George Martin: The Fifth Beatle
This introduction is a repeat of Part 1’s introduction. However, the people described below are, obviously, different.
Many famous people died in 2016. Among them were: Edward Albee, Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Patty Duke, Glenn Frey, Gordie Howe, Harper Lee, Garry Marshall, John McLaughlin, Arnold Palmer, Shimon Peres, Prince, Nancy Reagan, Morley Safer, Antonin Scalia, Garry Shandling, Pat Summitt, Elie Wiesel, GeneWilder.
However, other individuals who passed away in 2016, less well-known, made significant contributions during their lives. Their actions made the life of others easier or more pleasant in a variety of ways. This article will give you an opportunity to appreciate their efforts and give them a final thank you. The article is not intended to make you sad, but to remind you there are such people . If I missed someone who you think deserves mention, I’m sorry. I’m writing a blog, not an all inclusive book. Let me and other folks know who you would include in this remembrance. Bringing attention to people who make life better for others is worth the time and effort.
W. P. Kinsella, 81. On September 16, he died in Hope, British Columbia. He won a YMCA writing contest at 14. In 1997, a head injury (he was hit by a car) led to a 13 year gap in his writing career. Yet, he created almost 30 books of literature. One book, “Shoeless Joe,” was made into my favorite baseball film: “Field of Dreams.” The Father in the film, and Kinsella’s Father in real life, played minor league baseball. No man who loves baseball can remember the film’s final lines: “Hey, Dad. You wanna have a catch?” and remain dry eyed. Nor should he.
Forrest E. Mars, Jr., 84. His company, Mars Inc. is the world’s largest “confectionary company.” Inheriting a $1 billion sales of candy business from his Father, it was turned into a $35 billion sales organization –bringing you Milky Way, M&M’s, Snickers, Uncle Ben’s Rice, pedigree pet food, and Wrigley’s gum. Mr. Mars himself was worth $25 billion and lived, no doubt humbly, on an 82,000 acre ranch in Montana. He donated millions of his billions to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. This was accomplished despite his Father prohibiting Forrest and his brother, John, from eating candy.
George Martin, 90. As a child, he was a largely self-taught pianist, able to learn classical and popular music by ear. By early 1962, the Beatles, rejected by most British record labels, impressed Mr. Martin with their “charm and originality.” As a record producer, he encouraged them to move beyond being a traditional rock band, incorporating a string quartet into Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday”, and, by introducing electronics and multi-track recordings, he began “painting with sound.” The Beatles went along with and augmented his ideas, culminating with the album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Martin lauded credit on Lennon and McCartney for their songwriting skills, while they thrived on his suggestions to enlarge their ability and repertoire. McCartney called Martin “a second Father.” Their combined efforts lead to fame and fortune for all, and profoundly influenced the course popular music.
Agnes Nixon, 93. She began writing for “soap operas” in the 1950s. Her shows provided “a glimpse of dashing lives, extreme passions, secrets, and betrayals.” But, later, her creations took on a “more contemporary tone.” Topics began to include: cancer, AIDS, abortion, Vietnam, African-Americans, homosexuality, etc. Her shows ran for decades (eg, One Life to Live, 1968-2012; All My Children, 1970-2013). She won 5 daytime Emmys and was referred to as Queen of the American soap opera. She told her fans: “Life is fascinating, and if you look at your family and your friends…you can see each person’s life as a soap opera in itself.”
Milt Okun, 92. His childhood training on the piano, coupled with spending summers at mountain resorts listening to Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, led him to begin a career in folk music. But his talent lay more with producing work for other artists. In the 1960s, he worked with Peter, Paul, and Mary (resulting in a number 1 hit: Leaving on a Jet Plane, and other recordings). He worked with John Denver for decades and a star was born (eg, Rocky Mountain High). Knowing his “heart was in classical music and opera,” he convinced Placido Domingo to join Mr. Denver in an album of love songs: “Perhaps Love.” Success. Mr. Domingo’s album went platinum and The Three Tenors followed. Okun gave us pleasure in both folk and classical music. He did not need to choose one or the other and neither did we.
Alan Rickman, 69. American audiences first saw him as Hans Gruber in ”Die Hard”, and then “Sense and Sensibility”, “Love Actually” (where he cheated on Emma Thompson –what a cad!), and numerous times in Harry Potter films. There were other great performances (eg, “Truly, Madly, Deeply”) and small gems (eg, “Dogma”, and “Quigley Down Under” where he gets his comeuppance from Tom Selleck and a modified Sharps rifle). Ms. Thompson worked with him on 3 occasions and praised his skill as an actor and decency as a human being. He was a magnificent performer who will be missed, but always fondly remembered.
Doris Roberts, 90. She was nominated 11 times for Emmys and won 5 –four times for Everybody Loves Raymond’s Mother. This followed a 20 year career on Broadway. She participated in numerous social causes, and loved dogs. Read about her at www.Imdb.com –especially her list of friends. You’ll wish you knew her.
Allen Roses, 73. His research at Duke and GlaxoSmithKline determined, on a genetic level, the causes for diseases such as Parkinson’s, Lou Gehrig’s, and muscular dystrophy. Another project of his staff, partly financed by a loan on his home, resulted in another finding: problems with two specific genes significantly increase the likelihood of Alzheimer’s. Although there is still no cure for the disease, researchers now know where to start working.
Norbert Schemansky, 92. In WWII, he fought at the Battle of the Bulge. From 1948 to 1964, he appeared in 4 of 5 Olympics…earning a medal each time in weight lifting. (He missed a 5th competition recovering from back operations.) There was no money for training or endorsements. He supported his family (a wife and 4 children) on jobs that paid $3,000 or less annually. Athletes against whom he competed couldn’t believe his lack of recognition or his performances given his situation. In appearance, his glasses made him look like Clark Kent; to his opponents, he was Superman. He retired after 26 years in sports. It’s time he received a long overdue: Thank you for service to your country.
Junko Tabei, 77. She was the first woman to climb Mt. Everest (1975). When asked how significant her accomplishment was, she said: “I was the 36th person to climb Mt. Everest.” In 1992, she became the first woman to climb “The Seven Summits” –the highest points on the 7 continents. She climbed mountains in 60 countries. After being diagnosed with cancer 4 years ago, she continued climbing.
Jack Taylor, 94. He started a small rent-a-car business (It had 7 cars.) next to his then employer, a Cadillac dealer, in 1957. He named his company Enterprise because, in WWII, he flew fighter planes off the deck of the aircraft carrier with that name. He started at downtown and suburban, not airport, locations. They came later – when he added Alamo and National car rental brands to his company. He picked up customers from their home or office. By 2016, his worth was estimated by Forbes magazine to be $5.3 billion. He employed 90,000 people in the United States and 70 other countries. He started small but, now, even President-elect Trump would (possibly) be envious.
Ed Temple, 89. He coached women’s track at Tennessee State University for 43 years. When he first became coach, he also ran the campus post office and studied for a masters degree. In the beginning, he had no help. “I coached, counseled, was a parent –there was no one else.” He had no scholarships to offer for the first 18 years –even to Wilma Rudolph who won 3 Gold medals in the 1960 Olympics. Early on, to compete in New York, the team drove 22 hours in a station wagon to get there. There was no money for a hotel, even if they could find one that served blacks. His teams –known as the Tigerbelles—won 34 titles. He produced 40 Olympians who won 23 medals (13 Gold), earned 39 bachelor’s degrees, 28 masters, and 8 doctorates or medical degrees. He was the head coach for the U. S. Women’s Olympic track team in 1960 and 1964. He was elected to 6 Halls of Fame. In track, Ed Temple was a giant.
Grant Tinker, 90. He was hired by NBC to make the network a prime time winner. In the 1970s and 1980s, he brought ensemble casts, unique story lines, important roles for woman and blacks to television, and dealt with serious issues. His efforts gave the network what it wanted: big ratings, awards, and profits –which grew from $48 million annually to $500 million. Some of the hit shows were: the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” (his wife at the time), “Lou Grant,” “Cheers,” “Hill Street Blues,” “Family Ties,” St. Elsewhere,” and “Miami Vice.” And, as a side note, viewers benefited from TV becoming something other than the “vast wasteland” it was considered to be when he arrived.
Richard Trentlage, 87. He wrote jingles in high school. His first was for a school talent show. Among his successes as an adult were: “Wow! It sure doesn’t taste like tomato juice.” (for V8) And “Buckle up for safety, buckle up!” (for a National Safety Council seatbelt campaign) But he became forever known for a song he wrote in one hour in 1962. A company wanted a catchy melody to advertise its deli meats and hot dogs. His entry won their contest and was used as its signature tune, on television shows, and played in 21countries until 2010 –when it was retired. It became part of American culture and brought Mr. Trentlage dividends for decades. It went like this:
Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Meyer wiener
That is what I’d really like to be
‘Cause if I were an Oscar Meyer wiener
Everyone would be in love with me.
Dr. Yutaka Yoshida, 104. He was 29 years old, a native Hawaiian and son of Japanese immigrants who was a 9 year veteran police officer in Honolulu on December 7, 1941. He aided FBI agents in gathering Japanese-Americans together after that day. They were placed in internment camps in isolated regions in the Western United States. Mr. Yoshida joined a Japanese-American Combat team and fought the Germans in Italy and France. He received Bronze and Silver Stars for his service. Later, he was given the Medal of Honor by President Clinton. After the war, he graduated from the University of Cincinnati medical school, as a surgeon, and practiced in Hawaii for 35 years. In an interview for the Hawaii Memory Project at the University of Hawaii, he recalled a General giving him his second lieutenant bar and being told: “We are Americans.” His reaction was to think: “It was kind of patronizing, right? Telling me I’m an American. Just like him. Of course I’m an American.”