MILLVINA DEAN, TITANIC’S LAST SURVIVOR
Published: May 31, 2009
LONDON — Millvina Dean, who as an infant passenger aboard the Titanic was lowered into a lifeboat in a canvas mail sack and lived to become the ship’s last survivor, died Sunday at a nursing home in Southampton, the English port from which the Titanic embarked on its fateful voyage, according to staff at the home.
Jonathan Player for The New York Times
Millvina Dean, the last survivor of the sinking of the Titanic, in her room at a nursing home in southern England in May.
She was 97 and had been in poor health for several weeks.
The youngest of the ship’s 705 survivors, Ms. Dean was only 9 weeks old when the Titanic hit an iceberg in waters off Newfoundland on the night of April 14, 1912, setting off what was then considered the greatest maritime disaster in history.
She survived with her mother, Georgetta, and 2-year-old brother when they, like many other survivors, were picked up by the liner Carpathia and taken to New York.
Her father, Bertram Dean, was among more than 1,500 passengers and crew members who died in the sinking, a fact that Ms. Dean, in an interview at the Southampton nursing home last month, attributed partly to the fact that the Dean family was traveling in third class, or steerage, as the cheapest form of passage was known.
Some versions of the disaster have contended that the crew was under orders to give priority aboard lifeboats to first- and second-class passengers, and even that doors were kept locked that would have given people in steerage faster access to the lifeboats through parts of the ship dedicated to higher-paying passengers. Though these assertions have been disputed, Ms. Dean said that she believed them to be true, and that her father might otherwise have survived.
“It couldn’t happen nowadays, and it’s so wrong, so unjust,” she said, emphasizing her point with a line from a Rudyard Kipling
poem about class distinctions in the British Army in colonial India: “What do they say? ‘Judy O’Grady and the colonel’s lady are sisters under the skin.’ That’s the way it should have been that night, but it wasn’t.”
Mr. Dean, 29, who had been running a pub in London, was taking his family to a new life in Kansas City, Mo., where a cousin who immigrated before him had helped buy a tobacconist’s shop that Mr. Dean planned to run. But with the family breadwinner gone, his widow spent only a week in New York before returning with her children to England.
Millvina Dean — a name she used throughout her life, though she was christened Elizabeth Gladys Dean — spent her early years on a farm owned by her grandfather, a Southampton veterinarian.
She never married and spent her working life as an assistant and secretary in small businesses in Southampton. Among other jobs, she worked at a greyhound racing track and, during World War II, in the British government’s map-making office. For more than 20 years, until she retired, she worked in an engineering office.
The celebrity that came from being part of the disaster, and eventually living almost a century beyond it, was something she always had trouble grasping. She told visitors in later years that she was “such an ordinary person” that she found it surprising that anybody took much interest in her.
In the nursing home interview, she said that for decades after the sinking, she never spoke of it or her part in it to people she met or worked with. She said she had not thought it appropriate, partly because she remembered nothing about it and partly because she did not want to be seen as drawing attention to herself.
But that changed, she said, after Sept. 1, 1985, when a joint French-American team located the wreck of the Titanic, in water more than 2 miles deep, 370 miles east of Mistaken Point, Newfoundland. That set off a wave of interest in the ship and its fate that crested in 1996 with James Cameron
’s blockbuster movie “Titanic,” starring Kate Winslet
and Leonardo DiCaprio
“Nobody knew about me and the Titanic, to be honest, nobody took any interest, so I took no interest either,” she said. “But then they found the wreck, and after they found the wreck, they found me.”
In the last 20 years of her life, she went to gatherings in the United States, Canada and a handful of European countries to participate in events related to the sinking.
Ms. Dean said all she knew of what happened during the sinking she had learned from her mother: “She told me that they heard a tremendous crash, and that my father went up on deck, then came back down again and said, ‘Get the children up and take them to the deck as soon as possible, because the ship has struck an iceberg.’ ”
On deck, mother and daughter were separated from father and son, and it was only at daylight, hours after they boarded the Carpathia, that she and her mother were reunited with her brother, Bertram Vere Dean. A carpenter, he died in 1997.
After failing health forced her to move to the nursing home, Ms. Dean, struggling to pay the residential cost of nearly $5,000 a month, began selling her Titanic mementos at auction, including a canvas mailbag that her mother used to carry the few belongings the family acquired during its week in New York.
She had hoped that the mailbag would prove to be the one used to lower her into the lifeboat, but when experts decided it was not, it brought only £1,500, about $2,400.
“Such a pity,” Ms. Dean said in the interview, with a quick smile. “If it had been the mailbag they used for me, it would have been £100,000!”
In recent weeks, news accounts of her plight caught the attention of Ms. Winslet and Mr. DiCaprio, and they, together with Mr. Cameron, contributed to the Millvina Fund, set up to meet the nursing home costs.
Ms. Dean died, on the 98th anniversary of the ship’s launching, without ever having seen the movie, which she attributed to reluctance to be reminded of what happened to her father. “It would have made me think, did he jump overboard or did he go down with the ship?’” she said. “I would have been very emotional.”
As for her own survival, she said that as a “very down-to-earth person,” she had little time for the metaphysical speculations urged on her over the years about why fate, or divine providence, had chosen her to survive the sinking as an infant, then allowed her to outlive everyone else who escaped.
“Heaven and hell — how can you believe in something up in the sky?” she said. Then, smiling again, she added, “Still, I’d love to be proved wrong.”
She was the last of her generation. The last of those who made it off the RMS Titanic before it sank on its maiden voyage.
Ms. Dean’s passing ends the earthly presence of those who survived the Titanic that freezing cold night when she struck an iceberg, but, Millvina’s essence, and the Titanic’s, will never end.
Rest in peace, Millvina.
Rest in peace.
RONALD TAKAKI, A SCHOLAR ON ETHNICITY
Published: May 30, 2009
Ronald Takaki, who made it his life’s work to rewrite American history to include Asian-Americans and other ethnic groups excluded from traditional accounts and who helped start the first doctoral program in ethnic studies in the United States, died Tuesday in his home in Berkeley, Calif. He was 70.
University of California, Berkeley
The cause was suicide, said his son Troy. He battled multiple sclerosis for years. “He struggled, and then he gave up,” his son said.
Mr. Takaki, whose Japanese grandfather immigrated to Hawaii in the 19th century and worked on a sugarcane plantation, became a leading scholar of ethnicity and multiculturalism in works that challenged ethnic stereotypes and chronicled struggles of non-European immigrants.
His works like “A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America” (1993) became seminal texts in emerging fields that he helped institutionalize by establishing a doctoral program in ethnic studies in 1984 at the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught for 30 years.
Don T. Nakanishi, the director of the Asian American Studies Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, told the Berkeley Web site: “Ron Takaki elevated and popularized the study of America’s multiracial past and present like no other scholar, and in doing so had an indelible impact on a generation of students and researchers across the nation and world.”
Ronald Toshiyuki Takaki was born in Honolulu and, in his youth, spent most of his time surfing. On the beach, he was known as Ten-Toes Takaki for his hang-ten style.
He found his vocation while earning a bachelor’s degree in history at the College of Wooster in Ohio. While in Ohio he married Carol Rankin, who survives him. Besides his son Troy, of Los Angeles, he is also survived by another son, Todd, of El Cerrito, Calif.; a daughter, Dana Takaki of Chester, Conn.; a brother, Michael Young of Thousand Oaks, Calif.; a sister, Janet Wong of Chatsworth, Calif.; and seven grandchildren.
He continued his education at Berkeley, where he earned a master’s degree in 1962 and a doctorate in history in 1967. He was deeply influenced by the Free Speech movement at the university and by the civil rights struggles in the South. “I was born intellectually and politically in Berkeley in the ’60s,” he told The San Francisco Chronicle
He wrote a dissertation on slavery in the United States and returned to the subject in his first book, published in 1971, “A Pro-Slavery Crusade: The Agitation to Reopen the African Slave Trade.”
At U.C.L.A., Mr. Takaki taught the university’s first black-history course, created in response to the Watts riots. When a student asked what revolutionary tools he would be teaching, Mr. Takaki said: “We’re going to strengthen our critical thinking and our writing skills. These can be revolutionary tools if we make them so.”
In 1971 he became the first full-time teacher in Berkeley’s new ethnic studies department, where he taught a highly influential survey course that took a comparative approach in describing racism as experienced by different ethnic groups in the United States. In addition to helping establish the graduate program in ethnic studies, he helped put in place the requirement that all undergraduates take a course intended to broaden their understanding of racial and ethnic diversity. He retired in 2003.
His many books include “Iron Cages: Race and Culture in 19th-Century America” (1979), “Strangers From a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans” (1989), “Democracy and Race: Asian Americans and World War II” (1995) and “Double Victory: A Multicultural History of America in World War II” (2000).
FRANKLIN LITTELL, SCHOLAR OF HOLOCAUST
Published: May 30, 2009
Franklin H. Littell, a father of Holocaust studies who traced his engagement with the subject to the revulsion he felt as a young Methodist minister while witnessing a big Nazi rally in Nuremberg in 1939, died last Saturday at his home in Merion Station, Pa., outside Philadelphia. He was 91.
Dith Pran/The New York Times
Franklin H. Littell, left, Methodist minister and supporter of Israel, with Menachem Begin, the Israeli prime minister, in 1981.
His wife, Marcia Sachs Littell, announced the death.
Dr. Littell (pronounced lih-TELL), the author of more than two dozen scholarly books and a thousand articles, was among the first intellectuals to delve into the question of how baptized Christians in the heart of Christian Europe could have either killed or ignored the killing of six million Jews. A big part of the answer, as he found it, was that Christians from the time of Jesus on had shown systematic contempt for Jews and their beliefs.
Hubert G. Locke, a leading Holocaust scholar and former dean of the Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington
, said in an interview on Wednesday that Dr. Littell had had “singular influence” in turning a focus on these ancient prejudices as the basis for the Holocaust.
Another Holocaust scholar, John K. Roth, emeritus professor of philosophy at Claremont McKenna College, said Dr. Littell had “helped to turn the tide on the awareness of Christian complicity, shortcoming, indifference in the face of what was happening to Jews under Hitler
For more than a decade after the end of World War II, the Holocaust was studied and publicly discussed sparsely; the common wisdom was that survivors needed time to heal. But by the 1960s, attention to it was starting to grow with the publication of books like Elie Wiesel
’s “Night,” the trial of Adolph Eichmann and other efforts to collect testimony of survivors.
It was around then that academic programs on the Holocaust were pioneered by Dr. Littell. At Emory University
in 1959, he started the first graduate seminar on the Holocaust, preceding what are believed to have been the first undergraduate courses on it, in 1960 at Brandeis and in 1961 at Brooklyn College
. In 1970, with Dr. Locke, he set up one of the first annual scholarly conferences on the Holocaust, a forum that continues today.
In 1976, at Temple University
, he began the first doctoral program in Holocaust studies. And in 1998, he and his wife established the first interdisciplinary master’s degree program in Holocaust studies, at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.
“When Franklin Littell started his work, it was almost the case that there was no such thing as Holocaust studies as a field,” Dr. Roth said. Now hundreds of colleges offer courses on the Holocaust, and many states require public schools to teach about it.
Dr. Littell also became an enthusiastic supporter of Israel, in part because he believed that its very existence refuted theologies that foresaw or favored the withering away of the Jewish people. He rejected the theology of some Christian backers of Israel that Jews must ultimately become Christian, Marcia Littell said.
Soon after the Six-Day War, of June 1967, Dr. Littell started an organization called Christians Concerned for Israel, to promote a pro-Israeli spirit in Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant churches. In 1978, he founded the National Christian Leadership Conference for Israel, which lobbied against arms sales to Arab nations and campaigned against the United Nations
resolution, adopted in 1975 and since repealed, that described Zionism as racism.
Franklin Hamlin Littell was born on June 20, 1917, in Syracuse, graduated from Cornell
College in Iowa and earned a divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary. Afterward he visited Germany on the way to a religion conference for young people in Amsterdam.
It was then that he attended the Nuremberg rally, out of curiosity. Later in life, he recalled having been appalled by its open racism and its religious glorification of Aryans. When Hitler made an almost godlike appearance, bathed in a halo of lights, Mr. Littell was so repelled, he remembered, that he had to leave.
Mr. Littell later earned a doctorate in theology from Yale
and, after teaching at the University of Michigan
, joined the United States high commissioner in occupied Germany as the Protestant adviser on de-Nazification.
In 1966, he founded the Institute for American Democracy to fight political extremists. It was attacked by far-right groups, and a window of his home was shot out.
In 1969, Dr. Littell published a book on political extremism, “Wild Tongues: A Handbook of Social Pathology,” in which he accused the prominent conservative author and columnist William F. Buckley Jr.
of being a “fellow traveler” of fascism. Mr. Buckley sued for libel and won.
Dr. Littell’s first wife, the former Harriet Lewis, died in 1978. In addition to Marcia Sachs Littell, he is survived by three daughters from his first marriage, Jeannie Lawrence, Karen Littell and Miriam Littell; a son from that marriage, Stephen; his stepsons, Jonathan Sachs and Robert L. Sachs Jr.; his stepdaughter, Jennifer Sachs Dahnert; 11 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
Over his long career, Dr. Littell was also president of Iowa Wesleyan College and a founding board member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, in Washington.
His best-known book was “The Crucifixion of the Jews” (1975), in which he pressed his view that Christianity is essentially Jewish. Jesus, Paul and Peter, Dr. Littell said, would have been executed at Auschwitz.
The cause was complications of a stroke and a lung problem, his brother Kernst told The Associated Press.
Father Gerry, as he was often called, came to prominence in the late 1970s as director of the Haitian Refugee Center in Miami, where he became a vocal advocate of Haitians seeking asylum in the United States. Through demonstrations and legal action, he fought tirelessly to force the United States government to change its policy of regarding Haitians as economic rather than political refugees, in sharp contrast to its policy toward Cubans.
After decades spent in exile from the governments of François Duvalier and his son, Jean-Claude, he returned to Haiti in 1991 when Mr. Aristide was elected president, taking the post of minister representing Haitians abroad. His fearless criticism of the government installed to replace Mr. Aristide, and his work for the poor at the Church of Ste. Claire, in Delmas, a suburb of the capital, Port-au-Prince, made him one of Haiti’s most popular political figures.
Father Jean-Juste (pronounced zhahn-ZHOOST) was born in Cavaillon, Haiti, and studied for the priesthood in Canada. In 1971 he became the first Haitian ordained in the United States in a ceremony at the Church of St. Avila in Brooklyn, where he was a deacon. He then returned to Haiti and worked in a remote parish. An adherent of liberation theology, he regarded political activity and service to the poor as his priestly mission.
He left for the United States in 1971 after refusing to sign an oath of loyalty to the government of Jean-Claude Duvalier. While living and working at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, he earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology from Northeastern University
in 1974 and a second bachelor’s in civil engineering from Northeastern in 1977.
In the 1970s, facing political turmoil and grinding poverty, thousands of desperate Haitians sought asylum and economic opportunity in the United States, where they were put into detention centers and, in all but a small number of cases, sent back to Haiti. Father Jean-Juste helped found the Haitian Refugee Center to help refugees, protest government immigration
laws and fight local discrimination. He was often seen, bullhorn in hand, at the head of street demonstrations.
“Haitian people had no rights in Haiti, and they have no rights here,” he told The Miami Herald in 1980. “They are starving, they are being separated from their families, they cannot work.”
Marleine Bastien, executive director of the nonprofit organization Haitian Women of Miami, told The Associated Press: “We were out in the streets, demonstrating nearly every day on behalf of other Haitian immigrants. I can still in my mind’s eye see him lying on the ground when buses were taking refugees without process — lying there in the path of the buses.”
Father Jean-Juste also incurred the wrath of the archdiocese of Miami by conducting funeral services for non-Catholic Haitians who drowned at sea and by picketing Archbishop Edward McCarthy of Miami, who he said was a racist failing to defend the rights of Haitian refugees.
“When he first came to the Haitian Refugee Center, most of the church agencies wanted to treat the Haitian refugee issue as one of charity,” Jack Lieberman, a founder of the refugee center, told New Times, a Miami newspaper, in 2005. “Jean-Juste pointed out that there was an injustice.”
In 1980 the center won an important victory when a district court, ruling that the Immigration and Naturalization Service had committed “wholesale violations of due process” and shown racial bias in ordering mass deportations of refugees, ordered that new hearings be held for the more than 4,000 Haitian refugees represented in the class-action suit brought by the center and other organizations.
Father Jean-Juste’s return to Haiti in 1991 plunged him into the country’s turbulent politics.
When Mr. Aristide was ousted by a military coup after seven months in office, Father Jean-Juste went into hiding for three years, resurfacing when Mr. Aristide returned to the presidency in 1994. He resumed his work as a rector at the Church of Ste. Claire, in the Delmas district of Port-au-Prince, where he operated a soup kitchen to feed the poor.
After Mr. Aristide was deposed a second time, in 2004, by a rebellion, Father Jean-Juste became a target of the interim government, which arrested and imprisoned him twice. After his second arrest, in July 2005, he faced charges of involvement in the death of Jacques Roche, a journalist.
By then, he was being put forward as a candidate himself, and the murder charges, universally regarded as politically motivated, caused an international outcry from human rights organizations. After several months, the main charges were dropped, but he was indicted on lesser charges of weapons possession and criminal conspiracy. While he was imprisoned, his supporters tried to register him as a candidate for the 2006 presidential elections, a move that was blocked by the government.
In December 2005 Father Saint-Juste discovered that he had leukemia, and in early 2006 he was released from prison to seek treatment in a Miami hospital. In November 2007 he appeared before an appeals court in Haiti to answer remaining charges against him.
Questioned about weapons, he told the judge, “My rosary is my only weapon.”
Eventually all charges against him were dropped.
THOMAS MINTER, NEW YORK AND FEDERAL EDUCATION OFFICIAL
Published: May 26, 2009
Thomas K. Minter, who after serving as one of the first top officials in the new federal Education Department
in 1980 lost a politicized, racially charged campaign to head New York City’s schools, died on Friday in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. He was 84.
Stanley Seligson/Lehman College
Thomas K. Minter
The cause was complications of Alzheimer’s disease, said his wife, Rae Alexander-Minter.
After Frank J. Macchiarola
resigned as chancellor of New York’s schools in January 1983, Dr. Minter, who was then deputy chancellor and had a doctorate in education from Harvard, became a leading candidate for the job. Supporters included white, black and Hispanic politicians, as well as Catholic New York, the newspaper published by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, which emphasized both his experience and race, saying that being black was “a not inconsequential factor in a school system with a minority enrollment approaching 75 percent.”
But Mayor Edward I. Koch
preferred one of his deputy mayors, Robert F. Wagner Jr., for the post. Under the system then in effect, the mayor appointed two of the seven members of the Board of Education, with the five borough presidents each appointing one. Mayor Koch used votes and influence to win approval of Mr. Wagner’s appointment.
Mr. Minter’s supporters contended that they wanted Dr. Minter for his experience alone. In an interview with The New York Times, Mr. Koch dismissed this argument, saying, “Do you believe that story?”
Many did. Roger L. Green
, a Democratic assemblyman from Brooklyn, said: “Those of us who have traveled some 400 years over the obstacle of racial justice know only too well that when some people speak of standards, they mean double standards.”
Then the state education commissioner ruled that Mr. Wagner, who had no doctorate, lacked sufficient educational qualifications. With his supporters again pushing his candidacy, Dr. Minter became one of four finalists for the job, but the board chose Anthony J. Alvarado, a respected district superintendent in largely Hispanic East Harlem.
Dr. Minter resigned as deputy chancellor in May 1983. In a speech to black educators the next month, he said: “Your educational credentials are important, but even when you’re prepared for top jobs, the game can change. That’s the political factor — public or private sector, party politics or company politics.”
One outcome of the campaign for Dr. Minter was the Coalition for a Just New York, formed to mobilize minority voters. The group claimed responsibility for influencing Mr. Koch to name the city’s first black police commissioner, Benjamin Ward, in December 1983. Mr. Koch denied that race played any role in Mr. Ward’s appointment, but Kenneth Lipper, his deputy mayor, told The Times, “I thought we should make a real effort to find a black of quality and merit, and the mayor and I turned out to be on the same wavelength.”
Thomas Kendall Minter was born in the Bronx on June 28, 1924, and grew up in East Harlem. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from New York University
, and a master’s in sacred music from Union Theological Seminary. He taught at junior and senior high schools in East Harlem and at what is now Bowie State University in Maryland.
In the late 1960s, he worked toward his doctorate at Harvard; he received his Ph.D. in 1971. He joined the Philadelphia school system and rose to district superintendent.
In 1975, Dr. Minter became superintendent of the Wilmington, Del., school system and helped put into effect a court-ordered desegregation plan that required busing across district lines between the city and suburbs.
“This isn’t just a Wilmington matter,” Dr. Minter said in an interview with The Times in 1976. “It’s national need. It goes right to the fabric of the society.
“There’s going to be some tough times, but out of those tough times comes change — and that’s what this is all about: change.”
In 1977, Joseph A. Califano Jr.
, the federal secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, appointed Dr. Minter deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Elementary and Secondary Education. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter
named him the first assistant secretary of elementary and secondary education in the new Department of Education.
After overseeing all instruction in New York City schools as deputy chancellor, Dr. Minter held high posts for 12 years at Lehman College
in the Bronx and briefly was president of York College in South Jamaica, Queens, in 1995.
His first wife, Sara Prettyman, died in 1962. In addition to his wife of 38 years, the former Rae Alexander, Dr. Minter is survived by their son, Thomas Jr.; and his brother, William.
Dr. Alexander-Minter told a story she said she had always kept secret. She said she had heard Meade H. Esposito, the Brooklyn Democratic boss, tell Dr. Minter he would guarantee him the chancellorship in return for his helping Mr. Esposito’s organization.
“My husband said, ‘Absolutely no,’ ” she said.
AMOS ELON, ISRAELI AUTHOR
Published: May 25, 2009
JERUSALEM — Amos Elon, an Israeli essayist and author who examined his society’s flaws and myths, explored some of its greatest figures and became for many years its most renowned public intellectual, died Monday in Italy, where he had made his home since 2004. He was 82.
Amos Elon in the mid-1980s.
His wife, Beth, said the cause was leukemia.
The author of nine books, Mr. Elon rose to international fame in the early 1970s after the publication of “The Israelis: Founders and Sons,” an affectionate but unsparing portrait of early Zionists. Israel
’s founders, he argued, had failed to properly acknowledge the people living on the land that the Zionists had come to reclaim. They had embarked on “a national and social renaissance in their ancient homeland,” he wrote, but “were blind to the possibility that the Arabs of Palestine
might entertain similar hopes for themselves.”
Such a critique is fairly common today, even in Israel, but it was rare then, particularly coming from the pen of an Israeli. Mr. Elon’s ability to step outside his society’s heroic narrative and present uncomfortable facts and perspectives in learned yet accessible prose set him apart. Appearing just as Palestinian nationalism was beginning to assert itself, the book fell on fertile ground.
At the time a correspondent and columnist for Haaretz, the liberal Israeli daily newspaper, Mr. Elon found his work on international best-seller lists and his thoughts in demand from European and American broadcasters. He left the newspaper (returning some years later before leaving again) and devoted himself to his books and to writing essays, some appearing in The New Yorker
, The New York Times Magazine and especially The New York Review of Books.
A trim man with straight hair, a smooth face and unforgiving eyes framed by large horn-rimmed glasses, Mr. Elon had a severity of manner and, having been born in Vienna, a deep attachment to German culture. Widely admired, he was not an easy man to love. As Ari Shavit, a writer for Haaretz, said of him in the introduction to an interview with Mr. Elon in 2004
, “a devotee of human rights but not overflowing with brotherly love.”
Mr. Elon was born in 1926 and moved with his family to Palestine in 1933. He studied law and history at Hebrew University and Cambridge. By the 1940s he was a member of the prestate Tel Aviv intelligentsia.
Hired by Haaretz, he rose quickly at the paper in the 1950s by focusing on topics others neglected — notably on what he termed “the second Israel,” meaning the poor Middle Eastern Jewish immigrants often overlooked by the country’s European founders. In short order the newspaper sent him to Paris as its correspondent, then to Bonn and later to Washington, where he met his American-born wife, Beth. They have one daughter, Danae Elon
, a documentary filmmaker who lives in New York. He is also survived by a sister, Chaya Matarasso of Israel.
Fluent in German, Hebrew and English, Mr. Elon wrote for publication in all three, offering fresh perspectives not only on Israel, but also on its perceptions of the outside world and on European culture.
Tom Segev, who followed in Mr. Elon’s footsteps by becoming a Haaretz columnist and an iconoclastic best-selling writer of books that came to be called “new history,” said Mr. Elon’s book on Germany, “Journey Through a Haunted Land: The New Germany” (1967), was as much of a shocker to many Israelis as his books on Israel because it portrayed a vibrant, self-questioning society to readers who tended to see it only through its Nazi past.
His most recent book, “The Pity of It All,”
published in 2002, was a portrait of German Jewry from the mid-18th century until the rise of Hitler
. German Jews are known in Israel as yekkes, a Yiddish term of derision and affection that suggests punctiliousness and a touch of cultural snobbishness, and coming from that world, Mr. Elon said, he wanted to set the record straight and write of its depth and richness.
“They were really the first free Jews. And the first Europeans,” he told Haaretz in the 2004 interview. “And they built a civil society and believed obsessively in Bildung, which is self-improvement through the fostering of social concerns.”
An earlier book was a penetrating but admiring biography of Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism.
Mr. Elon owned a house in Italy, and five years ago he moved there permanently, selling his Jerusalem apartment and prompting a debate in Israel on what it meant that a cultural giant and social critic could simply leave.
“The move smacked of a man saying, in effect, ‘I am withdrawing to civilized Tuscany,’ ” said Amnon Rubinstein, a law professor, author and former government minister. “There was a feeling that he felt he no longer belonged.”
In the Haaretz interview, Mr. Elon said he had grown weary and angry at what he considered the growing influence of religion and a heightened focus on military power in Israel, especially after the capture of the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 war.
Asked if he felt alienation, he replied: “Not alienation. Disappointment.”
As to whether he missed the story he had written about so forcefully, Mr. Elon said he took comfort from the Tuscan landscape: “It’s so beautiful that it melts your heart. So in the few years I have left, I want to look at this view most of the days of the year. On the other days, I’ll come to Israel and get mad.”
JAY BENNETT, FORMER MEMBER OF ROCK BAND WILCO
Published: May 25, 2009
Jay Bennett, a singer and songwriter who was a former member of the rock band Wilco
, died on Sunday in Urbana, Ill. He was 45 and lived in Urbana.
Jay Bennett in 1999.
The cause is still unknown. Representatives of his management company, Undertow Music Collective, said he died in his sleep. Edward Burch, a friend and collaborator, told The Chicago Sun-Times that an autopsy was being done. No information about survivors was available.
Last month Mr. Bennett complained on his MySpace
page about severe pains in his hip. He needed hip-replacement surgery, he said, but did not have proper health insurance.
A burly, dreadlocked figure with a cracking, plaintive rasp, Mr. Bennett played in the Replacements-influenced power-pop band Titanic Love Affair during the 1990s, and released four solo albums. But he is best known for his role in Wilco, the Chicago band that expanded the earthy, folk-influenced sound of the alt-country genre with more abstract, experimental rock.
Mr. Bennett joined Wilco in 1994, shortly after the recording of the band’s first album, “A.M.,” which was released the next year. Beginning with “Being There” in 1996, he played keyboards, guitar and various other instruments, and gradually his role grew. With “Summerteeth” in 1999 and “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” released in 2002, Mr. Bennett became a key part of the band’s songwriting, often as a darker foil to the more fragile style of the lead singer, Jeff Tweedy. A perfectionist in the studio, Mr. Bennett took an active hand in the recording process.
He also played on “Mermaid Avenue,” the band’s Grammy
-nominated 1998 project with Billy Bragg, which set unpublished lyrics by Woody Guthrie
to music, as well as on its sequel, “Mermaid Avenue II,” in 2000.
But as documented in “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” a 2002 film about the recording of “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” and the band’s extended struggle with its record company, Mr. Bennett and Mr. Tweedy frequently clashed in the studio, as Mr. Bennett bristled over the band’s increasingly noisy direction.
Mr. Tweedy fired Mr. Bennett from Wilco shortly before the release of “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” which became the band’s commercial breakthrough. Relations between the two men remained chilly. This month Mr. Bennett sued for breach of contract, contending that he was owed royalties from his work on Wilco albums as well as money from the film. The suit has not been settled, a Wilco spokeswoman said.
In a statement on Monday, Mr. Tweedy said: “We will miss Jay as we remember him — as a truly unique and gifted human being and one who made welcome and significant contributions to the band’s songs and evolution.”
Born in Rolling Meadows, a suburb of Chicago, in 1963, Mr. Bennett graduated from the University of Illinois
, Champaign-Urbana, with degrees in secondary education, mathematics and political studies. He was working in a VCR repair shop when Mr. Tweedy recruited him for Wilco, and according to “Learning How to Die,” Greg Kot’s 2004 book about Wilco, Mr. Bennett often worked there between tours.
In 2002, shortly after leaving Wilco, Mr. Bennett released “The Palace at 4 a.m. (Part I)” with Mr. Burch. He also founded a recording studio in Champaign, called Pieholden Suite Sound, after a song on “Summerteeth.”
Mr. Bennett released three more albums of country-tinged folk-rock, and on his most recent MySpace post said that he was hard at work on a new one, “Kicking at the Perfumed Air.”
PAUL HANEY, ‘VOICE OF NASA’S MISSION CONTROL’
May 31, 2009, 4:44PM
ALAMOGORDO, N.M. — Paul Haney, who was known as the “voice of NASA’s Mission Control” for his live televised reports during the early years of the space program, has died of cancer. He was 80.
Haney died Thursday at a nursing home. Kent House, owner of the Alamogordo Funeral Home, confirmed that Haney died of complications from melanoma cancer, which spread to his brain and was untreatable.
Haney became NASA’s information officer in 1958, three months after the space agency was formed and went on to manage information from the Gemini and Apollo flight programs. He pioneered a real-time system of reporting events as they happened in the first manned flight program, Project Mercury.
George House, curator of the New Mexico Museum of Space History, said Haney helped work on the museum’s oral history program. He also conducted tours of the museum and worked with the museum foundation.
Haney became the public affairs officer for the Office of Manned Space Flight in 1962 and moved to Houston to work in what became the Johnson Space Center. During his time there, he worked in the Mission Control Center, where he broadcast live to television viewers nationwide and media covering the launches, and became known as the “voice of NASA’s Mission Control.”
Haney retired from NASA in 1969 after the Apollo 9 mission, and worked in London for Independent Television News and The Economist.
The New Mexico Museum of Space History’s Web site said Haney “set the standard for all subsequent NASA information efforts.”
Haney was born in 1928 in Akron, Ohio, and earned a journalism degree from Kent State University in 1945. While in college, Haney worked nights for The Associated Press.
He also worked at newspapers in Erie, Pa.; Memphis, Tenn.; Charleston, S.C.; St. Petersburg, Fla.; Houston and El Paso, and at the Evening Star in Washington, D.C.
Haney served in the Navy for two years during the Korean War.
He is survived by his wife, Jan; two daughters from a previous marriage; a stepson; a sister, and seven grandchildren.
SOURCE: The Houston Chronicle: http://www.chron.com
GEORGE EDWARDS, BELOVED PRAIRIE VIEW A&M BAND LEADER
By JEANNIE KEVER
Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle
May 30, 2009, 12:01PM
George Edwards led the Marching Storm for 30 years.
George Edwards, director of Prairie View A&M University’s Marching Storm band, died Thursday from injuries sustained in a car accident earlier this month. He was 60.
Former students — many of whom followed Edwards’ example and became school band leaders themselves — were stunned to hear that the man they called “Prof” was gone.
“Everybody is still in shock,” said Christopher Knight, a member of the Prairie View band in the 1990s who now teaches at M.C. Williams Middle School in Houston. “You always suspected Prof would grow old in the position.”
The Marching Storm, with its drum line and Black Foxes dance troupe, has performed around the world, including the inaugural parade for former President George W. Bush in 2001 and the Tournament of Roses parade in January.
Houston audiences may be more familiar with the clash between the Marching Storm and Texas Southern University’s Ocean of Soul, a highlight of the Labor Day Classic football game between the two historically black universities.
“We’re archrivals,” said Ocean of Soul director Richard F. Lee. “George was an excellent competitor, and just a good person … We were friends off the field.”
On the field was another matter.
“Any time you have two bands at black college football games … it is a competition from the time you march into the stadium until you leave,” Lee said.
But former students say Edwards’ legacy isn’t one of competition but of a lifelong relationship that began in a college band room.
“I was scared,” Knight said of his first meeting with Edwards. “He’s very intimidating. But once you fall into his favor, he was like a dad.”
A native of Chattanooga, Tenn., Edwards earned a bachelor’s degree at Florida A&M University and his master’s from Michigan State University. Arriving at Prairie View in 1978, he found a small band known as the Funky 50. Five years later, he had recast it as the Marching Storm.
They are a show band, with plenty of flash and theatrics. The Black Foxes were part of that.
Erin Stevenson, who danced with the band from 1998-2001, remembers the first time she met Edwards.
“He gave us the dos and don’ts of how to be a lady, how to conduct ourselves around the band,” she said.
The young women in the troupe were struck by his charisma. “He was incredibly handsome, but everybody respected him,” Stevenson said.
Music, not showmanship, was at the heart of Edwards’ relationship with his students.
Stevenson, who now works at NASA and also as a singer, said Edwards encouraged her to try for a career in music. “If it hadn’t been for him, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do it.”
Edwards also built the band into a family, working together for hours every day in an isolated rural setting 45 miles northwest of Houston.
“I went to Prairie View for architecture, but the band was a plus,” said Corey Wilson, a 2002 graduate who now is an architect in Dallas. “When I saw the band, that sealed the deal.”
Funeral arrangements are pending.
SOURCE: The Houston Chronicle: http://www.chron.com