Notable deaths last week
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Nadezhda Popova, a Soviet aviator who became one of the most celebrated of the so-called "Night Witches," female military pilots who terrorized the Nazi enemy with their nocturnal air raids during World War II, has died. She was 91.
In a statement, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych called Popova's life "an example of selfless service to [the] Motherland." Her "feats in the course of the Great Patriotic War," he said, "will never be forgotten."
Popova once remarked that perhaps she was born lucky. One time, she counted 42 bullet holes in her plane. "Katya, my dear," she said to her navigator, "we will live long."
Decades after the war, Popova, who often was called Nadya, reflected on the perils she had endured. "At night sometimes, I look up into the dark sky, close my eyes and picture myself as a girl at the controls of my bomber," she said, "and I think, 'Nadya, how on earth did you do it?' "
Kenneth L. Coskey, a retired Navy captain and aircraft pilot who served five years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, has died at 83.
According to the Naval Historical Foundation, a nonprofit group he once helped lead, then-Cmdr. Coskey was flying a night reconnaissance mission off the aircraft carrier America on Sept. 6, 1968, when his A-6A Intruder was shot down over North Vietnam and crashed on an island in the Song Ca River, southeast of the city of Vinh.
Covering 10 presidents over five decades, Helen Thomas aged into a legend. She was the only reporter with her name inscribed on a chair in the White House briefing room — her own front row seat to history.
Starting as a copy girl in 1943, when women were considered unfit for serious reporting, Thomas rose to bureau chief.
She made her name as a bulldog for United Press International in the great wire-service rivalries of old, and as a pioneer for women in journalism.
Thomas, 92, died surrounded by family and friends at her Washington apartment on Saturday, the family said.
Sidney Berry led men into combat in two wars and was wounded in both conflicts, yet the most trying period the highly decorated officer faced in a distinguished Army career occurred during his stint as head of the U.S. Military Academy, when a cheating scandal roiled West Point just before the first female cadets arrived on campus. He has died at age 87.
Herbert Allison Jr., the onetime president of Merrill Lynch & Co. who oversaw the U.S. government's bank-bailout program following the financial crisis that led to his former company becoming a unit of Bank of America Corp., has died of a possible heart attack. He was 69.
Even before the financial crisis of 2008, Allison had concluded that the largest U.S. banks — JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America, Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley — had become too big and needed to be broken up, according to an interview he gave in 2011 to American Banker.
A Connecticut man who lost his wife and their 4-year-old daughter in the 9/11 terrorist attacks has died of cancer. David McCourt was 71.
McCourt's wife, Ruth, 45, and their daughter, Juliana, were aboard United Flight 175 from Boston to Los Angeles to meet a friend of Ruth's at Disneyland. Their plane struck the south tower of the World Trade Center.
The friend was aboard the other plane that hit the north tower.
Ruth McCourt's brother was working in one of the World Trade Center towers that day but escaped.
James Lewis Carter "T-Model" Ford, a hard-living blues singer who taught himself to play guitar when he was 58 years old and his fifth wife left him, has died at age 89 at his home in Greenwood, Miss.
Illustrator Marc Simont, whose work adorned some of the most celebrated titles in children's literature, has died after a short illness at age 97.
With a pared-down style that matched painterly use of color with loose lines, Simont illustrated close to a hundred books over his career. In 1957, he won the Caldecott Medal, one of the top honors in American children's literature, for his illustrations for "A Tree is Nice" by Janice May Udry.
His work also won Caldecott Honor awards in 1950 for Ruth Krauss's "The Happy Day" and in 2002 for "The Stray Dog," based on a story by Reiko Sassa.
Although most were for young people, he worked with authors ranging from Margaret Wise Brown to James Thurber. In 1972, he and author Marjorie Sharmat launched a 21-book series about a boy detective, "Nate the Great."
A relative says former Tennessee women's basketball star Mary Ostrowski has died. She was 51.
Ostrowski's sister, Beth Hundman, says Ostrowski died Friday night in Bristol, Va. Hundman says her sister was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, in 2007, and she died from complications from the illness.
While at Tennessee, Ostrowski helped the Lady Vols advance to NCAA Final Fours in 1981, 1982 and 1984.
Actor and writer Mel Smith, a major force in British comedy whose evening news parody anticipated the hijinks of hits such as "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," has died of a heart attack, his agent said Saturday. He was 60.
Smith shot to fame along with his partner-in-comedy Griff Rhys Jones in "Not the Nine O'Clock News," whose take-down of earnest BBC newscasts, talk shows, and commercials would influence a generation of comedians.
Retired Vice Adm. Eugene P. Wilkinson, the first commanding officer of the U.S. Navy's first nuclear-powered submarine, has died, the Naval Submarine Base in Connecticut said Tuesday.
Wilkinson, who was 94, had received his commission in 1940 and reported to the heavy cruiser USS Louisville for his first tour of duty.
He graduated from the Naval Submarine School in Groton in March 1942. During World War II, he participated in eight submarine war patrols.
Wilkinson commanded the Nautilus, which was commissioned in 1954 as the world's first nuclear-powered ship. On Jan. 17, 1955, he ordered all lines cast off and signaled the message, "Underway on nuclear power."
Vincenzo Cerami, an Italian writer who co-authored the screenplay of "Life Is Beautiful," Roberto Benigni's award-winning tragicomedy about a father's quest to save his son's life and innocence amid the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp, has died in Rome. He was 72.
Jon Richardson, the oldest son of Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and the former president of the team's stadium, has died at 53 after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Leonard Garment, a lawyer who was a friend and adviser to President Richard Nixon as the Watergate scandal unfolded and who urged him not to destroy tapes of his conversations, has died at age 89.
Lindy Hess, who ran a rigorous and influential publishing training program at Columbia University that helped many break into the book industry, has died from cancer. She was 63.
Bert Trautmann, a former German World War II prisoner of war who became Manchester City's goalkeeper and helped the team win the FA Cup despite a broken neck for the last 17 minutes of the 1956 final, has died, the German soccer federation said. He was 89.
In 2004, he was appointed an honorary Officer of the British Empire for his efforts to improve Anglo-German relations. He was also awarded the highest German decoration and once said his heart "beats for both countries."
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