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updated: 8/24/2013 4:39 PM

Notable deaths last week

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  • Paul Poberenzy, in the cockpit of his P-51.

      Paul Poberenzy, in the cockpit of his P-51.

  • Music promoter Sid Bernstein

      Music promoter Sid Bernstein

  • Author Elmore Leonard

      Author Elmore Leonard

 

He was the master of his genre, the Dickens of Detroit, the Chaucer of Crime.

Pretty much every novel Elmore Leonard wrote from the mid-1980s on was a best-seller, and every fan of crime stories knew his name. George Clooney was an admirer. So were Quentin Tarantino, Saul Bellow and Stephen King and millions of ordinary readers.

Leonard, who died Tuesday at age 87, helped achieve for crime writing what King did for horror and Ray Bradbury for science fiction. He made it hip, and he made it respectable.

Few writers so memorably traveled the low road. His more than 40 novels were peopled by pathetic schemers, clever conmen and casual killers. Each was characterized by moral ambivalence about crime, black humor and wickedly acute depictions of human nature: the greedy dreams of Armand Degas in "Killshot," the wisecracking cool of Chili Palmer in "Get Shorty," Jack Belmont's lust for notoriety in "The Hot Kid."

Leonard's novels and short stories were turned into dozens of feature films, TV movies and series, including the FX show "Justified," which stars Timothy Olyphant as one of Leonard's signature characters, the cool-under-pressure U.S. marshal Raylan Givens.

His first novel, "The Bounty Hunters," was published in 1953, and he wrote four more in the next eight years. One of them, "Hombre," about a white man raised by Apaches, was a breakthrough for the struggling young writer. When 20th Century Fox bought the rights for $10,000 in 1967, he quit the ad business to write full time.

Paul Poberezny, founder of the Experimental Aircraft Association, which draws tens of thousands of pilots to Wisconsin each year for a convention that includes one of the nation's largest air shows, has died after a fight with cancer. He was 91.

Poberezny championed amateur aircraft building, working with federal officials to get regular people the right to design, build and fly their own planes. As a result, more than 30,000 amateur-built aircraft are on the FAA registry, the EAA said.

Marian McPartland, a renowned jazz pianist and host of the National Public Radio show "Piano Jazz," has died, NPR said. She was 95.

On the air, she and her guests sat at separate pianos, reminiscing, ad-libbing, and playing duets and solos. She hosted hundreds of jazz professionals, including Ray Brown, Susannah McCorkle and Eddie Palmieri.

In 2007, the Kennedy Center named McPartland a Living Jazz Legend. Among her many recognitions, she was named an NEA Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2000.

Ronald L. Motley, a South Carolina lawyer who spearheaded lawsuits against tobacco companies that led them to agree to pay $246 billion in the biggest civil settlement in U.S. history, has died. He was 68.

Filmmakers hired actor Bruce McGill to portray Motley in the movie "The Insider," an account of tobacco scientist Jeffrey Wigand's decision to blow the whistle on the tobacco industry's knowledge about nicotine's addictiveness. The film starred Russell Crowe as Wigand and Al Pacino as a TV journalist who covered Wigand's story.

Lew Wood, who marched with Martin Luther King, covered John F. Kennedy's assassination and was a news anchor for NBC's "Today" show during a distinguished broadcast career that began with the dawn of television, has died at age 84.

He was perhaps best known as "Today's" third news anchor, succeeding Frank Blair in 1975. Although Blair had held the job for 22 years, Wood left after just a year, going into public relations. He stayed in that field until retiring in 2006.

C. Gordon Fullerton, a former astronaut who flew on two space shuttle missions and had an extensive career as a research and test pilot for NASA and the Air Force, has died at 76.

Before space shuttles were operational, Fullerton was a member of one of two crews that flew the shuttle prototype Enterprise in approach-and-landing tests conducted during 1977. Enterprise was released from the top of a modified Boeing 747 to glide down to the desert floor at Edwards.

Dean Meminger, the former Marquette guard who played a reserve role on the New York Knicks' 1973 NBA championship team, was found dead Friday in a Manhattan hotel room. He was 65.

Jim Brothers , a Kansas artist whose bronze sculptures are on display in the nation's capital and at historical monuments around the country, has died at 72.

Brothers is best known for two projects -- creating a sculpture of Dwight Eisenhower that's on display at the Capitol in Washington and as the chief sculptor for the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va., said Paul Dorrell, who represented Brothers and owns the Leopold Gallery in Kansas City. Dorrell said the D-Day contract, which included 12 monumental bronzes and was worth $1.6 million, had a "huge impact on his career."

Sid Bernstein, the misty-eyed music promoter who booked such top acts as Jimi Hendrix, Judy Garland and the Rolling Stones and hit the highest heights when he masterminded the Beatles' historic concerts at Shea Stadium and Carnegie Hall, has died at 95.

For decades, the squat, floppy-haired Bernstein excelled like few others at being everywhere and knowing everybody. He worked with Garland, Duke Ellington and Ray Charles, promoted Dion, Bobby Darin and Chubby Checker, and managed Esy Morales, the Rascals and Ornette Coleman. He was an early backer of ABBA, setting up the Swedish group's first American appearances. He was behind one of the first rock benefit shows, the 1970 "Winter Festival for Peace" at Madison Square Garden that featured Hendrix and Peter, Paul and Mary. And he helped revive Tony Bennett's career with a 1962 show at Carnegie Hall.

Cedar Walton, a pianist and composer who worked with almost every major jazz performer of his era, from John Coltrane to Art Blakey to Abbey Lincoln, and who was honored as a National Endowment for the Arts jazz master, has died at 79.

Furniture designer Charles Pollock, who created a chair that became ubiquitous in offices in the mid-20th century and is still in production, died Tuesday in a fire at his home. He was 83.

Thomas F. Pendergast, who ran a small town East Texas newspaper following a nearly 30-year career with The Associated Press, has died. He was 81.

Beatrice Kozera, the Los Angeles-born woman whose fleeting relationship with novelist Jack Kerouac was chronicled in "On the Road," has died. She was 92.

John J. "Tinker" Connelly, who coached Northeastern baseball for 26 years and led the Huskies to the 1966 College World Series, has died. He was 85.

Albert Murray, the influential novelist and critic who celebrated black culture, scorned black separatism and was once praised by Duke Ellington as the "unsquarest man I know," has died. He was 97.

Lee Thompson Young, who began his acting career as the teenage star of the Disney Channel's "The Famous Jett Jackson" and was featured in the film "Friday Night Lights" and the series "Rizzoli & Isles," was found dead Monday, police said. He was 29.

There was no official cause of death, but Young's manager, Paul Baruch, said the actor "tragically took his own life."

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