Category Archive 'Obituaries'
11 Jun 2015

Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee, CBE, CStJ (27 May 1922 – 7 June 2015)

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Christopher Lee died at 8:30 A.M. last Sunday morning in the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London at the age of 93. His family delayed the public announcement of his death until today to allow time for relatives to be notified.

Christopher Lee worked as a character actor in the course of his long career, typically in second-rate horror films, though he was obviously a first-rate human being. He stood 6’5″ (1.9558 m.) in height, spoke six languages, was a world champion fencer, and made a point of performing all his own stunts personally.

Lee was also a political conservative who volunteered to fight for Finland against Soviet Russia during the Winter War, and who then went on to serve as a British commando through the entirety of the Second World War.

He advised Peter Jackson on how properly to sound record a killing during the making of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Dissatisfied with a scene, Christopher asked director Peter Jackson: “Peter, have you ever heard the sound a man makes when he’s stabbed in the back? Well, I have, and I know what to do.”

Christopher Lee became the oldest person to record lead vocals on a heavy metal track when, at the age of 88, he wrote and performed on a progressive symphonic concept album about the life of Charlemagne, from whom he traced his own descent via his mother, an Italian countess.

Christopher Lee remained married to the same woman (a Danish model) for 54 years, and in his later years frequently campaigned for the Tories in national elections.

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The younger Christopher Lee as we knew him best.

02 Jun 2015

Jean Ritchie, 8 December 1922 — 1 June 2015

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Jean Ritchie, the best singer in the American Appalachian folk tradition, passed away last evening at the age of 92. She was born in Viper, an unincorporated settlement in Eastern Kentucky, and died in Berea, Kentucky.

America Folklife Center announcement. Formal obituaries have yet to appear.

Wikipedia bio.

Here is a good example of her repertoire and voice:

26 May 2015

Tanith Lee, 1947-2015

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TanithLee

Sci Fi/Fantasy writer Tanith Lee has passed away.

Heavy has five facts about Lee.

Locusmag obituary.

Tor.

16 May 2015

Margot, Dowager Marchioness of Reading, 11 January 1919 — 19 April 2015

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Margot

The Telegraph does the best obituaries, and its subjects seem to live the best lives.

The Dowager Marchioness of Reading, who has died aged 96, was a society beauty of the 1930s and 1940s and a woman of independent spirit.

She was one of the first British women to get a pilot’s licence, competed on the prewar stock car racing circuit, and became a rally driver in the 1950s. In later life she became a campaigner for animal rights and an outspoken English nationalist.

As Harold Brooks-Baker, the former publishing director of Burke’s Peerage, once observed, Margot Reading had views “diametrically opposed to most sane people”. At no time was this more clear than in 1998 when, after the maverick Tory politician Alan Clark paid tribute to the “martial spirit” of English football supporters who had gone on the rampage in Marseille, she wrote a letter to The Spectator in which she observed: “We are a nation of yobs. Now we don’t have a war, what’s wrong with a good punch-up?”

In a later interview she elaborated on her views. “I love England so much and I just feel that the so-called hooligans are just sort of over-enthusiastic. How is it that we conquered the world and that our armies went over the top? It is because we are a nation of fighters … What an English tough guy does is to fight with his fists, which is a good clean fight… With so many milksops, and Left-wing liberals and wetties around, I just rejoice in the fact that there are people who keep up our historic spirit.”

Her comments came in for severe criticism, prompting her eldest son, the Marquess of Reading, to beg her not to take any more telephone calls. “I am very fond of my mum, but I do not always agree with her,” he explained.

One of three sisters, she was born Margot Irene Duke on January 11 1919. Her father, Percy Duke, was said to have been the last man to wear a wing collar on the floor of the Stock Exchange and , for reasons which remain obscure, divided the world into people he called “George,” and those he called “McGregor”

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Rafal Heydel-Mankoo.

06 Apr 2014

Abel Davis (14 February 1925 — 30 September 2013)

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Abel Davis riding an event course on Solvay.

Catching up with my back issues of Chronicle of the Horse, I found in the December 16, 2013 issue the obituary of another great sportsman.

Money quote:

“When his cardiologist advised him to quit polo, Mr. Davis took up three-day eventing at Goose Downs Farm (N.M.). ‘I think his doctor only agreed because he didn’t know what three-day eventing was,’ said Audrey Hays, his second wife.”

Horseman Abel Davis died at the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque on Sept. 30 due to complications from a chronic spinal cord injury. He was 88.

Mr. Davis was born on Feb. 14, 1925, to Gen. Abel Davis and Marjorie Mayer Davis in Glencoe, Ill.

At 18, Mr. Davis was drafted into the 14th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army. He served in World War II, and on Jan. 1, 1945, he was shot five times during the Battle of the Bulge. He received a Purple Heart and spent 1½ years recovering in Virginia hospitals.
Mr. Davis’ first job was selling “Big Yank” overalls. He moved to Chicago, where he started one of the first direct mail businesses in the country, National Business Lists, and raised four children with his wife of 46 years, Susan Frank.

He spent free time foxhunting and skiing with his family in Aspen, Colo., and moved permanently to Tesuque, N.M., after he sold the business in 1968.

Together with Philip Naumberg, Jim Alley and Jim Ritchie, he established the Santa Fe Polo Grounds (later renamed the Santa Fe Horse Park and now called the Santa Fe Equestrian Center).

When his cardiologist advised him to quit polo, Mr. Davis took up three-day eventing at Goose Downs Farm (N.M.). “I think his doctor only agreed because he didn’t know what three-day eventing was,” said Audrey Hays, his second wife.

At 75, Mr. Davis achieved his goal of competing preliminary with his mount, Sir Francis Drake.

In addition, he was a whipper-in for the Juan Tomás Hounds (N.M.) for 20 years.

At 80, he broke his neck in a jumping accident, but he still took dressage lessons after recovering.

“After they made him, they broke the mold,” said Audrey. “He marched to the beat of his own drum. He bought all of his horses young and green and brought them up himself. There was no way you could tell him to get off his horse when he was older.”
He was a founding member of the Tesuque Volunteer Fire Department and an avid animal lover, who was known for his pack of red Dobermans.

Mr. Davis was preceded in death by his wife, Susan, and daughter, Leslie Davis. He is survived by his second wife, Audrey; his daughter Patricia Willson and her husband, Rich, of Albuquerque; his daughter Lauren Davis and her husband, Charles Stathacos, of Croton, N.Y.; his son Jad Davis and his wife, Sarah, of Santa Fe, N.M.; his son-in-law Bill Lazar and his wife, Lynn Rosen, of Bozeman, Mont.; and four grandchildren.

18 Mar 2014

Clarissa Dickson Wright, 24 June 1947 — 15 March 2014

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Clarissa Dickson Wright, “the larger of the Two Fat Ladies,” passed away recently aged 66.

She was the daughter of very rich, but alcoholic and abusive, father. At age 26, she inherited 2.8 million pounds, thereupon embarking “on almost a decade of extravagance and debauchery.”

The Telegraph obituary reports that:

By age 40, she had blown it all on “yachts in the Caribbean, yachts in the Aegean, aeroplanes to the races – and drink”. “If I’d had another £100,000,” she conceded, “I’d have been dead.”

She had studied successfully for a law degree, and been the first woman admitted to the Admiralty Bar, but in 1980, she was charged with professional incompetence and practicing without chambers. She was disbarred three years later.

At rock bottom she went to the DSS to ask for somewhere to live, only to be told: “We’re not here for the likes of you, you know. You’re upper class, you’ve got a Law degree.”

She began to cook in other people’s houses. “Of course it’s only the upper classes who will become domestic servants now,” she reflected. “Other people feel it demeans them.” One day, when preparing to cook for a house party, she was on her knees, cleaning the floor. “I looked up,” she remembered, “and said ‘Dear God, if you are up there, please do something.’” The next day she was arrested for refusing a breathalyser. “I was carted down the long drive just as the house party was coming up it. From then on, I was inexorably swept into recovery.”

BBC producer Patricia Llewellyn found her running a bookshop in Edinburgh and teamed her with the also colorful and eccentric Jennifer Paterson, then a columnist at The Spectator. Their program, Two Fat Ladies, achieved enormous popularity by flying in the face of healthy eating and enthusiastically embracing traditional items of cuisine, loaded with fat, sugar, calories, and cholesterol.

She smoked a pipe, boasted of having had sex behind the Speaker’s Chair in the House of Commons, and defied the Hunt Ban by attending a greyhound coursing exhibition, and when prosecuted told the Press that she would be glad to go to prison “for hunting.”

She was even a friend of Steve Bodio’s.


She was slender as a young girl.

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03 Feb 2014

Leonard Mason Smith’s Obituary

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Greenwich Time:

Leonard Mason Smith, 86, a veteran of World War II and Korea and longtime resident of Pine Island, passed away Nov. 27, 2013.

He was a very private man. If you wanted to know his cause of death, he would have told you that it was none of your business. If you asked Penny, his beloved wife, she would tell you that he had cancer, but not to tell anyone. Although his prognosis was dire, he battled on, lived his life and survived several years beyond the experts’ expectations. He did not want his obituary to suggest that he lost a long battle with cancer. By his reckoning, cancer could not win, and could only hope for a draw. And so it was. He hated losing.

He was born to Leonard Henry Smith and Charlotte deCamp July 20, 1927, in New York City. As a young man he resided in New Rochelle, N.Y., where he attended the Iona School. He graduated from the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, and then matriculated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was president of the Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity and earned an engineering degree. He joined the Army Air Corps after his first term at M.I.T., and attained the rank of colonel, but only on the telephone when facilitating personnel discharges and equipment requisitions. He was discharged as a private. After his graduation from M.I.T., he enlisted in the Air Force during the Korean War, and served in Japan and the Philippines. After the war, he began a career as a management executive. He worked for Bamberg Rayon Company, American Enka, Union Carbide, General Dynamics, Cognitronics and Computer Transceiver Systems Incorporated. By virtue of his education, training and temperament, his assignments tended to be companies and divisions that were experiencing financial or operational deficiencies. He liked the challenge.

He was married to Penelope Self Dec. 4, 1953, in Asheville, N.C. They were married for 58 years until her death in 2012. They raised five children together, living in New Rochelle and Greenwich, Conn. He enjoyed sailing and served as commodore of the Shenorock Shore Club in Rye, N.Y. They also raised show and field Gordon Setters, of which he was very proud. After retirement, they resided in Asheville and Pine Island, where they were active with local church groups and charities. …

He hated pointless bureaucracy, thoughtless inefficiency and bad ideas born of good intentions. He loved his wife, admired and respected his children and liked just about every dog he ever met. He will be greatly missed by those he loved and those who loved him.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you cancel your subscription to The New York Times.

He would have thought that this obituary was about three paragraphs too long.

Hat tip to Rod Dreher and Jim Harberson.

29 Jan 2014

Pete Seeger R.I.P.

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Jesse Larner, at HuffPo, explains just why Peter Seeger sucked as a folk singer.

As someone on the left who loves folk music, I understand that I’m supposed to feel mystically uplifted by the dean of activist folkies. But for those very reasons — because I believe in a humanist political order, and because authentic folk music speaks to me — I never could stand Pete. I don’t question his dedication or his energy. It’s just that I think them unfortunate. His conception of “folk music” has done tremendous damage, and his politics have done tremendous damage, and these things are connected.

Seeger’s been very influential. Most Americans, when they think of “folk music,” think of the 50s and 60s “revival” of that form: the songs, and versions of songs, made popular by him, The Weavers, Joan Baez, the Kingston Trio. This is a mistake. The songs these people became famous for singing are pretty, denatured coffee-house comforts that have little to do with the life that informed the originals. …

For [the] bowdlerization of the folk tradition — deeply disrespectful to the people who created it, I may add — Pete the tireless popularizer of fake folk music bears much of the blame.

It’s worse than that, and here’s where the politics comes in. I’ve tried to describe the power of folk music, because it is important to understand that this power is not amplified when made explicit, when harnessed to an agenda. It is negated. Folk music is about life, and politics is only a small part of life. …

Who the hell was Pete? He came from a distinguished family of musicians and academics afflicted with self-conscious class-consciousness; his father, Charles Louis Seeger, although from an old Puritan patrician line, joined the radical Industrial Workers of the World in the 1930s, a form of ostentatiously slumming solidarity that predicted much about his son’s future. Pete was a professional musician from a young age, Harvard dropout, assistant to folk archivist Alan Lomax, and dedicated political activist. He knew everything about folk music, except what it is.

Read the whole thing.

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The perfect Pete Seeger song:

Lots of hat tips to Iowahawk.

13 Jan 2014

What Being My Age Is Like

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09 Jan 2014

Sir Run Run Shaw (1907 – 2014)

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The great Run Run Shaw, Hong Kong producer of countless examples of martial arts cinema, who brought Chinese culture and flying Kung Fu masters to the world, passed away, allegedly at the admirable age of 106. Quentin Tarantino is basically his disciple, and Tarantino acknowledges the debt by routinely prefacing his own films with the Shaw Brothers logo.

Variety:

Shaw’s birthday and his exact age have long been clouded in mystery — his widow Mona Shaw (aka Mona Fong) has often refused to clarify the issue — and other sources put his age at 107. He died at 6.55am local time in Hong Kong on Jan 7, 2014.

From his early work doing odd jobs around theaters and cinemas controlled by his older brothers, Shaw went on to establish and run the leading production studios in Asia by the 1950s. Along the way he ushered in significant technical progress into Chinese film.

Shaw is best known for the Shaw Brothers’ martial arts output of the 1960s, but he should rightly also be given credit for pioneering a form of Asian musical film and for putting Hong Kong on the global cinema map.

The Shaw Brothers company was in its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s and was influential in both the Asian and Western film industries. He personally has credits on some 360 films, ranging from martial arts classics to Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner.”

29 Dec 2013

Wojciech Kilar, 17 July 1932 – 29 December 2013

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Wojciech Kilar, Polish composer noted particularly for his film scores, died today aged 81 in Katowice.

Here is a humorous Polonaise, poking fun at the self-importance of the Lithuanian gentry, written for Andrzej Wajda’s Pan Tadeusz
(1999)
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13 Dec 2013

Barbara Branden (née Weidman, May 14, 1929 – December 11, 2013)

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Barbara Branden, first biographer of Ayn Rand, died Wednesday at age 84. Astonishingly a laudatory obituary written by James Peron was published on the Puffington Host .

One of the great figures in modern libertarianism has died today: Barbara Branden. Barbara, 84, was born in Winnipeg, Canada. It was there that she met her husband, Nathaniel Branden. And, while the couple divorced, Barbara was close to Nathaniel her entire life.

Barbara and Nathaniel became friends because of their mutual admiration for Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead. While a student at the University of California, Los Angeles, Nathaniel wrote a fan letter to Rand, who worked as a scriptwriter in the area. Rand called him and invited him to visit her home. On the second visit he brought Barbara with him. They married in 1954.

During the writing of Atlas Shrugged, Barbara was one of the small circle of friends allowed to read the manuscript while it was in process. In 1958 she and Nathaniel organized the Nathaniel Branden Institute, to present systematic presentations of Rand’s Objectivist philosophy. Barbara gave a series of lectures on Principles of Efficient Thinking.

She and Nathaniel divorced but remained friends for the rest of their lives. In 1984 she published a biography of Rand, The Passion of Ayn Rand, which was later made into a film with Helen Mirren and Eric Stoltz. Barbara was not entirely pleased with the film.

Barbara remained active in Objectivist and libertarian circles for her entire life. She offered a nuanced, always sympathetic perspective on Ayn Rand. While sometimes critical, she never lost her admiration for Ayn. Even though the Brandens had an acrimonious split with Rand, after a relationship between Ayn and Nathaniel ended, Barbara always told me that, knowing everything she knew then, she would do it all over again.

06 Oct 2013

A Nation Mourns

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Walter’s Swan Song (the the tune of Marty Robbins’ El Paso):

Out in New Mexican town of Alb ‘Querque
I fell in love with the methedrine world
Daytime would find me in Gustavo’s meth lab
I’d start a batch and ingredients would swirl
Blue as the sky was my brand, ‘Phetamina
Purer than snow with a ninety six grade
Great was the take from this methedrine poison
Buried in barrels till I was betrayed

One day a former meth partner called up
Claims I had poisoned a ki-I-I-i-id
Spiteful and spurning, my cash he was burning
From blue ‘Phetamina
The drug that I cooked

So in panic, I
Drove to the spot where I buried my money
Only to find that nobody was near
Wasn’t aware I’d been tailed by my in-law
Phoned Nazi scum; Jesse’s vengeance I feared
Just for a moment I flopped to the hard ground
Shocked when that Nazi killed Hank with his gun
This was my thought as I tormented Jesse
I had but one chance and that was to run

From my scumbag of a lawyer I heard
How to escape my past li-I-I-i-ife
Hid in a truck’s tank, the air there was so dank
Inside its bowels as away I did ride

Just as fast as, I
Could from New Mexican town of Alb ‘Querque
Out to a cabin in New Hampshire snow…

Read the whole thing.

Two hat tips to Vanderleun.

20 Aug 2013

Elmore Leonard, 1925-2013

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Max Read, at Gawker of all places, put his finger on the key ingredient in Elmore Leonard’s distinct sensibility.

The characters in Leonard’s crime novels share with their western-novel antecedents not a particular relationship to law and order but a sense of professionalism—a deep knowledge of the practices and rituals, the codes and conventions of their given fields. His crime novels concern characters who exist on the edge of the law, in gray areas that block them from full membership in Team Good or Team Bad—bounty hunters, bail bondsmen, ex-cons trying to make good, sleazy lawyers, slightly corrupt police officers, all forming alliances, enemies, and romances between and across tribes—but all of them (the ones Leonard sympathizes with, at any rate) are professionals. In Killshot, the seasoned hitman Armand Degas takes a younger wannabe, Richie Nix, under his wing, imparting to him the rules of the trade:

    “No, no could’ve. Only when you know you could do it. Then all it takes is one shot. It’s the same as with a hunter, a guy who knows what he’s doing. He don;t take the shot if he thinks he could miss, or might only wound it. See, then he has to go find the animal to finish it. OK, what if it’s a kind of animal that could eat him up. Like a lion that’s mad now ’cause it’s shot and waits to jump out at the guy. You understand? That’s why you always make sure, One shot, one kill.

    “Man, I’m bleeding something fierce.”

    “Don’t get it on the seat. What I’m saying is you don’t want to have to shoot anything more than once.”

    “I’m in fucking pain.”

    This guy was not only a punk, he was a baby.

Rules like this, professional guidelines gleaned from years of work and dedication, pervade Leonard’s novels (in many cases thanks to his researcher of three decades, Sutter, who provided Leonard with background about the fields and trades his characters worked). Leonard, himself a consummate professional and a tireless worker who at his death was said to be finishing another novel, loved them—the hard-won details that set apart a dilettante from a master.

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