Many famous people died in 2018. Among them were: Roger Bannister, Anthony Bourdain, Barbara Bush, George H. W. Bush, Roy Clark, Vic Damone, Aretha Franklin, Billy Graham, Stephen Hawking, Stan Lee, John McCain, Burt Reynolds, Philip Roth, Neil Simon, Tom Wolfe.
However, other individuals who passed away in 2018, less well-known, made significant contributions during their lives. Their actions made the lives 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.” This 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 made life better for others is worth the time and effort. (Thanks to the New York Times for its coverage of these individuals.)
Perry Miller Adato, 97. = Ms. Adato was an award winning documentary maker. Her first film featured Dylan Thomas (and won an Emmy) using techniques that are commonplace today (eg, on screen and off screen voices, photographs). She won 4 Directors Guild of America awards for her work featuring Georgia O’Keeffe, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, and others. She believed: “If you want to change people’s minds and their attitudes, if you want to teach them anything, you can’t lecture to them. You have to entertain them.” One college student saw her work and said: “I had this ‘aha’ moment where I said: Don’t show the actors, just use the chorus of voices under the photos.” The college was Hampshire College; the student was Ken Burns.
Alfred Alberts, 87 = Mr. Alberts was “a largely unknown hero behind the first cholesterol-lowering statin approved in the United States.” He lacked the usual credentials (an M.D. or Ph.D.) but worked as a technician for (among others) Dr. P. Roy Vagelos, a biochemist who became chairman of Merck, the giant pharmaceutical company. Regarding the statin (lovastatin), Dr. Vagelos said: “That was Al’s discovery.”
Charles Aznavour, 94 (see above and below)= If you have not heard him sing, you cannot appreciate his skill and his music. I can tell you he wrote 1,300 songs, sang in 8 languages, has sold more than 180 million records, and appeared in 60 films. He lived in NYC for a year and has toured the United States frequently. But if you haven’t heard him….
His favorite singers were Mel Torme and Fred Astaire. President Macron described him saying: “Profoundly French, viscerally attached to his Armenian roots, famous in the entire world, Charles Aznavour accompanied the joys and sorrows of 3 generations. His masterpieces, his unique influence will long survive him.” I suggest you find and listen to him sing, “Yesterday When I Was Young”, then you’ll understand him, his music, and the effect on all who hear his voice.
Earl E. Bakken, 94 = He started tinkering as a youth. As an adult, he invented the first wearable, battery-powered pacemaker. Later, his company developed coronary stents, insulin pumps, and surgical equipment and did not stop until he had created the world’s largest medical device company. Later in life, he benefitted fro his own invention, having had 2 pacemakers implanted in himself.
John Perry Barlow, 70= He was raised on his family’s 22,000-acre cattle ranch in Wyoming and attended a one-room elementary school. As a college student, he took LSD with Dr. Timothy Leary. The result: he wrote 30 Grateful Dead songs and led the desire for an unfettered internet. Perhaps thanks to the environment in which he grew up, he said: “There are a lot of similarities between cyberspace and open space. There is a lot of room to define yourself.”
Steven Bochco, 74 (see above) = He created “Hill Street Blues, L. A. Law, NYPD Blue, Doogie Howser, M. D., and Murder One.” Critic David Bianculli has said “all TV police dramas could be divided between those that came before and after “Hill Street Blues.” Bochco’s cop shows added stories about their personal life, not just cops and robbers. Bianculli also said without “Blues’” Andy Sipowicz, we might not have had Breaking Bad’s Walter White and The Soprano’s Tony Soprano. Just a thought.
Luigi Cavalli-Sforza, 96 = In recent years, millions of people have sent samples of their saliva to DNA-testing companies to determine where their relatives have been. They can thank Mr. Cavalli-Sforza for showing them their ancestors. He began to develop such techniques by, 60 years ago, studying blood types and 300 years of church records of the heredity of his village neighbors in Italy. He founded a field of study he called genetic geography. “He synthesized information from diverse disciplines –genetics, archaeology, linguistics, anthropology, and statistics—to explain how human populations fanned out over the Earth from their original home in Africa. He denounced efforts to suggest that superficial traits like skin color or hair texture had any underlying connection to intelligence, behavior, or character.”
Raymond Chow, 91 = Mr. Chow began in the Hong Cong film industry as a publicist. Quickly, he became frustrated with the poor quality of films. In 1970, he left to begin his own studio. He signed a young actor and martial arts expert named Bruce Lee. His first film, “The Big Boss”, broke the Chinese box office record of “The Sound of Music.” “Fist of Fury” and “The Way of the Dragon” followed with more success. After Lee died (1973), Jackie Chan and more success followed. Chow’s financial success continued with “The Cannonball Run” (Burt Reynolds) and, later, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” Critics disagreed, but Mr. Chow said: “My philosophy is to entertain people, to make people happy.” He did.
David Douglas Duncan, 102 = “I think I did bring a sense of dignity to the battlefield.” Because of his work taking pictures of WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, Duncan is considered one of the greatest combat photographers. He, also, spent 7 years photographing Picasso. (see above) Over 20 books of his work were published. His book about war in Korea was called by Edward Steichen “the greatest book of war photographs ever published.”
Mary Ellis, 101 = “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” –Churchill. Mary Ellis was one of the “few.” She was a member of the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA). She ferried 400 Spitfires and 76 other kinds of aircraft to airfields during WWII. She was among the first women in Britain to get equal pay. She took her first flying lesson as a teenager. In the war, “girls flying airplanes was almost a sin.” When flying during the war, “while my heart was completely fulfilled, my mind was busy in the cockpit of the fastest, most beautiful fighter aircraft in the world, as I was responsible for its safe journey to the R.A.F. pilots who needed it.”
Dr. Ronald Fieve, 87 = In 1970, “Many doctors held to the Freudian psychoanalytic explanation of mood disorders, but there was evidence that a medical model could replace it.” Dr. Fieve and other doctors “persuaded the Food and Drug administration to approve the prescription of lithium salts for mood disorders (eg, bipolar personality).” Dr. Fieve promoted the use of lithium on radio and television. “Manic-depressive psychosis” was redefined to “bipolar affective disorder” and lithium was successfully used to treat the illness.
Naomi Parker Fraley, 96 = For many years, various women have claimed to be the model for Rosie the Riveter (see above), the woman factory worker during WWII. Mrs. Fraley was one such woman. She said “I don’t want fame or fortune. But I want my own identity.” Following 6 years of research by Dr. James J. Kimble, it was determined, in 2016, that Mrs. Fraley’s claim to fame was accurate.
Sydney Goldstein, 73 = I’m from Philadelphia and Terry Gross broadcasts her program, NPR’s “Fresh Air,” from there. Recently, she thanked Ms. Goldstein for “changing my life…and all she contributed to the world of arts and culture.” In 1980, Ms. Goldstein founded “City Arts and Lectures” in San Francisco. Her effort combined an interviewer and a “guest” (eg, Stephen Sondheim, Bruce Springsteen, Nora Ephron, Maurice Sendak, Pauline Kael) for an interview in a theatrical setting. The programs were part of a series which brought live audiences to watch the programs. Costs were kept low so more people could attend. All participants (ie, journalists who did the interviewing, guests who answered questions, and audiences who observed) were gathered by Ms. Goldstein, benefited.
Dr. Peter Grunberg, 78 = In 2007, Dr. Grunberg shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Dr. Albert Fert. Working separately, they discovered an effect called “giant magnetoresistance.” Their discovery allowed computers and other devices (eg, Mp#s and iPods) to significantly increase the amount of data they could store. The co-winners compared the data from their work and found out their conclusions were alike. Reportedly, they got along quite well. “After we had compared our results, we were ready for a glass of red wine from Burgundy.”
Anna Mae Hays, 97 = Ms. Hays, after serving in 3 wars (ie, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam), became the United States first female General. She had been named chief of the Army Nurse Corps in 1967. During her military career, she recommended that married officers who became pregnant should not face compulsory discharge, and appointments to the Army Nurse Corps reserve not depend on the age of the applicant’s children.
Ricky Jay, 72 (see above) = He was an actor (eg, on TV: “Deadwood”; in film, “Boogie Nights”), writer, magician, and sleight of hand artist. IMO, he was, to sleight of hand magic, what Babe Ruth was to baseball or what Tracy and Hepburn were to acting. He was a story teller and teacher who could make you laugh, possibly learn (eg, don’t play cards with him), and always be amazed. He first did magic for entertainment at age 4. Saying more is wasting your time. But seeing his talent would lead to believing. So, do what I did: Google “Ricky Jay”, find his performance entitled: “Ricky Jay and his 52 Assistants”, and watch him amaze and amuse and educate you for the better part of an hour. You’ll be a better and happier person for having spent time with him –even if only on film.
End of Part One. Second, and final, part next time.