Friday, 19 December 2014

2014 Memoriams May

May 2014 – PG Stephens, 91

Actor who appeared in Doctor Who’s The Underwater Menace. He also appeared in Z-Cars, Only Fools and Horses, and The Liver Birds.

1st May 2014 – David Stoliar, 91

Sole survivor of the MV Sturma Incident in 1942.

“Stoliar's story has always been a taboo of sorts. His ordeal illuminates a forgotten, inconvenient chapter of the Holocaust, which the then-Allies would rather not be reminded of. For, if anything, they chose to look the other way -- before, during and after. "Everybody had an excuse," Marda [his wife] says. That chapter found its horrifying conclusion in the Black Sea, near Istanbul, in the wee hours of February 24, 1942. That's when a Soviet submarine sank a Jewish refugee ship en route to what was then the British Mandate of Palestine. All told, 786 people, among them 101 children, either died instantly or slowly froze and drowned in the wintry water. Only one of them made it. "There was no reason for me to survive," Stoliar says. "I feel like I survived by luck. Pure luck." To this day he struggles with guilt. Psychologists call this the Holocaust Syndrome.” Marc Pitzke, Der Spiegel

2nd May 2014 – Efrem Zimbalist Jr, 95

American actor best known as the voice of Alfred in the animated Batman series, and as Doctor Octopus in the Spiderman cartoon. He also had a recurring role on Babylon Five, as well as roles in Murder She Wrote, Remmington Steele and Wait until Dark. He also supplied voice talents to the Mighty Ducks, Iron Man, and Gargoyles, among  many.

2nd May 2014 – Sir William Benyon, 84

Tory MP for Buckingham from 1970-83 (replacing Robert Maxwell), and Milton Keynes from 1983-92.

“A grandson of Lord Salisbury, Bill Benyon chaired the “One Nation” group and joined Tory “wets” in opposing several of Margaret Thatcher’s policies, including the poll tax. But he respected her highly, and when his friend Michael Heseltine challenged her in 1990, he rallied behind the Prime Minister, declaring: “This is war.”Despite their, at times, public disagreements — notably over parental contributions to student support — and the occasional “handbagging” when Mrs Thatcher met the executive of the 1922 Committee, the respect was mutual. After Benyon was mugged outside the gates of his estate, she wrote him a three-page letter of commiseration.”
Telegraph obit

3rd May 2014 – Jim Sprott, 89

Forensic scientist who focused on cot death.

“Dr Sprott came to national attention in the 1970s as a leading figure in the drive to overturn the conviction of Arthur Allan Thomas for the murders of Jeanette and Harvey Crewe. He was a principal witness before the Royal Commission of Inquiry on the case, presenting his analysis of the bullet cartridges that formed an important part of the evidence. He later became involved with the notorious cases of Murray Kestle - who was convicted of murdering his newlywed wife in 1973 - and of serial rapist Mark Stephens, the Parnell Panther. His work on the Stephens case led to a warning in 1988 by the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry that he risked struck from the register if he didn't stop making accusations that reflected badly on a fellow chemist. Crime was not the only field that drew Dr Sprott's attention. He was involved in road safety research, arterial disease treatment and, in 1996, a petition calling for the Government to maintain New Zealand's membership of ANZUS and abandon the country's anti-nuclear stance.” Radio NZ obit

3rd May 2014 – Gary Becker, 83

American economist.

3rd May 2014 – Leslie Carlson, 81

Videodrome actor. He also appeared in the Fly and 2 episodes of the X-Files.

4th May 2014 – Elena Baltacha, 30

Scottish born tennis player.

Quoted from article written in 2012:

To be a professional sports star in Britain is in many ways to take on the mantle of permanent criticism. Beyond the idealism of Premiership football, and in most disciplines, the most press a sports person gets is when they lose out on something, and then it’s so the press can get the knives out. This is more so in tennis, where to the mainstream press, it is Wimbledon or nothing. No matter what a tennis player does in their career, if they fail to win this specific Grand Slam (something currently done by about 5 out of 20, 000 active female tennis players, incidentally) then they are forever a failure. To deal with this, you need an incredible thick skin. To come back from a near fatal liver condition, deal with it, and wind up playing better than you did before? That takes more guts than any of the press charlatans have put together.

The daughter of USSR football ace Sergei, Elena Baltacha was born in 1983, and grow up in Scotland after being born in Kiev. She grew into tennis, and by age 18 was showing flashes of potential brilliance, having won Fed Cup matches and produced some fighting displays at Slam level. Then came disaster. Cholangitis is not an illness that rolls off the tongue, but the primary issue – inflammation of the liver causing blockage of the bile ducts – is serious enough. How serious? It can cause death within ten years in untreated cases. Even successful treatment might shorten considerably a lifespan.

No one could have forsaken her had she given up at these odds being thrown at her, but this was not to prove Elena’s style. Vast surgeries put her out of action for the majority of 2003.

“ if someone had told me that I would end up playing people like Maria Sharapova and Kim Clijsters, competing at all the grand slams and on the WTA Tour, I wouldn’t have believed them. I’d be feeling so exhausted all time time in the months leading up to the diagnosis and it was hard to imagine ever being fit to play again.”

Baltacha returned to tennis, and competed at a high level in spite of her ills for the next eight years. One of the first women in some time from Britain to qualify for all four Grand Slams, she was left holding the flag for British womens tennis in the barren years before the recent appearance of Heather Watson, Jan Konta and Laura Robson to take the pressure off, as well as the later career resurgence of Anne Keothavong. She was never going to be winning any Slams – though her performances were often exemplary, especially her two third rounds of the Australian Open, in 2005 and 2010.

But let’s put this into perspective. This girl needs to take ten pills a day to prevent her condition becoming fatal. Yet she’s been a consistent top 100 player for vast quantities of the last five years. That takes an effort and a heart, which is beyond my comprehension.

It does bring up issues. See the controversy stirred up by certain papers and commentators over her pulling out of the New Dehli Commonwealth games in 2010, under doctors advice about the environment being detrimental to her condition.

Elena Baltacha is now patron of the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation.”

In January 2014, Baltacha found out that she had liver cancer, a common side effect of her illness.

“"We are heartbroken beyond words at the loss of our beautiful, talented and determined Bally," read a statement from Nino Severino, Baltacha's husband and long-time coach."She was an amazing person and she touched so many people with her inspirational spirit, her warmth and her kindness."” CNN

“Today British Tennis mourns the loss of one of our own. The news of the death of Elena Baltacha, one of the shining lights of British women’s tennis of recent generations, is devastating to everyone who has ever had the privilege to know her, play against her, or call her a friend or teammate. It leaves a huge hole within our sport. Bally gave new meaning to the word ‘fighter.’ She fought tirelessly during her career against opposition on court, and never gave in to the struggles she endured off it. Forever remembered for her relentless determination, unbelievable drive and a will-power that never ceased to amaze us, it was a pleasure to watch Bally develop into a world class player and become an outstanding role model for everyone in the gameThe health issues she battled since her teenage years made what she achieved during her career all the more impressive. Nobody will ever forget the scenes at Wimbledon two summers ago when Bally found out she had gained a place at the London 2012 Olympic Games. There were tears of joy as she finally realised her lifelong ambition – to become an Olympian. Even after Bally hung up her rackets, she continued to give back to the sport she loved by setting up the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis.”
LTA statement

4th May 2014 – William Worthy, 92

Civil rights activist and journalist.

“William Worthy, a foreign correspondent who in the thick of the Cold War ventured where the United States did not want him to go — including the Soviet Union, China, Cuba — and became the subject of both a landmark federal case concerning travel rights and a ballad by the protest singer Phil Ochs, died on May 4 in Brewster, Mass. He was 92.”
Margalit Fox, New York Times obit

“In the early 1980s, Mr. Worthy challenged the U.S. government with his reportage from Iran after the Islamic revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini.In the course of his reporting, Mr. Worthy obtained copies of documents that were stolen from the U.S. Embassy in Tehran during the hostage crisis and later published in Iran. U.S. government officials seized one set of copies. Mr. Worthy and his colleagues provided another copy to The Washington Post, which published a series of articles based on the documents and other sources. The journalists later reached a legal settlement with the U.S. government in which the reporters were awarded $16,000 stemming from the confiscation of the volumes. “Americans have a right to know what’s going on in the world in their name,” he said at the time.”
Emily Langer, Washington Post obit

6th May 2014 – Leslie Thomas, 83

Welsh author who wrote the Virgin Soldiers and created Dangerous Davies, the comedic police officer brought to the small screen by Peter Davison.

“He hailed from a seafaring family — his grandfather had sailed round Cape Horn, but was said to have left the sea because he objected to his shipmates’ bad language. In 1943, when Leslie was 12, his father drowned after his ship was torpedoed by a U-boat, and six months later his mother died. Leslie and his nine-year-old brother, Roy, were installed in a Dr Barnardo’s home at Kingston upon Thames in Surrey. “We had cardboard on the windows where they’d been blown in,” he later recalled. “The flying bombs were dropping then.”One of his many uncles attempted to retrieve the boys from the orphanage, but failed to convince the institution that he would be a suitable guardian: “ Any chances of us being allowed to live with him were dashed when he offered the Barnardo’s representative a gin and tonic.”
Telegraph obit

7th May 2014 – Colin Pillinger, 70

Scientist behind the Beagle 2 Mars lander.

“Pillinger’s interplanetary investigations had begun in the 1960s, when he was one of the few British scientists invited to analyse lunar samples brought back by the Apollo missions. In the intervening years, while he was working for, amongst others, Patrick Moore and the BBC, public interest in space exploration — and Mars in particular — all but dried up. Two American missions had found evidence suggesting that Mars was barren — too toxic an environment ever to have supported life. It was the discovery in 1996 (aided by Pillinger’s own work) of fossil bacteria in a meteorite from the planet which revitalised interest. Beagle 2, named by Pillinger’s wife after HMS Beagle, the ship which carried Charles Darwin to South America , began life as a sketch on the back of a beer mat; the first model, which was made of cardboard, could have sprung straight out of Blue Peter. A more sophisticated version of the clam-shaped craft was finally accepted for inclusion on the Mars Express expedition, only for the ESA to announce that it could spare only 60kg. Pillinger and his team rose to the challenge, and when delivered, Beagle 2 was within 100g of the target weight.”
Telegraph obit

8th May 2014 – Beverly long, 81

Actress who appeared in Rebel Without a Clause. She later became a Casting Director.

9th May 2014 – Mary Stewart, 97

British novelist.

“ She detested the intrusions it brought and fiercely protected her privacy. In 1997, apprehensive about a forthcoming – and rarely granted – press interview, she found herself unable to write for six weeks. When her first novel, Madam, Will You Talk? (1954), was published and she saw "This is the new star" printed next to her publicity photograph, she burst into tears of dismay. Stewart introduced a different kind of heroine for a newly emerging womanhood. It was her "anti-namby-pamby" reaction, as she called it, to the "silly heroine" of the conventional contemporary thriller who "is told not to open the door to anybody and immediately opens it to the first person who comes along". Instead, Stewart's stories were narrated by poised, smart, highly educated young women who drove fast cars and knew how to fight their corner. Also tender-hearted and with a strong moral sense, they spoke, one felt, with the voice of their creator. Her writing must have provided a natural form of expression for a person not given to self-revelation. Madam, Will You Talk? featured a woman lured into danger by her concern for a motherless boy. It was an immediate success. Over the next 15 years, a whole line of novels of a similar suspenseful nature rolled out, with titles including Nine Coaches Waiting (1958), My Brother Michael (1959) and The Ivy Tree (1961).”
Rachel Hore, Guardian obit

12th May 2014 – HR Giger, 74

Concept artist who came up with the designs for the Alien in the Ridley Scott film.

13th May 2014 – Dick Douglas, 82

Scottish Labour MP for Clackmannan from 1970-4, and Dumfermline for 1979-92, during which he refused to pay the Poll Tax and defected to the SNP.

15th May 2014 – Jean-Luc Dehaene, 73

Former Belgian Prime Minister

“A Flemish Christian Democrat, he had an ability to reconcile squabbling factions that almost propelled him to the presidency of the European commission in 1994, but his zeal for federalism led the British prime minister John Major to veto his candidacy. Dehaene's death, just 10 days before Belgians head to the polls in joint European, national and regional elections, seems to mark the passing of an era: Belgium's recent political upheavals have been attributed to the dearth of operators like Dehaene, able to roll up their sleeves and hammer out a compromise from seemingly irreconcilable positions. As prime minister from 1992 to 1999, he steered constitutional reforms that turned the country into a federal state by introducing direct elections for the parliaments of Belgium's regions and language communities. His centre-left coalitions addressed Belgium's disastrous public finances, and his budgetary reforms, often bypassing parliament, helped ensure the country became one of the euro's founding countries in 1999 despite it having Europe's highest national debt.”
Leo Cendrowicz, Guardian obit

18th May 2014 – Jerry Vale, 83

American singer whose variation of the Star Spangled Banner became popular.

19th May 2014 – Sir Jack Brabham, 88

Australian racing driver who won three Formula One championships (1959, 1960, 1966).  Founded the Brabham racing team and won using one of their cars.

“In 1955 he left for Britain and became involved with the father-and-son racing-car builders Charles and John Cooper, making his Formula One debut in the 1955 British grand prix at Aintree in a central-seater Cooper sports car. Thereafter Brabham rode the crest of the Formula One wave as Cooper rewrote the parameters of contemporary car performance, their rear-engined models superseding all their traditionally front-engined rivals. Although Stirling Moss won the first Cooper victory in the 1958 Argentine Grand Prix, once Brabham hit his stride in the summer of 1959 there was no stopping him. With their rivals Vanwall and Maserati having dropped out of the scene, Ferrari still wrestling with their outdated front-engined Dino 246 and Colin Chapman's Lotus team yet to come to full flower, Cooper enjoyed a spectacular two-year run of success. During that time Brabham won seven races and two world championships. It was perfect timing; the right machine, driven by the right man, at the right moment. Nevertheless, Brabham had been nurturing long-term plans to manufacture production racing cars for the junior international formulas in his own right. This project relied on the collaboration of his old Australian friend and engineer Ron Tauranac, and the process inevitably moved to its logical conclusion with the construction of Brabham's own Formula One car.” Alan Henry, Guardian obit

19th May 2014 – Vincent Harding, 82

American historian and  civil rights social activist. A friend of Martin Luther Kings, he wrote Kings speech condemning the Vietnam War, a Time to Break Silence.

“For more than half a century, Dr. Harding worked at the nexus of race, religion and social responsibility... he was widely considered a central figure in the civil rights movement. A friend, adviser and sometime speechwriter to Dr. King, Dr. Harding was a member of the cohort that helped carry on his mission after his assassination in 1968. Dr. Harding, the first director of what is now the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, was in the vanguard of promoting black studies as an academic discipline at colleges and universities throughout the country. He served as a consultant to television programs about the African-American experience, notably “Eyes on the Prize,” the critically acclaimed documentary series first broadcast on PBS in 1987. As a historian, Dr. Harding argued that black Americans — and, by extension, all Americans — could not understand the social struggles that lay ahead without a deep understanding of those who had gone before. He was known in particular for two books, “There Is a River: The Black Struggle for Freedom in America” (1981) and “Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero” (1996). In “There Is a River,” Dr. Harding examined the tradition of black protest — a movement he likened to a river flowing through centuries of American history — up to the end of the Civil War. Throughout the book, he adopted the dual stance, unusual for an academic historian, of impartial observer of past events and active participant in present ones.” Margalit Fox, New York Times obit

“Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: 'Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King?' 'Why are you joining the voices of dissent?' 'Peace and civil rights don't mix,' they say. 'Aren't you hurting the cause of your people,' they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.”
Martin Luther King,  A Time to Break Silence speech

20th May 2014 – Barbara Murray, 84

Actress who appeared, among many other roles, in Passport to Pimlico and Doctor Who.

25th May 2014 – Wojciech Jaruzelski, 90

Controversial Communist Polish leader from 1981-89.

25th May 2014 – Herb Jeffries, 100

American jazz singer.

28th May 2014 – Maya Angelou, 86

American author who wrote I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

“Angelou's legacy is twofold. She leaves behind a body of important artistic work that influenced several generations. But the 86-year-old was praised by those who knew her as a good person, a woman who pushed for justice and education and equality. In her full life, she wrote staggeringly beautiful poetry. She also wrote a cookbook and was nominated for a Tony. She delivered a poem at a presidential inauguration. In 2010, President Barack Obama named her a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian honor. She was friends with Malcolm X and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and inspired young adults and world celebrities. She sang calypso. She lived through horrors. Her lasting contribution to literature, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," bore witness to the brutality of a Jim Crow South, portraying racism in stark language. Readers learned of the life of Marguerite Ann Johnson (Angelou's birth name) up to the age of 16: how she was abandoned by her parents and raped by her mother's boyfriend. She was homeless and became a teen mother. Its publication was both daring and historic, given the era of its debut in 1969.”
Todd Leopold, Ashley Fantz, Moni Basu and Faith Karimi, CNN obit

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”Maya Angelou

28th May 2014 – Stan Crowther, 78

Footballer who won the 1957 FA Cup with Aston Villa, and reached the final in 1958, having been one of the last minute signings for Manchester United after the Munich disaster.

28th May 2014 – Malcolm Glazer, 85

American owner of Manchester United and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

31st May 2014 – Mary Soames, 91

Youngest and last of Churchill’s children. Widow of Christopher Soames (ex-MP) and mother of Nicholas (current-MP), Rupert (Serco CEO) and Emma (ex-Telegraph editor).  Mary was herself an acclaimed writer who wrote a good biography of her mother Clementine.

“With the outbreak of war in September 1939, Mary followed her parents to London. Then, during the blitz, she was packed off to Chequers, the prime minister's country retreat in Buckinghamshire. Keen for more of the action, she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service in September 1941 and served in one of the new "mixed" anti-aircraft batteries. Life in tents and draughty barracks was a marked change from her privileged lifestyle to date. At one army dance, she teased an American soldier about his big feet, whereupon he put her over his knee and gave her "about 30 good-natured whacks". His buddy told Time magazine: "She's a regular guy and, like her old man, can take it." Mary's battery served in London and on the coast during the V-bomb raids of 1944, before moving on to Belgium and Germany. Excitement of a different sort came from travelling abroad as her father's ADC. In the summer of 1943 she went to Quebec and Washington; in July 1945 she accompanied Winston to Potsdam for the summit with Truman and Stalin.”
David Reynolds, Guardian obit

““I knew they’d be saying: ‘Here’s Churchill’s daughter—she won’t be scrubbing any floors!’ You had to start all over again and make the point that you weren’t just there to polish your nails. It was much easier when I was in the ranks. Once you were an officer, it was far more of a struggle to be accepted. I remember my terror whenever I was sent to a new unit. On the evenings off, there were always parties and dances, and one had a lot of fun. When I was in the ranks, I had to be back by midnight—23.59 was the magic number—but, when I became an officer, I quite often arrived back at four in the morning, and was back on duty again by nine. There was a very jolly atmosphere.”
Mary Soames, Finest Hour 116 , Autum 2002 interview

“After a stint in Brussels, where her husband was the British vice-president of the European Community, Mary faced her most testing role yet, when Christopher was made the last British Governor-General of Rhodesia in the final run-up to Independence in 1979-80. The job was an immensely difficult one — her husband was expected to preside over an election and a ceasefire in a country where resentment, bitterness and violence ran deep. As Mary put it: “We couldn’t very well throw tea parties on the lawn, or have the politicians round for cocktails.” Instead, she visited schools, hospitals, orphanages and refugee camps, launching her own fund for the children of Rhodesia (in 1979 she had been made UK chairman of the International Year of the Child). Soames thrived on a situation to which she had to a large extent been born and bred. “One gets caught up in the thing. I find that if I have been out for a couple of hours I return with the feeling that I must have missed something. I immediately grab people and say: 'Is there anything happening?’” She exercised her considerable charm on Rhodesian leaders of all varieties and once found herself addressing, off-the-cuff, 900 of Joshua Nkomo’s Zipra guerrillas when she went to inspect a field hospital. Against all the odds, she managed to win widespread admiration and confidence, and on her return to London her contribution was recognised when she was appointed DBE.”
Telegraph obit