IN REMEMBRANCE: 10-19-2014

ELIZABETH PENA, ACTRESS ON THE BIG SCREEN AND SMALL SCREENS

Elizabeth Peña and Chris Cooper in John Sayles’s “Lone Star” (1996), for which she won an Independent Spirit Award. Credit Alan Papp/Castle Rock Entertainment

Her manager, Gina Rugolo, confirmed her death, saying it followed a brief illness.

Ms. Peña played everything from love interest to comedic sidekick in movies and on television for 35 years. She was a demolition specialist alongside Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in “Rush Hour” (1998). As Pilar Cruz, a history teacher who rekindles a romance with a small-town Texas sheriff in “Lone Star” (1996), she won an Independent Spirit Award for best supporting actress. “The sultry Ms. Peña gives an especially vivid performance as the character who is most unsettled by the shadows of the past,” Janet Maslin wrote in The New York Times in 1996.

Her first major film role was as Tim Robbins’s lover in Adrian Lyne’s psychological thriller “Jacob’s Ladder” (1990). She reportedly won the part over stars like Julia Roberts, Andie MacDowell and Madonna.

A television regular, Ms. Peña appeared on shows like “L.A. Law,” “American Dad” and “Boston Public.” In the mid-1980s, she starred as a maid who marries her employer to stay in the United States in the short-lived sitcom “I Married Dora,” and starting in 2000 she played a hairdresser in “Resurrection Blvd.,” the Showtime drama about an upwardly mobile Latino family.

More recently she played the mother of Sofia Vergara’s character on the hit ABC sitcom “Modern Family,” even though she was only 13 years older than Ms. Vergara.

Elizabeth Peña was born in Elizabeth, N.J., on Sept. 23, 1959. Her father, Mario, was a Cuban actor, director and playwright, and Ms. Peña spent much of her childhood in Cuba before returning to the United States. She graduated from what is now the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts in Manhattan.

She performed in a production of “Romeo and Juliet,” translated into Spanish by the poet Pablo Neruda, at the Gramercy Theater in 1979 and made her film debut in the Spanish-language film “El Super” that year.

Ms. Peña went on to play the mistreated wife of Ritchie Valens’s half brother in the biopic “La Bamba” (1987); Jamie Lee Curtis’s confidante in the action film “Blue Steel” (1989); and Richard Dreyfuss’s and Bette Midler’s maid in the comedy “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” (1986).

She also did voice-over work in the animated film “The Incredibles” (2004) and cartoons like “Justice League.”

She married Hans Rolla in 1994. He survives her, as does their son, Kaelan; their daughter, Fiona Rolla; her mother, Estella Margarita Peña; and a sister, Tania Peña.

Ms. Peña said that she researched Mexican-American culture to prepare for her part in “Lone Star.”

“I recorded people’s voices to get the proper inflection,” she told The Ottawa Citizen in 1996. “I crossed the border a whole bunch to collect a lot of history. I would sit for hours looking at the women, how they dressed.”

“In the United States, all Spanish-speaking people are lumped into one category,” she continued. “But we’re all so different.”

SOURCE

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NORWARD ROUSSELL, LEADER OF SELMA SCHOOLS IN TURBULENT TIMES

As superintendent for Selma, Ala., Norward Roussell tried to reform the process of “tracking” students by ability, and was fired amid animosity that recalled the city’s racially divided past. Credit Tom Giles/Black Star

The cause was myelodysplastic syndrome, a type of bone marrow cancer, his daughter, Melanie Newman, said.

By the time Dr. Roussell came to Selma, blacks owned businesses and held administrative positions like postmaster, and many whites hoped that the bloody attack on demonstrators by club-wielding state troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge that had horrified the nation was distant, shameful history.

“We were wrong,” Joe Smitherman, who was first elected mayor of Selma in 1964 as a supporter of George C. Wallace, Alabama’s segregationist governor, and served for 38 years, said in an interview with The Los Angeles Times in 1990. “And I don’t know how to say it better than that. And I was part of that wrong.”

In Selma, Dr. Roussell (pronounced ROO-sell), who had been a top administrator in the New Orleans school system, chose to take on a very touchy educational issue: the “leveling” or “tracking” of students by ability. Poor minority students had tended to end up in the lowest of three groupings, and black parents had been protesting that their children were segregated into inferior instruction.

Gay Talese, who had covered the 1965 march for The New York Times and returned to Selma in 1990 to report on the school-board controversy, said in his memoir “A Writer’s Life” (2006) that Dr. Roussell was determined to at least reform, if not end, what had been a haphazard, arbitrary process. (Tracking has since been largely abandoned in American schools.)

“The movement had finally succeeded during the mid-1950s in enrolling black students in white classrooms, providing blacks and whites with an equal opportunity for a broader education, and also as classmates to learn more about one another and ideally promote greater understanding and tolerance,” Mr. Talese wrote of Dr. Roussell’s motivations. “What a pity it would be if the victory over school segregation in the 1950s were followed at century’s end by school segregation of another type.”

But on Dec. 24, 1989, the school board’s six white members voted not to renew Dr. Roussell’s contract, which was to expire on June 30, citing incompetence. The five black members walked out. On Feb. 2, the white majority voted to dismiss him altogether.

Blacks and their supporters staged sit-ins; students boycotted school until all 11 of the city’s schools were closed; many white parents withdrew their children and enrolled them in all-white private schools. As tensions mounted, Gov. Guy Hunt sent 200 National Guard troops to Selma to restore order, recalling the scene almost a quarter-century earlier.

Everybody seemed to have something to say. In an evaluation, the board said that Dr. Roussell had been “dictatorial” and “abrasive.” Black lawyers complained that the process by which the school board members were chosen — they were appointed by the City Council, not elected — was unconstitutional. White parents claimed that Dr. Roussell had pushed a political agenda and had not enforced discipline.

Mayor Smitherman suggested that people were reliving the civil rights movement, although at a considerably less intense level. This time, Mr. Talese reported, when demonstrators yelled, “C’mon beat us,” troopers ignored them. When the protesters knelt to pray, troopers took off their hats and lowered their heads.

Dr. Roussell was reinstated, but his contract was not extended. He sued the school board for $10 million in damages, but settled for $150,000 and left.

Norward Roussell was born in New Orleans on July 11, 1934. He and his identical twin brother, Norman, were the youngest of seven children. Their father, Edward, who had been a baseball player in the Negro leagues, owned a fruit-cart business and never went to school. His wife, Rosa, taught him to read and write his name. He died when the twins were 8.

People magazine reported in 1990 that the day after their high school graduation, the twins awoke to find their mother standing over their beds with sack lunches. They got jobs digging ditches. A week of that was enough, and they both quit and found employment at a nearby laundry. After a year there, they joined the Air Force and went to Korea, where they were assigned to administrative work.

Their brothers and sisters contributed savings to send the twins to Dillard University in New Orleans, where they both majored in biology. They then earned master’s degrees in chemistry from Fisk University in Nashville and Ph.D.s in education from Wayne State University in Detroit, before going on to careers in teaching and educational administration.

Norward worked in New Orleans schools and eventually became area superintendent, supervising 30 schools and 28,000 students. He was then hired by Selma.

Mr. Talese wrote that Norward Roussell was a “slender gentleman” who carried himself with “majestic dignity.” He was, he continued, “perceived as an orderly individual who would create an atmosphere within the school system and the city that would foster biracial cooperation and advance the idea that headline-making activism was detrimental to Selma’s economic growth.”

He accepted an invitation to be the first black in Selma’s Rotary Club, but did not pursue membership in the country club. “I did not come to Selma to claw down racial barriers,” he told Mr. Talese.

After leaving Selma, Dr. Roussell went to Tuskegee, Ala., to be superintendent of the Macon County schools, which ran into financial trouble and were taken over by the state during his tenure. After four years in Tuskegee, he returned to New Orleans to become an executive at his alma mater, Dillard. He finished his career as interim superintendent of the New Orleans public schools. After Hurricane Katrina destroyed his home in New Orleans, he moved back to Selma.

In addition to his daughter and brother, he is survived by his wife of 53 years, the former Joan Verrett; his sister, Ada Anderson; his sons, Eric and Norman; and three grandchildren.

“I sought fairness in the system,” Dr. Roussell once said. “It was simply that.”

Correction: October 17, 2014
An obituary on Thursday about Norward Roussell, the first black superintendent of schools in Selma, Ala., misstated the number of years he was superintendent of the Macon County schools in Alabama. It was four years, not eight. The obituary also misspelled part of the name of the bridge where state troopers attacked civil rights demonstrators in 1965. It is the Edmund Pettus Bridge, not the Edmund Pettis Bridge.

SOURCE

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DAVID GREENGLASS, THE BROTHER WHO DOOMED ETHEL ROSENBERG

David Greenglass at a Senate Internal Security subcommittee hearing about American spying activities in April 1956. Credit Henry Griffin/Associated Press

For his role in the conspiracy, Mr. Greenglass, an Army sergeant who had stolen nuclear intelligence from Los Alamos, N.M., went to prison for almost a decade, then changed his name and lived quietly until a journalist tracked him down. He admitted then, nearly a half-century later, that he had lied on the witness stand to save his wife from prosecution, giving testimony that he was never sure about but that nevertheless helped send his sister and her husband to the electric chair in 1953.

Mr. Greenglass died on July 1, a family member confirmed. He was 92. His family did not announce his death; The New York Times learned of it in a call to the nursing home where he had been living under his assumed name. Mr. Greenglass’s wife, Ruth, who had played a minor role in the conspiracy and also gave damning testimony against the Rosenbergs, died in 2008.

Mr. Greenglass, with his sister, Ethel Rosenberg.

In today’s world, where spying has more to do with greed than ideology, the story of David Greenglass and the Rosenbergs is an enduring time capsule from an age of uncertainties — of world war against fascism, Cold War with the Soviets, and shifting alliances that led some Americans to embrace utopian communism and others to denounce such ideas, and their exponents, as un-American.

Mr. Greenglass, who grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in a household that believed Marxism would save humanity, was an ardent, preachy Communist when drafted by the Army in World War II, but no one in the barracks took him very seriously, much less believed him capable of spying.

He was not well educated, but his skills as a machinist — and pure luck — led to his assignment in 1944 to the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, where America’s first atomic bombs were being developed. After being picked to replace a soldier who had gone AWOL, he lied on his security clearance report and was assigned to a team making precision molds for high-explosive lenses used to detonate the nuclear core.

When Mr. Rosenberg, already a Soviet spy, learned of his brother-in-law’s work, he recruited him. Security was often lax at Los Alamos, with safes and file cabinets left unlocked and classified documents lying on desks. Mr. Greenglass had no need for Hollywood spy tricks. He kept his eyes and ears open, and in mid-1945 sent Mr. Rosenberg a crude sketch and 12 pages of technical details on the bomb.

That September, after the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed with atomic bombs, ending the war, David and Ruth Greenglass visited the Rosenbergs’ apartment in New York. What happened there later became a matter of life and death, for as Mr. Greenglass delivered his latest spy notes, a woman — either his wife or his sister — sat at a Remington typewriter and typed them out.

The significance of that act did not become evident for five years. By then the Soviet Union, once America’s ally, had become a Cold War foe, witch hunts for suspected Communists were underway, and spy networks were being broken up. Klaus Fuchs, a physicist who had worked at Los Alamos, was caught, and named Harry Gold as a courier. Mr. Gold then named the Greenglasses and the Rosenbergs, who were arrested in 1950.

Mr. Greenglass admitted passing secrets to Mr. Rosenberg, but refused at first to implicate his sister. But just before the Rosenberg trial, Mr. Greenglass changed his story. Told that Ruth had informed F.B.I. agents that Ethel had typed his notes, he supported his wife’s account and agreed to testify against his sister and her husband.

Ruth Greenglass, wife of Mr. Greenglass, in 1951. She had a supporting role in the conspiracy and gave damning testimony against the Rosenbergs. She died in 2008. Credit The New York Times

Mr. Greenglass was under intense pressure. He had not yet been sentenced, and his wife, the mother of his two small children, faced possible prosecution, though her role had been minimal. In federal court in Manhattan in 1951, Mr. Greenglass’s testimony — corroborated by his wife’s — clinched the case against Mr. Rosenberg and implicated Mrs. Rosenberg.

Referring to Ethel Rosenberg in ringing hyperbolic phrases, the chief prosecutor, Irving H. Saypol, declared, “Just so had she, on countless other occasions, sat at that typewriter and struck the keys, blow by blow, against her own country in the interests of the Soviets.”

The jury found the Rosenbergs guilty of espionage conspiracy, and the presiding judge, Irving R. Kaufman, sentenced them to death. Appeals failed, and the Rosenbergs, who rejected all entreaties to name collaborators and insisted they were not guilty, were executed at Sing Sing on June 19, 1953. A co-defendant, Morton Sobell, was also convicted and was imprisoned for 18 years.

Mrs. Greenglass was not prosecuted. Mr. Greenglass was sentenced to 15 years, but was released in 1960 after nine and a half. He rejoined his wife and for decades lived quietly in the New York area, working as a machinist and inventor.

A 1983 book by Ronald Radosh and Joyce Milton, “The Rosenberg File: A Search for the Truth,” rekindled interest, concluding that Mr. Rosenberg was a dedicated spy but that his wife had played only a minor role, and raising questions about the evidence and the government’s tactics in the case. Mr. Radosh and Sol Stern also interviewed Mr. Greenglass for an article in The New Republic.

Sam Roberts, a Times editor and reporter, later found Mr. Greenglass and, after a 13-year effort, obtained 50 hours of interviews that led to a book, “The Brother: The Untold Story of the Rosenberg Case.” In the book, Mr. Greenglass admitted that, to spare his wife from prosecution, he had testified that his sister typed his notes. In fact, he said, he could not recall who had done it.

“I don’t remember that at all,” Mr. Greenglass said. “I frankly think my wife did the typing, but I don’t remember.”

Mr. Greenglass, left, with a United States marshal in 1950. Credit Associated Press

He said he had no regrets. “My wife is more important to me than my sister. Or my mother or my father, O.K.? And she was the mother of my children.”

In a 2008 interview with Mr. Roberts, Mr. Sobell admitted that he had given military secrets to the Soviet Union, and concurred in what has become a consensus among historians: that the Greenglass-Rosenberg atomic bomb details were of little value to the Soviets, except to corroborate what they already knew, and that Ethel Rosenberg had played no active role in the conspiracy.

David Greenglass was born on the Lower East Side on March 2, 1922, to immigrants from Russia and Austria. He was 14 when he met Julius Rosenberg, who began courting Ethel, who was seven years older than David, in 1936. The Rosenbergs were married in 1939.

David graduated from Haaren High School in 1940 with only fair grades. He attended Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, but flunked out.

Mr. Greenglass and Ruth Printz, who had been neighbors, childhood sweethearts and members of the Young Communist League, were married in 1942. They had a son and a daughter, who survive him.

He had several machinist jobs before being drafted in 1943, and the Army put his skills to use. He fixed tank motors, inspected equipment and worked on ordnance in California and Mississippi. He was also assigned to classified work at Oak Ridge, Tenn., where uranium was being enriched for a secret weapon.

To pass his security clearance for the most sensitive work of the war at Los Alamos, Mr. Greenglass disguised or omitted Communist associations in his background. For character and work references, he alerted the writers — all friends — how to respond, and only glowing reports came back. “All evidence indicates subject to be loyal, honest and discreet,” Army intelligence reported.

Everywhere — even at Los Alamos — he preached communism, trying to persuade fellow G.I.s and co-workers that they would someday prosper in a utopian society free of squalor and injustice. Letters to his wife, some signed “Your Comrade,” also sprinkled dialectics among the endearments. “We who understand,” he wrote, “can bring understanding to others because we are in love and have our Marxist outlook.”

The deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Greenglass, like those of the Rosenbergs more than 60 years ago, are unlikely to end public fascination with the case, whose betrayals have been woven into American culture. In Woody Allen’s film “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” the character played by Mr. Allen says dryly that he still has feelings for his vile brother-in-law.

“I love him like a brother,” he says. “David Greenglass.”

SOURCE

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JUDITH EDELMAN, ARCHITECT; FIREBRAND IN A MALE-DOMINATED FIELD

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