those who have offered support and praise since his death.

'His last few words in a text message he wrote to my mother minutes before he passed away were in his beloved Latin and they read - "nolle timere" ("don't be afraid"),' he said.

Hundreds watch Nobel poet Seamus Heaney laid to rest in Irish village which inspired much of his work

Among those packing the pews of the Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart for his funeral were Irish government leaders, poets and novelists, Bono and The Edge from rock band U2, and former Lebanese hostage Brian Keenan.

Ireland's foremost uilleann piper, Liam O'Flynn, played a wailing lament before family members and friends offered a string of readings from the Bible and their own often-lyrical remembrances of the country's most celebrated writer of the late 20th century.
The legendary wordsmith won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1995.

Mourners at his funeral were led by his widow Marie and children Michael, Christopher and Catherine Ann.
Chief celebrant of the Mass, Monsignor Brendan Devlin, opened the service with the remark that Heaney might have liked to have his funeral celebrated by someone with a Northern accent.

 Seamus-Heaney

The Guardian Seamus Heaney's death 'leaves breach in language itself'

He was a snowy-haired, craggy mountain of a man; a man who radiated granite integrity and deep kindness. He was a poet, among the greatest of our era, and the first of his nation to win the Nobel prize since Yeats.

Seamus Heaney, who has died in hospital in Dublin, aged 74, leaves family, friends and readers in Ireland and beyond "feeling personally bereaved", in the words of his longtime friend, the poet Michael Longley. "Just as his presence filled a room, his marvellous poems filled the hearts of generations of readers."

LA Times.  An Appreciation: Seamus Heaney, animator of words

Heaney, who died Friday in Dublin at age 74, was powerful and widely read, receiving countless honors, including the Nobel Prize. With stunningly fresh language, his poetry dug deep into the roots of human attachments but also of human violence. The author of the stunning pastorals "The Glanmore Sonnets" also created the haunting Dantean poems of "Station Island." His versions of Sophocles, "The Cure at Troy" and "The Burial at Thebes," reached to the heart of human suffering and alienation. His work embraced a vision of hope and the possibility of seeing, as he titled one poem, "From the Republic of Conscience." And he made a fool of Woody Allen ("Never take a course where they make you read 'Beowulf'") by making his version of the Old English epic a bestseller.

But Heaney was that rare thing, an unofficial international poet laureate who had become an ambassador for the entire institution of poetry.

Harvard Gazette.  Heaney’s death caught ‘the heart off guard’     Noted Irish poet had long and deep ties to Harvard

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:36 PM | Permalink

July 8, 2013

Last words of U.S. presidents

From Mental Floss.  The last words and final moments of 38 presidents  Some are eloquent quotes worthy of the holders of the highest office in the nation, and others… aren't.

1. GEORGE WASHINGTON
"'Tis well."

2. JOHN ADAMS
"Thomas Jefferson survives." What Adams didn't know was that Jefferson had actually passed away several hours earlier.

6. JOHN QUINCY ADAMS
"This is the last of Earth. I am content." JQA actually had a stroke on the floor of the House of Representatives and died in the Speaker's Room in the Capitol Building.

11. JAMES K. POLK
"I love you, Sarah. For all eternity, I love you." Sarah, as you might have already assumed, was his wife. Sarah lived for another 42 years.

12. ZACHARY TAYLOR
"I regret nothing, but I am sorry to leave my friends."

33. DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER
"I want to go. God take me."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:01 PM | Permalink

June 26, 2013

The musical lessons of one short life

Zach Sobiech’s Simple Message — in Song — Affects Millions Worldwide

Zach Sobiech was virtually unknown in 2009, when he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer that took his life at age 18 on May 20.

But the Lakeland, Minn., teen’s positive attitude about facing death, humility and kindness touched millions of people across the globe, largely through his farewell song Clouds, which quickly became a YouTube sensation, garnering more than seven million views and capturing the No. 1 spot on iTunes the week after his death.

More than a thousand people attended his funeral at the Church of St. Michael in Stillwater, Minn. They joined his parents, Rob and Laura, and three siblings in singing the song that touched the world: “We’ll go up, up, up, but I’ll fly a little higher. We’ll go up in the clouds, because the view is a little nicer up here, my dear. It won’t be long now.” The song bears witness to the Catholic young man’s resolution that his illness had a purpose and that God’s plan isn’t always clear from our view on earth.

Laura Sobiech said her son did a lot of soul-searching and reflecting on what it means to have faith, especially after his cancer diagnosis.
“Weeks before he died, in a conversation with me and our parish priest, he said that he understood faith isn’t just something you do, but that faith is something that can help you. Faith isn’t just action; it’s a gift,” she said.

Despite holding out hope for a miracle, the Sobiech family relied on their faith to get through the grim reports, nearly a dozen surgeries, months of hospital stays and, finally, his agonizing death at home.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:14 AM | Permalink

June 20, 2013

James Gandolfini, R.I.P.

 James Gandolfini

James Gandolfini Is Dead at 51; a Complex Mob Boss in ‘Sopranos’

James Gandolfini, the Emmy Award-winning actor who shot to fame on the HBO drama “The Sopranos” as Tony Soprano, a tough-talking, hard-living crime boss with a stolid exterior but a rich interior life, died on Wednesday. He was 51.
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The success of “The Sopranos” helped make HBO a dominant player in the competitive field of scripted television programming and transformed Mr. Gandolfini from a character actor into a star. The series, created by David Chase, won two Emmys for outstanding drama series, and Mr. Gandolfini won three Emmys for outstanding lead actor in a drama. He was nominated six times for the award.

HBO said of Mr. Gandolfini in a statement on Wednesday, “He was a special man, a great talent, but more importantly, a gentle and loving person who treated everyone no matter their title or position with equal respect.”
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James Joseph Gandolfini Jr. was born in Westwood, N.J., on Sept. 18, 1961. His father was an Italian immigrant who held a number of jobs, including janitor, bricklayer and mason. His mother, Santa, was a high school cafeteria chef.

He attended Park Ridge High School and Rutgers University, graduating in 1983 with a degree in communications. He drove a delivery truck, managed nightclubs and tended bar in Manhattan before becoming interested in acting at age 25, when a friend took him to an acting class.

Obit Associated Press by Lynn Elber

James Gandolfini’s lumbering, brutish mob boss with the tortured psyche will endure as one of TV’s indelible characters.
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Dr. Claudio Modini, head of the emergency room at the Policlinic Umberto I hospital in Rome, said Gandolfini suffered a cardiac arrest. He arrived at the hospital at 10:40 p.m. Wednesday and was pronounced dead at 11 p.m. after resuscitation efforts in the ambulance and hospital failed, Modini said.
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Gandolfini and his wife, Deborah, who were married in 2008, have a daughter, Liliana, born last year, HBO said. The actor and his former wife, Marcy, have a teenage son, Michael.
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While Tony Soprano was a larger-than-life figure, Gandolfini was exceptionally modest and obsessive — he described himself as ‘‘a 260-pound Woody Allen.’’
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Director Tony Scott, who killed himself in August 2012, had praised Gandolfini’s talent for fusing violence with charisma — which he would perfect in Tony Soprano…. ‘‘a unique combination of charming and dangerous.’’

James Gandolfini was a genius, says Sopranos creator David Chase

“One of the greatest actors of this or any time,” and, “A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes.” He added: “I remember telling him many times: ‘You don’t get it. You’re like Mozart.’ There would be silence at the other end of the phone.”

Chase said Gandolfini brought a much more darker edge to Tony than anyone else, a harder character than Chase had envisioned in the pilot, "what got to James about The Sopranos was the cruelty in Tony's role, the sadism and the beastliness".

Dan Hodges writes, James Gandolfini had too little time to show us his greatness. But he left us Tony Soprano, and that's enough

People think Gandolfini explored and exposed the moral ambiguity within Tony Soprano. But in fact, he explored and exposed the moral ambiguity within us.
There is nothing ambiguous about Tony Soprano. He is a murderer. A thug. He betrays, in countless ways, the love and trust of those closest to him.
And yet we like him.

Variety obit

Chase’s script for “Sopranos” famously bounced around Hollywood in development for years before landing at HBO. But it took an actor of Gandolfini’s talent to breathe life into his character, particularly in the scenes depicting his one-on-one therapy sessions with the counselor Jennifer Melfi played by Lorraine Bracco.

“If you took the Melfi scenes away, you wouldn’t care about this man as much, or care about anything that was happening to him,” Gandolfini told Vanity Fair.

Stars react to sudden death of James Gandolfini.  Nothing shocks Hollywood like a beloved star dying too young

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:45 AM | Permalink

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.
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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.
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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.
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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 11:01 AM | Permalink

June 13, 2013

"The dark art of writing about dead people" and making obituaries entertaining and uplifting

Death as entertainment: the art of obituary writing

A discussion about obituaries proved to be a surprisingly jolly event in the Telegraph tent at Hay, as The Telegraph's obituaries editor Harry de Quetteville explained the dark art of writing about dead people.
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De Quetteville admitted it might be a little bit morbid to scan the news for announcements of famous people contracting fatal illnesses, but that ultimately “it has to be about entertainment, that’s what makes obituaries uplifting.
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Some of the obituaries that were read out included a waspish one on Fanny Cradock, the television cook, who had plastic surgery on her nose because it “cast a shadow over the food”
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But the highlight was a hilarious account of William Donaldson, “a moderately successful Chelsea pimp”, who wrote hoax letters to celebrities under the name of Henry Root. The obituary continued: “He was also a failed theatrical impresario, a crack-smoking serial adulterer and a writer of autobiographical novels.”

De Quetteville said it is crucial that obituaries are not hagiographical and that they say “he was a good friend to his friends,” adding, “the point of obituaries is that they should be revelatory. Nothing would kill off the deaths section more than being polite.”

His three tips for a good obituary.  See the video at the link.

1.  Don't be too reverential.  Look at the brave, the good and the bad
2.  It's all in the details.  Pack in the details.  More details per line in obituaries than any other form of journalism
3.  Write well.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:23 PM | Permalink

June 4, 2013

'They were screaming "we're going to die, we're going to die"'

Tragic last words of father-and-son storm chasers killed when tornado threw their car somersaulting half a mile

A father-and-son team of storm chasers and their long-time partner were heard screaming 'we're going to die, we're going to die' on highway patrol radio moments before they were killed by one of the savage twisters they'd devoted their lives to following.

Tim Samaras, 55, along with his son, Paul Samaras, 24, and Carl Young, 45, died on Friday in El Reno after a tornado that packed winds of up to 165 mph picked up their car and threw it, somersaulting, a half a mile.  The elder Samaras' body was still belted into their Chevrolet Cobalt, which was found on an unimproved county road parallel to Interstate 40. The other victims' bodies were found half a mile to the east and half a mile to the west, Canadian County under-sheriff Chris West said.


 Stormchasers

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But before their stalking of the dangerous vortex turned deadly, their cries could be heard by Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Betsy Randolph. 'They were screaming, "We're going to die, we're going to die,"' she recalled to USA Today. 'There was just no place to go. There was no place to hide.'  According to Mr West, their vehicle looked ' like it had gone through a trash compactor' when it was found.
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The news comes as the death toll from Friday's tornadoes and storms in Oklahoma has risen to 18 people, including six children and 12 adults, the Oklahoma chief medical examiner said on Monday.  Officials added five victims on Monday to the confirmed list of dead from the tornadoes and from storms that caused severe flooding: three adults and two unidentified children, the medical examiner's office said.

Sincere condolences to all the families who lost a loved one.    May they rest in peace.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:52 AM | Permalink

June 2, 2013

'Just one more picture'

'Just one more picture': Last words of water sports photographer, 28, before he drowned 'in whirlpool' off river estuary

A photographer drowned taking close-up pictures of a whirlpool just seconds after he apparently told friends 'I just want one more photograph'.

Jacob Cockle, 28, was trying to capture footage of the dangerous tidal phenomenon at the Carnsew Pool in the Hayle Estuary, Cornwall.  The disused man-made waterway was constructed by the Victorians in 1830 and was originally built to flush sand from the harbour.

Friends say Jacob was in the water to take photographs of the large, fast-moving whirlpools it creates when he was sucked under. But they claimed he was pulled into the swirling vortex of water when he paddled too close to get the perfect photo.

Jacob was pulled out of the water before RNLI lifeboat crews tried to revive him. He was airlifted to the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro, where he was later pronounced dead
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:40 AM | Permalink

May 28, 2013

"He lived for sausages and—a close second—beer, and had the girth and rosy cheeks to prove it. “

A wonderful obituary in The Economist about a man who made a difference in the lives of untold numbers of Brits.

Bill O’Hagan  Bill O’Hagan, pioneer of Britain’s sausage renaissance, died on May 15th, aged 68.

THE best sound in the world to Bill O’Hagan was the slow crescendo of sausages sizzling in a pan; the best smell, the charred skins of the same; the best sight, a glistening heaped plateful of the same, with mash; the best taste, a succulent tongue-teasing blend of minced lean pork, rolled oats, fresh eggs, sea-salt, chervil and winter savoury, generously dosed with real ale. He lived for sausages and—a close second—beer, and had the girth and rosy cheeks to prove it. “Sausages? I love ’em!” he would cry, before the interviewer had asked one question; and twitching aside his striped butcher’s apron he would show, on his own plump anatomy, the best bits of a pig for his purpose.

British commercial sausages, before he arrived on the scene, were poor limp things, flaccidly pink, that would burst and stick in the pan (hence “banger”) and lie heavy on the stomach. They tasted of nothing much, and that was just as well, because they were composed of muscle, gristle, head-meat and tail, padded out with rusk, injected with 11 chemicals and stuffed in a plastic tube. “Bloody rubbish!” Mr O’Hagan called them, unworthy of the name of sausage, though post-war Britons, with their propensity to chew stoically on anything, liked them well enough. Doused with brown sauce they became a national dish, of sorts; together with flabby fish and chips eaten out of yesterday’s newspaper, and jam roly-poly pudding.


 Bill O'hagan


Mr O’Hagan was the man who, from the 1980s, started to change all that. First, he put proper meat into sausages. Second, he removed the bready filler. Then he took the chemicals and additives out, replacing them with alecost, tansy and woodruff, plants of the hedgerows, which were natural preservatives. “No nasties!” his flyers promised. Once the true nobility of the British sausage was restored (a nobility that needed no pricking, for a proper sausage never exploded), he began to play about with flavours, adding apples or brandy or blue cheese, or ginger, or coriander. He reckoned he had tried 2,000 variations, of which about 160 went into regular production. They included Pork, Banana and Honey, made at the request of children when he featured on a TV show.
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His apogee came when the British Sausage Appreciation Society crowned him the best sausage-maker in the country. He had won his laurels largely as an amateur. For years he made the sausages in his garden shed, and he combined this labour of love with being a night editor on the Daily Telegraph, sweeping in to work in a black cape “like a ruddy-cheeked vampire”, one colleague said, with packed coolboxes of his produce to sell to hungry subs. At 4.30am, when he left again (many pints of good beer to the wind, and driving a decommissioned black cab, which he claimed was less likely to be stopped by the police), the boxes would be empty. Sausage-making at last took him over in 1988, when he opened the world’s first fresh-sausage shop in Greenwich. By 1991 he was selling 2m a year, and super-premium sausages had become the rage throughout the land.
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Apart from that, there was no bitterness in his nature. He failed to make a fortune, but he thoroughly enjoyed himself. By tradition a British butcher is a jolly chap; and few could be jollier than a man whose life was devoted, first, to making the perfect sausage, and, second, to matching it with the perfect foaming pint.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:06 PM | Permalink

May 16, 2013

Going to the Gallows with a Grin

Gallows used to hang bootlegger who SMILED as he faced death at one of America's last public executions in 1928 are discovered in an old barn

The gallows used to hang an infamous prohibition-era gangster in one of America's last public executions have been discovered in a dusty old barn.  Bootlegger Charlie Birger was hanged in the town of Benton on April 19, 1928. He famously went to his death with a grin telling the crowd who had gathered to watch: 'It's a beautiful world.'

He had been sentenced to death for ordering the murder of an Illinois town's mayor and was one of the last people to be publicly hanged in the state of Illinois.

 Birger's Last Stand

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CHARLIE BIRGER

Charlie Birger, a Russian immigrant whose real name was Shachna Itzik Birger, was executed on April 19, 1928 after spending a year in jail.
According to the jail museum, he was a well-liked 'protector,' known for tossing coins to kids and even sharing his wealth among a few neighbors in the southern Illinois community of Harrisburg.

In the mid 1920s he famously went to war with the Ku Klux Klan who supported supported prohibition viewing alcohol as 'un-American'.
To law enforcement, he was known for for his bootlegging business, which he ran out of a speakeasy called the Shady Rest.

The business is what led him to be convicted in plotting the murder of Joseph Adams, who was the mayor of West City, Illinois.
Adams got into the middle of a turf war between Birger's gang and another group of bootleggers and as violence escalated, Adams wound up dead.  He was allegedly shot to death at the front door of his home by two of Birgers' men.

Birger was later arrested for plotting Adams' murder.
Some say Birger's smile on the day of his hanging could have been a result of the dosage of morphine he was provided just before he walked to the gallows.  Others claim, however, that Birger had actually declined the drugs.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:51 PM | Permalink

April 11, 2013

McCandlish Phillips, R.I.P.

McCandlish Phillips, Who Exposed a Jewish Klansman, Is Dead at 85, obituary by Margalit Fox.

McCandlish Phillips, a former reporter for The New York Times who wrote one of the most famous articles in the newspaper’s history — exposing the Orthodox Jewish background of a senior Ku Klux Klan official — before forsaking journalism to spread the Gospel, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. He was 85.
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Mr. Phillips, who was with The Times from 1952 to 1973, stood out….He stood out as a tenacious reporter and a lyrical stylist — an all-too-rare marriage on newspapers then — and in his hands even a routine news article seldom failed to delight.  Consider Mr. Phillips’s 1961 account of New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, an annual millstone for the city’s general-assignment reporters:

“The sun was high to their backs and the wind was fast in their faces and 100,000 sons and daughters of Ireland, and those who would hold with them, matched strides with their shadows for 52 blocks. It seemed they marched from Midtown to exhaustion.”

In his 2003 memoir, “City Room,” Arthur Gelb, a former managing editor of The Times, called Mr. Phillips “the most original stylist I’d ever edited.”
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Mr. Phillips joined The Times as a copy boy in November 1952, later working as a clerk on the city desk and in the Washington bureau. In 1955, he was made a cub reporter and consigned to prove his mettle in the paper’s Brooklyn office, then a dank, decrepit outfit near Police Department headquarters in the borough’s nether regions.

His account of life there, written for Times Talk, the newspaper’s house organ (“It is impossible to tell a plainclothes detective from a mugger here. You just have to wait to see what they do”), so delighted the newspaper’s management that his sentence was commuted to service in the main newsroom.
--
Mr. Phillips’s most renowned article appeared on Page 1 on Sunday, Oct. 31, 1965, under the headline “State Klan Leader Hides Secret of Jewish Origin.” It was a rigorously reported profile of Daniel Burros, a 28-year-old Queens man who was the Grand Dragon of the New York State Ku Klux Klan, a chief organizer of the national Klan and a former national secretary of the American Nazi Party.

Mr. Burros, the article went on to document, was also a Jew — a former Hebrew school student who had been bar mitzvahed at 13.

The article remains a case study in a reporter’s perseverance in the face of intimidation. It is also a case study in the severe, unintended consequences that the airing of fiercely guarded truths can have for the guardian: despite threatening to kill Mr. Phillips if the article went to press, Mr. Burros, in the end, killed only himself.
--
In October 1965, The Times received a tip about Mr. Burros’s Jewish upbringing. Assigned to pursue it, Mr. Phillips, aided by newsroom colleagues, spent days reconstructing his life, scouring school, military, employment and police records; amassing photographs; and interviewing neighbors and associates.

The one thing they lacked was an interview with Mr. Burros: efforts to reach him had been unsuccessful. Finally, on a return visit to South Ozone Park, the Queens neighborhood in which Mr. Burros lived, Mr. Phillips glimpsed him on the street — “a round, short, sallow young man who looked a little like a small heap of misery,” he would later write in Times Talk.

He approached Mr. Burros, and they went into a luncheonette. The conversation, which ranged over Mr. Burros’s brilliant scholastic record — he had an I.Q. of 154 — and his rise to power in the Klan, was cordial.  Then, nearly 20 minutes into the interview, Mr. Phillips raised the subject of Mr. Burros’s Jewishness.

“If you publish that, I’ll come and get you and I’ll kill you,” Mr. Burros said. “I don’t care what happens to me. I’ll be ruined. This is all I’ve got to live for.”

By the time the two men parted, Mr. Phillips later wrote, Mr. Burros had threatened his life half a dozen times.
--
Over the years, Mr. Phillips was asked whether he felt responsible for Mr. Burros’s suicide. He felt “a vague sense of sadness,” he said, but no guilt.  His stance — the view from the prospect where his faith and his journalism converged — was encapsulated in a remark he made to Mr. Gelb.  On the afternoon of Oct. 31, 1965, Mr. Gelb phoned Mr. Phillips to tell him, very gently, that Mr. Burros had shot himself.

“What I think we’ve seen here, Arthur,” Mr. Phillips replied, “is the God of Israel acting in judgment.”
--
Mr. Phillips resigned from The Times in late 1973 for a life in religion.

In 1962, he had helped found the New Testament Missionary Fellowship, a Pentecostal congregation in Manhattan. Its tenets, as Ken Auletta wrote in a 1997 New Yorker profile of Mr. Phillips, include the belief that “pornography, drugs, abortion and any form of fornication (including premarital sex and homosexuality) are sins.”

More samples of his work from the Times' city room blog.

His deceptively simple-sounding declarative voice could make just about any subject seem irresistibly droll.

“Two kinds of people wait in the Port Authority Bus Terminal near Times Square. Some are waiting for buses. Others are waiting for death.”

Ken Auletta called him The Man Who Disappeared in a New Yorker profile.  Terry Mattingly in Memory Eternal  writes

I guess that was true, journalistically speaking, but it was totally wrong from a Christian point of view and, for Pastor John, the eternal point of view was what really mattered. That’s why I called my response to The New Yorker, “The man who didn’t disappear.” Here are a few key paragraphs from that:

Phillips arrived in 1952 and landed a copy-boy job a day after, he said, God ordered him off the train he was riding home to Boston. A year later, he looked around the Times newsroom and realized he was the only conservative Christian there. So he stayed. He walked away in 1973, at the peak of his writing powers, to become a Pentecostal preacher with a small urban flock.

A lengthy New Yorker profile of Phillips called him “The Man Who Disappeared.” But the man didn’t disappear. The reporter did. …

Phillips has disappeared in the same way that a seed disappears in the soil. Friends on New York sidewalks know that “Pastor John” has invested his life in new believers, including more than a few journalists.

Eric Metaxas, My very dear friend, the truly great John McCandlish Phillips, died this morning at age 85. He was nothing less than a living saint. Here's a Wall Street Journal article about him from 2009. Rest in Peace, sweet brother in Christ.

Here is the piece  A Calling Higher Than Journalism: Who Knew?,

He was well known among his colleagues for his lanky stature, which earned him the nickname "Long John"; his sweet temper; and his uncompromising devotion to his Christian faith. "I don't remember anybody quite like him in all my years of being around people who worked for newspapers," said Gay Talese, a fellow Timesman in those days. "Newspaper people tend to be cynical. He's the very opposite of that." In the secular temple of the big-city newsroom, Mr. Phillips conspicuously placed a Bible on his desk, calling it "a statement I made of who I was and where I stood."
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But Mr. Phillips did not disappear. He channeled his imagination into the church he had co-founded with Hannah Lowe a decade or so earlier, the Manhattan-based New Testament Missionary Fellowship, a small Pentecostal congregation. His dream was to spur a massive evangelizing campaign in New York City that would result in waves of born-again Christians.

"What everyone in this city needs, with scarcely anyone knowing of it, is the one salvation that God has provided in His son, Jesus Christ," he told me in a recent interview. "My life was changed in a moment of time, permanently, by an act of evangelism [in 1950]. I know its power. And I have no chiefer desire than to see as many individuals as possible come to that same threshold and cross it."
--
Mr. Phillips admits disappointment that his great hopes for the evangelization of New York City have not come to fruition. He characterized the response at Central Park as "fairly remote." But who knows what the future holds? When it is pointed out to him that some of his best stories placed their greatest weight on the final line, he chuckles. A 1966 masterpiece about a U.S. Marine killed in Vietnam concluded with the wrenching words, "He was 19 years old."

"I don't anticipate being a prime mover of a spiritual awakening," he said. "But I greatly desire to see it, and whatever its origins is thoroughly fine with me. It will come at a time chosen by God."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:12 PM | Permalink

April 9, 2013

More on Thatcher

16 Badass Photos Of Margaret Thatcher

 Thatcher In Tank

Lest we forget how terrible things were: The verdict of three historians

The woman who saved Britain by Simon Heffer;  Greatest women's libber of them all By Amanda Foreman;  How terror stalked her every hour by Ruth Dudley Edwards

The Economist on The lady who changed the world

ONLY a handful of peace-time politicians can claim to have changed the world. Margaret Thatcher, who died this morning, was one. She transformed not just her own Conservative Party, but the whole of British politics. Her enthusiasm for privatisation launched a global revolution and her willingness to stand up to tyranny helped to bring an end to the Soviet Union. Winston Churchill won a war, but he never created an “ism”.

The essence of Thatcherism was to oppose the status quo and bet on freedom—odd, since as a prim control freak, she was in some ways the embodiment of conservatism. She thought nations could become great only if individuals were set free. Her struggles had a theme: the right of individuals to run their own lives, as free as possible from the micromanagement of the state.

Dancing on Maggie's grave: How the Left 'celebrated' Baroness Thatcher's death with smashed shops and anarchy in the streets

Hundreds took to the streets as macabre ‘Thatcher death parties’ were held late across the country last night, organised by critics of the 'Iron Lady.'
Two women arrested for burglary after being found inside a shop
Barnardos shop front smashed in Brixton, south London
One policeman seriously injured after being pelted with bottles in Bristol
Death could propel Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead into the top 40
Glasgow, Liverpool and Derry were also the scene of celebrations
Petrol bombs were thrown at police in Derry amid celebrations
More parties are being planned for funeral date of Wednesday 17 April

Left's chorus of hatred: Champagne in the streets, students union cheers and vile internet taunts

Glasgow: More than 300 people attended impromptu street party
London: Over 100 people gathered in Brixton to 'celebrate'
Facebook campaign to take 'Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead' to number one
Durham Miners' Association: Her death was a 'great day' for coal miners
Second most trending topic on Twitter: #nostatefuneral
NUS National conference reported to have cheered at news of her death

 Swp Thatcher's Dead

The Socialist Workers Party's fanatics have outdone themselves with their 'Margaret Thatcher is dead: rejoice' cover

The front cover of their newspaper features Margaret Thatcher’s gravestone splattered with blood and the words “Rejoice” blazoned across the bottom. Compare that language to the way that they wrote about the passing of Osama bin Laden, a “foe of US imperialism” who was, for all his faults “the only serious response to the power of the West”. So there you have it. Privatise BT and you are a monster worthy of condemnation. Butcher 3,000 people in a terrorist attack and you are a revolutionary who gets an objective obituary.

The SWP does not speak for the British Left. In fact, the Left has always despised it. Far from being drawn from the ranks of the working class that it claims to represent, the party is dominated by middle-class intellectuals who regard the proletariat as alienated to the point of not knowing what’s good for them.

She stood up for ordinary Britons - that's why the Left loathe her

Alas, many of Mrs Thatcher’s Left-wing critics simply could not contain their condescension. Born and bred in their gilded little enclaves, they believed they knew what was right for ordinary people — even though they knew nothing at all about what the common man and woman actually wanted.
So it was that in the Seventies, when tenants pressed for the right to buy their council homes, the Labour Left blocked attempts to sell them. They simply could not  understand that ordinary people wanted homes of their own, instead of having to take what the State gave them.

Nor could they understand that people were sick of trade-union militancy, sick of the strikes that had made Britain an international laughing stock, sick of the double-digit inflation and sick of the  managed national decline. Today the high-minded Left still peddles the canard that Mrs Thatcher appealed only to the rich. But this is nonsense. When she won power in 1979, it was courtesy of a massive 11 per cent swing among skilled manual workers and 9 per cent among unskilled workers — usually so loyal to Labour.

Mona Charen on Why Feminists Loathed Thatcher

Of course, she ought to have been a feminist heroine. Thatcher was one of the greatest statesmen of the 20th century and the greatest female leader of modern times. A woman of rare brilliance, grit, accomplishment, and determination, she won three national elections, helped to dismantle the Soviet empire, and transformed her nation and the world for the better.

But no, the feminists loathed her.   During her first campaign for national office in 1979, the more polite noseholders said, “We want women’s rights, not a right-wing woman.” The less subtle circulated the slogan “Ditch the B****.” Following the release of the movie The Iron Lady, a feminist wailed on the Huffington Post that Thatcher was “the embodiment of everything that feminism is not: selfish, rigid, and intolerant.”

Paul Kengor on the Faith of Margaret Thatcher

Thatcher was never afraid to articulate and defend her faith.  To that end, Thatcher delivered a remarkable May 1988 address to the general assembly of the Church of Scotland, where she stated: “What then are the distinctive marks of Christianity? They stem not from the social but from the spiritual side of our lives.”
---
Thatcher said more in the speech, including much that is both timely and timeless. She defended religious liberty and urged that “no majority can take away God-given human rights.” She insisted to Britons that prayer had a place in public schools.

Perhaps most important, just as the British people continued their rapid slide toward a voluntary de-Christianization, Thatcher called the Christian faith “a fundamental part of our national heritage. And I believe it is the wish of the overwhelming majority of people that this heritage should be preserved and fostered.”

Peter Hitchens with his first thoughts on the death of Margaret Thatcher and a wonderful story

Mr Healey, who even now still preserves a Yorkshire accent, and was in those days one of the politicians whose speeches would fill the chamber, and who rather prided himself on his ability to cope with the rough stuff, got the shock of his life ( and so did everyone else) when the supposed Finchley housewife suddenly shook off nearly 50 years of delicacy, pearls and elocution lessons, and spoke in the language of the Lincolnshire back streets:

‘ The right hon. Gentleman is afraid of an election, is he? Afraid? Frightened? Frit? Could not take it? Cannot stand it? If I were going to cut and run, I should have gone after the Falklands. Frightened! Right now inflation is lower than it has been for 13 years—a record which the right hon. Gentleman could not begin to touch.’

‘Frit!’. We had never heard it before,  especially not from her, but you knew what it meant as soon as it struck the eardrum. It was much more damaging than ‘afraid’ or ‘frightened’ because it came from somewhere much deeper.  It was the sharp, unanswerable Saxon jibe and challenge, pronounced with a sneer, that you couldn’t answer and which everyone listening would know had struck home. It was completely British,  and it was not from the neat world of suburban lawns and afternoon tea, but from the other less gentle world of cracked pavements and grimy brick walls where the only thing to do when in trouble was to stand and fight. And so she did.

To Americans, Margaret Thatcher stood for free markets and free people

No transatlantic alliance since has held a candle to the potent symbolism of Reagan-Thatcher

 Thatcher-Reagan-1

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:08 PM | Permalink

More on Thatcher

16 Badass Photos Of Margaret Thatcher

 Thatcher In Tank

Lest we forget how terrible things were: The verdict of three historians

The woman who saved Britain by Simon Heffer;  Greatest women's libber of them all By Amanda Foreman;  How terror stalked her every hour by Ruth Dudley Edwards

The Economist on The lady who changed the world

ONLY a handful of peace-time politicians can claim to have changed the world. Margaret Thatcher, who died this morning, was one. She transformed not just her own Conservative Party, but the whole of British politics. Her enthusiasm for privatisation launched a global revolution and her willingness to stand up to tyranny helped to bring an end to the Soviet Union. Winston Churchill won a war, but he never created an “ism”.

The essence of Thatcherism was to oppose the status quo and bet on freedom—odd, since as a prim control freak, she was in some ways the embodiment of conservatism. She thought nations could become great only if individuals were set free. Her struggles had a theme: the right of individuals to run their own lives, as free as possible from the micromanagement of the state.

Dancing on Maggie's grave: How the Left 'celebrated' Baroness Thatcher's death with smashed shops and anarchy in the streets

Hundreds took to the streets as macabre ‘Thatcher death parties’ were held late across the country last night, organised by critics of the 'Iron Lady.'
Two women arrested for burglary after being found inside a shop
Barnardos shop front smashed in Brixton, south London
One policeman seriously injured after being pelted with bottles in Bristol
Death could propel Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead into the top 40
Glasgow, Liverpool and Derry were also the scene of celebrations
Petrol bombs were thrown at police in Derry amid celebrations
More parties are being planned for funeral date of Wednesday 17 April

Left's chorus of hatred: Champagne in the streets, students union cheers and vile internet taunts

Glasgow: More than 300 people attended impromptu street party
London: Over 100 people gathered in Brixton to 'celebrate'
Facebook campaign to take 'Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead' to number one
Durham Miners' Association: Her death was a 'great day' for coal miners
Second most trending topic on Twitter: #nostatefuneral
NUS National conference reported to have cheered at news of her death

 Swp Thatcher's Dead

The Socialist Workers Party's fanatics have outdone themselves with their 'Margaret Thatcher is dead: rejoice' cover

The front cover of their newspaper features Margaret Thatcher’s gravestone splattered with blood and the words “Rejoice” blazoned across the bottom. Compare that language to the way that they wrote about the passing of Osama bin Laden, a “foe of US imperialism” who was, for all his faults “the only serious response to the power of the West”. So there you have it. Privatise BT and you are a monster worthy of condemnation. Butcher 3,000 people in a terrorist attack and you are a revolutionary who gets an objective obituary.

The SWP does not speak for the British Left. In fact, the Left has always despised it. Far from being drawn from the ranks of the working class that it claims to represent, the party is dominated by middle-class intellectuals who regard the proletariat as alienated to the point of not knowing what’s good for them.

She stood up for ordinary Britons - that's why the Left loathe her

Alas, many of Mrs Thatcher’s Left-wing critics simply could not contain their condescension. Born and bred in their gilded little enclaves, they believed they knew what was right for ordinary people — even though they knew nothing at all about what the common man and woman actually wanted.
So it was that in the Seventies, when tenants pressed for the right to buy their council homes, the Labour Left blocked attempts to sell them. They simply could not  understand that ordinary people wanted homes of their own, instead of having to take what the State gave them.

Nor could they understand that people were sick of trade-union militancy, sick of the strikes that had made Britain an international laughing stock, sick of the double-digit inflation and sick of the  managed national decline. Today the high-minded Left still peddles the canard that Mrs Thatcher appealed only to the rich. But this is nonsense. When she won power in 1979, it was courtesy of a massive 11 per cent swing among skilled manual workers and 9 per cent among unskilled workers — usually so loyal to Labour.

Mona Charen on Why Feminists Loathed Thatcher

Of course, she ought to have been a feminist heroine. Thatcher was one of the greatest statesmen of the 20th century and the greatest female leader of modern times. A woman of rare brilliance, grit, accomplishment, and determination, she won three national elections, helped to dismantle the Soviet empire, and transformed her nation and the world for the better.

But no, the feminists loathed her.   During her first campaign for national office in 1979, the more polite noseholders said, “We want women’s rights, not a right-wing woman.” The less subtle circulated the slogan “Ditch the B****.” Following the release of the movie The Iron Lady, a feminist wailed on the Huffington Post that Thatcher was “the embodiment of everything that feminism is not: selfish, rigid, and intolerant.”

Paul Kengor on the Faith of Margaret Thatcher

Thatcher was never afraid to articulate and defend her faith.  To that end, Thatcher delivered a remarkable May 1988 address to the general assembly of the Church of Scotland, where she stated: “What then are the distinctive marks of Christianity? They stem not from the social but from the spiritual side of our lives.”
---
Thatcher said more in the speech, including much that is both timely and timeless. She defended religious liberty and urged that “no majority can take away God-given human rights.” She insisted to Britons that prayer had a place in public schools.

Perhaps most important, just as the British people continued their rapid slide toward a voluntary de-Christianization, Thatcher called the Christian faith “a fundamental part of our national heritage. And I believe it is the wish of the overwhelming majority of people that this heritage should be preserved and fostered.”

Peter Hitchens with his first thoughts on the death of Margaret Thatcher and a wonderful story

Mr Healey, who even now still preserves a Yorkshire accent, and was in those days one of the politicians whose speeches would fill the chamber, and who rather prided himself on his ability to cope with the rough stuff, got the shock of his life ( and so did everyone else) when the supposed Finchley housewife suddenly shook off nearly 50 years of delicacy, pearls and elocution lessons, and spoke in the language of the Lincolnshire back streets:

‘ The right hon. Gentleman is afraid of an election, is he? Afraid? Frightened? Frit? Could not take it? Cannot stand it? If I were going to cut and run, I should have gone after the Falklands. Frightened! Right now inflation is lower than it has been for 13 years—a record which the right hon. Gentleman could not begin to touch.’

‘Frit!’. We had never heard it before,  especially not from her, but you knew what it meant as soon as it struck the eardrum. It was much more damaging than ‘afraid’ or ‘frightened’ because it came from somewhere much deeper.  It was the sharp, unanswerable Saxon jibe and challenge, pronounced with a sneer, that you couldn’t answer and which everyone listening would know had struck home. It was completely British,  and it was not from the neat world of suburban lawns and afternoon tea, but from the other less gentle world of cracked pavements and grimy brick walls where the only thing to do when in trouble was to stand and fight. And so she did.

To Americans, Margaret Thatcher stood for free markets and free people  No transatlantic alliance since has held a candle to the potent symbolism of Reagan-Thatcher

 Thatcher-Reagan-1
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:08 PM | Permalink

The Great Legacy of Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher was a remarkable woman whom I admired from afar.  I knew she was a remarkable leader with intelligence and conviction, but it took her death before I fully appreciated how great a leader she was.  Below are excerpts of what I think are the best articles.

The historian Paul Johnson on The World-Changing Margaret Thatcher    Not since Catherine the Great has there been a woman of such consequence.

Margaret Thatcher had more impact on the world than any woman ruler since Catherine the Great of Russia. Not only did she turn around—decisively—the British economy in the 1980s, she also saw her methods copied in more than 50 countries. "Thatcherism" was the most popular and successful way of running a country in the last quarter of the 20th century and into the 21st.
--
She was not a feminist, despising the genre as "fashionable rot," though she once made a feminist remark. At a dreary public dinner of 500 male economists, having had to listen to nine speeches before being called herself, she began, with understandable irritation: "As the 10th speaker, and the only woman, I wish to say this: the cock may crow but it's the hen who lays the eggs."

Her political success once again demonstrates the importance of holding two or three simple ideas with fervor and tenacity, a virtue she shared with Ronald Reagan. One of these ideas was that the "evil empire" of communism could be and would be destroyed, and together with Reagan and Pope John Paul II she must be given the credit for doing it.

Among the British public she aroused fervent admiration and intense dislike in almost equal proportions, but in the world beyond she was recognized for what she was: a great, creative stateswoman who left the world a better and more prosperous place, and whose influence will reverberate well into the 21st century.

Financial Times Margaret Thatcher: ‘Iron Lady’ who remade Britain

She changed us all. We went from being a people who saw ourselves as eternally on the downward slide to a nation that was proud to be British again. On the world stage too, she made Britain count once more. She was a startling presence who brought a strong and controversial style to our diplomacy after years of Foreign Office blandness.

The London Telegraph: Baroness Thatcher: a champion of freedom for workers, nations and the world Charles Moore, Baroness Thatcher's authorised biographer, analyses her personal strengths – and her weaknesses.

After the Conservative government of Edward Heath lost the general election of February 1974, Mrs Thatcher realised, quite suddenly, that her nation was failing. At home, trade union power, over-government, over-borrowing, high taxes, inflation, were destroying it. On the international scene, Soviet Communism was threatening the future of freedom in the West. Until that time, she had believed, almost deferentially, that the men in charge could put things right. Now she saw that they hadn’t, and couldn’t. She began to think that perhaps a woman could.
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She believed there was little the British people could not do if only government would let them. Thus she was strongly against the compulsory wage control which was the fashion of the age. She wanted people to get richer, but by work, not by trade union muscle. ''We back the workers, not the shirkers,’’ she said. With the rhetoric of the housewife, she turned economics from the dry terrain of technicians into the stuff of daily life and the subject of political combat.

She also knew the value of enemies. It was the Soviet Union who bestowed on her the title of ''the Iron Lady’’ in 1976, after she had attacked the orthodoxy of detente which was then weakening the defences of the West. The Soviets meant it in mockery, but she could see it was a badge of honour, and she grabbed it.
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It is said, and there is truth in it, that Mrs Thatcher was a divisive figure. But it is important to remember that the reason she won her first general election in 1979 was that the country had been deeply divided by the “Winter of Discontent”. Far from being the apostle of selfishness, Mrs Thatcher led the public disgust with the organised selfishness of the union bosses. Her strongest appeal was not to true-blue voters, but to upper-working-class people disillusioned with Labour. It was clear that the ''Social Contract’’ and other devices to deal with organised labour had failed. Her talk of proper rewards for hard work, her offer of discounts for people who wanted to buy their council houses, her promise of government that could actually govern, these offered hope.
--
The same two-edged point applies to her extraordinary character. Her courage, eloquence, energy and passion were all huge virtues – as was her less noticed political cunning. But they had a flipside. She was hard for Cabinet colleagues to work with and often unnecessarily combative. Being a woman, she was impatient with their clubby male complacency – another virtue, but one which contributed to her downfall. In later years, her light shone so bright that it became intolerable for those in its shade. She never knew when to stop.

Andrew Sullivan describes just how bad England was and how he saw Thatcher as a Liberator.

The Britain I grew up in was insane. The government owned almost all major manufacturing, from coal to steel to automobiles. Owned. It employed almost every doctor and owned almost every hospital. Almost every university and elementary and high school was government-run. And in the 1970s, you could not help but realize as a young Brit, that you were living in a decaying museum – some horrifying mixture of Eastern European grimness surrounded by the sculptured bric-a-brac of statues and buildings and edifices that spoke of an empire on which the sun had once never set. Now, in contrast, we lived on the dark side of the moon and it was made up of damp, slowly degrading concrete.
I owe my entire political obsession to the one person in British politics who refused to accept this state of affairs. You can read elsewhere the weighing of her legacy – but she definitively ended a truly poisonous, envious, inert period in Britain’s history. She divided the country deeply – and still does.

Telegraph obituary.  Baroness Thatcher, who has died aged 87 from a stroke, was not only Britain’s first woman Prime Minister, she was also the outstanding peacetime leader of the 20th century.    So great were her achievements, her obituary is in 10 parts.

1. Early life  The grocer's daughter and her Oxford degree in natural sciences (chemistry)
2. Entering politics  Married, she became the mother of twins and earned a law degree, specializing in tax law.  In 1958, she won a seat in Finchley as a conservative.  Her first position was the Parliamentary Secretary at  the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance.
3. Life in the shadow cabinet  of Edward Heath as Education Secretary
4. The rise to leader. It took the strikes of the winter of 1978-79, the so-called “Winter of Discontent”, to cause Margaret Thatcher finally to conclude that the boil of union misrule must finally be lanced, and, equally important, that there was now sufficient support in the country for the operation.
5. From Opposition to Government    A "Labour isn't Working" campaign put her in the right spot to be elected Prime Minister in May 1979
6. War on the Left and in the Falklands; re-election The restoration of British rule in the Falklands was a personal triumph for the Prime Minister.Economic progress, though, continued. It was now that privatisation — first of state-owned businesses, later of public utilities — gathered pace.
7. The miners’ strike and her second term.  Victory in this strike finally broke the back of militant trade unionism and established Britain’s reputation as a safe place in which to invest.    The economy was growing
8. Third term in office.  The work of Margaret Thatcher’s third parliament was intended to be heavily focused on reforming the public services in order to promote choice and efficiency.
9. Ousted from Downing Street and the leadership. By the summer of 1990, Margaret Thatcher’s position within her own Cabinet was exposed — far more so than she or the civil servant advisers on whom she increasingly relied were prepared to recognise.
10. Life after politics. Margaret Thatcher left office temporarily dazed and embittered, but sound in mind and body, full of energy and initially with nothing to do except write her memoirs — upon which she embarked the following year.


The Independent: 'A heroine and a hate figure' - for better or worse, Baroness Thatcher remade our nation

Few British prime ministers have given their name to a political philosophy.

Marvel at Margaret Thatcher – the outsider who beat the system

Unlike most politicians today, she had courage, integrity and a clear sense of who she was.

Washington Post editorial Margaret Thatcher: In every sense, a leader

Ms. Thatcher, who died Monday at age 87, had changed not only her country’s direction but also its standing in the world. She continued to be passionately detested by some and admired and respected by others long after she left office, and her record will be debated for decades — or centuries. What is hardly debatable is the proposition that she was, in every sense of the word, a leader.

Mrs Thatcher's personal assistant and life long friend writes My chum Maggie loved Vogue, hated trousers and only used Clinique on her porcelain skin

Jennifer Rubin on Thatcher as a Conservative Heroine

That grounding in the real world, far from the inner sanctum of British elites, gave her a thorough appreciation of the strengths of free markets. She took her country by the scruff of the neck, shook loose the trade unions that had strangled the once-great British economy and remade Britain from a socialist basket case to a thriving power, wisely keeping the Continent at arm’s length. (Among her great contributions was to keep Britain out of the euro zone.)
She stood up to terrorism (the IRA) before most in the United States had any understanding of the methods and mindset of groups who specialized in killing innocents. Like Reagan she survived an assassination attempt (her hotel in Brighton was blown up in 1984). And like Reagan she did not take kindly to international aggression (in the Falklands or elsewhere). She was an indefatigable Cold Warrior, and she was ultimately a successful one at that.
She was for me, and no doubt many women of the 20th century, a towering figure who attained real power by virtue of her own hard work and excellence. She did not derive her power from men or from victimology. In contrast to the 20th century feminists, she was painfully aware of sexism but did not obsess about it. She simply got the job done.

George Will on Margaret Thatcher’s vigorous virtues

She aimed to be the moral equivalent of military trauma, shaking her nation into vigor through rigor. As stable societies mature, they resemble long-simmering stews — viscous and lumpy with organizations resistant to change and hence inimical to dynamism. Her program was sound money, laissez faire, social fluidity and upward mobility through self-reliance and other “vigorous virtues.” She is the only prime minister whose name came to denote a doctrine — Thatcherism. (“Churchillian” denotes not a political philosophy but a leadership style.) When she left office in 1990, the trade unions had been tamed by democratizing them, the political argument was about how to achieve economic growth rather than redistribute wealth, and individualism and nationalism were revitalized.
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Like de Gaulle, she was a charismatic conservative nationalist who was properly resistant to what she called the European federalists’ attempts to “suppress nationhood and concentrate power at the center of a European conglomerate.” She left the British this ongoing challenge: “We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain only to see them reimposed at a European level.” As long as her brave heart beat, she knew there are no final victories.

New York Times 'Iron Lady' Who Set Britain on a New Course

Glenn Reynolds asks Was there anything she couldn't do?  Turns out she helped invent soft-serve ice cream!.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:30 AM | Permalink

April 8, 2013

Roger Ebert was "Catholic in his film writing".

Steve Greydanus  reflects on ‘How I Believe in Roger Ebert’

Just over a month before his death on Easter Thursday, Roger Ebert wrote a blog post titled “How I Am a Roman Catholic”

[Ed. some excerpts from that essay]

It was from these nuns, especially Sister Nathan and Sister Rosanne, that I learned my core moral and political principles. I assumed they were Roman Catholic dogma. Many of them involved a Social Contract between God and man, which represented classical liberalism based on empathy and economic fairness. We heard much of Leo XIII's encyclical "Rerum Novarum"--"On Capital and Labor."….

I consider myself Catholic, lock, stock and barrel, with this technical loophole: I cannot believe in God. I refuse to call myself a atheist however, because that indicates too great a certainty about the unknowable….
a follow-up of sorts to a 2009 post called “How I Believe in God.” 

…..One episode from this essay, somewhat inexplicably, brings tears to my eyes:
I was an altar boy. Even in the dead of winter I rode my bike to church to serve at the early morning mass. In those days parents thought nothing of a grade school kid riding his bike all over town. One morning early in my service I got confused and didn't have the water and wine where they were required. I was maybe nine or ten When we got back to the sacristy, I burst into tears and Father McGinn took me on his lap and comforted me and said God knew I had done my best. If a priest did that today, he would be arrested, but no priest or nun ever treated me with other than love and care.

[Ed. some excerpts from How I Believe in God]


Catholicism made me a humanist before I knew the word. When people rail against "secular humanism," I want to ask them if humanism itself would be okay with them. Over the high school years, my belief in the likelihood of a God continued to lessen. I kept this to myself. I never discussed it with my parents. My father in any event was a non-practicing Lutheran, until a death bed conversion which rather disappointed me. I'm sure he agreed to it for my mother's sake.
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I've spent hours and hours in churches all over the world. I sit in them not to pray, but to gently nudge my thoughts toward wonder and awe. I am aware of the generations there before me. The reassurance of tradition. At a midnight mass on Christmas Eve at the village church in Tring in the Chilterns, I felt unalloyed elevation. My favorite service is Evensong. I subscribe to Annie Dilliard, who says that in an unfamiliar area, she seeks out the church of the oldest established religion she can find, because it has the most experience in not bring struck by lightning.

[Back to Greydanus's article]

Here is how he remembered the nuns:

None of these nuns were “strict” in the sense usually meant. They simply assumed we would behave, and for the most part we did. No sister ever laid a hand on any student, as far as I know. Nor did they raise their voices. It was an orderly school. We regarded the nuns with a species of awe, because they were the brides of Christ and had the entire Roman, Catholic and Apostolic Church backing them up.
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Yet where some critics seem to wish to suspend all moral judgment, preferring to charge films only with aesthetic faults, Ebert was willing to invoke moral principles in his reviews, even at the risk of appearing uncool or unsophisticated:

Peter Berg’s Very Bad Things isn’t a bad movie, just a reprehensible one. It presents as comedy things that are not amusing. If you think this movie is funny, that tells me things about you I don’t want to know.

What bothers me most, after two viewings, is its confidence that an audience would be entertained by its sad, sick vision, tainted by racism. If this material had been presented straight, as a drama, the movie would have felt more honest and might have been more successful. Its cynicism is the most unattractive thing about it — the assumption that an audience has no moral limits and will laugh at cruelty simply to feel hip. I know moral detachment is a key element of the ironic pose, but there is a point, once reached, which provides a test of your underlying values.
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Ebert thought of the Catholic faith: He couldn’t believe it any more himself, but he was somehow pleased that it endured, and that other people continued to believe it. I’d like to think my own writing, when and where he ran across it, gave him this pleasure.
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I believe in Roger Ebert … for real, right now. I believe that he has not gone away, not as absolutely as he thought. I believe he is still “present,” somewhere.
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But I pray for him, with warmth, gratitude and hope, in the Latin he loved as a boy:
Requiem Aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetuae luceat eis. Requiescant in pace.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:45 AM | Permalink

March 29, 2013

Jesus of Nazareth, obituary

 Obit Jesus

From the blog Stories, etc.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:06 AM | Permalink

March 12, 2013

Harry Stamps "ladies’ man, foodie, natty dresser, and accomplished traveler" died at 80

Not only does this obituary make Harry Stamps someone I wished I had known, it's the best example I know of how to write a wonderful obituary about an 'ordinary' person.  None of us is ordinary, we are all in our ways extraordinary.

Obituary for Harry Stamps

Harry Weathersby Stamps, ladies’ man, foodie, natty dresser, and accomplished traveler, died on Saturday, March 9, 2013.
Harry was locally sourcing his food years before chefs in California starting using cilantro and arugula (both of which he hated). For his signature bacon and tomato sandwich, he procured 100% all white Bunny Bread from Georgia, Blue Plate mayonnaise from New Orleans, Sauer’s black pepper from Virginia, home grown tomatoes from outside Oxford, and Tennessee’s Benton bacon from his bacon-of-the-month subscription. As a point of pride, he purported to remember every meal he had eaten in his 80 years of life.

The women in his life were numerous. He particularly fancied smart women. He loved his mom Wilma Hartzog (deceased), who with the help of her sisters and cousins in New Hebron reared Harry after his father Walter’s death when Harry was 12. He worshipped his older sister Lynn Stamps Garner (deceased), a character in her own right, and her daughter Lynda Lightsey of Hattiesburg. He married his main squeeze Ann Moore, a home economics teacher, almost 50 years ago, with whom they had two girls Amanda Lewis of Dallas, and Alison of Starkville. He taught them to fish, to select a quality hammer, to love nature, and to just be thankful. He took great pride in stocking their tool boxes. One of his regrets was not seeing his girl, Hillary Clinton, elected President.

He had a life-long love affair with deviled eggs, Lane cakes, boiled peanuts, Vienna [Vi-e-na] sausages on saltines, his homemade canned fig preserves, pork chops, turnip greens, and buttermilk served in martini glasses garnished with cornbread.

He excelled at growing camellias, rebuilding houses after hurricanes, rocking, eradicating mole crickets from his front yard, composting pine needles, living within his means, outsmarting squirrels, never losing a game of competitive sickness, and reading any history book he could get his hands on.

He loved to use his oversized “old man” remote control, which thankfully survived Hurricane Katrina, to flip between watching The Barefoot Contessa and anything on The History Channel. He took extreme pride in his two grandchildren Harper Lewis (8) and William Stamps Lewis (6) of Dallas for whom he would crow like a rooster on their phone calls. As a former government and sociology professor for Gulf Coast Community College, Harry was thoroughly interested in politics and religion and enjoyed watching politicians act like preachers and preachers act like politicians. He was fond of saying a phrase he coined “I am not running for political office or trying to get married” when he was “speaking the truth.” He also took pride in his service during the Korean conflict, serving the rank of corporal--just like Napolean, as he would say.

Harry took fashion cues from no one. His signature every day look was all his: a plain pocketed T-shirt designed by the fashion house Fruit of the Loom, his black-label elastic waist shorts worn above the navel and sold exclusively at the Sam’s on Highway 49, and a pair of old school Wallabees (who can even remember where he got those?) that were always paired with a grass-stained MSU baseball cap.

Harry traveled extensively. He only stayed in the finest quality AAA-rated campgrounds, his favorite being Indian Creek outside Cherokee, North Carolina. He always spent the extra money to upgrade to a creek view for his tent. Many years later he purchased a used pop-up camper for his family to travel in style, which spoiled his daughters for life.

He despised phonies, his 1969 Volvo (which he also loved), know-it-all Yankees, Southerners who used the words “veranda” and “porte cochere” to put on airs, eating grape leaves, Law and Order (all franchises), cats, and Martha Stewart. In reverse order. He particularly hated Day Light Saving Time, which he referred to as The Devil’s Time. It is not lost on his family that he died the very day that he would have had to spring his clock forward. This can only be viewed as his final protest.

Because of his irrational fear that his family would throw him a golf-themed funeral despite his hatred for the sport, his family will hold a private, family only service free of any type of “theme.” Visitation will be held at Bradford-O’Keefe Funeral Home, 15th Street, Gulfport on Monday, March 11, 2013 from 6-8 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you make a donation to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (Jeff Davis Campus) for their library. Harry retired as Dean there and was very proud of his friends and the faculty. He taught thousands and thousands of Mississippians during his life. The family would also like to thank the Gulfport Railroad Center dialysis staff who took great care of him and his caretaker Jameka Stribling.

Finally, the family asks that in honor of Harry that you write your Congressman and ask for the repeal of Day Light Saving Time. Harry wanted everyone to get back on the Lord’s Time.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:32 AM | Permalink

March 8, 2013

The Death of Hugo Chavez - UPDATED

'I don't want to die, please don't let me die': Last words of Hugo Chavez revealed as medics admit president died of heart attack

President Hugo Chavez mouthed 'I don't want to die… please don't let me die' just before he suffered a heart attack and died, it was revealed today.
The head of Venezuela's presidential guard said the 58-year-old leader, who was battling cancer, died after 'great suffering'.

It came as Russia's communist leader called for an investigation into claims the U.S.had 'infected its enemies in Latin America with the disease'.
Gennady Zyuganov said: 'This was far from a coincidence. How did it happen that six leaders of Latin American countries which had criticised US policies and tried to create an influential alliance in order to be independent and sovereign states, fell ill simultaneously with the same disease?'
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Venezuelan authorities have not said what kind of cancer Mr Chavez had or specified exactly where tumors were removed.Tens of thousands of ‘Chavistas’ dressed in revolutionary red lined the streets of Venezuela yesterday to witness President Hugo Chavez’s coffin being driven through the city centre.

-Hugo Chavez Coffin Caudillos

His coffin, adorned with his country's flag, was placed on the top of a car and driven slowly to the military academy where his body will lie in state for three days before a massive state funeral on Friday.

Chavez, who was 58, died after a two-year cancer battle that has been shrouded in secrecy. And it appears his death is to take on the same level of mystery as claims emerged yesterday that he died in a Cuban hospital instead of a military hospital in Venezuela's capital, Caracas.  Spanish newspaper ABC claimed that after Chavez's health deteriorated after he returned to Cuba on Friday for emergency treatment.  Unnamed sources told the paper Chavez was secretly moved back to Cuba and died there yesterday morning. ABC claims that Chavez died at 7am Cuban time when his family made the decision to withdraw care. To back up the claims it was noted that government ministers were not seen attending his bedside.

Yesterday there was a heavy military presence amid fears of unrest with soldiers deployed after Venezuelan officials called for peace and unity stating in television broadcasts that the government and the military were standing together.  The outspoken left-winger, was staunchly anti-American and enjoyed close ties to states such as Russia and Iran.

Church vs. Chavez Highlighted Power of a Faithful Fight Against Tyrants  Venezuela's clerics didn't fear tangling with the ruler when moral principles and human rights were on the line.

When Hugo Chavez opponent Cardinal Ignacio Velasco died in 2003, the Venezuelan strongman declared the pro-democracy cleric was “in hell.”  At Velasco’s wake, Chavez’s flock brandished pictures of the cardinal with devil horns and hurled stones while chanting Chavista slogans.  After all, Velasco had committed a cardinal sin in the eyes of the autocrat: questioned Chavez’s self appointment as supreme being and urged the people to embrace democracy and human rights instead of the Simon Bolivar fanboy.  “Every day we turn another cheek. I have no cheeks left because every day there is a new insult,” Velasco said of his nemesis the year before he died.

The cardinal was succeeded in Caracas by Rosalio Castillo Lara, who was equally vilified by Chavez for using his influential post — governed by the Vatican, not by the Bolivarian thought factory — to note “the only solution is democratic, which must involve the resistance of all the people.”  “If the Venezuelan people fail to grasp the seriousness of the situation and fail to categorically speak out in favor of democracy and freedom, we will find ourselves subjected to a Marxist-style dictatorship,” the cardinal said shortly before his death in 2007.

Castillo Lara was once asked if he’d like to give Chavez a blessing. “More than a blessing,” the cardinal responded. “I’d give him an exorcism.”

Hugo Chavez died 'in the bosom of the Church'

In announcing Chavez’s death to the nation on March 5, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said the Venezuelan leader died “clinging to Christ.” The source in Venezuela told CNA that during the last weeks of his life, Chavez requested spiritual direction and asked to receive the sacraments.

Death of a Caudillo

Hugo Chávez, the late president of Venezuela, liked to present himself as a revolutionary, a socialist for the 21st century. Many members of the American Left presented him this way too. In reality he was the latest in the long line of caudillos, the strongmen who have been the scourge of Spanish America; “throwback” and “reactionary” are therefore more fitting ways to describe him.

Violence was his medium. A junior army officer, he did not hesitate to mount a coup, and once in power to devise a constitution that made him leader for life. He drove thousands into exile, expropriating their land and property. Venezuela depends on its oil, and nationalization of the oil companies gave him funds with which to buy popularity. Nobody knows the scale of the ensuing corruption, but rumor has it that Chávez and his family have amassed a fortune of $2 billion.

Hugo Chavez dies: socialists might see him as a saint but this charismatic conman was no angel

First, the good stuff. Chavez spent Venezuela’s oil money on reducing destitution and expanding access to healthcare and education. As a result, poverty was cut in half, child mortality fell by a third and death from malnutrition fell by 50 per cent. Homelessness was reduced and almost everyone gained access to clean drinking water. To his fans, this was all part of new model of development that was socialist without rejecting some element of free enterprise and activist without sacrificing democratic checks and balances. Between communism and capitalism, Chavez’s revolution held out the hope for a future without the exploitation that invariably accompanies both.
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Chavez himself entered politics by way of a coup attempt in 1992 (the government he tried to overthrow was incompetent and corrupt but technically legitimate). He was a late convert to the ballot box and when he did finally form a government he wrote his own constitution and, even then, regularly broke its spirit. He persuaded a loyal legislature to grant him the right to rule by decree and he used it to pursue a revolution based on exploiting high oil prices to build a powerbase among the poor. His critics were basically anyone with an interest that conflicted with his – the Catholic Church, trades unions, private business, liberal parties. There is a global Left-wing myth that Chavez survived so long in power because his only opponent was the USA. In fact his domestic critics were plentiful, but they were either too divided to exploit their numbers or else were overpowered by Chavez loyalists in the military or the slums. It also helped that the great leader shut down over 30 radio stations and many newspapers and TV stations.
As Brendan O’Neill notes, this was not democratic socialism on the liberal European model but rather authoritarianism on the Peronist model.
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Chavez should have spent the oil money on building a capitalist economy and a stronger civil society. Instead his administration was notorious for corruption and waste. During his time in office there were 120,000 murders, a rate four times that of post-war Iraq. The causes were inflation running at highs of 30 per cent, stubborn unemployment and poorly paid police.

Chavez joins Lenin and Ho Chi Minh as President's body is to be preserved forever and displayed inside glass tomb at museum

'We have decided to prepare the body of our `Comandante President,' to embalm it so that it remains open for all time for the people. Just like Ho Chi Minh. Just like Lenin. Just like Mao Zedong,' Maduro said…. the body would be held in a 'crystal urn' at the Museum of the Revolution, a mile from Miraflores presidential palace.

The announcement followed two emotional days in which Chavez's supporters compared him to Jesus Christ, and accused his national and international critics of seeking to undermine his 'revolution.'A sea of sobbing, heartbroken humanity jammed Venezuela's main military academy Thursday to see Chavez's body, some waiting 10 hours under the twinkling stars and the searing Caribbean sun to file past his coffin.

UPDATE: 'Too late' to embalm body of Hugo Chavez

The body of Hugo Chavez will no longer be embalmed and placed on permanent display, after Venezuelan's acting president said it had not been properly prepared in time.

The rumors that he died in Cuba seem more likely now.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:03 AM | Permalink

February 10, 2013

She served below stairs and died at 100

Florence Wadlow

Florence Wadlow, who has died aged 100, was one of the last survivors of the pre-war generation which served “below stairs” in the great houses of England.

 Florence Wadlow

As a young woman in the 1930s, Florence Copeland (as she then was) worked as a kitchen maid at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, then home to the 4th Marquess of Salisbury, before securing a post as cook to the 11th Marquess of Lothian at Blickling Hall in Norfolk.

Her days were long, her accommodation spartan, her pay meagre. Yet she looked back on those days with affection, and in old age became a much sought-after source of information about what it was like to have a “life in service”. She was unimpressed by the ITV series Downton Abbey, saying: “They have got it wrong. They should have talked to people like me.”

Florence Georgina Copeland was born on December 8 1912 in West Ham, London, the daughter of a Billingsgate fish porter who was killed in the Great War. Having taken Flo and her younger brother to live at Wells-next-the-Sea in Norfolk, her mother remarried and had three more daughters.

Aged 16, Flo went to London, where she found work as a kitchen maid for a retired Army officer and his two unmarried sisters in South Kensington for £20 a year….She was allowed one bath a week. For time off, she had one half-day a week and every other Sunday.
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Late in her life she reflected: “Somebody asked me once if living in a big house like [Hatfield], and seeing all the marvelous furniture and silver and everything they had, was I ever envious? I never was really. I was always very interested but I can’t ever remember wanting it.”
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Still in her mid-twenties, she was young to be in charge of a kitchen. She generally worked a 15-hour day, getting up at 7am to make the bread rolls for breakfast and prepare the rest of the meal — “eggs of some kind with bacon, fish (perhaps haddock, kippers or kedgeree). There might be kidneys or sausages, and cold ham on the sideboard.”
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In 1940 she married Robert Wadlow, who worked at a limekiln at Heydon and served with the Royal Norfolks in the Far East during the Second World War. He was taken prisoner in 1941, and she did not see him again until the end of the war.

Florence Wadlow had two sons with Robert, and lived in a cottage at Heydon for 50 years before retiring to Fakenham in 1998. Her husband died in 1983.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:20 PM | Permalink

February 1, 2013

A boomer's death

Featured in the New York Times,

 Have Some Fun

Living and Dying on His Own Terms

About 5 p.m. he woke one last time. “He said, ‘I love you, I’m tired. It’s time to turn it off,’ ” recalled Ms. Butler.

He looked at her and winked.

Then the doctors turned off the oxygen and pulled out the intravenous tube.

On Friday, Dec. 14, at 5:05 p.m. Mr. Lambros died.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:43 AM | Permalink

January 17, 2013

The final words of murderer who killed two fellow prisoners to speed up his own execution before he died in the electric chair

Kiss my a**: The final words of murderer who killed two fellow prisoners to speed up his own execution before he died in the electric chair

A killer who strangled two fellow prisoners in order to ensure his execution used his final moments while strapped in an electric chair to tell witnesses to ‘kiss my a**’ moments before he died at 9.08pm on Wednesday.

Robert Gleason Jr. uttered the vulgar phrase in Irish Gaelic, according to Larry Traylor, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Corrections, while adding 'Put me on the highway going to Jackson and call my Irish buddies. … God bless,' before a leather strap was tightened over his face.  The 42-year-old was first strapped to the wooded electric chair at his chest, arms and ankles, while seen occasionally smiling, winking and nodding at his spiritual adviser who sat in the witness area, the Richmond Times Dispatch reports.
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He was the first executed in the U.S. this year and the first to choose to die by electrocution since 2010.
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He told The Associated Press he deserved to die for what he did. 'Why prolong it? The end result's gonna be the same,' Gleason said from death row in his thick Boston accent in one of numerous interviews he's given to The Associated Press over three years.
'The death part don't bother me. This has been a long time coming. It's called karma.'

Gleason claimed he's killed others – perhaps dozens more – but he has refused to provide details. He claims he's different from the other men on Virginia's death row for one important reason: he only kills criminals.

I can only wonder how his "spiritual advisor" counseled him.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:58 AM | Permalink

December 19, 2012

Aloha Daniel Inouye

 Older Inouye

NYT  Daniel Inouye, Hawaii’s Quiet Voice of Conscience in Senate, Dies at 88

Senator Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii, who went to Washington at the birth of his state in 1959, dominated public life in the Hawaiian islands for more than 50 years and became a quiet voice of national conscience during the Watergate scandal and the Iran-contra affair, died on Monday in Bethesda, Md. He was 88.

Daniel Inouye won wide admiration for his patience and persistence as a member of the Senate Watergate committee in 1973.
A statement by his Washington office said he had died of respiratory complications at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. His last word was “aloha,” the statement said.

The Daily Mail Senator Daniel Inouye, who played key role in Watergate investigation, dies at age 88

Born September 7, 1924, to immigrant parents in Honolulu, Inouye was 17 and dreaming of becoming a surgeon when Japanese planes flew over his home to bomb Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, changing the course of his life.

In 1943, Inouye volunteered for the Army and was assigned to the famed Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which earned the nickname 'Go For Broke' and was one of the most decorated units of the war. Inouye rose to the rank of captain and earned the Distinguished Service Cross and Bronze Star. Many of the 22 veterans who received Medals of Honor in 2000 had been in the 442nd.

Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, is shown in uniform when he was a member of the Army's 442nd Regimental Combat Team
Unlike the families of many of his comrades in arms, Inouye's wasn't subjected to the trauma and indignity of being sent by the U.S. government during the war to internment camps for Japanese Americans.

'It was the ultimate of patriotism,' Inouye said at a 442nd reunion. 'These men, who came from behind barbed wire internment camps where the Japanese-Americans were held, to volunteer to fight and give their lives. … We knew we were expendable.'
Inouye said he didn't feel he had any choice but to go to war.

Ace of Spades

His long Senate career began in 1963 (date corrected) but was also a highly decorated WWII veteran.

 Young Inouye

His Medal of Honor citation:

Second Lieutenant Daniel K. Inouye distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 21 April 1945, in the vicinity of San Terenzo, Italy. While attacking a defended ridge guarding an important road junction, Second Lieutenant Inouye skillfully directed his platoon through a hail of automatic weapon and small arms fire, in a swift enveloping movement that resulted in the capture of an artillery and mortar post and brought his men to within 40 yards of the hostile force. Emplaced in bunkers and rock formations, the enemy halted the advance with crossfire from three machine guns. With complete disregard for his personal safety, Second Lieutenant Inouye crawled up the treacherous slope to within five yards of the nearest machine gun and hurled two grenades, destroying the emplacement. Before the enemy could retaliate, he stood up and neutralized a second machine gun nest. Although wounded by a sniper’s bullet, he continued to engage other hostile positions at close range until an exploding grenade shattered his right arm. Despite the intense pain, he refused evacuation and continued to direct his platoon until enemy resistance was broken and his men were again deployed in defensive positions. In the attack, 25 enemy soldiers were killed and eight others captured. By his gallant, aggressive tactics and by his indomitable leadership, Second Lieutenant Inouye enabled his platoon to advance through formidable resistance, and was instrumental in the capture of the ridge. Second Lieutenant Inouye’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.

He was shot, then lost an arm to a grenade, all while continuing to attack the enemy and lead his men…American hero.

Day by day we lose more of these great Americans, thankfully new generations of American heroes continue to step forward to continue the tradition of excellence and honor.

RIP Senator, from a grateful nation.

[UPDATE] Inoyue didn't just throw grenades at the Germans, he threw one after he lost his arm…by prying it out of the hand on his nearly amputated arm.

"I looked at it, stunned and disbelieving. It dangled there by a few bloody shreds of tissue, my grenade still clenched in a fist that suddenly didn't belong to me anymore," Inouye wrote in his 1967 autobiography, "Journey to Washington," written with Lawrence Elliott.

Inouye wrote that he pried the grenade out of his right hand and threw it at the German gunman, who was killed by the explosion. He continued firing his gun until he was shot in the right leg and knocked down the hillside. Badly wounded, he ordered his men to keep attacking and they took the ridge from the enemy.

Holy SHIT.

Added: Inouye was featured in Ken Burns "The War". An amazing reminder that some people loved America when America didn't always love them. I'm always awed by the stories of men like Inouye and black WWII vets who served, fought and often died for a country they were not always able to participate in fully. They knew that the promise of America was real and would be kept someday. They fought to ensure that it has been.

Daniel Inouye, Long-Serving Hawaii Senator and War Hero, Is Dead at 88, an appreciation by David Graham.

With Inouye's death, the Senate -- and the nation -- lose more than just a long-serving senator. His death signals the end of an era for his state, too. It's tough to overstate the association between Inouye and his home state. Not only was his last word "Aloha," he also represented Hawaii in Congress -- first as a representative, from 1959 to 1963, and then as a senator -- for the archipelago's entire history as a state.
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As a high-school student, Inouye witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor:

I was preparing to go to church. December 7, 1941 was a Sunday and as we do every Sunday we got ready to go to church. I was just putting on my necktie and listening to the music. All of a sudden the disc jockey stopped the music and started screaming, yelling and screaming. The Japanese are bombing Pearl Harbor and for a moment I thought this was another replay of Orson Welles, but then he kept on screaming and yelling and so, I took my father and I said let's go out on the street and we went out.
Looked towards Pearl Harbor and there were puffs, dark puffs of anti-aircraft fire and then suddenly overhead three aircraft flew. They were gray in color with red dots -- the Japanese symbol -- and I knew that it was no play, it was real.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:13 AM | Permalink

December 10, 2012

His self-written obituary used too soon

 Christopher Weigl Obit Too Soon

Boston University student killed in bike accident wrote his own obituary just three months earlier

A university student who was killed after being struck by a tractor-trailer while cycling to a lecture chillingly wrote his own obituary for a class assignment just three months ago.

Boston University photojournalism pupil Christopher Weigl, from Southborough in Massachusetts, died on Thursday after colliding with the vehicle in Commonwealth Avenue, Boston.

In September the 23-year-old, who was the fifth cyclist to be killed in a road traffic accident in the city this year, wrote his own obituary as part of a class assignment.

In the obituary the former eagle scout, spoke about his passion for photography and love for the outdoors lifestyle.
He said that 'he cemented his love for photojournalism' during a trip to southeast Asia after finishing at Skidmore College.

The accomplished clarinet player gained the opportunity after enlisting with the volunteer organization Operation Groundswell. He was given  the chance to uncover stories and assist with projects in both Cambodia and Thaila
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One of his professors, Mitchell Zuckoff, gave Mr Weigl the obituary writing assignment on the first day of a feature writing class.
According to the Boston Globe Zuckoff says he uses the assignment to give students the opportunity to express themselves and for him to find out more about those he is going to teach.

Of course he never envisaged that the obituary would be used so soon after it was written.

Click link for full obituary.

May he rest in peace.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:42 AM | Permalink

December 7, 2012

Jean-Paul Sartre at the end of his life

Even Jean-Paul Sartre seems to have glimpsed that, for as death approached he began to speak of some sort of Messianic Judaism.  Later his mistress, Simone de Beauvoir, acidly called it “this senile act of a turncoat.”  In a testimony recorded by his friend and former Marxist, Pierre Victor,  Sartre said: “I do not feel that I am the product of chance, a speck of dust in the universe, but someone who was expected, prepared, prefigured.  In short, a being whom only a Creator could put here; and this idea of a creating hand refers to God.”
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It would be difficult to think of anyone more unlike Sartre than his contemporary political philosopher Charles Maurras who recovered his Catholic faith only late in life.  In Sartre’s better moments, in the Second World War, he resisted the barbarism with which Maurras cooperated.  But each had his last Advent.  Sartre’s last words were, “I have failed.”  As for Maurras, who had become deaf as a teenager, he said to the doctor at his bedside:  “At last I can hear someone coming.”

Fr. George Rutler on The Awkwardness of Advent

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:18 AM | Permalink

December 1, 2012

Zig Ziglar, R.I.P.

Zig Ziglar, upbeat motivational speaker and author, dies at 86

Rising by one’s bootstraps through the “power of positive thinking” has long been a compelling narrative in American lore. Few messengers of prosperity have been able to sustain a relentlessly upbeat and lucrative career for as long as Zig Ziglar.

Zig Ziglar! A human exclamation point! The world’s most popular motivational speaker, as he was often described, was always excited because “you never judge a day by the weather!”
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What his words lacked in depth, they made up for in conviction.
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His first book, “Biscuits, Fleas, and Pump Handles,” published in 1974 and later retitled “See You at the Top,” urged readers to re-evaluate their lives with a “checkup from the neck up” and to quit their “stink in’ thinkin.’ ”

A Motivational Maestro

A onetime cookware salesman who boasted he was “born in L.A. — Lower Alabama,” Mr. Ziglar wrote the 1975 motivational book, “See You At The Top,” but it was rejected by 30 firms before finding a backer in a small Louisiana publishing house. The book went on to sell more than a quarter of a million copies and remains in print 37 years later. In all, Mr. Ziglar “has written more than 30 sales and motivational books, 10 of which have appeared on best-seller lists and have been translated into more than 36 different languages,” according to an official biography
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In 1972, as his public speaking career was starting, Mr. Ziglar underwent a religious conversion, becoming a born-again Christian. He incorporated references to faith into his public talks, despite warnings that this would be career suicide. Against expectations, his faith helped to connect him to his audiences. Mr. Ziglar became a lifetime member of the National Speakers Association and was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame.

Forbes publishes a few of his inspirational quotes:  >

“Remember that failure is an event, not a person.”

“You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.”

“People often say motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing—that’s why we recommend it daily.”

“People don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons.”

“If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.”

"Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude."

So does Maggie's Farm

"If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time."

"You never know when a moment and a few sincere words can have impact on a life"
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:27 AM | Permalink

November 21, 2012

The Last Lonely Walk

Staff Sgt. Kenneth Wade Bennett, a bomb disposal expert, was on his third tour in Afghanistan. It proved to be his last. 

Bomb Disposal Expert Takes His Last ‘Lonely Walk’

 Bennett And Daughter

Bennett was on his third combat tour there and this time he had left behind a pregnant wife and a 2-year-old daughter. ...

“No bye bye, Daddy,” the girl said. “Don’t go away.”

“One more time, honey,” he told her.

As he spoke he had a patch on his uniform that is more respected in the military than four stars even before the scandal. The patch read EOD and it identified him as an explosive ordnance disposal technician, one of those extraordinarily brave souls such as are depicted in the movie The Hurt Locker.

Two months after that walk with little Lila across a parking lot near his unit’s headquarters in Fort Lewis, Wash., he was making that loneliest of walks into the most mortal danger in Afghanistan. He had made this walk many times in his three deployments and his motivation remained as simple as it was noble. It was what makes the EOD patch a true badge of honor.

Whatever the status of the war, whatever the latest American geopolitical objectives, whatever the outcome of the presidential election, whatever the behavior of generals, Bennett routinely faced sudden and incredibly violent death with the single and singular goal of saving the lives of his fellow soldiers. He had only to be told that he was needed and a grace would descend on him. He would once more become a figure made scruffily holy by another demonstration of that greatest love.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:45 AM | Permalink

November 10, 2012

In writing about death, all life is there

Tales from an obituaries page editor, Harry de Quetteville

There are two questions that I get asked when people discover that I am the obituaries editor at The Daily Telegraph. The first is: “How do you decide who gets an obit?”, to which I respond that, ultimately, we publish the lives that we think will most interest our readers. Eminence, celebrity, comedy, bravery – all are factors likely to pique their curiosity.
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I confess, however, that I reserve a special place in my heart for the stories thrown up by two peculiar categories of obit. The first comprises cult leaders and tele-evangelists such as The Reverend Ike, who preached “the Prosperity Gospel” and exhorted his faithful to visualize “money up to your armpits, a roomful of money and there you are, just tossing around in it like a swimming pool”.

The second category is mountaineers. This is partly because I am awed by their courage; and partly because they are generally great characters. Of all the mountaineers we have done, however, it is Chris Dale whose obit I like most. It begins: “Chris Dale, who has died aged 49, was a 6ft 6in mountaineer with a passion for solo climbs among the hardest peaks of Scotland, Wales and the Alps. He was also an equally enthusiastic cross-dresser who went by the name of Crystal.” Who could not read on?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:29 PM | Permalink

October 16, 2012

Two men that couldn't have been more different

Some comments on two recent obituaries by Jeff Jacoby, The moral giant and the leftist creep

I REGRET that it was only upon reading his obituary this month that I first learned of Nguyen Chi Thien. He was a courageous Vietnamese dissident who had spent nearly 30 years in prison for his opposition to communist repression, cruelty, and lies. Much of Nguyen's opposition was expressed in poetry, most famously "Flowers from Hell," a collection of poems he memorized behind bars, and only put down on paper after being released from prison in 1977.
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By coincidence, the same newspaper page that carried Nguyen's obituary also ran a much longer story about Eric Hobsbawm, the famous British historian who died on Oct. 1 of pneumonia at age 95. The two men could hardly have been less alike.

Nguyen defied communist totalitarianism, sacrificing his freedom in defense of the truth. He refused to pretend that there could be anything noble or uplifting – let alone ideal – about a revolutionary movement that pursued its ends through mass slaughter and enslavement. Like so many other dissidents, from Andrei Sakharov to Liu Xiaobo, he was a champion of liberty, sustaining hope and keeping conscience alive in the teeth of regime that persecutes decent men for their decency.

Hobsbawm, on the other hand, was a lifelong Marxist, a card-carrying member of the Communist Party from his teens until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Long after it was evident to even true believers that the Bolshevik Revolution had unleashed a nightmare of blood, Hobsbawm went on defending, minimizing, and excusing the crimes of communism.

Interviewed on the BBC in 1994 – five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall – he was asked whether he would have shunned the Communist Party had he known in 1934 that Stalin was butchering innocent human beings by the millions. "Probably not," he answered – after all, at the time he believed he was signing up for world revolution. Taken aback by such indifference to carnage, the interviewer pressed the point. Was Hobsbawm saying that if a communist paradise had actually been created, "the loss of 15, 20 million people might have been justified?" Hobsbawm's answer: "Yes."

Yet Hobsbawm was fawned over, lionized in the media, made a tenured professor at a prestigious university, invited to lecture around the world. He was heaped with glories, including the Order of the Companions of Honour – one of Britain's highest civilian awards – and the lucrative Balzan Prize, worth 1 million Swiss francs.
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Such adoration is sickening. Unrepentant communists merit repugnance, not reverence. Compared with a true moral giant like Nguyen Chi Thien, Hobsbawm was nothing but a dogmatic leftist creep, and the toadies who worshiped him were worse.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:18 PM | Permalink

October 3, 2012

Last tweet: "Should have known"

'Should have known': The chilling final tweet of college student, 21, who was beaten to death by her high school boyfriend after he came to visit her

Hours before 18-year-old college student was brutally beaten to death in her dorm room by her high school sweetheart, she wrote a final, chilling final tweet: 'Should have known.'

The Alexandra Kogut had been carrying on a long distance relationship after with Clayton S Whittemore, 21, after she went to school at the College at Brockport near Rochester, New York, 150 miles away from their hometown of New Hartford.
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Whittemore, a student at Utica College near his hometown, was arrested at a Thruway rest stop near Syracuse, 100 miles east, about an hour later. He told state troopers he intentionally killed Kogut, according to a criminal complaint. No motive was given.
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campus police chief Robert Kehoe told ABC affiliate WHAM.  'When a young lady who's a college student and apparently in a safe environment, is brutally murdered as this young lady was, it's certainly a tragedy for her family and friends and the entire Brockport college community.'


 Alexandra-Kogut Rest in peace.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:18 PM | Permalink

September 27, 2012

Last texts: 'Help me please… head split open'

Chilling last texts of AT&T worker bludgeoned to death with crowbar as he fixed phone lines

A father-of-four was bludgeoned to death while he worked the night shift after a convicted criminal beat him with a crowbar when he refused to hand over his wallet.  Kevin Mashburn, 58, was doing repairs for AT&T last Wednesday morning when he was reportedly  set upon by Bryan Middlemas, using the crowbar from work truck.

Police investigating the horrific murder have released the last text messages that the technician sent to colleagues as he lay dying in his van near an apartment complex in Gladstone, close to Kansas City, Missouri.

Mr Mashburn sent the first text to another AT&T worker around an hour after he had been attacked. The 58-year-old had been severely beaten in the head during the brutal assault.

At 2.52am, he wrote to a colleague called Amanda: 'I NEEDE YOU TO CALL ME AN AMBULANCE.'

According to Fox 4 he later wrote: 'I HAVE BEEN ATTACKED… HELP ME PLEASE.'

He later texted another colleague called Gracie and told her he had been badly hurt with his 'head split open'.

Mr Mashburn repeatedly honked the horn and flashed the lights of his truck as an emergency crew frantically searched the area for him.  He was found unconscious and not breathing at 3.30am. He was taken to local hospital but died of injuries.  Mr Mashburn had been married for 33 years and has four children and one grandchild.  He had worked for AT&T for 41 years and had been carrying out his typical 12am-8am shift alone when he was attacked.

Mr Mashburn, was a wonderful and gentle man, his son Bill told KCTV.  His daughter later described her father as someone who would have given the shirt off his back to anyone.  Bill said: 'If everybody had a Dad like mine, like ours, then stuff like this wouldn't happen.'

AT&T offered $100,000 for information leading to the arrest of his attacker.  On Saturday night, a tip-off led police to 35-year-old Middlemas, who has previously served time in prison for assault and drug possession.  Middlemas allegedly called an old cellmate and confessed to clubbing Mr Mashburn with the crowbar.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:34 PM | Permalink

September 25, 2012

Two interesting obituaries from the London Telegraph

Maurice Keen

Maurice Keen, who has died aged 78, was a remarkable historian of the late Middle Ages best known for his book Chivalry, published in 1984.

 Maurice-Keen

The book — which won the Wolfson History Prize — asked what chivalry was, and whether it was anything more than a polite veneer.

Keen believed that chivalry was tonal, not precise, in its implications; but it could be described as an ethos in which martial, aristocratic and Christian elements were fused together, and it was of key importance in the fashioning of the idea of “the gentleman”.

The idea of chivalry, Keen said, was grounded in the five cardinal virtues of “prowess, loyaute, largesse, courtoisie, franchise” — that is, skill on the battlefield; loyalty to one’s lord; generosity; courtesy; and a quality that suggested frankness and independence. It thus required virtue as well as “breeding”, explaining its durability and glamour as a concept.

Chivalry concludes with some intriguing observations about the differences between the code of the knight and that of the officer and gentleman: the conception of the estate of knighthood, with a general commission to uphold justice and defend the weak, was pared down to the conception of the officer whose business it is to fight the King’s enemies.

Dick Stolz

Dick Stolz, who has died aged 86, was the spymaster-in-chief for America’s Central Intelligence Agency at a time of dramatic geopolitical change.

 Dick Stolz

His career undercover had begun in 1950, and seen him serve in Cold War flash points in Eastern Europe. He was chief of station in Moscow in 1965 when the Soviet Union threw him out of Russia, but that did not prevent his eventual promotion to chief of Soviet operations in the mid-1970s.
During his period abroad he was admired at home as one of the agency’s most effective covert officers — or, in the words of one of his predecessors, “a spy’s spy”. As Senator Patrick Leahy, a former member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, observed in a retirement tribute to Stolz in 1991: “There is nothing 'cowboy’ about Dick. He epitomizes the careful, calm intelligence operator.”

He was persuaded to return by a former FBI director and federal judge, William Webster, who was appointed by Reagan to take over the CIA in 1987. “I wanted risk-takers but not risk-seekers,” Webster explained. “We did a lot of dangerous things and took a lot of risks. But we did it within the framework of our authority.” Stolz resumed work with a bang. Apart from refocusing the agency on new threats, he established the Agent Validation Programme, known as “scrubbing”, which led to a record number of agents being moved or sacked for ineffectiveness or unreliability.
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Richard Fallis Stolz Jr was born on November 27 1925 in Dayton, Ohio, but grew up in New Jersey, graduating from Summit High School in 1943. As an infantryman with the 398th Regiment of the 100th Division of the US Army, he saw wartime action in France and the Rhineland.
In 1949 he graduated from Amherst College, Massachusetts, and the following year joined the CIA, specializing in Soviet operations. Posted to Italy, West Germany, Turkey and Bulgaria during the Cold War, Stolz also served in Belgrade before becoming chief of the Soviet and then European divisions of the operations directorate.
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Following his final retirement in 1990 Stolz was awarded a second Distinguished Intelligence Medal. President George HW Bush presented him with the National Security Medal for distinguished achievement in the field of intelligence.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:41 PM | Permalink

September 22, 2012

Newspapers do not "revoke" obituaries

The difficulty obituary writers face when dealing with families of divorce is discussed at The Thinking Housewife, Exiled in Death.

This reminds me of one of the more memorable stories from my time working the obituary desk at a daily newspaper. A gentleman died, and his firstborn (so I thought) son prepared a nice obituary. It was unusually well-written for a family submission, going on at some length about the man’s interests, beliefs, hobbies, and values. It read like a solid tribute to a very good father and husband, and I told the young man as much via phone when he called to inquire about requirements for submission of digital photographs. The next day I received a hysterical phone call from a woman demanding to know how to “revoke an obituary.” I clarified her meaning quickly. The young man who wrote the obituary was the firstborn of the deceased gentleman’s second wife. Apparently, the entire obituary had been written to anger the first wife and her children, the young man’s half-siblings. Its statement that he enjoyed grilling steaks for his family was meant to be a slight against the first wife’s vegetarian diet. His conservative values, a slight against the first wife’s marching in support of local public school teachers. It went on and on.

I was appalled, but of course beyond the fact of a decedent’s name, gender, and dates of birth and death, the newspaper had neither the obligation nor the means to verify information for obituaries. And I couldn’t publish a “revocation.” This was after the paper moved to charging for obituaries, so the young lady who had called elected to write her own obituary, publishing her own account of her father’s life. The half-siblings apparently spoke to each other, and word spread from one group to the other that a different version would run the next day, from the man’s first set of children. The second set of children (who published the initial obituary) decided to pay the fee to have their version run for another day.

Thus, the next day featured two obituaries of the same man, one by his second wife and her children, one by his first wife and her children. Their accounts were radically different. Each left out the other spouse and children. Who knows which came closer to the truth of the gentleman’s beliefs and values? I was appalled by the spectacle, and it reminded me that the carnage of divorce doesn’t heal itself. (The second marriage had lasted for 25 years.) The consequences go on and on, without end.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:11 PM | Permalink

September 12, 2012

'John did it, John did it – and you have to tell someone'

A mother's deathbed confession eventually led to the arrest and trial of her son John, 72, a retired police officer.

A guilt-ridden mother admitted on her deathbed that her son was responsible for the murder of a seven-year-old girl that has haunted the nation for 50 years, a court heard.

Former Washington police officer Jack McCullough, 72, is on trial for the kidnapping and slaying of Maria Ridulph, from Sycamore, in 1957.  But the court heard yesterday that his own mother knew he was involved in the little girl's disappearance.

-Jack Mccullough


His half-sister Janet Tessier claimed her mother Eileen Tessier told her: 'John did it, John did it — and you have to tell someone'  as she was dying of cancer.  Ridulph's disappearance on December 3, 1957, triggered massive searches and an FBI investigation. Her body was discovered five months later in rural Jo Daviess County.

McCullough was only arrested last year after his half-sister reported the claims made by their mother on her deathbed in a DeKalb hospital in 1994 and the case was reopened.  Janet Tessier testified said her mother, who died two weeks later, was 'lucid' when she made the claim. The Sun Times reports she told the court: 'She was very agitated and emotional and she expressed a great deal of guilt.'

His two other half-sisters said McCullough never returned home the night the seven-year-old girl vanished but their mother told police he had.

Katheran Caulfield said she stayed up until at least 11:30pm on the night the child vanished but never saw her brother come home.  But she claimed her mother told police he had been home that evening.

Forensics examinations indicate that Ridulph was stabbed at least three times in the throat and the chest, prosecutors said.
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 Maria Rudolph

McCullough lived a few block from the Ridulph family home and was on an early list of suspects. But he had an alibi, saying that on the day the girl vanished, he traveled to Chicago to get a medical exam before enlisting in the Air Force.

He later moved out of the area, served in the Armed Forces and ultimately worked as a police officer in Washington and a security guard at a retirement home - where he was arrested on July 1, 2011
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:00 PM | Permalink

August 27, 2012

Neil Armstrong, an American hero with footsteps on the mood, R.I.P.

 Neil Armstrong1

Made ‘Giant Leap’ as First Man to Step on Moon, New York Times obituary

In “First Man: The Life of Neil Armstrong,” James R. Hansen wrote that in Mr. Armstrong’s first year at Purdue, Charles E. Yeager broke the sound barrier in the rocket-powered Bell X-1. It was exciting but bittersweet for the young student. He thought aviation history had already passed him by.

“All in all, for someone who was immersed in, fascinated by, and dedicated to flight,” Mr. Armstrong told his biographer, “I was disappointed by the wrinkle in history that had brought me along one generation late. I had missed all the great times and adventures in flight.”
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In “First Man: The Life of Neil Armstrong,” James R. Hansen wrote that in Mr. Armstrong’s first year at Purdue, Charles E. Yeager broke the sound barrier in the rocket-powered Bell X-1. It was exciting but bittersweet for the young student. He thought aviation history had already passed him by.

All in all, for someone who was immersed in, fascinated by, and dedicated to flight,” Mr. Armstrong told his biographer, “I was disappointed by the wrinkle in history that had brought me along one generation late. I had missed all the great times and adventures in flight.”
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About six and a half hours after the landing, Mr. Armstrong opened the hatch of the four-legged lunar module and slowly made his way down the ladder to the lunar surface. A television camera followed his every step for all the world to see. A crater near the landing site is named in Mr. Armstrong’s honor.

Mr. Armstrong and Colonel Aldrin left a plaque on the Moon that read: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

After leaving the space program, Mr. Armstrong was careful to do nothing to tarnish that image or achievement. Though he traveled and gave speeches — as he did in October 2007, when he dedicated the new Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering at Purdue — he rarely gave interviews and avoided the spotlight.

-Neil-Armstrong-2

The Economist obituary

He had an engineer’s reserve, mixed with a natural shyness. Even among the other astronauts, not renowned for their excitability, Armstrong was known as the “Ice Commander”. Mike Collins, one of Armstrong’s crew-mates on the historic moon mission, liked his commander but mused that “Neil never transmits anything but the surface layer, and that only sparingly.” In one famous incident, Armstrong lost control of an unwieldy contraption nicknamed the “Flying Bedstead” that was designed to help astronauts train for the lunar landing. Ejecting only seconds before his craft hit the ground and exploded, Armstrong dusted himself off and coolly went back to his office for the rest of the day, presumably to finish up some paperwork.
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Unlike some of his fellow astronauts (two of whom became senators), Armstrong chose a comparatively quiet retirement, teaching engineering at the University of Cincinnati. He returned to NASA twice, both times to serve on boards of enquiry, the first into the near-disaster of Apollo 13, and the second into the disintegration of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986. He spent his final years on his farm in rural Ohio, flying gliders in his spare time (it was, said the supposedly emotionless engineer, the closest humans could come to being birds).

Telegraph obituary

Neil Armstrong, the American astronaut, who has died aged 82, cemented a unique place in the history of mankind by becoming the first person to walk on the Moon; though his personal achievement was a product of the Cold War’s bitter technological and political rivalry, the successful completion of his mission proved a transcendent moment that captured the imagination of the entire planet.

It was a success that owed much to Armstrong’s clarity of thought and split-second ability to make life-saving decisions. During Apollo 11’s final, hazardous descent to the surface of the Moon on July 20 1969, his instrument panel was dogged by computer failures that would have justified aborting the mission. Having decided to press on, Armstrong discovered that automatic systems were steering his lunar module on to the steep banks of a large, boulder-filled crater. Sitting next to Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, he seized manual control and guided the craft to a graceful touchdown with just 20 seconds of fuel remaining. Moments later he announced to the world: “Houston. Tranquillity Base here. Eagle has landed.” The two astronauts, until then relentless in their pursuit of an objective that had been set out eight years and two months earlier by President Kennedy, paused to shake hands.
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Armstrong did not have the time either to celebrate the safe landing, or to worry that he had fluffed his lines. “We could not luxuriate in those feelings,” he said in a rare interview with Alex Malley in Australia last year. Even President Nixon’s congratulatory call from the White House was “memorable but instantaneous. There was work to do. The checklists were all over us. We weren’t there to meditate.” During a moonwalk that lasted two hours and 19 minutes, the two men collected soil and rock samples, took photographs and video images, and planted equipment and the Stars and Stripes in the lunar soil, all the while bounding easily across the landscape, unhindered by the Moon’s minimal gravitational pull. Some 240,000 miles away, back on Earth, hundreds of millions watched on agog, following their progress on live television broadcasts.

-Neil-Armstrong-American-Flag-

Armstrong's family

We are heartbroken to share the news that Neil Armstrong has passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.  Neil was our loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend.

Neil Armstrong was also a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job. He served his Nation proudly, as a navy fighter pilot, test pilot, and astronaut. He also found success back home in his native Ohio in business and academia, and became a community leader in Cincinnati.

He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits. As much as Neil cherished his privacy, he always appreciated the expressions of good will from people around the world and from all walks of life.
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For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.

NASA

Armstrong's words "That is one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind," spoken on July 20, 1969, as he became the first person ever to step onto another planetary body, instantly became a part of history.

Those few words from the Sea of Tranquillity were the climactic fulfillment of the efforts and hopes of millions of people and the expenditure of billions of dollars. A plaque on one of the lander's legs that concluded "We came in peace for all mankind," further emphasized that Armstrong and fellow astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin were there as representatives of all humans.

Neil Armstrong's television exist almost as quiet as his life.

By the yardstick of history, Neil Armstrong was among the most accomplished men ever to walk on the planet that he looked upon from afar one magical week in July 1969.
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Armstrong’s determined effort to live a quiet, private life after his astronaut days also left TV at a disadvantage. There was relatively little tape on hand to roll from interviews reminiscing about his experiences, reunions with old astronauts or public appearances. No Armstrong chats with David Letterman. No appearances in music videos. There was the moon walk, and not much else.
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Not so with Neil Armstrong. His death was like his life: strangely muted given the magnitude of his achievements.

Obama: Armstrong 'Among  Greatest  American Heroes

President Obama called astronaut Neil Armstrong, who passed away today at age 82, “among the greatest of American heroes – not just of his time, but of all time.”

“When he and his fellow crew members lifted off aboard Apollo 11 in 1969, they carried with them the aspirations of an entire nation.  They set out to show the world that the American spirit can see beyond what seems unimaginable – that with enough drive and ingenuity, anything is possible. And when Neil stepped foot on the surface of the moon for the first time, he delivered a moment of human achievement that will never be forgotten,” Obama said in a statement issued by the White House this afternoon.

“Today, Neil’s spirit of discovery lives on in all the men and women who have devoted their lives to exploring the unknown – including those who are ensuring that we reach higher and go further in space. That legacy will endure – sparked by a man who taught us the enormous power of one small step,” he added.

Remembering Neil Armstrong, a Man of Profound Skill and Preternatural Calm

The first man on the moon survived three near-fatal incidents and spent the rest of his life trying to avoid the spotlight.

Armstrong was a man of almost preternatural imperturbability. That, of course, is true of all of astronauts — especially those from the early era. He, like so many others, was a military pilot. In his case, the piloting included 78 combat missions over Korea, during one of which his plane was crippled by antiaircraft fire. He managed to stay airborne long enough to limp back into American-held territory before he bailed out. He retired from the Navy after the war and became a test pilot for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NASA‘s predecessor) and flew 900 different types of aircraft—all of them fit only for test pilots because no one could say with any certainty whether the things would perform as designed or would simply shake themselves to rivets once they reached flight speed.

It wasn’t until 1962 that Armstrong joined NASA — in the second crop of astronauts chosen after the glorious Original Seven. On at least three occasions that followed, the machines he flew tried to kill him.
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He was only 38 when he walked on the moon, but he surely knew that if he lived to be 100 — or 82 as we now know it worked out — his life would forever be framed and defined by the 151 minutes he spent on the moon.

Armstrong’s America

First, there were the traditional small-town virtues of the Ohio town where he was born in 1930 and raised. That was where his father followed the career that’s the butt of every late night comedian, as an accountant, and Neil became what every liberal activist now despises, an Eagle Scout. But small-town didn’t mean small horizons then any more than it does now. Neil’s greatest dream was to fly, and he earned his pilot’s license before he learned how to drive.

Then there was the United States Navy, where Neil trained as an aviator and flew 78 combat missions in the Korean War. He always said those missions were far more dangerous than anything he did as an astronaut or test pilot; they were certainly more important in terms of shaping his outlook on life. The Navy taught him the importance of friendship, but also the discipline to deal with the pain when those friends crash and die. Combat “builds a lot of character,” he once told an Australian interviewer. “It builds a lot of backbone.”

It certainly did. Later when he learned people were hawking his autographs for money, he stopped signing them. When he learned his barber had sold a snippet of his hair for $3,000, he threatened to sue unless the barber gave the money away to charity (the barber did).

Neil Armstrong knew there were more important things to life than being liked. Today, of course, we live surrounded by a media bubble that teaches the opposite.
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And Neil Armstrong was confident that someday, despite the end of NASA’s manned space flights, someone would “fly back up there and pick up that camera I left there.” Everyone who met him was always struck by the same thing, his humility. I think it was because he knew that he was no TV image Superhero. Behind all his amazing feats was something greater, an America that believed in character over celebrity, in accomplishment over image and solving problems instead of blaming someone else.

Neil Armstrong reflecting on the 1969 Apollo II mission to the moon

I was certainly aware that this was a culmination of the work of 300,000 or 400,000 people over a decade and that the nation's hopes and outward appearance largely rested on how the results came out. With those pressures, it seemed the most important thing to do was focus on our job as best we were able to and try to allow nothing to distract us from doing the very best job we could. . . .
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…this was a project in which everybody involved was, one, interested, two, dedicated, and, three, fascinated by the job they were doing. And whenever you have those ingredients, whether it be government or private industry or a retail store, you're going to win.

The Best Speech Nixon Never Gave was written by William Safire in the event the astronauts were stranded on the moon

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:50 AM | Permalink

Tragic death of a beautiful bride

Bride dies while posing for photographs in her wedding gown. She drowned after her dress got wet and dragged her into a river near a 'violently' rushing waterfall in Canada

Real estate agent Maria Pantazopoulos, 30, drowned after her dress got wet and she was dragged into the river near a 'violently' rushing waterfall in Canada.  Ms Pantazopoulos slipped and fell into the Ouareau River near Dorwin Falls, north of Montreal, on Friday afternoon. Her body was found about two and a half hours later.

The newly-wed yelled 'I'm slipping, I'm slipping, I'm slipping,' before falling off the rock she was perched on for her wedding pictures, according to CBC.

-Maria Pantazopoulos

Friends said she had been taking part in an increasingly popular ritual called 'Trash the Dress', in which brides pose for pictures while playfully destroying their wedding gowns.
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Ms Pantazopoulos had commissioned the shoot following her June 9 wedding. Family friend Leeza Pousoulidis said: 'She’s a really fun girl, and she just didn’t want her wedding dress sitting in a box in the closet.  'She said "I want to have fun with my wedding dress. I want to have great pictures and memories of me in my wedding dress."'

Ms Pantazopoulos slipped while she was being photographed by Louis Pagakis, who told CTV Montreal that he did everything he could to save her.  She had her wedding dress on and she said, "take some pictures of me while I swim a little bit in the lake,"' he said.

'She went in and her dress got heavy, I tried everything I could to save her.'  'She was doing the photo shoot in about six inches or one foot of water when part of her wedding dress got soaked and became extremely heavy,' Mr McInnis told MailOnline.

'She started slipping and falling down when the photographer grabbed her but she was too heavy that he couldn't pull her from the edge.
Another person tried to grab her but also was unable to save her from falling into the river.


 Shoe Weddingdress On Rocks
The wedding dress and shoe of bride  who fell and drowned during photo shoot.

Maria Pantazopoulos

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:24 AM | Permalink

August 21, 2012

Writing your own obituary to get it right

The self-written obituary: the hottest thing in dying    Boston Glob

Those who don’t want to write their own obit, but do want one done ahead of time, have started hiring writers to do the job. Whether self-written or commissioned, the pre-written obit can be a way for the subject to spare loved ones — who may not love each other — from having to interact, said Susan Soper, a veteran journalist who created the “ObitKit: A Guide to Celebrating Your Life.”

She recently worked with a client in his mid-70s who had been married twice and wanted to ensure that his whole life story was told — not just the part that one side or the other knew about.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:50 PM | Permalink

August 1, 2012

Maeve Bincy R.I.P.

I've read or listened to many of her books and always felt I was in fine company and just relaxed and surrendered to her storytelling.

Maeve Binchy dies aged 72

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny has led tributes to popular novelist Maeve Binchy, who has died at the age of 72. The best-selling author died peacefully in hospital yesterday with her husband, children's writer Gordon Snell, by her side.

Binchy penned 16 novels and sold more than 40 million books worldwide during her career.

Mr Kenny said Ireland had lost a national treasure and offered his deepest sympathies, on behalf of the Government and the Irish people, to her family.

"Across Ireland and the world people are mourning and celebrating Maeve Binchy," he said.  "She is a huge loss wherever stories of love, hope, generosity and possibility are read and cherished.  Today, as a nation, we are thankful for and proud of the writer and the woman Maeve Binchy."

 Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy: The Irish novelist who shunned the dark side  Maeve Binchy found success by pursuing her sunny instincts, and leaving out the sex.

Maeve metamorphosed from the sometimes sharp reporter into a novelist whose take on life was sunny, warm, generous, even wholesome. Hemingway once said that a writer must find an inner truth, and Maeve found her success through a truthful pursuit of her own instincts.
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When she presented her first book, Light a Penny Candle, to her publishers, they liked it, she told me, but were unhappy that it contained no explicit sex scenes. It was an established formula that there should be a bedroom scene every 19 pages in a modern novel. Maeve said, rather bashfully, that as she hadn’t had a very colorful sex life herself she didn’t really know how to write sex scenes, and if she made them up, they might strike a false note.

The book was a bestseller and made her name. Her approach to storytelling went down especially well in the United States. She told me about visiting some Midwestern town on a book tour where the ladies would approach her and say, “Oh Miss Binchy, we’re so grateful to have stories with no pornography and no profanity – I’ll have four copies, two for my aunts, one for the pastor’s wife and another for myself…” One of her greatest fans in America was Barbara Bush.

LA Times obit

"A hallmark of a Binchy book is a cast of characters Dickens would relish," Mary McNamara wrote in The Times in 1999, "all pairing and sundering, congregating and dispersing in an operatic minuet. Plots and subplots surface and submerge" in a story that invariably ends in "acceptance and growth."

Binchy considered herself a writer of escapist works popular with people going on vacation.

"I was just lucky," she told the BookReporter website, "I lived in this time of mass-market paperbacks."

The Daily Mail has a Biography of a Beloved Irish Writer In Her Own Words

I was lucky enough to be fairly quick at understanding what was taught, but unlucky enough not to be really interested in it so I always got my exams but never had the scholar’s love of learning for its own sake. And even though I was fat and hopeless at games, which are very unacceptable things for a schoolgirl, I was happy and confident. That was quite simply because I had a mother and a father at home who thought I was wonderful. They thought all their geese were swans. It was a gift greater than beauty or riches, the feeling that you were as fine as anyone else.


Maeve Binchy: Ireland's national treasure
  Maeve Binchy, who has died aged 72, was a skillful storyteller and a warm and generous person.

... no amount of high-minded tut-tutting could alter the fact that Maeve Binchy’s books were compulsive page-turners. In a survey of Ireland’s 100 bestsellers in the 20th century compiled in 1998, she took first, third and fourth places, with seven of her books in the top 100, outselling not only Yeats, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, but more recent writers such as Frank McCourt, Roddy Doyle, Seamus Heaney and Edna O’Brien. Her work also spawned two Hollywood films, Circle Of Friends, starring Minnie Driver, and Tara Road, with Andie McDowell.

The appeal of Maeve Binchy’s writing lay in strong characterization, good storytelling and heart-warming evocations of a cosy world in which good triumphs and community spirit always prevails. In a Maeve Binchy story, people — especially women — survive their troubles by sticking together and providing a shoulder to cry on.

Big, funny and warm, Maeve Binchy was the living embodiment of the novels that made her one of the world’s top-selling authors and one of Britain’s richest women, and her success was testament to the advice so often meted out to aspiring novelists — write what you know.
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It was apt that she chose Édith Piaf's Non, Je ne regret rein as one of her favorite songs and she answered the question “Have you been lucky in life?” once with the splendid reply: "I have been luckier than anyone I know or even heard of. I had a very happy childhood, a good education, I enjoyed working as a teacher, journalist and author. I have loved a wonderful man for over 33 years and I believe he loves me too. I have great family and good friends, the stories I told became popular and people all over the world bought them. If anyone heard me complaining I should be taken out and shot!"
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:22 PM | Permalink

‘Grace, I love you. Grace, I love you. I love you,’

'Grace, I love you, I love you': After months of not being able to speak, husband's last words to his wife before they died 16 hours apart

For months he had struggled to communicate, the power of speech fading with his life.

But hand-in-hand once more with the woman he had loved for 40 years, John Clark summoned his strength one last time.

‘Grace, I love you. Grace, I love you. I love you,’ the 86-year-old said to his frail wife, lying on a hospital bed, in Tampa, Florida.

Within 24 hours both had died peacefully.

-John Grace Clark

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:07 PM | Permalink

July 17, 2012

Marian Cunningham, author of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, dies at 91. R.I.P.

Marion Cunningham, best known for writing cookbooks including The Fannie Farmer Cookbook dies at 91.   

From her obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle

Marion Cunningham, who championed home cooking long before Rachael Ray and Martha Stewart, and became a mentor to many of the nation's food giants, died Wednesday morning at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek. She was 90.

Mrs. Cunningham suffered from Alzheimer's disease and was admitted to the hospital on Tuesday after having difficulty breathing, said family friend John Carroll, who confirmed her death.

 Marion Cunningham

She is best known for writing cookbooks, including "The Fannie Farmer Cookbook," and teaching culinary classes, where her goal was to demystify home cooking.

Mrs. Cunningham, who spent her early adult years as a housewife with a penchant for cooking in her family's Walnut Creek ranch home, didn't enter into her professional food career until she was 50. Former Gourmet Editor Ruth Reichl later mused that Mrs. Cunningham had completely reinvented herself at midlife and never thought it even remotely remarkable.

"Not only did she know everyone and everything, she was the person you called when you had a triumph or when things weren't going so well," Reichl said, adding that she thought of Mrs. Cunningham as her adopted mother. "She was the person who kept us all together during the early days of the food movement."

Her metamorphosis from amateur to pro started in 1972 when Mrs. Cunningham, an agoraphobic and a self-described alcoholic who had recently quit drinking, let a friend prod her into going on a road trip to Oregon to take a cooking class with the famous Manhattan cookbook author James Beard. Despite her panic disorder, she forced herself to cross the Bay Bridge, leave California and embark on the two-week adventure.

That trip, which Mrs. Cunningham said was the first time she felt a sense of power and hope in many years, was the beginning of a journey that would change not only her life but the Bay Area culinary community.
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Amazing how lives intersect.  I learned to cook using the The Fannie Farmer and for that I have to thank a woman whose name I didn't even know before today.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:58 PM | Permalink

Coming Clean in his Obituary

On your deathbed, you'll want to confess too and beg forgiveness from all those you've harmed and from God.

Deathbed confession of cancer victim who wrote his own obituary to come clean about his fake doctorate and how he once stole a safe.

Here is an abridged version of the obituary of Val Patterson published online in Salt Lake Tribune

I was born in Salt Lake City, March 27 1953. I died of throat cancer on July 10 2012…

I had a lot of fun. It was an honor for me to be friends with some truly great people. I thank you. I've had great joy living and playing with my dog, my cats and my parrot.

But, the one special thing that made my spirit whole, is my long love and friendship with my remarkable wife, my beloved Mary Jane. I loved her more than I have words to express. Every moment spent with my Mary Jane was time spent wisely. Over time, I became one with her, inseparable, happy, fulfilled.

I enjoyed one good life. Travelled to every place on Earth that I ever wanted to go. Had every job that I wanted to have. Learned all that I wanted to learn. Fixed everything I wanted to fix. Eaten everything I wanted to eat. My life motto was: 'Anything for a Laugh.'

Now that I have gone to my reward, I have confessions and things I should now say.

As it turns out, I AM the guy who stole the safe from the Motor View Drive Inn back in June, 1971. I could have left that unsaid, but I wanted to get it off my chest.

Also, I really am NOT a PhD. What happened was that the day I went to pay off my college student loan at the U of U, the girl working there put my receipt into the wrong stack, and two weeks later, a PhD diploma came in the mail.

I didn't even graduate, I only had about three years of college credit. In fact, I never did even learn what the letters 'PhD' even stood for.
For all of the Electronic Engineers I have worked with, I'm sorry, but you have to admit my designs always worked very well, and were well engineered, and I always made you laugh at work.

Now to that really mean Park Ranger; after all, it was me that rolled those rocks into your geyser and ruined it. I did notice a few years later that you did get Old Faithful working again.

To Disneyland - you can now throw away that 'Banned for Life' file you have on me, I'm not a problem anymore - and SeaWorld San Diego, too, if you read this.

To the gang: We grew up in the very best time to grow up in the history of America. The best music, muscle cars, cheap gas, fun kegs, buying a car for 'a buck a year' - before Salt Lake got ruined by over population and Lake Powell was brand new.

TV was boring back then, so we went outside and actually had lives. We always tried to have as much fun as possible without doing harm to anybody - we did a good job at that…

My regret is that I felt invincible when young and smoked cigarettes when I knew they were bad for me. Now, to make it worse, I have robbed my beloved Mary Jane of a decade or more of the two of us growing old together and laughing at all the thousands of simple things that we have come to enjoy and fill our lives with such happy words and moments.

My pain is enormous, but it pales in comparison to watching my wife feel my pain as she lovingly cares for and comforts me. I feel such the 'thief' now - for stealing so much from her - there is no pill I can take to erase that pain.

If you knew me or not, dear reader, I am happy you got this far into my letter. I speak as a person who had a great life to look back on. My family is following my wishes that I not have a funeral or burial.

If you knew me, remember me in your own way. If you want to live forever, then don't stop breathing, like I did.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:47 PM | Permalink

If you were facing execution what would your last words be?

From Business Insider which has photos and much fuller explanations behind Famous Last Words Before Executions.

Anne Boleyn: "I pray God save the king and send him long to reign over you."

Aileen Wuornos: "I’ll be back like Independence Day."

John Wayne Gacy: "Kiss my ass."

G.W. Green: "Lock and load. Let's do it, man."

Herbert Webster Mudgett: "Take your time; don't bungle it."

Robert Charles Comer: “Go Raiders.”

Gary Gilmore: "Let's do it."

Nathan Hale: "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."

Benito Mussolini: "Shoot me in the chest!"

Robert Alton Harris: "You can be a king or a street sweeper, but everyone dances with the grim reaper."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:29 PM | Permalink

July 1, 2012

He faced execution twice and managed to escape both times

This is one of the most fascinating obituaries I've read in a long time.  In the Telegraph, Count Robert de La Rochefoucauld

En route to his execution in Auxerre, La Rochefoucauld made a break, leaping from the back of the truck carrying him to his doom, and dodging the bullets fired by his two guards. Sprinting through the empty streets, he found himself in front of the Gestapo’s headquarters, where a chauffeur was pacing near a limousine bearing the swastika flag. Spotting the key in the ignition, La Rochefoucauld jumped in and roared off, following the Route Nationale past the prison he had left an hour earlier.

He smashed through a roadblock before dumping the car and circling back towards Auxerre on foot under cover of night. He sheltered with an epicure. From Auxerre, friends in the Resistance helped him on to a train for Paris, where he evaded German soldiers hunting him by curling up underneath the sink in the lavatory. “When we arrived in Paris I felt drunk with freedom,” he recalled.

 Count Robert-De-La-Rochefauld

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Cycling to Bordeaux to meet a contact who was to arrange his return to England, however, he ran into a roadblock, taken prisoner, and imprisoned at the 16th-century Fort du Hâ. His explanations that he had been out after dark on a romantic assignation were not believed and, in his cell, La Rochefoucauld considered swallowing the cyanide pill concealed in the heel of his shoe.

Instead he faked an epileptic fit and, when the guard opened the door to his cell, hit him over the head with a table leg before breaking his neck. (“Thank Goodness for that pitilessly efficient training,” he noted). After putting on the German’s uniform, La Rochefoucauld walked into the guardroom and shot the two other German jailers. He then simply walked out of the fort, through the deserted town, and to the address of an underground contact.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:22 PM | Permalink

June 8, 2012

Ray Bradbury, R.I.P.

Fahrenheit 451 was one of the most influential books I ever read.  Only on his death, did I realize how many of his books I haven't read and can look forward to.

New York Times obituary Brought Mars to Earth with a Lyrical Majesty

Ray Bradbury, a master of science fiction whose imaginative and lyrical evocations of the future reflected both the optimism and the anxieties of his own postwar America, died on Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 91.

 Bradbury 1997 Booksigning

…By many estimations Mr. Bradbury was the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream. His name would appear near the top of any list of major science fiction writers of the 20th century,

More than eight million copies of his books have been sold in 36 languages. They include the short-story collections “The Martian Chronicles,” “The Illustrated Man” and “The Golden Apples of the Sun,” and the novels “Fahrenheit 451” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”
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Though his books became a staple of high school and college English courses, Mr. Bradbury himself disdained formal education. He went so far as to attribute his success as a writer to his never having gone to college.

Instead, he read everything he could get his hands on: Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway . He paid homage to them in 1971 in the essay “How Instead of Being Educated in College, I Was Graduated From Libraries.”

Mr. Bradbury referred to himself as an “idea writer,” by which he meant something quite different from erudite or scholarly. “I have fun with ideas; I play with them,” he said. “ I’m not a serious person, and I don’t like serious people. I don’t see myself as a philosopher. That’s awfully boring.”

He added, “My goal is to entertain myself and others.”
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While Mr. Bradbury championed the space program as an adventure that humanity dared not shirk, he was content to restrict his own adventures to the realm of imagination. He lived in the same house in Los Angeles for more than 5o years, rearing four daughters with his wife, Marguerite, who died in 2003. For many years he refused to travel by plane, preferring trains, and he never learned to drive.

In 2004, President George W. Bush and the first lady, Laura Bush, presented Mr. Bradbury with the National Medal of Arts.

Washington Post obituary

Ray Bradbury, a boundlessly imaginative novelist who wrote some of the most popular science-fiction books of all time, including “Fahrenheit 451” and “The Martian Chronicles,” and who transformed the genre of flying saucers and little green men into literature exploring childhood terrors, colonialism and the erosion of individual thought, died June 5 in Los Angeles. He was 91.
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His body of works, which continued to appear through recent years to terrific reviews, encompassed more than 500 titles, including novels, plays (“Dandelion Wine,” adapted from his 1957 semi-autobiographical novel), children’s books and short stories. His tales were often made into films, including the futuristic story of a book-burning society (director Francois Truffaut’s “Fahrenheit 451” in 1966), a suspense story about childhood fears (“Something Wicked This Way Comes” in 1983) and the more straightforward alien-attack story (“It Came From Outer Space” in 1953).

 Fahrenheit-451

About Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury said

Many observers linked the anti-book-burning message and that “Fahrenheit 451” was published at a peak moment of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s (R-Wis.) anti-communist crusade. Mr. Bradbury said “Fahrenheit 451” was not necessarily about top-down censorship.

“The real threat is not from Big Brother, but from little sister [and] all those groups, men and women, who want to impose their views from below,” he told the Times of London in 1993. “If you allow every minority to grab one book off the shelf you’ll have nothing in the library.”
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He never learned to drive and grew compulsively wary of the potential dangers of modern mechanized life; he took his first plane trip in 1982, and only then after drinking three double martinis.
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I can’t name a writer who’s had a more perfect life,” Mr. Bradbury told the New York Times in 1983. “My books are all in print, I’m in all the school libraries, and when I go places I get the applause at the start of my speech.”

In a 2009 interview, Ray Bradbury said Fahrenheit 451 Misinterpreted.  We, Not Government, Are Enslaving Ourselves.

Ray Bradbury, in a 2009 interview with LA Weekly at his Cheviot Hills home, explained with gusto a fact that shocked millions of fans: Fahrenheit 451 was not a warning about government mind control. The world got that wrong. His warning was, we are doing it to ourselves -- enslaved to glowing screens.

The charming elder of sci-fi began divulging in 2007 that, read deeply, Fahrenheit 451 predicted TV's mastery of humans. Written in 1953, it foresaw "flat" panels on walls that would mesmerize, isolate and produce atrophied attention spans and minds. He was a brilliant futurist, six decades early in seeing digital isolation, smartphone addiction, gaming addiction:


The Telegraph obituary has a good discussion of his novels

This reputation was cemented by Fahrenheit 451, his first novel proper, which took its title from the ignition point of paper. Set in a dystopian future in which books are banned, it followed the rebellion into reading of a book-burning “fireman”, and his final escape to a pastoral community of exiles who are named for the titles of the books they have memorized. Bradbury, who completed the novel in nine days in the Powell library, often wrote of the importance of reading and frequently made appearances (for which he never charged a fee) in public libraries, which he thought more important than universities. The book became a staple of school reading lists and was stylishly filmed by François Truffaut in 1966.

London Telegraph, Ray Bradbury imbued alien landscapes with the green grass of home

Also in the Telegraph Tim Stanley, Ray Bradbury's alien worlds were all too human, which is why science fiction remains so popular.

The death of Ray Bradbury has led to an outpouring of grief and praise. President Obama said that his “gift for storytelling reshaped our culture and expanded our world,” while director Steven Spielberg called him “my muse.” Stephen King captured the man’s work best when he told the Hollywood Reporter, “The sound I hear today is the thunder of a giant's footsteps fading away. But the novels and stories remain, in all their resonance and strange beauty.” Bradbury deserves all these accolades and more, and they attest to the new status that science fiction enjoys in the West. Something that was once the preserve of geeks and cyber freaks is now über cool.

Ray Bradbury wrote modern myths, not science fiction

Stefan Kanfer on The Nonagenarian Whiz Kid

Young writers who asked for advice received the same kind of Midwest aphorisms he had uttered from the beginning: “Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall.” “Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” “There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”

Virginia Postrel on Bradbury's Power of Memory

When I was in high school, I chose a passage from "Fahrenheit 451" to memorize and recite as a literary interpretation exercise in a speech class. Nearly four decades later, only fragments remain. The most important is this one:

Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.
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When I was a boy my grandfather died, and he was a sculptor. He was also a very kind man who had a lot of love to give the world, and he helped clean up the slum in our town; and he made toys for us and he did a million things in his lifetime; he was always busy with his hands. A
nd when he died, I suddenly realized I wasn’t crying for him at all, but for all the things he did. I cried because he would never do them again, he would never carve another piece of wood or help us raise doves and pigeons in the backyard or play the violin the way he did, or tell us jokes the way he did. He was part of us and when he died, all the actions stopped dead and there was no one to do them just the way he did. He was individual. He was an important man. I’ve never gotten over his death. Often I think what wonderful carvings never came to birth because he died. How many jokes are missing from the world, and how many homing pigeons untouched by his hands. He shaped the world. He did things to the world. The world was bankrupted of ten million fine actions the night he passed on.

Ray Bradbury was only 33 when he published that standard for a life well lived. Over the next six decades, he lived up to it.

Novelist.  Poet. Visionary.  America's best-loved science fiction writer was also a kindly mentor

I have a letter from Bradbury written on the day he returned, by sea, to America from Paris. It was in response to a batch of my students’ work which I had sent him. He wrote:

Thanks for your kind letter and all the enclosed material from your warm bright students. I deeply appreciate having all these to read and sat down on my return from France this day Sunday, July 28th, to read and enjoy every one. Bless you all. What a fine gift to receive on my Homecoming! I send you my love and the best hope for all of your futures.

Yours with gratitude.

Ray Bradbury

Also appreciated the art work.

RB

 Raybradbury Books

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:11 PM | Permalink

May 6, 2012

"After hearing his sweet grandmother's last words, he decided against killing his aunt and called 911"

I can tell Barbara Denmark was a remarkable woman for the brave and loving way she faced her death.

'I love you': The last words from grandmother as grandson 'stabbed her to death in the bath because she made him come home early from party'

The last thing a dying Florida grandmother said to the 23-year-old grandson who stabbed her was 'I love you'.

Police say Christopher Chase Whaley of Lake Wales stabbed his grandmother Barbara Denmark more than 25 times after a heated argument.

Whaley, who had lived with his grandmother for five years, was charged with first degree murder for slashing Denmark in the tub.
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'Chris is angry because he's been forced to come home and couldn't stay with his new best friends and party so he decides, 'I'll just kill grandmother. Not only her but I'll kill my aunt,'' said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd to Tampa Bay Online.

After hearing his sweet grandmother's last words, he decided against killing his aunt and called 911.

'Come get me,' he said to the dispatcher, according to police reports.

Emergency responders found Whaley inside the mobile home, leaning over his grandmother and cradling her head.

'The family is distraught in all ways that can be imagined,' David Alexander, Ms Denmark's nephew, said.

He called her death a 'tragedy.'

'Her whole life was children - she always took care of them, no matter what,' Mr Alexander said.

Condolences to all her family.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:13 PM | Permalink

April 28, 2012

" The obituary can be a powerful device to educate us about history, culture or simply the way the world once was."

Obituaries as an educational tool by Cory Franklin

Journalist and humorist Russell Baker once reminded us that the obituary can be a powerful device to educate us about history, culture or simply the way the world once was. The way we lived then, how we live now and in the future have all been affected by people who make one final appearance in an obit.

Two of the last main characters in the Watergate scandal recently died within a month of each other. The first, Henry Ruth, was a special prosecutor for the Watergate investigation and helped prepare charges that ultimately led to President Richard Nixon's 1974 resignation. The second was Charles Colson, a Nixon aide who served seven months in prison for obstruction of justice.

With the median age in the United States now 37, a majority of Americans have no practical memory of these two men or of the "third-rate burglary" that morphed into a genuine threat to our nation. Today, most students' knowledge of Watergate comes from our current crop of history books, many of which are poorly written, or from the Internet, rife with political bias from the right and left. How frequently do we hear Democrats, Republicans and journalists resort to specious Watergate analogies, as if any recent political scandal equaled its gravity?

Baker noted the vacuum created by death was not simply historical, but also cultural. He wrote: "The older one becomes, the more aware he grows of his culture collapsing and another culture, increasingly alien to his own, replacing it. … As youth turns to middle age, and middle age into grayness and failing vision, the cultural collapse accelerates. It becomes routine to arrive at the obituaries and find another part of your past has been moved out during the night."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:02 PM | Permalink

April 24, 2012

Chuck Colson, A Man Redeemed R.I.P.

I remember hating Colson when he worked for Nixon.  His famous quote, "If you grab them by the balls, the hearts and minds will follow" seemed to summarize his politics first learned in Massachusetts.  I distrusted his seemingly too easy conversion.  But in the years that followed his conversion, my admiration for his work grew the more I learned about it.
His life began again with his conversion and he to me is the perfect example of a life redeemed by grace.

The Denver Post Chuck Colson, political saboteur for President Nixon, dies at 80.

The New York Times, Charles W. Colson, Watergate Felon Who Became Evangelical Leader Dies at 80

Charles W. Colson, who as a political saboteur for President Richard M. Nixon masterminded some of the dirty tricks that led to the president’s downfall, then emerged from prison to become an important evangelical leader, saying he had been “born again,” died on Saturday in Falls Church, Va. He was 80.
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In 1956, Mr. Colson went to Washington as an administrative assistant to Senator Leverett Saltonstall, a Massachusetts Republican. He met Nixon, who was then vice president, and became, in his words, a lifelong “Nixon fanatic.” The two men “understood each other,” Mr. Colson wrote in “Born Again,” his memoir. They were “prideful men seeking that most elusive goal of all — acceptance and the respect of those who had spurned us.”
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A sympathetic biography, “Charles W. Colson: A Life Redeemed” (2005), by Jonathan Aitken, depicts him in these years as a hard-drinking, chain-smoking, amoral man with three young children — Wendell Ball II, Christian and Emily Ann — and a failing marriage. He divorced his first wife and married Patricia Ann Hughes in 1964.

 Chuck Colson

On Chuck Colson:Can Reports See Past Watergate?

It’s pretty interesting to read the obituaries of Charles Colson by those who were alive during Watergate and those who weren’t. It’s clear that some reporters are stuck in the 1970s, apparently unaware of how the state of evangelicalism was shaped by Colson’s complex life and legacy.
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Part of what seems to complicate the media’s relationship might be that the Washington Post’s Woodward and Bernstein are the real heroes for journalists coming out of Watergate. Someone like Colson, who had a conversion experience and spent time in jail, does not fit the narrative of who was on right side at that time

Chuck Colson found freedom in prison writes Michael Gerson

Following Chuck’s recent death, the news media — with short attention spans but long memories — have focused on the Watergate portion of his career. They preserve the image of a public figure at the moment when the public glare was harshest — a picture taken when the flash bulbs popped in 1974.
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Many wondered at Chuck’s sudden conversion to Christianity. He seemed to wonder at it himself. He spent each day that followed, for nearly 40 years, dazzled by his own implausible redemption. It is the reason he never hedged or hesitated in describing his relationship with Jesus Christ. Chuck was possessed, not by some cause, but by someone.
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It is the central paradox of Christianity that fulfillment starts in emptiness, that streams emerge in the desert, that freedom can be found in a prison cell. Chuck’s swift journey from the White House to a penitentiary ended a life of accomplishment — only to begin a life of significance.

From Watergate to Redemption

After Chuck Colson passed away on Saturday, obituaries naturally remembered him first and foremost as the lawyer and Watergate conspirator who went to jail for obstructing justice.  They also noted that, while in prison, he found Christ and dedicated himself to prison ministries.  Alas, the mainstream media can be so dismissive of faith that many saw him only as a political warrior of the religious right, instead of a man who lived his faith and bridged the chasm between parties with his message of forgiveness and redemption.
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Colson took literally Christ’s command to visit and comfort those in prison, a ministry that middle-class congregations had previously ignored.  He got prisons to set aside wings or buildings for inmates who wanted to live in a structured, faith-based environment.  He got congregations to see it as part of their mission to partner with prisons and individual inmates, leading prison programming aimed at turning men’s lives around.  Most of all, he got law-abiding citizens on the outside to encounter inmates, face to face, not as nameless, faceless threats but as their brothers to be redeemed.
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Concern for prisoners used to be the exclusive province of the left and the whipping boy of the right.  By the end of his life, Colson had laid the foundation for the left and religious right to come together to endorse restorative punishment followed by forgiveness.  He brought Christian forgiveness and mercy into discussions of criminal justice, helping to break the ratchet that inexorably jacked up sentences and permanently exiled wrongdoers irrespective of need or public safety.

Symposium on Colson's Life and Legacy

Charlotte Allen
Charles Colson’s 35-year career as an unabashed Christian and evangelizer to prisoners won my profound respect. He combined compassion for the incarcerated with a refreshing lack of sentimentality, and he refused to blame “society” for the self-destructive habits that landed criminals behind bars. Colson also had to take a lot of guff from the mainstream media over his supposedly opportunistic conversion in 1973, and he bore that with admirable patience and charity.

William Bennett
It may not be possible to count the ways mean-spirited liberals hated Chuck Colson. His muscular Christianity was one. His fortitude on behalf of “the least of these” made him a true servant-leader. He used his strength and conviction to speak out and work in behalf of the weak and defenseless outside prison and the stunted souls inside prison.

Michael Cromartie
My very first job out of college was working for Chuck Colson. He had just been released from prison and was starting a prison ministry. I was his first “research assistant/travel companion.” Chuck had been humbled and broken by his experience in prison and vowed when he left never to forget those he left behind. And he did not. Despite job offers that would have paid him seven figures after prison, he turned them all down to start Prison Fellowship Ministries.

Chuck Colson and Second Chances

Still, for nearly four full post-Watergate decades, Colson, who died this past Saturday at age 80, steadfastly practiced what he preached about prisons, prisoners and penal reform. Where criminal justice was concerned, he was God's good man, not Nixon's bad man. He gave his ministry most of his adult life and almost all of his money, including royalties on about two dozen books, speakers' fees, and the $1 million Templeton Prize for spiritual endeavors that he won in 1993. While maintaining his Break Point radio show, he worked endless hours raising the tens of millions of dollars a year that supported the ministry's operations.

In the 2000s alone, Colson's Prison Fellowship mobilized more than 10,000 volunteers to work in 1,329 prisons from coast to coast and also mustered nearly 15,000 volunteers each year to purchase Christmas gifts for more than 350,000 children of prisoners. Recognizing that about 700,000 prisoners are released each year, the Colson ministry created eight InnerChange Freedom Initiative prisoner re-entry programs across five states, and found jobs for about 60% of all IFI parolees.

But Colson's most consequential criminal-justice legacy is still in the making. He nearly single-handedly put America on a bipartisan path to zero prison growth. With another born-again ex-prisoner, former California state legislator Pat Nolan, he led the charge against states' mandatory-minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders and for the federal government's Second Chance Act, which gives grants to nonprofit organizations that help ex-prisoners find jobs, get drug treatment, and reconnect with loved ones.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:40 PM | Permalink

April 22, 2012

Levon Helm, R.I.P.

 Theband Woodstockny-1
The Band, Woodstock, N.Y.  From left, Richard Danko, Levon Helm, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson and Robbie Robertson

Levon Helm, Drummer and Rough-Throated Singer for the Band, Dies at 71

Levon Helm, who helped to forge a deep-rooted American music as the drummer and singer for the Band, died on Thursday in Manhattan. He was 71 and lived in Woodstock, N.Y.
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In Mr. Helm’s drumming, muscle, swing, economy and finesse were inseparably merged. His voice held the bluesy, weathered and resilient essence of his Arkansas upbringing in the Mississippi Delta.

Mr. Helm was the American linchpin of the otherwise Canadian group that became Bob Dylan’s backup band and then the Band. Its own songs, largely written by the Band’s guitarist, Jaime Robbie Robertson, and pianist, Richard Manuel, spring from roadhouse, church, backwoods, river and farm; they are rock-ribbed with history and tradition yet hauntingly surreal.

After the Band broke up in 1976, Mr. Helm continued to perform at every opportunity, working with a partly reunited Band and leading his own groups. He also acted in films, notably “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (1980). In the 2000s he became a roots-music patriarch, turning his barn in Woodstock — which had been a recording studio since 1975 — into the home of down-home, eclectic concerts called Midnight Rambles, which led to tours and Grammy-winning albums.
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Mark Lavon Helm was born on May 26, 1940, in Elaine, Ark., the son of a cotton farmer with land near Turkey Scratch, Ark. In his 1993 autobiography, “This Wheel’s on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of the Band,“ written with Stephen Davis, Mr. Helm said he was part Chickasaw Indian through his paternal grandmother. He grew up hearing live bluegrass, Delta blues, country and the beginnings of rock ’n’ roll; Memphis was just across the river.
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His voice strengthened, and the core of his Midnight Ramble bands became a touring and recording group; it performed in 2009 at the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival on its site in Bethel, N.Y., although Mr. Helm was unable to sing that night. Mr. Helm’s 2007 and 2009 studio albums, “Dirt Farmer” and “Electric Dirt,” won Grammy Awards, as did his 2011 “Ramble at the Ryman,” recorded live in Nashville and broadcast on PBS.

Nearly to the end, Mr. Helm spent his life on the bandstand. “If it doesn’t come from your heart,” he wrote, “music just doesn’t work.”

A wonderful video appreciation from the Wall St Journal's Jim Fusilli

 

London Telegraph obit

Regarded as one of rock’s greatest drumming polymaths — he also played mandolin, rhythm guitar and bass — Helm laid down a warm, dry “thuddy tom-tom” beat that drove The Band’s rootsy sound. With their stories of medicine shows and moonshine, many of his songs recalled his Deep South upbringing, notably The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and Up on Cripple Creek.

 Levon Helm 2011-1

Chicago Tribune obit

Levon Helm was the rarest of musical multi-taskers: an unflappable drummer and a singer who wrung soul out of every note. He also was a terrific team player and bandmate; he made the people around him sound good.

Helm was "the only drummer who could make you cry," critic Jon Carroll once wrote.

"It's nearly impossible to sing so smoothly and hit that hard at the same time," singer Neko Case wrote on Twitter this week.

In the Atlantic, Jack Hamilton says Levon Helm Was Perfect

Levon Helm, who died Thursday at age 71, might have been the greatest drummer to ever play rock and roll, a player of such boundless musicality and invention that his kit seemed to build and rebuild whole worlds. He was born in Marvell, Arkansas in 1940 and displayed astonishing talent from a young age. Upon graduating high school he joined the Hawks, a band fronted by rockabilly singer and fellow Arkansan Ronnie Hawkins. In 1959 Helm and Hawkins moved to Canada, and by the early 1960s had reassembled the Hawks with a collection of youngsters from southern Ontario: bassist Rick Danko, pianist Richard Manuel, organist Garth Hudson, and guitarist Robbie Robertson.

Gerard Vanderleun of the  American Digest appreciates the man who sang , 'Vergil Caine is the name and I served on the Danville Train.        Do not miss the first clip.

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:46 PM | Permalink

April 16, 2012

Getting an obituary published in The New York Times

Someone Dies. But That Is Only the Beginning.

THEY pour in by the dozens every day: reports of the dead from near and far. Daniel Slotnik, a news assistant, handles them, including the heartfelt pleas from family members hoping their departed loved one will be elevated to that special form of life after death: an obituary in The New York Times.
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as Mr. McDonald put it: “Death is just the news peg. It’s the lives that make it interesting.”
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Appreciating a life in the context of its own time is essential. It was Mr. Vitello who wrote the Iowa butter-cow lady obit. He noted it wasn’t just her quirky story that made Norma Lyon interesting. He saw her as a woman of her time (born in 1929), with an artistic bent but few career paths open. So she became the official sculptor, in butter, of cows — and once, of a diorama of the Last Supper — at the Iowa State Fair.

Then she lived on in the Times obituary archive, where resides a most unusual collection of the powerful and the brilliant and those who were saved by a writer’s touch.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:21 AM | Permalink

April 15, 2012

He enjoyed 'booze, guns, cars and younger women until the day he died'

What you can say if you write your own obituary and pay for it.

He enjoyed 'booze, guns, cars and younger women until the day he died': Unusual obituary becomes internet sensation

 Michael "Flathead" Blanchard

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:49 AM | Permalink

April 12, 2012

Artist of the Doll Hospital dies

Michael Leeden pens a wonderful tribute to Luigi Grassi, artist and manager of  Ospedale delle Bambole,  the Doll Hospital in Naples.

You never heard of Luigi “Gigi” Grassi, but he was a great man, a dear friend, and an indispensable guide for me, and I must honor and mourn him here.  I dedicated my study of Neapolitan creativity to him and his daughter, Tiziana, the artists who have managed the legendary “Doll Hospital” in the heart of Naples.  Tiziana called a couple of hours ago, with the sad news that Gigi has passed away.
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The Ospedale was founded by Luigi’s grandfather–also Luigi–in 1800.  Grandpa was a set designer for a famous puppet theater in town, and he repaired some of the injured puppets, leaving them outside his shop to dry.  One day a woman passed by and said “wow, it looks like a doll hospital,” and that was that.

The Ospedale is located on one of Naples’ most famous streets, known as “Spaccanapoli” (shatter Naples) because it runs in an absolutely straight line (the Romans did it, natch) through the center of town.  It’s a couple of blocks from the street where the locals create and sell creche figures at Christmastime, everything from the participants in the Nativity to contemporary politicians, a true artisans’ quarter, with baroque palaces and churches mixed in.  And Gigi was one of the most beloved characters.

 Luigi Grassi Doll Hospital

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:12 PM | Permalink

April 4, 2012

'This is a dignified end before I have to start scrounging food from the trash'

'This is a dignified end before I have to start scrounging food from the trash': Desperate man, 77, shoots himself dead outside Greek parliament during rush hour.

A cash-strapped Greek pensioner shot and killed himself outside parliament in Athens today after saying he refused to scrounge for food in the rubbish.

The public suicide by the 77-year-old retired pharmacist quickly triggered an outpouring of sympathy in a country where one in five is jobless and a sense of national humiliation has accompanied successive rounds of salary and pension cuts.

After becoming desperate at his financial plight, the Greek pensioner is said to have put a handgun to his head in the busy central Athens square before declaring, 'So I won't leave debts for my children', and pulling the trigger.

 Greek Age77 Suicide

How terribly sad.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:00 PM | Permalink

March 20, 2012

"I'm just going outside. I may be some time."

You don't want to miss 16 Manly Last Words over at The Art of Manliness complete with wonderful posters.

 Captain Lawrence Oates

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:44 PM | Permalink

March 14, 2012

"I love you too and I'll try to make you happy"

I love you and I'll try to do I can to make you happy’: Heartbreaking final text message of car crash victim

A boyfriend has published the heartbreaking final texts between him and his girlfriend before she died as she used her cell phone at the wheel of her car.

Emy Brochu, 20, was killed on January 18 when her car plunged into the back of a tractor-trailer as it merged with traffic near Victoriaville, Quebec on January 18.

Her boyfriend, Mathieu Fortin set up a Facebook page in memory of his girlfriend, whom he called 'BB' and to warn others of the dangers of using a cell while driving.

 Emily Brochu Last Words Texting

May she rest in peace.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:35 AM | Permalink

The last words of a 14-year-old girl

Young teen-age girls don't have the wherewithall to fight back against bullies on their own.  The story of Eden Wormer tells the sad tale of a young girl so ashamed of being bullied that she begged her sister not to tell anyone about what she was suffering at the hands of her eighth grade classmates.

 !4-Year-Old Girl Suicide Bullying

'I love you Daddy, goodnight': Last words of tragic schoolgirl, 14, who hanged herself after enduring 'two years of relentless bullying' by her classmates

The bullying allegedly began when Eden was in the sixth grade, becoming more intense last year, and eventually tipping her over the edge.

‘Halfway through the seventh grade was when it started to get really bad,’ Audri told KATU News.

‘The bullying just kept getting worse, and I kept telling her I’m going to do something, I’m going to do something, and I should have done something.


'I should have just not listened to her. I should have done something, because maybe she would have been here. I just want her back.’

Audri recalled Eden's final words: 'She said, "I love you daddy, goodnight," and gave him a kiss and hug, and then the next morning he found her dead.'

How very sad for her sister, her brother, her father  May she rest in peace. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:21 AM | Permalink

March 12, 2012

China's TV Hit: The Execution Factor

The Execution Factor: It was designed as propaganda to deter would-be criminals. Instead interviews on death row have become China's new TV hit

With her silk scarves and immaculate make-up, Ding Yu looks every inch the modern television presenter. Indeed, for the past five years she has hosted a hugely successful prime-time show in China which has a devoted following of 40 million viewers every Saturday night.

But while in Britain the weekend evening entertainment will be The X Factor or Strictly Come Dancing, Ms Ding’s show features harrowing – some would say voyeuristic – footage of prisoners confessing their crimes and begging forgiveness before being led away to their executions.

The scenes are recorded sometimes minutes before the prisoners are put to death, or in other cases when only days of their life remain.

The glamorous Ms Ding conducts face-to-face interviews with the prisoners, who have often committed especially gruesome crimes. Her subjects sit in handcuffs and leg chains, guarded by warders. She warms up with anodyne questions about favourite films or music, but then hectors the prisoners about the violent details of their crimes and eventually wrings apologies out of them.

She promises to relay final messages to family members, who are usually not allowed to visit them on death row. The cameras keep rolling as the condemned say a farewell message and are led away to be killed by firing squad or lethal injection.
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Officials in the ruling Communist Party regard the series as a propaganda tool to warn citizens of the  consequences of crime.
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The series has made a household name of Ms Ding, who is married and has a young son. She is often recognised in the street while doing her shopping with her family.

Denying her show is exploitative, she said: ‘Some viewers might consider it cruel to ask a criminal to do an interview when they are about to be executed. On the contrary, they want to be heard.
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Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:15 AM | Permalink

March 5, 2012

'Driving and facebooking is not safe! Haha'

How sad that this pretty young girl is now dead and  her last words a text, which undoubtedly caused her death.

 Taylor Sauer Killed Texting

'Driving and facebooking is not safe! Haha': Chilling last text sent by teenage driver seconds before she died in 80mph horror crash

Taylor Sauer, a teenager who was texting every 90 seconds during her four hour commute from Utah State University to her parents’ home on January 14, made a fatal mistake while behind the wheel.

Her prolific last text was ‘Driving and facebooking is not safe! Haha.’ Seconds later, she slammed into a tanker truck at 80mph.

Now, Ms Sauer’s grieving parents are hoping to use their daughter’s tragic story as a way to change driving laws, and make texting while driving in Idaho illegal.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:31 PM | Permalink

March 3, 2012

James Q Wilson, R.I.P.

James Q Wilson, co-author of "Broken Windows' policing theory, dies at  80. Washington Post obituary.

Political scientist James Q. Wilson, whose “broken windows” theory on crime-fighting helped trigger a nationwide move toward community policing, died Friday at a Boston hospital. He was 80....We was being treated for leukemia.

Wilson wrote or co-authored more than a dozen books on various topics, but his study of police work and the importance of quickly attacking even small signs of disorder have resonated for decades. He was a distinguished scholar in Boston College’s political science department at the time of his death.
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Co-author George Kelling said... the article instantly resonated with law enforcement and also caught the general public’s attention because the “broken windows” metaphor was so effective.

“That was pure Wilson,” said Kelling, now a fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. “The thing about a metaphor is it takes a complex thing and simplifies it and makes it readily graspable.”
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“Window-breaking does not necessarily occur on a large scale because some areas are inhabited by determined window-breakers whereas others are populated by window-lovers; rather, one unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing,” they wrote.

 James-Q-Wilson

Peter Wehner on His Moral Sense

With the death of James Q. Wilson earlier today, America has lost a towering intellectual figure. The mind reels when thinking about the issues Professor Wilson wrote about with such precision, intelligence, originality, and elegance: crime and human nature;  drug legalization, science, and addiction; moral character; benevolence; free will; families and communities; race; business ethics and capitalism; American government; democracy and the Islamic world; and much more.

James Q. Wilson was not only America’s pre-eminent political and social scientist, he was one of our leading moral philosophers. There was no subject, it seemed, on which he couldn’t deepen our understanding.
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He was a man who deeply loved his country. In reading his books and essays over the years, it seemed to me that what animated him most of all was a commitment to citizenship, virtue, and the moral good. He believed in our capacity to improve, even if imperfectly, the human condition.

And he understood as only a few others have that the task of civilization is to educate the hearts and minds of the young; to shape, in the right way, the habits of the heart.

He ends with this wonderful quote from the professor's book on The Moral Sense

Mankind’s moral sense is not a strong beacon light, radiating outward to illuminate in sharp outline all that it touches. It is, rather, a small candle flame, casting vague and multiple shadows, flickering and sputtering in the strong winds of power and passion, greed and ideology. But brought close to the heart and cupped in one’s hands, it dispels the darkness and warms the soul.

Arthur Brooks on Wilson, Social Science with a Soul

Arguably, no social scientist had more influence over American public policy, on topics ranging from deregulation to welfare reform. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush and advised five decades of American presidents. Pat Moynihan once reportedly told Richard Nixon (who was known for his disdain for intellectuals), "Mr. President, James Q. Wilson is the smartest man in the United States. The president of the United States should pay attention to what he has to say."
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Life for Wilson was like a roadside curio shop, full of hidden and unrecognized intellectual treasures.
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Many authors over the decades have demonstrated the self-evident truth that without a healthy moral culture, a democratic capitalist society cannot survive. But Wilson showed—not with vague philosophy but with natural experiments and data analysis—that the moral sense is so much more than just what we need to prosper. It is the rhythm of our human flourishing. Wilson understood that the moral sense is what statist regimes crowd out with technocratic socialism—and why they ultimately deliver unhappiness. The moral sense is the reason freedom and individual responsibility give us the best chance at a meaningful life.

Boston Globe obit

James Q. Wilson, a political scientist who coauthored the influential “Broken Windows” article in The Atlantic Monthly in 1982, which became a touchstone for the move toward community policing in Boston and cities across the country, died early this morning in Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
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Dr. Wilson, who was 80 and lived North Andover, returned to Boston a few years ago to become the first senior fellow at the Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy at Boston College, and a distinguished scholar in the college’s political science department.
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He told the Wall Street Journal that he and his wife, Roberta, moved back to New England to be closer to their children and grandchildren, joking that his descendants “feel a legal obligation to live within 30 minutes of Fenway Park.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:37 AM | Permalink

March 1, 2012

Andrew Breitbart RIP

Andrew Breitbart's death at 43 shocked everyone this morning.  Apparently he collapsed while taking a walk near his home.

 Andrew Bretibart

On his websites, Big Hollywood, Big Journalism, Big Government and Big Peace appeared this notice

Andrew passed away unexpectedly from natural causes shortly after midnight this morning in Los Angeles.

"We have lost a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a dear friend, a patriot and a happy warrior," the post said. "Andrew lived boldly, so that we more timid souls would dare to live freely and fully, and fight for the fragile liberty he showed us how to love."

And then they quote Andrew himself

I love my job. I love fighting for what I believe in. I love having fun while doing it. I love reporting stories that the Complex refuses to report. I love fighting back, I love finding allies, and—famously—I enjoy making enemies.

Three years ago, I was mostly a behind-the-scenes guy who linked to stuff on a very popular website. I always wondered what it would be like to enter the public realm to fight for what I believe in. I’ve lost friends, perhaps dozens. But I’ve gained hundreds, thousands—who knows?—of allies. At the end of the day, I can look at myself in the mirror, and I sleep very well at night.

Matt Drudge in a personal note on the Drudge Report

DEAR READER: In the first decade of the DRUDGEREPORT Andrew Breitbart was a constant source of energy, passion and commitment. We shared a love of headlines, a love of the news, an excitement about what's happening. I don't think there was a single day during that time when we did not flash each other or laugh with each other, or challenge each other. I still see him in my mind's eye in Venice Beach, the sunny day I met him. He was in his mid 20's. It was all there. He had a wonderful, loving family and we all feel great sadness for them today.

What Andrew Breitbart meant to politics in The Washington Post

Based in the liberal enclave of Los Angeles, Breitbart viewed himself as a one-man conservative gang and he took to the task of delivering rhetorical body blows — primarily via the web but also through television appearances — with a gusto rarely seen even in these hyperpartisan times.

“There was no stopping Andrew Breitbart from fighting the good fight with every fiber of his soul,” said Michigan Rep. Thad McCotter
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His biggest coup came in 2011 when he was at the center of a controversy regarding lewd pictures that New York Rep. Anthony Weiner had taken of himself and sent to a number of women who were not his wife.

Weiner initially denied that the photos — of his underwear-clad groin — were of him but Breitbart was dogged. On NBC’s “Today” show, he insisted he had more x-rated pictures of Weiner and threatened to release them if the New York Democrat attempted to get back at him for breaking the story.

And, in a final indignity to Weiner, Breitbart hijacked the Democrat’s press conference to demand that Weiner tell the whole truth. It was a surreal moment — the sort of truth is stranger than fiction stuff that makes politics fun to cover. And it was vintage Breitbart.
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Breitbart also understood before many others that the world of politics — and the way in which it was covered — was rapidly transforming itself into a form of entertainment for the public.

Ed Morrissey , Andrew Breitbart, "Our merry prankster"

He was willing to take risks and look foolish in order to make a point or win an argument, with more courage than most would muster.  No one who saw it will ever forget how he seized the podium at Anthony Weiner's press conference and demanded vindication from media outlets who had been disparaging him and defending Weiner when the former Congressman got caught literally with his pants down.  Few men have had the kind of impact Andrew did in such a short time, and he leaves behind a media empire that is still gaining strength.

Greg Gutfield

He was the spiritual leader of the modern conservative, libertarian cause. He was immersed in pop culture and wished to drag the right into the modern world - knowing this is how America speaks to the world. He was the heart of the matter. The fighter. Losing him is like a fiery planet going dark.

Breitbart's Unfinished Quest for a Punk Rock Republican in the Atlantic Wire

John Podhoretz in Commentary

Andrew Breitbart was a revolutionary, and I mean that almost literally. He was one of the few people who seemed to understand in his marrow the transformation of the way we would get and understand news and politics—and how that transformation would undercut the ideological narrowness that was the dominating condition of the media in the second half of the 20th century. And he helped bring about that transformation.

He was also my dear friend—garrulous, cheerful, raging, enthusiastic, hysterical, joyful, frenetic, passionate, untamed, smart, personally modest, technologically ambitious, weirdly visionary, compulsively pugnacious, monomaniacal—hard to take at times, and impossible not to love at all times.

Jonah Goldberg

Andrew left there (Drudge Report  and went on to hugely exciting things. He founded Big Hollywood and Big Government and BreitbartTV and I’ve lost track of what else. He picked fights for fun and profit, but most of all for patriotism and an honorable sense of indignation at the hubris and hypocrisy of the mainstream media and the Left. We didn’t agree on everything and we differed on style. Hell, everyone differed with Andrew when it came to style.

Matt Welch Farewell to a Friend

Before talking about that "go out and create our media" part, which will be Breitbart's true legacy, I would like to stress here that Andrew's broader point about media bias, while always hyperbolic, was also based on something broadly true.
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But as Nick Gillespie mentioned this morning, Breitbart's real accomplishment was his innovative, hyper-kinetic 21st-century media creation. Who else could say they helped make both The Drudge Report and The Huffington Post what they are today? Operating with budgets the fraction of daily newspapers you will never hear of, Breitbart consistently and gleefully produced about the highest impact-per-dollar political muckraking in the mediasphere.
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A totally doting husband and father of four, and typing those words is kind of devastating me right now. RIP, Andrew, and my heart goes out to Susie and the kids.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:04 PM | Permalink

February 24, 2012

‘She is survived by her daughter who betrayed her trust and son who broke her heart’

Obituary of 94-year-old woman goes viral

When 93-year-old Josie Annello died at home, her son put a obituary in the local paper, alongside a happy, smiling photo of his mother.

Describing her as supportive and compassionate,Tampa Tribune readers thought it seemed like a loving public tribute, until they reached the third line, which read:

'She is survived by her Son, 'A.J.', who loved and cared for her; Daughter 'Ninfa', who betrayed her trust, and Son 'Peter', who broke her heart.'

The death notice, published on February 14, publicly revealed an ugly spat between Angelo 'A.J.' Anello, who wrote and placed the obituary, and his brother and sister.

Copies of the obituary have spread across the internet, dividing opinion between those who think Mr Anello was disrespectful and others who think he was 'just telling the truth.'

 Obituary

Never do this. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:10 PM | Permalink

February 20, 2012

"At 9, he settled a dispute with a pistol. At 13, he lit out for the Amazon jungle. At 20, he attempted suicide-by-jaguar."

New York Times obituary by Marglit Fox

He crossed the Atlantic because it was there, and the Pacific because it was also there.

He made both crossings in a rowboat because it, too, was there, and because the lure of sea, spray and sinew, and the history-making chance to traverse two oceans without steam or sail, proved irresistible.

In 1969, after six months alone on the Atlantic battling storms, sharks and encroaching madness, John Fairfax, who died this month at 74, became the first lone oarsman in recorded history to traverse any ocean.

In 1972, he and his girlfriend, Sylvia Cook, sharing a boat, became the first people to row across the Pacific, a yearlong ordeal during which their craft was thought lost. (The couple survived the voyage, and so, for quite some time, did their romance.
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For all its bravura, Mr. Fairfax’s seafaring almost pales beside his earlier ventures. Footloose and handsome, he was a flesh-and-blood character out of Graham Greene, with more than a dash of Hemingway and Ian Fleming shaken in.

At 9, he settled a dispute with a pistol. At 13, he lit out for the Amazon jungle.

At 20, he attempted suicide-by-jaguar
. Afterward he was apprenticed to a pirate. To please his mother, who did not take kindly to his being a pirate, he briefly managed a mink farm, one of the few truly dull entries on his otherwise crackling résumé, which lately included a career as a professional gambler.
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He later studied literature and philosophy at a university in Buenos Aires and at 20, despondent over a failed love affair, resolved to kill himself by letting a jaguar attack him. When the planned confrontation ensued, however, reason prevailed — as did the gun he had with him.

In Panama, he met a pirate, applied for a job as a pirate’s apprentice and was taken on. He spent three years smuggling guns, liquor and cigarettes around the world, becoming captain of one of his boss’s boats, work that gave him superb navigational skills.

 John Fairfax Rowboat

John Fairfax, obituary London Telegraph

John Fairfax, who has died aged 74, was a British adventurer in the classic mould, and achieved celebrity in 1969 as the first person to row solo across the Atlantic.

Fairfax had already led a colourful existence as a smuggler in Panama when he decided to realise his ambition of rowing the Atlantic, conceived 15 years earlier when he had read in Reader’s Digest an account of two Norwegians, George Harbo and Frank Samuelsen, who in 1896 had become the first to cross the ocean in a small boat with only oars for propulsion. No one, however, had done it solo.

But Fairfax needed financial backing, and in the summer of 1966 he came to London to find sponsors. To get fit, every day he ran two miles, did two hours of swimming and weightlifting at the YMCA, and three or four hours’ rowing on the Serpentine in Hyde Park. When asked why he was doing it, Fairfax — who, under the “Occupation” field in his passport, described himself as “Adventurer” — would reply: “Because almost anybody with a little bit of know-how can sail. I’m after a battle with nature, primitive and raw.”
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Fairfax had several encounters with sharks. Once a dusky shark rammed his boat, sending him sprawling on to the deck. Later, as he was swimming beneath Britannia scraping away the barnacles with a knife, he encountered a mako. With no time to get out of the water, Fairfax flattened himself against the boat and plunged his knife into the creature, which “pulled away from me, and, in doing so, ripped himself open from mouth to tail. I climbed into Britannia in record time. ”
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John Fairfax was born in Rome on May 21 1937 to a Bulgarian mother and an English father, who worked for the BBC in London. John would meet his father only once, when he came to London in the late Sixties, but the encounter was not a success. “We had money,” Fairfax later recalled of his childhood, “and I got everything I wanted. What I lacked was a father for an authority figure. It made me an opinionated little brat.”

Professional adventurer John Fairfax  dies at 74 in Las Vegas

His wife said: 'He was a man of unbelievable strength and courage and confidence in everything he did. He thought nature was a worthy challenge, and he loved nature.'

John Fairfax used two different custom-made boats on the ocean journeys and looked to the stars to help him navigate.

He survived by eating up to eight pounds of fish a day and had a system to convert ocean water into drinking water.

Mrs Fairfax said: 'On the Pacific, a shark took a big chunk of his arm out when he was spearing fish. There you are on the Pacific Ocean and there's no hospital, and you need to row. He was an amazing, amazing human being.'
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He also spoke five languages, was a talented chef and regularly played the card game baccarat at Las Vegas casinos, his wife said.

She added: 'He believed a human could accomplish anything if they had confidence. When he would get an idea in mind,

Ms Cook, 73, who lives near London, remained lifelong friends with Mr Fairfax.

She told the New York Times after his death: 'He's always been a gambler. He was going to the casino every night when I met him - it was craps in those days. And at the end of the day, adventures are a kind of gamble, aren't they?'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:00 PM | Permalink

February 18, 2012

Hitler's Son and How Stalin Became a Catholic

New claims emerge that Fuhrer had a son with Frenchwoman

Now new information has emerged that adds weight to Jean-Marie Loret’s claim to have been Hitler’s son from a brief relationship with a French woman during the First World War.

-Hitler + Jean-Marie Loret
Hitler on the left, Jean-Marie Loret on the right

Mr Loret, who was born in March, 1918, grew up knowing nothing about his father, apart from the fact that he was German.

It was only in the late 1950s, just before  her death, that his mother, Charlotte Lobjoie, finally told him the story that was to haunt him for the rest of his life. At 16, she told him, she had a brief affair with Hitler while he was a young soldier fighting in northern France.  Her extraordinary story has divided historians for years.
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Jean-Marie grew up to fight the Germans in 1939 and later, during the Nazi occupation, joined the French Resistance.
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The news of his father’s identity appalled him and for 20 years he tried to forget it.

He once said: ‘In order not to get depressed, I worked non-stop, never took a holiday, and had no hobbies. For twenty years I didn’t even go to the cinema.’

'He had the feelings of many illegitimate children – the desire to find a past, however heavy...'

How Stalin became a Catholic

Tolstoy once remarked that we die as we live and that we can’t expect to die a good death except through living a good life. A friend has just sent me the obituary of Svetlana Stalin, daughter of the dictator, who died peacefully at a nursing home in Wisconsin on November 22 2011. This obituary, from the Christmas issue of The Catholic, published by a small community of religious from the Orkney Islands, describes the turbulent and often sad life of this woman, whose mother was driven to suicide by her father when she was six and whose father later brutally rejected her when she married without his consent.

 Svetlana+Stalin

Married three times, giving birth to three children, two of whom she became permanently estranged from, she lived in Cambridge for some years. It was there, in 1982, “on a cold December day, the feast of St Lucy… the decision to enter the Catholic Church came to me very naturally”, as she writes in her memoirs.. This decision had been influenced by a long friendship/correspondence with an Italian Catholic priest and the support and kindness of a Catholic couple she had met in America.

Svetlana writes that after her conversion “Only now I understand the wonderful grace that the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist produce, no matter what day of the year, and even on a daily basis. Before, I was unwilling to forgive and repent, and I was never able to love my enemies. But I feel very different from before, since I attend Mass every day.
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The obituary includes Svetlana’s recollection of the death of Stalin himself. It seems he suffered a stroke on the night of February 28 1953. She writes, “The death agony was terrible. He literally choked to death as we watched. At what seemed the very last moment he suddenly opened his eyes and cast a glance over everyone in the room. It was a terrible glance, insane or perhaps angry and full of fear of death. Then he suddenly lifted his left hand. The gesture was incomprehensible and full of menace…”

New York Times obituary here

But she could not forgive his cruelty to her. “He broke my life,” she said. “I want to explain to you. He broke my life.” 

And he left a shadow from which she could never emerge. “Wherever I go,” she said, “here, or Switzerland, or India, or wherever. Australia. Some island. I will always be a political prisoner of my father’s name.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:50 AM | Permalink

February 15, 2012

Jefffrey Zaslow, R.I.P.

Remembrance of Jeffrey Zaslow, a lovely man whose column "Moving On'  in the Wall St Journal I very much enjoyed and often quoted.

 Jeffrey Zaslow

Life’s Frailty, and the Gestures That Go a Long Way by Tara Parker-Pope

I thought about our conversation this weekend when I learned the terrible news that Jeff had died in a car accident on snowy roads on his way to his Detroit-area home, returning from a book-signing event in northern Michigan. “The Girls From Ames” became a best seller, and remains my favorite among the books he wrote. But many people know Jeff as co-author of “The Last Lecture,” with the Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch, who delivered that now famous lecture after learning he had pancreatic cancer. 

Mr. Zaslow was also co-author of memoirs with Gabrielle Giffords, the congresswoman from Arizona who was recovering from a gunshot wound to the head, and Chesley B. Sullenberger III, the pilot who safely ditched a damaged airliner on the Hudson River in 2009. Despite the disparate subject matter, Mr. Zaslow noted that much of his writing centered on the theme of love, commitment and living in the moment.

“We don’t know what moment in our lives we’re going to be judged on; that’s true for all of us,” he said at a TED talk last year, explaining what he had learned from Captain Sullenberger. “We’ve got to be honorable, be moral; we’ve got to work our hardest.”

Despite his success as a memoir co-author, Jeff’s true labor of love was his latest book, “The Magic Room: A Story About the Love We Wish for Our Daughters.” Dedicated to his daughters, the book focused on a bridal shop in Fowler, Mich., as a way to tell a story of parents’ hopes and dreams.
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Jeff often said he honed his skills for listening and offering advice during a stint as an advice columnist, a role he won in a contest to replace Ann Landers.

Wall St Journal breaks the news of its columnist, Jeffrey Zaslow, 53 killed in a car crash.

Jeffrey Zaslow, a longtime Wall Street Journal writer and best-selling author with a rare gift for writing about love, loss, and other life passages with humor and empathy, died at age 53 on Friday of injuries suffered in a car crash in northern Michigan.
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He was twice named best columnist by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and in 2000 he received its Will Rogers Humanitarian Award.

In a statement Friday to the staff of the Journal, editor Robert Thomson said: "Jeff's writing, for the Journal and in his books, has been a source of inspiration for many people around the world and his journalistic life has been a source of inspiration for all journalists."
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More recently, he became one of America's best-selling nonfiction writers, known internationally for such books as "The Girls from Ames," the story of a 40-year friendship among 10 women, and "The Last Lecture," about Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon University computer-science professor who in 2007 was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given only a few months to live.

Chicago Sun Times obit

Jeffrey Zaslow — a former Chicago Sun-Times columnist who went on to sell millions of books with themes of compassion, inspiration and empathy — was killed Friday in a car crash in northern Michigan.

Mr. Zaslow teamed up with some of the country’s most inspirational people to help tell their stories, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and Randy Pausch, the subject of Zaslow’s huge hit The Last Lecture, which has been translated into 48 languages and sold more than five million copies in English.
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Mr. Zaslow, the father of three daughters, was killed in a crash near the northern Michigan town of Elmira at 9 a.m. Friday, according to FOX 2 Detroit, where his wife, Sherry Margolis, is an TV anchor.

Police said Mr. Zaslow lost control of his car and was hit by a semi-trailer truck on a snow-covered road. He had been in the area previously for a book-signing.
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“Jeff was just a bundle of energy,” said Sue Ontiveros, Sun-Times deputy features editor, who spent time as Zaslow’s editor. “He did so well with the column, and his subsequent books, because he was such a compassionate man who was interested in people. He was kind and funny and so humble about his talents. And oh, how he loved Sherry and their girls.”
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Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:40 PM | Permalink

February 7, 2012

'If I die, remember this was his idea'

Shocking video captures final moments of US teenagers killed while 'car surfing' at 70mph

A court has seen a dramatic video revealing the final moments of two teenagers who died while 'car surfing' before the SUV overturned and burst into flames.

Carlos Velazco and Hunter Perez, both 18, were clinging to the side of their 19-year-old friend Joshua Ritter’s speeding car in DeBary, Florida.

Emotional relatives watched the mobile phone clip in a Deland court. The two friends died while Ritter survived the incident last February.

One teenager is heard saying on the video: ‘If I died, remember this is Carlos's idea.’ Another voice on the tape says: ‘This is insane.’

Moments before the car overturned one of the boys his heard screaming:
’Whoa, Stop.’ The footage then goes blank.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:04 AM | Permalink

January 30, 2012

"Who are those people over there, laughing?” "Ah, that’s the obits desk.”

Visitors to newspaper offices have been known to inquire: “Who are those people over there, laughing?” only to receive the answer, “Ah, that’s the obits desk.”

The obituaries editor for the London Telegraph, Harry de Questteville writes about The Art of the Obituary .

We do laugh. And it is precisely because obituaries are about the juicy stuff of life that we do not usually mention the dry details about causes of death, unless they are strictly pertinent. When subjects have made a shockingly youthful departure, we will include a brief note to illuminate readers, who are naturally curious to learn what it was that killed a brilliant cellist, for example, just as she was reaching her prime.
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Similarly, it is rare for us to reflect on funeral arrangements, although there are exceptions. It may be fitting to note that a Spitfire will fly over the church where a Battle of Britain fighter pilot is being buried, or that the proprietor of a famous haunt for sozzled actors has asked for mourners to come to his funeral in costume and make up. Rob Buckman, the doctor who died last October after a career which was devoted to improving the way medics counsel the terminally ill, left instructions for a recording to be played at his own interment. It was to run: “Thank you so much for coming. Unlike the rest of you, I don’t have to get up in the morning.”
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It is a measure of his achievement that the obituaries page has become such a central feature of so many newspapers around the world. It may be immodest to say it, but I still think that those in the Telegraph are the best. That is because we cherish above all the Massingberd mantra: that in each life, no matter how it’s lived, there is cause for fascination and – often – delight. And that is not depressing, but supremely cheering.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:58 AM | Permalink

January 13, 2012

“She put herself between the evil coming up the mountain”

A Murder at Paradise

The next time somebody mindlessly bashes a “federal bureaucrat,” as if the term itself were a parasitic disease, remember the bright young woman we said goodbye to here a few days ago: Margaret Anderson, a park ranger in a flag-draped casket.
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 Npranger Margaret Anderson

On that first day of this year, an Iraq war veteran named Benjamin C. Barnes was steaming toward Paradise after a night of gunfire and partying. He blew past an initial stop where drivers were told to put chains on their tires. No one knows for sure what his intentions were, but it’s not unreasonable to speculate, as many in law enforcement have, that he might have fired on people enjoying the snow at Paradise.

Anderson was the daughter of a Lutheran minister, 34 years old, a mother of two little girls. She was the kind of park ranger familiar, by necessity, with flora, fauna and firearms. Just below Paradise, Anderson set up a road block.

“She put herself between the evil coming up the mountain,” said her father, the Rev. Paul Kritsch, “and the people at the other end.” The gunman opened fire on the ranger. At least two shots, one to Anderson’s head, the other to her torso, were enough to kill her. Barnes plunged into waist-deep snow. The next day he was found, dead of exposure and drowning, in the icy creek that drops quickly into a waterfall, the subject of countless pictures.
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“Margaret Anderson is a hero not because she died,” said Jon Jarvis, director of the Park Service, “but because of why she died.”

You could not help asking that question — the why — as the horse at the center of the funeral procession passed by on a winter day, boots reversed in the stirrups of an empty saddle, in the military tradition. On both sides of the street were cops and park rangers, hundreds of them from all over the West and Canada, uniforms crisp, faces downcast.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:29 AM | Permalink

January 6, 2012

The courage of Chesshire

In a terrific obituary from the Telegraph on the amazing life of John Chesshire who demonstrated courage throughout his life.

In March 1944 Chesshire, a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC), was serving as Medical Officer to 1st Battalion The South Staffordshire Regiment (1 SSR), part of 77th Indian Infantry Brigade. In the middle of the month the Brigade blocked the railway at Henu, northern Burma. Faced with this threat to their supply lines, the Japanese attacked and, on March 17, the regimental aid post manned by Chesshire and a colleague, Captain Thorne, was overrun.

The two officers continued to operate and tend the wounded until a counter-attack repelled the enemy. Days of heavy shelling followed, but Chesshire carried on with his work even though it meant standing in the open while others were able to take shelter. During the first two weeks of the month-long battle, he was senior MO to the Brigade. OOn at least five occasions shells landed close to his operating theatre.

The citation for his MC estimated that 500 men had passed through his hands during the campaign. It paid tribute to his tireless energy under dreadful conditions, which had saved many lives and provided a great boost to morale.

Chesshire Portrait

handsome devil too
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Chesshire subsequently returned to Knighton and became a hill-farmer, rearing Welsh ewes and Hereford cattle. During the lambing season he converted a large wooden crate into a shepherd’s hut, had it taken to the top of Stowe Hill and camped with just a primus stove for warmth.

When the missionary in him emerged once more, he set off for Borneo. On one occasion, on a trip into the jungle to attend someone who was ill, he experienced severe stomach pains. A self-diagnosis confirmed his fears. He had acute appendicitis and he was the only medical practitioner for many miles.

He did, however, have a medical orderly with him whom he instructed to set up a primitive operating table with a mirror over it. Chesshire then gave himself a large dose of local anaesthetic and, with the aid of the mirror, proceeded to guide the orderly through an operation to remove the appendix.
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He retired from farming in the late 1970s but continued to practise medicine and enjoyed fishing into old age. An accomplished fly fisherman, when his legs were not strong enough to support him, he would tie himself to a tree to avoid falling into the water. Geology was another absorbing interest and he achieved some striking results using boot polish to make paintings of rock formations.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:15 AM | Permalink

December 27, 2011

Final Tweets

It was bound to happen, someone collecting last tweets.  But who would have thought it would be the New York
Times in its annual The Lives They Lived feature?  None very interesting. 

#LastTweet

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:28 AM | Permalink

Oh wow

I thought of a story told by a friend, whose grown son had died, at home, in a hospice. The family was ringed around his bed. As Robert breathed his last an infant in the room let out a great baby laugh as if he saw something joyous, wonderful, and gestured toward the area above Robert's head. The infant's mother, startled, moved to shush him but my friend, her mother, said no, maybe he's just reacting to . . . something only babies see.

Peggy Noonan on the best thing said in 2011, "Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow,"  Steve Jobs' last words.

"Before embarking, he'd looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life's partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them. Steve's final words were: 'OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.'"

The caps are Simpson's, and if she meant to impart a sense of wonder and mystery she succeeded. "Oh wow" is not a bad way to express the bigness, power and force of life, and death. And of love, by which he was literally surrounded.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:04 AM | Permalink

November 7, 2011

Police official, father of 4 and Catholic monk and priest

Jim Murray, D.C. police force recruiter who later became a priest

Jim Murray, 85, who as a top civilian official in the D.C. police department led a minority recruitment drive that diversified the force after the rioting that followed the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., died Oct. 31 at St. Bede Academy, a monastery in Illinois .

Mr. Murray had lived there for more than two decades, since undergoing a spiritual awakening that led him to become a Benedictine monk and an ordained Roman Catholic priest. He had cancer, said his son, Matt Murray, a senior editor at the Wall Street Journal and the author of a 1999 memoir about his father, “The Father and the Son.
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he was credited with leaving a much larger department and with adding 842 black officers to the force.

The year after Mr. Murray left for a job with the U.S. Civil Service Commission, his wife died of breast cancer. He did his best to continue working and finish raising his children, but he spoke of feeling “a lack of depth” in his life, his son wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

The day after he retired in 1979, he began to attend Mass daily, a sign of a transformation in his approach to Catholicism. Among the signs of that change, his son wrote, were the tears that streamed down his face during the church service.

Always a reader, he exchanged his old books for works on the lives of saints. One by one, he sold his possessions, including his home in Bethesda, and began to live like a “suburban mendicant,” his son wrote.

In 1985, he moved to St. Bede, where he took the vows that made him first a monk and then a priest.

“I just abandoned myself to God,” he told his son.
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Survivors include four children, David Murray of St. Louis, Jonathan Murray of Shaker Heights, Ohio, Sarah Murray of Alameda, Calif., and Matt Murray of the Bronx; and four grandchildren.

In a telephone interview from the monastery weeks before his death, Mr. Murray said he saw a theme in his life. It ran from his boyhood to his personnel management work, and, finally, to his time at St. Bede. Abbot Philip Davey, the monastery’s leader, said more than 60 people regularly visited him there for spiritual guidance.

“I was a poor boy growing up,” said Mr. Murray, who was known as Father James. “People . . . looked right through, like you didn’t exist. I really vowed never to do that. I never treated people as if they didn’t exist.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:22 PM | Permalink

October 30, 2011

Last words of Steve Jobs, "Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow."

Mona Simpson gave the eulogy for her late brother Steve Jobs at his memorial service on October 16.

Sister reveals how Steve Jobs spent the final hours and his last, enigmatic words

In a touching eulogy about her late brother at his memorial service on October 16, Mona Simpson described the Apple founder's last hours and the enigmatic words he uttered before he died.

She told the group of mourners at the Memorial Church of Stanford University that Steve Jobs looked at his wife and children, then beyond them, before uttering: 'OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.'

 Steve Jobs Eulogy

Describing his death in the eulogy reprinted in the New York Times, she said: 'Steve’s final words were monosyllables, repeated three times.

'Before embarking, he’d looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them, before saying his final words.'
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She described in the eulogy how she waited her whole life for a man she could love and would love her in return. She thought she would find this man in her father or future husband - in fact, she found it in her brother.

 Mona Simpson

The father-of-four was a man who lived for his family and lived for love, she said, describing him as 'girl-like' when it came to matters of the heart.
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In the eulogy, she divided the Apple visionary's life into three chapters and spoke eloquently of the things she learned from him in those three distinct periods - his full life, his illness, his dying.
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Even when her brother was sick, 'his taste, his discrimination and his judgment held' and he went through 67 nurses before finding 'kindred spirits' in three he put all of his trust in until the end, according to his sister.

She described the time he was in a standard ICU unit and asked for a notepad, saying just this one time, he would like to be treated a little special.

She said: 'He sketched devices to hold an iPad in a hospital bed. He designed new fluid monitors and X-ray equipment. He redrew that not-quite-special-enough hospital unit.

The New York Times has the full text of the eulogy and it's a wonderful one.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:29 PM | Permalink

October 22, 2011

Chaotic end for a tyrant

The tyrant is dead.  If he weren't so murderous, he would be a laughable joke.

The Telegraph's obituary of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi

It was a suitably chaotic end for a man who could never be easily pigeonholed. Erratic, vain and utterly unpredictable, he always seemed to be enjoying a private joke which no one else could see. His image, plastered on walls all over Libya, seemed a parody of Sixties radical chic — the craggy features, longish hair, the eyes half-hidden behind retro blue-tone shades.

Gaddafi would arrive at summits of Arab leaders in a white limousine surrounded by a bodyguard of nubile Kalashnikov-toting brunettes. At one non-aligned summit in Belgrade, he turned up with two horses and six camels; the Yugoslavs allowed him to graze the camels in front of his hotel – where he pitched his tent and drank fresh camel milk – but refused to allow him to arrive at the conference on one of his white chargers. Several of the camels ended up in Belgrade zoo.

At an African Union summit in Durban in 2002, his entourage consisted of a personal jet, two Antonov transport aircraft, a container ship loaded with buses, goat carcases and prayer mats, a mobile hospital, jamming equipment that disrupted local networks, $6 million in petty cash, and 400 security guards with associated rocket launchers, armoured cars and other hardware, who nearly provoked a shoot-out with South Africa’s security forces.
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Meanwhile, state-controlled media elevated him to the status of demi-God. “His teeth are naturally immune to stain, so that when he releases a full-blown smile, the naturally white teeth discharge a radiation pregnant with sweet joy and real happiness for those lucky ones who are fortunate to be around him,” fawned the Al Zahf Al Akhdar newspaper.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:27 PM | Permalink

October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs, We shall not see his like again

Wired

The co-founder and, until last August, CEO of Apple Inc was the most celebrated person in technology and business on the planet. No one will take issue with the official Apple statement that “The world is immeasurably better because of Steve.”
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No one wants to die, even people who want to go to Heaven don’t want to die to get there,” he told the Stanford graduates. “And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent; it clears out the old to make way for the new … Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
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It seemed Jobs had come to terms with his fate. He would spend time with his family and do what he could at Apple.

 Steve Applepic

Apple

Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being.  Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor.  Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.


The Anchoress

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in
Reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving
how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel!
in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
world! the paragon of animals! and yet to me, what is
this quintessence of dust? — Hamlet, Act II, Scene II

Well, we are stardust, finally. And what a force has passed, like a comet, through our era!

#ThankYouSteve

New York Times obituary by John Markoff

In his early years at Apple, his meddling in tiny details maddened colleagues, and his criticism could be caustic and even humiliating. But he grew to elicit extraordinary loyalty.

“He was the most passionate leader one could hope for, a motivating force without parallel,” wrote Steven Levy
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Great products, he said, were a triumph of taste, of “trying to expose yourself to the best things humans have done and then trying to bring those things into what you are doing.”
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Mr. Jobs’s genius lay in his ability to simplify complex, highly engineered products, “to strip away the excess layers of business, design and innovation until only the simple, elegant reality remained.”
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Mr. Jobs’s own research and intuition, not focus groups, were his guide. When asked what market research went into the iPad, Mr. Jobs replied: “None. It’s not the consumers’ job to know what they want.”
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In a commencement address given at Stanford in 2005, he said he had decided to leave college because it was consuming all of his parents’ savings.  Leaving school, however, also freed his curiosity to follow his interests.
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If he had a motto, it may have come from “The Whole Earth Catalog,” which he said had deeply influenced him as a young man. The book, he said in his commencement address at Stanford in 2005, ends with the admonition Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”

“I have always wished that for myself,” he said.

Best round-up in The Daily Mail The man who changed the world: Apple founder Steve Jobs, 56, dies weeks after quitting as boss of firm he started in his garage

To see his legacy, look around you

Everywhere you look, you can see people playing games and talking on their iPhones, reading books on their iPads, and browsing the web on their MacBooks. But Jobs didn't want to make devices that were only fit for consuming content, he wanted to help people make it. What we can't see are the countless books, artworks, movies, websites, apps, and songs that were made on Apple products and have enriched the world.

 Thankyou Steve

How he met his wife Laurene

Steve first met Laurene after noticing her in the front row at one of his speeches at Stanford University. He asked her out to dinner that night.

"I was in the parking lot with the key in the car, and I thought to myself, 'If this is my last night on earth, would I rather spend it at a business meeting or with this woman?' I ran across the parking lot, asked her if she'd have dinner with me. She said yes, we walked into town and we've been together ever since."

His family's statement

Steve died peacefully today surrounded by his family.

'In his public life, Steve was known as a visionary; in his private life, he cherished his family. We are thankful to the many people who have shared their wishes and prayers during the last year of Steve's illness; a website will be provided for those who wish to offer tributes and memories.

'We are grateful for the support and kindness of those who share our feelings for Steve. We know many of you will mourn with us, and we ask that you respect our privacy during our time of grief.'

  Jobsandwifetwice

May he rest in peace and perpetual light shine upon him.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:42 PM | Permalink

October 5, 2011

The Great Legacy of Lee Davenport

MIT News obituary

Lee L. Davenport, who worked at MIT’s Radiation Laboratory during World War II and has been credited with helping to bring an end to the war, died of cancer on Sept. 30 at the Nathaniel Witherell Nursing Center. He was 95.

After the war, Davenport received his doctorate for his design for remote controling a missile over a radar beam without being taken over by an enemy, which was effectively the first guided missile and precursor of today's drones.
 Lee Davenport

Lee Davenport obituary in The Boston Globe

Lee Davenport, a physicist who developed a radar device that helped bring Allied victories on major World War II battlefronts in Europe and the Pacific, died Friday of cancer in Greenwich, Conn.  He was 95.

Dr. Davenport was working toward his PhD in physics at the University of Pittsburgh when he joined the secret Radiation Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in February 1941.  Bringing together leading scientists and financed by the federal government, the Rad Lab, as it came to be known, forged technology for America’s anticipated entry into the war.
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He oversaw the day-to-day work and the testing that created the SCR-584 (for Signal Corps Radio), a microwave radar device with a sophisticated scanning technique to track an enemy plane and a computer to adjust automatically the angle of antiaircraft guns to shoot it down.
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 Obit Davenport 605

Lee Davenport leaning against his invention an SCR-584

Dr. Davenport, meanwhile, had gone to England, where he waterproofed SCR-584 units for the D-day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

Soon after the landings, he went to France to oversee use of the SCR-584 there.

“They issued papers for me to be known as a captain in the Signal Corps,’’ he told The Greenwich Citizen, a weekly newspaper, last year. “I had all the dog tags and identification.’’ He said that if the Germans had captured him and known he was a civilian, he would have been “shot as a spy.’’

In mid-June 1944, the Germans began using pilotless aircraft known as buzz bombs, which crashed and exploded in London and surrounding areas.

Dr. Davenport returned to England to put his radar units into action against the barrage, only to find that some gun crews had not learned how to operate them.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:44 PM | Permalink

September 29, 2011

An engineer with heart

Wilson Greatbatch, the 'humble tinkerer' who invented the pacemaker, dies at 92

Wilson Greatbatch, who saved countless lives with his invention of the implantable cardiac pacemaker, has died at the age of 92.

 Wilson Greatbatch

A family spokesman confirmed that Mr Greatbatch died yesterday at the Oxford Village assisted living centre in Canterbury Woods, a suburb of Buffalo, New York state. His family was by his bedside, according to staff at the centre.

Referring to himself as a 'humble tinkerer', Mr Greatbatch was responsible for more than 320 inventions, and he received more than 150 patents. Throughout his life he researched heavily into plant-based fuels, invented tools used in AIDS research and a wide range of medical applications. He even invented a solar-powered canoe, which he took on a 160-mile voyage on the Finger Lakes in New York on his 72nd birthday.

But it is his invention of an implantable pacemaker, first used in humans in the U.S. in 1960, that he will be best remembered.

The American Heart Association says that more half a million pacemakers are now implanted every year.

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Mr Greatbatch served as a rear gunner on bombers in the U.S. Navy during the Second World War. As a chief petty officer, he also taught in the Navy's radar school - an extension of a childhood hobby of ham radio.

After the war Mr Greatbatch was trained as an electrical engineer at Cornell University and the University at Buffalo. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio, in 1988.

He lived with his wife of more than 60 years, Eleanor - the maker of his trademark bow ties - in an 1845 converted schoolhouse about 15 miles east of Buffalo. The couple had five children and had recently moved to their assisted-living residence. Mrs Greatbatch died in January at the age of 90.
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Despite his fame, fortune and undoubted contribution to science and medicine, Mr Greatbatch remained a humble man who believe that God had guided him through his greatest works.
In his memoir, The Making Of The Pacemaker, published in 2000, he said: 'To ask for a successful experiment, for professional stature, for financial reward or for peer approval, is asking to be paid for what should be an act of love.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:12 PM | Permalink

September 23, 2011

Dolores Hope, wife of comedian Bob Hope, dies at age of 102

Dolores Hope, the 'first lady of the USO' on her husband's tours of duty

They met and fell in love at the height of the Great depression in 1933. Marrying and moving to California to further her husband's film and radio career, she kept her hand in show business while her husband, Bob Hope, became legendary. Dolores Hope has died at the age of 102.
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Dolores Hope was active as a philanthropist and became known as the "first lady of the USO" as she helped entertain U.S. troops stationed overseas during wartime along with her husband. Dolores would usually close the shows with a rendition of "Silent Night." "They didn't come any more patriotic, caring or talented than Dolores," Carol Channing said. 
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 Dolores Hope

Dolores last USO show performance was at the age 84, when she sang "White Christmas" to Operation Desert Storm troops from the back of a truck in the Saudi desert.

Proving that it was never too late to pick up a career thread, Dolores restarted her singing career at the age of 83 by recording several albums. She also performed with Rosemary Clooney at Rainbow and Stars in New York for several weeks.

A native New Yorker, Dolores DeFina was a singer at Manhattan's Vogue Club when she met Bob Hope in 1933. It was "love at first song," the biography quotes Bob Hope as saying. The couple married the following year and adopted four children.

London Telegraph obit

 Dolores Bob Hope

Having put her own career behind her, she concentrated on creating a stable home life for Bob Hope, who was invariably away on tour, and often abroad. “When we were celebrating our 50th anniversary, people would say: 'Fifty years?’ And Bob would say, 'Yeah, but I’ve only been home three weeks’,” Dolores Hope told an interviewer in 1995.

To mark their golden wedding anniversary she gave him a paperweight inscribed: “Don’t think these three weeks haven’t been fun.”

Bob Hope would try out new jokes on his wife and children, with Dolores, a devout Roman Catholic, deciding if they were suitable for a family audience.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:33 PM | Permalink

September 18, 2011

"Electron Boy" dies at 14

 Electronboy

Electron Boy lit up the lives of many

In real life he was Erik Martin, a Bellevue boy with a constellation of severe health problems and a rare form of cancer. But in his imagination he was Electron Boy, a superhero who saved Seattle from the forces of darkness and evil one spring day last year.

Erik died Friday at home. He was 14.


In April 2010, hundreds of volunteers in Seattle and Bellevue came together to make Erik's superhero story come true, in an elaborately choreographed event created by the Washington chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Wearing a handmade superhero costume that he had helped design, and riding in a DeLorean sports car, Erik rescued the Seattle Sounders from Dr. Dark and Blackout Boy. He saved a Puget Sound Energy (PSE) worker stuck in a bucket truck, rescued a group of people trapped on the observation deck of the Space Needle, and captured the villains, played to the hilt by Edgar Hansen and his sidekick Jake Anderson, both of Discovery Channel's "Deadliest Catch."

The story of his big wish went viral on the Internet. The foundation was swamped by people pledging money and offering to help other children with life-threatening illnesses see their dreams come true.

"Erik's wish just cast this net and brought them into the mission" of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, said spokeswoman Jeannette Tarcha. "People just wanted to be part of it."
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"I'm just thinking about how fortunate I felt to be a part of his short and powerful little life," said Rob Burgess, a local actor who played Electron Boy's sidekick, Lightning Lad, on Erik's wish day.

Martin and his wife, Judy, who started caring for medically fragile foster children after their own two children were grown, began taking care of Erik when he was 6 weeks old. He was born with a malformed heart missing its right atrium and ventricle and required several surgeries to fix. He had no spleen, and sensory problems made him extremely sensitive to touch.

Three years ago, Erik was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer called paraganglioma, which spread throughout his body and was not treatable with surgery or chemotherapy.

When the Make-A-Wish Foundation offered to grant him his wish, Erik told wish manager Jessie Elenbaas that he wanted to do things he has never been able to do: to run fast, be powerful and help people.

"Everyone wants to see someone become a superhero for a day, especially someone struggling with as many issues as Erik was," she said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:05 PM | Permalink

"I'm like a butterfly with broken wings"

 Andywhitfield

He was only 39 when Spartacus actor Andy Whitfield died of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, just 18 months after he was diagnosed. 

New York Times obituary

Andy Whitfield, who starred in the television series “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” died on Sunday in Sydney, Australia.
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Mr. Whitfield, who was from Wales but lived in Australia, was a relatively unknown actor until he was chosen for the series, a sex- and blood-soaked version of the early life of the Thracian gladiator who led a slave rebellion against the Roman ruling class from 73 to 71 B.C.

Mr. Whitfield took what was supposed to be a temporary leave from the show, which was an instant hit after its January 2010 debut, after a routine check-up in March of that year revealed a recurrence of cancer.


His grieving wife Vashti revealed the star's final words
as he tried to comfort Jesse, six, and Indigo, four, on the last day of his life.

Vashti said he had told the children: 'I am going to go to sleep now as my body won't work any more. I am like a butterfly with broken wings.

'I will always be with you and will always be watching over you. I love you.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:24 PM | Permalink

August 24, 2011

"Good work Ruth"

We are continually enriched by the contributions of people unknown to us.  How many of us ever heard the name of Ruth Kadish who died last week in San Francisco, age 95.

In Obituary for Ruth Kadish, Michael Phillips writes that she created an important global institution at age 65.

While serving on the San Francisco Airport Commision, Ruth conceived and implimented a long art and culture gallery in a United Airlines wing.  The gallery gets several million visitors a year.

After Ruth created this airport gallery, her idea was copied in airports all over t he world.  She created a market for art and cultural artifacts that had never existed before.  Good work Ruth.

RIP, Ruth and thank you.

 Ruth Kadish

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:17 PM | Permalink

August 18, 2011

Mum, the bear is eating me!"

Horrific!  After reading this story, I am feeling distraught just imagining what they all went through.

'Mum, the bear is eating me!': Frantic final phone calls of woman, 19, eaten alive by brown bear and its three cubs

A distraught mother listened on a mobile phone as her teenage daughter was eaten alive by a brown bear and its three cubs.

-Olga+Stepfather Eaten By Bears

Olga Moskalyova, 19, gave an horrific hour-long running commentary on her own death in three separate calls as the wild animals mauled her. She screamed: 'Mum, the bear is eating me! Mum, it’s such agony. Mum, help!'

Her mother Tatiana said that at first she thought she was joking.'But then I heard the real horror and pain in Olga’s voice, and the sounds of a bear growling and chewing,' she added. 'I could have died then and there from shock.'

Unknown to Tatiana, the bear had already killed her husband Igor Tsyganenkov - Olga’s stepfather - by overpowering him, breaking his neck and smashing his skull.

Olga, a trainee psychologist, saw the ­attack on her stepfather in tall grass and reeds by a river in Russia and fled for 70 yards before the mother bear grabbed her leg. As the creature toyed with her, she managed to call Tatiana several times during the prolonged attack.Tatiana rang her husband - not knowing he was ­already dead - but got no answer. She alerted the police and relatives in the village of Termalniy, near Petropavlovsk Kamchatskiy, in the extreme east of Siberia. She begged them to rush to the river where the pair had gone to retrieve a fishing rod that Igor had left.

In a second call, a weak Olga gasped: 'Mum, the bears are back. She came back and brought her three babies. They’re... eating me.'

Finally, in her last call - almost an hour after the first - Olga sensed she was on the verge of death.
With the bears having apparently left her to die, she said: 'Mum, it’s not hurting any more. I don’t feel the pain. Forgive me for everything, I love you so much.'

The call cut off and that was the last Tatiana heard from her ­daughter.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:37 PM | Permalink

August 12, 2011

Nancy Wake, R.I.P.

Blisteringly sexy, she killed Nazis with her bare hands and had a 5 million-franc bounty on her head. As she dies at 98, the extraordinary story of the real Charlotte Gray

A male comrade-in-arms in the French Resistance summed her up as: ‘The most  feminine woman I know, until the fighting starts. And then she is like five men.’ She lived up to both parts of that compliment. 

So feminine was she that when escaping from pursuers on one notable occasion, she dressed in a smart frock, silk stockings, high-heeled shoes and a camel-hair coat, arguing that she didn’t want to look like a hunted woman.
In that same outfit, she jumped from a  moving train into a vineyard to avoid capture at a Nazi checkpoint.

And so aggressive was she that, after being parachuted into France as a Special  Operations Executive agent, she disposed of a German guard with her bare hands and liked nothing better than bowling along in the front seat of a fast car through the countryside, a Sten gun on her lap and a cigar between her teeth, in search of Germans to kill.


 Nancywake


But Wake proved them wrong and died this week, aged 98, in a nursing home for retired veterans in London. Her death brought to an end a life of such daring, courage and glamour that she was the inspiration for the Sebastian Faulks novel Charlotte Gray, which was made into a film starring Cate Blanchett.

Read more of her extraordinary story at the link.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:30 AM | Permalink

July 26, 2011

Scot sabotaged the 'Bridge on the River Kwai' with termites

Hero who sabotaged bridge with termites

Kenneth McLeod, who has died aged 92, was captured by the Japanese in the Second World War and was one of the last surviving veterans who worked on the bridge over the River Kwai.
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He fought with the 2nd Battalion at the Battle of Slim River but was cut off behind enemy lines.  With a group of stragglers and carrying a wounded man for two days, he set off towards Singapore.  They had marched 100 miles before being ambushed.

He escaped into the jungle, but surrendered when his name was called out to save the others from being shot.
Both his legs became paralysed from poisoning and he was hospitalised in Kuala Lumpur. After recovering, he volunteered to go to Siam rather than return to Singapore with the wounded prisoners. This meant he was in No 1 work party which built two bamboo camps before starting the wooden bridge on the north side of the River Kwai at Tamarkan, immortalised in the epic film The Bridge on the River Kwai starring Alec Guinness.

Mr McLeod sabotaged his work by farming termite eggs which he placed at each joint and at the base of every upright.

After the railway was completed, the Japanese segregated Mr McLeod and the other officers from the enlisted men and marched them away. He later discovered they were all to be murdered.

Their lives were saved with the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, forcing the Japanese surrender.

May he rest in peace and his memory preserved.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:27 PM | Permalink

July 8, 2011

'Please check on my son"

'Please check on my son': Fireman's final words as he lay dying after falling in front of seven-year-old son as he tried to catch ball at baseball game

A fireman who fell to his death in front of his seven-year-old son when he toppled over a railing at a baseball game cried out 'Please check on my son', as he lay dying on the ground.

Shannon Stone, 39, was trying to catch a foul ball for his young son at the Texas Rangers Ballpark when he plunged 20 feet as he reached out for the ball as it was tossed up to the stand.

In his final words, the firefighter called: 'Please check on my Son. My son was up there by himself', as his young son Cooper watched in horror from above, witnesses report

Brad Ziegler, who was stood close to where Mr Stone fell, said: 'The people who carried him out reassured him. "Sir, we'll get your son. We'll make sure he's OK".'

Mr Stone was watching the game at the ballpark in Arlington when he shouted out for outfielder Josh Hamilton to throw him the ball.

The player duly tossed it up to the stands but as he leaned out to catch it he lost his balance and fell over the railings landing on the concrete below.

There was an audible gasp from the stands as baseball fans watched the man plummet down a gap behind the scoreboard.

 Fireman Shannon Stone

Rest in Peace

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:09 PM | Permalink

July 6, 2011

Archduke Otto von Hapsburg, R.I.P.

London Telegraph obit

Archduke Otto von Habsburg, who died on July 4 aged 98, began his public life as the infant Crown Prince of the multinational Austro-Hungarian Empire, and ended it as Father of the multinational European Parliament.
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Within that neatly closed circle lay all the major political dramas of the 20th century, most of which he witnessed and some of which he influenced. He was centre stage for one of them — the unequal struggle against Hitler for the survival of his Austrian homeland, which he tried to conduct as an exiled Pretender in the 1930s. Not for nothing did the Führer call the triumphant march-in of March 12 1938 “Operation Otto”.

 Habsburg Statue

The New York Times obit


Otto von Hapsburg, the onetime heir to the imperial throne of Austria-Hungary, who during a long career in European politics was a strong proponent of unifying the divided continent, died Monday at his home in Pöcking, Germany. He was 98.

Otto was the eldest son of Charles I, the last emperor of Austria-Hungary, who ruled for just under two years, until the end of World War I also brought an end to his multiethnic empire in the heart of Europe and sent the family into exile.

Otto did not, however, fit the part of the exiled would-be monarch waiting for his throne to be restored. He remained deeply involved in the turbulent events of the last century, opposing the Nazi annexation of Austria and later serving two decades as a member of the European Parliament.

But you get a much better sense of the man when you read Lunch With the Holy Roman Emperor by Seth Lipsky

So, your excellency," I said during a lull in the conversation, "What do you make of the speculation that Waldheim, during part of his time at the United Nations, was a Soviet spy?"

That's when the Holy Roman Emperor turned to me, put down his fork and said, "I don't have the slightest doubt that Waldheim was a Soviet spy throughout his entire time at the United Nations." He surmised that the Soviet regime had known about Waldheim's service with the Nazis in Yugoslavia and had been using its knowledge against him throughout the postwar years.

 Otto Hapsburg

Europe bemoans death of the last heir to the Austrian-Hungarian Empire

Habsburg “peacefully passed away” yesterday morning (Mon), his family announced. They explained all of his seven children were at his death bed in Pöcking, Bavaria, Germany. He will be laid to rest at the Imperial Crypt (Kapuzinergruft) in the Austrian capital Vienna on 16 July. Viennese Archbishop Christoph Cardinal Schönborn will hold a requiem mass at the city’s St Stephen’s Cathedral earlier on the same day.
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“Whole Europe is crying,” Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Othmar Karas said when being informed about the death of Habsburg.

Austrian Social Democratic (SPÖ) Chancellor Werner Faymann praised Habsburg for his clear stance against fascism, while CSU boss Horst Seehofer said he did a lot to help tearing down the Iron Curtain.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:00 AM | Permalink

July 3, 2011

Inventor of the Weed Eater, George Ballas dies at 85

In the Los Angeles Times, by Valerie Nelson,  George Ballas dies at 85; intrepid inventor created the Weed Eater

"He was laughed at by major corporations, who told him to take his idea and take a hike," his son said. "He started making it anyway, and it caught on like wildfire."

Within months of inventing the Weed Eater at his Houston home, Ballas had streamlined the design into a single strand of fishing line spun around by a lightweight motor.

"Simplicity of design was the key to its phenomenal success," Mechanix Illustrated magazine said in 1983.

Net sales rose from about $570,000 in 1972 to $41 million in 1976. The next year, Ballas sold the business to Emerson Electric Co. for an undisclosed amount.
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Within months of inventing the Weed Eater at his Houston home, Ballas had streamlined the design into a single strand of fishing line spun around by a lightweight motor.

"Simplicity of design was the key to its phenomenal success," Mechanix Illustrated magazine said in 1983.

Net sales rose from about $570,000 in 1972 to $41 million in 1976. The next year, Ballas sold the business to Emerson Electric Co. for an undisclosed amount.

Son of a Greek immigrant , a bombardier in the Army Air Forces during World War II, he met his future wife when he saw her perform the flamenco. 

Ballas worked in dance studios, managing Arthur Murray and Fred Astaire locations and trouble-shooting for franchises.  After he sold his dance hall in 1970, he went into commercial real estate and a year later invented the weed-eater.

While driving through an automatic carwash in 1971, George Ballas watched the whirling nylon bristles glide around the contour of his vehicle and wondered if he could adapt the technology to remove the weeds around trees in his yard.

At home, he punched holes in a tin can, threaded it with wire and fishing line and bolted it to a rotating lawn edger. He called it the Weed Eater, and when he couldn't sell the concept, he founded his own company and built it into a $40-million-a-year business. 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:07 PM | Permalink

June 11, 2011

The Lionheart who stole a Nazi

The Lionheart who stole a Nazi - and the heart of every woman:

Max Hastings pays tribute to Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor who died yesterday in Worcestershire at the age of 96.

Paddy’, as he was universally known and beloved, spent two years as a British agent of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in Crete. His most celebrated exploit, in April 1944, was to kidnap the commander of the German 22nd Division, General Heinrich Kreipe, a  story romantically portrayed in the 1957 movie Ill Met By Moonlight, with Paddy played  by Dirk Bogarde.

The SOE team and their Cretan guerrilla companions marched the general, evading furious German pursuit, to a beach from which the Royal Navy spirited them to Egypt.

Paddy received a richly-deserved DSO, but the Cretan experience was only one chapter in a lifetime devoted to the pursuit of adventure, learning and romance.

After the war, a succession of wonderful books about far-flung places made him the most famous travel writer of his generation.

Awesomely good-looking as a young man, he spoke half-a-dozen languages fluently and had a smattering of several more. His wit, zest for life and joy in companionship won him a legion of friends, some very grand — his comic correspondence with Debo, Duchess of Devonshire was published as a book last year — and others entirely humble.
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I first met Paddy as a very young man, when I listened enthralled to him holding forth to a dinner party with quotations from Horace, snatches of Romanian, Bulgarian and Greek, both ancient and modern. I read avidly his travel books, and later reckoned it a privilege to get to know him a little.

He remained until his death a model of the 1940s British gentleman abroad: impeccably dressed, effortlessly courteous and literate, tirelessly funny.

He was one of those men who brought joy to every company he joined in war and peace. He was completely unpolitical, and though indifferent to money was lucky enough to live among the rich with no need to care about tomorrow. He devoted himself to the fun and fascination of exotic people and places, and wrote like an angel.
In 1991 he became one of the few men ever to refuse a knighthood, though he belatedly accepted one in 2004: more than a hero of the war, he was a British hero for our times.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:19 PM | Permalink

June 10, 2011

"THEIR OBITUARIES are characteristically brief because even in death they are dignified, modest, and not prone to talk about themselves"

What obituaries tell us about the generations 

Dead Lines by  Christopher Orlet

The latter are not always easy to distinguish. Among the generation now heading for the exits the vast majority were deeply involved in their communities. They were of a generation known for putting God first, family second, community third, and themselves somewhere way down the list.

They were joiners long before it became fashionable to pad one's résumé volunteering for liberal causes. Nearly all had proudly served their country, even when the reasons they were fighting were not always clear. When they returned home they continued to serve, joining the American Legion and the VFW Post. Many were members of at least one fraternal organization (Elks, Eagles, Moose, Masons, Rotary, Jaycees, Optimists, Odd Fellows, Lions, Knights of Columbus), to say nothing of the fire protection district and the electric co-op. They served as village trustees and founding members of the county public water district. They were part of their communities in a way that today's peripatetic suburbanites can never be.
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THEIR OBITUARIES are characteristically brief because even in death they are dignified, modest, and not prone to talk about themselves. Their stories celebrate the simple pleasures of life:

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They were not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. But when I consider my own generation, which too often shuns the responsibilities of marriage, family, and community service, while seeming only to care about a shallow hedonism, I am left to wonder how we will get by without them.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:19 PM | Permalink

June 6, 2011

Abide with Me

Abide with Me, a Hymn to share with the dying by Msgr Charles Pope.

The author, Henry Francis Lyte  (1793-1847) was an Anglican pastor in Devonshire England, for 23 years.  In 1844, Three years before his death Lyte was diagnosed with Tuberculosis. Despite this, he continued to work hard and was known to say, “It is better to wear out, than to rust out.” But his physical condition continued to deteriorate, until finally on September 4, 1847, at 54 years of age, he stood in his pulpit to deliver his farewell message. It is said, He was so weak that he almost crawled to the pulpit.

Later that day he retired to his room and wrote the words to this hymn: Abide With Me, as he meditated on the death he knew would soon approach. Advised by doctors to leave the cold, damp, coastal weather of England, he left for the Mediterranean. He died en route. A fellow clergyman who was with Henry during his final hours reported that Henry’s last words were: “Peace! Joy!”

Abide With Me was set to music by William H. Monk (1823-1889), and was played at Henry Lyte’s funeral service.

I have, when the situation was right, shared this him with the dying. Not all have fully accepted that they are dying, but for those who have reached the stage of acceptance, and when death seems certain, this hymn is very powerful, personal and poignant.

Read the whole thing because Msgr Pope explicates each the verses in this hymn to  to pray for and with the dying.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:10 AM | Permalink

June 4, 2011

Dr. Death dies

'Dr Death' Jack Kevorkian dies naturally at 83... as classical music plays in the background

He earned the title 'Dr Death' after allegedly helping 130 terminally ill people to die in just eight years.
Yet today controversial assisted-suicide advocate Dr Jack Kevorkian died naturally in hospital, with his favourite classical music playing in the background.

His lawyer, Mayer Morganroth, said the doctor died from a blood clot early this morning at a hospital near Detroit, after battling pneumonia and heart problems.


Wesley Smith reflects on his legacy.

So, now that he is gone, what is Kevorkian’s legacy? He assisted the suicides of 130 or so people and lethally injected at least two by his own admission (his first and his last); as a consequence of the latter, he served nearly ten years in prison for murder. But I think his more important place in contemporary history was as a dark mirror that reflected how powerful the avoidance of suffering has become as a driving force in society, and indeed, how that excuse seems to justify nearly any excess.

Thus, while the media continually described him as the “retired” doctor who helped “the terminally ill” to commit suicide,
at least 70 percent of his assisted suicides were not dying, and five weren’t ill at all according to their autopsies. It. Didn’t. Matter. Kevorkian advocated tying assisted suicide in with organ harvesting, and even stripped the kidneys from the body of one of his cases, offering them at a press conference, “first come, first served.” It. Didn’t. Matter. And as noted above, he wanted to engage in ghoulish experiments. It. Didn’t. Matter. He was fawned over by the media (Time invited him as an honored guest to its 75th anniversary gala, and he had carte blanche on 60 Minutes), enjoyed high opinion polls, and after his release from prison was transformed by sheer revisionism into an eccentric Muppet. He was even played by Al Pacino in an HBO hagiography.

Barbara Nicolosi sees Kevorkian and the fawning treatment of his 'mercy killing' in the media as a battle unfolding on the cultural horizon

The 2011 Golden Globe celebration was only the latest sign of a frightening cultural trend. Winning the award for best actor in a TV miniseries, the HBO docudrama about Dr. Jack Kevorkian, You Don’t Know Jack, was also nominated for an astounding 11 Emmys. It ended up winning the top awards for star Al Pacino and, most significantly, for best writing. This blatant piece of pro-euthanasia propaganda was a huge force on the entertainment-award circuit in 2010, grabbing nominations and wins at the TV Critics Association Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, and the International Press Association’s Satellite Awards.

Critics fawned over Dr. Death and praised the show as a courageous new benchmark in the newest war for civil rights. The right? To die, and to kill.
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We must be aggressive in exposing the deceptions driving the euthanasia movement — lies like the implication that personhood can somehow disappear from a wounded human body. Or that a human life could ever lose its value. Or that suicide can be a courageous act. We must contradict the notion that suffering is the worst thing that can happen to a person.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:55 AM | Permalink

May 26, 2011

"Long, strange, solitary life"

As she dies aged 104, the extraordinary tale of mining fortune heiress Huguette Clark... the reclusive daughter of America's second richest man who was last seen 80 years ago.

Reclusive 104-year-old heiress Huguette Clark has died, leaving behind a $500million estate which is the subject of an investigation.

The heiress to a Montana copper fortune once lived in the largest apartment on New York City's Fifth Avenue but spent the last 20 years of her life as a recluse in New York City hospitals.

She also owns lavish mansions in California and Connecticut which have been vacant for more than 50 years.
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An investigation is now underway into how her millions were handled with many believing that Miss Clark's lawyer Wallace Bock, kept her isolated from her family, wrongly accepted large amounts of money and gifts from her and mismanaged her $500million fortune
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She spent her time in hospital almost entirely alone aside from a few private nurses. One of her attorneys had even represented her for 20 years without meeting her face-to-face, instead talking through a door.
 Hugette Clark

NYTimes obituary. Huguette Clark, Reclusive Heiress, Dies at 104

She was almost certainly the last link to New York’s Gilded Age, reared in Beaux-Arts splendor in a 121-room Fifth Avenue mansion awash in Rembrandt, Donatello, Rubens and Degas. Her father, a copper baron who once bought himself a United States Senate seat as casually as another man might buy a pair of shoes, had been born before the Mexican War. Her six siblings died long before her, one in the 19th century.

Though she herself lived into the 21st century, Huguette Clark managed through determination and great wealth to spin out her golden childhood to the end of her long, strange, solitary life.

--By all accounts of sound body and mind till nearly the end of her life, Mrs. Clark had lived, apparently by choice, cloistered in New York hospitals since the late 1980s. There, first in Doctors Hospital and later at Beth Israel, she was reported to have lived under a series of pseudonyms.
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The reports disclosed that although her three palatial homes — a 42-room apartment on Fifth Avenue; an oceanfront estate in Santa Barbara, Calif.; and a country manor in New Canaan, Conn. — are fastidiously maintained, she had not been seen in any of them for decades.
--
By the late 1930s, Mrs. Clark had disappeared from the society pages. Most if not all of her siblings had died; she lived with her mother at 907 Fifth Avenue, painting and playing the harp. Her mother died there in 1963.

For the quarter-century that followed, Mrs. Clark lived in the apartment in near solitude, amid a profusion of dollhouses and their occupants. She ate austere lunches of crackers and sardines and watched television, most avidly “The Flintstones.” A housekeeper kept the dolls’ dresses impeccably ironed
.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:00 AM | Permalink

May 5, 2011

"I'm dead, and this is my last post to my blog"

A blogger publishes his own last words and turns his blog into an archive.

"I'm dead, and this is my last post to my blog" wrote Derek Miller of Vancouver, Canada.

In advance, I asked that once my body finally shut down from the punishments of my cancer, then my family and friends publish this prepared message I wrote—the first part of the process of turning this from an active website to an archive.


If you knew me at all in real life, you probably heard the news already from another source, but however you found out, consider this a confirmation: I was born on June 30, 1969 in Vancouver, Canada, and I died in Burnaby on May 3, 2011, age 41, of complications from stage 4 metastatic colorectal cancer. We all knew this was coming.
--

It turns out that no one can imagine what's really coming in our lives. We can plan, and do what we enjoy, but we can't expect our plans to work out. Some of them might, while most probably won't. Inventions and ideas will appear, and events will occur, that we could never foresee. That's neither bad nor good, but it is real.

I think and hope that's what my daughters can take from my disease and death. And that my wonderful, amazing wife Airdrie can see too. Not that they could die any day, but that they should pursue what they enjoy, and what stimulates their minds, as much as possible—so they can be ready for opportunities, as well as not disappointed when things go sideways, as they inevitably do.
-
The world, indeed the whole universe, is a beautiful, astonishing, wondrous place. There is always more to find out. I don't look back and regret anything, and I hope my family can find a way to do the same.

What is true is that I loved them. Lauren and Marina, as you mature and become yourselves over the years, know that I loved you and did my best to be a good father.

Airdrie, you were my best friend and my closest connection. I don't know what we'd have been like without each other, but I think the world would be a poorer place. I loved you deeply, I loved you, I loved you, I loved you.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:24 PM | Permalink

April 30, 2011

Four minutes of last words

From the Vlog Brothers, 'Nerdy to the Power of Awesome."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:43 PM | Permalink

April 26, 2011

Singer, songwriter Phoebe Snow dead at 60. R.I.P.

A popular bluesy singer and songwriter in the 70s, Phoebe Snow died yesterday at 60 from complications of a brain hemorrhage she suffered over a year ago.

I played her first album, Phoebe Snow, over and over again because I loved her unique voice, her range and her songs  described here

Snow was hard to categorize musically; a Times reviewer early in her career called her style "a helter skelter amalgam of pop, jazz, blues, gospel and folk." She explained to the New York Times in 2003, "No creative person should ever produce the same thing over and over."

Dennis Hunt, writing in the Los Angeles Times in 1976, said her voice had "a marvelous 'cracked' quality" and she "glides through and glances off notes in an appealing offbeat manner."

Poetry Man was her big breakout hit and this is what it sounded like and what the album cover looked like.

Here she is singing the song in a live performance

 

Snow's manager Sue Cameron said the singer endured bouts of blood clots, pneumonia and congestive heart failure since her stroke.

"The loss of this unique and untouchable voice is incalculable,Phoebe was one of the brightest, funniest and most talented singer-songwriters of all time and, more importantly, a magnificent mother to her late brain-damaged daughter, Valerie, for 31 years. Phoebe felt that was her greatest accomplishment."

What a wonderful woman she turned out to be

Not long after Snow's "Poetry Man" reached the Top 5 on the pop singles chart in 1975, her daughter, Valerie Rose, was born with severe brain damage, and Snow decided to care for her at home rather than place her in an institution.

"She was the only thing that was holding me together," she told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2008. "My life was her, completely about her, from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed at night."

Valerie, who had been born with hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluid in the brain cavity that inhibits brain development, was not expected to live more than a few years. She died in 2007 at age 31.

A few months later she gave an interview to the Record of Bergen County and talked about her grief at her daughter's death.

"Right now it's beyond a hole. It's a black hole,  I don't even know how to describe that vacancy because it was such an intense relationship. We lived together for 31 years. She was a perennial child. I was her primary caregiver. … We were best friends. It was beyond a loss. I don't even know what word to use."

Rest in peace.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:09 PM | Permalink

April 11, 2011

Last words: “Louise, you gorgeous fool”

Via Maggie's Farm comes this excerpt from the writings of Louis Dickinson Rich

Now I am older. I have met with poverty, flood, famine, hurricane, brutalizing labor, and illness, on extremely personal grounds. I have seen the sudden and tragic deaths of those nearest and dearest to me. I have had to shoulder responsibilities, for which I am ill fitted, and the much more difficult burden of sudden, if brief, fame. I have been hard pressed for money, as we say in Maine. I’m not whining. I’ve had a wonderful life, with the joys far outweighing the sorrows. But still, in all, there have been times when I was fair to middlin’ desperate.

There was time when my husband and my year-old son and my mother-in-law and I had one meal a day. We ate baked potatoes and salt. It didn’t do us adults any harm, and my neighbor woman, Alice Miller, provided me with six oranges and six quarts of milk a week—she kept two cows—for the baby. She said her doctor’s book said that babies needed it.

Then there was the time in December. My husband and I were laughing together over a silly joke in the evening after dinner, relaxed in our slippers before the open fire. We’d spent the day snugging down the cabin for winter, and we felt good knowing that there were forty miles of lake and impossible road between us and the nearest settlement. We were having fun. “Louise, you gorgeous fool,” he said, and died.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:38 AM | Permalink

April 1, 2011

Paul Baran, R.I.P.

I didn't know of Paul Baran before I read Michael Malone's lovely and moving appreciation of A Different Kind of Life

Paul Baran also achieved something else of such magnitude that its implications may not be fully recognized for another generation:  he was the first true lifelong entrepreneur. In that, he may very well prove to be a pioneer of a cultural phenomenon that will help define the rest of this century.
--
Baran created his first enterprise in 1968.  He was working on his last, one of the most ambitious of his career, on the day he died.  In between, Baran, often teamed with his business partner, Steve Millard, and later his son Dave, founded as many as a dozen companies.  As with any entrepreneur, many of these companies failed. But Baran also had as many hits as anyone. Once, after I introduced him as having founded four $1 billion public companies, he quietly corrected me: “Only three. The fourth was only $700 million.”
--
Baran never lost that exquisite timing, even in his eighties. He had an almost supernatural ability to know when an advancing technology and a needy market were about to collide … and he positioned himself there just before impact. Cable modems, computer printers, airport metal detectors, wireless Internet, smart electrical meters, medical home diagnostics — he was almost always in place (usually with a pocket full of patents) before his future competitors even identified the opportunity.
--
For the first time, I understood that entrepreneurship could not only be a job, a career, but a lifelong approach to the world. And that the work of starting new enterprises wasn’t just for the young. On the contrary, old folks had certain advantages — experience, perspective, stability, personal wealth, and a lack of ego — that youngsters could never duplicate. Paul Baran taught me — and I suspect his example will teach millions in the years to come — that there is no set age or duration to being an entrepreneur.

Guardian Obituary

Paul Baran, who has died aged 84, was one of the two inventors of packet switching, the technology that underpins the internet. The origins of the internet go back to the 1960s, when scientists at the US Advanced Research Projects Agency (Arpa) were wrestling with the problem of how to connect many geographically dispersed computers. Unbeknown to Arpa, the problem had already been solved several years earlier, in an entirely different context, by Baran, an unassuming and greatly admired engineer who made his scientific breakthrough at the Rand Corporation in Santa Monica, California, and went on to found several hi-tech companies.

Obituary LA Times

Paul Baran, who helped build the foundation for the modern Internet by devising a way to transmit information in chunks, has died. He was 84.

He died Saturday at his home in Palo Alto of complications from lung cancer, said his son David,

Paul Baran became one of the pioneers behind "packet switching," which helps a communications network withstand an attack by bundling and dispatching data in small packages, while working on Cold War military research for the Rand Corp. in Santa Monica in the 1960s. The Department of Defense used that concept in 1969 to create the Arpanet, which laid the foundation for the modern Internet.

President George W. Bush acknowledged Baran's contribution by presenting him the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2008, a year after he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Vinton Cerf, a vice president at Google Inc. who is considered one of the fathers of the Internet, said Monday that his longtime friend was a "technological iconoclast," an unusually prolific thinker and inventor who, over a career that spanned six decades, dreamed up "holy cow" ideas years before anyone else thought them possible.

Baran had more than two dozen patents and started seven companies, five of which went public. He is credited with advancing innovation in cable modems, computer printers, satellite transmissions, interactive television, remote reading of power meters, even airport metal detectors.
--
Paul Baran never sought credit for himself, always distributing it to others, his friends and former colleagues said. "He believed innovation was a team process," longtime friend and Silicon Valley futurist Paul Saffo told The Times on Monday.

Baran was born April 29, 1926, in Grodno, Poland. His parents moved to the United States in 1928, and he grew up in Philadelphia. He graduated from Drexel University with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1949.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:56 AM | Permalink

March 29, 2011

Last words: "Never eat margarine"

‘Never eat margarine,’ food writer advises before dying

Karola Saekel Craib, who joined the San Francisco Chronicle in 1955, died Monday of complications from cancer. She was 81. “Only a week or so ago Karola wrote a note — on her iPad no less — thanking her friends for enriching her life,” writes Michael Bauer. “In her notes to her daughters before her death, she included the strict admonition, ‘Never eat margarine!’ That was Karola. The real thing. No margarine; only pure butter.

I'm with her on that.  R.I.P.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:54 PM | Permalink

Last words: "You can't even shoot"

A quiet couple, they kept to themselves, the neighbors said.  But, like most couples, they did fight from time to time.

When Elaine McCall, 69, told her husband, 72, who gets around with a walker that she would not "cook or take care of him anymore" , he took out a gun and took a shot at his wife but missed.

She needled him, "You can't even shoot."

He shot her again right at her heart and she crumpled to the floor.

He then tried to kill himself but missed again, only grazing his chest.

He called the police to report a "murder-suicide" at his Wakefield home. 

David McCall was arraigned on first-degree murder and was last seen, a frail old man, shuffling to the prison van that would  take him to jail.

Wife got in parting shot before killing

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:15 PM | Permalink

March 24, 2011

More on Dame Elizabeth Taylor

Eight marriages, 50 movies, two Oscars, 100 operations, a fortune of £360m, but only one... Elizabeth the Great

She was born with scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, and suffered back problems which were partly to blame for her subsequent addiction to painkillers and alcohol. But she never gave up.

She had both hips replaced and beat skin cancer,a brain tumour, diabetes, seizures and a stroke. She endured an estimated 70 illnesses and had 100 operations, 20 of them major surgery.

Elizabeth Taylor: her time on Twitter

Her last tweet: 'My interview in Bazaar with Kim Kardashian came out!!!

Her parents were told that their new-born daughter had a mutation. 

"Well, that sounded just awful," the girl's mother later recalls, "a mutation . But, when he explained that her eyes had double rows of eyelashes, I thought, well, now, that doesn't sound so terrible at all."

No, indeed. In fact, it is more evidence, as if any were needed, that the greatest camera subjects are, in strict biological terms, genetic freaks. Or as pal Roddy McDowall later put it: "Who has double eyelashes except a girl who was absolutely born to be on the big screen?"
    Violet Eyes to Die For

The life of a woman whose idea of morality was to marry every man she slept with.

"Always a bride.  Never a bridesmaid."

National Velvet to a national treasure: Elizabeth Taylor - a life in pictures

 Taylor Lassiecomehome

The woman who always had to be in love: A personal tribute to Elizabeth Taylor

She’s the last of the great stars of the silver screen. She was like a goddess who prowled her way through the Forties, Fifties, Sixties and into the Seventies and, although her box-office stature had waned, she had an allure that held a strange sway over us.

There were few who knew how to seduce a man in a movie. ’I’ve done it in real life so I know how to do it’, she told me once.
--
She had a luminosity that most stars today don’t possess let alone know how to spell.

Elizabeth Taylor: famous like no-one else

She will be remembered as larger-than-life character who, for all her excesses, could inspire great affection. At her peak, she was a shining example of the ability enshrined in Hollywood’s fantasy factories to unearth talent. That four-letter word ‘star’ has suited very few people quite so well.

Elizabeth Taylor and a Lust for Hollywood Life

In contrast to so many other actresses, she seemed as desiring as desirous, with the gift of a thrillingly unladylike appetite. She was a great lover of food, of course, as her cruelly documented weight gains make evident. Yet the appetite that appeared to drive, at times even define her, exceeded mere food to include everything, and her consumption of men, booze, jewels and celebrity itself was an astonishment.

An Alluring Beauty Exempt From Fashion’s Rules

She was short. She didn’t have the greatest legs in the world for a sex symbol, which she wasn’t anyway. She was overloaded with hair and bosom, a dreadnought of glamour rather than an elegant swan, and for that reason she did not fit as naturally on best-dressed lists as Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly did. But Elizabeth Taylor’s style told a great deal more.

The most fleshly of all actresses 

Not fleshy—though there were periods when her gloriously abundant, ever-changing body qualified for that adjective, too—but fleshly, vibrantly incarnate.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:33 AM | Permalink

March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor, R.I.P.

A towering movie star that we all grew up with is now gone and her like will not be seen again.

 Elizabeth-Taylor

The Financial Times, obit by Nigel Andrews

Few film stars ever attracted more acres of newsprint, from the adoring to the acerbic, than Elizabeth Taylor. For most of her life in the cinematic spotlight she was the answer to a gossip columnist’s prayers. When there wasn’t a triumph there was a crisis; when there wasn’t stardom there was scandal.

Los Angeles Times, obit by Elaine Woo

Elizabeth Taylor, the glamorous queen of American movie stardom, whose achievements as an actress were often overshadowed by her rapturous looks and real-life dramas, has died. She was 79.
--

During a career that spanned six decades, the legendary beauty with lavender eyes won two Oscars and made more than 50 films, performing alongside such fabled leading men as Spencer Tracy, Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando and Richard Burton, whom she married twice. She took her cues from a Who's Who of directors, including George Cukor, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, George Stevens, Vincente Minnelli and Mike Nichols.

Long after she faded from the screen, she remained a mesmerizing figure, blessed and cursed by the extraordinary celebrity that molded her life through its many phases: She was a child star who bloomed gracefully into an ingenue; a femme fatale on the screen and in life; a canny peddler of high-priced perfume; a pioneering activist in the fight against AIDS

 Elizabeth-Taylor 2

London Telegraph Dame Elizabeth Taylor dies in Los Angeles

Statistics related to her lifestyle filled more column inches in the press than assessments of her acting ability. Her $1 million fee for appearing in Cleopatra (1963) set a new record at the time, as did the film’s ultimate $37 million budget. It was a moot point whether the cost of the diamonds bestowed upon her by her fifth (and sixth) husband, Richard Burton (they divorced and remarried), notched up more millions than they weighed in carats.

A woman of exceptional physical beauty, she grew into the most photographed Hollywood film star of all.
--
Her career was long and many-stranded. She began as a child star and, with Natalie Wood and Judy Garland, shared the rare distinction of enjoying even greater fame as an adult. Her affair with, and subsequent marriage to, Richard Burton catapulted her into world headlines and gave her waning popularity a fillip just when it was needed. With Burton she embarked on a long series of films which, at least at first, became box-office hits thanks to curiosity alone, regardless of their quality.
--
To her credit, she was a tireless fund-raiser on behalf of Aids and cancer research and a generous supporter of Jewish and Israeli causes following her conversion from Christian Science to Judaism, the religion of her third husband, Mike Todd. This resulted in her films being banned in many Arab countries.

 Elizabeth-Taylor-Hospital

New York Times, obituary written primarily by Mel Gussow who died in 2005

Elizabeth Taylor, the actress who dazzled generations of moviegoers with her stunning beauty and whose name was synonymous with Hollywood glamour, died Wednesday in Los Angeles. She was 79.
--

In a world of flickering images, Ms. Taylor was a constant star. First appearing onscreen at age 9, she grew up there, never passing through an awkward age. It was one quick leap from “National Velvet” to “A Place in the Sun” and from there to “Cleopatra” as she was indelibly transformed from a vulnerable child actress into a voluptuous film queen
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:00 PM | Permalink

March 19, 2011

The "Suicide Mission" to Save Lives

Courage of the Fukushima fifty: This is suicide, admit workers trying to avert a catastrophe 

Poignant messages sent home by the workers trying to prevent full-scale nuclear catastrophe at Japan's stricken nuclear plant reveal that they know they are on a suicide mission.

One of the 'Fukushima Fifty' said they were stoically accepting their fate 'like a death sentence'.

Another, having absorbed a near-lethal dose of radiation, told his wife: 'Please continue to live well, I cannot be home for a while.'
--

Their identities have not been revealed, but experts said they are likely to be working class front-line technicians and firemen who know the plant the best.

It is thought that mostly older men have volunteered because they have already had children – younger workers might be rendered infertile by the high radiation doses.

Whilst the men are called the Fukushima Fifty, the group is thought to actually be 200-strong. They are doing four shifts in rotation, working on restarting the cooling systems.

Their heart-rending messages home were made public yesterday by Japanese national television, which has interviewed their relatives.

One relative said: 'My father is still working at the plant. He says he's accepted his fate, much like a death sentence.'

A woman said her husband who was at the plant had continued to work while fully aware he was being bombarded with radiation.

Another said that her 59-year-old father had volunteered for Fukushima duty, adding: 'I heard that he volunteered even though he will be retiring in just half a year and my eyes are filling up with tears.

'At home, he doesn't seem like someone who could handle big jobs. But today, I was really proud of him. I pray for his safe return.'

So do we all.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:49 AM | Permalink

March 5, 2011

"I want to live in history as a courageous man"

And so he will.    Shabbaz Bhatti, martyr.

William Oddie calls him "A hero of the Catholic faith, a martyr by whose courage we should be inspired"

What Shahbaz Bhatti said to the BBC the night before he was killed in his "Goodbye call"

They say there’s a terrorist plot to assassinate me. They’ve told me to be careful, but didn’t tell me anything else. I haven’t been given any extra security. It’s just the same as it has been since I became a minister.”

Though his voice sounded weary, the minister’s commitment was unwavering. “I have struggled for a long time for justice and equality,” he said.

“If I change my stance today, who will speak out? I am mindful that I can be assassinated any time, but I want to live in history as a courageous man.”

Orla Guerin believes that Shahbaz Bhatti knew his days were numbered. “After we ended our conversation”, she said, “I could not escape the feeling that the minister had called to say goodbye”.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:23 AM | Permalink

March 4, 2011

"Don't worry Mom, I'll be safe"

'Don't worry mom, I'll be safe': U.S. airman's  last promise to mother before he was gunned down by 'Kosovan Muslim' at Frankfurt airport

The mother of one of the slain U.S. airmen revealed today that her son, father-of-two Nick Alden, promised her he would be safe before he was gunned down at Frankfurt airport.

The 25-year-old, from Williamston, is said to have died as he tried to stop the gunman from shooting anyone else on the bus.

 Nick Alden

The second victim has been named as Airman 1st Class, Zachary Cuddeback, from Virginia.

Meanwhile, the shooting suspect has confessed he was targeting the U.S. military when he opened fire and has been described as a possible 'radicalised Muslim', a German security official said.

A federal judge ordered today that Arid Uka be held on two counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder after he allegedly opened fire on a military bus, killing two and leaving a third fighting for his life.
--
The English teacher said: 'I don’t know all of the details, but apparently he was instrumental in keeping the other people on the bus safe.'

She revealed she last saw her son at Thanksgiving: 'He said "Mom, I'm going to be in a fairly safe place like I was in Iraq. I'm going to have all sorts of protective gear on when I go out so I'm going to be just as safe as I was in Iraq". He never even got there.'

Alden was wearing plain clothes when he was gunned down at the airport.
He was married and had a three-year-old daughter, Lilly, and one-year-old son William to his wife Trish. They live in England.

He died a hero trying to stop the gunmen from killing others.  A remarkable man. 

Deepest condolences to his family

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:59 AM | Permalink

March 2, 2011

Harvard's Pastor Rev Peter Gomes, R.I.P.

Groundbreaking Harvard minister Peter Gomes dies

The Rev. Peter J. Gomes, who was known internationally as Harvard’s pastor and was just as pleased to be seen as a son of Plymouth, died Monday in Massachusetts General Hospital of complications of a stroke suffered in December.
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He was the first black minister of Memorial Church and the only gay, black, Republican, Baptist preacher most people would ever meet. Descended from slaves, he nonetheless delighted in serving as trustee emeritus of the Pilgrim Society and celebrating his hometown’s Mayflower history, a distinctly white Anglo-Saxon Protestant tradition.

“The oddest thing about being an oddity,’’ he told The New Yorker magazine for a November 1996 profile, “is that there are very few oddities like you.’’

Drew Faust, Harvard’s president, called Rev. Gomes “one of the great preachers of our generation and a living symbol of courage and conviction.’’

“To generations of Harvard students, he was a wise counselor and an admired teacher who presided at every commencement,’’ she said in a message to the Harvard community. To many of his faculty colleagues, he was a cherished conversationalist and a steadfast advocate of Harvard’s best traditions. But to me, and I suspect to many others, Professor Gomes was first and foremost a trusted adviser and a true friend.’’

 Peter-Gomes

“He was someone who was at home in the Harvard archives, on speaking terms with generations of the dead,’’ said his longtime friend Diana Eck, professor of comparative religion and Indian studies at the university.

“That was also true of Plymouth. Peter was kind of the mayor of historical Plymouth, someone who could point out every landmark and tell an anecdote about every person. He cared about history in a way that was quite intimate.’’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:00 PM | Permalink

Suze Rotolo, dead at 67

 Suze Rotolo

Suze Rotolo, girlfriend and early muse to Bob Dylan, died of lung cancer at age 67 in her Nolo New York loft in the arms of her husband of 40 years, Enzo Bartocci.

Speaking about Rotolo in his 1994 memoir Chronicles: Volume 1, Dylan said:  'Right from the start I couldn’t take my eyes off her.

'She was the most erotic thing I’d ever seen. She was fair skinned and golden haired, full-blood Italian.

'We started talking and my head started to spin. Cupid’s arrow had whistled past my ears before, but this time it hit me in the heart and the weight of it dragged me overboard.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:17 AM | Permalink

February 28, 2011

Last doughboy standing

Frank "Wood" Buckles , after being  turned down by the Marine Corps and rejected by the Navy for being flat-footed, enlisted in the U.S. Army at 16 after lying about his age.  served in France driving ambulances and motorcycles and was discharged in 1920. 

        -Frank Buckles Ww1 At 16
During the early 1940s he worked as a purser for a shipping company in Manila when he was captured by the Japanese in 1942  and sent to a prison camp for three and half years until rescued in 1945.

Legacy.com obituary

Buckles had been battling colds and other minor ailments this winter, but he was not ill at the time of his death.

The day before he died was warm, DeJonge said, and he spent three hours sitting in the sunshine on the porch of his farmhouse, talking with his daughter.
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"We have lost a living link to an important era in our nation's history," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki. "But we have also lost a man of quiet dignity, who dedicated his final years to ensuring the sacrifices of his fellow 'Doughboys' are appropriately commemorated."

Last U.S. World War I veteran Frank W. Buckles dies at 110

Frank W. Buckles died Sunday, sadly yet not unexpectedly at age 110, having achieved a singular feat of longevity that left him proud and a bit bemused.

In 1917 and 1918, close to 5 million Americans served in World War I, and Mr. Buckles, a cordial fellow of gentle humor, was the last known survivor. "I knew there'd be only one someday," he said a few years back. "I didn't think it would be me."

Mr. Buckles, a widower, died on his West Virginia farm, said his daughter, Susannah Buckles Flanagan, who had been caring for him there.

Flanagan, 55, said her father had recently recovered from a chest infection and seemed in reasonably good health for a man his age. At 12:15 a.m. Sunday, he summoned his live-in nurse to his bedroom. As the nurse looked on, Flanagan said, Mr. Buckles drew a breath, and his eyes fell shut.

"We have lost a living link to an important era in our nation's history," Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said of Mr. Buckles, whose distant generation was the first to witness the awful toll of modern, mechanized warfare. "But we have also lost a man of quiet dignity who dedicated his final years to ensuring the sacrifices of his fellow doughboys are appropriately commemorated."

As time thinned the ranks of those long-ago U.S. veterans, the nation hardly noticed them vanishing, until the roster dwindled to one ex-soldier, embraced in his final years by an appreciative public.

"Frank was a history book in and of himself, the kind you can't get at the library," said his friend Muriel Sue Kerr. Having lived from the dawn of the 20th century, he seemed to never tire of sharing his and the country's old memories - of the First World War, of roaring prosperity and epic depression, and of a second, far more cataclysmic global conflict, which he barely survived.

Here he is at 106 wearing the French Legion of Honor.

      -Frank Buckles At 106

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:56 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

February 22, 2011

"I am one of those who helped usher in this barbaric age."

Bernard Nathanson Dead at 84

Dr. Bernard N. Nathanson, an obstetrician who oversaw the performance of about 75,000 abortions before becoming a leading pro-life advocate and a convert to the Catholic faith, died at his home in New York Feb. 21 after a prolonged battle with cancer. He was 84.

After performing his last abortion in 1979 and declaring himself to be pro-life, Nathanson produced the 1985 film
The Silent Scream, which shows sonogram images of a child in the womb shrinking from an abortionist’s instruments, and the documentary film Eclipse of Reason, which displays and explains various abortion procedures in graphic detail. Both films had a significant impact on the abortion debate, solidified his credentials among pro-life advocates and earned him the scorn of his former pro-abortion friends and colleagues.
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He often admitted that he and other abortion advocates in the 1960s lied about the number of women who died from illegal abortions at that time, inflating the figure from a few hundred to 10,000 to gain sympathy for their cause.

In his 1996 autobiography
The Hand of God, he told the story of his journey from pro-abortion to pro-life, saying that viewing images from the new ultrasound technology in the 1970s convinced him of the humanity of the unborn baby. Outlining the enormous challenge of restoring a pro-life ethic, he wrote, “Abortion is now a monster so unimaginably gargantuan that even to think of stuffing it back into its cage … is ludicrous beyond words. Yet that is our charge — a herculean endeavor.”

He noted, regretfully, “I am one of those who helped usher in this barbaric age.”

--
Yet the advent of ultrasound technology eventually convinced him that a true human being is killed in abortion, and he began to develop what he called the “vector theory of life.” By this he meant tha
t from the time of conception, the unborn child has a self-directed force of life that, if not interrupted, will lead to the birth of a human baby. He knew this was not “potential life,” as the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:50 AM | Permalink

February 16, 2011

"His last meal was ice cream" Omer Baumgater R.I.P.

I suspect Mr. Baumgater wrote his own obituary and quite enjoyed it.  Good for him!

Omer L. Baumgartner 

 Omer Baumgartner

AMES, Iowa - Noted Midwestern raconteur Omer L. Baumgartner passed away at this home in Ames, Iowa on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011. He was 90 years old. Mr. Baumgartner had lived a long and passionate life dedicated to rambunctious performances and dairy products.

Born on a dairy farm in Walnut, Ill., Baumgartner was prodigious with the movement of manure from an early age, and exercising these and other talents, earned recognition for his National 4-H Grand Champion Dairy Heifer, Clementine's Ramona, in 1930 at the age of 10.

After this debut, and as the Depression raged, Baumgartner cut his teeth in the livestock industry while attending hundreds of county and state fairs, showing and selling cattle, frying oysters, skinning rabbits, and drinking whiskey.

While still a freshman at the University of Illinois, he successfully quelled the great dairy upraising of 1938, averting a desperate ice cream shortage in Chicago, and was immediately recruited, without finishing college, by the state's Guernsey Breeders Association as a field agent.

Despite never learning to cook anything other than fried oysters, Baumgartner attained the rank of captain during World War II for running mess halls feeding over 5,000 in Tennessee and Alabama for the Army Air Corps. He was wildly popular with the troops for his mess hours bongo drum performances accompanied by dancing girls.

Baumgartner notably worked for L.S. Heath and Company, running the dairy division and inventing Heath Bar ice cream in 1951. He also co-ran Wilkinson's Office Supplies with his wife Jattie Wilkinson Baumgartner, serving one-third of the state of Illinois and parts of Iowa.

Baumgartner disliked vegetables his whole life. Despite consuming more than 2,000 pounds of butter, he never suffered from any kind of heart disease. His last meal was ice cream.

via Ace

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:04 PM | Permalink

January 21, 2011

Sargent Shriver, "Serve, serve, serve"

Bono prays tribute What I learned from Sargent Shriver

The Peace Corps was Jack Kennedy’s creation but embodied Sargent Shriver’s spirit. Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty but Sarge led the charge. These, and the Special Olympics, were as dramatic an incarnation of the ideas at the heart of America as the space program.

Robert Sargent Shriver changed the world more than a few times and, I am happy to say, changed my world forever. In the late ’90s, when the Jubilee 2000 campaign — which aimed to cancel the debts that the poorest nations owed to the richest — asked me to help in the United States, I called on the Shriver clan for help and advice. What I got were those things in spades, and a call to arms like a thump in the back.

In the years since, Bobby Shriver — Sarge’s oldest son — and I co-founded three fighting units in the war against global poverty: DATA, ONE and (RED). We may not yet know what it will take to finish the fight and silence suffering in our time, but we are flat out trying to live up to Sarge’s drill.

--

Toward the end, when I visited Sarge as a frailer man, I was astonished by his good spirits and good humor. He had the room around him laughing out loud. I thought it a fitting final victory in a life that embodied service and transcended, so often, grave duty, that he had a certain weightlessness about him. Even then, his job nearly done, his light shone undiminished, and brightened us all.

Sargent Shriver left behind an astonishing legacy of faith and service and transformed lives.

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Los Angeles Times obit
R. Sargent Shriver, a lawyer who served as the social conscience of two administrations, launching the Peace Corps for his brother-in-law, President Kennedy, and leading the "war on poverty" for President Johnson, has died. He was 95.

Shriver died Tuesday at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md., his family said in a statement. His health had been in decline since he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2003.--By then, a lifetime as a public servant — a title he embraced tirelessly and unaffectedly — was behind him. "Serve, serve, serve" was Shriver's credo. "Because in the end, it will be the servants who save us all."

He started such innovative social programs as VISTA, a domestic version of the Peace Corps; Head Start, an enrichment program for low-income preschoolers; the Job Corps, to provide young people with vocational skills; and the aptly named Legal Services for the Poor. Shriver was "one of the brightest lights of the greatest generation," President Obama said in a statement.

--  Yet Shriver's record of public service and innovation was "unmatched by any contemporary leader in or out of government," Colman McCarthy wrote in 2002 in the National Catholic Reporter.

In the 1950s, Shriver was president of the Chicago Board of Education, and for decades he served on the board of the Special Olympics — the athletic games for the mentally disabled that was started in his backyard by his wife, Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

The view from Britain, the Guardian
Related by marriage to the Kennedy family, Sargent Shriver, who has died aged 95, had powerful political credentials in the US and sought high office several times – without success. However, through insider appointments in Washington DC, he did more to improve American lives than many influential elected statesmen.

A devoutly conservative Roman Catholic, but liberal in his politics, Shriver represented a kind of American now largely disappeared from national affairs. He was the scion of an old east coast family, born into wealth, but with a devotedly unselfish – though patrician – feeling for public service. If along the way this brought influence and fame, then that was the natural order.

-- Once, while drinking with steelworker voters in an Ohio bar, the chorus went up for another round, in which Shriver's voice was heard enthusiastically ordering Courvoisier.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:55 PM | Permalink

January 14, 2011

Funeral for 9-year-old Christina Green

Mourners Gather

Outside the church, more little girls — and hundreds of other people — wearing white and waving American flags lined both sides of the street for more than a quarter-mile to show their support. Hundreds of motorcycle riders from all over stood guard and more than a dozen residents were dressed as angels.

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Reminders of the innocence of the bubbly girl born on Sept. 11, 2001 were everywhere: A group of little girls dressed in frilly dresses and white tights craned to see as their friend's casket rolled into the church and Christina's best friend sneaked them a wave from her place in the processional line.

Family, Friends, Dignitaries Honor Youngest Tucson Shooting Victim

Green's small casket was brought into the church underneath a flag that flew at the World Trade Center on 9/11, a tribute to a young girl who was born on the day the Twin Towers fell and died in another tragedy outside of an Arizona supermarket. Green's family members met the casket and solemnly escorted it into St. Elizabeth-Ann Seton Catholic Church for the afternoon ceremony.


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"Christina-Taylor Green, I can't tell you how much we all miss you," John Green said. "I know you would be very proud to have a 9/11 flag here today."--
"I do know she's affected a lot of people in Tucson and we are very proud to be a member of that community. Just looking around us, we know that we have people who love her, love her family. And everybody is going to be okay. She would want that."

Also in the pews were many of Green's young friends, classmates and Little League teammates. About one-quarter of the attendees were children, according to Arizona Daily Star's Stephanie Innes, who attended the service as a pool reporter.

"She wanted to make a difference in her life. She wanted to make her mark, and she did so in so powerful a way that even she cannot imagine," said Bishop Gerald Kicanas during his homily, adding that the slain 9-year-old was also an organ donor.

--

Hymns during the service included "Amazing Grace" and "Like a Child Rests." After the University of Arizona choir sang Ave Maria, Christina-Taylor's father spoke directly to his daughter.

Trappist monks in Iowa handmade her casket

A spokesperson for the abbey told CNN that Green's family had reached out to them after the shooting, and the casket arrived in Tucson Wednesday morning.

"We didn't want to send an adult coffin that would be too big, we wanted something just for her," said the spokesperson. The casket was crafted from red oak, and was made especially for Green, the spokesperson said. The lid of the casket was inscribed with her name, date of birth and death, and a cross. The family also will receive five small keepsake crosses hewn from the same wood as the casket.

President Barack Obama spoke extensively about Green in a nationally televised address in Tucson Wednesday night.

Mr. Obama said that it is incumbent upon the country to live up to the vision of it held by Green, who was born on Sept. 11, 2001 and aspired to be a political leader and a Major League Baseball player.

"Imagine," the president said. "Here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation's future. She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted."


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Christina Taylor Greene, a face of innocence and goodness, R.I.P.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:38 AM | Permalink

January 13, 2011

The Arizona shooting victims and the President's eulogies

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Victims: Christine Green, Dorothy Morris, U.S. District Judge John Roll, Phyllis Schneck, Dorwin Stoddards and Gabriel Zimmerman were killed during the gun massacre last week

Dorothy Morris, 76

Dorothy Morris, known to her friends as "Dot," was a retired homemaker and secretary who lived north of Tucson in Oro Valley, Ariz. Dorothy died in the shooting. Her husband George, a former Marine and retired airline pilot, remains hospitalized after suffering two gunshot wounds. One of the couple's daughters said George Morris tried to protect his wife of 50 years by throwing her to the ground and trying to get on top of her to shield her. The couple both grew up in Reno, Nev., and were high school sweethearts.

The President's eulogy

George and Dorothy Morris -- "Dot" to her friends -- were high school sweethearts who got married and had two daughters. They did everything together -- traveling the open road in their RV, enjoying what their friends called a 50-year honeymoon. Saturday morning, they went by the Safeway to hear what their congresswoman had to say. When gunfire rang out, George, a former Marine, instinctively tried to shield his wife. (Applause.) Both were shot. Dot passed away.

U.S. District Court Judge John Roll , 63

Named Arizona's chief federal judge in 2006, U.S. District Judge John M. Roll won acclaim for a career as a respected jurist and leader who had pushed to beef up the court's strained bench to handle a growing number of border crime-related cases. Roll was appointed to the federal bench in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush. He previously served as a state trial judge and as a judge on the midlevel Arizona Court of appeals, and as a county and state prosecutor. Bishop Gerald Kicanas of the Roman Catholic Church's Tucson Diocese said Roll was an active parishioner. "He lived his faith as a servant of our nation for the cause of justice," Kicanas said. Roll was a Pennsylvania native who got his law degree from the University of Virginia. He is survived by his wife, Maureen, three sons, and five grandchildren.

The President's eulogy

Judge John Roll served our legal system for nearly 40 years. A graduate of this university and a graduate of this law school Judge Roll was recommended for the federal bench by John McCain 20 years ago ---- appointed by President George H.W. Bush and rose to become Arizona's chief federal judge. His colleagues described him as the hardest-working judge within the Ninth Circuit. He was on his way back from attending Mass, as he did every day, when he decided to stop by and say hi to his representative. John is survived by his loving wife, Maureen, his three sons and his five beautiful grandchildren.

Phyllis Schneck, 79

When Phyllis Schneck and her husband retired, they spent their winters in Tucson and summers in their native Rutherford, N.J. "They didn't want to ever have to deal with the snow again," said Schneck's daughter, B.J. Offutt of Colorado Springs, Colo. Schneck, who continued to return to Tucson in the winters even after her husband died in 2007, was a homemaker who raised her two daughters and one son and had a talent for cooking. In retirement, Schneck kept herself occupied by volunteering at her church. Her home in Tucson was less than four miles from the supermarket where the shooting took place. Offutt said her mother's appearance at the store was surprising, because she normally shopped at a different store and wasn't very political. Schneck is survived by her three children, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

The President's eulogy

A New Jersey native, Phyllis Schneck retired to Tucson to beat the snow. But in the summer, she would return East, where her world revolved around her three children, her seven grandchildren and 2-year-old great-granddaughter. A gifted quilter, she'd often work under a favorite tree, or sometimes she'd sew aprons with the logos of the Jets and the Giants to give out at the church where she volunteered. A Republican, she took a liking to Gabby, and wanted to get to know her better.

Dorwin Stoddards, 76

Everyone who knew Dorwan Stoddard thought he would die of complications from one of his 17 heart stents, or during one his numerous construction projects at Mountain Avenue Church of Christ. During his latest project, he fell 20 feet when a ladder buckled, said his pastor and friend Michael Nowak. When the shooting started Saturday, he dove to the ground, covering his wife Mavy, who was shot in the leg three times. The couple had been grade school sweethearts growing up in Tucson. After their respective spouses died, they independently moved back to retire, became reacquainted and fell in love all over again. Mavy Stoddard talked to her husband, who was shot in the head, for 10 minutes while he breathed heavily. Then he stopped breathing. He had two sons from his first marriage, and Mavy has three daughters.

The President's eulogy

Dorwan and Mavy Stoddard grew up in Tucson together -- about 70 years ago. They moved apart and started their own respective families. But after both were widowed they found their way back here, to, as one of Mavy's daughters put it, "be boyfriend and girlfriend again." When they weren't out on the road in their motor home, you could find them just up the road, helping folks in need at the Mountain Avenue Church of Christ. A retired construction worker, Dorwan spent his spare time fixing up the church along with his dog, Tux. His final act of selflessness was to dive on top of his wife, sacrificing his life for her.

Gabriel Zimmerman , 30

Gabe Zimmerman, the director of community outreach for U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, handled thousands of issues raised by constituents out of the congresswoman's offices in Tucson and Sierra Vista. Zimmerman was one of the Giffords staffers who organized many public events where voters could meet Giffords and talk to her about issues. Co-workers say Zimmerman, who had a master's degree in social work, cared passionately about helping people. Zimmerman's mother, Emily Nottingham, said politics was a good fit for him because it combined policy and making a difference for others. "He had a real interest in helping people and had a real caring for social justice," Nottingham said. Zimmerman, who was engaged, had set a wedding date for 2012.

The President's eulogy

Everything -- everything -- Gabe Zimmerman did, he did with passion. But his true passion was helping people. As Gabby's outreach director, he made the cares of thousands of her constituents his own, seeing to it that seniors got the Medicare benefits that they had earned, that veterans got the medals and the care that they deserved, that government was working for ordinary folks. He died doing what he loved -- talking with people and seeing how he could help. And Gabe is survived by his parents, Ross and Emily, his brother, Ben, and his fiancée, Kelly, who he planned to marry next year.

Christina Taylor Green, 9

Christina Taylor Green was only 9, but the third-grader already was an aspiring politician. Her parents say Christina had just been elected to the student council at Mesa Verde Elementary School and had been interested in politics from a young age. She already had told her parents she wanted to attend Penn State and have a career that involved helping those less fortunate than her. The brown-eyed athletic girl loved to swim with her 11-year-old brother Dallas, her lone sibling. Her mother, Roxanna Green, said Christina also loved animals, singing, dancing and gymnastics. She also was the only girl on her Canyon del Oro Little League baseball team. Her grandfather, former major-league pitcher Dallas Green, managed the 1980 world champion Philadelphia Phillies. Christina's father, John Green, is a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Christina was born on the tragic day of Sept. 11, 2001.

The President's eulogy

And then there is nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green. Christina was an A student; she was a dancer; she was a gymnast; she was a swimmer. She decided that she wanted to be the first woman to play in the Major Leagues, and as the only girl on her Little League team, no one put it past her. (Applause.) She showed an appreciation for life uncommon for a girl her age. She'd remind her mother, "We are so blessed. We have the best life." And she'd pay those blessings back by participating in a charity that helped children who were less fortunate.

--

Imagine -- imagine for a moment, here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that some day she, too, might play a part in shaping her nation's future. She had been elected to her student council. She saw public service as something exciting and hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.

I want to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it. I want America to be as good as she imagined it. All of us -- we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations.

As has already been mentioned, Christina was given to us on September 11th, 2001, one of 50 babies born that day to be pictured in a book called "Faces of Hope." On either side of her photo in that book were simple wishes for a child's life. "I hope you help those in need," read one. "I hope you know all the words to the National Anthem and sing it with your hand over your heart." "I hope you jump in rain puddles."

If there are rain puddles in Heaven, Christina is jumping in them today. ) And here on this Earth -- here on this Earth, we place our hands over our hearts, and we commit ourselves as Americans to forging a country that is forever worthy of her gentle, happy spirit. May God bless and keep those we've lost in restful and eternal peace. May He love and watch over the survivors. And may He bless the United States of America.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:35 AM | Permalink

January 8, 2011

The 'last word' on Last Words

William Barnes is no ordinary librarian. He writes books that become standard research tools for other librarians like Notable Last Facts: A Compendium Of Endings, Conclusions, Terminations And Final Events Throughout History"

I've just spent several hours perusing his new book Last Words of Notable People which organizes and sources the real, variable and doubtful last words of some 3500 people throughout history.

Easy to use, trustworthy and delectable as a box of chocolates and just as hard to put down, the book reveals what was on the minds of people facing imminent death.

Sam Ward, "I think I'm going to give up the ghost." It struck me reading this that giving up the ghost is releasing the soul from the body.

Calamity Jane, "Bury me next to Bill" [Hickok]

George Washington, "Tis well"

Crowfoot, Chief of the Blackfoot Nation of Canada, "A little while and I will be gone from among you, whither I can not tell. From nowhere we come, into nowhere we go. What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night, it is the breath of a buffalo in the winter time. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset."

Candy Darling, actor and female impersonator, in the suicide note left behind, wrote in part, "Unfortunately before my death I had no desire for life...I felt too empty to go on in this unreal existence. I sam just so bored by everything. You might say bored to death..."

Manual Garcia, "Three-fingered Jack", member of a gang of desperados and killed by California Rangers, "I will throw up my hands for no gringo dog."

Humphrey Bogart, said to his wife Lauren Bacall as she left the hospital to pick up their children, "Goodbye, Kid. Hurry back." Comatose when she returned, he died in his sleep the next day.

Peggy Guggenheim, American art patron and collector, died at 81 in Padua, Italy, saying "These nurses don't have any idea what's wrong with me. They haven't a clue."

James Michael Curley, Mayor of Boston, Member of US House, Governor of Massachusetts, "I wish to announce the first plank in my campaign for re-election - we're going to have the floors in this goddamned hospital straightened out."

William Morris, English artist and famed craftsman, " I want to get mumbo jumbo out of the world."

Leonard "Chico" Marx, comedian, to his wife, "Remember Honey, don't forget what I told you. Put in my coffin a deck of cards, a mashie niblick and a pretty blonde."
Surprisingly, or maybe not, death for some is pleasant.

William Cullen, Scottish physician and inventor of a method of refrigeration, "I wish I had the power of writing or speaking, for then I would describe to you how pleasant a thing it is to die."

John Singleton Copley, Boston painter and American artist, when asked how he felt said, "Happy, happy, supremely happy."

For others, death is far from pleasant

Francisco Franco, Spanish dictator, "My God, how hard it is to die!"

Cesare Borgia,, notorious for his cruelty and treachery, this Italian nobleman, politician and prelate was the political hero portrayed by Machiavelli in The Prince said this shortly before his death at 31, "I had provided in the course of my life, for everything except death. And now, alas. I am to die, though entirely unprepared."

Not surprising, those who were religious were the least afraid to die and the most prepared.

Saint Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers, Doctor of the Church, "Soul, thou hast served Christ these seventy years and art thou afraid to die? Go out, soul, go out."

Saint Dominic Savio, who died at 14, "Surely you are not crying, Mom, at seeing me go to heaven? Look, Dad, look! Can't you see? The wonderful!. The beautiful."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German clergyman and Lutheran theologian who became involved in a plot to kill Hitler in 1944. Just before he was hanged, he said, "This is the end for me, the beginning of life".

Some last words, favorites of mine, that were not included

St Theresa d'Avila, "My Lord, it is time to move on. Well then, may your will be done. O My Lord and my Spouse, the hour that I have longed for has come. It is time to meet one another."

St Therese de Lisieux, at 24, consumed by tuberculosis, "My God, I love you!"

Three-year-old Adam of Baghdad who wandered through blood and bodies to follow the Islamic terrorists who were killing the church-goers at Mass and admonish them, "Enough, Enough, Enough," until he himself was killed.

"Tell my Pa I died right" said Sgt Richard Kirkland, 20, who died at the battle of Chickamauga, after giving Union wounded blankets and water as they lay dying after the battle of Marye's Heights.

""Kisses, kisses, More kisses" Duke Ellington asked of his sister Ruth.

Nor were the proverbial last words of 8 out of 10 Darwin nominees, "Hey guys, watch this."


"Last Words of Notable People: Final Words of More Than 3500 Noteworthy People Throughout History" (Reference Desk Press)

Now, the official source on last words for Legacy Matters.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:49 PM | Permalink

December 28, 2010

The Lives They Lived

As the year draws to end, The New York Times gives us its idiosyncratic collage of The Lives They Lived, a "collection of narratives that celebrate lives",

From Benoit Mandelbrot

He turns out to have belonged to the select handful of 20th-century scientists who upended, as if by flipping a switch, the way we see the world we live in.

He was the one who let us appreciate chaos in all its glory, the noisy, the wayward and the freakish, from the very small to the very large. He gave the new field of study he invented a fittingly recondite name: “fractal geometry.”

to Philippa Foot, a philosopher who reached back to St. Thomas Acquinas to find

If you focus on traditional virtues and vices like temperance and avarice instead of abstract concepts like goodness and duty, you can see the concrete connections between the conditions of human life and the objective reasons for acting morally. (Why is cowardliness a vice? Because courage is needed to face the world’s challenges.) In the ’80s, after considering how we evaluate what is “good” for plants and animals, she developed the argument, presented in “Natural Goodness,” that vice is a defect in humans in the same way that poor roots are a defect in an oak tree or poor vision a defect in an owl: the latter two assessments have clear normative implications (“oughts”), yet are entirely factual. Even from a secular scientific vantage point, you could locate good and evil in the fabric of the world.

“I’m a dreadfully slow thinker, really,” she said. “But I do have a good nose for what is important.”

and Talitha and Emmanuella Termilus

Termilus had a wife, two daughters and a son. That morning, his daughters — Talitha and Emmanuella, who were 12 and 11, and whose preternatural intelligence had caused their teachers to promote them to the eighth and seventh grades — dressed their 3-year-old brother, Benedict, each slipping a shoe on a foot and tying it for him. They shared everything like this. They were the kind of girls, pigtailed and smiling and outgoing, for whom an excursion to the beach, or for ice cream, often meant packing the car with friends; Frantz at the wheel often marveled at the sweet jabber of children.

--

Grief is a walk to the ending you already know, and during the seventh and eighth miles, a feeling overtook Termilus, a wish for only one thing: that he might stumble upon someone he knew in the streets — anyone — just to grab hold of the living and tell them the truth: that he loved them. Why hadn’t he ever said so before?

When he came to the school, there was no school. All four stories had come down. And everything all at once left his body — all the hope and energy he’d mustered to match the horror — and even now he couldn’t say how long he stood there, gazing upon the gravestone of that school. In his mind, he still stands there.

--

There was no phone service, but it wasn’t hard to know that the city was bedlam. Word of mouth traveled: hospitals had been destroyed. There were no services, no potable water. The prison had broken open — and now 5,000 inmates were loose, including all the kidnappers. There were caches of weapons that needed to be secured. And there were more children, trapped, orphaned, injured. He was on the verge of being consumed by memory, but instead of mourning before that pile of rocks, he dusted off his shirt — his badge, the epaulets. He straightened his uniform and went to work.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:59 PM | Permalink

December 19, 2010

"Enough, Enough, Enough", three-year-old confronts Islamic terrorists

More than a month since the horrific and ferocious murder of 52 Catholics at Mass inside Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad by militant Islamic terrorists of Al Qaeda. The Cloud of Witnesses.

Now stories are being told by the survivors. What a story! What a heartbreak! What a brave boy!

“Enough, Enough, Enough”: 3-Year-Old Catholic Confronts Islamic Terrorists as His Parents Lay Dead


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Among the victims of this senseless tragedy was a little boy named Adam. Three-year-old Adam witnessed the horror of dozens of deaths, including that of his own parents. He wandered among the corpses and the blood, following the terrorists around and admonishing them, ‘enough, enough, enough.’ According to witnesses, this continued for two hours until Adam was himself murdered.” As bishops, as Americans, we cannot turn from this scene or allow the world to overlook it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:07 PM | Permalink

December 13, 2010

"The crocs are having a bake and might fancy you for lunch"

In Uganda, there is a temporary halt to kayaking after American tourists watch in horror as their Congo River guide is pulled from kayak by crocodile .

The two tourists were able to paddle to safety while the guide Henrick Coetzee, 35, is presumed dead.

South African-born Coetzee, who was living in Uganda, was leading the group of experienced kayakers as part of a mission to document unexplored whitewater and development projects in the region, a trip sponsored by Eddie Bauer.

Documenting his journey through his blog Coetzee wrote of a sense of foreboding in his last entry dated November 26.

He wrote: ‘As I licked my dry lips and carefully checked that my spray deck was on properly, I had the feeling I might be doing something I should not. I pushed through the doubt and when I finally shot out the bottom of the rapid I was happy I did. It was just paranoia after all.’ Dangerous: The area the group were kayaking in is notoriously dangerous for its whitewater and because of its high density of crocodiles.

One of the Americans documented Coetzee’s instructions referring to him as Hendri. He warned: ‘Stay off the banks because the crocs are having a bake and might fancy you for lunch. Basically, stay close behind me and follow my lead. Any questions?’

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:35 AM | Permalink

December 8, 2010

Elizabeth Edwards, R.I.P.

Elizabeth Edwards had a rich and difficult life and she died too young at 61.


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New York Times obituary by Robert McFadden, A Political Life Filled with Cruel Reversals

Elizabeth Edwards, who as the wife of former Senator John Edwards gave America an intimate look at a candidate’s marriage by sharing his quest for the 2008 presidential nomination as she struggled with incurable cancer and, secretly, with his infidelity, died Tuesday morning at her home in Chapel Hill, N.C. She was 61.

They separated this year after he admitted to fathering a child in an extramarital affair. Her family confirmed the death, saying Mrs. Edwards was surrounded by relatives when she died. A family friend said Mr. Edwards was present. On Monday, two family friends said that Mrs. Edwards’s cancer had spread to her liver and that doctors had advised against further medical treatment.

Mrs. Edwards posted a Facebook message to friends on Monday, saying, “I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces — my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope.” She added: “The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that.”

In a life of idyllic successes and crushing reverses, Mrs. Edwards was an accomplished lawyer, the mother of four children and the wife of a wealthy, handsome senator with sights on the White House. But their 16-year-old son was killed in a car crash, cancer struck her at age 55, the political dreams died and, within months, her husband admitted to having had an extramarital affair with a campaign videographer.

In the Daily Mail Elizabeth Edwards dies surrounded by family as she loses her cancer battle

Yesterday doctors sent Mrs Edwards home to be with her family after telling her any further cancer treatment would be 'unproductive'.

She was said to have prepared their three children for when she is gone and has written heartfelt letters to them.

Mrs Edwards was surrounded by her siblings, nieces and nephews and close friends. They spent her last hours talking and looking at old photographs.

-- A friend of the family said in a statement yesterday that Mrs Edwards was in good spirits, and was not in pain.

-- President Barack Obama said he spoke to John Edwards and the Edwardses' daughter, Cate, on Tuesday afternoon to offer condolences.

'In her life, Elizabeth Edwards knew tragedy and pain,' Mr Obama said in a statement.

'Many others would have turned inward; many others in the face of such adversity would have given up. But through all that she endured, Elizabeth revealed a kind of fortitude and grace that will long remain a source of inspiration.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:53 PM | Permalink

November 24, 2010

"It was an honor that I was used for the big purpose"

A remarkable life of a man who risked his life for a "big purpose", suffered imprisonment and severe torture but never broke, who eschewed bitterness and who survived to live an exemplary life. It always amazes me to think about how much we owe to people we've never met.

A great legacy indeed.


Resistance Courier Ferried Secret Data.
Shortly after German troops invaded Belgium in 1940, Gaston Vandermeerssche, a Belgian university student, bicycled 800 miles to the south of France and became a spy.

Mr. Vandermeerssche, who died Nov. 1 at age 89 in Milwaukee, joined the resistance and ferried microfilm documents over the Pyrenees to Spain, where intermediaries sent the information on to London. Later in the war he helped organize the Dutch underground, which came to comprise hundreds of agents and safe houses.

After his network was penetrated by the Germans, he tried to escape, but was arrested near the Spanish border. He spent 24 months being interrogated in prison, but by his own account never broke. -- His German interrogators suspected his role in the Dutch underground, but couldn't prove it. "I was so young, the Germans did not believe that this kid was the head of that large network," he said in the oral history. "And I told them, 'Are you crazy? I couldn't have done this.' "

Months of brutal interrogation and solitary confinement failed to break Mr. Vandermeerssche's will. He was betrayed by another member of the underground, and was sentenced to death in a military trial. But he was freed by American troops near the end of the war.

Although shattered by his experiences in prison—he said he couldn't eat or sleep normally for a decade—Mr. Vandermeerssche resumed his studies, earning a Ph.D. in physics. He ran Ghent University's electron-microscope department. In 1965, he moved to the U.S. and later became an executive at the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co.
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In the 1980s, he began visiting Europe to reconstruct his wartime activities, and recounted them in a 1988 book, "Gaston's War." He came to believe that his spy networks had been purposely exposed by his masters in London, as a diversion to convince the Germans that D-Day invasions were planned for the Low Countries instead of Normandy. He called it "le grand jeu"—the great game—in his memoir.

"Now I'm not bitter at all," he said in the oral history. "It was an honor that I was used for the big purpose."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:13 PM | Permalink

November 10, 2010

Jill Clayburgh, R.I.P.

Surrounded by her family at home, Jill Clayburgh died at 66 of chronic lymphoctic leukemia said her husband, the playwright David Rabe.

She dealt with the disease courageously, quietly and privately, Rabe said, and conducted herself with enormous grace "and made it into an opportunity for her children to grow and be human."

An appreciation by Janet Maslin in the New York Times.


In the most famous scene in Jill Clayburgh’s most influential movie, her character reacted to the news that her husband wanted to leave her. Ms. Clayburgh’s Erica responded with such naturalness, confusion and wounded pride that she captured the imagination of a generation.
Enlarge This Image

“As Miss Clayburgh plays this scene,” Vincent Canby wrote about “An Unmarried Woman” in 1978, “one has a vision of all the immutable things that can be destroyed in less than a minute, from landscapes and ships and reputations to perfect marriages.” But she proved that a reputation could be made in less than a minute too.

 Clayburgh, Jill

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She remained elegant, lovely and so recognizable that she became accustomed to being treated as an avatar. “My God, you’ve defined my entire life for me,” one weeping “Unmarried Woman” fan told her in 2002, and that experience was apparently not unusual for her. When she and Lily, an actress, roomed together in Manhattan in 2005 as both of them prepared for stage appearances, a writer for The New York Times visited the 61-year-old eternal heroine and still saw her unforgettable movie persona.

“Jill Clayburgh appears to be living in an updated Jill Clayburgh vehicle,” Nancy Hass wrote. “Fluttery-yet-determined mom flees comfortable exurban married life to share tiny Manhattan apartment of headstrong, aspiring-actress daughter. Conflict, hilarity and, of course, self-actualization ensue.” For Jill Clayburgh, in both her life and work, that’s just what happened.


Paul Mazursky said

“Jill was a beautiful person and an extraordinary actress. I loved her and miss her. She was deep, funny, surprising, sexy, a great mother and a great wife. … What more can I tell you?”

A classmate at The Brearly School writes an appreciation

Other girls in other schools all over the world have stood out from their classmates and fascinated them as Jill fascinated us. But there was something else, something more enduring about Jill that set her apart: her immense talent. That, combined with her powerful discipline.
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While the majority of her classmates were in the chorus, Jill memorized vast swathes of Euripides, Shakespeare, and Gilbert & Sullivan. If most of us forgot our lines, who would have noticed? But Jill, from an early age, carried the plays entirely from memory. Of all her starring roles at school, the most memorable to me was the tragic heroine Hecuba in The Trojan Women of Euripides. This was when she was 11 years old. The character she played was a mother and a grandmother, as well as a queen....It was a performance — a tour de force — that more than half a century later is still vivid.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:19 AM | Permalink

October 19, 2010

Benoit Mandelbrot, R.I.P.

He showed us beauty deep down and  changed the way we looked at the world.

In the Telegraph, the obituary for Benoit Mandelbrot

Before Mandelbrot, mathematicians believed that most of the patterns of nature were far too complex, irregular, fragmented and amorphous to be described mathematically. Euclidian geometry was concerned with abstract perfection almost non-existent in the real world. Mandelbrot's achievement was to conceive and develop a way of describing mathematically the most amorphous natural forms – such as the shape of clouds, mountains, coastlines or trees – and measuring them. His work has become the foundation of Chaos theory – the mathematics of non-linear, dynamic systems.

New York Times obituary

Benoît B. Mandelbrot, a maverick mathematician who developed the field of fractal geometry and applied it to physics, biology, finance and many other fields, died on Thursday in Cambridge, Mass. He was 85.
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Dr. Mandelbrot coined the term “fractal” to refer to a new class of mathematical shapes whose uneven contours could mimic the irregularities found in nature.
_
In a seminal book, “The Fractal Geometry of Nature,” published in 1982, Dr. Mandelbrot defended mathematical objects that he said others had dismissed as “monstrous” and “pathological.” Using fractal geometry, he argued, the complex outlines of clouds and coastlines, once considered unmeasurable, could now “be approached in rigorous and vigorous quantitative fashion.

--
-Mandelbrot

Dr. Mandelbrot traced his work on fractals to a question he first encountered as a young researcher: how long is the coast of Britain? The answer, he was surprised to discover, depends on how closely one looks. On a map an island may appear smooth, but zooming in will reveal jagged edges that add up to a longer coast. Zooming in further will reveal even more coastline.

“Here is a question, a staple of grade-school geometry that, if you think about it, is impossible,” Dr. Mandelbrot told The New York Times earlier this year in an interview. “The length of the coastline, in a sense, is infinite.”
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When asked to look back on his career, Dr. Mandelbrot compared his own trajectory to the rough outlines of clouds and coastlines that drew him into the study of fractals in the 1950s.

“If you take the beginning and the end, I have had a conventional career,” he said, referring to his prestigious appointments in Paris and at Yale. “But it was not a straight line between the beginning and the end. It was a very crooked line.”

How Mandelbrot's fractals changed the world

A tiny sand dune or a puddle in a mountain track have the same shapes as a huge sand dune and a lake in a mountain gully. This "self-similarity" at different scales is a defining characteristic of fractals.

The fractal mathematics Mandelbrot pioneered, together with the related field of chaos theory, lifts the veil on the hidden beauty of the world. It inspired scientists in many disciplines - including cosmology, medicine, engineering and genetics - and artists and musicians, too.

The whole universe is fractal, and so there is something joyfully quintessential about Mandelbrot's insights.

I just bought my first fractal vegetable, Romanesco broccoli and when I eat I will think of Benoit Mandelbrot.

 Romanesco

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:18 AM | Permalink

Annie of Fulton Fish Market

A lyrical tribute to Annie aka Gloria Wasserman in the New York Times.    She was one of the crazy old ladies you sometimes see around.  She worked all of her life and gave everything away, one of those saints among us.

Death of a Fulton Fish Market Fixture

THE fish men see her still, their Annie, in the hide-and-seek shadows of South Street. She’s telling her dirty jokes and doing anything for a buck: hustling newspapers, untaxed cigarettes, favors, those pairs of irregular socks she’d buy cheap on Canal. She’s submitting to the elements, calling out “Yoo-hoo” to the snow and the rain and her boys.

For several decades, Annie was the profane mother of the old Fulton Fish Market, that pungent Lower Manhattan place fast becoming a mirage of memory. Making her rounds, running errands, holding her own in the blue banter, she was as much a part of this gruff place as the waxed fish boxes, the forklift-rocking cobblestones, and the cocktail aroma of gasoline, cigarettes and the sea.
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WHAT a brutal way to live. She cleaned the market’s offices and locker rooms and bathrooms. She collected the men’s “fish clothes” on Friday and had them washed and ready for Monday. She ran errands for Mr. DeLuca, known as Stevie Coffee Truck, hustling to Chinatown to pick up, say, some ginseng tea. She accepted the early morning delivery of bagels. She tried to anticipate the men’s needs — towels, bandannas, candy — and had these items available for sale.
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All the while, Annie kept working, rarely missing a day, and gave nearly everything she had to others.

Barbara Grinols, Karl’s ex-wife, who lives in New Hampshire, said that Ms. Wasserman often sent as much as $4,000 a month, usually through money orders, to her relations on both coasts. She also routinely sent along boxes of used clothing that she had culled from places like the Catholic Worker’s Mary House,
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She became like a grandmother to dozens of women on the street who had nobody,” said Felton Davis, a full-time Catholic Worker volunteer. Sensing the lack of esteem in a woman beside her, he said, “She would say: `I have just the shirt that you need. I’ll get it for you.’ ”

Meanwhile, up in New Hampshire, the clothes kept coming. “The boxes would be opened, and it would be like: `Who wants this T-shirt?’ ‘Who wants this sweatshirt?’ ” Ms. Grinols recalled. “So many people in this area got gifts from her.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:58 AM | Permalink

"Tell my Pa I died right"

Richard Rowland Kirkland, The Angel of Marye's Heights

On December 13, 1862 he was a sergeant in Company G, 2nd South Carolina.  The day was ending and his regiment was stationed at the stone wall at the base of Marye’s Heights overlooking Fredericksburg.  His unit had helped smash Union attack after Union attack, and now he looked over fields strewn with wounded and dead Union soldiers.  He could hear the wounded Union soldiers crying out desperately for water.

Unable to bear the cries any longer, he approached Brigadier General Joseph Kershaw and informed him of what he wanted to do.  Kershaw gave him his permission, but told him he was unable to authorize a flag of truce.  Kirkland said that was fine and he would simply have to take his chances.  Gathering up all the canteens and blankets he could carry, Kirkland slipped over the wall, realizing that without a flag of truce it was quite possible he would be fired upon by Union troops.

Kirkland began to give drinks to Union wounded and blankets to protect them from the cold.  Union troops, recognizing what he was doing, did not fire at him.  For hours Kirkland went back and forth tending to the enemy wounded.  He did not stop until he had assisted all Union wounded in the Confederate portion of the battlefield.  The last Union soldier he assisted he gave his own overcoat.  He was repeatedly cheered by both Union and Confederate soldiers.

Sergeant Kirkland did not survive the war.  He died at the battle of Chickamauga, September 20, 1863, just barely 20.  His last words were, “Tell my Pa I died right.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:28 AM | Permalink

October 15, 2010

Last words of St Thomas Aquinas

 Aquinas1

Before he received the blessed Eucharist for the last time,

I now receive you who are the price of my soul's redemption, I receive you who are the food for my final journey, and for the love of whom I have studied, kept vigil, and struggled; indeed, it was you, Jesus, that I preached and you that I taught."

From The Spirituality of St Thomas Aquinas

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:48 PM | Permalink

September 24, 2010

The last words of Sarah Bernhardt

The last words of Sarah Bernhardt

Bernhardt Formal By Felix Nadar

In 1923, as she lay dying, she learned that crowds had been gathering outside her house for several days. She smiled and said, with the peculiar affection of an actress for her audience, “I’ll keep them dangling. They’ve tortured me all my life, now I’ll torture them.”

From the fascinating review - The Divine Sarah - in the New York Review of Books by Graham Robb of the new biography of Sarah Berhardt by Roger  Gottlieb.  Read it.  You will not be disappointed

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:45 PM | Permalink

September 14, 2010

"An enviable exit from a life well lived"

The sudden death of the father of Prime Minister David Cameron sparked this appreciation from Tim Jeal.

Ian Cameron: A loving end to a life well-lived.

David Cameron would have learnt early from his father something most us don't discover until life has knocked us about a bit: that lots of people, who don't win races or make a huge fuss about their lot, are actually quietly coping with situations requiring immense courage and determination. This quiet coping without fuss and self-pity was the example that Ian Cameron set his son and to which he has paid tribute. "Whingeing was not on the menu," one family member has tersely recalled.
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The death of a parent is always sad – and deeply shocking when unexpected – but to have started out in life, as Ian Cameron did, perhaps not expecting to live long, due to his disability, and then having a successful career, a happy family life and living to 77, quite apart from witnessing that extraordinary event in Downing Street and hearing of a new granddaughter born, can only be seen as truly marvellous. To die quickly on a family holiday and not survive and suffer a diminished life is to make an enviable exit from a life well lived.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:09 PM | Permalink

September 9, 2010

Michael Burn, 97, R.I.P.

It was this summary in The Browser that sent me over the to Telegraph to read the whole obituary of Michael Burn.

Admired Hitler. Commando, war hero. Prisoner in Colditz. Saved Audrey Hepburn's life. Lover of Guy Burgess. Poet and novelist. Ran North Wales mussel-farming co-operative. Died at 97

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:29 PM | Permalink

September 7, 2010

Gloria Winters, "Penny" in "Sky King" RIP

From Jeffrey Jena at Big Hollywood comes the news that Gloria Winters, best known as Penny in Sky King, has died of pneumonia.   

Pining for Sky King's Penny

 Gloria-Winters Sky-King

You may remember her better as Sky King’s niece, Penny. A perky all-American blond who was immortalized in song by Jimmy Buffet in his homage to all things fifties, “Pencil Thin Moustache” She was the girl next door for millions of American boys. It looked like Penny had the perfect life for someone growing up in small town Kentucky; no parents, not a lot of school and a cool uncle with an airplane who lets her get involved in his adventures.

Ms. Winters died last week at her home in Southern California. She will always be remembered as the wholesome Penny because Ms. Winters had the good sense to quit acting before she became a failure as an adult actress or fell into alcoholism or drug addiction. From accounts I have read she did exactly what her character Penny would have, got out while the getting was good and lived a normal life.

When I was about 5 or 6 and television was brand new, I would watch every single episode of Sky King.  I wanted to be like Penny and have an exciting and adventurous life.  How lovely that she was smart enough to have a normal life.

New York Times obituary

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:14 AM | Permalink

August 9, 2010

Patricia Neal R.I.P.

The actress, who won an Academy Award for her role in the 1963 film 'Hud,' persevered through a life that was marked by a succession of tragedies.

LA Times obituary by Jack Jones

Actress Patricia Neal, who rebuilt a troubled career to win an Academy Award only to face a more desperate battle for survival when three strokes left her paralyzed and unable to speak or remember, has died. She was 84.
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A succession of tragedies marked the life of the actress whose bright promise on Broadway in the mid-1940s took her to Hollywood and into a succession of lackluster films, as well as a desperate love affair with actor Gary Cooper and marriage to British writer Roald Dahl.

Her infant son's brain was damaged when his stroller was struck by a New York City taxicab, a daughter died as a result of measles and then — only a year after she finally won critical acclaim and an Oscar for her portrayal of the weary housekeeper in the 1963 film "Hud" — she suffered three strokes that appeared to end her career.

With the determined help of her husband, Neal recovered sufficiently to return to films, but then lost Dahl to another woman whom she had accepted as a friend.

 Patricia Neal

Creative Minority Report

When Neal was young she fell in love and had an extended affair with her married co-star Gary Cooper. When Neal became pregnant with his child he urged her to have an abortion which she did. Gary Cooper's daughter Maria Cooper famously spat on Neal for carrying on an affair with her father.

Later, however, Maria Cooper and Neal became great friends and it was Maria Cooper who helped bring Neal back to her Catholic faith by having her spend some time at a convent where former actress Sister Dolores was prioress.

From a tribute to her by Monsignor Lisante when she received a pro-life award.

And I said, "In your life, Pat, if there was one thing you could change, what would it be?" And Patricia Neal said, "Father, none of the things you just mentioned." But she said, "Forty years ago I became involved with the actor Gary Cooper, and by him I became pregnant. As he was a married man and I was young in Hollywood and not wanting to ruin my career, we chose to have the baby aborted." She said, "Father, alone in the night for over 40 years, I have cried for my child. And if there is one thing I wish I had the courage to do over in my life, I wish I had the courage to have that baby."

Patricia Neal has put herself on the line in saying to many, many women who have experienced abortion or thought about abortion, "Don't make my mistake. Let your baby live." What's particularly painful, but poignant in this story is that some years later, Patricia became good friends with Maria Cooper, the only child of Gary Cooper and his wife. And Maria Cooper said, "You know, I know you had the affair with my father and I have long ago forgiven that. But one thing I find it hard to accept is that as an only child, I so wish that you'd had my brother or my sister. Because in so many ways, I wish so much that you had chosen life."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:04 PM | Permalink

August 3, 2010

The Man behind Cheese Doodles, dead at 90

A quintessential American life, Morrie Yohai

New York Times obit, 'Mr Cheez Doodles' Dies at 90

Yohai-Obit-Cheezdoodles

“Is this Mr. Cheez Doodles?” a cashier once asked Mr. Yohai’s wife, Phyllis, when he accompanied her to a local supermarket. Mrs. Yohai liked to let everyone know of her husband’s contribution to between-meal crunchies, according to a 2005 Newsday profile. Their sumptuous home overlooking Long Island Sound was “the house that Cheez Doodles bought,” she liked to say.

Mr. Yohai (pronounced yo-high) was the president of Old London Foods, the company founded by his father in the early 1920s and then called King Kone, which first produced ice cream cones and later popcorn, cheese crackers and Melba Toast.

“They were looking for a new salty snack and became aware of a machine that processed corn meal under high pressure into a long tube shape,” Robbie Yohai said on Monday. “They also discovered that if they used a high-speed blade, similar to a propeller, they could cut three-inch-long tubes, which then could be flavored with orange cheddar cheese and seasonings.” Then baked, not fried.

Although Mr. Yohai insisted on the “we” credit for the recipe, he did say that he came up with the product name.
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One of his duties, he said, was sitting around a table with other executives and choosing which tiny toys would be stuffed into Cracker Jack boxes.

Newsday obit
He also was an accomplished photographer, poet, professor and businessman whose quiet wisdom left a deep impression on his family and friends.

Morrie R. Yohai was born in Harlem on March 4, 1920. He graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied business, then went to work for the Grumman aircraft company on Long Island.
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During World War II, Yohai interrupted his career to enlist in the Navy and begin flight training, said Yohai's son, Robbie Yohai of Berkeley, Calif.

"He decided since he was making planes, he figured he could fly a plane," Robbie Yohai said of his father, who had never taken an airplane ride before. "The first time he was ever in an airplane, he was the co-pilot."

Morrie Yohai transferred to the Marine Corps and eventually served as a pilot in the South Pacific, shuttling injured troops and cargo back and forth, Robbie Yohai said
"He was excited by the experience," his son said. "He was happy to be a Marine and was very proud of it."
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He left the company when Borden relocated to Columbus, Ohio, and soon began teaching at the New York Institute of Technology. He eventually became the associate dean of the school of management, Robbie Yohai said.

"It turned out that he loved teaching," Robbie Yohai said. "He could see he was making a difference in a lot of these young people's lives.

In his later years, Yohai turned his attention to Torah study, Jewish mysticism and writing. Robbie Yohai said his father wrote more than 500 poems and published two books of poetry.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:48 AM | Permalink

July 28, 2010

Deep sea photographer dies in underwater shoot

 Wes-Skiles-Underwater Photographer

Wes Skiles, 52, a freelance deep-sea photographer, died while filming an underwater shoot near Florida for the National Geographic.

His obituary in the Palm Beach Post

Skiles and other members of a film crew were working around a reef east of the Boynton Inlet Wednesday afternoon when Skiles signaled to his colleagues that he was going to head to the surface to get more film, sheriff's spokeswoman Teri Barbera said.

He ascended alone. A few minutes later other members of the group heading for the surface too found him lying on the ocean floor.

His colleagues pulled him onto their boat and attempted to revive him, Barbera said. He was transported to St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach, where he was pronounced dead.

From The National Geographic blog
A photograph by Skiles is the current (August) cover story of National Geographic. Editor in Chief Chris Johns devoted his "Editor's Note" to the photographer in the same issue.

"Wes was a true explorer in every sense and a wonderful spirit," Chris Johns said today. "He set a standard for underwater photography, cinematography and exploration that is unsurpassed. It was an honor to work with him, and he will be deeply missed."

The stunning final images of the veteran deep-sea photographer killed while filming underwater

 Last-Photo Wes Skiles

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:03 PM | Permalink

July 24, 2010

"My mother would make sure that my father had a good dinner and a loaded gun before he went off a mission."

Michael Malone writes of his mother who went out with fireworks in An American Life.

After my father’s death in 1988, it would have been understandable if my mother had stepped out of her busy life and enjoyed her own long retirement.  Instead, she embarked on the last great act of her life, one that astonished everyone who knew her and which in the end made everything that came before it seem like a rehearsal.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:46 PM | Permalink

July 14, 2010

"in lieu of flowers, vote for another more worthy candidate.”

A long-time supporter of Harry Reid, Charlotte McCourt came to regret it.  When she died at 84, her obituary read in part"

“We believe that Mom would say she was mortified to have taken a large role in the election of Harry Reid to U.S. Congress. Let the record show Charlotte was displeased with his work. Please, in lieu of flowers, vote for another more worthy candidate.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:58 AM | Permalink

July 9, 2010

"“What time is it? I wish you’d hurry up, I want to get to hell in time for dinner.”

The New York Review of Books, a review by Charles Simic of Last Words  collected by Robert Elder in his new book Last Words of the Executed.

“Don’t let it end like this. Tell them I said something,” Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa worried in his dying moments.

“When I die, bury me deep, lay two speakers at my feet, put some headphones on my head and rock and roll me when I’m dead.” (Douglas Roberts, convicted of kidnapping, robbery and murder in Texas and executed on April 20, 2005.)

What time is it? I wish you’d hurry up, I want to get to hell in time for dinner.” (John Owens (AKA Bill Booth), executed for murder in Wyoming on March 5, 1886).

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:51 PM | Permalink

June 27, 2010

"My life has not been something to write home about."

Only 19, he made the FBI's most wanted list as a domestic terrorist for his role in the  bombing a University of Wisconsin campus building which killed Richard Fassnacht, 33, and father of three, a physics researcher who was working late.

 Dwghtarmstrong-Obit

The blast inflicted millions of dollars’ worth of damage on Sterling Hall and surrounding buildings. Besides killing Mr. Fassnacht, it injured at least three others. The Army Mathematics Research Center itself sustained minimal damage.

Dwight Armstrong, campus bomber, dead of lung cancer at 58. 

After being on the lam for seven years, he was captured in Toronto.  In a plea agreement to which no contest to a state charge of second-degree murder, Armstrong served two 7 year terms concurrently and was paroled in 1980.  Seven years later, he was arrested in Indiana for helping operate a meth lab, found guilty, sentenced to ten years and released in 1991.

He ended up going home, taking care of his mother and driving a cab.    For 3 decades during the summer months, he operated a juice cart.

According to the New York Times obituary, he gave an interview to The Capital Times, a Madison newspaper in 1992

“My life has not been something to write home about.”

In that same  interview

Dwight Armstrong expressed qualified remorse for the killing, arguing that the bombing itself was a political necessity. “We did what we had to do; we did what we felt a lot of other people should have done,” he said. “I don’t care what public opinion is; we did what was right.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:33 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

June 23, 2010

Manute Bol, R.I.P.

Manute Bol, the Dinka tribesman who became a player in the NBA, died at 47 of an adverse drug reaction, the fourth-leading cause of death in the U.S. called Stevens Johnson Syndrome or SJS.

Anyone, at any age, can contract Stevens Johnson Syndrome,” Jean McCawley, the founder of the Stevens Johnson Syndrome Foundation, said in a statement. “The biggest issue we see is a lack of awareness about adverse drug reactions. Even with the unfortunate passing of Mr. Bol, there have been many incorrect statements made about SJS.”

Stevens-Johnson Syndrome causes blistering of mucous membranes, typically in the mouth, eyes, and vagina and patchy areas of rash. According to the Stevens Johnson Syndrome Foundation, almost any medication including over-the-counter drugs, such as Ibuprofen, can cause the disorder. Most commonly implicated drugs are anti-convulsants, antibiotics (such as sulfa, penicillin and cephalosporin) and anti-inflammatory medications. If left untreated, the disorder can lead to death.

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there is no mandatory reporting for allergic drug reactions, so there’s no way to know how many people contract Stevens Johnson Syndrome each year.

New York Times obituary

 Manute Bol-Obit-

Manute Bol, a towering Dinka tribesman who left southern Sudan to become one of the best shot blockers in the history of American basketball, then returned to his homeland to try to heal the wounds of a long, bloody civil war, died Saturday at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, according to Sally Jones, a spokeswoman for the hospital. He was 47 and lived in Olathe, Kan.
Enlarge This Image

After his N.B.A. career, Bol worked as an advisory board member of the Sudan Sunrise foundation.
The cause was severe kidney trouble and complications of a rare skin disorder known as Stevens-Johnson syndrome, said Tom Prichard, who runs Sudan Sunrise, a foundation that is building a school near Bol’s birthplace in Turalei. Bol had been hospitalized since late May when he fell ill during a layover on a trip home from Sudan, Mr. Prichard said

A fine appreciation by the slacktivist  who writes

It was often said that Bol lacked the "killer instinct" that great players need. I suppose that was true -- even if it's a strange thing to say about the only NBA player who ever killed a lion with a spear.

Yes, Manute Bol really did that. As a teenager. He was raised in a Dinka village in southern Sudan, a place shaped by subsistence farming and herding. He killed the lion to protect his herd. With a freaking spear.

But what I think people meant about Bol's "killer instinct" was that he never seemed to take the game of basketball quite seriously enough. He hadn't chosen this game, it had chosen him. It discovered him in that Sudanese village and plucked him out of it, whisking him halfway around the world. All for the sake of a game.

Bol always seemed bewildered and slightly amused by that. Eugene McCarthy said that politics was like being a football coach, "You have to be smart enough to understand the game and dumb enough to think it's important."

Manute Bol never seemed to master the second part of that equation. He always seemed to think we Americans were a little crazy, imagining that this game was such an important thing. It was never the most important thing to him. He had other priorities.

Those priorities weren't something he chose either. They were, for him, the unavoidable consequence of where he came from and the things that were happening there: war, slavery, oppression, genocide.
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he viewed basketball as a way to raise money and awareness to do whatever he could to help the people of his country. Manute Bol earned about $6 million dollars during his decade in the NBA. He spent it all on the Sudan -- backing peace talks and political movements, building hospitals and schools.

"I don't work for money, I work to save people," he said. "I can always make more money, but you can't bring back those that are gone."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:19 AM | Permalink

June 17, 2010

He posted his suicide note on Twitter

How little some people regard the gift of life and the grave seriousness of death.

South Korean man posts suicide note on Twitter

Police found the body of Lee Kye-Hwa, 27, a former disc jockey in a Seoul bar, hanging from a ferry dock on the Han river in Seoul early on Tuesday.

His family reported him missing on Sunday when he posted a short Twitter message in Korean.

"I'm going to commit suicide. To all of you, even those who shared the slightest friendship with me, I love you," he wrote.

"Investigators concluded he had committed suicide," a spokesman for Seoul's Mapo police station said, confirming the wording of the Twitter posting.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:21 PM | Permalink

May 31, 2010

Obituaries for the pre-dead

P.J. O'Rourke makes the case that the pre-obituary might save the newspaper industry in Not Dead Yet

What I propose is “Pre-Obituaries”—official notices that certain people aren’t dead yet accompanied by brief summaries of their lives indicating why we wish they were.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:55 AM | Permalink

May 27, 2010

Deathbed conversion

The almost last words of John Maynard Keynes

Even John Maynard Keynes recognized his central planning approach to economics could not work. Ten days before his death he stated:

"I find myself more and more relying for a solution of our problems on the invisible hand which I tried to eject from economic thinking twenty years ago."

Keynes' deathbed conversion to capitalism

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:54 AM | Permalink

May 12, 2010

Lena Horne, RIP

When I was a young law school grad, my  first job was with a very big Wall St law firm .  My boss, who was also the managing partner of the firm, adored Lena Horne.  At that time, she was singing at a New York Hotel, the Waldorf or the Plaze, and my boss, very much a New England WASP, went to see at least twice a week while she was there.  Knowing that I had never seen her live, he invited me one evening to join him  (we all worked at least to seven every night  so we could get a cab ride home on the firm) and I did.  Her allure of mystery and elegance, the precision of her diction, the intensity of of her emotions, the beauty of her voice  and her sassy sexiness had everyone mesmerized.  A truly remarkable performer, formidable.

Here is the incomparable Lena Horne singing Stormy Weather

 

Mark Steyn on her lifelong association with the song

She was "radiantly beautiful" into her eighties, and a bigger star, outlasting almost all her contemporaries, not only the big band songbirds but the anodyne blondes at 20th Century Fox. And say what you like but that angry one-woman show broke box-office records and won her a Tony, two Grammys and a Kennedy Center honor.

An appreciation from the LA Times

Toward the end of her very full life, Lena Horne suggested to a PBS interviewer that, after decades of struggling to define her image as an artist and a black woman, she finally had seized possession of her identity.

"I don't have to be a symbol to anybody," said Horne, who died Sunday night in a New York hospital at the age of 92. "I no longer have to be a 'credit.' "

Americans born before 1960 will recognize Horne's fragmented reference to a phrase that, mercifully, has now been confined to history's ash heap: "a credit to her (or his) race."
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Reviewing the show in the New York Times, critic Frank Rich noted that Horne had sung her signature tune "Stormy Weather" twice: first as a belt-it-out showstopper, then in the second act as an emotional coup de theatre that left Horne "blind with sweat and tears."

-Lenahorne

Time magazine, A Great Lady Makes Her Exit

Gorgeous, gifted and preternaturally poised, the 24-year-old actress-singer came to Hollywood in 1941 and quickly became the first African-American movie star.
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Horne might have been black America's first ambassador to the rest of the country — an artist with perfect features and a sultry sweetness, who would teach the benighted to accept the glamour and talent, the full humanity, of an oppressed minority that had so profoundly enriched the official culture.

The Boston Globe, That face, that voice

Horne never pretended to be anyone she wasn’t, which meant that by the 1950s, racism had more or less made her sick of Hollywood. She’d become an activist, and after a while, it was obvious she was wasting her time trying to broaden the minds of movie studio executives. Slimming her career down was her best move. Horne was one of those performers who got better, stronger with age. In front of a live audience, she was both theatrical (the stage belonged only to her) and cinematic (Mr. DeMille, she can make her own close-ups, thank you).

As a singer, she didn’t have range or pyrotechnics. Her voice had drama, texture, and shape. It had character. She was a very alluring singer (defiant, sexual, wise, so amazingly cool), and a very comical one, too — she knew where the joke was in a piece of music or in the stage banter between songs.

Obit magazine Transcending Stormy Weather

She didn’t mind being introduced as “the beautiful Lena Horne,” even if that moniker barely hinted at the talent behind the face. But in later years, the veteran singer/actress/civil rights activist did mind being called “the still-beautiful Lena Horne” – understandably, although it was a small price to pay for one of the great Indian summer careers of modern show business. 

New York Times obituary

Looking back at the age of 80, Ms. Horne said: “My identity is very clear to me now. I am a black woman. I’m free. I no longer have to be a ‘credit.’ I don’t have to be a symbol to anybody; I don’t have to be a first to anybody. I don’t have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I’d become. I’m me, and I’m like nobody else.”

Here she's glad she's not young anymore.

Everyone should hear Yesterday when I was young

I ran so fast that time, and youth at last ran out,
I never stopped to think, what life, was all about,
And every conversation, I can now recall,
Concerned itself with me, and nothing else at all

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:59 AM | Permalink

May 5, 2010

The Pope on Eternal Life

Benedict XVI recalls life of cardinal, reflects upon eternal life

The Holy Father remembered the life and legacy of the recently deceased Cardinal Paul Augustin Mayer on Monday morning. During his remarks, the Pontiff noted that in dying we achieve the "most profound desire of mankind," being reunited with God.

The funeral Mass for the 98-year-old cardinal, who died last Friday, was concelebrated by members of the College of Cardinals led by their dean, Cardinal Angelo Sodano. The Holy Father gave the homily.

"As is the destiny of the human existence," observed Pope Benedict, "it blossoms from the earth ... and is called to Heaven, to the homeland from whence it mysteriously comes."
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The Pope recalled the words of Christ from the cross, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit," and noted that every funeral celebration takes place "under the sign of hope."

Because in his last breath on the cross, Jesus sacrificed himself, taking on our sins and reestablishing the victory of life over death, he explained, "every man that dies in the Lord participates by faith in this act of infinite love, in some way returns his spirit together with Christ, in the sure hope that the hand of the Father will resurrect him from the dead and introduce him in the Kingdom of life.

"The great and unshakeable hope, resting on the solid rock of God's love, assures us that the life of those who die in Christ 'is not taken away but transformed' and that 'the abode of this earthly exile is destroyed, an eternal dwelling is being prepared in heaven'."

Amidst a climate in which a fear of death makes many despair and seek illusory consolations, "Christians stand out for the fact that they place their security in God, in a Love so great as to be able to renew the whole world," commented the Pope.

The vision is to achieve the "most profound desire of mankind," the Holy Father underscored, which is living in the "new Jerusalem," in peace, without the threat of death and in full communion with God and each other.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:38 AM | Permalink

April 30, 2010

Dorothy Height, R.I.P.

 Dorothyireneheight

The President gave a lovely eulogy to civil rights leader Dorothy Height

We are gathered here today to celebrate the life, and mourn the passing, of Dr. Dorothy Height. It is fitting that we do so here, in our National Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Here, in a place of great honor. Here, in the House of God. Surrounded by the love of family and of friends. The love in this sanctuary is a testament to a life lived righteously; a life that lifted other lives; a life that changed this country for the better over the course of nearly one century here on Earth.
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But we remember her not solely for all she did during the civil rights movement. We remember her for all she did over a lifetime, behind the scenes, to broaden the movement's reach. To shine a light on stable families and tight-knit communities. To make us see the drive for civil rights and women's rights not as a separate struggle, but as part of a larger movement to secure the rights of all humanity, regardless of gender, regardless of race, regardless of ethnicity.

It's an unambiguous record of righteous work, worthy of remembrance, worthy of recognition. And yet, one of the ironies is, is that year after year, decade in, decade out, Dr. Height went about her work quietly, without fanfare, without self-promotion. She never cared about who got the credit. She didn't need to see her picture in the papers. She understood that the movement gathered strength from the bottom up, those unheralded men and women who don't always make it into the history books but who steadily insisted on their dignity, on their manhood and womanhood. (Applause.) She wasn't interested in credit. What she cared about was the cause. The cause of justice. The cause of equality. The cause of opportunity. Freedom's cause.

And that willingness to subsume herself, that humility and that grace, is why we honor Dr. Dorothy Height.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:01 AM | Permalink

April 15, 2010

Anthony Flew, R. I.P.

He was the famous British professor of philosophy who argued for atheism most of his life until he dramatically changed his mind.

Times of London obituary

Anthony Flew was one of the best-known atheists of his generation but he finally repudiated the label. As an academic philosopher he subjected the question of God’s existence to careful, non-polemical analysis. When he declared himself a theist in his old age he annoyed many of his admirers — which might have been the intention.
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In the 1960s he became well known for his atheism, speaking in public debates with energy, clarity, and courtesy. In God and Philosophy (1966) he argued that one should presuppose atheism until evidence of a God surfaces. He developed this evidentialist approach in The Presumption of Atheism (1984). His atheist image is somewhat surprising, for by the standards of today’s public atheists he was far from zealous: he showed real interest in the arguments of believers, and respect for the cultural effects of religion. In 1987 he debated the resurrection of Jesus with the US theologian Gary Habermas, declaring that the evidence for the resurrection was much better than that for other Christian miracles but still did not convince him. He enjoyed religious discussions, not because he enjoyed rubbishing belief but because he thought it important that Christian tradition was carefully reflected on.
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Flew returned to public attention in 2004 when he announced that he had moved from atheism to the form of theism known as deism. It holds that God exists but is more like the distant designer of the universe than an active, personal agent.

“It now seems to me that the findings of more than 50 years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design,” he said. “It seems to me that the case for an Aristotelian God who has the characteristics of power and also intelligence, is now much stronger than it ever was before.”

Telegraph obituary

 Antony-Flew


When Flew revealed that he had come to the conclusion that there might be a God after all, it came as a shock to his fellow atheists, who had long regarded him as one of their foremost champions. Worse, he seemed to have deserted Plato for Aristotle, since it was two of Aquinas's famous five proofs for the existence of God – the arguments from design and for a prime mover – that had apparently clinched the matter.

After months of soul-searching, Flew concluded that research into DNA had "shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce life, that intelligence must have been involved". Moreover, though he accepted Darwinian evolution, he felt that it could not explain the beginnings of life. "I have been persuaded that it is simply out of the question that the first living matter evolved out of dead matter and then developed into an extraordinarily complicated creature," he said.

Flew went on to make a video of his conversion entitled Has Science Discovered God? and seemed to want to atone for past errors: "As people have certainly been influenced by me, I want to try and correct the enormous damage I may have done," he said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:47 AM | Permalink

April 6, 2010

"It was as if I were a Martian seeing humans for the first time and being enormously moved"

Susan Tifft, the journalist who wrote a blog about her cancer which she joked was Oncology for Dummies.

“In the first fraught days after my diagnosis, something miraculous happened. I got X-ray vision,’’ Ms. Tifft wrote on Sept. 5, 2007, less than a month after learning she had cancer. “I know that sounds weird, but that is precisely how it felt.’’

“I would walk down the street or look out the window of our apartment onto Cambridge Common and the love and kindness I saw in everyday life practically made me weep. It might be something as simple as someone helping an elderly person into a wheelchair or a father hoisting his daughter on his shoulders or two friends hugging each other. It was as if I were a Martian seeing humans for the first time and being enormously moved by how compassionate and caring we are toward each other, for no obvious reward. It’s truly spectacular, and somehow, in my former busy-ness, I never really noticed.’’
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And it was friends that Ms. Tifft thanked in her last blog entry, on March 24, when illness made typing painful.

“My oncologist on Monday advised me to think about what I want my legacy to be,’’ she wrote. “My conclusion? I want my legacy to be all of you — my friends, loved ones, former students — a human chain of those who have guided and influenced me, and whom I touched and influenced. Final advice? Always do the right thing. It will gratify your friends and enrage your enemies.’’

Susan died at 59 in her Cambridge home.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:24 AM | Permalink

February 16, 2010

Dick Francis, Jockey and Writer, R.I.P.

One of my very favorite mystery writers, Dick Francis, has died at 89.  If ever I was feeling depressed, I would listen to one of his audiobooks, and feel by the end that some order had been restored to my world.

Telegraph obituary
As a National Hunt jockey, Francis had ridden in 2,305 races and ridden 345 winners. He became part of racing folklore when, in March 1956, he rode the Queen Mother's horse, Devon Loch, in the Grand National.

Francis and Devon Loch had just jumped the last fence, well clear of the rest of the field and set to break the previous record time, when suddenly, 30 yards from the winning post, with the race commentators screaming "Francis wins!", Devon Loch sank on his hindquarters, his front legs sprawling; having pulled a muscle in doing so, he could not recover to win the race.

 Devon Loch Grandnational1956

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Whatever the cause, Francis's failure to win the Grand National remained the great sorrow of his life, though it was his determination not to be labelled for all time as "the man who lost the Grand National" that spurred him on to become a writer.

He had more than his fair share of accidents and breakages, which he liked to recount with pride mixed with a certain gory relish. He reckoned to fall off once every 11 or 12 races: "I've had a fractured skull, six broken collar bones, five broken noses, no end of ribs. Well, you simply stop countin'."
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This was typical Francis and, like their author, his fictional heroes endure all manner of pain and physical and mental torment with exemplary patience and composure. Thirtyish, usually dark-haired, sallow-skinned, mild-mannered and self-deprecating, the typical Francis hero is as intrepid and resourceful and as vigorously heterosexual as James Bond; but unlike the caddish Bond they are also decent and chivalrous, and the reader knows they will turn into faithful, passionate husbands: "What it comes to," Francis liked to say, "is that I never ask my main character to do anything I wouldn't do myself."

Where other thriller writers probed the darker crannies of the soul, Francis reaffirmed the values of human decency and the struggle between the man of good against the forces of lust for power, dishonesty and greed. Heroes can expect to be chained, beaten, burned or flayed two or three times per book – but good always triumphs in the end.
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Like his heroes, Francis was a man of stern self-discipline. From 1962, when his first novel, Dead Cert, was published, he produced a book a year, starting to write on January 1 and delivering the typescript to his publishers by April 8 for publication in September. Only once, when his wife was ill, did he deliver two weeks late.

London Times Obituary

Richard Stanley Francis was born 1920 in the village of Lawrenny on the Cleddau river in Pembrokeshire. His grandfather had been a keen amateur rider. His father was a horse-dealer, steeplechaser and farmer, and became the manager of a hunting stable near Maidenhead. Dick learnt to ride when he was 5 and won his first race at the age of 8.
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In 1939 he joined the RAF as a tradesman, but was soon commissioned as a pilot and, during the next five years of war, flew both fighters and bombers operationally. In 1945 he met, at his cousin’s wedding, a university educated and highly literate schoolmistress, Mary Margaret Brenchley, whom he married two years afterwards despite considerable opposition from both families on the ground that they had so little in common.

It was to be an outstandingly happy marriage.

New York Times obituary
Dick Francis, whose notable but blighted career as a champion steeplechase jockey for the British royal family was eclipsed by a second, more brilliant career as a popular thriller writer, died on Sunday in the Cayman Islands, where he had a home. He was 89.

 Dickfrancis

This self-contained world was, of course, a reflection of a broader universe in which themes of winning and losing and courage and integrity have more sweeping meaning. As the critic John Leonard wrote, “Not to read Dick Francis because you don’t like horses is like not reading Dostoyevsky because you don’t like God.”
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Typically, the Dick Francis hero is a modest, decent fellow, a model of British valor and integrity, who restores order by asserting his superior moral values — and by going mano a mano with a ruthless villain who subjects him to unspeakable torture.
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“Writing a novel proved to be the hardest, most self-analyzing task I had ever attempted,” Mr. Francis said, “far worse than an autobiography.” He went about his unaccustomed chore cautiously and methodically, as he might have approached a skittish horse. Working in pencil in an exercise book, he would labor over one sentence until he was satisfied that he could do no better, then move on to the next sentence.
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One of the most honored of genre authors, Mr. Francis was named to the Order of the British Empire and later made a commander. He won the Edgar Allan Poe Award of the Mystery Writers of America three times and was made a grand master, the group’s highest honor, in 1996. He also received the Diamond Dagger award, the highest honor of the Crime Writers Association of Great Britain, in 1990.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:35 AM | Permalink

February 12, 2010

Charlie Wilson, R.I.P.

Charlie Wilson, an American original, died Wednesday in Texas; a cardiopulmonary  arrest ended his life at 76.

The thrice-married Congressman from Texas was able to secure covert funding for the Afghan rebels fighting the Soviet invaders in the 1980s and turn back the the Communist invaders

His story is so great , Mike Nichols made a movie of Charlie Wilson's War.

 

The Wall Street Journal calls him the Democrat who helped win the Cold War.

His greatest work, however, was in collaborating with the Reagan Administration and the CIA to provide arms to the Afghan rebels. These included small arms at first, but the tide of the war turned once the mujahideen received Stinger antiaircraft missiles that compromised Soviet dominance of the skies. The Soviet military left Afghanistan after suffering fearsome casualties, the first time the Communists had been forced to cede territory they had taken in the post-Stalin era.
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Defeating the Soviets was not foreordained. It required the conviction of men like Wilson and Reagan.

The New York Times obituary

When the Soviets deliberately killed camels and mules to cripple the Afghan fighters’ supply lines, he flew in Tennessee mules. When the Central Intelligence Agency refused to provide the guerrillas with field radios for fear that mujahedeen transmissions would be picked up by the Soviets, he sent an aide to Virginia to buy $12,000 worth of walkie-talkies from a Radio Shack outlet.

Particularly helpful were Stinger missiles from the United States, which were used to shoot down Russian helicopters and became what many consider a decisive factor in wearing down the Soviets. By February 1989, the Soviets had withdrawn.
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In an interview with Washingtonian magazine in 1996, Mr. Wilson said Texas voters put up with his antics in part because of the vicarious thrill they got in watching him. He added that he did not lie or whine when caught.

“I just say, ‘Well, yeah, I guess I goofed again’ and go about my business,” he said. “Those good Christians, you know, believe in the redemption of sin.”

Defense Secretary Gates, a CIA veteran, remembers him well. 

As the world now knows, his efforts and exploits helped repel an invader, liberate a people, and bring the Cold War to a close,” Gates said. “After the Soviets left, Charlie kept fighting for the Afghan people and warned against abandoning that traumatized country to its fate -- a warning we should have heeded then, and should remember today”

The London Telegraph obituary

Wilson's favourite reading was the Flashman series, and with his good looks, bad behaviour and womanising ways, he resembled George MacDonald Fraser's roguish anti-hero in any number of respects.

Like Flashman, Wilson seemed to prove that a winning smile and a taste for the high life could have a unexpectedly significant impact on international affairs. "Good Time Charlie" may have been a lowly Texas congressman, but he was at various times credited with ensuring the defeat of the Red Army in Afghanistan; the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union; and glorious victory for the West in the Cold War.

Charlie-Wilson-In-Afghanistan

The London Times obituary

Charlie Wilson was a handsome 6ft 4in Texan who changed history with his role in Russia’s defeat in Afghanistan — an event which presaged the collapse of the Soviet Union.

 Charlie Wilson (Marcy Nighswander) photo by Marcy Nighswander

Although on his white horse with his Stetson hat and Texas boots he looked the part, he was far removed from the Hollywood image of an all-American hero. The newspapers called the Democrat Congressman “Good-time Charlie” for his outrageous lifestyle, his womanising, his alcoholism and his tendency to share drugs in hot tubs with cover girls and beauty queens.

The New York Times called him “the biggest party animal in Congress”. He seemed to promote his vices and hide his virtues, but there was another side to Wilson: he knew how to work the system on Capitol Hill.
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It was typical of Wilson that he should be drawn into the superpower confrontation over Afghanistan through meeting a glamorous Texas socialite. Dubbed “the Queen of Texas”, Joanne Herring gave fabulous parties for kings, sheikhs and politicians and entertained Houston with her own television show.
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“If there is a single man who has played a part that shall be recorded in history in golden letters, it is that right honourable Congressman Charles Wilson,” said President Zia. “All I can say is that ‘Charlie did it’.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:13 AM | Permalink

February 3, 2010

Last words from family in rented Toyota

"We’re in a Lexus… and we’re going north on 125 and our accelerator is stuck… there’s no brakes… we’re approaching the intersection …. Hold on … hold on and pray … pray.’"

Last words before family died in Lexus crash

A harrowing phone call from a family just seconds before they were killed in a car crash caused when the accelerator pedal in a Toyota vehicle became stuck has been made public.
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Mark Saylor, 45, died alongside his wife Cleofe, also 45, their daughter Mahala, 13, and Mrs Saylor’s brother Chris Lastrella when the hired Toyota Lexus they were travelling in accelerated out of control on a highway in San Diego.
In the emergency call, Mr Lastrella is heard saying: ‘We’re in a Lexus… and we’re going north on 125 and our accelerator is stuck… there’s no brakes… we’re approaching the intersection …. Hold on … hold on and pray … pray.’

The recording adds to the public relations disaster that has enveloped the Japanese car maker since it recalled 4.5 million vehicles across the world because of 'sticky accelerator' problems. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:03 PM | Permalink

February 1, 2010

Louis Auchincloss, R.I.P.

I consider Louis Auchincloss one of the finest writers of our times.  He wrote some 50 books over his life while a full time practicing lawyer and I have about 20 of them.  I began reading him while working at a law firm on Wall Street just so I could begin to understand the old line New York WASP.    The insights I gained were invaluable and soon I became hooked on his literary ability to tell revealing stories about a segment  of the population that is otherwise opaque.

Of hIs most famous book, The Rector of Justin,  Jonathan Yardley wrote in the Washington Post
"The Rector of Justin" is a "prep school novel" in the same way that "Moby-Dick" is a "whaling novel." It uses the environment of a fictitious Episcopal school for boys, Justin Martyr -- "named for the early martyr and scholar who tried to reconcile the thinking of the Greek philosophers with the doctrines of Christ" -- to explore grand, universal themes, all of them centered on its protagonist, the school's founding father, Francis Prescott. It is, I now realize, a minor masterpiece of 20th-century literature.

 Louis Auchincloss 2

AP obituary by Hillel Italie

He wrote more than 50 books, averaging about one a year after the end of World War II, and crafted such accomplished works as the novel "The Rector of Justin" and the memoir "A Writer's Capital," not to mention biographies, literary criticism and short stories. He was a four-time fiction finalist for the National Book Award, his nominated novels including "The Embezzler" and "The House of Five Talents."

"I'm rather inclined to be edgy when I'm not writing," Auchincloss said in a 1994 interview with The Associated Press. "In (a) ... book on Jack Kennedy, it says he told (British) Prime Minister (Harold) Macmillan that if he didn't have a girl every three days he'd get headaches. I thought that was rather extreme, but writing is little bit like that for me."

Auchincloss lived up to the old world ideal of being "useful," bearing the various titles of writer, attorney, community leader and family man. He was a partner at the Wall Street firm of Hawkins, Delafield & Wood and the father of three. He served as president of both the Museum of the City of New York and the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

The Last of His Kind by Kevin Mims

In many ways Louis Auchincloss was more like a 19th century man of letters than a 20th century one. He didn’t publish a big self-important mega-tome every ten years that attempted to reinvent the art of fiction a la Pynchon or DeLillo. Instead he reliably produced a new book (sometimes two) in just about every year of his literary career. His first book was published in 1947. His latest was published in 2008. Like Jane Austen he focused on the foibles and frailties of the small segment of society on which he was an expert. He tilled a small patch of literary ground but from it he brought forth nourishing and abundant fruit.

 Last-Of-Old-Guard Auchincloss

New York Times obituary by Holcomb B. Noble,

Chronicler of New York’s Upper Crust, Dies at 92
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Like Wharton, Mr. Auchincloss was interested in class and morality and in the corrosive effects of money on both. “Of all our novelists, Auchincloss is the only one who tells us how our rulers behave in their banks and their boardrooms, their law offices and their clubs,” Gore Vidal once wrote. “Not since Dreiser has an American writer had so much to tell us about the role of money in our lives.”
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The author Bruce Bawer, writing in The New York Times Book Review, said that Mr. Auchincloss had the bad luck to live “in a time when the protagonists of literary fiction tend to be middle- or lower-class.”

“These days,” he added, “the general public, though fascinated by the superficial trappings of privilege, seems to have little interest in the deeper truths with which Mr. Auchincloss is passionately concerned — with, that is, the beliefs, principles, hypocrisies, prejudices and assorted strengths and defects of character that typify the American WASP civilization that produced what was for a long time the country’s undisputed ruling class.”

“Class prejudice” was Mr. Auchincloss’s response to his critics. “That business of objecting to the subject material or the people that an author writes about is purely class prejudice,” he said in an interview in 1997, “and you will note that it always disappears with an author’s death. Nobody holds it against Henry James or Edith Wharton or Thackeray or Marcel Proust.”
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He dropped out of Yale before his senior year and entered the University of Virginia law school.  To his surprise he found he liked the law, particularly estates law, and in 1941, after earning a law degree, he joined the Wall Street firm of Sullivan & Cromwell. When World War II began Mr. Auchincloss enlisted in the Navy. He served in Naval intelligence, then commanded a craft that shuttled troops and the wounded across the English Channel during the Normandy invasion.

He also was the recipient of the 2005 Medal of  Arts.

 Louis Auchincloss With President Bush

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:35 PM | Permalink

J.D. Salinger. R.I.P.

New York Times obituary by Charles McGrath who calls Salinger the "Garbo of Letters" a wonderful phrase

J. D. Salinger, who was thought at one time to be the most important American writer to emerge since World War II but who then turned his back on success and adulation, becoming the Garbo of letters, famous for not wanting to be famous, died on Wednesday at his home in Cornish, N.H., where he had lived in seclusion for more than 50 years. He was 91.
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Mr. Salinger’s literary reputation rests on a slender but enormously influential body of published work: the novel “The Catcher in the Rye,” the collection “Nine Stories” and two compilations, each with two long stories about the fictional Glass family: “Franny and Zooey” and “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.

 Salinger&Catcher

“Catcher” was published in 1951, and its very first sentence, distantly echoing Mark Twain, struck a brash new note in American literature: “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”
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In 1974 when, trying to fend off the unauthorized publication of his uncollected stories, he told a reporter from The Times: “
There is a marvelous peace in not publishing. It’s peaceful. Still. Publishing is a terrible invasion of my privacy. I like to write. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure.”
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Depending on one’s point of view, he was either a crackpot or the American Tolstoy, who had turned silence itself into his most eloquent work of art

London Times obituary

After receiving critical acclaim for his short story A Perfect Day for Bananafish, which was published in The New Yorker in 1948, J. D. Salinger shot to worldwide fame with his novel The Catcher in the Rye, which appeared in 1951. With its disenchanted adolescent anti-hero, perpetually at war with adulthood, especially as embodied in his own parents, it seemed to encapsulate the mood of an entire generation. Perhaps more remarkably it simultaneously exercised a considerable effect on that generation’s behaviour.
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He attended three universities: New York, Ursinus College (Collegeville, Pennsylvania), and Columbia. The result of this was, he later tersely wrote, “no degrees”.

In the spring of 1942, a few months after America had been drawn into the war by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Salinger was drafted into the US Army, where he was to serve until demobilisation in 1946. After training he was posted to the 12th Infantry Regiment in the Fourth Infantry Division of the US Army — most of the time as a staff sergeant — through five campaigns. As the build-up of American forces in Britain developed apace with the preparations for the Allied invasion of occupied Europe, he was stationed in England, at Tiverton, Devon, and
he was among those who landed at Utah Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
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He saw service throughout the Allied advance through North West Europe, notably during the Battle of the Bulge in the winter of 1944-45. He was assigned to a counter-intelligence unit in which he interrogated German prisoners.
His wartime experiences, which included witnessing the liberation of a Nazi concentration camp, affected him deeply. He later told his daughter: “You never really get the smell of burning flesh out of your nostrils — no matter how long you live.”

 Salinger-Cover-Time-Mag


AP obituary by Hillel Italie

"The Catcher in the Rye," with its immortal teenage protagonist, the twisted, rebellious Holden Caulfield, came out in 1951, a time of anxious, Cold War conformity and the dawn of modern adolescence. The Book-of-the-Month Club, which made "Catcher" a featured selection, advised that for "anyone who has ever brought up a son" the novel will be "a source of wonder and delight — and concern."

Enraged by all the "phonies" who make "me so depressed I go crazy," Holden soon became American literature's most famous anti-hero since Huckleberry Finn. The novel's sales are astonishing —
more than 60 million copies worldwide — and its impact incalculable. Decades after publication, the book remains a defining expression of that most American of dreams — to never grow up.
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Salinger was writing for adults, but teenagers from all over identified with the novel's themes of alienation, innocence and fantasy, not to mention the luck of having the last word. "Catcher" presents the world as an ever-so-unfair struggle between the goodness of young people and the corruption of elders, a message that only intensified with the oncoming generation gap.
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The world had come calling for Salinger, but Salinger was bolting the door. ..Meanwhile, he was refusing interviews, instructing his agent to forward no fan mail and reportedly spending much of his time writing in a cement bunker. Sanity, apparently, could only come through seclusion.
"I thought what I'd do was, I'd pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes," Holden says in "Catcher."
"That way I wouldn't have to have any ... stupid useless conversations with anybody. If anybody wanted to tell me something, they'd have to write it on a piece of paper and shove it over to me. I'd build me a little cabin somewhere with the dough I made."
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Salinger's alleged adoration of children apparently did not extend to his own. In 2000, daughter Margaret Salinger's "Dreamcatcher" portrayed the writer as an unpleasant recluse who drank his own urine and spoke in tongues.
Ms. Salinger said she wrote the book because she was "absolutely determined not to repeat with my son what had been done with me."

Indeed, Jemima Lewis writes in the Telegraph, The reclusive novelist could hardly have made himself more interesting if he'd tried,

David Warren speaks of the pernicious effects of the perpetual adolescence of Holden Caulfield

The book has had a remarkable and, to my mind, infernal influence on society, owing in part to its author's literary skill in the manipulation of colloquial language, in part to the emotional and even hormonal power in that peculiar explosion of sex and ego that is adolescent narcissism itself. The proof is in the pudding, and the fact that Catcher in the Rye went on to inspire at least three celebrity assassins (Mark David Chapman, John Hinckley Jr., and Robert John Bardo), along with who knows how many "little league" psychos and suicides, speaks to its real power.

Now the question is what will happen to all his unpublished novels and manuscripts?  We'll be hearing about J.D. Salinger for years to come

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:11 PM | Permalink

Robert Parker, author of Spenser, R.I.P.

While I was away, Robert Parker died, a good death, writing at his desk.

Who among us hasn't spent enjoyable hours with his richly imagined character Spenser?

New York Times obit on the Prolific Author Who Created Spenser

Robert B. Parker, the best-selling mystery writer who created Spenser, a tough, glib Boston private detective who was the hero of nearly 40 novels, died Monday at his home in Cambridge, Mass. He was 77.

The cause was a heart attack, said his agent of 37 years, Helen Brann. She said that Mr. Parker had been thought to be in splendid health, and that he died at his desk, working on a book. He wrote five pages a day, every day but Sunday, she said.

Mr. Parker wrote more than 60 books all told, including westerns and young-adult novels, but he churned out entertaining detective stories with a remarkable alacrity that made him one of the country’s most popular writers.
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A conscious throwback to hard-boiled detectives like Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, but with a sensitivity born of the age of feminism and civil rights, Spenser is a bruiser in body but a softie at heart, someone who never shies from danger or walks away from a threat to the innocent. Mr. Parker gave him many of his own traits. Spenser is an admirer of any kind of expertise. He believes in psychotherapy. He’s a great cook. He’s a boxer, a weightlifter and a jogger, a consumer of doughnuts and coffee, a privately indulgent appreciator (from a distance) of pretty women, a Red Sox fan, a dog lover. (Mr. Parker owned a series of short-haired pointers, all named Pearl, like their fictional incarnation.)

Most crucially, Spenser is faithful in love (to his longtime companion, Susan Silverman, a psychologist) and in friendship (to his frequent partner in anti-crime, a dazzlingly charming, morally idiosyncratic black man named Hawk). And usually with the two of them as seconds, he has remained indomitable, vanquishing crime bosses, drug dealers, sex fiends, cold-blooded killers, corrupt politicians and several other varieties of villain.
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Robert Brown Parker was a large man of large appetites that were nonetheless satisfied with relative ease. He was as unpretentious and self-aware as Spenser, his agent, Ms. Brann said.

“All he needed to be happy was his family and writing,” she said. “There were always wonderful things in his refrigerator. People were always after him to do cookbooks.” She paused.

“He loved doughnuts,” she said.

 Robert Parker

Kate Mattes, founder and owner of Kate's Mystery Books, on The humor and generosity of Robert Parker

Before Bob, the hard-boiled private eye was a loner who couldn’t trust anyone, and mainly fought crime and corruption on the West Coast. Bob changed all that. He was the first to tinker with the image of the American hard-boiled detective when, in the 1970s, he created Spenser - a knight-errant with equal parts honor and humor. Bob created a “family’’ for Spenser, which included a monogamous relationship with a feminist, a best friend who was black and a young boy, abandoned by his parents, who Spenser “adopted’’ and supported in his desire to become a ballet dancer. Up until then, private detectives didn’t have anyone they could count on, or who depended on them, especially over time, in one book after another. Today it seems almost passé, but Bob breathed new life into the genre, paving the way for most crime writers today.

Bob did more than open creative doors, though. He wrote blurbs for young writers, helped them find editors and agents, and helped them navigate the tricky worlds of TV and film. As he became more prosperous, he and his wife, Joan, supported local arts and community groups with their many donations. Neither of them looked for attention for their generosity. They did what they could to help.

Boston Globe obit by Gary Goshgarian, A man of virtue and wit.

This week it’s a little dimmer in Boston. A brilliant light is out. A literary light. Robert B. Parker, extraordinarily successful author of dozens of books about Boston sleuth Spenser, as well as other novels and young adult stories, died on Monday at his writing desk. There isn’t a bookstore or airport in the free world that doesn’t have his titles on their shelves. And although he didn’t put Boston on the map, he helped keep it there, making this great city accessible to the reading public - its glory and feisty independence, its rich and varied culture, its history and beloved teams. Collectively, his Spenser books are a symphony to this city by the sea.

But I didn’t know Bob Parker just through his novels. He was my oldest and closest friend
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He wrote about the things that were most important to him: love, family, and human decency. Behind the scenes, he lived a quiet, simple, and ordered life, spending most of his days at his writing desk, surrounded by photos of Joan and his sons, his dog Pearl on the couch. It was a life well-composed, just as he had wanted it - and perhaps his most successful creation.

So was his death - in a brilliant flash at his keyboard.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:55 PM | Permalink

January 12, 2010

Eric Rohmer R.I.P.

New York Times obituary

Eric Rohmer, a Leading Filmmaker of the French New Wave, Dies at 89

 Eric-Rohmer
Photograph: H Mandelbaum/Rex Features

In a statement Monday, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France said of Mr. Rohmer, “Classic and romantic, wise and iconoclastic, light and serious, sentimental and moralistic, he created the ‘Rohmer’ style, which will outlive him.”

Mr. Rohmer’s most famous film in America remains “My Night at Maud’s,” a 1969 black-and-white feature set in the grim industrial city of Clermont-Ferrand. It tells the story of a shy young engineer (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who passes a snowbound evening in the home of his best friend’s lover, an attractive, free-thinking divorcée (Françoise Fabian).

The conversation, filmed by Mr. Rohmer in a series of unobtrusively composed long takes, covers philosophy, religion and morality, and while the flow of words takes on a distinctly seductive subtext at times, the encounter ends without a physical consummation. But the pair form a bond that movingly re-emerges five years later, when they meet again in a brief postscript that closes the film.

London Telegraph obituary

Eric Rohmer, who died yesterday aged 89, became the most durable film-maker of the French New Wave. Although he was overshadowed at first by more apparently innovative figures – Godard, Truffaut and Chabrol – he outlasted them, and in his seventies was still making movies the public wanted to see. By that time, Truffaut had died, while Godard and Chabrol had lost their edge.
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But the conversations that peppered his films were not made up of party small-talk; on the contrary, they were generally conducted on a high philosophical plane, and were more likely to turn on pages from Pascal than on recipes or fashion. Rohmer, like Bresson, was a Roman Catholic film-maker rather than a film-maker who happened to be Roman Catholic.
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Youthful and exuberant though his films were, and fixated on love and personal affinities, none was ever about sex. That whole dimension of life was missing. Rohmer's characters fell in love only with each other's minds. He gave the impression that physical attraction, everywhere apparent in the films of Truffaut and Chabrol, was somehow beneath him.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:38 AM | Permalink

December 27, 2009

The Lives They Lived

If you enjoy obituaries, you won't want to miss the annual compilation by The New York Times of The Lives They LIved 2009.

Each year newspapers and magazines document the lives and deaths of hundreds of notable people. And each year we put together a special issue that peeks into some of those lives — an admittedly eclectic, idiosyncratic project, one driven by the passions, quirks and curiosities of our writers and editors. This year those interests led us to some very well known names but also to many lesser-known ones, each worthy, in one way or another, of exploration and appreciation.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:42 AM | Permalink

December 9, 2009

Irish folk singer Clancy dead at 74

Telegraph
Liam Clancy, who died on December 4 aged 74, was the last surviving member of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, the first and arguably the most authentic of the Irish folk groups to make an impact far beyond their homeland over the last half-century; rated by Bob Dylan "the best ballad singer I ever heard in my life", he was also a fine guitarist.

Times Online
Liam Clancy was one of the great ambassadors of Irish music, popularising its rich seam of traditional folk songs around the world. He spent much of his career in America, where he was a strong influence on the folk revival of the early 1960s centred on Greenwich Village, New York, and on the young Bob Dylan in particular.

“Liam was it for me,” Dylan once declared. “I never heard a singer as good as Liam, ever. He was just the best ballad singer I’d ever heard in my life. Still is, probably.”
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His early success came singing in the Irish folk group the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, who in their trademark cable-knitted Aran sweaters delivered a slick repertoire of classic Irish ballads and rebel songs to become Ireland’s first pop stars, paving the way for the likes of the Dubliners and the Chieftains. Every inch the lovable Irish rogue with a roving eye, in the 1960s he suffered his fair share of problems with women, alcohol abuse and the American tax authorities, and lost most of his money. He later chronicled these difficulties in an extremely frank autobiography
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A proud and sometimes sentimental patriot, he once claimed that there were only two kinds of singers in the world — the Irish and those who wished they were.
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An appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1961 catapulted them to national fame and a contract with Columbia Records, for which they recorded prolifically throughout the rest of the decade. By 1962 they were selling out the Carnegie Hall and performing for President Kennedy at the White House. On a triumphant visit back home in 1963, they were greeted as conquering heroes who had turned old Irish songs into a new form of polished popular entertainment without compromising their spirit, and in Dublin they sang out of a theatre window for the crowds in the street, who were unable to get a ticket for the sold-out concert.

 

Here he is telling stories and talking about Greenwich Village and Bob Dylan as a young man

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:07 PM | Permalink

November 30, 2009

The Death and Funeral of an Oklahoma monk from France

Francois de Feydau was born in Tunisia where his father worked as an engineer.  Soon his family returned to their native France where Francois grew up near Versailles.    He died a monk in Oklahoma.

From his obituary in the Tahlequah Daily Press

Shortly after being commissioned an officer and sailing around the world in the Naval Academy ship the "Jeanne d'Arc," he found himself free to pursue the vocation he had felt from a very early age and entered the novitiate of the Benedictine Abbey of Notre-Dame de Fontgombault. He made his solemn vows as a monk in 1980 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1983. After having several important jobs at Fontgombault, including that of assistant novice-master, he was chosen to be among the 13 founders of Our Lady of Clear Creek Monastery, arriving in Oklahoma in August 1999. At Clear Creek Father de Feydeau was named sub-prior, cellarer - in charge of the daily work of the monks and all business matters - and master of ceremonies.

His funeral from Death comes for an Oklahoma monk.

"The funeral was so beautiful and simple. ...The monks built him a simple box out of beautiful cedar found on their property. His open casket was set on the floor of the sanctuary, between the choir stalls of the monks, surrounded by six candles. At the end of the mass, with the monks chanting the 'In paradisum,' they slowly picked up the open casket, placing it on the shoulders of six monks and we all walked out to the grave. It was so beautiful watching this family carry their French brother. They set him on the ground, and after more incense, holy water and prayers, placed the wooden lid on top of the coffin. They lowered his body in the ground with ropes, and every member of the monastery and the lay community looked into the ground and blessed his casket with holy water. Some monks were crying. It was cloudy, and damp, and bitterly cold. Somehow it seemed fitting."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:29 PM | Permalink

November 5, 2009

Francois Mitterand's last meal

In late 1995, dying of prostate cancer -- an illness he'd long lied about and hidden from voters -- Mitterrand decided to end his life by dining like a king. In centuries past, French monarchs were privileged to one very special delicacy: a small song bird called the ortolan, which was drowned in Armagnac, then flambéed and eaten whole. Since the bird is now endangered, it's strictly illegal to eat them in modern France -- but Mitterrand didn't wish to die in the modern France he had helped to make. So on New Year's Eve, he organized a select group of his friends and enjoyed a royal menu -- complete with lavish supplies of foie gras, 30 oysters for each diner, and ortolans. Each guest was allotted one of the birds, but according to The Independent (January 11, 1997):

After grabbing the last of 12 birds, the dying president disappeared for a second time behind the large, white napkin, which is ritually placed over the head of anyone about to indulge in the horrific act of eating a charred, but entire ortolan. "Those who had already been through the ordeal once, looked at each other in astonishment," wrote Mr. Benamou [a witness]. The table listened in embarrassment as the former president masticated the little bird to a paste behind the napkin, in the approved manner, before swallowing it. Then Mitterrand lay back in his chair, his face beaming in "ecstasy."

Mitterrand refused to eat after that. He suspended all treatment for his cancer and died just eight days later. He'd had his reward.

John Zmirak in Gluttons for Power

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:59 AM | Permalink

October 29, 2009

Killed Raking Leaves

He survived D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge, won the Silver Star and was killed raking leaves.   

Jules Crittenden has more on Philias Verrette in Never Know How You'll Go.

We’re all going, one way or another. It’s how you live that matters. A parting salute to a great American, who served his country bravely in war, worked hard to provide for his family in peace, and died, at the age of 87, cleaning up his yard. That sounds like a good life, despite its tragic end at this late age.

Condolences to his family.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:58 AM | Permalink

October 12, 2009

Irving Penn, R.I.P.

Elegant was the word for Irving Penn, the fashion photographer who died at 92.

London Telegraph obituary

"He never stopped working," said Peter MacGill, a longtime friend whose Pace-MacGill Galleries in Manhattan represented Penn's work. "He would go back to similar subjects and never see them the same way twice."

Penn, who constantly explored the photographic medium and its boundaries, typically preferred to isolate his subjects – from fashion models to Aborigine tribesmen – from their natural settings to photograph them in a studio against a stark background. He believed the studio could most closely capture their true natures.
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"A beautiful print is a thing in itself, not just a halfway house on the way to the page," he once said. Accordingly, he spent countless hours in his studio creating prints with costly platinum salts – a process that had been mostly abandoned at the turn of the 20th century, but favoured by Penn because of its glowing results. (Most photographic prints use a solution of silver on the paper rather than platinum.)


Parting Glance: Irving Penn, a slideshow.  My favorite is this portrait of Colette, the French novelist.

 Penn's Colette

New York Times obituary by Andy Grundberg

Irving Penn, one of the 20th century’s most prolific and influential photographers of fashion and the famous, whose signature blend of classical elegance and cool minimalism was recognizable to magazine readers and museumgoers worldwide, died on Wednesday at his home in Manhattan.
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A courtly man whose gentle demeanor masked an intense perfectionism, Mr. Penn adopted the pose of a humble craftsman while helping to shape a field known for putting on airs. Schooled in painting and design, he chose to define himself as a photographer, scraping paint off his early canvases so they could serve a more useful life as backdrops to his pictures.

He was also a refined conversationalist and a devoted husband and friend. His marriage to Lisa Fonssagrives, a leading model, an artist and his sometime collaborator, lasted 42 years, until her death at the age of 80 in 1992. Mr. Penn’s photographs of Fonssagrives captured a slim woman of sophistication and radiant good health and set the aesthetic standard for the elegant fashion photography of the 1940s and ’50s.

 Lisa By Penn Fosgraves

Penn expressed himself and his subjects best through a Shaker-style restraint.
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Two decades later he expanded on these portraits during trips to Dahomey (now Benin), to Morocco, to New Guinea and elsewhere, using a portable studio to provide a textured but seamless background. The pictures, both in color and in black and white, were featured annually in Vogue. In 1974 they were published in “Worlds in a Small Room,” which seemed to emphasize the perseverance of cultural diversity. Mr. Penn was also capable of making Western culture seem strange and fascinating. In the early 1950s he made a series of portraits of tradesmen in Paris, London and New York. Again relying on his spare studio to separate his subjects from their surroundings, he nevertheless insisted that the tradesmen wear the clothes and tools of their work: pastry chefs in white aprons and toques hold rolling pins; a fishmonger carries a fish in one hand and a rag in the other.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:39 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

September 28, 2009

William Safire, R.I.P.

When I worked at a law firm on Wall Street in the mid-seventies, I began to read Bill Safire's column and never stopped.  He was the only one in what is now called the mainstream media that I read  who offered a different way of looking at what was happening in politics and in the country. 

New York Times
William Safire, a speechwriter for President Richard M. Nixon and a Pulitzer Prize-winning political columnist for The New York Times who also wrote novels, books on politics and a Malaprop’s treasury of articles on language, died at a hospice in Rockville, Md., on Sunday. He was 79.
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He was a college dropout and proud of it, a public relations go-getter who set up the famous Nixon-Khrushchev “kitchen debate” in Moscow, and a White House wordsmith in the tumultuous era of war in Vietnam, Nixon’s visit to China and the gathering storm of the Watergate scandal, which drove the president from office.

Then, from 1973 to 2005, Mr. Safire wrote his twice-weekly “Essay” for the Op-Ed page of The Times, a forceful conservative voice in the liberal chorus. Unlike most Washington columnists who offer judgments with Olympian detachment, Mr. Safire was a pugnacious contrarian who did much of his own reporting, called people liars in print and laced his opinions with outrageous wordplay.
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And from 1979 until earlier this month, he wrote “On Language,” a New York Times Magazine column that explored written and oral trends, plumbed the origins and meanings of words and phrases, and drew a devoted following, including a stable of correspondents he called his Lexicographic Irregulars.

The columns, many collected in books, made him an unofficial arbiter of usage and one of the most widely read writers on language. It also tapped into the lighter side of the dour-looking Mr. Safire: a Pickwickian quibbler who gleefully pounced on gaffes, inexactitudes, neologisms, misnomers, solecisms and perversely peccant puns, like “the president’s populism” and “the first lady’s momulism,” written during the Carter administration

 William Safire

Wall Street Journal
From 1973 to 2005, Bill Safire prowled American politics in twice-weekly columns that kept the political class honest and his readers entertained and informed. Usually he was tough competition for those of us at the Journal, but we also recall that he was there as an intellectual ally most of the time, and especially on foreign policy where he was a stalwart Cold Warrior and a friend of what used to be known as the "captive nations."

Unlike many columnists, Safire did not soar at 35,000 feet bemoaning what fools these mortals be. He did his own reporting, digging up stories and anecdotes that embarrassed politicians who deserved to be embarrassed. He was a master of his craft, a student of the English language who loved the playful use of words.

Boston Globe
His new colleagues in the Washington bureau of the Times also were suspicious, even a little hostile, said Martin Tolchin, a former colleague at the Times. “They all thought that if there was to be a new column in the Times, they should be the one to write it,’’ he recalled.

The hostility disappeared at a party for the bureau when, as Tolchin recalled, the small son of reporter James Naughton fell into a swimming pool and a fully clothed William Safire dived in to rescue him. “From that moment on, Bill was fully accepted by the bureau,’’ Tolchin said.

John Podhoretz
William Safire, who died today, was a breakthrough figure—the first professional Republican ideologue of his time to become a mainstream fixture in journalism. Indeed, when he was hired by the New York Times to write a column after his tenure as a speechwriter and intimate of the president in the Nixon White House, the shock and horror with which his new position was viewed in the Times newsroom and in the journalistic corridors of Washington were unprecedented in their ferocity. Safire himself said that people would barely look him in the eye in his place of employ for years.
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It is ironic that he leaves us on the eve of Yom Kippur, because he was for a very long time the host of Washington’s most exclusive annual Jewish ticket—a catered party to break the Yom Kippur fast. Most of the people who went didn’t actually fast. But they pretended that they had. Such is life in Washington.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:08 PM | Permalink

September 19, 2009

Irving Kristol, R.I.P.

Wall Street Journal

In his early years, Kristol saw that the Marxism which fascinated him and many others at mid-century had no future, and he embraced the ideals of the West, holding them tight for a lifetime. Later as a Democrat, he saw that many of the social welfare policies of the 1960s would fail, and so he undertook a long, unsparing critique of his own party's most cherished ideas. Later still, as a Republican, Kristol realized that his party's economic ideas were moribund, and he turned his energies to leading the pro-growth, "supply-side" revolution that culminated in the historic Reagan Presidency.
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To the extent that American politics today consists of two sides—one insisting that the state guide the country forward, the other that the private economy drive the country forward—it is in large part Irving Kristol and his thinkers who defined the order of battle

 Irving-Kristol

Washington Post, Godfather of Conservatism

Irving Kristol, 89, a forceful essayist, editor and university professor who became the leading architect of neoconservatism, which he called a political and intellectual movement for disaffected ex-liberals, like himself, who had been "mugged by reality," died Friday at Capital Hospice in Arlington County.....He died of complications from lung cancer, said his son, William Kristol, founder and editor of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine.

The elder Kristol founded and edited magazines such as Encounter and the Public Interest, which aimed at an elite audience of political, social and cultural tastemakers. In addition to his professorship at New York University, he advanced his ideas through monthly opinion pieces in the Wall Street Journal and a fellowship at the American Enterprise Institute think tank. He was also an editor of Basic Books, a small but distinguished publisher of social science and philosophy.
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Through editing, writing and speaking, Mr. Kristol "made it a moral imperative to rouse conservatism from mainstream Chamber of Commerce boosterism to a deep immersion in ideas,"
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Mr. Kristol and his wife, the Victorian-era historian Gertrude Himmelfarb, along with a group of sociologists, historians and academics, including Norman Podhoretz, Nathan Glazer, Richard Pipes and, for a while, Daniel P. Moynihan, emerged in the late 1960s and 1970s as prominent critics of welfare programs, racial preferences, tax policy, moral relativism and countercultural social upheavals that they thought were contributing to America's cultural and social decay.

New York Times

The Public Interest writers did not take issue with the ends of the Great Society so much as with the means, the “unintended consequences” of the Democrats’ good intentions. Welfare programs, they argued, were breeding a culture of dependency; affirmative action created social divisions and did damage to its supposed beneficiaries. They placed practicality ahead of ideals. “The legitimate question to ask about any program,” Mr. Kristol said, “is, ‘Will it work?’,” and the reforms of the 1960s and ’70s, he believed, were not working.
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Peter Wehner
Irving was a great man, a model and courageous public intellectual, and a giant in the conservative movement. He brought to it enormous intelligence and scholarship, great learning and wisdom, a jolly good sense of humor, and all the right sensibilities. He embodied a conservatism that was principled, sophisticated, and self-confident; one capacious in its spirit; one which demonstrated a deep love for our country and its founders. He was both a scholar and a shrewd political thinker. There was seemingly nothing he could not write about, always well and with wit. He was also — and not incidentally — a marvelous and generous husband, father, and friend.
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“To the man who pleases him,” the book of Ecclesiastes says, “God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness.”

Irving Kristol must have pleased God. A lot.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:35 AM | Permalink

September 17, 2009

Mary Travers, R.I.P.

When I was young and in high school, Peter, Paul and Mary were the epitome of sophistication and feeling.    On long bus trips, we would sing If I Had a Hammer or Blowin' in the Wind and feel connected to everyone in the country who wanted civil rights for all. 

 

Boston Globe

Mary Travers, one-third of the hugely popular 1960s folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary, died yesterday at Danbury Hospital in Connecticut. She was 72 and had battled leukemia for several years.

They were early champions of Bob Dylan and performed his “Blowin’ in the Wind’’ at the August 1963 March on Washington.  And they were vehement in their opposition to the Vietnam War, managing to stay true to their liberal beliefs while creating music that resonated in the American mainstream.

New York Times

Mary Travers, whose ringing, earnest vocals with the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary made songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “If I Had a Hammer” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” enduring anthems of the 1960s protest movement, died on Wednesday at Danbury Hospital in Connecticut.
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Ms. Travers brought a powerful voice and an unfeigned urgency to music that resonated with mainstream listeners. With her straight blond hair and willowy figure and two bearded guitar players by her side, she looked exactly like what she was, a Greenwich Villager directly from the clubs and the coffeehouses that nourished the folk-music revival.
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They made folk music not just palatable but accessible to a mass audience,” David Hajdu, ... said in an interview. Ms. Travers, he added, was crucial to the group’s image, which had a lot to do with its appeal. “She had a kind of sexual confidence combined with intelligence, edginess and social consciousness — a potent combination,” he said.

London Times

On August 28, 1963, Dylan, Joan Baez, and Peter, Paul & Mary joined King’s civil rights march on Washington and performed from the Lincoln Memorial before he delivered his most famous speech. “When he got to his fourth line,” Travers recalled, “I had an epiphany. I turned to Peter and said, ‘This is history’.” Throughout her life she was immensely proud that King had asked her to hold his child on her lap while he spoke.

Ironically, as Dylan’s success grew, Peter, Paul & Mary’s style began to sound dated. Protest music was all the rage and the trio simply did not sound angry enough.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:29 PM | Permalink

September 15, 2009

Patrick Swayze, R.I.P.

Patrick Swayze in the final scene of Ghost.

New York Times obit

Patrick Swayze, the balletically athletic actor who rose to stardom in the films “Dirty Dancing” and “Ghost” and whose 20-month battle with advanced pancreatic cancer drew wide attention, died Monday. He was 57.
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Mr. Swayze’s cancer was diagnosed in January 2008. Six months later he had already outlived his prognosis and was filmed at an airport, smiling at photographers and calling himself, only half-facetiously, “a miracle dude.”

He even went through with plans to star in “The Beast,” a drama series for A&E. He filmed a complete season while undergoing treatment. Mr. Swayze insisted on continuing with the series. “How do you nurture a positive attitude when all the statistics say you’re a dead man?” he told The New York Times last October. “You go to work.”

John Nolte at Big Hollywood

Swayze arrived on the scene in a big way in 1983, with a starring role in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Outsiders.” Distinguishing yourself among the likes of Tom Cruise, Ralph Macchio, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez and Matt Dillon in that film was no small feat. And while all would go on to enjoy very successful careers, none would star in “Road House” and “Red Dawn.”

My definition of a great actor is one who convinces in the role; one who doesn’t take you out of the story with all the tics and technique. By that standard Swayze never disappointed. A trained dancer, his physical abilities sold the action, his sincerity brought heart to the romance and a complete lack of pretension made him accessible — made him something that is all but extinct today: a real-live movie star.

Time is what creates the classic film, not critics or box office, and time has made clear that Swayze made a mark on cinema few might have expected twenty years ago. “Road House,” “Point Break,” “Dirty Dancing” and “Ghost” live endlessly on cable television and DVD players everywhere.  They are a immortal part of our culture and … they are Patrick Swayze movies.
We don’t know a whole lot about Swayze’s personal life, which was another big reason to like him, but he was married to the same woman, Lisa Niemi, for 34 years. In the real world what that says about the character of a man is impressive. In Hollywood, it says everything.

Andrew Klavan Patrick Swayze Dude

Patrick Swayze wasn’t a great actor and he wasn’t a great movie star, but he was something even rarer in today’s stable of Hollywood actors.  He was a dude!  And he made good dude films.  Road House, Point Break, Red Dawn, Black Dog. Even when he made chick flicks like Ghost and Dirty Dancing, they were more or less dude friendly because they had a dude in them – as opposed to those so-called romantic comedies where some hapless wimp always has to apologize for being male in the end so he can live sheepishly ever after with the girl of his dreams.

Swayze was just a B-movie guy, I guess, but he was still a much cooler presence than most of today’s top-line stars.  Plus, in Road House, he uttered the line, “Pain don’t hurt,” an immortal piece of movie dialogue if ever there was one.

Anyway, I rarely watch any movie more than once, but I’ll watch Road House and Point Break any old time.  Swayze died of cancer yesterday at 57 and I was sorry to hear it.  I hope and trust he’s in dude heaven.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:24 PM | Permalink

August 9, 2009

Harry Patch, Britain's last World War 1 Warrior

John Burns on Britain's Oldest Warrior

He was a 19-year-old private when he was struck by the burst of a German shell over the British trenches in September 1917 and sent home to recover from his wounds. Working as a plumber in Wells until his retirement, he lived to the age of 111 before he died on July 25, when he was listed by Britain’s Defense Ministry as the last survivor among the millions of British soldiers who fought in the trenches on the Western Front. The last French and German veterans of the trenches died earlier this decade.
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In his last years, he became a national celebrity, memorialized in a poem written by Andrew Motion, then the poet laureate, and in a song fashioned from Mr. Patch’s own words about the fighting in the trenches that was recorded by the pop group Radiohead (“I’ve seen devils coming up from the ground/I’ve seen hell upon this earth.”) He met it all with the same modesty, saying that it was not he who should be honored but the men who fell at the battlefront, “the ones who didn’t come home.”
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When Mr. Patch finally broke 80 years of silence, it was in the final decade of a life that was honored by thousands of mourners who gathered at his funeral on Thursday in this quiet cathedral town set in rolling green hills 140 miles west of London. But his message was not the traditional story of valor and patriotism under fire. Rather, he took as his themes the futility of war and the common humanity of soldiers who meet as enemies on the battlefield.
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the feature that would have been likely to please Mr. Patch more than any other was the presence, as honorary pallbearers, of two German soldiers in full dress uniform, part of a six-man contingent that also included soldiers from Belgium and France. A German diplomat, Eckhard Lübkemeier, offered a New Testament reading from Corinthians that spoke of Christ’s “message of reconciliation.”
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A  Belgian diplomat read an excerpt from Mr. Patch’s 2007 autobiography, “The Last Fighting Tommy,” in which he described an offensive during the battle at Passchendaele, the bloodiest chapter in the Ypres fighting, when he came across a fellow soldier “ripped from his shoulder to his waist by shrapnel” during a British assault on German lines.

The episode reinforced in Mr. Patch, a devout Christian, the belief that there is a life after death. “When we got to him, he looked at us and said, ‘Shoot me,’ ” he recalled. “He was beyond all human help, and before we could draw a revolver he was dead. And the final word he uttered was ‘Mother!’ It wasn’t a cry of despair, it was a cry of surprise and joy.”

He added, “I’m positive that when he left this world, wherever he went, his mother was there, and from that day, I’ve always remembered that cry, and that death is not the end.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:43 AM | Permalink

August 2, 2009

Corazon "Cory" Aquino, R.I.P.

London Times

Corazon Aquino was propelled into office as President of the Philippines in an extraordinary sequence of events which began with the assassination of her husband and culminated in the unceremonious ejection of a military dictatorship.

In 1986 the country’s ruler, Ferdinand Marcos, declared himself winner of the general election, but the contest had been so obviously rigged that a wave of what was called “people power” swept him into exile. Four US Air Force helicopters spirited Marcos and his wife, Imelda, out of their impoverished country after 20 years of dictatorship during which she famously accumulated 2,700 pairs of expensive shoes.

Into office in their place came Mrs Aquino, a slight, bespectacled mother of five who had been widowed when her husband, Benigno, was shot dead in broad daylight at an airport ringed by Marcos’s troops. The killing spelt the beginning of the end for the Marcos regime. Many in Washington and elsewhere had backed him, despite his trademark brutality and corruption, because he seemed a bulwark against communism.
Into office in their place came Mrs Aquino, a slight, bespectacled mother of five who had been widowed when her husband, Benigno, was shot dead in broad daylight at an airport ringed by Marcos’s troops. The killing spelt the beginning of the end for the Marcos regime. Many in Washington and elsewhere had backed him, despite his trademark brutality and corruption, because he seemed a bulwark against communism.

But the public murder of a political rival sealed his fate. Mrs Aquino’s coming to power was greeted with huge international approval, but her term in office would turn out to be beset with difficulties, both for her country and for herself. The first woman President of the Philippines, she inherited a political and economic mess which she called the “basket case of South-East Asia”. When she left office in 1992 few of the high hopes she raised had been fulfilled. Yet she had the satisfaction of achieving a peaceful handover of power to an elected successor, no mean feat in a country which had little enough experience of democracy.

Cory Aquino Madame-President
Madame President - Time magazine

Richard Fernandez

And the most incredible aspect of it was that at the center of this gift was not an atom bomb, but an ordinary woman. A woman who had until then remained almost invisible within her husband’s shadow; whose deepest beliefs would laughed to scorn in any fashionable salon. Yet she was the real thing. Fearless beyond measure, honest in the way that only a person who really believes in honesty can be. Cory had the power to awe not only the simple, but the cynical: the simple because she was like them, only greater; and the cynical because she was unlike them and yet still greater.

Philippines President Arroyo said, "The nation lost a national treasure. An icon of democracy."

Time magazine People Power's Philippine Saint: Corazon Aquino

Midnight always threatened Aquino but never struck; and she was a good woman whose goodness alone, at the very end, was what proved enough, if only by an iota, to save her country.
__
Benigno Aquino,  returned to the Philippines after three years of exile in the U.S. only to be shot dead even before he could set foot on the tarmac of Manila's international airport. Filipinos were outraged, and suspicion immediately fell on Marcos. At Benigno's funeral, mourners transformed Corazon into a symbol.

Cory Aquino Obit 03
The Martyr's Wife - Time

The devout and stoic Roman Catholic widow became the incarnation of a pious nation that had itself suffered silently through more than a decade of autocratic rule. Millions lined the funeral route and repeated her nickname as if saying the rosary: "Cory, Cory, Cory."
--
But it would be nearly three years before she would learn to take advantage of her power. Instead, she concentrated on the fractious opposition, using her moral influence to help it choose a leader to oppose Marcos.

 Woman Of The Year Time

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:44 PM | Permalink

Leszek Kolakowski, R.I.P.

“We learn history not in order to know how to behave or how to succeed, but to know who we are.”

Leszek Kolakowski, Jefferson Lecture 1986

 Leszek Kolakowski 2

The Economist

HIS life was learning—about history, about his times, about himself. Like some other erstwhile true believers, he became one of most cogent critics of his former faith. Having spent his youthful years as an ardent communist and atheist, Leszek Kolakowski, one of the great minds of the modern era, turned into Marxism’s most perceptive opponent, and one with a profound respect for religion.

His intellectual life started in the misery of Nazi-occupied Poland—he had to study in secret, mostly alone—and finished in one of the nicest places imaginable: Oxford’s All Souls College. In a university tailor-made for gifted misfits, Mr Kolakowski was happy: he was left alone to read, write, and, less often, talk. All Souls provided a glorious academic retreat: the only obligation is to dine there regularly. His distinctive hat, craggy features, idiosyncratic English and perspex walking stick established him as a landmark even in a city studded with oddities and treasures.

London Telegraph

Leszek Kolakowski, the Polish-born philosopher who died on Friday aged 81, began as an orthodox Marxist but moved towards "Marxist humanism" in the 1950s and 1960s, and was closely involved in the movement towards liberation that led, in 1956, to Poland's brief "October dawn"; later dismissed from the Communist Party, in 1968 he moved to the West, where he became a trenchant critic of Communism and its western apologists.
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In an article published in 1975, he observed that the experience of Communism had shown that "the only universal medicine (Marxists) have for social evils – State ownership of the means of production – is not only perfectly compatible with all the disasters of the capitalist world – with exploitation, imperialism, pollution, misery, economic waste, national hatred and national oppression, but it adds to them a series of disasters of its own: inefficiency, lack of economic incentives and above all the unrestricted rule of the omnipresent bureaucracy, a concentration of power never before known in human history".

 Leszek Kolakowski

New York Times

Leszek Kolakowski, a Polish philosopher who rejected Marxism and helped inspire the Solidarity movement in his native land while living in exile, died Friday in Oxford, England. He was 81.
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Early in his life he embraced Communism as a reaction to the destruction inflicted upon his country by Nazism, greeting the Red Army as liberators after years of German oppression. But a trip to Moscow intended as a reward for promising young Marxist intellectuals proved instead to be a turning point, exposing for him what he described as “the enormity of material and spiritual desolation caused by the Stalinist system.”
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His most influential work, the three-volume “Main Currents of Marxism: Its Rise, Growth and Dissolution,” published in the 1970s, was a history and critique that called the philosophy “the greatest fantasy of our century.” He argued that Stalinism was not a perversion of Marxist thought, but rather its natural conclusion.
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Mr. Kolakowski published more than 30 books in a career spanning more than five decades. He was awarded the Order of the White Eagle, Poland’s highest honor, and the MacArthur Foundation fellowship known widely as the genius grant.

In 2003 he became the first recipient of the United States Library of Congress’s $1 million John W. Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Humanities and Social Sciences, given in fields where there are no Nobel Prizes. In announcing the prize, James H. Billington, the librarian of Congress, noted not only Mr. Kolakowski’s scholarship but also his “demonstrable importance to major political events in his own time,” adding that “his voice was fundamental for the fate of Poland, and influential in Europe as a whole.”

George Weigel

Just as unforgettable, though, was the walk I took with Leszek the next day. A kind of tent city had been set up at one end of Red Square, full of poor people from the countryside who had come to Moscow to ask for redress of their various grievances, many of which were displayed on crudely fashioned homemade posters. The exquisite sensitivity with which the great philosophical pathologist of Marxism engaged one after another of these sad souls -- listening carefully, offering words of encouragement -- bespoke a decency and a capacity for human solidarity that was nothing short of inspiring.
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Another colleague and I decided to spend a few free hours exploring the Kremlin, and we enlisted as guide and translator a bright young Russian who had been hanging around the hotel lobby, obviously looking to practice his English. He took us to one of the newly restored cathedrals inside the Kremlin walls, where we soon found ourselves standing before a brilliant fresco of the Last Supper. There was no doubt that it was the Last Supper; it couldn't have been anything else. Yet this obviously intelligent young Russian looked at us and said, "Please tell me: who are those men and what are they doing?"

That was what 70 years of Marxism had done to a generation: it had lobotomized them culturally. Leszek Kolakowski's philosophical project was a long, rigorous, deeply humane protest against that kind of spiritual vandalism. Kolakowski knew that European civilization was built on the foundations of biblical religion, Greek philosophy, and Roman law. It was built, that is, on the conviction that life is not just one damn thing after another; a robust confidence in the human capacity to get to the truth of things; and a settled determination to order societies by means other than sheer coercion. Leszek Kolakowski's defense of the civilization of the West against the barbarism he was convinced was inherent in the Marxist enterprise was an impressive intellectual accomplishment. It was also the accomplishment of a noble soul.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:35 PM | Permalink

July 30, 2009

Last words of Coco Chanel

 Cocochanel Movie Tatou

I'm really looking forward to the new movie Coco Before Chanel by Anne Fontaine starring the extraordinary French actress Audrey Tautou.  It won't be in the U.S. until September 25, but it's being released tomorrow in the U.K,

With it, press articles and trailers to whet our appetite and my desire to see how this movie depicts the remarkable life of an extraordinary woman . 

The Woman who REALLY invented French dressing: New movie reveals a different side to Coco Chanel

Chanel lived till 1971, having spent her final years in her private suite at the Hotel Ritz in Paris.

Fontaine says: 'At the end, she felt a life without a husband and children was a disaster. She was very alone and the day she died, she went up to the concierge and told him: "In about three or four minutes, I'm going to die."

'She went up to her room and was dead five minutes later. She was so much of a control freak in her life that it was no surprise that she had that control in death, too.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:09 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

July 26, 2009

The Great Convivium

This is the most moving, lyrical and funny encomium I ever read: The Great Convivium by Father Raymond De Souza, being the homily delivered at the funeral Mass for Richard John Neuhaus.

In our first reading the prophet Isaiah has a vision of the Lord's celestial mountain. In the translation we used we hear of a "feast." We used the RSV translation, because it is never a good idea to set the deceased to spinning even before he gets to his grave, which may well have happened had we used the lectionary of the New American Bible, against which Fr. Richard regularly inveighed. There is another translation. In the Latin Vulgate, the word used is convivium. Convivium might just have been Fr. Richard's favorite word
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Convivium strictly means "to live together," but it connotes a banquet or feast, indicating that a certain supply of rich food and fine wine are, if not required, at least desired. Isaiah says nothing about cigars. But then Fr. Richard was not a sola scriptura man. Convivium is an essential part of the Christian life. We are not meant to be disciples alone. Convivium is what Fr. Richard created over his whole life, delighting in the company of others and the delightful things the Lord had made. He drew people together who might not otherwise meet -- Christians and Jews, evangelicals and Catholics, Canadians and Americans, clergy and laity, theologians and journalists, entrepreneurs and evangelists, distinguished authors and aspiring writers.
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At the conclusion of every convivium, every symposium, every meeting, Fr. Richard would look ahead to the next gathering, which he would announce with the proviso, "should the Lord delay his return in glory."


The Lord will delay no longer; there is no more waiting for Richard John Neuhaus. He wrote, in what turned out to be his valedictory at the end of the February First Things: "The entirety of our prayer is ‘Your will be done' -- not as a note of resignation but of desire beyond expression. To that end, I commend myself to your intercession, and that of all the saints and angels who accompany us each step through time toward home."

We pray that Fr. Richard is now experiencing the fulfillment of that desire, which eye has not seen, ear has not heard. We close the eyes of our dear Father. Our eyes are blurred by tears. We are afraid that when they dry, we may not see as clearly without him to show us. We close his eyes and pray that they may open upon the glory of the Lord Jesus, the eternal Son of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, at the great convivium of all the blessed. Amen.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:53 PM | Permalink

July 24, 2009

John Barry, R.I.P.

New York Times  John S. Barry, Main Force Behind WD-40, Dies at 84

John S. Barry, an executive who masterminded the spread of WD-40, the petroleum-based lubricant and protectant created for the space program, into millions of American households, died on July 3 in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego. He was 84.
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The company says surveys show that WD-40, the slippery stuff in the blue and yellow aerosol can, can be found in as many as 80 percent of American homes and that it has at least 2,000 uses, most discovered by users themselves. These include silencing squeaky hinges, removing road tar from automobiles and protecting tools from rust.

Mr. Barry was not part of the Rocket Chemical Company in 1953, when its staff of three set out to develop a line of rust-prevention solvents and degreasers for the aerospace industry in a small lab in San Diego. It took them 40 attempts to work out the water displacement formula. The name WD-40 stands for “water displacement, formulation successful in 40th attempt.”
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Under Mr. Barry’s leadership, annual sales increased from $2 million in 1970 to $91 million in 1990. WD-40 reported sales of $317 million in 160 countries in its most recent fiscal year.

 John Barry

"You only need two tools: WD-40 and duct tape. If it doesn't move and it should, use WD-40. If it moves and shouldn't, use the tape".  Clint Eastwood says it best.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:18 PM | Permalink

July 19, 2009

Henry Allingham at 113, R.I.P.

The oldest man in the world,  Air Mechanic Henry Allingham , British Veteran of World War I died on Saturday aged 113, in his sleep.

John Burns writes the most lyrical obit in the New York Times

An iconic figure to many in Britain, Mr. Allingham did wartime service including stints on land, in the air and at sea. In 1915, he flew as an observer and gunner in the Royal Naval Air Service, hunting zeppelins over the North Sea. He was aboard one of the Royal Navy ships that fought in the Battle of Jutland in 1916, in which Britain lost 14 ships and 6,000 seamen.

He transferred to the western front in France the following year, where he was a mechanic transferred by the naval air service to the Royal Flying Corps, again flying as an observer and a gunner in sorties over the battlefields of the Somme. In later life, he recalled his time in the Somme trenches as the most searing of all his wartime memories.

He described standing in water up to his armpits, surrounded by the smell of mud and rotting flesh. “I saw too many things I would like to forget, but I will never forget them, I can never forget them,” he said.
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Snowy-haired and bowed with age, Mr. Allingham carried a wreath of poppies on his lap at the remembrance ceremonies last November. Insisting he lay the wreath himself, he was wheeled forward to the plinth of the Cenotaph, the memorial to Britain’s war dead near Britain’s Defense Ministry, and was assisted by a military aide in placing the wreath.

 Allingham Wwi Vet

For many years, according to family members, he buried his wartime memories, avoiding reunions and refusing even to discuss his experiences with his family.

But as he grew older, he relented, at least as far as agreeing to appear and speak in public. Even then, he continued to resist all efforts to depict him as a hero. On a visit to the Somme in 2006, he was asked how he wanted to be remembered. “I don’t,” he said. “I want to be forgotten. Remember the others.”
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London Telegraph

With a clear mind until his own death, Allingham could recall the funeral of Queen Victoria in 1901, the Wright brothers' first flight, and seeing WG Grace bat at the Oval in July 1903 – when he scored 15 and 19 in each innings.
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He would attribute his longevity to "cigarettes, whisky and wild, wild women" then add that there had only been one woman for him – his beloved wife, who died in 1970.
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His experience of the trenches came was when he was looking to salvage spares from the remains of aircraft that had been shot down. "We were moving forward at night," he would recall. "I was very apprehensive. It was dark. One of those nights you got where the night time seems to surround you. There were booby traps everywhere."

Suddenly his foothold gave way: "I fell into a shell hole. It was full of arms, legs, ears, dead rats – a lot of dead, rotten flesh. I was up to my armpits in water. I can't describe the smell of flesh and mud mixed up together. I turned to my left, and that's what saved me. It got shallower to the left, and I was able to lift myself out of the water. I lay there in the dark, not daring to move, cold and with my uniform stinking. I was frightened. I was scared. I was so relieved when it finally got light and I could move."

Despite such a gruesome experience, Allingham counted himself fortunate: "I think I had an angel hanging over my shoulders. I still do, I hope."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:38 PM | Permalink

Frank McCourt, R.I.P.

Frank McCourt,  author of the memoir everyone loved, Anglela's Ashes, died of cancer in New York, age 78.. 

Lyrical, sad and laugh out loud funny, Angela's Ashes won the Pultizer Prize and stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for 117 weeks. 

 Frank Mccourt

Matt Schudel writes in the Washington Post

Mr. McCourt, the oldest of seven children, was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where his parents had arrived from Ireland in the 1920s. But their luck soon ran out, and they moved back across the Atlantic when he was 4. They settled in his mother's native city of Limerick in a house with no electricity or running water. It was next to a public lavatory, where the entire neighborhood dumped buckets of excrement that often flooded the McCourts' floor.

"The [school]master says it's a glorious thing to die for the Faith and Dad says it's a glorious thing to die for Ireland," Mr. McCourt wrote in a passage laced with pathos and humor, "and I wonder if there's anyone in the world who would like us to live."
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He had chronic conjunctivitis that left him without lashes on his lower eyelids. At 10, he almost died of typhoid fever and spent more than three months recovering in a hospital. It was the first time he had slept in a bed with sheets or had a full stomach. He also had his first encounter with Shakespeare, writing that it was "like having jewels in my mouth when I spoke the words."
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Mr. McCourt's brother Malachy, who teamed with his brother in a two-man revue of stories and songs in the 1980s, said: "In reality, our life was worse than Frank wrote. Insane outbreaks of laughter saved us."

In a 1966 review, With Love and Squalor, Washington Post book editor Nina King wrote,

"WHEN I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood."

It takes a tough reviewer to resist quoting this paragraph from the opening page of Angela's Ashes, and it takes a splendid writer to fulfill the promise of those lines. I am not that reviewer, but Frank McCourt is definitely that writer. This memoir is an instant classic of the genre -- all the more remarkable for being the 66-year-old McCourt's first book.


New York Times

Critics, enchanted by Mr. McCourt’s language and gripped by his story, delivered the kind of reviews that writers can only dream of. But the book was ultimately a word-of-mouth success.-
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It was “Angela’s Ashes” that loomed over all things McCourt, however, and constituted a transformative experience for its author.

Speaking to students at Bay Shore High School on Long Island in 1997, he said, “I learned the significance of my own insignificant life.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:08 PM | Permalink

July 16, 2009

Major Victor Warren, R.I.P.

Ah, such men.  Another fascinating obituary from the London Telegraph, Major Victor Warren

Major Victor Warren, who has died aged 90, commanded an Indian mule company which journeyed by train from the foot of the Khyber Pass to Karachi, sailed to Iraq and then made a 600-mile march through northern Syria to Tripoli in Lebanon; finally, it landed in Italy to play a vital role in supplying forward infantry units with ammunition and blankets at the battle of Monte Cassino.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:19 PM | Permalink

July 3, 2009

Karl Malden, R.I.P.

Movie critic A.O. Scott in an appreciation of Karl Malden, A Character Actor of Intensified Normalness

Mr. Malden’s achievement as an actor was both substantial and modest. The paradox of great character actors is that they are at once adaptable and unmistakable, irreducibly individual yet able to be typecast. And Karl Malden, especially in the 1950s, was one of the best. No other guy could ever be the other guy the way he could.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:42 AM | Permalink

June 25, 2009

Farrah Fawcett, R.I.P.

 Farrah Fawcett

For so long, she was such an icon of glowing health with her million dollar smile and tousled hair that every girl wanted and so did every guy, that it was shocking to learn that she had cancer.  Now she's dead at 52.

CNN
Farrah Fawcett, the blonde-maned actress whose best-selling poster and "Charlie's Angels" stardom made her one of the most famous faces in the world, died Thursday. She was 62....Ryan O'Neal, Fawcett's romantic partner since the mid-1980s, and her friend Alana Stewart were with Fawcett at Saint John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, when she died.
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New York Times obituary

To an extraordinary degree, Ms. Fawcett’s cancer battle was played out in public, generating enormous interest worldwide. Her face, often showing the ravages of cancer, became a tabloid fixture, and updates on her health became staples of television entertainment news.

In May, that battle was chronicled in a prime-time NBC documentary, “Farrah’s Story,” some of it shot with her own home video recorder. An estimated nine million people viewed it. Ms. Fawcett had initiated the project with a friend, the actress Alana Stewart, after she first learned of her cancer.

 Farrah-Fawcett Poster

Ms. Fawcett’s career was a patchwork of positives and negatives, fine dramatic performances on television and stage as well as missed opportunities.

She first became famous when a poster of her in a red bathing suit, leonine mane flying, sold more than twice as many copies as posters of Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable combined. No poster like it has achieved anywhere near its popularity since, and, arriving before the Internet era, in which the most widely disseminated images are now digital, it may have been the last of its kind.
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The poster that ignited Ms. Fawcett’s career was shot at the Bel Air home she shared with Mr. Majors. “She was just this sweet, innocent, beautiful young girl,” said Bruce McBroom, who took the photograph. Searching for a backdrop to Ms. Fawcett in her one-piece red swimsuit (which she chose instead of a bikini because of a childhood scar on her stomach), he grabbed an old Navajo blanket from the front seat of his 1937 pickup.
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Ms. Fawcett herself described her career succinctly. “I became famous,” she said in her 1986 Times interview, “almost before I had a craft.”

The Guardian has the best obituary by far.
Fawcett herself recognised this when she commented about Charlie's Angels, the crime-busting TV series that made her a star: "When the show was number three, I figured it was our acting. When it got to be number one, I decided it could only be because none of us wears a bra."

Consequently, Fawcett was mostly given roles where her trend-setting hairstyle was the most dramatic part of the film. However, when she was later offered meatier parts, she proved herself up to the task, and was nominated for three Emmy awards and five Golden Globes, though the juries always held back from giving her the actual prize.

The Telegraph
In the 1980s Farrah Fawcett bravely tried to reassert herself as a serious actress — no easy task with her teeth still gleaming on several million bedsit walls — and took hard-edged parts in made-for-television films.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:24 PM | Permalink

Dr. Jerri Nielsen, R.I.P

She was the doctor in Antarctica who diagnosed her own breast cancer when stationed at the Amudsen-Scott South Pole Research Center and then treated herself with chemotherapy drugs that were parachuted in by the U.S. Air Force.

While treating herself, Nielsen carried on her duties as the sole doctor for the 41-person research group. She consulted with her doctors in the United States by e-mail and teleconference. They recommended that she return as soon as possible for treatment.
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Once she returned home and was treated, Nielsen's cancer went into remission, and she wrote about her experience in a best-selling book, "Icebound." She married and became a public speaker, Diana Cahill said.

But in 2005, Nielsen's cancer returned in her bones and liver, later spreading to her brain.

"My experience at the pole had to do with accepting things that most people fear most deeply and coming to feel that they need not be feared," Nielsen told Psychology Today magazine in 2006. "It certainly had far more to do with peace and surrender than it did with courage. Being 'on the ice' was a great good fortune: It created a much greater clarity for me about what was essential in life.

"I'm not afraid of death. I've come to accept it as being part of life, and I think I've come to accept it earlier than my years because of what's happened to me."

She said that after learning her cancer had returned, "after about three weeks of going through a kind of terror, I felt the most incredible peace come over me. Now I am very happy and excited about going forward with my life. The metastatic disease is now just another part of me, another thing that has happened to me."

Doctor rescued from Antarctica in 1999 dies at 57

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:37 AM | Permalink

June 22, 2009

Neda

Neda Agha Soltan, a 27-year-old student of philosophy, became known around the world in a matter of hours through Twitter, Facebook and YouTube because a video captured her death on a street in Tehran

 Nadia Falls

Neda falls in the street, shot in the heart by a Basiji sniper.  She is laid down by her companions when blood begins pouring from her mouth then across her face and it becomes clear that, in a matter of moments, she is dead  The very graphic YouTube video is here.

Some 19 people were killed on June 20, but Neda is the one who has come to symbolize the crisis in Iran. One university student describes the difference between the generations, How Neda Divided My Family.

Neda’s name means “voice” in Farsi. Even though she has been silenced by a Basiji bullet, her death has given new voice to our generation’s demand for reform. Our parents may not understand it yet, but soon they will have to come to terms with the fact that our voices are the future. They can no longer make decisions for their children—or for the Iranian nation yet to come.

 Neda-Agha-Soltan Dying

photos from LA Times


In an interview with the BBC, her fiancee said (scroll down to 1:03 pm)
Neda was not a firm backer of either Mousavi or Ahmadinejad -- she simply "wanted freedom and freedom for all."


From the LA Times, an a obituary for the young woman as Family, friends mourn Iranian woman whose death was caught on video

Her friends say Panahi, Neda and two others were stuck in traffic on Karegar Street, east of Tehran's Azadi Square, on their way to the demonstration sometime after 6:30 p.m. After stepping out of the car to get some fresh air and crane their necks over the jumble of cars, Panahi heard a crack from the distance. Within a blink of the eye, he realized Neda had collapsed to the ground.

"We were stuck in traffic and we got out and stood to watch, and without her throwing a rock or anything they shot her," he said. "It was just one bullet."

Blood poured out of the right side of her chest and began bubbling out of her mouth and nose as her lungs filled up.

"I'm burning, I'm burning!" he recalled her saying, her final words.

-Neda 
Neda in an undated photo

"She was a person full of joy," said her music teacher and close friend Hamid Panahi, who was among the mourners at her family home on Sunday, awaiting word of her burial. "She was a beam of light. I'm so sorry. I was so hopeful for this woman."

Security forces urged Neda's friends and family not to hold memorial services for her at a mosque and asked them not to speak publicly about her, associates of the family said. Authorities even asked the family to take down the black mourning banners in front of their house, aware of the potent symbol she has become.

But some insisted on speaking out anyway, hoping to make sure the world would not forget her.Neda Agha-Soltan was born in Tehran, they said, to a father who worked for the government and a mother who was a housewife. They were a family of modest means, part of the country's emerging middle class who built their lives in rapidly developing neighborhoods on the eastern and western outskirts of the city.

Like many in her neighborhood, Neda was loyal to the country's Islamic roots and traditional values, friends say, but also curious about the outside world, which is easily accessed through satellite television, the Internet and occasional trips abroad.
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"All she wanted was the proper vote of the people to be counted."

 Neda's Photo Dying Poster

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:38 PM | Permalink

June 5, 2009

David Carridine, R.I.P.

When anyone dies under suspicious circumstances that look a lot like suicide, shocked family members and friends think back to see whether the deceased showed any signs of depression and whether they could have done anything. 

In David Carradine's case where the actor was found deed in a luxury hotel room in Bangkok,  the consensus seems to be absolutely not.  Famous actors or anyone in public life do not enjoy the same privacy and lack of scrutiny that most of us have.  So the question had to be asked What was in doing in a closet with a rope around his head and 'another part of his body'?

Now just what the circumstances of his death were are being speculated about all over the world, to his shame.

I remember his character as the half-Chinese, half American Shaolin monk who traveled through the American wild west, like a Chinese Gary Cooper, armed only with his skill in martial arts,in search of his lost half-brother.  The 1970s television series Kung Fu may have been the first to introduce some Asian philosophy into the mainstream of American culture in the form of childhood flashbacks to the sayings and  teachings of his old master.    More recently his career enjoyed a resurgence with  his role as Bill in Quentin Taratino's widely popular Kill Bill vol 1 and 2.

His obituaries, published around the world, will have to include some mention  of the suspicious  circumstances of his death.  How far will they go?

 David Carradine

I suspect we'll read more than we ever wanted to know about his five wives and his drinking and drugging.

London Telegraph  David Carradine found dead in wardrobe in suspected sex game gone wrong

The London Times keeps its focus on his career and many achievements in David Carradine: The Times obituary

The New York Times skirts around the circumstances in its obituary

John Nolte at Big Hollywood is not interested in hearing the story or passing it on, instead prefers to appreciate his Carradine's skill as an actor especially his performance as Woodie Guthrie in the Harold Wexler's film, Bound for Glory.

Thanks to a real screen presence and a quiet, understated performance, Carradine carries the film all on his own thin, angular frame. He inhabits most every scene and quickly makes you forget all that “Grasshopper” stuff. His Woody Guthrie is mostly silent but always fascinating; conflicted by ambitions and a loathing for what it takes to fulfill them, he’s willing to risk death in order to rouse the working man to stand up for himself, but can’t summon the everyday decency to remain faithful to his own wife. And that’s Carradine singing the songs and playing the guitar, but not one note is impersonation, just pure performance.

It's a shame all around, the way he died, the attention that is paid to how he died, our knowledge of how he died, and the shame his widow and children must feel that can only compound their grief. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:48 PM | Permalink

May 27, 2009

"I did not know there was so much goodness in the world'

Maria A. Lopez, 97; elderly blogger attracted millions

MADRID - A Spanish great-grandmother who described herself as the world's oldest blogger - and who became a Web sensation as she mused on events current and past - has died at the age of 97.

Maria Amelia Lopez died May 20 in her hometown of Muxia in Spain's northwest Galicia region, according to her blog amis95.blogspot.com. No cause of death was given.

Mrs. Lopez started blogging in 2006 after her grandson - "who is very stingy," she wrote - created the site as a present for her 95th birthday.

The blog went on to attract a huge following, with more than 1.7 million hits, as Mrs. Lopez shared her thoughts on everything from life in Spain under the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco to the US-led invasion of Iraq, which she criticized.

She said discovering the Internet and communicating with people all over the world changed her life, and she urged elderly people everywhere to get wired.
"It took 20 years off my life," she wrote. "My bloggers are the joy of my life. I did not know there was so much goodness in the world."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:29 PM | Permalink

May 19, 2009

Msgr William Kerr died while preaching a sermon

Matthew of the Shrine of the Holy Whapping delivers the sad news that Msgr William Kerr who baptized him in 1983, was felled by a massive stroke while in the pulpit last week at the co-cathedral of St. Thomas More. 

There is a fascinating connection to Ted Bundy, the story of which you click the link to read.  I want to focus on his last remarkable and unfinished homily.

Today, I want to share with you an anniversary that is important to me. I speak of the anniversary of my ordination as a deacon and of my first assignment. On my way to receiving that first assignment, I stopped by the chapel to go over my resume with God. This was in St. Louis and ten parishes and a hospital were to be assigned to deacons. I told God, "I would do well in a parish. You know I'm not good with hospitals."

After that, I stepped over to the bishop's office. I met with the bishop and received my assignment – it was the hospital.

When I arrived at the hospital, I was immediately directed to the burn unit. This particular hospital was famous for its burn unit and very gravely injured burn patients were brought here. I learned that the chaplain was out for the day and I was faced with this daunting task without any instructions. It was the doctor and me. He advised me to look in the patients' eyes and not at their disfiguring injuries.

My first patient was a young man who had been burned by an explosion. He was in critical condition. This young man, who came to have a tremendous influence on my life, worked in a factory. He had been tasked with picking up rags and spent containers. He disposed of them in an incinerator. This was a chemical factory and unfortunately the containers held chemicals that exploded, seriously burning him in the process.

His name was Michael, Michael Anderson, and he said, "'Father,'" (he called me 'Father,') I always wanted to be a priest, and now I won't get to – so I am offering my suffering to strengthen you in your ministry.

Amazed and almost at a loss for words, I said to him, "Now, Michael, we will get through this, together." But Michael, who probably had a better sense of his situation than I did, responded by insisting he would offer his suffering for me and my ministry.

Next to Michael was another patient who was well known in the area. He heard Michael's conversation with me and told him to put in a good word for him in heaven.

The doctor told me it was important for the patients to scream, to help them relieve their agonizing pain. But Michael never screamed. He held his suffering to himself until he died.

During the next few hours, I got to know Michael. The singular circumstances of our meeting led to friendship, and a special bond between us. And, over the course of my life, I have repeatedly felt that bond and that friendship. Many times I have asked Michael to pray for me to strengthen me in my ministry.

I often think about the priceless blessings I received from being assigned to that hospital and from meeting Michael. God knows us and he knows where we belong, even if we do not know ourselves. We must pray… we must pray…Michael…

R.I.P. Requiescat in pace

A.P. Obit

Whether he was visiting refugees in Rwanda or Bosnia or sharing Thanksgiving dinner each year with his longtime friend Roger Staubach , the former Dallas Cowboys and Navy star quarterback, Kerr touched lives, his friends say.

"He was as good a person as you would ever want to meet," Staubach told The Associated Press on Wednesday night. "He was always dedicated to others."

Post-Gazette Obit

Monsignor William Kerr, a former president of La Roche College whose pursuit of peace touched presidents and prisoners, died Wednesday after suffering a stroke May 3 during Mass in a Florida cathedral. He was 68.
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When serial killer Ted Bundy murdered two women and severely injured two others in a sorority house in 1978, Monsignor Kerr was called to give last rites. Mr. Bundy sought counseling from Monsignor Kerr, who last visited him two days before his 1989 execution.

By then, Monsignor Kerr had spent five years as vice president for university relations at Catholic University. In 1992 he became president of La Roche.

"Under his leadership, La Roche College was transformed from a regional coeducational, liberal arts college into a global community of learners with a burgeoning international presence," said Sister Candace Introcaso, the current president.
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"For a man who gave his life to the church delivering the word, that's a pretty sweet way to go," he said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:53 PM | Permalink

May 13, 2009

LIfe and death in a iron lung

Martha Mason lived more than 60 years in a iron lung and had a full and happy life, living at home, graduating from college with highest honors, taking care of her mother who fell into dementia, and writing a book. 

An extraordinary woman by all accounts who made the most of the life she had.

Martha Mason, who wrote book about her decades in an iron lung, dies at 71 in her sleep.

Paralyzed from the neck down as a result of childhood polio, Ms. Mason was one of the last handful of Americans, perhaps 30 people, who live full time in iron lungs.

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From her horizontal world — a 7-foot-long, 800-pound iron cylinder that encased all but her head — Ms. Mason lived a life that was by her own account fine and full, reading voraciously, graduating with highest honors from high school and college, entertaining and eventually writing.

She chose to remain in an iron lung, she often said, for the freedom it gave her. It let her breathe without tubes in her throat, incisions or hospital stays, as newer, smaller ventilators might require. It took no professional training to operate, letting her remain mistress of her own house, with just two aides assisting her.

“I’m happy with who I am, where I am,” Ms. Mason told The Charlotte Observer in 2003. “I wouldn’t have chosen this life, certainly. But given this life, I’ve probably had the best situation anyone could ask for.”
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Ms. Mason often gave dinner parties — she ate lying down, with her guests around the table and the iron lung pushed up beside it — and savored lively conversation, good gossip and the occasional bawdy story. Amid the rhythmic whoosh ... whoosh of the iron lung, the local book club met in her home. High school graduates stopped by so she could admire them in their caps and gowns, as did just-married couples in their wedding finery. Souvenir magnets from faraway places, gifts from traveling friends, adorned the yellow exterior of Ms. Mason’s iron lung like labels on a steamer trunk.

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in the mid-1990s, when Ms. Mason acquired a voice-activated computer with e-mail capability and Internet access. The computer brought her the world. It also let her contemplate writing her memoir, which is subtitled “Life in the Rhythm of an Iron Lung.”

She began the book in tribute to her mother. In the late 1980s, after a series of strokes, Euphra Mason descended into dementia and abusiveness, occasionally slapping and cursing her daughter. Ms. Mason insisted that her mother remain at home. From her iron lung, she took over the running of the household, planning meals, paying bills and arranging for her mother’s care.

After her mother’s death in 1998, Ms. Mason began work on her book in earnest. There, in her childhood home, with a microphone at her mouth and the music of the iron lung for company, she wrote her life story sentence by sentence in her soft Southern voice, with her own breath.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:24 PM | Permalink

May 4, 2009

Jack Kemp R.I.P.

David Goldman's appreciation in First Things

Former vice-presidential candidate, congressman, and Housing secretary, he was the most improbable and the most important hero of the Reagan Revolution after the Gipper himself. Without Jack’s true-believer’s passion for tax cuts as a remedy for the stagflation of the 1970s, Reagan would not have staked his presidency on an untested and controversial theory.
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It was impossible to be cynical in Jack’s vicinity. He radiated sincerity and optimism. Corny as it sounds, Jack was the real thing, an all-American true believer in this country and in the capacity of its people to overcome any obstacle once given the chance.
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Jack was a leader who loved his country and put it before personal gain. When he left office he had the equity in his house and not much else. But he had four children, including two sons who played professional football, and seventeen grandchildren. By the time I got to know him he was full time on the lecture circuit, putting his family finances in order before joining the Washington thinktank Empower America. He considered a run for president in 1996 but deferred to Steve Forbes, then running as the tax-cutting candidate. His outstanding career as a Republican leader was coming to an end, but what a glorious run it was.

A devout Christian, Jack made far more of a difference than an ex-quarterback with a physical education degree from Occidental College had a right to. He earned our gratitude not only for what he accomplished, but for what he proved about the character of the United States.

28037642

New York Times obit

Jack Kemp, the former football star turned congressman who with an evangelist’s fervor moved the Republican Party to a commitment to tax cuts as the central focus of economic policy, died Saturday evening at his home in Bethesda, Md. He was 73.
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Mr. Kemp was an unlikely leader for a political cause based on a theory of economics. He had majored in physical education while playing football at Occidental College in Los Angeles. When he entered politics, many Washington veterans dismissed him as a “dumb jock,” and as a junior House member in 1977, he did not even serve on the tax-writing Committee on Ways and Means.
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Mr. Kemp had also convinced Bill Brock, chairman of the Republican National Committee, that the issue was political gold. “He said, in effect, we need to restore the essence of our party, which is growth, which is jobs, which is creativity,” Mr. Brock said in an interview this year. “And the way to do that is to free people of the burden of excessive taxes.”
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“Jack Kemp is the indispensable political leader of the modern conservative economic revival,” Edwin J. Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research institution in Washington, said recently, adding, “Jack’s role in developing and exploring the potential of supply-side economics in the late 1970s laid the groundwork for Reagan’s economic program.”

Quarterback Jack

Kemp was an autodidact. He focused on sports in his early life, becoming quarterback of the Buffalo Bills in the old AFL. Yet he nourished a nascent interest in politics by reading, reading, reading — WFB, Ayn Rand, economics, history. He honored ideas with the fervor of a young lover. His second passion, equal to his devotion to tax cuts, was his concern for black advancement. This was part conviction, part experience: As his friend Newt Gingrich liked to say, Jack had showered with people that most Republicans never meet. Kemp believed that the party of Lincoln had to regain its role as the champion of black America. The welfare state had not completed the civil-rights revolution; free-enterprise programs targeted at the inner city (such as enterprise zones) would do the trick instead.
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Churchill said that being with FDR was like having a glass of champagne. Being with Jack Kemp was like chugging a can of Red Bull. How could someone so alive be gone? And yet it is so. R.I.P.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:04 AM | Permalink

May 2, 2009

Shane flew like a bird

Shane McConkey, R.I.P. - Forever an Eagle  via Book of Joe

Long story — and life — cut unexpectedly short: The iconic ski base jumper (above) died as he lived.

From the Financial Times obit, Daredevil ski base-jumper who flew like a bird


Shane McConkey, the man who found ways to ski off skyscrapers, was able to “slip the surly bonds of earth”, as poet John Magee put it, and enter an exhilarating and giddy world where few mortals could venture.

Having helped pioneer what came to be called ski base-jumping – leaping from mountains or cliffs using a parachute to land safely – he moved on to something even more exotic: wingsuiting. He used a special suit that shaped the body into a human aerofoil with fabric sewn between the legs and under the arms. This enabled him to become a self-powered “birdman” before finally opening a parachute – a technique one observer likened to a “flying squirrel”.

McConkey: ‘It’s so damned fun’

“Wingsuiting blows people away – it blows me away every time I do it,” McConkey said. “There’s no joystick, no bar, no steering wheel – you’re flying your own body. It’s so damned fun. You ski off a cliff, pull your skis off and you’re flying – you’re a bird. You open your wingsuit and you’re off. It’s the greatest feeling ever.”
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McConkey’s death at 39, while filming in the Italian Dolomites, exposed an unexpected danger in a sport already fraught with peril. A mid-air problem getting the bindings of both skis to release before being jettisoned meant that vital seconds were lost between the initial launch and the smooth transition into “birdman” mode. After jumping and carrying out a “routine” double back-flip from a 600-metre cliff near the ski resort of Corvara, he was still desperately grappling to release the second ski when he hit the ground, his wingsuit not yet deployed. The unreleased ski would have flipped him upside down and probably sent him into a spin. Had he tried to use his parachute in this position it would have become tangled around the remaining ski and failed to deploy.

After his death one website noted: “There are 42,500 page results for Shane McConkey. Within those pages you won’t find a bad word uttered about him.” One comment posted was: “It feels like Superman died.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:15 AM | Permalink

In praise of the newspaper obituary

Final Edition In praise of the newspaper obituary by Stefany Anne Goldberg

The traditional obituary is an exercise in curtness. It is an art form nasty, brutish, and short, taking the scrambled up, complicated thing that is a human life and smashing it into a tidy, coherent narrative.
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The obituary seems to be experiencing a renaissance. In her 2006 book The Dead Beat, Marilyn Johnson reveals a worldwide ring of rabid obituary enthusiasts—members of the Church of Obituaries, she calls them. They flip past the Sports and Business sections eager to read the day’s death roll. They “surf the dead beat” poring over blogs and newspapers searching for fascinating facts about Antoinette K-Doe, who turned a nightclub into a public shrine to her husband, or the guy who invented sea monkeys. Obituaries aren’t dirty little secrets as much as they used to be, lurking in hidden corners and ready to terrify those who cross their path. They are public, normal, interesting, fun. There’s even a glossy online magazine with the snappy name Obit.

--But the real change is with the obituary writers. Once shamed to the backs of periodicals to deliver dour, Margie Zellner-style obituaries, many are now part of this new movement to “out” death by making it more accessible and “natural.” They are reconsidering the obituary not as the final judgment, but as a way death can be presented as a sum total of its stories. Everyone has stories, everyone dies, and in writing about death, death and life become more of a circle. The obituary is not the period on the sentence of existence, but a mere interpretation.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:09 AM | Permalink

May 1, 2009

Great Escape gardener R.I.P.

Great Escape gardener dies aged 97

A British World War II veteran whose efforts to help prisoners escape from a Nazi camp was immortalised in the film The Great Escape has died aged 97.

Alex Lees was a prisoner at the infamous Stalag Luft III camp in March 1944 when scores of Allied servicemen escaped through tunnels they had dug by hand.

Lees - a gardener at the camp - helped dig the tunnels, but because he was not an officer he was not given the chance to escape himself.

He used an ingenious system to dispose of the soil from the three tunnels, storing it in a bag hidden under his trousers and then dumping it on the camp's vegetable garden.

The story of Lees and his comrades was made into the 1963 film starring Steve McQueen.

Alex Kees: PoW at Stalag Luft III

Since he had been transferred to Stalag Luft III as part of a gardening detail, his raking down the soil was not immediately calculated to cause suspicion among the camp guards.

After months of work the main escape tunnel, “Tunnel Harry”, was finally ready and on the night of March 24, 1944, a moonless night the would-be escapers had selected to give them their best chance, the escape attempt began as night fell. Out of the 100 men it was thought might escape before daylight, 76 had succeeded in crawling to freedom beyond the wire when at 4.55 am on the 25th the 77th man was spotted emerging from the tunnel.
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After being repatriated from Stalag Luft III in 1945 he returned to his life in insurance in Scotland, finally retiring in 1969 as life and pensions superintendent at what was by then the Commercial Union. Latterly he had lived in a care home for ex-service personnel in Erskine, Renfrewshire.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:26 AM | Permalink

April 30, 2009

Obits from the London Times

Distinguished lives in brief.

J.G. Ballard

The young J. G. Ballard, revealed in his most popular novel Empire of the Sun, was far more in awe of Japanese kamikaze pilots than he was interested in being liberated from his internment camp. Similarly the adult Ballard found the enslavement of man to his own devices — concrete, technology, cameras and crashing cars — monstrous and terrifying, yet fascinating and ceaselessly inspiring.
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His dispassionate visions of modernity and apocalyptic imagery earned him the rare honour of seeing his name adjectivised: Collins English Dictionary describes “Ballardian” as “resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in J. G. Ballard’s novels and stories, especially dystopian modernity, bleak manmade landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments”.
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Ballard 1 525524A

Although Ballard was frequently called a writer of science fiction, he abhored the term, explaining instead that his books “pictured the psychology of the future”.

It was 40 years before Ballard felt able to write about the most formative events in his life. Empire of the Sun is unusual for a Ballard novel in that its young protagonist is instantly likable, his story moving. It was his most saleable novel, made into a Hollywood epic by Steven Spielberg with the young Christian Bale as Ballard. It was not, he insists, an autobiography but a “negotiated truth” from which he excised, among other things, the parents who had shared his ordeal.

Professor Jack Good: mathematician and wartime codebreaker

The mathematician Jack Good played a key role among the codebreaking team at Bletchley Park during the Second World War. He went on to help to build one of the first computers, was the father of a branch of modern statistics and contributed to the development of artificial intelligence.

Good was born Isidore Jacob Gudak to a Polish-Jewish family in London in 1916; his father was a watchmaker and well known in Yiddish literary circles. Isidore later anglicised his name to Irving John Good but he was always known as Jack. Good was slow to learn to read, but partly as a result of being bed-bound with diphtheria at the age of 9 — when he began to discover mathematics for himself — his extraordinary intelligence became clear to his teachers.

Robert Anderson: American playwright

Robert Anderson, the American playwright, explored sexual identity, infidelity and relationship breakdown in emotional dramas which broke new ground in the 1950s and 1960s. He was also a screenwriter and novelist.


His play Tea and Sympathy, a Broadway hit in 1953, sought to expose postwar conformity and the narrow views of the time of how men were expected to act. It tells the story of a sensitive student, Tom, who is accused of being homosexual by his classmates. He seeks solace from his housemaster’s wife, Laura, who, in order to reassure him of his masculinity, ends up seducing him. Manliness, the wife tells her husband “is not all swagger and swearing and mountain-climbing”. “Manliness is also tenderness, gentleness, consideration.” Tom was played by John Kerr and Laura by Deborah Kerr in the original theatre cast, as well as in the 1956 film version.

At the end of the play, the housemaster’s wife Laura utters the now-famous line to Tom: “Years from now when you talk about this — and you will — be kind.”

Father Stanley Jaki: Benedictine priest, physicist and theologian

 Father Stanley Jaki


Stanley Jaki, a Benedictine priest and a physicist, was best known for his scholarly contributions to the philosophy of science and theology. In 1987 he was awarded the Templeton Prize for his work on analysing “the importance of differences as well as similarities between science and religion, adding significant, balanced enlightenment to the field”.
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Jaki strongly believed in the conjunction between faith and reason and argued that science flourished in Europe because of the Christian understanding of creation and the Incarnation.
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Jaki was a prolific author, publishing more than 40 books, hundreds of articles, reviews, chapters and lectures. His books, many of them analysing the relationships between modern science and orthodox Christianity, reflect the extraordinary range of his interests and his exceptional abilities. Among them are: The Relevance of Physics (1966); Brain, Mind and Computers (1969); The Milky Way: an Elusive Road for Science (1973); Science and Creation: From Eternal Cycles to an Oscillating Universe (1974); Miracles and Physics (1989); God and the Cosmologists (1989); and Bible and Science (1996).


In addition, he wrotes studies of G. K. Chesterton, Pierre Duhem, the French mathematician, physicist and historian of science, and Cardinal Newman, and he translated some important works, including the first English version of a study of Copernicus (1975) and Immanuel Kant’s Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens (1775/1981).
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For all his immense recognition in scholarly circles, Jaki’s groundbreaking work on science, philosophy, ethics, religion and culture has undoubtedly had a considerable influence and relevance that have yet to be adequately recognised

Tom Braden: CIA official and political journalist

 Tom Braden

Thomas Braden was a CIA paymaster in the 1950s funding anti-communist activity all over the world. He later defended, and then criticised, the machinations of the CIA in hardhitting newspaper columns. He went on to help to launch and co-host the hugely popular and highly influential US political debate show Crossfire from 1982-1989. Away from politics, his memoir about his chaotic family life as the father of eight children, Eight is Enough, was adapted into a hit TV comedy on ABC that ran for four years from 1977.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:17 AM | Permalink

April 15, 2009

"Kisses, kisses, more kisses"

The Last Words of Duke Ellington.

“Kisses kisses” and “More kisses” he asked of his sister Ruth.

Before she left the room, he said, “Smile kisses,” and then smiled at her and kissed a cross she had left on the chair next to his bed.

Source:  A. H. Lawrence, Duke Ellington and His World: A Biography

viv Dead at Your Age

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:27 AM | Permalink

March 21, 2009

Winston Churchill's confidential assistant dies at 95

The Telegraph's wonderful obituary of Patrick Kinna


Kinna was recommended to Churchill by staff surrounding the Duke of Windsor, whose confidential clerk he had been while the Duke was serving as a member of the British military mission in Paris. From 1940 to 1945 his tiny, trim figure rarely left the Prime Minister's side, pencil and shorthand pad ever at the ready.

At Christmas 1941, while Churchill was staying at the White House, Kinna was summoned to take dictation by the prime minister, who was soaking in his bathtub, planning the speech he would make to Congress on Boxing Day. Finding the muse, Churchill stomped in and out of the tub, evading the ministrations of a valet with a bath-towel.

As the prime minister paced the room "completely starkers", Kinna recalled, there was a knock on the door and Churchill went to open it. It was Roosevelt in his wheelchair. Mortified at finding his guest with nothing on, the president prepared to make his excuses, but was prevented by Churchill. "Oh no, no, Mr President," he said. "As you can see, I have nothing to hide from you."
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Some accounts suggest that Churchill was initially charmed by Joseph Stalin, but that was not Kinna's impression. After their first encounter in Moscow, Kinna recalled Churchill storming back into the office they had been given at the Kremlin, saying he wanted to dictate a telegram to Whitehall. "I have just had a most terrible meeting with this terrible man Stalin... evil and dreadful," he began. "May I remind you, Prime Minister," interrupted the British ambassador, "that all these rooms have been wired and Stalin will hear every word you said."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:08 PM | Permalink

March 20, 2009

Popcorn Sutton

A Likker Legend's Last F.U.

Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton was told to report to federal prison tomorrow for an 18-month stint after he was busted yet again for making his famed White Lightning. On Monday, Sutton went out on his own terms.

Sutton was one of the last of his kind: an unrepentant Appalachian moonshiner with a reputation for great "likker" and a penchant for pissing off the authorities

Click here to see his tombstone.

Famed bootlegger chose death over prison, widow says

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Famed Appalachian moonshiner Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton, whose incorrigible bootlegging ways were as out of step with modern times as his hillbilly beard and overalls, took his own life rather than go to prison for making white lightning, his widow says.
"He couldn't go to prison. His mind would just not accept it. ... So credit the federal government for my husband being dead, I really do," Pam Sutton said Wednesday from the couple's home in the Parrottsville community.
A few hours earlier she had buried Sutton, 62, in a private ceremony in the mountains around Haywood County, N.C., where he grew up.

Sutton — nicknamed "Popcorn" for smashing up a 10-cent popcorn machine in a bar with a pool cue in his 20s — looked like a living caricature of a mountain moonshiner. He wore a long gray beard, faded overalls, checkered shirt and feathered fedora. He made his home in Cocke County, where cockfighting and moonshining are legend.

Sky Sutton is a New England historian and raised in Massachusetts who discovered while researching her paternal genealogy that her biological father was Popcorn Sutton.    Her blog contains excerpts from her book, Daddy Moonshine.

“It isn't surprising that Popcorn has attracted so much attention. His slippery craft and his old-timey antics appeal to something in our collective past. His overalls can be seen as the blue denim flag of old pick-up trucks and cork-plugged clay jugs. His colorless hat is the nod of a gentleman, his beard the badge of a wild man. His high reedy voice carries the echoes of banjos and fiddles. His stealth and focus speak volumes for the cunning and moxie of who he is: a Smokey Mountain moonshine master.”

You can hear his high reedy voice on his YouTube video showing how to make moonshine

 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:29 PM | Permalink

March 18, 2009

Natasha Richardson, R.I.P.

 Natasharichardson

Life can change in an instant . 

Natasha Richardson was excited about learning to ski on the beginner's slope at Mont Tremblant ski resort in Quebec when she lost her balance and fell down.  She didn't hit anyone or anything, nor did she show any signs of injury.  An hour later, she complained of a headache and was taken taken to a hospital near the ski resort, then to a Montreal hospital.  After she was declared brain dead, she was kept on life support and flown to New York City where her family gathered at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City to say goodbye before she was taken off life support. 

A family spokesman said: 'Liam Neeson, his sons, and the entire family are shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Natasha.

'They are profoundly grateful for the support, love and prayers of everyone, and ask for privacy during this very difficult time.'

New York Times obit

She was a blond, beautiful English actress, he was her ruggedly handsome Irish co-star, and the two were thought to be courting right on stage, during a New York production.

Ms. Richardson was an intense and absorbing actress who was unafraid of taking on demanding and emotionally raw roles. Classically trained, she was admired on both sides of the Atlantic for upholding the traditions of one of the great acting families of the modern age.

Her grandfather was Sir Michael Redgrave, one of England’s finest tragedians. He passed his gifts, if not always his affection, to his daughters, Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave, and his son, Corin Redgrave. The night Vanessa was born, her father was playing Laertes to Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet.

Ms. Richardson was the daughter of Vanessa Redgrave and the film director Tony Richardson, known for “Tom Jones” and “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner.” Married in the early 1960s, they were divorced in 1967. He died of AIDS in 1991 at the age of 63.

She seemed to be a lovely woman who survived a difficult childhood and adolescence in her famous family of actors and activists to make a successful career and marriage.  What a terrible loss.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:36 PM | Permalink

March 5, 2009

"He ducked down and crept into the bomb bay"

The father of our friend Sippican of Sippican's Cottage died Sunday.    Our condolences to him and his family on their loss. 

He posts My Father Asks for Nothing.

My father asks me for nothing, really. Every three months or so, I take him to his doctor, who pokes about him wondering what keeps him animated, and that's about it. He's grown frail, and has discovered the joys of "Not Going." It takes a lot to get him to leave the comfort and safety of his house. I was really surprised when he called me on Saturday, because he asked me to take him somewhere.
---

We went along the side of the plane, creeping along at the pace my father goes, my father assiduously avoiding walking between the fuselage and the props -- a habit sixty years old and more -- and he saw his chance. He ducked down and crept into the bomb bay.

Down came the hands. No one needed to be told who that man was, or why he was there. Everyone behind paused to wait patiently and respectfully, and everyone within reach helped me pick that old, frail, brave man up to look on the nuts and bolts of that totem of his distant life. And they thanked him, and they asked him questions, and marveled at him.

It's always sad to see another of the Greatest Generation pass away as the world turns. 

R.I.P.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:51 AM | Permalink

March 1, 2009

Paul Harvey, Master Storyteller, Radio Pioneer, Now at Rest

ABC News - Radio Legend Paul Harvey Dies

The "most listened to man" in broadcasting passed away Saturday. After more than seven decades on the air, venerable radioman Paul Harvey's folksy speech and plain talk are no more.

Harvey died at the age of 90 at a hospital near his winter home in Phoenix.

His death came nine months after that of his wife, Lynne Cooper Harvey, whom he often called "Angel" on air, and who was also his business partner and the first producer ever inducted in the the Radio Hall of Fame. She died in May 2008 at age 92.

"My father and mother created from thin air what one day became radio and television news," Paul Harvey Jr. said Saturday. "So, in the past year, an industry has lost its godparents. And, today millions have lost a friend."

Harvey's career in radio spanned more than 70 years, and his shows "News & Comment" and "Rest of the Story" made him a familiar voice in Americans' homes across the country.

If you didn't know Paul Harvey, you missed out on an extraordinary storyteller.  Here's an example.

CNN
"Paul Harvey was one of the most gifted and beloved broadcasters in our nation's history," ABC Radio Networks President Jim Robinson said in a written statement. "As he delivered the news each day with his own unique style and commentary, his voice became a trusted friend in American households."

Washington Post , Beloved Radio Broadcaster Paul Harvey Dies at 90

Mr. Harvey was the voice of the American heartland, offering to millions his trademark greeting: "Hello Americans! This is Paul Harvey. Stand by! For news!"

For millions, Paul Harvey in the morning or at noon was as much a part of daily routine as morning coffee.

"Paul Harvey News and Comment" was a distinctive blend of rip-and-read headline news, quirky feature stories and, usually, a quick congratulation to a couple who had been married for 75 years or so. The news stories, and Harvey's distinctive take on them -- usually, but not always, from a conservative political perspective -- flowed seamlessly into commercial messages for products Mr. Harvey endorsed.

One of radio's most effective pitchmen, he kept sponsors for decades, attracted by such features as "The Rest of the Story," mesmerizing little tales, cleverly written, that featured a surprising O Henry-style twist to stories listeners thought they already knew.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:54 PM | Permalink

February 23, 2009

The Oscars - In Memoriam

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:57 PM | Permalink

February 16, 2009

Eulogy for George Washington

Pat McNamara, a church historian, gives us the eulogy to the first president by the first Roman Catholic bishop, John Carroll.

The last act of his supreme magistracy was to inculcate in most impressive language on his countrymen… his deliberate and solemn advice; to bear incessantly in their minds that nations and individuals are under the moral government of an infinitely wise and just Providence; that the foundations of their happiness are morality and religion; and their union among themselves their rock of safety… May these United States flourish in pure and undefiled religion, in morality, peace, union, liberty, and the enjoyment of their excellent Constitution, as long as respect, honor, and veneration shall gather around the name of Washington; that is, whilst there still shall be any surviving record of human events!

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:43 AM | Permalink

February 5, 2009

The "Big Lie"

Catholic author and blogger Michael Dubriel collapsed at a gym and could not be revived.  The suddenness sent shock waves throughout the Catholic blogosphere.    But nothing compared to shock his widow and young children felt. 

In announcing his death his wife Amy wrote simply
We are devastated and beg your prayers.

In response to an outpouring of prayers and notes, Amy wrote

Many thanks for all of the prayers and notes. It is overwhelming.  Many have asked what they can do of a material or concrete nature. All I can say is to simply buy his books. Not from me, because I am in no position to fill orders, but from anywhere else.  He long ago promised God that he would give all the royalties of The How To Book of the Mass to the children’s college funds, which he did faithfully.  It is in good shape because of that. Buy them, read them, and give them away to others. Spread the Word. That is what he was all about.

On the night before he died he wrote his last column which deserves reading in full.

The “big lie,” Father Benedict said, (and I’m paraphrasing him at this point), is to think that if we say all the right prayers and live  correctly, then nothing bad will ever happen to us. Sadly, there are many good people who have lost their faith by believing such a lie, and that makes it a big one indeed!
--
What is the opposite of the “big lie”? Trust.
--
None of us knows what the future holds, but hopefully we can embrace what is inscribed in our coinage, “In God we Trust.”

Imagine that, his last written words, "In God we Trust."

May he rest in peace. 

Me, I'm going to order some books.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:50 PM | Permalink

January 28, 2009

John Updike, R.I.P.

An American literary giant, John Updike died at 76, after a long bout with lung cancer.

 John Updike


New York Times obituary
, a "prolific man of letters and erudite chronicler of sex, divorce and other adventure in the postwar prime of the American empire."


John Updike, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, prolific man of letters and erudite chronicler of sex, divorce and other adventures in the postwar prime of the American empire, died Tuesday at age 76. Updike, best known for his four ''Rabbit'' novels, died of lung cancer at a hospice near his home in Beverly Farms, Mass., according to his longtime publisher, Alfred A. Knopf.


A literary writer who frequently appeared on best-seller lists, the tall, hawk-nosed Updike wrote novels, short stories, poems, criticism, the memoir ''Self-Consciousness'' and even a famous essay about baseball great Ted Williams.


He released more than 50 books in a career that started in the 1950s, winning virtually every literary prize, including two Pulitzers, for ''Rabbit Is Rich'' and ''Rabbit at Rest,'' and two National Book Awards.
His settings ranged from the court of ''Hamlet'' to postcolonial Africa, but his literary home was the American suburb, the great new territory of mid-century fiction.


Born in 1932, Updike spoke for millions of Depression-era readers raised by ''penny-pinching parents,'' united by ''the patriotic cohesion of World War II'' and blessed by a ''disproportionate share of the world's resources,'' the postwar, suburban boom of ''idealistic careers and early marriages.''


He captured, and sometimes embodied, a generation's confusion over the civil rights and women's movements, and opposition to the Vietnam War. Updike was called a misogynist, a racist and an apologist for the establishment.
--


Updike learned to write about everyday life by, in part, living it. In 1957, he left New York, with its ''cultural hassle'' and melting pot of ''agents and wisenheimers,'' and settled with his first wife and four kids in Ipswich, Mass, a ''rather out-of-the-way town'' about 30 miles north of Boston.


''The real America seemed to me 'out there,' too heterogeneous and electrified by now to pose much threat of the provinciality that people used to come to New York to escape,'' Updike later wrote.


''There were also practical attractions: free parking for my car, public education for my children, a beach to tan my skin on, a church to attend without seeming too strange.''

An appreciation by Thomas Mallon

Perhaps the keenest compliment one can pay him as a man is to say that his life will make for a lousy biography: Just about no scandal; precious little feuding; almost no phony contretemps and posturing. He was deeply interested in sex and God, but more than anything he was interested in working—steadily and prodigiously. The Rabbit books, taken together, are the great American novel of the second half of the twentieth century. Even when he was through with them, he kept writing fiction as if, culturally, it still counted—as if it could still land a writer on the cover of Time. He loved his country, avoided political faddishness, was a devoted Democrat and got both of his national medals—one in the arts and another in the humanities—from Republican presidents.

In the Boston Globe, Mark Feeney eulogizes his "jeweled prose and quicksilver intellect"

"He was obviously among the best writers in the world," said David Remnick, editor the New Yorker, Mr. Updike's literary home for more than half a century.

A master of many authorial trades, Mr. Updike was novelist, short story writer, critic, poet - and in each role as prolific as he was gifted. He aimed to produce a book a year. Easily meeting that goal, Mr. Updike published some 60 volumes.
--

Mr. Updike could be brilliant even about his own diligence, writing in his memoir "Self-Consciousness" (1989) of "my ponderously growing oeuvre, dragging behind me like an ever-heavier tail." Or there was the description of Fenway Park, "a lyric little bandbox of a ballpark," in Mr. Updike's classic account of Ted Williams's final game, "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu."
--

Yet beneath the comfortableness of the affluent, suburban settings Mr. Updike most often wrote about, and the glittering surface of his prose, were profound and piercing concerns. One was an ongoing examination of his native land. "America is a vast conspiracy to make you happy," he wrote in the 1980 story collection "Problems."

A link to his fabled essay "Hub fans bid Kid Adieu"

Fenway Park, in Boston, is a lyric little bandbox of a ballpark. Everything is painted green and seems in curiously sharp focus, like the inside of an old-fashioned peeping-type Easter egg
--
The affair between Boston and Ted Williams was no mere summer romance; it was a marriage composed of spats, mutual disappointments, and, toward the end, a mellowing hoard of shared memories.

An interview last fall with Mark Brown of the London Telegraph

Among the many wise observations that John Updike has made in a career spanning more than 50 years, few can compare with his remark - made in his memoirs, Self-Consciousness - that 'Celebrity is a mask that eats into the face'.
--

This is how it goes with Updike. He is a ruminative man, fond of digression, whose conversation ambles through literature, politics, film, but who wears his erudition lightly - a rare combination of formidable intelligence and lightness of being, whose abiding sense is of astonishment and gratitude not only for being a successful author, but also for having the extreme good fortune to be an author at all.
---

Updike once described his task as a writer 'to give the mundane its beautiful due'.
--
Family, Updike seems to be saying, is the point of it all. 'The genes living on… the tussle of family life, the clumsy accommodations and forgiveness of it, the comedy of membership of a club that has to take you in at the moment of birth.'
--

It is a fact of ageing, he says, that life seems to grow lighter rather than heavier.

'Nothing seems to matter quite as much. I no longer think about death in the concentrated way I once did. I don't know… you get so old and you sort of give up in some way. You've had your period of angst, your period of religious desperation, and you've arrived at a philosophical position where you don't need, or you can't bear, to look at it.

'If you've had the Biblical three score and 10, and then a bit more on top of it - and I've already outlived my father - then you certainly should be content. As you get closer, as death becomes more real, so it becomes friendlier. I say this as a man who still wakes up at three in the morning horrified at my cosmic position. But in the daytime, sitting here, I'm able to see it.'

Update: A lovely vignette by David Pryce Jones

One fine summer day, I was walking home through the park. When I sat down on a bench, I noticed that the man already on it was wearing khaki fatigues and heavy combat boots. He had a huge notebook on his knee, and was writing in it in green ink, very very very carefully, one word at a time—a long pause, pen in air—and then one more word. The whole page was entirely free from erasures. This procedure was fascinating. I squinted in order to read what he could possibly be writing. It was pure vituperation against his wife and his marriage by someone staying in a Holiday Inn. I shrank away, and looked at this man next to me on the bench. He had a nose as shaped and individual as the nose of Federico di Montefeltro, the Duke of Urbino, in Piero della Francesca's magnificent portrait. The penny dropped. The boots and fatigues were misleading. I had had the privilege of catching John Updike in the midst of his astonishing method of composition. It happened that Updike had not long before reviewed very generously a book of mine. I was just working out how to introduce myself without seeming a Peeping Tom when a beautiful woman arrived, he folded his notebook and off they sauntered arm in arm under the evening sun. Oh, the style of the man and the writer!

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:51 PM | Permalink

January 16, 2009

Sir John Mortimer, R.I.P.

Sir John Mortimer, creator of Rumpole of the Bailey, dies at 85.    I loved Rumpole and consider his adaption of Brideshead Revisted, one of the greatest programs ever to be shown on television.

 Sir John Mortimer
From the National Portrait Gallery, by Mark Tillie

From the New York Times obituary

John Mortimer, barrister, author, playwright and creator of Horace Rumpole, the cunning defender of the British criminal classes...
--
Mr. Mortimer is known best in this country for creating the Rumpole character, an endearing and enduring relic of the British legal system who became a television hero of the courtroom comedy.

To read Rumpole, or watch the episodes is to enter not only Rumpole’s stuffy flat or crowded legal chambers, but to feel the itch of his yellowing court wig and the flapping of his disheveled, cigar ash-dusted courtroom gown.

Rumpole spends his days quoting Keats and his nights quaffing claret at Pommeroy’s wine bar, putting off the time that he must return to his wife, Hilda, more commonly known as She Who Must Be Obeyed.

Using his wit and low-comedy distractions, Rumpole sees that justice is done, more often than not by outsmarting the ‘’old sweethearts” and “old darlings” of the bench and revealing the inner good — or at least integrity and inconsistency — of the accused, including clans like the Timsons, whose crimes have kept generations of police officers busy.
--
Mr. Mortimer also adapted Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited” for television, years after he became enthralled with the book as a young man. Somehow, despite the demands of his chosen careers, a “schizoid business of being a writer who had barristering as a day job,” Mr. Mortimer also found time to pursue his lifelong interest in women, do some writing for newspapers and keep up the garden nurtured by his father, whose outsized shadow remained with him all his life.
--
“Dying is a matter of slapstick and pratfalls,” he wrote in “The Summer of a Dormouse: A Year of Growing Old Disgracefully” (2000). “The aging process is not gradual or gentle. It rushes up, pushes you over and runs off laughing. No one should grow old who isn’t ready to appear ridiculous.”

U.K. Telegraph obituary

Sir John's agent, Anthony Jones, said: "He died at home, surrounded by his family. He had been unwell for some time."

A trained lawyer, Sir John drew on his experience to create Rumpole, the shambolic barrister who became one of the best-loved characters on British television. His extensive writing career included the acclaimed adaptation of Brideshead Revisited in 1981. He was knighted in 1998.

Sir John had four children from his two marriages, including the actress, Emily Mortimer. In 2004, it emerged that he had a another child, of whom he never knew, by the actress Wendy Craig. Their son was the product of an affair in the early 1960s. Although the discovery came as a shock, he professed himself "very happy" with the news.

Although wheelchair-bound towards the end of his life, Sir John gleefully defied health edicts and continued to enjoy fine wine and good living, beginning each day with a glass of champagne for breakfast.

In one of his last interviews, given in July 2008, he said: "I drink brandy and soda, and I don't eat a meal without drinking white wine. I've smoked all my life and, although I'd given up a bit, I now force myself to smoke because of the ban."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:24 AM | Permalink

Patrick McGoohan R.I.P.

 Parick Mcgoohan

Obituary Boston Globe

Patrick McGoohan, an Emmy-winning actor who created and starred in the cult classic television show "The Prisoner," has died. He was 80.

Mr. McGoohan died Tuesday in Los Angeles after a short illness, his son-in-law, film producer Cleve Landsberg, said.

Mr. McGoohan won two Emmys for his work on the Peter Falk detective drama "Columbo" and more recently appeared as King Edward Longshanks in the 1995 Mel Gibson film "Braveheart."

But he was most famous as the character known only as Number Six in "The Prisoner," a 1960s British series in which a former spy is held captive in a small enclave known only as the Village, where a mysterious authority named Number One constantly prevents his escape.

Mr. McGoohan came up with the concept and wrote and directed several episodes of the show, which has kept a devoted following in the United States and Europe for four decades.

"His creation of 'The Prisoner' made an indelible mark on the sci-fi, fantasy, and political thriller genres, creating one of the most iconic characters of all time," AMC said in a statement. "AMC hopes to honor his legacy in our reimagining of 'The Prisoner.' "

"Arrows cost money, Use up the Irish"  from Big Hollywood

McGoohan was married to the same woman for 57 years, and included in the contract for his first TV series, “Danger Man,” three special clauses: 1) no kissing, 2) each fight had to be different, and 3) his character must always try to use his brains before resorting to a gun.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:56 AM | Permalink

January 15, 2009

"I'm lost"

Last text of British student who froze to death in river as she walked home from party at Val d'Isere ski resort.

A British student sent a text message reading ‘I’m lost’ seconds before plunging to her death in an Alpine river.

Rachel Ward, a 20-year-old undergraduate from Durham University, was on her way to her apartment from a party in the upmarket French ski resort of Val d’Isere when the tragedy happened late on Monday night.

She had been taking part in ‘On The Piste’ - annual celebrations filled with alcohol, parties and skiing involving hundreds of British university students.

The message sent to friends was received just after 1am, some half-an-hour after she had left the gathering of fellow students, all of whom had been drinking heavily.

Detectives fear that she slipped on ice and fell into the river, before dying of hypothermia. She had been walking in the wrong direction.

An investigating detective in Val d‘Isere said: ‘The young woman had been enjoying herself with friends when she decided to set off home alone.

‘It was dark, of course, and temperatures were extremely low.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:11 AM | Permalink

January 10, 2009

Father Richard John Neuhaus, R. I. P.

Joseph Bottum quite movingly announced the death of Fr. Neuhaus.

Our great, good friend is gone.

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus slipped away January 8, shortly before 10 o’clock, at the age of seventy-two. He never recovered from the weakness that sent him to the hospital the day after Christmas, caused by a series of side effects from the cancer he was suffering. He lost consciousness Tuesday evening after a collapse in his heart rate, and soon after, in the company of friends, he died.

My tears are not for him—for he knew, all his life, that his Redeemer lives, and he has now been gathered by the Lord in whom he trusted.

I weep, rather, for all the rest of us. As a priest, as a writer, as a public leader in so many struggles, and as a friend, no one can take his place. The fabric of life has been torn by his death, and it will not be repaired, for those of us who knew him, until that time when everything is mended and all our tears are wiped away.

New York Times obit by Laurie Goodstein

The Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, a theologian who transformed himself from a liberal Lutheran leader of the civil rights and antiwar struggles in the 1960s to a Roman Catholic beacon of the neoconservative movement of today, died on Thursday in Manhattan. He was 72 and lived in Manhattan.
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Father Neuhaus’s best-known book, “The Naked Public Square,” argued that American democracy must not be stripped of religious morality. Published in 1984, it provoked a debate about the role of religion in affairs of state and was embraced by the growing Christian conservative movement.

In the last 20 years, Father Neuhaus helped give evangelical Protestants and Catholics a theological framework for joining forces in the nation’s culture wars.

The Associated Press
A native of Canada and the son of a Lutheran pastor, Neuhaus began his own work as a Lutheran minister at St. John the Evangelist Lutheran Church in a predominantly African-American Brooklyn neighborhood. He was active in the civil rights movement and other liberal causes. In 1964, he joined the Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and the Rev. Daniel Berrigan as the first co-chairmen of the anti-war group Clergy Concerned About Vietnam.  But he eventually broke with the left, partly over the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 ruling Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion.

In 1990, he converted to Catholicism and a year later was ordained by New York Cardinal John O'Connor.  "I was thirty years a Lutheran pastor, and after thirty years of asking myself why I was not a Roman Catholic I finally ran out of answers that were convincing either to me or to others," he wrote.

 Richard John Neuhaus

Father Raymond de Souza on Neuhaus as a Catholic intellectual.


With the death of Father Richard John Neuhaus on Jan. 8, the Catholic Church lost one of its greatest public intellectuals, a theologian who brought the light of the Gospel to the world of public life.


More than that, though, Father Neuhaus made possible a new world of intellectual engagement with the culture.
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By the 1990s, Father Neuhaus had, along with his friends George Weigel and Michael Novak, wrought a sea change in Catholic intellectual life. With the obvious favor of Pope John Paul II, Father Neuhaus and his colleagues articulated a new, confident Catholicism which sought less to adapt to the secular culture as it did to challenge it with a fresh application of the Catholic tradition
--


A few months before his reception into the Catholic Church, Richard John Neuhaus launched a new journal, First Things, which became the most prominent and influential “journal of religion and public life” in America.


Read by religious leaders both Catholic, Protestant and Jewish, influential figures in theology, law and politics, and bright students in universities all over, First Things made widely available the thought of its editor in chief, but also a whole cadre of established Catholic thinkers: Avery Dulles, George Weigel, Mary Ann Glendon, Russell Hittinger, as well as new voices such as the current editor, Jody Bottum.

A generation of orthodox, engaged Christian writers was launched by First Things.


‘First Blog’


Yet, it remains true that for most readers, the first thing about First Things was Father Neuhaus himself, who pioneered in print what today might be called the first blog.

Death on a Thursday Morning by the editors of the National Review

Richard John Neuhaus, who died earlier today in New York, was the most influential Catholic and Christian theologian and writer in America during the second half of the 20th century. His influence can be compared to that of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, with one important distinction: Fulton Sheen exercised his sway over the public directly, through his radio and television sermons. Father Neuhaus did so less directly, through his books and articles, through his editorship of two important magazines devoted to religion and politics, through his friendship with Pope John Paul II, and through his impact on other theologians both in the Catholic Church and in other Christian congregations. Partly for those reasons, however, Neuhaus’s influence is likely to be the deeper, longer-lasting and more extensive one.
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Neuhaus began his adult life as a Canadian, a left-winger, and a Lutheran. He never lost his love for his country of birth — he spent six weeks of every year vacationing, reading, and reflecting in the Quebec countryside — his respect for a liberalism shaped by charity, or his admiration for the Lutheran tradition. He became nonetheless an American, a conservative, and a Catholic. And from these three conversions he forged for himself a distinctive religious identity that was conservative and generous, traditional and open, charitable and — yes — combative.

Reflections by Raymond Arroyo in the Wall St Journal
Of his work with Martin Luther King Jr., he once wrote that God "used his most unworthy servant Martin to create in our public life a luminous moment of moral truth about what Gunnar Myrdal rightly called 'the America dilemma,' racial justice. It seems a long time ago now, but there is no decline in the frequency of my thanking God for his witness and for having been touched, however briefly, by his friendship, praying that he may rest in peace, and that his cause may yet be vindicated."
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And though he enjoyed a series of presidential appointments, in the Carter, Reagan and first Bush administration, he never lost sight of his role as a priest. He would write: "Politics is chiefly a function of culture, at the heart of culture is morality, and at the heart of morality is religion."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:21 AM | Permalink

December 20, 2008

"Suffering and diminishment are not the greatest of evils.."

Suffering and diminishment are not the greatest of evils..."

"... but are normal ingredients in life, especially in old age. They are to be accepted as elements of a full human existence. As I become increasingly paralyzed and unable to speak, I can identify with the many paralytics and mute persons in the Gospels, grateful for the loving and skillful care I receive and for the hope of everlasting life in Christ. If the Lord now calls me to a period of weakness, I know well that his power can be made perfect in infirmity. Blessed be the name of the Lord!”

Those words are from the last McGinley Lecture given by Avery Cardinal Dulles.  He was no longer able to speak and his lecture had to be read for him.

On his trip to America,  Pope Benedict visited Cardinal Dulles, then 90,  at Fordham University

Benedict, the university professor, saluted America’s greatest scholarly theologian. And, suitably, the latter encounter was private, at Fordham, a place of teaching, with the two scholars speaking about their earlier theological collaborations and their books.

“Eminenza, Eminenza, I recall the work you did for the International Theological Commission in the 1990s,” said the Holy Father as he greeted Cardinal Dulles with obvious enthusiasm. Cardinal Dulles kissed the papal ring and smiled back at Benedict. Unable to speak, Cardinal Dulles had prepared a text that was read to the Holy Father by a fellow Jesuit priest.

Cardinal Dulles then presented Benedict with a copy of his most recently published book, a splendid collection of the McGinley Lectures he has been delivering at Fordham for 20 years under the title Church and Society.

Benedict immediately took it in hand, read the inscription and began to look through the pages — as happy as any scholar is to get a new book by a respected friend.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:10 AM | Permalink

December 18, 2008

Help with obituaries

I learned about Obituarieshelp.org from Melanie Waters who wrote to tell me about her website that turns out to be a wonderful resource for grieving people who must write an obituary or a eulogy or friends who want help to write a letter of condolence.

She says  "ObituraiesHelp.org is a work in progress. I'll be adding to it weekly until ObituariesHelp.org becomes the one unified source online for Funerals, Obituaries, and Sympathy and Condolence resources."

For genealogists, obituaries are often the best way to learn about your ancestors and Melanie provides many links and resources.

A site to bookmark.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:34 AM | Permalink

December 15, 2008

He threw his life away for God

Avery Cardinal Dulles, R.I.P.

New York Times obit

Cardinal Avery Dulles, a scion of diplomats and Presbyterians who converted to Roman Catholicism, rose to pre-eminence in Catholic theology and became the only American theologian ever appointed to the College of Cardinals, died today died Friday morning at Fordham University in the Bronx. He was 90. ..

Cardinal Dulles, a professor of religion at Fordham University for the last 20 years, was a prolific author and lecturer and an elder statesman of Catholic theology in America. He was also the son of John Foster Dulles, the secretary of state under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the nephew of Allen Dulles, who guided European espionage during World War II and later directed the Central Intelligence Agency.
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His spiritual passage to Catholicism was like a fable. A young scholar with a searching mind, he stirred from his establishment Presbyterian family to face questions of faith and dogma. By the time he entered Harvard in 1936, he was an agnostic.

In his second book, “A Testimonial to Grace,” a
1946 account of his conversion, Cardinal Dulles said his doubts about God on entering Harvard were not diminished by his studies of medieval art, philosophy and theology. But on a gray February day in 1939, strolling along the Charles River in Cambridge, he saw a tree in bud and experienced a profound moment.

The thought came to me suddenly, with all the strength and novelty of a revelation, that these little buds in their innocence and meekness followed a rule, a law of which I as yet knew nothing,” he wrote. “That night, for the first time in years, I prayed.”

His conversion in 1940, the year he graduated from Harvard, shocked his family and friends, he said, but he called it the best and most important decision of his life.

 Avery Cardinal Dulles

From a 2001 interview with Avery Cardinal Dulles by Michael Paulson in the Boston Globe. (He came to faith in my parish, St Paul's in Cambridge.)

Dulles, a brilliant student passionate about learning, found himself ravenously consuming the new works of French Catholic theologians, and one day he marched into a Catholic bookstore and asked, "How do I get into your church?"

Q. What drew you to Catholicism?


A. Perhaps it was the studies of the Reformation period. We had to read Luther and Calvin and the decrees of the Council and Trent and all those sorts of things, and I just found myself resonating with the Catholic positions in all those controversies, and also feeling that the culture of Europe was destroyed or ruptured by the Reformation in a way that was unfortunate. And then I discovered the Catholic Church as it existed in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and it was a very vital, vibrant thing. St. Paul's parish there - the liturgy was very well performed, and Sunday evening they were having benediction, they were all singing the hymns of Thomas Aquinas in Latin, and I said, `This is the church for me.'


Q. Your journey to Catholicism strikes me as having been more intellectual than spiritual.

A. I think that's probably true. I hope there was some spiritual aspect to it, but I've never had any great taste for what's called spirituality. I think it deals so much with emotions and feelings. I don't have many emotions or feelings. I tend to have ideas. I was interested in Catholicism ideally, intellectually. I was convinced that it was true. I was interested in truth.

His obituary by Joseph Bottum at First Things

By the time of death, from the after-effects of the polio that he had contracted during the war, Dulles had published more than 700 theological articles and 27 books, becoming, along the way, the most important American Catholic theologian of the twentieth century.
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“Christian tradition is marked by a deep reverence for its own content, which it strives to protect against any dilution or distortion,”
he once wrote, and he saw that the purpose of theological writing is not intellectual surprise or verbal fireworks. It is, rather, “to impart a tacit, lived awareness of the God to whom the Christian Scriptures and symbols point.”

This anecodote comes from the London Timesonline 

After his consecration as a cardinal in Rome on February 21, 2001, the Gregorian University hosted a meal in his honor. Over the rattle of after-dinner coffee cups, various high-ranking ecclesial figures rose to praise Dulles’s life and work. The most revealing moment, however, may have come when, unexpectedly, one of his Dulles cousins stepped to the podium.  An aristocrat of that strange, old American variety — tall and puritanically thin, well but primly dressed, a daughter of stern Protestant New England — she explained that she had overheard as a child the outraged family discussions of the young Avery’s conversion. Uncle Allen, Aunt Eleanor, John Foster, all the senior family members gathered around to complain that the best and brightest of the family’s next generation seemed determined to throw his promising life away. “And, of course, they were right,” she said. “He did throw that life away. He threw it away for God.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:14 AM | Permalink

" None of us know what happens in those infinitesimal moments between life and death"

The Anchoress eulogizes her "birth" brother who died yesterday after A sad painful life.

I don’t blame him for not having faith. I can’t think of any example of love he ever encountered that did not - ultimately - get distorted or misrepresented or prove itself to be wholly untrustworthy, not to be counted on, not to be believed.

I loved him, but I was much younger than he, and of a completely different nature. I doubt he believed it, that I loved him. He had no tools to believe it.

How tragically sad is that?
--

I say to hell with that. He was loved into being; he was baptized and sealed. The people who were supposed to teach him the way in which to go spun him madly, incessantly - then allowed him to get dizzy and lost. He lived a sad, tortured life the best way he knew how - quite imperfectly, but then his tools were also very insufficient and his trust was non-existent. I cannot claim to know anything, but I do not believe that a loving God would look upon this much-sinned against man and reject him once again, as he was rejected all his life.

For one thing, none of us know what happens in those infinitesimal moments between life and death, if mercy is offered one more time, and accepted.
-
Tonight, I am believing that my brother John is finally in the presence of the all-encompassing and unconditional love in which he can finally trust, finally surrender to…or that he has glimpsed enough of it to want more, however long it takes to become fit for it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:22 AM | Permalink

December 1, 2008

Killed in Mumbai Terror

The terror in Mumbai has been horrific, both in the numbers of people killed and the failure of the Indian police to fight back, thereby causing more deaths of innocents

Sebastian D'Souza, the Mumbai photographer who captured a photo of the "baby terrorist" caught alive and now pleading for his life,  said, "I wish I'd a gun, not a camera.  ...

...what angered Mr D'Souza almost as much were the masses of armed police hiding in the area who simply refused to shoot back. "There were armed policemen hiding all around the station but none of them did anything," he said. "At one point, I ran up to them and told them to use their weapons. I said, 'Shoot them, they're sitting ducks!' but they just didn't shoot back."

Just a few of the victims:

 Rabbi, Wife Killed Mombai

A selfless young couple, Rabbi Gavriel Holzberg and his wife Rivka left Brooklyn to open a Jewish outreach center in Mumbai as part of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.    Chabad.org  says of them,

For five years, they ran a synagogue and Torah classes, and helped people dealing with drug addiction and poverty,
Their selfless love will live on with all the people they touched. We will continue the work they started.

They were sought out, tortured and killed.

Firing grenades and automatic weapons, the men took the Holtzbergs and at least six other people hostage, according to friends of the Holtzbergs. The cook, who was also a nanny, managed to escape with Moshe about 12 hours into the siege, the friends said. The boy’s pants were soaked in blood when he emerged.

Rabbi Kotlarsky said that Rabbi Holtzberg had called the Israeli Embassy from inside Nariman House and was describing the situation when the line went dead. His last words before being cut off were “Lo tov,” Rabbi Kotlarsky added, which means “not good” in Hebrew.
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“This is a tragic loss for the Lubavitch community, and for our entire city,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “That their son survived is a miracle, and our entire city is grateful for his nanny’s heroic act. During a time of terrible sadness, her courage reaffirms our faith in the capacity of good to triumph over evil.”

Yaacov Ben Moshe at Breath of the Beast writes
They were neither Missionaries nor ultra-Orthodox zealots they were, simple, devoted and loving people serving a very high purpose.

They were murdered by zealots for purely political and bloody purposes. 

Zealots indeed.  Doctors were shocked at the torture of the hostages
this was entirely different. It was shocking and disturbing," a doctor said....Another doctor said: "It was very strange. I have seen so many dead bodies in my life, and was yet traumatised. A bomb blast victim's body might have been torn apart and could be a very disturbing sight. But the bodies of the victims in this attack bore such signs about the kind of violence of urban warfare that I am still unable to put my thoughts to words,"
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"Of all the bodies, the Israeli victims bore the maximum torture marks. It was clear that they were killed on the 26th itself. It was obvious that they were tied up and tortured before they were killed. It was so bad that I do not want to go over the details even in my head again,"

Other victim The Fearless Brit

 British Tycoon Shot Dead

Andreas Liveras, a self-made businessman went out for a quiet meal with three members of his staff.

After the initial attack on the hotel, Mr Liveras, a father of four and grandfather of eight, phoned his family to say that he had survived Wednesday evening’s assault – and he had also spoken to the BBC to describe the scene in the hotel.

“We knew that he had been taken from the restaurant, through the kitchen and to the basement – and then on to another room. There were a lot of people milling about.

“Typically, my father remained calm throughout his ordeal. He was fearless man – he had flown round the world in his own plane, he had travelled around the world in his own boat. He had done things that most people would be afraid to do.

“Eventually, however, the gunmen got into the room where my father was and sprayed bullets. He was fatally injured and died from multiple wounds."

The family suspect that Mr Liveras’s courage may have contributed to his death. “He would put the safety of his staff before his own. He would not bow down, or crawl and hide, in the face of these people [the terrorists]. I think that is why he got it [the bullets] first,” said his son.

May they all rest in peace and may their memories be a blessing to all who knew them.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:20 PM | Permalink

November 29, 2008

"This is the only thing that is equal to my father's death." "This is the only thing that is equal to my father's death

Condolences to David Warren on the death of his father.

He writes about another whose response in losing his father was to attend Catholic masses in the old, Latin rite. 

Went to hear, and inevitably, went to think, while the words of the Mass were sung for him, from the invocation of the Kyrie, a text old as the Psalms if not older: "Lord have mercy."

From one Mass, he was drawn curiously to another, until in due course his diverse thoughts organized themselves into a single thought. And that thought was: "This is the only thing that is equal to my father's death."

I learned of this when my own father died, the Sunday before last.
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Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:27 PM | Permalink

November 13, 2008

"I was a fool..."

Gen.  Barrow's lesson in dying

I am going to tell you what a fool I was, in hope that you will learn from my foolishness, and not do what I did. Or rather, what I failed to do.

I opened up the New York Times the other day to see that General Robert H. Barrow had died. He was 86, and formerly the commandant of the US Marine Corps. He's from my hometown, and returned there to the family plantation after his retirement. I knew that he was there, and for a long, long time, would pass his house when I'd go home to visit my folks and think, "One of these times, I need to call on Gen. Barrow. I bet he's interesting."

I never did. Here, from the
Times obit, is the kind of man I never found the time to call on:

The honor guard accompanied Gen. Barrow's casket through town, the Marine Corps band played, they had a 21-gun salute, and it was all so glorious in my sister's telling. Nothing like that has ever happened in our town. A truly great man lived among us.

And see, I knew he was there all along, and never made time to go see him, and ask him about his life and times. What stories he could have told! If only I'd had enough sense to stop by and say hello. I come from a small town. People are neighborly. I bet he would have been pleased to make time for a curious visitor who wanted to find out what he knew about the world. But I never made time for him.

What I want to tell you is this: you can probably think of an old man or old woman in the periphery of your life, someone who may or may not be as illustrious or as accomplished as Gen. Barrow was, but who still has quite a story to tell. You may have thought to yourself that someday, you'd like to sit down with that person and have a long talk. But everydayness sets in, and you never do get around to it. Suddenly, you're out of days. The moment has passed. There's nothing left but regret.


I was a fool to let the opportunity to benefit from Gen. Barrow's wisdom pass me by. Whoever your Gen. Barrow is, don't you be a fool too.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:48 PM | Permalink

November 3, 2008

He accomplished the American Drean

He started off as a window washer and later founded a maintenance company with his brother-in-law

Hyman Golden, Co-Founder of Snapple, Dies at 85

Then, in 1972, Mr. Marsh introduced Mr. Golden to Arnold Greenberg, a childhood friend who ran a health food store in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan. The three decided to join forces and founded a company — called Unadulterated Food Products — selling juices to health-food stores.

In 1980, the company introduced a line of all-natural juices with the Snapple name, which came from one of its first products, a carbonated apple juice that had a “snappy apple taste.”

“When it first came out,” Mr. Greenberg told The New York Times in July 1994, “we sold 500 cases. The next month we sold 500 more cases and got some calls from distributors. ‘You’ve changed your formula,’ they said. ‘This Snapple’s tasting better and better.’ Then one day in our warehouse the tops of the bottles started shooting off. Bang! Pop! We found out it was fermenting. We’d made Champagne.”

The company enjoyed modest success with its natural sodas in the early 1980s, but it was when it introduced its iced tea in 1987 that sales began to skyrocket. Amid a nationwide boom in health consciousness, Snapple became perhaps the only ready-to-drink iced tea promoted as having natural ingredients and being made from real brewed tea. Consumers increasingly chose it over its carbonated competitors.
__
By the time the company was purchased by Quaker Oats Company for about $1.7 billion in 1994, it had annual sales of $700 million, and its bottles of juices with their familiar blue-and-white logos could be found in delis, supermarkets, vending machines and homes across the country.
--

“He accomplished the American dream,” she said. “When he and his partners would get together for events and celebrations, their favorite song to sing was ‘God Bless America,’ because they were so appreciative.”

“In their wildest dreams,” she added, “they never thought that this would be the end result.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:53 AM | Permalink

October 30, 2008

Robert Furman

Scientific American on the death of Robert Furman, atom bomb spy leader, at 93

Robert Furman, a civil engineer who helped round up German scientists suspected of building the atomic bomb for the Nazis during World War II, has died. He was 93.

---
As chief of foreign intelligence for the U.S. bomb project in the last two years of the war, Furman coordinated the kidnapping of German scientists, including physicist Werner Heisenberg. Eventually, Heisenberg and nine other scientists were spirited out of Soviet reach and into a detention center in France called the Dustbin, according to the Times.

Under German sniper fire, Furman and his team also seized 31 tons of uranium ore in Belgium that was  eventually shipped to the U.S.

Furman worked closely with Nobel Prize-winning physicist Luis Alvarez  to track down  German nuclear activity. They searched for “heavy water” – water containing a heavy isotope of hydrogen used in the making of bombs – in the Upper Rhine and Lake Constance between Germany, Switzerland and Austria, Los Alamos lab historian emeritus Roger Meade told the Times.

Furman’s spy team, code-named Alsos, ultimately found that Germany’s bomb project wasn’t as advanced as the U.S. had believed. “Instead of being two years ahead, they were two years behind,” historian Robert S. Norris wrote in Racing for the Bomb, according to the Times.

New York Times obituary

Robert R. Furman, a former Army major who as chief of foreign intelligence for the American atomic bomb project in World War II coordinated and often joined harrowing espionage missions to kidnap German scientists, seize uranium ore in Europe and determine the extent of Nazi efforts to build the bomb, died Oct. 14 at his home in Adamstown, Md. He was 93.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:34 PM | Permalink

October 28, 2008

Tony Hillerman, R.I.P.

When I was at the Department of the Interior,  I was fortunate to spend some time with Tony Hillerman, a lovely man who was simply delighted to receive a special departmental award for his novel, "A Thief of Time) and the pubic awareness he created about theft of Indian relics from public land.   

At that time, he was recovering from a heart attack and still a bit weak.  Fortunately, he lived many more years and wrote several more books to the delight of his fans.

Boston Globe  obituary
Tony Hillerman, author of the acclaimed Navajo Tribal Police mystery novels and creator of two of the unlikeliest of literary heroes, Navajo police officers Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, died Sunday of pulmonary failure. He was 83.
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His daughter said the Navajo values of family, community, generosity, and enjoying the beauty of the world, resonated with her father's own Catholic values. He felt blessed in his life and saw the needs of the Navajo Nation and responded, she said.

"He was a storyteller at heart, and so when people started buying his books and he didn't have to struggle so hard financially, he felt it was a good way to share the blessings," she said.
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"I want Americans to stop thinking of Navajos as primitive persons, to understand that they are sophisticated and complicated," Mr. Hillerman once said.

New York Times obit
In the world of mystery fiction, Mr. Hillerman was that rare figure: a best-selling author who was adored by fans, admired by fellow authors and respected by critics. Though the themes of his books were not overtly political, he wrote with an avowed purpose: to instill in his readers a respect for Native American culture.
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“It’s always troubled me that the American people are so ignorant of these rich Indian cultures,” Mr. Hillerman once told Publishers Weekly. “I think it’s important to show that aspects of ancient Indian ways are still very much alive and are highly germane even to our ways.”
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Mr. Hillerman wrote with intimate knowledge of the Navajo, Hopi and Zuni tribes; he grew up with people very much like them. “I recognized kindred spirits” in the Navajo, he wrote in an autobiographical essay in 1986. “Country boys. Folks among whom I felt at ease.”
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For all the recognition he received, Mr. Hillerman once said, he was most gladdened by the status of Special Friend of the Dineh (the Navajo people) conferred on him in 1987 by the Navajo Nation. He was also proud that his books were taught at reservation schools and colleges.

“Good reviews delight me when I get them,” he said. “But I am far more delighted by being voted the most popular author by the students of St. Catherine Indian school, and even more by middle-aged Navajos who tell me that reading my mysteries revived their children’s interest in the Navajo Way.”

Read the whole obit to learn more about his remarkable life.

May he rest in peace surrounded by beauty.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:15 AM | Permalink

October 23, 2008

The French Mother Teresa Dies

Sister Emmanuelle, France's "Mother Teresa," dies aged 99.

Sister Emmanuelle, France's answer to Mother Teresa, who has died aged 99 was an unorthodox nun who spent 20 years helping the poor in a Cairo slum before returning to France to defend the homeless.

The diminutive Roman Catholic nun, whose real name was Madeleine Cinquin, was best known in France for her frequent appearances on television to campaign passionately for the poor and homeless.

She came to media attention with her work with some of the world's poorest people, the residents of the Ezbet El-Nakhl slum in Cairo who eke out their living by scavenging in the garbage produced in the giant city.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Sister Emmanuelle was a woman who "touched our hearts," a "woman of action for whom charity meant concrete actions of solidarity and fraternity."
The Vatican said her work, like that of Nobel peace laureate Mother Teresa, "showed how Christian charity was able to go beyond differences of nationality, race, religion."

           Sister Emmanuelle

Rocco Palmo writes about her funeral in "Life Does Not End For Those Who Know to Love"

Sent off by her expressed request from the small-town convent where she spent her last years, Paris came to a halt yesterday to commemorate Soeur Emmanuelle -- the "French Mother Teresa" who died Monday at 99. 

Following her private funeral liturgy and burial at Callian in the country's southeast, the capital's Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois celebrated a nationally-televised memorial Mass in Notre-Dame, its high-watt congregation led by President Nicolas Sarkozy, his predecessor Jacques Chirac and -- in a tribute to the two decades the self-described "rag woman with the rag pickers" spent working among the poor in Cairo -- Egyptian First Lady Suzanne Mubarak, as a crowd of thousands packed the square outside.

She left a message with her publishers.

"When you hear this message, I will no longer be there. In telling of my life -- all of my life -- I wanted to bear witness that love is more powerful than death," she said, according to the text.

"I have confessed everything, the good and the less good, and I can tell you about it. Where I am now, life does not end for those who know how to love."...

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:05 PM | Permalink

October 14, 2008

Aubrey Beardsley, deathbed penitent

Known best today for his elegant, edgy and often erotic black and white drawings that seem the essence of a decadent age and a new style called Art Nouveau, Aubrey Beardsley began his career as a musical child prodigy only turning to drawing and illustration in the last five years of his young life.

Infected with tuberculosis since he was six, Beardsley became a famous fop, living life hard if  languidly.

  Aubrey Beardsley

Beardsley was a public character as well as a private eccentric. He said, "I have one aim—the grotesque. If I am not grotesque I am nothing." Wilde said he had "a face like a silver hatchet, and grass green hair." Beardsley was meticulous about his attire: dove-grey suits, hats, ties; yellow gloves. He would appear at his publisher's in a morning coat and patent leather pumps.

He became part of the
homosexual clique that included Oscar Wilde and the English aesthetes, Beardsley was basically heterosexual--though perhaps his only female partner had been his adored elder sister, Mabel (who may also have borne his miscarried child). Some biographers suggest that Wilde's celebrated downfall and the public revulsion that followed it may have precipitated Beardsley's final illness.

He was only twenty-three when he turned to God
In March, 1897, after converting to Roman Catholicism, he and his mother traveled to Paris. Doctors advised against spending the winter in the city, so in November they went to southern France. There, ravaged by chills and weakness, Beardsley took to bed and never left his room after a bad lung hemorrhage on Jan. 26. Thoughts of religion and guilt about the frank eroticism of his past work haunted him, and he spent hours reading about the lives of Roman Catholic saints

Nine days before his death,

he scribbled a note to his London publisher with the heading "Jesus is our Lord & Judge." The note read: "I implore you to destroy all copies of Lysistrata. . . . By all that is holy--all obscene drawings." ..... Early in the morning on Mar. 16, when his mother and Mabel were out of the room, the artist apparently tried to draw, for when Ellen Beardsley returned, her son was dead and his favorite gold pen--either thrown or dropped on the floor--was standing upright like an arrow

Daniel Mitsui at The Lion and the Cardinal notes that the final request written by Beardsley "in my death agony"  was ignored.
But the letter leaves an enduring testimony to the sincerity of its author's conversion. The world of arts and letters has no shortage of insincere converts; men for whom religion is simply another element in the creation of an interesting public personality. But in the dying Aubrey Beardsley is seen the will to mortification and the shame for notoriety that mark a true penitent

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:41 AM | Permalink

October 13, 2008

Death by Kisses

Via Jason Kottke comes the filmmaker Pes who came across this tombstone in Woodlawn cemetery.

 Death By Kisses

Intrigued he did more research and found this article in the New York Times in 1909 about poor George Millett who was "stabbed to death in an office frolic".

The girls only tried to kiss him for this birthday but George fended the girls, reeled and fell over as he did pierced in the heart by a blade for scraping ink that was in his breast pocket.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:29 PM | Permalink

September 29, 2008

"Fancy a drink, Sir Thomas"

In the time of King Henry IV who, after deposing Richard II, spent much of his reign putting  down rebellions.  One of them involved was Sir Thomas Blount. 

Only six men, including Sir Thomas Blount, received the full traitor's death of being drawn, hanged, disembowelled, and forced to watch their own entrails burned before being beheaded and quartered. Blount's execution resulted in one of the greatest displays of wit in the face of adversity ever recorded. As he was sitting down watching his extracted entrails being burned in front of him, he was asked if he would like a drink. 'No, for I do not know where I should put it', he replied.

via Samizdata

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:04 AM | Permalink

September 28, 2008

Paul Newman

When I heard about Paul Newman's death, I was away for the weekend for my high school reunion so I didn't have a chance to what others had written, but then I already knew he was a remarkable man. I had already  written about the legacies he was creating.  Paul Newman's Legacies

  "If I leave a legacy, it will be the camps," Newman says.

  Newman Photos-Tm

Breitbart obit
Paul Newman, known for his piercing blue eyes, boyish good looks and stellar performances in scores of hit Hollywood movies, has died, his foundation said Saturday. He was 83.
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"Paul Newman's craft was acting. His passion was racing. His love was his family and friends. And his heart and soul were dedicated to helping make the world a better place for all," Foundation Vice-Chairman Robert Forrester said.

Newman played youthful rebels, charming rogues, golden-hearted drunks and amoral opportunists in a career that encompassed more than 50 movies. He was one of the most popular and consistently bankable Hollywood stars in the second half of the 20th century.  Two of his most popular movies included "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969) and "The Sting" (1973), in which he co-starred with an equally popular and handsome actor, Robert Redford.

Newman was also a philanthropist, a health food mogul -- he once quipped that his salad dressing was making more money than his movies -- a race car enthusiast and a leftist political activist.

New York Times, Paul Newman, a Magnetic Titan of Hollywood

If Marlon Brando and James Dean defined the defiant American male as a sullen rebel, Paul Newman recreated him as a likable renegade, a strikingly handsome figure of animal high spirits and blue-eyed candor whose magnetism was almost impossible to resist, whether the character was Hud, Cool Hand Luke or Butch Cassidy.

He acted in more than 65 movies over more than 50 years, drawing on a physical grace, unassuming intelligence and good humor that made it all seem effortless.

Yet he was also an ambitious, intellectual actor and a passionate student of his craft, and he achieved what most of his peers find impossible: remaining a major star into a craggy, charismatic old age even as he redefined himself as more than Hollywood star. He raced cars, opened summer camps for ailing children and became a nonprofit entrepreneur with a line of foods that put his picture on supermarket shelves around the world.
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he remained fulfilled by his charitable work, saying it was his greatest legacy, particularly in giving ailing children a camp at which to play.

“We are such spendthrifts with our lives,” Mr. Newman once told a reporter. “The trick of living is to slip on and off the planet with the least fuss you can muster. I’m not running for sainthood. I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer, who puts back into the soil what he takes out.”

Daily Mail online

Newman's own departure was long and gentle, until cancer took hold. By choice, he faded from films gradually, taking fewer and fewer major roles - a diminuendo that was all the more striking when compared with Redford's sustained career as an actor-director.

In truth, though he had major roles in more than 50 motion pictures Newman preferred his private life to the feverish fakery of Hollywood.

The Boston Globe Blue-eyed idol put an indelible stamp on movies, philanthropy

Burial plans are unknown, although Newman expressed a desire to have his ashes strewn across the lake where he built the first Hole in the Wall Camp.

"I always admired the fish," he said.

Neoneocon didn't need to remind me of how sexy he was and how he aged awfully well.  She found the YouTube videos, only one of which I borrowed 

He was a Man of Natural Virtue.

Gerard Vanderleun in A Life and a Love Less Ordinary pays tribute to the Newmans' marriage

I watch this montage and I think of the old 60s poem that ends, "With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world." And I also think that sometimes, if you are careful and keep your vows, love can endure. All in all, it would seem that Newman's life and love and marriage were, in the end, his greatest achievement. His films were merely the means.

An appreciation in the New York Times,
Paul Newman wore his fame lightly, his beauty too.

My favorite may be Dahlia Lithwick's piece on Slate

One version of the story has the kid look from the picture of Newman on the Newman's Own lemonade carton to Newman himself, then back to the carton and back to Newman again before asking, "Are you lost?" Another version: The kid looks steadily at him and demands, "Are you really Paul Human?"

Paul Newman left a Great Legacy of how to be a great man even if a movie star.  Thankfully, we'll always have his movies and by buying his salad dressings, his lemonade and his popcorn, we can support his legacy.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:23 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

September 24, 2008

Jim Adams 'lost his battle...primarily as a result of being stubborn'.

I think I would have liked Jim Adams a lot, but he died earlier this month in Wyoming.

His obituary from the Casper Star-Tribune

Jim, who had tired of reading obituaries noting other's courageous battles with this or that disease, wanted it known that he lost his battle. It was primarily as a result of being stubborn and not following doctor's orders or maybe for just living life a little too hard for better than five decades.
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He was sadly deprived of his final wish, which was to be run over by a beer truck on the way to the liquor store to buy booze for a date. True to his personal style, he spent his final hours joking with medical personnel, cussing and begging for narcotics and bargaining with God to look over his loving dog, Biscuit, and his family.

He would like to thank all "his ladies" for putting up with him the last 30 years.

During his life, he excelled at anything he put his mind to. He loved to hear and tell jokes and spin tales of grand adventures he may or may not have had.

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In lieu of flowers, he asks that you make a sizeable purchase at your favorite watering hole, get rip roaring drunk and tell the stories he no longer can.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:25 PM | Permalink

September 10, 2008

Obituary of a Frontier Woman

From Camille Paglia comes this remarkable 1905 obituary from Toronto's Globe and Mail

Abigail Becker

Farmer and homemaker born in Frontenac County, Upper Canada, on March 14, 1830

A tall, handsome woman "who feared God greatly and the living or dead not at all," she married a widower with six children and settled in a trapper's cabin on Long Point, Lake Erie. On Nov. 23, 1854, with her husband away, she single-handedly rescued the crew of the schooner Conductor of Buffalo, which had run aground in a storm. The crew had clung to the frozen rigging all night, not daring to enter the raging surf. In the early morning, she waded chin-high into the water (she could not swim) and helped seven men reach shore. She was awarded medals for heroism and received $350 collected by the people of Buffalo, plus a handwritten letter from Queen Victoria that was accompanied by £50, all of which went toward buying a farm. She lost her husband to a storm, raised 17 children alone and died at Walsingham Centre, Ont.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:27 AM | Permalink

September 3, 2008

The Voice Silenced

We all know and will all miss Don LaFonaine: The Voice

AP Obit
- The omnipresent baritone and gravely bass undertones of Don LaFontaine's distinctive voice had the unique ability to seamlessly embellish big-screen kisses, slice through over-the-top explosions, perfectly pair with robust musical scores, glide alongside car chases and effortlessly co-star with any A-list talent in Hollywood.

''He was the originator of the modern voiceover for movie trailers,'' said voiceover artist Jim Tasker. ''He is the standard for which all other voiceovers for movie trailers are measured. For the past 30 years, his voice has been the gauge for all of us in the industry.'
--
'When you die, the voice you hear in heaven is not Don's. It's God trying to sound like Don.''

Washington Post a clever appreciation by Hank Stuever,  In a World of Don LaFontaine.

In a world where marketing is far more important than content . . . came one man . . . with a Voice....

In a world that believed deeply in the potency of the words Coming Soon. . .

In a world where eyewitnesses describe real things, real events as being "like, in a movie" .

In a world suddenly without Don LaFontaine, who died Monday at 68 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, of lung failure, brought on by undetermined causes . . . (Cedars-Sinai being a world where the famous newly dead go on to other coming attractions).

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:04 PM | Permalink

August 30, 2008

Pre-mature obituaries

No news organization ever wants to do this.  It was a monumental embarrassment when Reuters  published the obituary of Steve Jobs who is still quite alive.

The stock obituary was published "momentarily" after a routine update by a reporter, and was "immediately deleted", Bloomberg said.

Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2003, but there is no suggestion that the news wire has recent news on his health. Most media organisations regularly update their pre-prepared obituaries of newsworthy figures.

The obituary contained blank spaces for Jobs’s age and cause of death to be inserted.

The opening sentence described Jobs as the man who “helped make personal computers as easy to use as telephones, changed the way animated films are made, persuaded consumers to tune into digital music and refashioned the mobile phone.”

As Mark Twain remarked when something similar happened to him, "The rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated.?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:35 PM | Permalink

July 18, 2008

Funeral Mass for Tony Snow

"And What a Life He Lived!"

The homily of Fr. David O'Connell, president of Catholic University.

What is the measure of a man? This question has been asked over and again from the beginning of time, throughout history, by all of those who share our human mortality. What is the measure of a man? It is a good question; it is an important question; it is an enduring question; it is an ultimate question when we face the death of someone we know and love. Someone like Tony Snow.
--

No one of us among his family or friends believes that Tony’s life was long enough. And, yet — in the face of its brevity — we respond in faith, we who are believers, that the measure of a man is not found, as the Book of Wisdom comforts us today, “in terms of years (Wisdom 4:8).” It is, indeed, our faith that reminds us: “the just man, though he die early, shall be at rest. For the age that is honorable comes not with the passing of time. He who pleased God, Wisdom writes, was loved (and) … having become perfect in a short while, he reached the fullness of a long career; for his soul was pleasing to the Lord (Wisdom 4: 7-14).” For the believer, for people of faith, the true measure of a man lies in his efforts to please God.
--
The passing of anyone we love moves us to question: what is the measure of a man? And whatever your answer may be, whatever our answer may be, we can be sure that the measure of a man is not found in words or titles or length of days but, rather, in deeds done, in a life lived, in a love shared and in the beliefs that made it so. The Gospel of St. Matthew tells us today: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the merciful, clean of heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted, the just" (Matthew 5: 1-12) … these are the measure of a Christian man. For Tony Snow, these were the ways he embraced his own advice to “live boldly” and to “live a whole life.”

When he spoke to our graduates last spring, Tony shared an especially poignant moment and profound thought about his latest battle with cancer. He reflected that “while God doesn’t promise tomorrow, he does promise eternity.”

For Tony Snow, that promise has been fulfilled.

Remarks of President Bush with special attention to his children.

For Robbie, Kendall, and Kristi, you are in our thoughts and prayers, as well. We thank you for sharing your dad with us. He talked about you all the time. He wanted nothing more than your happiness and success. You know, I used to call Tony on the weekends to get his advice. And invariably, I found him with you on the soccer field, or at a swim meet, or helping with your homework. He loved you a lot. Today I hope you know that we loved him a lot, too.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:47 AM | Permalink

July 14, 2008

Tony Snow, R. I. P. Great Legacy

Coming back from the weekend, I was shocked to hear that Tony Snow had died.  Of course, I knew he had colon cancer, but death, especially sudden death, is always shocking.  He was a good and decent man who became great by force of his character.  He will be missed by many but no one will miss him more than his wife and three children.  To them, the deepest condolences. 

  Tony Snow

There are a score and many more personal recollections online about the force of his character.

Yuval Levin writes about his "deep and intensely cheerful curiosity."

Bill Kristol marvels at his calm courage and cheerful optimism
His deep Christian faith combined with his natural exuberance to give him an upbeat world view. Watching him, and so admiring his remarkable strength of character in the last phase of his life, I came to wonder: Could it be that a stance of faith-grounded optimism is in fact superior to one of worldly pessimism or sophisticated fatalism?

President Bush said
It was a joy to watch Tony at the podium each day,” the president said in a statement from Camp David, where he is spending the weekend. “He brought wit, grace and a great love of country to his work. His colleagues will cherish memories of his energetic personality and relentless good humor.”

Gaghdad Bob says
The essence of his soul comes through quite vividly -- his decency, his passion, his generosity, his desire to help lift mankind. ....

I don't know why there aren't more people who are able to convey the joy, excitement, creativity, expansiveness, optimism, hope, compassion, decency, humor, spirituality, and love that animate conservatism. Maybe they just don't get it the way Snow did, and connect all the dots, both horizontal and vertical.

Mark Steyn on his grace, affability and generous advice.

An NRO symposium  on Tony Snow, Happy Warrior

Susan Estrich says Tony Snow was a Gem
Tony had a sweetness about him, a sweetness that, in the mean world that Washington and the media can be, sometimes led him to believe that everyone operated from the same place he did...

He was so earnest, so dear, he liked everyone and assumed the same about everyone else; he was honorable and honest, and assumed it about others.

Kurtz wrote an appreciation of Snow called As Good as His Words.

Here's a David Gregory interview with Snow talking about living and working with cancer.  Kathryn Jean Lopez says it's impossible not to cry to hear Snow talk about his family and the 'depth of happiness' that cancer made possible in his life.

New York Times obituary
Mr. Snow’s death was announced by the White House. When a recurrence of the cancer interrupted his tenure there, he chose to talk about it openly, saying he wanted to offer hope to other patients. His message to them, he said, was: “Don’t think about dying. Think about living.”
--
His snappy sound bites made Mr. Snow an instant hit among Republicans. “It’s like Mick Jagger at a rock concert,” Karl Rove, the president’s former political strategist, once said.
--
He also had a musical flair; he grew up playing the flute, taught himself the acoustic guitar and played in an amateur rock ’n’ roll band, Beats Workin’. When they performed at the White House Congressional picnic, Mr. Bush jokingly called them “a bunch of, well, mediocre musicians.”

Washington Post obituary
In his brief tenure as Bush's public advocate, Snow became perhaps the best-known face of the administration after the president, vice president and secretary of state. Parlaying skills honed during years at Fox News, he offered a daily televised defense of the embattled president that was robust and at times even combative while repairing strained relations with a press corps frustrated by years of rote talking points.
--
ABC News correspondent Ann Compton, president of the White House Correspondents Association, said yesterday that Snow was "the first press secretary who chose to use the podium as a way to argue the president's case -- not just in the president's words, but in his own."

There is a new, disturbing and completely uncivil tendency for some to make partisan remarks, often quite vile, when a person dies.  Ben Johnson describes some of them in "Goebbels With Better Hair."   No one is above criticism, but people who make crude and hateful remarks about someone who has just died should be shunned says Howard Kurtz.  Amen to that.  Fortunately, they are a tiny minority, but shunned they should be.

Better than any words about him are his own and none are better than his commencement address last year to the graduates of Catholic University.  If you read nothing else, read his address, "Reason, Faith, Vocation."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:40 PM | Permalink

July 9, 2008

John Templeton, R.I.P.

"I focus on spiritual wealth now, and I'm busier, more enthusiastic, and more joyful than I have ever been."

"The question is not is there a God, but is there anything else except God? God is everyone and each of us is a little bit."

"Work at being a humble person."

The above quotes are from John Templeton who died yesterday in Nassau, the Bahamas, at 95.

 John Templeton

Boston Globe/New York Times  obit
John M. Templeton, a Tennessee-born investor and philanthropist who amassed a fortune as a pioneer in global mutual funds, then gave away hundreds of millions of dollars to foster understanding of what he called "spiritual realities,"
--
In a career that spanned seven decades, Mr. Templeton dazzled Wall Street, organized some of the most successful mutual funds of his time, led investors into foreign markets, established charities that now give away $70 million a year, wrote books on finance and spirituality, and promoted a search for answers to what he called the "Big Questions" in the realms of science, faith, God, and the purpose of humanity.

Along the way, he became one of the world's richest men, gave up American citizenship, moved to the Bahamas, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, and bestowed much of his fortune on spiritual thinkers and innovators: Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, the physicist Freeman Dyson, the philosopher Charles Taylor, and an array of prominent Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus.

Telegraph obit
Templeton boasted one of the longest and most successful track records on Wall Street. From its foundation in 1954, his Templeton Growth Fund grew at an astonishing rate of nearly 16 per cent a year until Templeton’s retirement in 1992, making it the top performing growth fund in the second half of the 20th century
--
The Templeton formula was simple in theory, though not easily achieved in practice.

He looked for bargains — shares selling well below their asset values due to temporary circumstances — and would usually hold on to them for five years or more until they reached what he considered to be their true worth.
--

He was one of the first to invest in post-war Japan, and one of the first to sell Japanese stocks in the mid-1980s before the bear market set in.

Templeton once described his speculative activities as a “ministry”, and saw the workings of the money market as part of God’s plan for His creation.
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In 1973 he inaugurated the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, an annual award to remedy the Nobel Foundation’s omission of religion from its prizes.

A brilliant publicist, Templeton guaranteed that his prize would always be worth more than the Nobel, and arranged for the Duke of Edinburgh to present the award at Buckingham Palace, thus ensuring full press coverage.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:51 AM | Permalink

June 29, 2008

Harriet McBride Johnson, R.I.P

She fought against those who would say her life was not worth living.  Hers certainly was.

A Life Worth Living

When Harriet McBryde Johnson died earlier this month at the age of 50 from a congenital neuromuscular disease, obituaries called her a "disability-rights activist." This is far too narrow a description of her life. She was less a traditional activist than an acute social conscience. Ms. Johnson forced us to look at disability in a different way -- not as something that we should seek to eradicate, but as something that is integral to the human condition, a "natural part of the human experience," as the American Association of People With Disabilities puts it.
--
She was brutally direct when she talked about disabilities, including her own. "Most people don't know how to look at me," she wrote, describing her severely twisted spine and her "jumble of bones in a floppy bag of skin." But she abhorred the "veneer of beneficence" that overlay the arguments of those who said she would be "better off" without her disability. "The presence or absence of a disability doesn't predict quality of life," she argued, challenging Mr. Singer's support of what she called "disability-based infanticide."
--
People with disabilities, she said, "have something the world needs."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:49 AM | Permalink

June 23, 2008

George Carlin, Dead at 71.

George Carlin, 71, died of hear failure in Los Angeles shortly after being admitted for chest pains.

Reuters

His comedic sensibility revolved around a central theme: humanity is a cursed, doomed species.

"I don't have any beliefs or allegiances. I don't believe in this country, I don't believe in religion, or a god, and I don't believe in all these man-made institutional ideas," he told Reuters in a 2001 interview.

Carlin told Playboy in 2005 that he looked forward to an afterlife where he could watch the decline of civilization on a "heavenly CNN."

He's the only comedian whose case, the "Seven Words" went to the Supreme Court which upheld the right of the government to sanction radio stations for broadcasting offensive words when children might be listening.

"So my name is a footnote in American legal history, which I'm perversely kind of proud of," he told The Associated Press earlier this year.

He produced 23 comedy albums, 14 HBO specials, three books, a couple of TV shows and appeared in several movies, from his own comedy specials to "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" in 1989 - a testament to his range from cerebral satire and cultural commentary to downright silliness (and sometimes hitting all points in one stroke).

"Why do they lock gas station bathrooms?" he once mused. "Are they afraid someone will clean them?"

 George Carlin

New York Times, George Carlin, Splenetic Comedian, Dies at 71


By the mid-’70s, like his comic predecessor Lenny Bruce and the fast-rising Richard Pryor, Mr. Carlin had emerged as a cultural renegade. In addition to his irreverent jests about religion and politics, he openly talked about the use of drugs, including acid and peyote, and said that he kicked cocaine not for moral or legal reasons but after he found “far more pain in the deal than pleasure.” But the edgier, more biting comedy he developed during this period, along with his candid admission of drug use, cemented his reputation as the “comic voice of the counterculture.”

His best loved routine was Stuff.

My favorite is baseball and football

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:06 AM | Permalink

June 20, 2008

Russert Funeral, Memorial Service and Rainbow

From Newsweek, The Russert Miracles

The first "Russert miracle," as attendees called it, happened at the private funeral service held at Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown; the family of the late Meet the Press host Tim Russert had requested that Senators Obama and McCain to sit together, and the two presidential combatants obliged. CNN Washington Bureau chief David Bohrman, a former NBC producer, describes the scene to NEWSWEEK: "They sat side-by-side and spoke for twenty minutes. The body language was total friendship. They were warm and friendly and truly engaged in a conversation.... I kept thinking here we are at the funeral at the son of a sanitation worker and the presidential candidates are having their first one on one conversation here."

After the memorial service, the crowd moved to the rooftop where they saw the sky open up to a rainbow.

"After the magical experience of this service, to come out and see the rainbow and Luke at the bottom of it made the last dry eye weep," said NBC News executive Phil Griffin. The last song in the memorial service was, fittingly, "Somewhere over the Rainbow."

When asked his reaction to explain the sudden appearance of the rainbow at the exact moment, Luke Russert, his sparkly smile so reminiscent of his father's, said: "Is anyone still an atheist now?"

Howard Kurtz reports on the memorial service for Tim Russert,

From the three network anchors to a former governor to the Buffalo nun who taught him in seventh grade, Tim Russert's extended family bid farewell yesterday to "an unmade bed of a man, with an armful of newspapers and a cellphone to his ear," as Tom Brokaw described his colleague

But it was Peggy Noonan who grasped the essential point in A Life's Lesson.

When somebody dies, we tell his story and try to define and isolate what was special about it—what it was he brought to the party, how he enhanced life by showing up. In this way we educate ourselves about what really matters. Or, often, re-educate ourselves, for "man needs more to be reminded than instructed."
--
The beautiful thing about the coverage was that it offered extremely important information to those age 15 or 25 or 30 who may not have been told how to operate in the world beyond "Go succeed." I'm not sure we tell the young as much as we ought, as clearly as we ought, what it is the world admires, and what it is they want to emulate.

In a way, the world is a great liar. It shows you it worships and admires money, but at the end of the day it doesn't. It says it adores fame and celebrity, but it doesn't, not really.
The world admires, and wants to hold on to, and not lose, goodness. It admires virtue. At the end it gives its greatest tributes to generosity, honesty, courage, mercy, talents well used, talents that, brought into the world, make it better. That's what it really admires. That's what we talk about in eulogies, because that's what's important. We don't say, "The thing about Joe was he was rich." We say, if we can, "The thing about Joe was he took care of people."
--

After Tim's death, the entire television media for four days told you the keys to a life well lived, the things you actually need to live life well, and without which it won't be good. Among them: taking care of those you love and letting them know they're loved, which involves self-sacrifice; holding firm to God, to your religious faith, no matter how high you rise or low you fall. This involves guts, and self-discipline, and active attention to developing and refining a conscience to whose promptings you can respond. Honoring your calling or profession by trying to do within it honorable work, which takes hard effort, and a willingness to master the ethics of your field. And enjoying life. This can be hard in America, where sometimes people are rather grim in their determination to get and to have. "Enjoy life, it's ungrateful not to," said Ronald Reagan.

Tim had these virtues. They were great to see. By defining them and celebrating them the past few days, the media encouraged them. This was a public service, and also what you might call Tim's parting gift.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:32 AM | Permalink

June 14, 2008

Tim Russert, R.I.P.

Like everyone who was familiar with him on television, I was shocked at the sudden death of Tim Russert and then surprised at the outpouring of affection for him.  But I shouldn't have been surprised, I loved him and everyone who knew him and millions who didn't loved him too.  He was fair, tough, passionate and ebullient.

Tom Brokaw broke the news.
My friend and colleague collapsed and died early this afternoon while at work at NBC News...
Tim loved his family, his faith, his country, politics, the Buffalo Bills, the New York Yankees, and the Washington Nationals.

 Tim Russert Nypost

Tributes pour in from people in the media, collected at MediaBistro's TV Newser.

New York Times
Tim Russert, a fixture in American homes on Sunday mornings and election nights since becoming moderator of “Meet the Press” nearly 17 years ago, died Friday after collapsing at the Washington bureau of NBC News. He was 58 and lived in Northwest Washington.
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Mr. Russert, who was also the Washington bureau chief and a senior vice president of NBC News, had just returned in the last couple of days from a trip to Italy, where his family had celebrated the recent graduation of his son, Luke, from Boston College. When stricken, he was recording voice-overs for this Sunday’s program.

With his plain-spoken explanations and hard-hitting questions, Mr. Russert played an increasingly outsize role in the news media’s coverage of politics. The elegantly simple white memo board he used on election night in 2000 to explain the deadlock in the race between George W. Bush and Al Gore — “Florida, Florida, Florida,” he had scribbled in red marker — became an enduring image in the history of American television coverage of the road to the White House.
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Behind the scenes, Mr. Russert’s colleagues at NBC News soon learned that he had a gift for making the most complex political machinations understandable and compelling.

“He had a better political insight than anyone else in the room, period,” said Jeff Zucker, the chief executive of NBC Universal, who was then an up-and-coming producer.

--
He really was the best political journalist in America, not just the best television journalist in America,” said Al Hunt, the Washington executive editor of Bloomberg News and former Washington bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal
-
-
In the Boston Globe, Mike Barnicle said

"Tim was uniquely without a mean bone in his body," Barnicle said last night. "He had a joy about him that was nearly unmatched. At the end of the day or the end of the week, there was a part of him that would pinch himself: 'Can you believe I'm allowed to do this show?' "
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Russert was shaped by his own father, known as "Big Russ," and by his childhood in Buffalo. The city remained his emotional touchstone for his entire life. "He's better able than anybody I know to live in two worlds," Brokaw told the Globe in 1997. "He has a house in a tony neighborhood in Washington, and his heart's in Buffalo." Byron Brown, the mayor of Buffalo, yesterday ordered all flags at city buildings lowered to half-staff in Russert's honor.

Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post

Russert wore many hats -- onetime Democratic operative, Washington insider, NBC bureau chief, MSNBC commentator, sports fanatic, committed Roman Catholic, biographer of his father, dubbed "Big Russ" -- but his greatest legacy was his sustained style of interrogation. Grounded in prodigious research, Russert would press his guests on past statements and contradictions, often for a full hour, spawning legions of imitators.

Friends were stunned by the news. "I just loved him," said Bob Schieffer, host of CBS's "Face the Nation." "When I scooped old Tim, I felt like I'd hit a home run off the best pitcher in the league."

--

Despite his eventual wealth and house on Nantucket, Russert never seemed to forget the summers he spent emptying pails of spoiled food into a garbage truck. His patter was filled with average-Joe lingo and constant references to his beloved the Buffalo Bills. Russert viewed himself as a translator who made politics accessible to the average voter.

Russert wrote two best-selling books, "Big Russ & Me" and "Wisdom of Our Fathers," which brought fame to his working-class dad and enshrined Russert's reputation as a man of modest western New York roots.

Joe Klein in Time
Back when he was just starting in television — and ever since but particularly back then — Tim Russert was astounded by the joys of the job. Early on, he helped arrange an interview with the Pope for the Today Show — and Tim did it up right: He brought along red NBC News baseball caps for the Cardinals and a white one for the Holy Father. "He put it on!" Tim told me when he came home. "We have pictures!" Then he said, more quietly, "But, you know, it was really something being in his presence. You felt something holy. It was almost as if the air was different." And that was Tim — exuberant, irreverent, brilliant and devout, a thrilling jolt of humanity.

He will be missed.  Condolences to all his family and friends

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:47 PM | Permalink

June 7, 2008

"Grave schism on the death beat"

That terrific headlne comes from an article by Alex Beam in the Boston Globe
- Grave schism on the death beat.

Seems as if there are rival organizations of newspaper obituarists with the first one, the International Association of Obituarists, the brain child of a "good ol' Texas gal"" who prefers oddball venues and oddball guests.  The upstart second group wants the conferences to be a little more 'boring'.

A rival obituarists guild, the Society of Professional Obituary Writers, sprang up to supplant Gilbert's IAO. ... "The IAO isn't really representative of what we are as a profession," says Cleveland Plain Dealer obituarist Alana Baranick, an interim board member of SPOW. "We have outgrown them. We will still enjoy going to their conference because they're so much fun."

Just how fun can be seen with this report from the 2004 conference in New Mexico, Reagan's Dead and He'll Be Deader.

In the closing minutes of the 6th Great Obituary Writers' International Conference (their title), one of the events that obituarists hate the most burst in on them. Just as Tim Bullamore, a Bath city councillor who writes for Fleet Street newspapers and the British Medical Journal, began an elaborate slide show on the glories of his city, where the conference takes place next year, someone rushed in and shouted: "Reagan's died!"

Gasps of astonishment, cries of surprise, uproar and confusion. Several delegates sprinted to the hotel lobby's public call boxes or grabbed cellphones. The bringer of the news was surrounded and peppered with questions. Bullamore's presentation was ruined. Finally, he grabbed the microphone and bellowed: "Reagan's dead and he'll be deader. Let's go on with the show."

He resumed his slides, but it wasn't the same. The 40th president of the United States, Ronald Wilson Reagan, had died inconveniently and thrust obituarists into disarray. But really, they loved it. One delegate, her eyes sparkling, gushed: "Isn't this just wild?"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:15 AM | Permalink

June 3, 2008

Bo Diddley, R.I.P.

I bet there's not a person over 30 who doesn't know Bo Diddley, doesn't like Bo Diddley, and isn't sad that he's gone.

New York Times obituary

Bo Diddley, a singer and guitarist who invented his own name, his own guitars, his own beat and, with a handful of other musical pioneers, rock ’n’ roll itself, died Monday at his home in Archer, Fla. He was 79.
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In the 1950s, as a founder of rock ’n’ roll, Mr. Diddley — along with Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and a few others — helped to reshape the sound of popular music worldwide, building on the templates of blues, Southern gospel, R&B and postwar black American vernacular culture.

His original style of rhythm and blues influenced generations of musicians. And his Bo Diddley syncopated beat — three strokes/rest/two strokes — became a stock rhythm of rock ’n’ roll.

Telegraph obituary
Had Diddley been able to copyright the hypnotic and highly distinctive rhumba-like beat that was his musical trademark he might have been able to retire many years ago as a very wealthy man, rather than having to eke out a living in his old age, playing night-clubs, as his health deteriorated.
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It was a mark of his standing as one of the founding fathers of pop music that he would become one of the first performers to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 1987.
-

For all his success, Diddley always maintained that like so many artists of his generation he had never received his just desserts, receiving only a flat fee for his early recordings and no royalty payments on sales. "I am owed. I've never got paid," he said. "A dude with a pencil is worse than a cat with a machine gun."

Boston Globe obituary

"Bo Diddley is one of the seminal American guitarists and an architect of the rock 'n' roll sound," said Terry Stewart, president and chief executive of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. "His unique guitar work, indelible rhythms, inventive songwriting, and larger-than-life personality make him an immortal author of the American songbook."

Mick Jagger

Singer Mick Jagger has paid tribute to singer-guitarist Bo Diddley as an "enormous force in music" and "a big influence on the Rolling Stones".
Jagger said the US rock 'n' roll pioneer, who has died at the age of 79, was "a wonderful, original musician".

Jagger, whose band recorded cover versions of Mona and Crackin' Up, said: "He was very generous to us in our early years and we learned a lot from him.
"We will never see his like again."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:57 AM | Permalink

April 30, 2008

Albert Hoffman, the Father of LSD, Dies at 102

Looking quite sprightly at 100, Albert Hoffman, "the mystical Swiss chemist  who gave the world LSD, the most powerful psychotropic substance known" died at 102.

 Albert Hoffman Lsd

NYT obit

Dr. Hofmann first synthesized the compound lysergic acid diethylamide in 1938 but did not discover its psychopharmacological effects until five years later, when he accidentally ingested the substance that became known to the 1960s counterculture as acid.

He then took LSD hundreds of times, but regarded it as a powerful and potentially dangerous psychotropic drug that demanded respect. More important to him than the pleasures of the psychedelic experience was the drug’s value as a revelatory aid for contemplating and understanding what he saw as humanity’s oneness with nature. That perception, of union, which came to Dr. Hofmann as almost a religious epiphany while still a child, directed much of his personal and professional life.
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Yet despite his involvement with psychoactive compounds, Dr. Hofmann remained moored in his Swiss chemist identity. He stayed with Sandoz as head of the research department for natural medicines until his retirement in 1971. He wrote more than 100 scientific articles and was the author or co-author of a number of books.
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But he said LSD had not affected his understanding of death. In death, he said, “I go back to where I came from, to where I was before I was born, that’s all.”

Telegraph obituary

Hofmann was disappointed when his discovery was removed from commercial distribution. He remained convinced that the drug had the potential to counter the psychological problems induced by "materialism, alienation from nature through industrialisation and increasing urbanisation, lack of satisfaction in professional employment in a mechanised, lifeless working world, ennui and purposelessness in wealthy, saturated society, and lack of a religious, nurturing, and meaningful philosophical foundation of life".

Father of LSD takes final trip

R.I.P.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:31 AM | Permalink

April 22, 2008

My interview on Marketplace radio

On Marketplace radio yesterday, reporter Curt Nickish has an interesting piece about online obituaries called Another nail in newspapers' coffin about a new site now in beta called Tributes where people can place online obituaries, "keeping the memories alive".

When Jeff Taylor who started Monster.com, he moved help wanted ads from newspapers to the web.
Now he's trying to do the same thing with obituaries after not doing so well with Eons, a website targeted to those over 50.

In browsing through the obit section on Eons, looking for someone to interview, he came across the obituary I had posted about my mother with links to the three blog posts I had done about her.

That is how I came to be interviewed and how my mother's photo is now posted on Marketplace radio.  Interestingly it nothing to do with the work I'm doing or the book I'm writing.

You can hear my lovely voice,  part of the interview here.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:21 AM | Permalink

April 12, 2008

Eulogy to the 'world's coolest mentor'

Christopher Buckley's Eulogy for My Father

One October day in 1997, I arrived from Washington in Stamford for a long-planned overnight sail. As the train pulled into the station, I looked out and saw people hanging onto lampposts at 90-degree angles, trying not to be blown away by the northeast gale that was raging. Indeed, it resembled a scene from The Wizard of Oz. When the train doors opened, I was blown back into the carriage by the 50-mile-an-hour wind. I managed to crawl out onto the platform, practically on all fours, whereupon my father greeted me with a chipper, “We’ll have a brisk sail.”

I looked up at him incredulously and said, “We’re going out in this?”

Indeed we did go out in it. We always went out in it. Some of my earliest memories are of my mother, shrieking at him as the water broke over the cockpit and the boat pitched furiously in boiling seas, “Bill — Bill! Why are you trying to kill us?”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:20 AM | Permalink

April 10, 2008

Laura Linehan, R.I.P.

Born with the rare disorder of tyrosinemia which prevents the body from breaking down an amino acid,
Laura Linehan received a new liver when she was only 2.  Ten years later, she learned that she had hepatitis C, infected by the blood transfusion during transplant surgery.  She needed another liver.

She moved from Melrose, Massachusetts to Jacksonville, Florida where she would have a better chance on the regional waiting list.     

 Laura Linnehan

I keep telling myself I'm not going to give up," Miss Linehan wrote on her website. "This is my chance to live and that's why I am down in Florida, so that I can have a third chance at life."

A match was found Friday, but she had weakened during the wait. When doctors began operating, they found she would not survive transplant surgery, and she died that evening in the Mayo Clinic. Miss Linehan was 20.

Using the example of her own life, Miss Linehan had tried to raise awareness about the need for more organ donors, and the crucial role expediency plays in transplants. In Miss Linehan's case, her mother said, a day or two sooner might have made a difference.

"She had a job to do, and she finished it a littler earlier," Ann Linehan said. "She set her mind to it and now she's done, her time is through. I just like to think that she's in a better place, and she's no longer suffering, because she suffered terribly."
--
"She was the most courageous person I've ever known, read about, or encountered. She was incredibly brave; she was resilient. It seemed as though anything that could go wrong, went wrong, and she would just come back for more. And she was never discouraged."
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"She had a lot of good years," her mother said of her daughter's childhood and youth. "I could not be more proud of her if she was a Harvard graduate than I am with her fight with liver disease. She worked so hard to overcome, she worked so hard to get awareness out there of the need for liver donors. I just want people to know that she was extremely successful. She certainly brought a community together - Melrose will never be the same."

Laura Linehan, at 20, used illness to boost organ donation.

Laura's website is provided by Caring Bridge which offers free personalized websites that support and connect loved ones during critical illness, treatment and recovery.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:38 AM | Permalink

April 5, 2008

"As splendid a service as it could possibly have been"

Terry Teachout on the William F Buckley memorial service held yesterday at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Home from the Sea

All I can tell you was that today’s service seemed as splendid as it could possibly have been. The cathedral was full of mourners, the choir loft full of singers, and the music was mostly appropriate to the occasion. Bill was a serious amateur musician who loved Bach above all things–he actually performed the F Minor Harpsichord Concerto in public on more than one occasion–so the organist played “Sheep May Safely Graze” and the slow movement of the Toccata, Adagio, and Fugue in C Major. No less suitable were the sung portions of the Mass, drawn from Victoria’s sweetly austere Missa “O magnum mysterium,” and the closing hymn, the noble tune from Gustav Holst’s The Planets to which the following words were later set: I vow to thee, my country–all earthly things above–/Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love.
--
Bill was the least weltschmerzy person imaginable. Henry Kissinger, who eulogized him this morning, alluded to that side of Bill’s personality when he remarked that Bill “was vouchsafed a little miracle: to enjoy so much what was compelled by inner necessity.” I couldn’t have put it better.
--
Christopher Buckley, Bill’s son, followed Henry Kissinger, and gave just the sort of eulogy I’d expected from him, funny and light-fingered, putting much-needed smiles on our faces. Only at the end did he sound a darker note, quoting the lines from Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Requiem” that he chose as the epitaph for a man who loved sailing as much as he loved Bach: Here he lies where he long’d to be;/Home is the sailor, home from the sea,/And the hunter home from the hill.
--
Somehow you never imagine outliving the people who show you through the doors that lead to the rest of your life

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:08 AM | Permalink

March 31, 2008

Dith Pran, R.I. P.

Killing Fields photographer, Dith Pran, dies at 65 of pancreatic cancer.

         Dith Pran Older Photo

The New York Times obit

Dith Pran, a photojournalist for The New York Times whose gruesome ordeal in the killing fields of Cambodia was re-created in a 1984 movie that gave him an eminence he tenaciously used to press for his people’s rights, died in New Brunswick, N.J., on Sunday.
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Mr. Dith saw his country descend into a living hell as he scraped and scrambled to survive the barbarous revolutionary regime of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979, when as many as two million Cambodians — a third of the population — were killed, experts estimate. Mr. Dith survived through nimbleness, guile and sheer desperation.

He had been a journalistic partner of Mr. Schanberg, a Times correspondent assigned to Southeast Asia. He translated, took notes and pictures, and helped Mr. Schanberg maneuver in a fast-changing milieu. With the fall of Phnom Penh in 1975, Mr. Schanberg was forced from the country, and Mr. Dith became a prisoner of the Khmer Rouge, the Cambodian Communists.
---
Over the next 4 ½ years, he worked in the fields and at menial jobs. For sustenance, people ate insects and rats and even the exhumed corpses of the recently executed, he said.

In November 1978, Vietnam, by then a unified Communist nation after the end of the Vietnam War, invaded Cambodia and overthrew the Khmer Rouge. Mr. Dith went home to Siem Reap, where he learned that 50 members of his family had been killed; wells were filled with skulls and bones.

         Dith Pran

He escaped, and was reunited with his wife and family in San Francisco.  In 1980 he became a photographer at the New York Times and six years later became a U.S. citizen beside his wife.

       Dith Pran Citizen Oath

Along with the above photographs, The Times has a wonderful 6 minute multimedia  piece called The Last Word: Dith Pran combining clips from the Killing Fields, interviews with Pran and Schanberg and photographs that tells his extraordinary life story.

"I promised myself that if I survived, I wouldn't stop talking about the killing fields..My people are suffering and this is their story.

From the London Telegraph obit
"I am a one-person crusade," he once said. "I must speak for those who did not survive and for those who still suffer… Like one of my heroes, Elie Wiesel, who alerts the world to the horrors of the Jewish holocaust, I try to awaken the world to the holocaust of Cambodia, for all tragedies have universal implications."

In his journal while imprisoned, Pran wrote
The wind whispers of fear and hate. The war has killed love. And those that confess to the Angka are punished, and no one dare ask where they go. Here, only the silent survive.

He survived and his words, his actions and his photos live on.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:13 AM | Permalink

March 18, 2008

"His visions helped bring about the future he longed to see"

Visionary science fiction writer Arthur Clarke has died at 90 in his home in Sri Lanka.

 Arthur Clarke Sfmag Cover

Associated Press obituary by Ravi Nessman
Co-author with Stanley Kubrick of Kubrick's film "2001: A Space Odyssey," Clarke was regarded as far more than a science fiction writer.

He was credited with the concept of communications satellites in 1945, decades before they became a reality. Geosynchronous orbits, which keep satellites in a fixed position relative to the ground, are called Clarke orbits.

He joined American broadcaster Walter Cronkite as commentator on the U.S. Apollo moonshots in the late 1960s.

Clarke's non-fiction volumes on space travel and his explorations of the Great Barrier Reef and Indian Ocean earned him respect in the world of science, and in 1976 he became an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

New York Times obituary by Gerald Jonas
the formative event of his childhood was his discovery, at age 13 — the year his father died — of a copy of “Astounding Stories of Super-Science,” then the leading American science fiction magazine. He found its mix of boyish adventure and far-out (sometimes bogus) science intoxicating.

While still in school, Mr. Clarke joined the newly formed British Interplanetary Society, a small band of sci-fi enthusiasts who held the controversial view that space travel was not only possible but could be achieved in the not-so-distant future
--

All told, he wrote or collaborated on close to 100 books, some of which, like “Childhood’s End,” have been in print continuously. His works have been translated into some 40 languages, and worldwide sales have been estimated at more than $25 million.

In 1962 he suffered a severe attack of poliomyelitis. His apparently complete recovery was marked by a return to top form at his favorite sport, table tennis. But in 1984 he developed post-polio syndrome, a progressive condition characterized by muscle weakness and extreme fatigue. He spent the last years of his life in a wheelchair.

Among his legacies are Clarke’s Three Laws, provocative observations on science, science fiction and society that were published in his “Profiles of the Future” (1962):

¶“When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”

¶“The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.”

¶“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
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Mr. Clarke’s reputation as a prophet of the space age rests on more than a few accurate predictions. His visions helped bring about the future he longed to see.

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit remembers Clarke.

I nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize, but Yasser Arafat got it instead. I think it's pretty clear that Clarke would have been a better choice . . . .

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:53 PM | Permalink

March 13, 2008

One in the Naked City

Marvin Wald died a few days ago in California at the age of 90. He's not a famous writer but he gave us one of the most famous lines in American popular culture: "There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them."

Ave atque vale This has been one of them from Mark Steyn

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:23 PM | Permalink

February 29, 2008

William F. Buckley, a National Treasure

I've written Legacy Matters for several years now and I've never seen so many encomiums following a death of a great figure as I have read following the death of William F. Buckley.

The New York Times obituary by Douglas Martin, Sesquipedalian Spark of Right,  tells the story of his remarkable life and achievements.

Mr. Buckley’s greatest achievement was making conservatism — not just electoral Republicanism but conservatism as a system of ideas — respectable in liberal post-World War II America. He mobilized the young enthusiasts who helped nominate Barry Goldwater in 1964 and saw his dreams fulfilled when Reagan and the Bushes captured the Oval Office.

President George W. Bush said Wednesday that Mr. Buckley “brought conservative thought into the political mainstream, and helped lay the intellectual foundation for America’s victory in the Cold War.”

In remarks at National Review’s 30th anniversary in 1985, President Reagan
You didn’t just part the Red Sea — you rolled it back, dried it up and left exposed, for all the world to see, the naked desert that is statism,” Mr. Reagan said.

“And then, as if that weren’t enough,” the president continued, “you gave the world something different, something in its weariness it desperately needed, the sound of laughter and the sight of the rich, green uplands of freedom.”
--
“All great biblical stories begin with Genesis,” George Will wrote in National Review in 1980. “And before there was Ronald Reagan, there was Barry Goldwater, and before there was Barry Goldwater there was National Review, and before there was National Review there was Bill Buckley with a spark in his mind, and the spark in 1980 has become a conflagration.”
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At the age of 50, Mr. Buckley crossed the Atlantic Ocean in his sailboat and became a novelist. Eleven of his novels are spy tales starring Blackford Oakes, who fights for the American way and beds the Queen of England in the first book.
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Mr. Buckley’s spirit of fun was apparent in his 1965 campaign for mayor of New York on the ticket of the Conservative Party. When asked what he would do if he won, he answered, “Demand a recount.” He got 13.4 percent of the vote.

John Tierney on A Giant of Conservatism

  Wfb

Simply Superlative by George Nash focuses on his enormous productivity.
During his nearly 60 years in the public eye, William F. Buckley Jr. published 55 books (both fiction and nonfiction); dozens of book reviews; at least 56 introductions, prefaces, and forewords to other peoples’ books; more than 225 obituary essays; more than 800 editorials, articles, and remarks in National Review; several hundred articles in periodicals other than National Review; and approximately 5,600 newspaper columns. He gave hundreds of lectures around the world, hosted 1,429 separate Firing Line shows, and may well have composed more letters than any American who has ever lived.
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William F. Buckley Jr. was arguably the most important public intellectual in the United States in the past half century. For an entire generation he was the preeminent voice of American conservatism and its first great ecumenical figure. He changed minds, he changed lives, and he helped to change the direction of American politics.

But it is the personal memories that are the most telling of his incredible generosity of spirit.  Nyron Magnet writes The Unbought Grace of Life
his whole being provided an answer to that ultimate question, How then should we live?
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I saw his character become ever more clearly the unmistakable, irreplaceable Buckley: witty, cultivated, playful, urbane, gracious, brave, zestful, life-affirming, tireless, and gallant—the incarnation of grace. He taught many not only how to think but also how to be.

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He did all this with singular flair and joie de vivre. Moreover, he did it with a welcoming spirit which earned the gratitude of those whose lives he touched.

While at college, David Brooks wrote a smart-aleck parody of WFB's book Overdrive and when Buckley came to the University of Chicago to deliver a lecture, he said
“David Brooks, if you’re in the audience, I’d like to offer you a job.”

That was the big break of my professional life.
---
Buckley’s greatest talent was friendship. The historian George Nash once postulated that he wrote more personal letters than any other American, and that is entirely believable. He showered affection on his friends, and he had an endless stream of them, old and young.

Peggy Noonan writes May We Not Lose His Kind.
Buckley was a one-man refutation of Hollywood's idea of a conservative.... Bill Buckley's persona, as the first famous conservative of the modern media age, said no to all that. Conservatives are brilliant, capacious, full of delight at the world and full of mischief, too. That's what he was. He upended old clichés.
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With the loss of Bill Buckley we are, as a nation, losing not only a great man. When Jackie Onassis died, a friend of mine who knew her called me and said, with such woe, "Oh, we are losing her kind." He meant the elegant, the cultivated, the refined. I thought of this with Bill's passing, that we are losing his kind--people who were deeply, broadly educated in great universities when they taught deeply and broadly, who held deep views of life and the world and art and all the things that make life more delicious and more meaningful.

Larry Perelman, American born son of Russian Jewish refugees when 18 wrote to Buckley to thank him for emboldening Soviet Jews to come to this great nation and asked for the opportunity to express his gratitude by playing for him.  Fourteen years later, he had The Last Supper with WFB on the last night of his life
it was just like any other Buckley dinner — i.e., it started with cocktails and ended with cognac.

He knew well that he was the most important person in my life after the two people who had actually given me life. I will cherish hundreds of memories of his boundless acts of generosity, which changed my life forever.

Christina Galbraith, daughter of Evan Galbraith, WFB's best friend,  writes in Ember
He was a truly kind man, genuinely caring to anyone in his company. His kindness was not for show. It was discreet. He drove an hour every Sunday to take his house staff to Mass in Spanish; he opened his home to practicing musicians and supported innumerable young scholars.

Ed Capano, former publisher of the National Review,  tells of his perfect charity
He practiced what I consider perfect charity: doing things for others that no one knew about.  The Vietnam vet blinded in action who wrote to Bill asking if NR came out in Braille. NR didn't so Bill did the next best thing, he helped the vet get some of his eyesight restored by flying him to N.Y. and having a personal friend who happened to be one of the best ophthalmologists in N.Y. examine him and then successfully operate on him. Oh, and the vet married the nurse who took care of him. Or the time at a cover conference when I told him that a house I liked just came on the market and he asked me if I was going to buy it. I sheepishly told him that I couldn't afford the down payment.  A few days later his secretary brought me a personal check from Bill for the down payment with a promissory note to pay him back whenever.

"The Sacred Elixir of Life" and  Facing Death
Bill was philosophical — or better, religious — about death. His gleaming eyes, when I last saw him, seemed, at times, to look beyond you; it reminded me of what Robert E. Lee said of his own gaze in his last years: “My interest in Time and its concerns is daily fading away, and I am trying to keep my eyes and thoughts fixed on those eternal shores to which I am fast hastening.” Bill knew that he, too, was hastening towards those shores, as, of course, are we all. Not for him the megalomaniac egotism of Stalin, preposterously trying to bargain with the creator he had denied. Bill thought deeply about death; how else could he have achieved such a surpassing mastery of the obituary notice, that form which, in his hands, was not only a minor art, but also a means of understanding the value of life, even though it is lived in the shadow of death?
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Bill taught us much about what Auchincloss called “the sacred elixir of life.” In the last lines of his elegy of his wife, he taught us, too, something about how to die. He spoke then of the condolence he received from “a confirmed nonbeliever,” who for once would have liked to be mistaken, and hoped that, “for you, this is not goodbye, but hasta luego.” Bill said: “No alternative thought would make continuing in life, for me, tolerable.”


Charlie Rose's moving appreciation of William Buckley who talks about  growing older and facing death.

A longer Rose tribute here where he realizes, "There is not always a tomorrow."

Andrew Malcolm at the LA Times gives us a private memory of WFB

And, Buckley recounted, instead of the outside scenery, he ended up that night in the dark cockpit watching instead his dying friend in admiration, still excited, still himself, exulting at the world's beauty as he came down slowly for a landing at the end of a long trip.

Then, Buckley looked at me and took a sip of his drink. "I hope at the end," he said, "I come in for my last landing the same way."

And so he did, after a last supper that started with cocktails and ended with cognac, he went to his desk to write and there he was found the next morning, that great generous spirit gone.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:10 AM | Permalink

February 18, 2008

Steve Fossett declared dead at 63.

Five months after disappearing while flying over the Nevada desert, Steve Fossett was declared dead by a Chicago court.

Dozens of planes and helicopters spent more than a month searching 20,000 square miles of the western Nevada mountains, one of the most remote and uninhabited regions of the US.
--
Throughout his life Mr Fosset had set more than 90 aviation records in balloons, fixed-wing aircraft, gliders and airships and 23 sailing records. Some 60 still stand.

On his sixth attempt, in 2002, he became the first person to fly solo around the world in a balloon - in one unsuccessful bid he plunged five miles into the sea off Australia.

Three years later made the first solo, non-stop, non-refuelled flight around the globe in the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer.

He also swam the English Channel, completed the Ironman Triathlon and the Iditarod dog sled race and climbed the Matterhorn in Switzerland and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Everest, however, eluded him.

Mr Fossett, who earned his fortune as a financial trader, broke the round-the-world sailing record by six days in 2004 and even set world records for cross-country skiing.

The Telegraph obituary  

Steve Fossett, who has been declared dead aged 63, made his fortune on the Chicago futures exchange and embarked on a dogged campaign to break more world records than any other sportsman in history; he set 116 records in hot air balloons, sailing boats, gliders and powered aircraft, getting into numerous scrapes and surviving several brushes with death.

--
He was known in Britain for his friendship with Sir Richard Branson, an erstwhile rival balloonist who became a co-sponsor.

Branson once described Fossett as "a loner: half-Forrest Gump, half android" and suggested that he was not so much interested in sport for its own sake as in testing the limits of his own endurance: "If there's an ocean to swim, he'll choose Christmas Day and it must be snowing and, if possible, the only day in the last decade when the channel ices over," Branson observed. "That's Steve for you."
--

At some point in his thirties Fossett typed out a list of his lifetime sporting goals. These included swimming the English Channel, climbing the highest mountains on six continents, establishing eight world records in sailing, and flying non-stop around the world in a balloon. Once his business was firmly established he set out to tick items off the list. He achieved them all - and more. He became a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and of the Explorers' Club, and in 2002 won the Gold Medal of the Fédération Aeronautique Internationale.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:11 PM | Permalink

February 12, 2008

Charles Fawcett, R.I.P.

An unbelievable life indeed.

The London Telegraph Charles Fawcett

Charles Fawcett, who died in London on February 3 aged 92, was a film maker and adventurer of great and generous passions that embraced Afghan freedom fighters and the much-married film actress Hedy Lamarr.

His unlikely - some would say unbelievable - life was informed by an impulse to stand up for the underdog mixed with a thirst for glamour and adventure. Fawcett charmed everyone he met with tales of swashbuckling intrigue and good deeds.
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In Paris Fawcett also took part in the rescue of a group of British prisoners-of-war who had been placed under French guard in a hospital ward by the Germans. By impersonating a German ambulance crew, Fawcett and a comrade marched in at 4am and ordered the French nurses to usher the PoWs out into the yard. "Gentlemen," he announced as he drove them away, "consider yourself liberated."

"You're a Yank," said a British voice.

"Never," came Fawcett's lilting southern burr, "confuse a Virginian with a Yankee."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:03 PM | Permalink

February 11, 2008

Roy Scheider, R.I.P.

Roy Scheider conveyed "an accelerated metabolism" in Jaws, Klute, The French Connection and All That Jazz.

Who knew he was a history major that planned on going to law school and served three years in the United States Air Force before he turned to acting?

For several years he suffered from multiple myeloma and died of complications from a staph infection at 75.

At the time of his death, Mr. Scheider was involved in a project to build a film studio in Florence, Italy, for a series about the history of the Renaissance.

Ann Althouse found the video Bye, bye my life good-bye where Scheider plays Joe Gideon in All That Jazz.

How surpassingly strange for his widow and family to have this video so widely available.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:44 AM | Permalink

February 7, 2008

Guru to the Beatles

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, guru to the Beatles, dead at 91.

From the Telegraph obituary

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who died on Tuesday, probably aged 91, had a profound influence on the Beatles' late career and repackaged ancient Hindu methods of transcendental meditation; TM, as it was known, was aimed at enabling western disciples to achieve a blissful oneness with the infinite in the still depths of the self - at the cost of minimum inconvenience.
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The Maharishi pursued his mission in India until 1958, when he conceived "the idea of the regeneration of the whole world through meditation". If one per cent of the world's community practised it, he reasoned, the flow of good vibrations would overwhelm mankind's natural urge to violence.

His claim that it was not necessary to pursue a life of monastic asceticism to attain enlightenment, and that, through TM, practitioners could enjoy "the positive experience of Heavenly Bliss" during their lifetimes, proved immediately attractive to westerners. In 1959 the Maharishi established a base in Hollywood, where he founded the Spiritual Regeneration Movement and set about marketing TM worldwide as the "Science of Creative Intelligence"
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Early on in his mission the Maharishi began to show messianic tendencies, dismissing as obsolete virtually every other means of developing self-awareness and claiming that all the wisdom of the ages was distilled in TM. During the 1970s he came up with yogic flying, the ultimate transcendental bliss that causes men and women to levitate.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:12 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

January 11, 2008

Sir Edmund Hilary, R.I.P.

Every so often, we get a glimpse of someone who shows us how great and good a human being can be.  Sir Edmund Hillary, the beekeeper  and the first man to reach the summit of Mt Everest along with his Sherpa guide Norgay Tenzing was such a man.  His life is a model of inspiration for accomplishment and humility.

     Hillary Oil Auckland Museum

London Telegraph

Sir Edmund Hillary, who died late yesterday aged 88, made his name as the first conqueror (with Norgay Tenzing) of Everest; just as impressive, though, was the use he made of his renown over the remainder of his life.
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Hillary developed a deep admiration for the Sherpa people, and through the Himalayan Trust which he established in the 1960s oversaw the building of 25 schools, two hospitals and a dozen medical clinics, as well as bridges and airfields.
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James (now Jan) Morris, who covered the expedition for The Times, wrote of Hillary working in the half-light, "huge and cheerful, his movement not so much graceful as unshakably assured, his energy almost demonic. He had a tremendous, bursting, elemental, infectious, glorious vitality about him, like some bright, burly diesel express pounding across America."
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Hillary remained determinedly low-key. "Having paid my respects to the highest mountain in the world," he recalled 46 years later in his autobiography View from the Summit (1999), "I had no choice but to urinate on it." Though he took Tenzing's photograph he did not bother to organise one of himself. And when he met Lowe at Camp VIII on the way down, he delivered the great news in a laconic fashion deemed too shocking for publication at that epoch: "Well, George, we knocked the bastard off."

 Sir Ed On First Climb

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark announced Hillary's death at 88 calling it a "profound loss to New Zealand."

Sir Ed described himself as an average New Zealander with modest abilities. In reality, he was a colossus. He was an heroic figure who not only 'knocked off' Everest but lived a life of determination, humility, and generosity.

The legendary mountaineer, adventurer, and philanthropist is the best-known New Zealander ever to have lived. But most of all he was a quintessential Kiwi. He was ours - from his craggy appearance and laconic style to his directness and honesty. All New Zealanders will deeply mourn his passing.

"Sir Ed's 1953 ascent of Mt Everest brought him world-wide fame. Thereafter he set out to support development for the Sherpa people of the Himalayas. His lifetime's humanitarian work there is of huge significance and lasting benefit.

  Climbing Mt Everest Hillary

New York Times
Standing atop that pinnacle in 1953 was an experience Sir Hillary would recollect many times in lectures and quiet conversations.

“The whole world around us lay spread out like a giant relief map,” he told one interviewer. “I am a lucky man. I have had a dream and it has come true, and that is not a thing that happens often to men.”

Sir Edmund Hilary

Associated Press

"We drew closer together as Tenzing brought in the slack on the rope. I continued cutting a line of steps upwards. Next moment I had moved onto a flattish exposed area of snow with nothing by space in every direction," Hillary wrote.

"Tenzing quickly joined me and we looked round in wonder. To our immense satisfaction we realized with had reached the top of the world."

Before Norgay's death in 1986, Hillary consistently refused to confirm he was first, saying he and the Sherpa had climbed as a team to the top. It was a measure of his personal modesty, and of his commitment to his colleagues.

  Sir  Hillary Scolastic Mag

London Times
From this moment of glory, Hillary’s career opened out into a lifetime of adventure and of widening interest. His own laconic summary of his active life as merely a “constant battle against boredom" gave part of the picture and was typical of his innate modesty and of his dislike of cant.
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Hillary’s achievement was crowned not only by a knighthood and by much public acclaim, by an exceptionally happy marriage to Louise Mary Rose of Auckland. They had a son and two daughters. Lady Hillary was an accomplished violinist and a woman of great vitality and goodness. Her death in 1975 in an aeroplane accident with their younger daughter was a tragedy that hit her husband very hard.

He is survived by his second wife, June Mulgrew, whom he married in 1990,  the widow of his close friend Peter Mulgrew, a fellow adventurer who died in a passenger plane crash over Antartica.

 Sir Ed Hillary Older

New Zealand news  We will not see his kind again

He died peacefully when his heart gave out. 

"He retained his sense of humour right to the end. He was cheerful and joking...I suspect he knew his time was coming to an end," his friend Tom Scott says.
---

A practical man, he knew only too well that death was not too far away.

In 2002 he said: "I don't think it particularly frightens me. I have had a long haul...I have had a marvellous life...I have had two wonderful wives...you can't do better than that...I have a very good life, an exciting one, many good adventures."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:05 PM | Permalink

January 10, 2008

Philip Agee

When a former CIA spy died Monday in Havana where he fled after exposing the names of U.S. intelligence operatives, one obituary writer is calling him what he was.

A traitor's death

The London Telegraph has more on the man who died of peritonitis.

Former colleagues at the CIA claimed that Agee had been forced to resign from the agency in 1969 after complaints about his heavy drinking, poor financial management and attempts to proposition wives of American diplomats. They further alleged that Agee had become a KGB spy after being seduced by a Russian agent, and that he had effectively defected because he did not know how to extricate himself from his personal problems.
--
In 1992 a high-ranking Cuban defector accused Agee of receiving up to $1 million in payments from the Cuban intelligence service; and in 1999 Vasili Mitrokhin, a former KGB librarian who had secretly copied thousands of files and then donated them to British intelligence, gave further details of his relationship with Communist agents

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:30 AM | Permalink

January 5, 2008

Death of a Milblogger

Army Major Andrew Olmstead, a veteran blogger, was a soldier his entire life, so when ordered to Iraq to teach members of the Iraqi Army, he went;  but not before entrusting a just in case post to a friend. 

I am leaving this message for you because it appears I must leave sooner than I intended. I would have preferred to say this in person, but since I cannot, let me say it here."

"Only the dead have seen the end of war."
Plato*

---
Believe it or not, one of the things I will miss most is not being able to blog any longer. The ability to put my thoughts on (virtual) paper and put them where people can read and respond to them has been marvelous, even if most people who have read my writings haven't agreed with them.

Olmstead was killed in an ambush by insurgents.

Godspeed to a brave man who walked the walk and blogged about it.

Many bloggers weigh in with their appreciation for his character and his writings and condolences to his family here.

R.I.P.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:30 AM | Permalink

George MacDonald Fraser, RIP

George MacDonald Fraser, author of the Flashman, Flashman being the gloriously politically incorrect rogue hero who delighted millions, died last week.

London Telegraph obituary

Although some critics saw the series as a satire on Victorian morality, its continued popular success was due to Fraser’s ability to make learning history enjoyable.
--
In 1943 he joined the Border Regiment and served as an infantryman in North Africa and with the "Forgotten" Fourteenth Army in Burma. He was eventually commissioned in the Gordon Highlanders. Some of his finest writing is contained in his graphic recollections of his Burma service, Quartered Safe Out Here (1992), in which the affectionate portrait of his Cumbrian comrades demonstrated his keen eye for character and acute ear for dialogue.

John Keegan, in The Sunday Telegraph, justly called it "one of the great personal memoirs of World War II".

The Daily Mail published his "last testament" - How Britain has destroyed itself.

Political correctness is about denial, usually in the weasel circumlocutory jargon which distorts and evades and seldom stands up to honest analysis.
--
That PC should have become acceptable in Britain is a glaring symptom of the country's decline.

No generation has seen their country so altered, so turned upside down, as children like me born in the 20 years between the two world wars. In our adult lives Britain's entire national spirit, its philosophy, values and standards, have changed beyond belief.
--
I know that some things are wonderfully better than they used to be: the new miracles of surgery, public attitudes to the disabled, the health and well-being of children, intelligent concern for the environment, the massive strides in science and technology.
--
But much has deteriorated. The United Kingdom has begun to look more like a Third World country, shabby, littered, ugly, run down, without purpose or direction, misruled by a typical Third World government, corrupt, incompetent and undemocratic.

My generation has seen the decay of ordinary morality, standards of decency, sportsmanship, politeness, respect for the law, family values, politics and education and religion, the very character of the British.
--

I had not realised how offensive the plain truth can be to the politically correct, how enraged they can be by its mere expression, and how deeply they detest the values and standards respected 50 years ago and which dinosaurs like me still believe in, God help us.

But the readers' reactions to the book were the exact opposite of critical opinion. I have never received such wholehearted and generous support.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:00 AM | Permalink

January 2, 2008

Speaking ill of the dead

I have not posted about Benazir Bhutto because I did not want to speak ill of the dead, especially as she was  killed in such an awful fashion. 

David Warren who knew her  writes what I think is the best summation of the Bhutto legacy.

About not speaking ill of the dead, Flemming Rose says the Chechan historian Avtorkhanov would have none of it when Stalin died.

This is the obituary he penned in 1953.

Stalin has finally died. His wolfish heart has stopped beating, his diabolical mind has stopped operating. A man has passed away who had nothing human about him what so ever, no soul, no love, no compassion. A professionel tormentor’s cold hearted brutality and a bestial instinct for survival put him closer to the species of beasts than to mankind.

A man has passed away who immortalized himself through the killing of millions of human beings in the basements of the secret police, in the Siberian woods, the coalmines of Kolyma, the sands of Central Asia and the mountains of the Caucasus.

A man has passed away who created, consolidated and expanded the most reactionary and unprecedented system of state slavery.

A man has passed away who in his own image raised legions of greedy tormentors, that grabbed the fatherless throne.

A man has passed away who created and raised a first class army of international experts on rebellion, revolution and war who were ready to pull mankind into a new disaster for the ideas behind the system created by the dead demigod.

A man has passed away who for thirty years withou any punishment had been swimming in a sea of blood from our fathers and brothers, and rivers of tears from our mothers and sisters.

The most damned of all damned people who ever sat foot on this earth has passed away.

He doesn’t deserve a grave!

May his memory be damned forever!

A war of destruction on his legacy! That’s the verdict of our people. And that verdict will live on with future generations.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:26 PM | Permalink

December 31, 2007

Lesser Known Lives

One of the better end-of-the-year wrap-up stories is the New York Times and its The Lives They Lived that offers small obituaries for some  lesser-known lives.

From Liz Claiborne who brought "separates"  to the fashion world and  the retail stores where women clamored to buy them, grateful for all the individual pieces, bright colors died in the same dye lot.

To Gloria Connors who while pregnant with her to-become-famous son Jimmy, built a tennis court behind her house and went on to become his coach.

“She dealt with the guys, and, you know, my mom was 5-foot-1, but damn right she was tough. Nobody was used to the best guy out there being taught by a lady. ...It was me and her against the world.”

And Joybubbles who was a small blind boy who loved the telephone and with his perfectly pitched ears, spoke to it in its own language, becoming the first phone freak.

When he discovered that the University of Pittsburgh had the complete run of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” on tape, he went on a pilgrimage: he rented an apartment nearby and spent hours in the library listening to every episode, sometimes hugging a stuffed globe, huddled under a blanket.
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“Take care of each other, stay strong, find some time to play,” he says at the end of most recordings. “Don’t let God laugh alone.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:31 AM | Permalink

December 20, 2007

Dapper O'Neill

The era of the old-time Boston pol has ended with the death of Dapper O'Neil. 

Tip O'Neill was famous for saying, All politics is local. Dapper would say All politics is personal.  What you said in public was for show, what you did in private was for real.  If you could make people mad or make them laugh by something you said, you got extra points. He was both crass and hilarious. 

Dapper went everywhere.  As Whitey says, he would attend the opening of an envelope.  Being no friends with the Bulgers neither the Senate President, Billy Bulger or his gangster brother Whitey  who's still on the lam and the FBI's Most Wanted list, Dapper for years never went to Billy Bulger's Saint Patrick's day breakfast in Southie,  "Who wants to go someplace where you can't piss for four hours."  Whitey has videos from one time when he did attend.

             Dapper

Howie Carr wrote  O'Neil was principal of the old school
Dapper O’Neil never made a dime in politics. Name me another modern pol in Boston you can say that about.
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Talk about a throwback - Dapper didn’t have a checking account. He paid cash for everything except his car (with the “Liberals: An American Cancer” bumper sticker).

Boston Globe, obit  an era in Boston politics ends
Often the top vote-getter in City Council races, Mr. O'Neil became one of the more revered politicians in the city's history with his attentiveness to the smallest needs of constituents, even as his caustic statements about minorities, women, gays, and lesbians made him one of the most reviled.
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"The great irony of Dapper was his kindness and generosity to so many people," said Councilor Stephen J. Murphy, a longtime friend of Mr. O'Neil's. "At the same time, he fearlessly and deliberately violated the rules of political correctness. He'd say, 'Watch me get them going.' "

Dapper learned from a master, James Michael Curley whose life and career were fictionalized in Edwin O' Connor's book, The Last Hurrah and later made into a movie by John Ford in 1958, starring Spencer Tracy, but I'm not saying Dapper was "Ditto" in the movie.
(Long before there were Dittoheads, there was Ditto who aped every move and attitude of his beloved mayor.)

"The Last Hurrah" (Edwin O'Connor)


"The Last Hurrah" (John Ford)

As former mayor Ray Flynn said,
That's what politics is supposed to be about, helping people. He learned it from Curley, and I learned it from them.

  Dapper And James Michael Curley

He'd go to four or five wakes a night," Flynn said. "When he'd come back from the wakes, I'd see him the next morning with little pieces of paper in his pocket. We'd go to breakfast at Amrhein's, and he'd pull out a little note with a name and phone number on it, and you could hardly read it." 

Mr. O'Neil would often walk into Flynn's mayoral office without an appointment.  "He was looking for a turkey or a ham for a poor family who had been burned out by a fire or to help some veteran friend of his who got laid off from work,"

A lot of politics was done at wakes because that's where you learned who was hurting.  If you could help them, you'd have their vote and the votes of their family members for life.  So maybe you cut some deals, crossed the line in a few places, to do a favor for a pal, politics was a game and a lot of fun.

For Dapper it was always about politics
He will be remembered as a throwback, a bigot, a larger-than-life character, a sexist, a champion of the little guy. He was all those things. But mostly he was a politician caught between two eras.

Boston Herald  Love him or hate him, Dapper cared about Boston

Boston Maggie says
A lot of politicians come to the table with an agenda and for most that agenda is masked or hidden or worse......compromised. Dapper was never compromised. If he was helping you, he was grand. If he was on the other side of your issue.......well, he was your enemy. Anyone who is talking smack about Dapper, well that's just sour grapes.

Always a character
In 1992, O’Neil named himself “acting mayor” when then-Mayor Ray Flynn was trapped for 30 minutes in a Mattapan hospital elevator with two priests, city officials and his son.

“I am prepared to settle a lot of old scores,” O’Neil declared at the time.

In my earlier life, I grew up among Boston pols.  My father and my grandfather were campaign workers for the Democrat Yankee, Endicott "Chub" Peabody, after whom it was said, three Massachusetts towns were named, Peabody, Marblehead and Athol.  In junior high school, I had a crush on the Massachusetts senator, Jack Kennedy and as a  freshman in high school, I handed out campaign literature when he ran for President which of course was totally unnecessary in Massachusetts.        Later, I married Jack Flannery who had been Chief Secretary to another Massachusetts governor, Frank Sargent who was far more beloved even if he was a Yankee Republican.  Jack was a wonderful writer whether it was speeches, op eds or his column, The Pols which ran three times a week for several years in the Boston Herald.  The Pols was a political soap opera, a combination of fictional character and real politicians, that became an excuse to tell a lot of great stories about Boston pols, most of them true but you couldn't use their real names because the statute of limitations was still running.

That's what I miss about politics these days, the fun and the stories. 

Mayor Thomas M. Menino said Wednesday.
It's the end of an era in Boston politics with the passing of Dapper O'Neil.  He was the greatest storyteller there ever was. The real question is whether all those stories are true.

Nobody had more fun or had better stories than the old Boston pols and those days are over, that time is past.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:48 PM | Permalink

December 19, 2007

"It's okay and I'm still here"

When the wrong Maine woman was declared dead in an obituary in the Bangor Daily News, Anne E. Hathaway, 92, said

It's wonderful to find out how many friends you have. I just laughed and laughed and laughed."

  Anne E Hathaway Wrong Obit

I  went to the pearly gates and opened the door and they didn’t have any strawberry shortcake and they didn’t like the way my hair looked."

She joked that she was looking better after having her hair styled Friday.

"I look better than I did when they printed the obituary," Hathaway said. "It’s okay and I’m still here."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:25 AM | Permalink

December 1, 2007

Evel Kneivel, R.I.P.

Growing up, every one knew who the handsome, dare-devil Evel Knievel was, so fearless was he.

"Who do you think you are -- Evel Knievel?" asked thousands of mothers around the country.

But like all of us will sooner or later, he grew older and died yesterday of pulmonary fibrosis.

__Evel__Knievel__hospital.jpg

A last interview in USA Today

His ravaged, 155-pound body isn't composed of original parts. He has a new liver and a replacement hip, and most recently doctors inserted a drug pump in his abdomen. It gives little reprieve from the excruciating pain in a fused spine mangled by hundreds of perilous, cringe-inducing motorcycle jumps from the 1960s and '70s.

For years he cheated death, sometimes spectacularly so. Numerous crashes cemented his legend and all but guaranteed premature infirmity. These days, in what might be his last great gamble, Evel flies down the cosmic ramp of his final jump — the leap of faith.

While he has avoided the inevitable countless times, he no longer feels invincible. In fact, the bank robber-turned-international icon sounds apprehensive. After decades of hard jumps and harder living, including bouts with alcoholism, Evel tries to bridge the psychological chasm between mortality and eternity.

At the end, his son said, Evel realized that love is everything .

---

The quest to uncover value and meaning from his earthly existence has greater urgency these days. Evel takes a notepad off a chair-side table and begins to read something that sounds like a eulogy, which friends say he has written.

"I hope I have lived a life that matters … I am ready to leave my loved ones …

"My wealth, my fame will amount to naught … My grudges, frustrations, resentments and jealousies will finally disappear."

A few months later, he converted to Christianity.

Knievel told how he had refused for 68 years to convert to Christianity because he didn’t want to surrender his lifestyle of "the gold and the gambling and the booze and the women." He explained his conversion experience by saying, "All of a sudden, I just believed in Jesus Christ."

Telegraph Obit

Evel Knievel, the American motorcycle stunt rider who has died aged 69, combined a considerable talent for self-promotion with a hazardous capacity for bravery; among the several world records he held was that for the most bones broken by one person, 433

Tall, blonde and nearly handsome, in the 1970s Knievel appealed to America's love of excess, and to her need to be convinced that she had not gone soft, that the pioneer spirit still thrived.

Last ride for Evel Knievel, man of steel and scars

At 27, he became co-owner of a motorcycle shop. To attract customers, he announced he would jump 12 metres over parked cars and a box of rattlesnakes and continue on past a mountain lion tethered at the other end. Before a thousand people, he did the stunt but failed to fly far enough; his bike came down on the rattlesnakes. The audience was in awe.

"Right then," he said, "I knew I could draw a big crowd by jumping over weird stuff."

--

He underwent as many as 15 major operations to relieve severe trauma and repair broken bones — skull, pelvis, ribs, collarbone, shoulders and hips. "I created the character called Evel Knievel, and he sort of got away from me," he said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:19 AM | Permalink

November 6, 2007

Obituary as death threat

Fake obituary posted on YouTube to intimidate Councillor Alan Craig who has opposed the building of Europe's largest mosque in London near the 2012 Olympic site.

Opponent of 'mega-mosque' receives chilling death threat on YouTube.

What can you say except this is appalling?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:10 PM | Permalink

Mourning Fathers

About the death, I have long hesitated, I was long before I could tell my mind; and now I know it, and can but say that I am glad. If we could have had my father, that would have been a different thing. But to keep that changeling - suffering changeling - any longer, could better none and nothing. Now he rests; it is more significant, it is more like himself. He will begin to return to us in the course of time, as he was and as we loved him.

My favourite words in literature, my favourite scene - 'O let him pass,' Kent and Lear - was played for me here in the first moment of my return.

Letter from Robert Louis Stevenson to Sidney Colvin, June 1887.
HT The Sheila Variation, "O Let Him Pass".

A new blog for me, Postman's Horn posts a letter every day by authors, writers, poets and painters because

A letter can provide that sense of everyday life, a glimpse of the the trials and tribulations of another human soul; and they can underscore the humanity of writers who have become so very famous.

My condolences to Yaacov Ben Moshe on the death of his father whose remarkable In Honor of a Great Dead White Man pays tribute to his greatest hero who
even though he always knew that life can be hard and even cruel, he never lost sight of the fact that it is always wonderful and miraculous at the same time

Especially in this month of All Saints and All Souls, we pay attention to the best of those who have passed before us because

The consequence is that human solidarity, to use that term, must belong much less to the crowd of our predecessors, than to the persons of the past who have realized, in a great way, the fine natural traits of man. Those who pass up the opportunity to serve their great memory, pass up an undoubted opportunity to help themselves, to correct themselves, and to improve themselves.
Charles Murras on All Souls Day

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:55 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

November 2, 2007

Paul Tibbets, pilot of Enola Gay

"I viewed my mission as one to save lives.  I didn't bomb Pearl Harbor.
I didn't start the war.  But I was going to finish it."

Paul Tibbets Jr, pilot of Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the bomb at Hiroshima, died at his home in Columbus, Ohio at 92.

Washington Post obit

Gen. Tibbets became a national hero with the Aug. 6, 1945, atomic bombing of Hiroshima, a historical turning point of the last century. He said he had no regrets over the more than 100,000 Japanese killed and wounded at Hiroshima, and made a point of saying he slept easily at night.
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In a public television documentary, "The Men Who Brought the Dawn," that aired on the 50th anniversary of the bombings, Gen. Tibbets said the bomb "saved more lives than we took" because an alternative would have been an invasion of mainland Japan.

"It would have been morally wrong if we'd have had that weapon and not used it and let a million more people die," he said.

Boston Globe obit

If you think that the bombing of Hiroshima was a mistake I urge you to read Charles McCarry, Hiroshima and the Firebombing of Tokyo.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:06 PM | Permalink

October 25, 2007

"The Man who moved a mountain"

The man who funded the Pequot Indians in Connecticut when they wanted to build a casino died yesterday.  The Pequots had gone to  35 banks and investment houses and were turned down when they turned overseas to Malay-Chinese entrepreneur who became a billionaire by developing Genting Highlands, a casino in the highlands of the Muslim country of Malaysia. 

Genting Highlands, the mountaintop casino and resort complex close to Kuala Lumpur, illustrates Malaysia's grudging relationship with gambling and, some have argued, with its entire Chinese community of 7.3 million. Lim Goh Tong, its creator, was granted permission to build a casino “on a 1,700m mountain, out of sight and out of mind”, as one journalist put it, in return for helping to build a tourist infrastructure in the newly independent federation. As his gambling retreat grew and grew — becoming “the Las Vegas of Malaysia” — it became an ever-greater affront to the Muslim majority but ever-more indispensable to a government in need of money.

His bet on Indian gaming in the United States was prescient.  The rest is history.  Foxwoods, now the world's largest casino, takes in an estimated $1 billion in revenue each year.

Lim Goh Tong's obituary in the London Telegraph has no mention of the role he played in the United States though the London Times obit does.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:25 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

October 19, 2007

Deborah Kerr, "an artist of impeccable grace and beauty."

"An artist of impeccable grace and beauty" read the citation for Deborah Kerr's  honorary Oscar in 1994 awarded after she was nominated six times as Best Actress, never winning one. 

She died at 86 after suffering many years with Parkinson's disease.

 Kerr "Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison"
Heaven Knows Mr. Allison with Robert Mitchum

London Telegraph obituary

Kerr was the unfadingly ladylike and prototypical English rose whose red-haired, angular beauty and self-possessed femininity distinguished more than 50 films in four decades of cinema.

She made serenity dramatic; and though her poise might be ruffled at critical moments in scenes of passion (most famously exemplified by her encounter on the beach with Burt Lancaster in From Here to Eternity in 1953), her well-bred airs and social graces made her a model of British womanhood in Hollywood. 
--
......her type of refined sensuality proved refreshingly attractive, since it hinted at hidden desires and forbidden feelings, giving her acting an extra edge and interest.


You can see a clip of the famous kiss on the beach  on YouTube.

 From Here To Eternity

Ann Althouse quotes from a New York Times piece that has since disappeared in the best summary of all.

She could be virginal, ethereal, gossamer and fragile, or earthy, spicy and suggestive, and sometimes she managed to display all her skills at the same time.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:26 PM | Permalink

October 18, 2007

Countess Andree de Jongh

What an amazing, remarkable woman, Countess Andree de Jongh  obituary in the London Telegraph.

  Andree De Jongh

She founded and organised the Comet Escape Line, the route from Belgium through France to Spain used by hundreds of Allied airmen to escape from Nazi-occupied Europe.
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Dédée de Jongh made more than 30 double crossings and escorted 116 evaders, including more than 80 aircrew. But on the night of January 15 1943 she was sheltering at Urrugne with three RAF evaders when she was betrayed. The house was stormed and she was captured. When interrogated under torture by the Gestapo, in order to save others she admitted being the leader of Le Reseau Comète.

The Gestapo, however, refused to believe that such a young and innocent girl could be in charge of an underground movement whose compass stretched from from Belgium to Spain.
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Dédée de Jongh was sent to Mauthausen and Ravensbruck concentration camps. For two years she lived on a diet of dirty potato and turnip soup, practising her nursing skills and trying to avoid being singled out. Although she survived, she had become gravely ill and undernourished by the time she was released by the advancing Allied armies in April 1945.
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After recovering her health Dédée de Jongh went to Buckingham Palace, in 1946, to receive the George Medal — the highest civilian award for bravery available to a foreigner. After the ceremony the RAF Escaping Society gave a dinner in her honour hosted by Air Chief Marshal Sir Basil Embry. The Americans awarded her the Medal of Freedom and the French appointed her a Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur. The Belgians appointed her a Chevalier of the Order of Leopold and awarded her the Croix de Guerre with palm. In 1985 she was created a countess by King Baudouin.

Then she went to the Belgian Congo to work in a leper colony and from there to Ethiopia.

Her philosophy was simple.

In 2000 she recalled: "When war was declared I knew what needed to be done. There was no hesitation. We could not stop what we had to do although we knew the cost. Even if it was at the expense of our lives, we had to fight until the last breath."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:27 PM | Permalink

October 17, 2007

Experience with cannibals informed his life

David Muffett, London obit in the Telegraph

David Muffett, who has died aged 88, applied the skills he had honed when dealing with cannibals in colonial Africa to battling education ministers and teaching unions in his role as chairman of Hereford and Worcester County Council education committee.
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In 1960 he apprehended the Tigwe of Vwuip, a northern Nigerian tribal chief who had eaten the local tax collector. The Tigwe had apparently been so impressed by the man's ability to acquire money on demand that he had — understandably — decided to try to assimilate his powers.

It was not so much this particular misdemeanour that bothered Muffett; what really worried him was the fact that a UN delegation was due to visit the area, and "I wasn't about to have one of them eaten. I considered that it would be a highly retrogressive step."

via Mark Steyn

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:44 AM | Permalink

October 6, 2007

His Cause of Sorrow

Christopher Hitchens writes a moving piece about a young boy killed in Iraq by an IED who was in part persuaded to enlist by Hitchens' own pro-war articles.

A Death in the Family.

I don't exaggerate by much when I say that I froze. I certainly felt a very deep pang of cold dismay. I had just returned from a visit to Iraq with my own son (who is 23, as was young Mr. Daily) and had found myself in a deeply pessimistic frame of mind about the war. Was it possible that I had helped persuade someone I had never met to place himself in the path of an I.E.D.?

Overwhelmed to be invited to the scattering of ashes of the man he never knew, Hitchens quotes Shakespeare from MacBeth 

Your son, my lord, has paid a soldier's debt;
He only lived but till he was a man;
The which no sooner had his prowess confirm'd
In the unshrinking station where he fought,
But like a man he died.

This being Shakespeare, the truly emotional and understated moment follows a beat or two later, when Ross adds:

Your cause of sorrow
Must not be measured by his worth, for then
It hath no end.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:22 AM | Permalink

September 28, 2007

Never say die

The man who would never say die, did. 

 Forbes, Sir Hamish

Major Sir Hamish Forbes tried some ten times over five years to escape from prisoner of war camps, every attempt an ingenious one,  until he finally succeeded in April, 1945.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:14 AM | Permalink

September 23, 2007

A Moment of Silence

A moment of silence

Mime Legend Marcel Marceau Dies at 84

Offstage, he was famously chatty. "Never get a mime talking. He won't stop," he once said.

A French Jew, Marceau escaped deportation to a Nazi death camp during World War II, unlike his father who died in Auschwitz. Marceau worked with the French Resistance to protect Jewish children, and later used the memories of his own life to feed his art.

He gave life to a wide spectrum of characters, from a peevish waiter to a lion tamer to an old woman knitting, and to the best-known Bip.

His biggest inspiration was Charlie Chaplin. In turn, Marceau inspired countless young performers — Michael Jackson borrowed his famous "moonwalk" from a Marceau sketch, "Walking Against the Wind."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:00 PM | Permalink

September 22, 2007

Lady Jeanne Campbell

Lady Jeanne Campbell - the Telegraph obit.

Lady Jeanne Campbell , who has died aged 78, was a journalist who reported for the Evening Standard from New York for many years; she was also the former wife of Norman Mailer, the daughter of the reprobate 11th Duke of Argyll and the favourite granddaughter of Lord Beaverbrook.
--
Lady Jeanne was wild. So numerous were her love affairs that James C Humes (a speechwriter for many American presidents) claimed in his memoirs, Confessions of a White House Ghostwriter, that she was the only woman to have known "Biblically" Presidents Khrushchev, Kennedy and Castro — and all, he claimed, within the space of a year. Humes suggested that Kennedy went through his paces at her Georgetown house in October 1963; Khruschev at his dacha in April 1964; and Castro in Havana the following May.

And that's not all.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:42 PM | Permalink

September 13, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle, R.I.P.

From the New York Times obituary by Douglas Martin. 

Madeleine L'Engle, who in writing more than 60 books, including childhood fables, religious meditations and science fiction, weaved emotional tapestries transcending genre and generation, died Thursday in Connecticut. She was 88.
-----
“Why does anybody tell a story?” she once asked, even though she knew the answer.

“It does indeed have something to do with faith,” she said, “faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose or say or do matters, matters cosmically.”

Terry Mattingly  has a lovely tribute to Madeleine L'Engle, entitled Tesser well

The goal, said L’Engle, was to create fiction that was unmistakably Christian, while writing to an audience that included all kinds of believers and unbelievers.

“I have been brought up to believe that the Gospel is to be spread, it is to be shared — not kept for those who already have it,” she said. “Well, ‘Christian novels’ reach Christians. They don’t reach out. . . . I am not a ‘Christian writer.’ I am a writer who is a Christian. I think that you have to be the best writer that you can be. Now, if I am truly a Christian, then that will show in my work.”

I never read her, but so many people love her work like John Podhoretz who writes another lovely appreciation of the woman who lived in the same New York building whom he got to know because the elevator kept breaking down, that I must read at least one of them. Wrinkle in Time I think.

Excerpted from the Wikipedia entry

A shy, clumsy child, she was branded as stupid by some of her teachers. Unable to please them, she retreated into her own world of books and writing. Her parents often disagreed about how to raise her and as a result she went to a number of boarding schools and had many governesses....

She was best known for her Young Adult fiction, particularly the Newbery Medal-winning A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet and Many Waters. Her works reflect her strong interest in modern science: tesseracts, for example, are featured prominently in A Wrinkle in Time, mitochondrial DNA in A Wind in the Door, organ regeneration in The Arm of the Starfish, and so forth.

In addition to the numerous awards, medals and prizes won by individual books L'Engle wrote, she personally received many honors over the years and received over a dozen honorary degrees from as many colleges and universities, such as Haverford College. Many of these name her as a Doctor of Humane Letters, but she was also made a Doctor of Literature and a Doctor of Sacred Theology, the latter at Berkeley Divinity School in 1984. ...In 2004 she received the National Humanities Medal, but could not attend the ceremony due to poor health.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:30 PM | Permalink

September 4, 2007

Eulogizing a commenter

Jules Crittenden eulogizes OldManTyme, a frequent commenter on his blog

OldManTyme, wielding razor-sharp rapier, did righteous battle at this site with the local trolls, skewering and slicing his way through some of the more rotten, mushier aspects of today’s conventional wisdom.  Some examples here, here, here, here,  here, and here.  A great American, in the best traditions of service to nation, community and family.

The commenter's son Joe adds more