Published: September 24, 2011

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) — Vesta Williams, a rhythm and blues singer and later an actress who had hits in the 1980s with “Don’t Blow a Good Thing” and “Congratulations,” was found dead on Thursday in a hotel room here. She was 53.

September 24, 2011

Jason Merritt/Getty Images for N.A.A.C.P.

The rhythm and blues singer Vesta Williams last year.

The cause may have been a drug overdose, said Capt. John Kades of the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.

Ms. Williams had hits with “Once Bitten Twice Shy,” “Sweet, Sweet Love” and the torch song “Congratulations,” in which she emotionally bids goodbye to her former lover, who is about to marry someone else, on his wedding day. (“I thought it would have been me/Standin’ here with you.”)

She also appeared in movies and on television. She was a saloon singer in the Mario Van Peebles movie “Posse” in 1993, and she had a recurring role on the television situation comedy “Sister, Sister,” playing the actress Jackee Harry’s best friend, Monica.

Ms. Williams’s initial success in the music industry came as a background singer for Chaka Khan, Anita Baker and Sting, among others. She released her first album, “Vesta,” in 1986.

Standing 5-feet-3, she gained weight in the 1990s, ballooning to a size 26, then went on a dramatic weight loss program, losing 100 pounds and getting down to a size 6.

She told Ebony magazine in 1996 that she began gaining weight rapidly after her singing career started to falter. She blamed her size for the loss of her recording contract.

“When I lost my record deal, and my phone wasn’t ringing, I realized that I had to reassess who Vesta was and figure out what was going wrong,” she said. “I knew it wasn’t my singing ability. So it had to be that I was expendable because I didn’t have the right look.”

She went on to become an advocate for the prevention of childhood obesity and juvenile diabetes.

Mary Vesta Williams was born on Dec. 1, 1957, to a disc jockey in Coshocton, Ohio. She is survived by an adult daughter.

Ms. Williams had been scheduled to perform on Oct. 22 at the 21st annual “DIVAS Simply Singing!” concert in Los Angeles, held to promote AIDS and HIV awareness. The show will pay tribute to her and another soul singer, Teena Marie, who died last December.





Published: September 21, 2011

Norma Holloway Johnson, the chief judge of the United States District Court in Washington who oversaw the grand jury investigation into President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, died Sunday at her brother’s home in Lake Charles, La. She was 79.

Patrice Gilbert/Legal Times, via Associated Press

Norma Holloway Johnson


The cause was a stroke, said her brother, Lionel Holloway.

Known for her no-nonsense courtroom manner, Judge Johnson — the first African-American woman appointed to the federal bench in Washington — held ultimate authority over the direction of the 1998 investigation, led by the independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, into President Clinton’s relationship with Ms. Lewinsky, a White House intern.

Among a series of pivotal decisions, Judge Johnson delivered a setback to the president’s efforts to limit the scope of the investigation, ruling that he could not invoke executive privilege or lawyer-client privilege in trying to block prosecutors from questioning his aides. She also ruled that documents drafted by one of Ms. Lewinsky’s lawyers were not protected by lawyer-client privilege and had to be given to Mr. Starr.

The investigation led to the impeachment of Mr. Clinton by the House of Representatives in December 1998 and his subsequent acquittal on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in a 21-day Senate trial.

Judge Johnson, who presided over a number of high-profile cases, could be particularly tough on those who wielded influence. “No sentence is sufficient to atone for your crimes,” she told Joseph Waldholtz, the former husband of Representative Enid Greene, Republican of Utah. Mr. Waldholtz pleaded guilty to tax and election fraud in 1996, and Judge Johnson sentenced him to 37 months in prison.

That same year, when she sentenced Representative Dan Rostenkowski, an Illinois Democrat and longtime chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, to 17 months in prison for mail fraud, she told him: “In your important position, you capriciously pursued a course of personal gain for you, your family and your friends. You have stained them, as well as yourself, and the high position you held.”

Judge Johnson was once reversed in a fraud case after an appeals court cited her “near constant criticism” of a lawyer. The court said she “frequently berated, interrupted and otherwise spoke negatively to” the lawyer. It ordered another judge to retry the case.

But she also showed compassion on the bench. In 1998, a young woman appearing before Judge Johnson on a tax-evasion charge had apparently gotten into financial trouble because of a drug problem.

“Four children!” Judge Johnson said after asking the woman about her family. “It’s really so important that you be of sound mind and not have your mind clouded by any substances you can’t control, so you can take care of them. Even though I’m dismissing your case today, it’s so important that you follow through on your treatment.”

Then, almost whispering, she said, “Those children need you more than they need anything else.”

Normalie Loyce Holloway grew up “dirt poor” in Lake Charles, said her brother, who is her only immediate survivor. Her husband of 46 years, Julius Johnson, a retired administrative law judge for the Department of Labor, died last year.

Born on July 28, 1932, she was the daughter of Henry and Beatrice Williams Holloway. By the time Normalie was in high school, her parents had separated and she was working at the soda fountain at the town’s first black-owned drugstore — for $9 a week — to help support her mother and brother. Still, she told friends, she wanted to be a lawyer.

After high school, at her mother’s suggestion, Ms. Holloway moved to Washington, where she lived with a cousin. She graduated from District of Columbia Teachers College in 1955. While teaching at a junior high school, she studied law at night at Georgetown University, receiving her degree in 1962.

Eight years later, after working as a Justice Department lawyer and then as a corporation counsel for the District of Columbia, she was appointed to the district’s Superior Court by President Richard M. Nixon. President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the federal bench in 1980. She was chief judge from 1997 to 2001.

“Ironically,” The Washington Post reported when Judge Johnson retired in 2004, “when she was a new Justice Department lawyer in 1963, the then-chief judge of the same federal court refused to let her speak in his courtroom, and a white colleague from Justice had to be called to take her place.”





Published: September 19, 2011


Dolores Hope, who gave up her singing career to spend 69 years at the side of her husband, Bob Hope, pursuing philanthropy and projecting with him the image of an enduring Hollywood marriage, died on Monday in the home she and her husband bought in 1940 in the Toluca Lake section of Los Angeles. She was 102.

September 20, 2011


Dolores Hope greets her husband, Bob, as he returns from entertaining troops in 1944.

Associated Press
September 20, 2011

Bob Hope with his wife, Dolores, in 1997.

Her death was announced by her publicist, B. Harlan Boll. She also had a home in Palm Springs, Calif.

After Bob Hope’s death at age 100 in July 2003, Mrs. Hope continued the philanthropic work they had done together, largely through the Bob and Dolores Hope Charitable Foundation.

But before she was widowed, she had reclaimed a bit of the spotlight for herself. In 1993, when Mr. Hope, who was six years her senior, had semiretired, she recorded her first album, “Now and Then,” a collection of prewar hits and more recent songs. Over the next decade she made several more albums, including “Somewhere in Time: The Songs and Spirit of WWII” and, with her husband, “Hopes for the Holidays.”

In 1997, a few days short of her 88th birthday, she was a special guest performer at her friend Rosemary Clooney’s engagement at the New York nightclub Rainbow and Stars, singing three numbers, including “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” which she had sung the night she met Hope.

“Her timbre was clear and strong, her intonation pitch-perfect,” Stephen Holden wrote in a review in The New York Times. He described her as “remarkably agile, big-voiced” and her performance as strong and “liltingly swinging.”

Dolores DeFina was born on May 27, 1909, in Harlem, the daughter of John Thomas DeFina and the former Theresa Kelly. She grew up in the Bronx and changed her last name to Reade when she began a career as a nightclub singer.

She was appearing at the Vogue Club in Manhattan under that name in 1933 when the actor George Murphy took Bob Hope to see her. At the time, Murphy and Hope were starring in the Jerome Kern-Otto Harbach musical comedy “Roberta” at the New Amsterdam Theater. She and Mr. Hope were married the following year.

She continued her singing career during the early years of their marriage, often appearing in Mr. Hope’s vaudeville shows, but she largely retired to bring up their four adopted children. Her husband sometimes mentioned her in his monologues, and besides turning up for many of his television specials, Mrs. Hope occasionally appeared as herself in series, including “The Jack Benny Program” in 1958 and the public affairs program “The Christophers,” also in the 1950s.

She sometimes accompanied her husband on his tours entertaining American armed forces overseas. On a Christmas tour during the Vietnam War, she sang “Silent Night” to the troops, bringing many to tears. Mr. Hope promptly sent his wife back to the United States.

“The last thing those guys needed was sentiment,” he was quoted as saying in an article in the Toronto Globe and Mail that appeared shortly after his death. “Dolores became their mother. What they needed was Raquel Welch.”

Years later, when it was suggested that Mr. Hope might have felt some professional jealousy of his wife’s talents on that occasion, he replied in character, telling The San Diego Union-Tribune, “After that, she had the nerve to sit in my spotlight at the breakfast table when we got home.”

Mrs. Hope, a Roman Catholic, received many humanitarian awards for her charitable work, much of it on behalf of Catholic charities benefitting the poor. She was also the founding president of the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif. In 2008, the Ladies Professional Golf Association honored her, an avid golfer, for contributions to women’s golf.

The Hopes’ son Anthony died in 2004 at age 63. Mrs. Hope is survived by two daughters, Linda Hope, a television producer, of Toluca Lake, and Nora Hope; another son, William, of Oakland, Calif.; three grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

Mrs. Hope described herself to interviewers as grateful for her family life. But her husband was widely known to have a wandering eye through much of his marriage, which spanned seven decades, and Mrs. Hope, well aware of it, responded publicly with aplomb. She told John Lahr in a 1998 profile of Bob Hope in The New Yorker, “It never bothered me, because I thought I was better-looking than anybody else.”




Neal Boenzi/The New York Times

In 1973, the Rev. Jesús Silva, right, and one of his wards met Cardinal Terence Cooke at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.


Published: September 16, 2011


Jesús Silva, a Spanish priest who responded to the problems of poor and neglected children in his native province, Galicia, by founding a self-governing Boys Town, whose children’s circus toured the world to great acclaim in the 1970s, died on Sept. 2 in Ourense, Spain. He was 78.

September 17, 2011

Neal Boenzi/The New York Times

A circus run by Father Silva, which offered a message about the poor children he cared for, performed at St. Patrick’s in 1973.

Spanish newspapers and news agencies reported that he had died of a brain hemorrhage.

Father Silva was still a seminarian in 1956 when he came to the aid of 15 boys who had been orphaned or abandoned and found refuge for them in his mother’s house. Inspired by the 1938 film “Boys Town,” which he had seen as a child, and by a distinctly Marxist interpretation of the Gospels, he established the Ciudad de los Muchachos, or Boys Town, on property outside Ourense purchased for him by his brother, a lawyer.

“Change was the fundamental element of our teaching,” he told the newspaper Diario de Navarra in 2009. “The idea was to change a world that we were dissatisfied with. We said, ‘Another world is possible.’ ”

The self-sufficiency and self-rule of the original Boys Town in Nebraska, which evolved from an orphanage founded by the Rev. Edward J. Flanagan in 1917, provided a model. At the Spanish charity’s property, Benposta, Father Silva built residences and schools to train the boys, as young as 4 and as old as 20, in a trade or profession.

Adults were assigned a supporting role. The children governed the town, electing their own mayor and cabinet, and voting on decisions in a two-house legislature. By the 1970s, about 2,000 children lived in the town. “It’s funny that 22 years before we had democracy in this country, Benposta was holding a mayoral election,” Father Silva said.

The town had its own police force and municipal officials, as well as a bakery, grocery store and printing press. It even had its own currency.

More than 50,000 boys passed through Benposta, which served as a model for similar projects in Belgium, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Mozambique and the Dominican Republic.

Because one of Father Silva’s uncles was a circus promoter, he held the unusual post of circus chaplain, ministering to troupes throughout Spain for many years. In 1963 he created the International Circus School at Benposta, which trained El Circo de los Muchachos, billed as “a circus for kids performed by kids.”

After making its inaugural performance in Barcelona in 1966, and touring Spain and Portugal, the circus began touring farther afield in 1970. It scored a hit at the Grand Palais in Paris and, to generate publicity on its American tour in 1973, performed on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan.

The highlight of every performance was the Harlequin Tower, a human pyramid with a moral message: the stronger supported the weaker, with a small child elevated to the top position. The circus eventually appeared in more than 80 countries.

Jesús César Silva Mendéz was born on Jan. 25, 1933, in Ourense. After graduating from Cardinal Cisneros College in Ourense, where he studied painting and drawing, he earned degrees in philosophy and theology from the Pontifical University, a Jesuit institution in Comillas. He was ordained in 1957.

He is survived by a brother, José Manuel Silva Mendéz, of Ourense.

The Spanish Boys Town, also known as Boys Nation since the 1960s, came into conflict with Galicia’s regional government, which wanted to build a football stadium on its property. It closed in 2003.


1 Comment

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One response to “IN REMEMBRANCE: 9-25-2011

  1. Babs

    Rest in peace Vesta!! This came as a real shock to me!!!!

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