WALTER DEAN MYERS, CHILDREN’S AUTHOR
His death, at Beth Israel Medical Center, followed a brief illness, his son Christopher said.
Mr. Myers was a three-time National Book Award nominee, received the Coretta Scott King Book Award for African-American fiction five times and from 2012 to 2013 served as national ambassador for young people’s literature, a position created in part by the Library of Congress.
In books that included “Monster,” “Lockdown” and “Fallen Angels,” he often painted portraits of young African-Americans who battled troubles in the streets, in school and at home.
Mr. Myers, who lived in Jersey City, visited schools and prisons around the country. He often met young people whose poverty and lack of direction reminded him of his own experience.
“He wrote about disenfranchised black kids, particularly boys, and he wrote about them with extraordinary honesty and also with compassion,” Avi, a children’s book author and a longtime friend of Mr. Myers, said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “Besides his books, his legacy is his compassionate identity with these young people.”
Avi (who uses only one name) recalled visiting young people in a Virginia prison a decade ago. He received a tepid reception. Then the young prisoners asked him if he knew anyone famous.
Avi mentioned Mr. Myers. “They sat straight up and shouted, ‘You know him! What is he like?’ ” Avi recalled. “They were readers.”
Walter Milton Myers was born on Aug. 12, 1937, in Martinsburg, W.Va. The fourth of five siblings, he was 18 months old when his mother died. His father, George, sent Walter to live with his first wife, Florence Dean, a cleaning woman and factory worker, and her husband, Herbert Dean. The couple reared Mr. Myers in Harlem, and he took the pen name Walter Dean Myers to honor them. By middle school he was over six feet tall and playing basketball.
But painfully shy, a stutterer and facing bleak prospects as an man in the segregation era, Mr. Myers dropped out of the elite Stuyvesant High School and joined the Army on his 17th birthday. He wrote in his memoir, “Bad Boy” (2001), that books were his friends as he fought despair.
“There were two very distinct voices going on in my head, and I moved easily between them,” he wrote of his teenage years. “One had to do with sports, street life and establishing myself as a male.” The other voice, he said, “the one I hid from my street friends and teammates, was increasingly dealing with the vocabulary of literature.”
After serving three years in the Army he was, he acknowledged, drinking heavily while working in construction, as a messenger on Wall Street and in other jobs. But he also began writing, eventually contributing to Alfred Hitchcock’s mystery magazine and to sports publications. When his half-brother Wayne was killed in Vietnam, he wrote a tribute for Essence magazine.
His first book, “Where Does the Day Go?,” was published in 1969 after he won a children’s literature contest for minority writers.
Mr. Myers wrote more than 100 books on a wide array of subjects, including the war in Iraq and an African princess.
“Lockdown,” a National Book Award finalist, came about after Mr. Myers met a youth who was afraid of getting into trouble again after prison. In “Monster,” it was unclear if the young narrator had actually committed the crime — the killing of a Harlem drugstore owner — that sent him to prison.
Mr. Myers always said he understood desperation.
“In the dark times, when my uncle was murdered, when my family became dysfunctional with alcohol and grief, or when I realized that our economics would not allow me to go to college I began to despair,” Mr. Myers wrote in March in an essay on the front page of The New York Times’s Sunday Review section, titled “Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?” He turned to literature — Balzac, Shakespeare, Arthur Miller — but longed for black characters. Discovering “Sonny’s Blues,” a story by James Baldwin about black people in Harlem, “humanized me,” he wrote.
“Books transmit values,” he wrote in the essay. “They explore our common humanity. What is the message when some children are not represented in those books? Where are the future white personnel managers going to get their ideas of people of color? Where are the future white loan officers and future white politicians going to get their knowledge of people of color? Where are black children going to get a sense of who they are and what they can be?”
In addition to his son Christopher, his survivors include his wife, Constance; another son, Michael; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. A daughter, Karen, died earlier.
Mr. Myers continued to write, “even from his hospital bed,” Christopher Myers said on Thursday. “He often joked that when he passed away there would still be books coming out in his name.”
True to his prediction, Mr. Myers has three books scheduled for posthumous publication. The futuristic novel “On a Clear Day” is to come out in September and “Juba,” a novel based on the life of a 19th-century tap dancer, in April 2015. A graphic novel of “Monster” is also to be published next year.
Bob Hastings, Actor on ‘McHale’s Navy,’ Dies at 89
Bob Hastings, an actor best known for portraying Lt. Elroy Carpenter, a bumbling yes-man on the 1960s sitcom “McHale’s Navy,” died on Monday in Burbank, Calif. He was 89.
The cause was prostate cancer, Allison Knowles, his granddaughter, said,
Mr. Hastings appeared on “McHale’s Navy” throughout its run, from 1962 to 1966. The show starred Ernest Borgnine in the title role as the lieutenant commander of a misfit PT boat outfit in the South Pacific during World War II.
In the late 1950s Mr. Hastings had a recurring role in another military sitcom, “The Phil Silvers Show,” originally set on an Army base in Kansas.
He went on to appear in some of the most popular series of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, including “The Untouchables,” “Car 54, Where Are You?,” “The Twilight Zone,” “The Munsters,” “I Dream of Jeannie,” “Green Acres,” “Love, American Style,” “Ironside,” “All in the Family” and “Murder, She Wrote,” as well as the daytime drama “General Hospital.”
Robert Francis Hastings was born on April 18, 1925, in Brooklyn, and began his career at 11 on radio dramas. After serving in the Army Air Corps in World War II, he starred as Archie Andrews in a radio series based on the Archie comic books.
He branched out into television in its infancy, winning a role on “Captain Video and His Video Rangers” in 1949.
His voice-over work included cartoons like “Batman: The Animated Series” and the 2010 video game “Mafia II.”
Survivors include his wife of 66 years, the former Joan Rice; his daughters, Tricia Stone and Mary Joan Shaughnessy; his sons, Bob Jr. and Michael; his brother, Don; 10 grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.
PAUL MAZURSKY; DIRECTOR WHO SHOWED ‘ME’ ERA’S STRENGTH AND FOIBLES
A family spokeswoman, Nancy Willen, said he died of pulmonary cardiac arrest at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Mr. Mazursky lived in Beverly Hills.
As the nation’s counterculture revolution shattered traditional norms of sex, marriage and conformity, Mr. Mazursky made his most popular and commercially successful films: lighthearted sendups of wife-swapping, yoga classes, group therapy, pot-smoking, midlife crises and other self-absorbed, middle-class indulgences that reviewers said he crafted with even-handedness and generosity.
Some critics complained that his satire wasn’t cutting enough. Others called his comedies crisp at a time when behavior was at its fuzziest. Vincent Canby, in a 1976 analysis in The New York Times, acknowledged: “Mazursky is a tough man to handle critically. He is alternately witty and brilliantly sarcastic, then suddenly, soddenly sincere and self-centered, only to explode unexpectedly as a first-rate social satirist.”
Indeed, comic ambiguity, blending satire and social observation, was Mr. Mazursky’s stock in trade.
In his most vivid illustration of the technique, he explored the pain and dislocation of divorce, and its liberating effects, in “An Unmarried Woman,” released in 1978 and quickly embraced by the women’s movement. His screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award, while the film itself was nominated for a best picture Oscar and Jill Clayburgh for best actress.
In the film Ms. Clayburgh, who died in 2010, plays a wealthy, happily married mother in Manhattan whose stockbroker husband of 16 years announces tearfully that he is leaving her for a younger woman he had met at Bloomingdale’s. Dumbfounded, she stalks away and retches in a trash bin. Rage and sorrow ensue. But new freedoms — a resurgent self-esteem, another man in her life, the power to make her own decisions — bring fresh perspectives on sex, independence and her identity as a woman.
Mr. Mazursky told Sam Wasson, the author of “Paul on Mazursky” (2011), that his films were shaped less by broad cultural trends than by what he saw around him.
“When I wrote ‘An Unmarried Woman’ I was aware of the women’s movement, which was happening then,” he said. “But it was happening to me! I wrote it not because it was happening in America, but because I’d seen divorce happening around me.”
Mr. Mazursky made his directing debut in 1969 with “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice,” which skewered wife-swapping, encounter groups and Esalen, the California counterculture mecca. The four swap partners explore their feelings and wind up in a crowded bed together without actually having sex but looking quizzical and a bit guilty — an image that seemed to sum up middle-class doubts over America’s wrenching societal changes.
“ ‘Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice’ isn’t really about wife swapping at all,” the critic Roger Ebert wrote in The Chicago Sun-Times, “but about the epidemic of moral earnestness that’s sweeping our society right now. For some curious reason we suddenly seem compelled to tell the truth in our personal relationships.”
In “Blume in Love (1973), Mr. Mazursky examined a man (portrayed by George Segal) who flippantly divorces his wife (Susan Anspach), then realizes that he still loves her and uses desperate, even violent means to win her back. The marriage is renewed against the splendors of Venice, but it is hardly a happy ending. The couple’s privileged world of psychiatry, money and marijuana remains flawed by the fundamental emptiness of their lives.
In “Harry and Tonto” (1974), which he wrote with Josh Greenfeld, Mr. Mazursky found subtle humor in the hardships of aging. In the film, Art Carney plays a crotchety old man who, with his cat, Tonto, travels across an America populated by misfits, including his own children. Mr. Carney won the Academy Award as best actor for his performance.
Some critics likened Mr. Mazursky to European directors like Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, Jean Renoir and François Truffaut for his ability to bring out the interior lives of his characters. Paying homage, Mr. Mazursky cast Fellini in a cameo in “Alex in Wonderland” (1970), a distinctly Felliniesque autobiographical film about a director (Donald Sutherland) who sinks into despair after a successful first film. And he incorporated scenes from Truffaut’s “Jules and Jim” in his 1980 film, “Willie & Phil” — which, like the Truffaut film, told the story of two friends in love with the same woman.
Mr. Mazursky was a show-business rarity, almost never out of work in a run of six decades that began as a stage and screen actor in the early 1950s and was still adding credits at the time of his death. He appeared in some 90 Hollywood films and television productions; wrote comedies and dramas for television, and, starting in the late 1960s, directed, produced and wrote screenplays for a score of films and documentaries.
For all that, there was an ageless quality about him. Associates said he had boundless energy, the rapid patter of a stand-up comic and an actor’s gift for memory. With his long hair tied back, his hawkish nose and his solemn eyes, he looked a bit like the American Indian in the well-known public service commercial who sheds a tear for a profligate nation.
Some of his later films were his most ambitious, notably a 1989 adaptation of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s 1972 novel, “Enemies, a Love Story,” which he wrote with Roger L. Simon. That film examines the hopes, foibles and fatalisms of Holocaust survivors in New York, centering on a Jewish man (Ron Silver) who shares one apartment with his wife and another with a mistress while maintaining a vexing third relationship with a former wife. When she turns up, the film becomes a triple-romance comedy of high anxiety against a backdrop of painful memories.
“Like the best of Mr. Mazursky’s work, it presents a very full spectrum of complicated and sometimes darkly funny emotions,” Janet Maslin wrote in The Times. “Although the shadow of the Holocaust extends to cover everyone in the story, none of the characters are in any way typical; each has a psychic makeup that is idiosyncratic and distinct. In a story with so much potential for sentimentality and broad bedroom farce, it is surprising that there is none of either.”
Irwin Mazursky was born in Brooklyn on April 25, 1930, to David Mazursky and the former Jean Gerson. His father was a laborer, and his mother played the piano for dance classes.
Although he became an atheist, Mr. Mazursky grew up with Jewish traditions. He was also devoted to his Russian-born maternal grandfather, who read Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Turgenev and Chekhov in the back of his candy store.
Mr. Mazursky graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn in 1947, hoping to become an actor. At Brooklyn College, he appeared in student productions and an Off Broadway play, and in his senior year he took a month off to make his film debut in Stanley Kubrick’s first feature, “Fear and Desire,” about soldiers behind enemy lines. He changed his first name to Paul and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1951.
In 1953 he married Betsy Purdy. The couple had two daughters, Meg and Jill. His wife and his daughter Jill Mazursky survive him, as do four grandchildren and a great-grandson.
Mr. Mazursky appeared in the 1955 social-commentary film “The Blackboard Jungle,” a drama about an urban high school starring Glenn Ford, and for years he worked as a comedian in nightclubs and played small roles on television. His first screenplay to be produced — written with his frequent collaborator Larry Tucker — was “I Love You, Alice B. Toklas!” (1968), considered Hollywood’s first sendup of hippie culture, starring Peter Sellers and directed by Hy Averback.
Mr. Mazursky never won an Oscar, but was nominated five times. In addition to “An Unmarried Woman,” he received best screenplay nominations for “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice,” “Harry and Tonto” and “Enemies, a Love Story.”
Among his other films were the autobiographical “Next Stop, Greenwich Village” (1976); the comedy “Moscow on the Hudson” (1984), about a Russian musician (Robin Williams) who defects; “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” (1986), about a vagrant (Nick Nolte) who insinuates himself into the home of a well-to-do couple (Bette Midler and Richard Dreyfuss); and “Scenes From a Mall” (1991), about the disintegrating marriage of a couple played by Woody Allen and Ms. Midler.
Mr. Mazursky directed only sporadically after the early 1990s, but continued to work as an actor, notably on several episodes of Larry David’s HBO comedy series, “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” His memoir, “Show Me the Magic,” was published in 1999.
The film critic Richard Corliss wrote in New Times in 1978 that Mr. Mazursky had “created a body of work unmatched in contemporary American cinema for its originality and cohesiveness.”
He was, Mr. Corliss said, “likely to be remembered as the filmmaker of the ’70s. No screenwriter has probed so deep under the pampered skin of this fascinating, maligned decade; no director has so successfully mined it for home-truth human revelations.”
Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.
Paul S. Amos, a Co-Founder of Aflac, Dies at 88
Paul S. Amos, one of the three brothers who founded the Aflac insurance company nearly 60 years ago and the man behind its huge success in selling policies at workplaces, died on Wednesday in Columbus, Ga. He was 88.
The company confirmed his death.
In 1955, his oldest brother, John, formed the insurance company, originally called the American Family Life Insurance Company, and the middle brother, Bill, and the youngest, Paul, joined the effort that year. John, a lawyer, was the visionary, always seeking to expand the company and turning it into a major insurer in Japan, while Bill was the operations guy who knew how to keep costs down. Paul focused on selling.
While most insurers sold policies by knocking on doors, Paul had the company emphasize cluster selling and worksite marketing. Instead of making presentations to individuals, the company’s sales representatives often went to companies to make sales pitches to groups of employees. Today, most of Aflac’s United States policies are bought through payroll deductions.
“Paul’s contributions can’t be overstated,” Kenneth Janke, Aflac’s deputy chief financial officer, said in an interview. “He was the one who set us on the path of marketing our product at worksites, as opposed to door to door. It was a very efficient manner of distribution. It made our agents more productive.”
Thanks to such strategies, Aflac, known for selling supplemental policies like cancer insurance, has grown into a giant that insures more than 50 million people, and has $121 billion in assets and 185,000 agents worldwide.
In 1964, the company changed its name to the American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus, and in 1969, it adopted the acronym Aflac. A duck that quacks the word “Aflac” has become the company’s famous — and humorous — symbol.
After John died in 1990, Paul succeeded him as Aflac’s chairman, and Paul’s only son, Daniel, was named chief executive. Bill died in 1997.
“My father was a consummate businessman,” Daniel, now the company’s chairman and chief, said in a statement. “He was a straight-shooter who believed in the simple tenets of honesty and integrity.”
Paul Shelby Amos was born on April 23, 1926, in Enterprise, Ala. His family moved to Milton, Fla. After graduating from Milton High School, he joined the Coast Guard during World War II, serving from 1944 to 1946, part of the time in the Pacific Theater.
After the Coast Guard, he returned to Milton where he worked for the family’s dime store business instead of going to college. Years later, recognizing the importance of college, he set up a fund at Aflac that helps provide scholarship assistance for employees and their children.
He met Jean Roberts at Milton Methodist Church, where she sang in the choir. They married in 1948 and were together for 65 years, founding the Paul and Jean Amos Foundation, which gives to many causes.
In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Amos is survived by two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Upon joining the insurance company, Mr. Amos was in charge of sales in Alabama and West Florida. He later became first vice president/director for marketing, and later president, vice chairman and finally, chairman.
In his later years, Mr. Amos had Parkinson’s disease. Even though he retired in 2001, he went to his office several days each week until recently.
In a 2007 interview with The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, he said of his health problems, “There is not a thing in the world wrong with me that youth wouldn’t cure.”
LOUIS ZAMPERINI, OLYMPIAN AND ‘UNBROKEN’ WAR SURVIVOR
A statement released by his family said he had had pneumonia.
Mr. Zamperini’s remarkable story of survival during the war gained new attention in 2010 with the publication of a vivid biography by Laura Hillenbrand, “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.” It rose to No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list.
The story is to be retold in a film adaptation of the book directed by Angelina Jolie and scheduled to be released in December. Jack O’Connell plays Mr. Zamperini.
Mr. Zamperini was in his early 20s and a track star at the University of Southern California when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps shortly after the United States entered the war in 1941. He was a bombardier in a B-24 that was flying a rescue mission on May 27, 1943, when his plane, named the Green Hornet, malfunctioned and fell into the sea.
Sharing a life raft, Lieutenant Zamperini and two other crash survivors — the co-pilot, Second Lt. Russell Phillips, and the tail gunner, Sgt. Francis McNamara — fought off hunger, thirst, heat, storms and sharks while trying to avoid being shot by Japanese planes. They subsisted on rainwater and the few fish they could catch. Lieutenant Zamperini, who was 5-foot-9, went from 125 pounds to 75 pounds.
In June 1943, Anthony and Louise Zamperini, at home in Torrance, Calif., received the following message regarding their son:
“In grateful memory of First Lieutenant Louis S. Zamperini, A.S. No. 0-663341, who died in the service of his country in the Central Pacific Area.” The message continued: “He stands in the unbroken line of patriots who have dared to die that freedom might live, and grow, and increase its blessings. Freedom lives, and through it, he lives — in a way that humbles the undertakings of most men.” It was signed, “Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States.”
Unknown to the military, Lieutenant Zamperini and the others were still adrift at sea, though Sergeant McNamara had died after 33 days. Lieutenant Zamperini and Second Lieutenant Phillips were eventually captured by the Japanese.
Then came more suffering as the men were shuttled from one prison to another. For a time Mr. Zamperini was in the brutal hands of Mutsuhiro Watanabe, a camp sergeant who was later classified as a war criminal but evaded prosecution.
“I could take the beatings and the physical punishment,” Mr. Zamperini said, “but it was the attempt to destroy your dignity, to make you a nonentity that was the hardest thing to bear.” Mr. Zamperini said his athletic training had helped him withstand the torment.
“For one thing, you have to learn self-discipline if you are going to succeed as an athlete,” he said. “For another thing, you have to have confidence in yourself and believe that no matter what you’re faced with, you can deal with it — that you just can’t give up. And then there’s the aspect of staying in shape. And humor helped a lot, even in the gravest times.”
In 1945, at the war’s end, Mr. Zamperini was liberated along with hundreds of other prisoners of war at the Naoetsu camp, northwest of Tokyo. “Though he was still sick, wasted and weak, he glowed with euphoria such as he had never experienced,” Ms. Hillenbrand wrote.
Louis Silvie Zamperini was born on Jan. 26, 1917, in Olean, N.Y., a son of Italian immigrants. His family moved to Torrance in 1920.
Louis was a fighter before he was a runner, according to a biography released by the University of Southern California. His father taught him how to box so he could defend himself against bullies who taunted him because he could not speak English. Pete Zamperini, an older brother, encouraged him to try out for the track team at Torrance High School.
There he set the national high school record in the mile at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1934; his record time of 4 minutes 21.2 seconds would last for 20 years. His schoolboy exploits earned him a scholarship to U.S.C.
Two years later, in the 5,000-meter Olympic trials at Randalls Island in New York, he finished in a dead heat with Don Lash, the world-record holder, which qualified him for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin as a teenager.
In Berlin he competed in the 5,000-meter race, finishing eighth (Lash finished 13th), though Mr. Zamperini had a good finishing kick. During those Games he stood with other athletes near Hitler’s box and wanted a photograph of the Nazi leader.
“I was pretty naïve about world politics,” Mr. Zamperini said in an interview with The New York Times, “and I thought he looked funny, like something out of a Laurel and Hardy film, especially the way he stamped his feet and slapped his thighs.”
Because he was not close enough, he asked one of Hitler’s entourage to take Hitler’s picture for him. “It was the skinny guy,” Mr. Zamperini said, referring to Joseph Goebbels, the minister of propaganda.
He did briefly meet Hitler, who shook his hand and said, “Ah, you’re the boy with the fast finish.”
Two years later, in 1938, Mr. Zamperini set a national collegiate mile record of 4:08.3, which stood for 15 years. He graduated from U.S.C. in 1940, and not long after that, he was fighting for the Allies in World War II.
When he returned to the United States after the war and his ordeals at sea and as a prisoner, he fell into alcoholism and nearly ended up divorced from his wife, Cynthia. They remained married, however, for a total of 54 years until her death in 2001. His survivors include a son, Luke; a daughter, Cynthia Garris, and a grandchild.
Mr. Zamperini straightened out his life, he said, after hearing a sermon preached by Billy Graham. For years afterward, he worked in commercial real estate and remained physically active into his 90s, skiing, running, mountain climbing and skateboarding. He was prominent on the lecture circuit.
He also returned to Japan as a missionary and went back again to run a leg of the Olympic torch relay at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano. The route took him past Naoetsu, a snowy, mountainous region where he had been imprisoned.
Mr. Zamperini wrote two memoirs, both titled “Devil at My Heels,” the first published in 1956 and written with Helen Itris, and the second in 2003 with David Rensin.
Past efforts to make Mr. Zamperini’s story into a movie failed. In the 1950s, Tony Curtis wanted to play the role. In the late ’90s, Nicolas Cage expressed interest. Despite Mr. Zamperini’s two autobiographies, Ms. Hillenbrand thought more could be done with the story. In an email she wrote:
“Louie’s story was well told, but as an autobiography it was limited to Louie’s point of view. No one had approached Louie’s story as a biography, incorporating numerous points of view.
“I began interviewing Louie’s fellow airmen, POWs, Japanese camp officials and home front friends and family, and went through their diaries, memoirs and letters. What I found was a fascinating untold story.”
An earlier version of this obituary misstated the year Mr. Zamperini’s plane crashed and his parents were informed that he was believed dead. It was 1943, not 1944.