In this undated photo released by her son Brandon James showing Jeanne Carmen, a 1950s pinup girl, B-movie actress and trick-shot golfer who hobnobbed with Frank Sinatra and other stars, has died.



Dec. 28, 2007, 11:14PM

IRVINE, Calif. — Jeanne Carmen, the “little country girl” who became a 1950s pinup and actress and hobnobbed with Frank Sinatra and other stars, has died. She was 77.Carmen died of lymphoma Thursday at her Orange County home, said her son, Brandon James.

Born on Aug. 4, 1930, in Paragould, Ark., Carmen picked cotton with her family before running away at 13.

“I was just a little country girl that wanted to be a movie star,” she told the Orange County Register in 1996.

Carmen was still a teenager when she came to New York and, despite having no show business experience, immediately became a dancer in a Broadway show called Burlesque, with comic Burt Lahr.

She later went into modeling, gaining a measure of success with a series of cheesecake shots in men’s magazines. One gig turned into a new career as a trick golfer. On tour with golfer Jack Redmond, she would perform stunts such as hitting a ball out of a man’s mouth.

Carmen claimed that she later hustled golfers with Las Vegas mobster Johnny Roselli.

She came to Hollywood while still in her 20s, where she appeared in low-budget movies with such titles as Guns Don’t Argue and The Monster of Piedras Blancas.

Carmen also claimed to have had affairs with Sinatra and other celebrities.

She moved to Orange County in 1978.

In addition to her son, Carmen is survived by daughters Melinda Belli and Kellee Jade Campo, and three grandchildren.


Billy Pugh, an inventor whose safety nets were used to pluck Apollo astronauts from the ocean on their return to Earth, was 83.



Dec. 28, 2007, 12:35AM

CORPUS CHRISTI — Billy Pugh, an inventor whose safety nets were used to pluck Apollo astronauts from the ocean on their return to Earth, has died. He was 83.Pugh, who died Wednesday of prostate cancer, developed the “Billy Pugh Net” in 1955 to make it safer to transfer workers between boats and offshore oil rigs and platforms.

Pugh became internationally known when his net was used by NASA to pick up astronauts after splashdown.

But friends said Pugh was one of the most humble people they’d ever met.

“He never talked about who he was but was always making sure people he was close to were taken care of and comfortable,” said Marcy Rodriguez, who’d known Pugh for about 17 years.

He is survived by his wife, Linda.


Folk guitarist Lydia Mendoza is seen in her San Antonio home in 2001.



Dec. 31, 2007, 12:56AM

Lydia Mendoza, an early star of Mexican-American music whose passionate, despairing songs about working-class life on both sides of the border made her a trailblazer for the Tejano genre, has died. She was 91.Mendoza, whose singing career spanned more than 60 years, died Dec. 20 of natural causes at Nix Medical Center in San Antonio, according to media reports.

Texas Monthly magazine called her the “greatest Mexican-American female performer ever to grace a stage” in a 1999 story that named her “the voice of the century” in Texas.

The words for her first, and most enduring, hit came from her girlhood collection of gum wrappers that contained song lyrics. She put the words from one wrapper to a tune she had heard in concert in Mexico and first performed Mal Hombre (Evil Man), a song about false-hearted lovers, when she was 10.

“People say I’m the mother of Tejano music,” Mendoza told The Chicago Tribune in 1996, “but I don’t think I even heard the word, knew what it was, until many years after I started.”

She performed at the inauguration of President Carter, and in 1999 received a National Medal of Arts, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the field. At the White House medal ceremony, President Clinton praised her for bridging “the gap between generations and cultures.”

She was born May 12, 1916, in Houston to Francisco and Leonor Mendoza. Her family came from northern Mexico, and she and several siblings grew up moving between Monterrey, Mexico, and South Texas.

In the early 1930s, the family often played for tips at an outdoor market in San Antonio, where the host of a local radio show heard Mendoza sing. Her music was soon on the radio.

Although her status as an idol had peaked during the 1950s, Mendoza continued recording and touring solo until a series of strokes forced her to retire in 1988.

After her husband died in 1961, she married Fred Martinez in 1964.They moved to Houston, where she often performed in small nightclubs.

Mendoza is survived by a daughter, Yolanda Hernandez.


Dec. 31, 2007, 12:37AM

Years after his World War II service, he became a NASA engineer

Victor Lloyd Ettredge, a bomber pilot who survived a German prisoner of war camp and later went on to a successful engineering career at NASA, died Dec. 26 of prostate cancer. He was 83.Ettredge’s B-17 was shot down in the waning days of World War II and he spent several months in POW camps, including time at Buchenwald, which doubled as a notorious concentration camp.

“He never really talked about it, but that had such an impact on his later life,” said his wife, Marjorie. “It kept coming back to him.”

Ettredge rejoined the Air Force in 1949 after getting his bachelor’s degree in geology and geophysics at the University of Texas. While in the military, he earned a master’s degree in mathematics from Stanford University and completed the graduate electronics engineering program at the Air Force Institute of Technology.

He was assigned to the Johnson Space Center in 1964 and retired from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel three years later.

“I just hired him right out of the Air Force and into NASA,” said longtime friend Richard Moke. “Vic was brilliant, absolutely brilliant, but very humble. He did not look for any credit, and did not talk very much about himself. On top of everything, he was extremely dependable.”

Grew fruits and vegetables

Ettredge was one of a small corps of engineers who managed scientific payloads for various spacecraft, starting with the two-man Gemini capsule and ending with the space shuttle. He oversaw the geological tools used for experiments on the lunar surface, as well as a number of satellite deployments for the shuttle.Ettredge retired from the space agency in 1986 and moved to the East Texas town of San Augustine, where he grew fruit trees and vegetables. When his illness grew worse, he moved to Giddings to be closer to his children.

“His father had been a farmer at one time, and that’s what brought him back,” Marjorie Ettredge said. “He didn’t want to make money from it, he just loved doing it. There’s not much to do in East Texas.”

Ettredge was born in 1924 near Shreveport, La. His father, a sharecropper, went to work in the oil fields and moved the family to Edna. Ettredge remained there working on oil rigs when his family moved away.

“They were very, very poor,” his wife said. “To hear him tell the tales of how poor they were would make you cry. It was pretty hard times.”

The impoverished childhood made a lasting impression on his life, his wife said. He was determined to get an education, learned how to manage money and did not believe in credit.

Ettredge joined the Army Air Force in 1942 and piloted B-17 missions over Europe before being shot down in early 1945.

He managed to escape a POW camp as Allied troops approached.

Though a pilot, Ettredge became an expert marksman and participated on Air Force shooting teams. He also was an excellent fisherman.

‘We became best of friends’

Daughter Leslie Ettredge said her father was a natural storyteller and had a great sense of humor, with a dry, cutting wit.”He was always fun to be around,” she said. “And he was a good father. He was always there to protect us and direct us and correct us — even into adulthood. In later years, he let go of some of that and let us take care of ourselves, and we became the best of friends.”

Besides his wife, Ettredge is survived by his son, Michael Ettredge; daughters Gail Ettredge, Alison Ettredge and Leslie Ettredge; stepdaughter Faith Freeman Johnson; and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his first wife, Estelle Noble Ettredge.

Services will be at 10:30 Thursday at St. James Episcopal Church in La Grange. A celebration of his life will follow at his Giddings home.


Jan. 1, 2008, 10:25PM

Arda Joseph “A.J.” Roy Jr., who left North Dakota for the skies above Texas, devoting most of his career to NASA, died on Friday. He was 78.Born in Minot, N.D., Roy joined the U.S. Air Force shortly after graduating from St. John High School in St. John, N.D. He earned his pilot’s wings in 1953 and left the Air Force three years later.

While earning his civil engineering bachelor’s degree at North Dakota State University, he served in the North Dakota Air National Guard, where he joined the 119th Wing, also known as the “Happy Hooligans.”

“I think they were a bunch of hard-charging guys,” said family friend Frank Marlow of the unit’s nickname.

Roy graduated in 1961, and for the next two years he worked as a test pilot for the Northrop Corporation before leaving there to join a relatively new agency called NASA at what is now the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

“He never worked a day as a civil engineer,” recalled Diane Roy, his wife of 54 years.

When Roy arrived in 1963, he first worked as a space capsule communicator, or “capcom,” said Marlow.

“They wanted people who could operate a radio” and communicate with NASA pilots and astronauts, said Marlow.

Roy also worked as a research pilot and worked on the Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle programs until his retirement in 1998.

He also served with the Texas Air National Guard in the 147th Fighter Interceptor Group at Ellington Air Force Base, retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

“He was an interesting guy, a good pilot,” said Marlow, who met Roy when he joined NASA in 1969, 13 days before NASA’s first moon landing.

Roy is survived by his wife, Diane, a daughter and three sons, four grandchildren, a sister, stepmother and other relatives.

His wife said Roy loved flying, his dogs, hunting and fishing.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at Webster Presbyterian Church.

A private burial service will be held at Houston National Cemetery.


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  1. Pingback: » Blog Archive » The Queen Of Tejano Music (& Family)

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