Category Archive 'Obituaries'
22 Feb 2015

Another Member of the Greatest Generation Gone

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Leon Kent as a young officer during WWII.

The LA Times published a pretty impressive obituary for Leon Kent.

In the first desperate hours of the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, a young Army lieutenant was given an order that seemed impossible: stop a fast-moving column of German tanks from advancing.

The three soldiers assigned to the lieutenant were not trained in anti-tank warfare. The only artillery piece available was designed to bring down airplanes, not tanks. And the firing position provided no cover if the tanks returned fire.

A battlefield dispatch from the Associated Press described what happened:

“Anti-aircraft gunners, who stayed behind when the infantry withdrew, played a vital role in preventing a major German breakthrough in Belgium. … One battery, commanded by Lt. Leon Kent of Los Angeles, knocked out five tanks, including one King Tiger tank, in two hours.” …

Kent, who returned to a career as a lawyer and bowling-alley owner after the war, died Feb. 12 in Beverly Hills, his home for several decades. He was 99 and had pneumonia, his family said.

He always downplayed any sense that he had acted bravely during that attack. But he never dismissed the danger that his soldiers faced from German tanks.

“If they got one shot at us, we were dead,” he told The Times in 2011. “I remember thinking: Do the shells go through you or do you go up in pieces?”

By stopping the German column, Allied troops who had retreated were able to regroup and begin counter-measures.

“What Capt. Kent showed was extraordinary leadership,” retired Army Maj. Gen. John Crowe said before a 2011 ceremony at the December 1944 Historical Museum in La Gleize, Belgium. “He wouldn’t ask his troops to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. That’s the kind of leadership that inspires troops.”

After the war, locals erected in a plaque that, in French, reads: “Here the invader was stopped.” …

About that day when he was given a suicidal-sounding order to stop the enemy, Kent was blunt: “We stopped them cold.”

Read the whole thing.

12 Jan 2015

Anita Ekberg, Dead at 83

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Federico Fellini had her portray an unattainable sex goddess in La Dolce Vita (1960).

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04 Dec 2014

Nathaniel Branden, 9 April 1930 – 3 December 2014

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Ossian
Anne-Louis Girodet de Roucy-Trioson (1767-1824), L’apothéose des héros français morts pour la patrie pendant la guerre de la Liberté [Apotheosis of the French Heroes Who Died for their Fatherland During the War for Liberty also known as “The Spirit of Ossian Welcoming Napoleon’s Marshals into Valhalla”], 1802. Musée National du Chateau de Malmaison, Rueil

Reason and Huffington Post are both reporting this morning that Nathaniel Branden died yesterday in Los Angeles after a long illness.

Reason:

Nathaniel Branden, the man who turned Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy into a popular intellectual movement, died today at age 84.

He and Rand famously broke over complications involving a long-term affair of theirs that ended badly in 1968; the tale is told at length from his perspective in his memoir—the most recent edition called My Years with Ayn Rand—and interestingly, from his ex-wife Barbara Branden’s perspective in her 1986 Rand biography, The Passion of Ayn Rand.

After the break with Rand in 1968, Branden had his own highly successful career as a hugely popular writer on psychology, and he is a pioneer of the vital importance of “self-esteem” in modern culture.

Unlike the way the concept has been denatured over the decades, Branden, still Objectivist at heart, wrote with the understanding that creating a worthwhile and valuable life from the perspective of your own values was key to self-esteem, and thus to psychological health. That is, self-esteem wasn’t something that should be a natural given to a human, nor our birthright, but something to be won through clear-eyed understanding of our own emotions and their sources, and our values and how to pursue them.

Branden was vital to the spread of Rand’s ideas in two distinct junctures: by creating and publicizing the ideas inherent in her fiction through nonfiction and lectures via the Nathaniel Branden Institute in its lectures and magazines from 1958 to 1968 (a task Rand would almost certainly not have attempted without his prodding and aid).

Then, after Rand broke from him and all “official” Objectivists were required to revile him, Branden was a living example that intelligent admiration for and advocacy of Rand’s ideas need not be tied in with thoughtless fealty to Rand as a person, or to the pronouncements of those who controlled her estate, with all the attendant flaws and occasional irrationality: that one need not be an official Randian to spread the best of Objectivism.

Read the whole thing.

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HuffPo:

Born in Brampton, Ontario, April 3 1930, as Nathan Blumenthal he received a BA in psychology from the University of California Los Angeles, an MA from New York University and a Ph.D from the California Graduate Institute.

As an undergraduate he wrote a letter to Ayn Rand regarding her novel The Fountainhead, which earned him a phone call from the novelist/philosopher. He and his girlfriend, Barbara Weidman, visited Rand’s home north of Los Angeles and became close friends and associates.

After the publication of Rand’s magnum opus Atlas Shrugged, Branden created the Nathanial Branden Institute and presented lectures on Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism. Branden systematized Rand’s philosophy, something she had not done, and presented lectures on the ideas, published as The Vision of Ayn Rand.

These lectures were attended in person, or heard on tape, by thousands across the country and around the world including by many leaders of the nascent movement of modern libertarian.

Branden also began a romantic relationship with Rand, with the knowledge and consent of his wife, Barbara, and Ayn’s husband, Frank O’Connor. As is often the case in such relationships it did not end well and Rand and Branden had a stormy split in 1968.

Branden went on to promote his psychological views on self-esteem. He acknowledged his role in creating a spirit of intolerance within Rand’s circles, but he never repudiated the fundamental ideas, and in fact, defended them his entire life.

Read the whole thing.

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The young Nathaniel Branden was apparently an enfant terrible, notoriously arrogant, inflexible, and intolerant. He is generally supposed to have been principally responsible for the cult-like quality of Ayn Rand’s private circle, and reports abound of the young Branden conducting inquisitorial trials for deviationist infractions leading to the defendant’s excommunication and expulsion.

But, after the notorious break-up with Rand, he behaved with admirable dignity and restraint. While Rand hysterically denounced him and slandered him with false accusations, he avoided responding, merely relocating to the other side of the continent and building a new career as a pop psychologist counseling Californians on how to cure their neuroses by cultivating self-esteem.

It was amusing to see how thoroughly the former head of the rigid and formal Rand Jugend became Californianized. The later Branden began to speak well of pot smoking, and had himself photographed in guyabera shirts lounging beside a swimming pool.

Despite all that, he remained staunchly libertarian, and advocated essentially the same kind of politics and economics he had when he was Ayn Rand’s lover and deputy fuehrer. The only real difference was in his new-found personal modesty and sense of humor, overlaid with a thick layer of California squishiness.

His memoir of his time with Ayn was tasteful, discreet, and obviously quite honest. Reading his later writings, no one was ever moved to worship him in the way true believers once had, but one could not avoid kind of liking him and according him a bit of grudging respect. Molliter ossa cubent.

nathaniel-branden

14 Sep 2014

Melvin Poe, 24 August 1920 — 13 September 2014

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Melvin Poe hunting his Bath County Hounds in Hume, Virginia in 2009. (photograph: Karen L. Myers)

The sad news arrived yesterday morning, via friends on Facebook, that Northern Virginia Horse Country’s most-admired huntsman, Melvin Poe, had passed away at his home in Hume at the age of 94. I suppose we were all expecting it. Last year, when the anniversary of his birth arrived in late August, there were gleeful reports about Melvin celebrating his birthday, on horseback as usual. When there was no such story this year, we began to worry.

Melvin’s longevity, and extraordinary ability to ride and even to jump a horse at such an advanced age, had been noteworthy objects of envy and admiration throughout hunting circles for years. Melvin would occasionally ride with us, car following the Old Dominion Hounds, and when we’d leave the car to take up an observation position, I’d often find myself left behind, despite being almost 30 years younger, walking carefully and favoring a bad knee afflicted with damp weather arthritis, while Melvin could scramble up a hill as nimbly as a goat.

I grew up in the mountains of Eastern Pennsylvania, where hunting and fishing were treated by many like religion, and though Melvin’s native Virginia milieu had a different sporting emphasis, on hounds and fox hunting rather than trout and deer, nonetheless, I recognized Melvin at once, on making his acquaintance, as a kindred sporting fanatic.

We tended to hang out together at hunt meets, banquets, and hound shows. I last saw Melvin on Election Day of 2012, at the Episcopal Church Hall in Delaplane. We had both turned out to try to vote down Caliban, and we stood around together talking hunting for a long time. I remember that along came a lady member of a couple of local hunts from down the road in Markham who asked our advice about dealing with a skunk which had intruded into her horse barn. (Melvin and I recommended shooting the trespasser carefully in the head, from a safe distance.)

Melvin had been working as professional huntsman for Old Dominion back when I was attending grade school. He left Old Dominion in 1962. I think he hunted hunted briefly for Piedmont and/or Middleburg, but before very long took to carrying the horn for Orange County (possibly the toniest Northern Virginia hunt). He was Orange County huntsman for decades, and his tenure there gained him national renown. Peter Winants published a Derrydale Press book on Foxhunting with Melvin Poe. A documentary film, produced in 1979, called Thoughts on Foxhunting, starred Melvin and preserves a living record of his remarkable dialogue in the field with hounds.

Melvin retired from Orange County in 1991, but continued to hunt the neighborhood around his farm in Hume, and occasionally the vast Ohrstrom domain in Bath County in the Western mountains with a private pack made up of ill-favored, misshapen, or misbehaving hounds culled by local packs. Their quality didn’t matter in the least because Melvin could get any hound to cooperate and hunt well.

We had the opportunity to go out with Melvin and his Bath County Hounds back in 2009. More frequently, we car-followed the Old Dominion Hounds with Melvin. I remember in particular one day when, I can’t remember why, Melvin and I were separated from Karen and we’d gotten in a spot well ahead of the pack when one fox after another began popping out of cover and dashing off to our left. Melvin let go with the most extreme example of the Rebel Yell (preferred by true Virginia aborigines to a mere “Tally Ho!”) I’ve ever heard. Melvin gave me a fishy look for standing there silently, so when the second fox appeared, there I was, imitating Melvin and Rebel Yelling away with him. What a memory!

We will miss him.

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Fauquier Times obituary

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Norman Fine’s Obituary

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Chronicle of the Horse: “No One Else Can Hunt Like Melvin Poe.”

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Melvin out car following Old Dominion with us back in 2010.

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Let’s have John Tabachka blow “Going Home” for Melvin.

27 Aug 2014

Father Jean-Marie Charles-Roux

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The Telegraph memorialized recently a colorful priest remarkable for the soundness of both his political and ecclesiastical views.

Father Jean-Marie Charles-Roux, who has died [August 7th] aged 99, brought the mystical aura of French royalism to London as a Roman Catholic priest of the Rosminian order; he was devoted to the divine nature of monarchy and the Tridentine liturgy.

Tall, elegant, and with a theatrically silky voice, Charles-Roux wore buckled shoes and medallions commemorating martyred sovereigns, and used an eyeglass to read a newspaper during more than 40 years at the medieval church of St Etheldreda at Ely Place, off Holborn. There he celebrated the Latin Mass every morning with his back to the congregation. Sought after as a confessor, he preached lively and eloquent sermons, flattering and shocking his listeners in equal measure.

He would emphasise the Christian duty to the poor while maintaining that the parable of the talents proved that capitalism was not only acceptable but also a moral imperative. He made clear his abhorrence of the Allied bombing of Dresden by celebrating Mass for its victims. And once, comparing the transformation of the soul to cooking, he described how it was more likely to be successful in black saucepans (meaning priests) than in grander copper ones (casting a glance at Cardinal Hume sitting nearby).

In conversation with even the humblest, Charles-Roux assumed a shared familiarity with the families of the Anjou claimant to the French throne, the King of Spain and members of other European royal families; and he championed the canonisation of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, Mary Queen of Scots and even Charles I of England who, he maintained, should be acknowledged as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.

As communism tottered in Eastern Europe in 1989, the ambassadors of Poland and Hungary (possibly hedging their bets) were to be seen on their knees at a memorial service for the Empress Zita of Austria while Charles-Roux led them in prayers for the restoration of the Holy Roman Empire.

Jean-Marie Charles-Roux was born in Marseille into a French diplomatic family on December 12 1914. His first memories were of Rome, where his father was a member of the French embassy to the King of Italy.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Rafal Heydel-Mankoo.

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Damian Thompson, the Spectator’s religious editor:

For many years he was based at the Rosminian church of St Etheldreda’s, Ely Place, where he celebrated only the Tridentine Rite.

‘When the New Mass came in I tried it in English, French, Italian, even in Latin – but it was like a children’s game,’ he told me. ‘So I wrote to Pope Paul, whom I had known when he was Cardinal Montini, and said, Holy Father, either you let me celebrate the Old Mass or I leave the priesthood and marry the first pretty girl I meet.’

26 Aug 2014

Jean Redpath, 28 April 1937 – 21 August 2014

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The Times reports that the renowned Scottish folksinger Jean Redpath succumbed to cancer recently in a hospice in Arizona at age 77.

Redpath, in the course of her career, released forty albums. She was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire, and her portrait hangs in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Three Scottish songs with comical texts from an album of Scottish song released in 1962. The first one is the best.

13 Aug 2014

155-Year-Old Eel Dies in Sweden

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The eel in 1959.

Sweden is in mourning, and not for Robin Williams.

The Local.se reports:

The world’s oldest European eel just died in its home, a well in a southern Swedish fishing town, aged 155. …

In 1859 an 8-year-old Swede by the name of Samuel Nilsson threw the eel into the well. While the act may be reminiscent of children throwing strange objects into toilets in modern times, it was in fact common practice to throw an eel in your well.

Many towns didn’t have public water systems until the 1960s, and eels ate the flies and other creepy crawlies, keeping the house’s water supply clean .

Since its drop into the dark in 1859, the eel has been featured in books and documentaries, and made multiple cameos on Swedish TV.

Read the whole story.

In Pennsylvania, where I grew up, farmers often kept a brook trout in their spring house for the same reason.

If you believe the story, I guess Lamarckianism must be true.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers, Gawker, and Bird Dog. I guess everybody likes an old eel.

22 Jul 2014

James Garner Memorial Posting

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Americans were saddened this week by the passing of the good-looking and always affable James Garner. It seems appropriate to remember Garner with a look at a few of his best-known roles.

Bret Maverick takes on Clint Eastwood (1959):

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GarnerHartley

Garner’s late 1970s-early 1980s Polaroid commercials with Mariette Hartley were considered one of the advertising industry’s biggest hits. Garner tended to play the graceful loser in the battle of the sexes. Their badinage was so persuasive that a lot of people believed that Garner and Hartley were really married.

09 Jul 2013

Browns Fan’s Obit

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55-year-old Scott Entsminger died on July 4th. He was a passionate Cleveland Browns and he left a special request for his funeral, as the Columbus Dispatch reports.

He retired from General Motors after 32 years of service. He was an accomplished musician, loved playing the guitar and was a member of the Old Fogies Band. A lifelong Cleveland Browns fan and season ticket holder, he also wrote a song each year and sent it to the Cleveland Browns as well as offering other advice on how to run the team. He respectfully requests six Cleveland Browns pall bearers so the Browns can let him down one last time.

15 Apr 2012

Goodbye, Flathead!

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Mike Blanchard’s “In Memoriam” notice from the Denver Post has gone viral internationally.

It was reported with appropriate admiration by Britain’s Daily Mail.

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Charlie Martin added a bit more at the Daily Caller:

“What’s in the vial?”

“Nitroglycerin.”

According to lifelong friend Ron Remy, those were the first words he heard from Mike Blanchard when they met during high school.

“I was coming up the walk to his parents’ house when he came out, carrying a small vial, very carefully. He said it was nitroglycerin. He’d just cooked it up in his parents’ kitchen. We put it on a fence post and Mike shot it with a pellet gun, and it blew out a whole section of fence,” Remy said. “We all have these fantasies — but Mike would go out and just do it. I spent a year in Viet Nam, and some of the moments of stark terror I had with Mike eclipsed anything I saw there.” …

Collecting stories from Flathead’s life, however, initially presented a small problem. “I’m not sure of the statute of limitations,” one of his friends said. After assuring them we’d protect our sources, the stories flowed like whiskey.

“We had friends who joined these ‘outlaw’ motorcycle clubs. We decided we’d have our own. We called it the ‘Dead Cats MC,’” said one of the attendees who had been worried about misdeeds recent enough to prosecute. …

The stories Blanchard’s family and friends told certainly didn’t paint him as a boy scout. According to his friends, he was astonishingly intelligent and well read, with encyclopedic knowledge of Fords, guns, and explosives, but equally deep knowledge of European history and of prosaic topics like landscaping.

On the other hand, he had real difficulties with authority, and didn’t give in to social pressures — like hygiene.

“You could have drilled for oil in the leg of his jeans,” remembered one friend who wished to remain anonymous. …

As his obituary noted, Blanchard was a life-long Republican and an NRA member. And according to another friend, he had what we might now charitably call “old-fashioned” attitudes about race.

Read the whole thing.

The world is undoubtedly a poorer, wimpier, and more boring place without this old boy.


The Eagles Club at 8160 Rosemary Street in Commerce City, Colorado where Blanchard’s memorial service was held only for those over the age of 18.

17 Mar 2011

Dan Dennehy, January 15, 1923 – January 16, 2011

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Dan Dennehy at work

Another of the great men of the golden age of custom knife-making, Daniel John Dennehy, passed away earlier this year in Del Norte, Colorado.

Dan Dennehy began making knives while serving in the Navy in WWII.

Dennehy knives are characterized by original, simple, and practical designs tailored for specific functions. He produced a number of models specially for use by members of the armed forces, including the Pilot/Crewman, a 6″ rugged modern bowie designed to be capable of chopping an exit through a downed aircraft’s plexiglass canopy or aluminum skin; the 8″ Model 11 Green Beret, a large, double-hilted fighting knife; and the remarkable 6 1/2″, 1/4″ thick Model 13 Hoss, designed by a Navy SEAL as an indestructible knife-shaped pry bar and hammer made of surgical stainless steel which actually simultaneously manages to have a usable knife edge.

Dan Dennehy’s most popular productions, though, were simple and elegant hunting and fishing knives of slender and light easy-to-carry design, representative of the philosophy of the late 19th century outdoor writer George Washington Sears, better known as “Nessmuk,” who popularized the concept of ultra-light, minimal-sized sporting and camping equipment.

Dennehy forged all his larger knives, and a Dennehy forged knife exhibits a peculiar and unique glassy surface unlike any other knife.

Dan Dennehy was, along with Bob Loveless and Bill Moran, one of the founders of the Knifemaker’s Guild, and one of the most respected custom knife makers. Dennehy knives were favored by such celebrities as John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Clint Eastwood, Carlos Hathcock, Barry Goldwater, as well as by the controversial Watergate burglar and talk show host G. Gordon Liddy. Liddy’s own preferred model, a more ornate, stag-handled version of the 4 1/4″ Model 4 Pro Scout became a standard catalogued option, known as the “G. Gordon Liddy Special.”

Dan Dennehy stamped “Dan-D” and a shamrock on every knife as his personal trademark. He mentions in his catalogue that he was only able to produce roughly 100 knives per year. He was in business for a little more than 60 years, so his total production must have amounted to only something on the order of 6000 examples.

An obituary appeared on the Knifemaker’s Guild forum back in January.

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A couple of commemorative videos of Dan Dennehy’s assistants at work during the last few few years in the Dennehy shop in Del Norte, accompanied with Johnny Cash songs, have turned up on YouTube.

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Best viewed in full screen mode

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DanD 4″ Utility Knife, probably a variation of his Model 8, Personal Survival Knife

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Dan’s son, John Dennehy, has a custom leather operation in Loveland, Colorado, and makes some knives of his own design. He is currently offering for sale a small number of his father’s knives, and his web-site has more information on Dan Dennehy.

07 Oct 2010

Kurt Albert, January 28, 1954 – September 28, 2010

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Though Albert claimed to have strong feelings about climbing safety, one famous photograph showed him, clad in lederhosen, dangling from a precipice by one hand, while brandishing a stein of beer in the other.

German climbing legend Kurt Albert succumbed to head injuries suffered in a 60′ fall from a climb equipped with permanent technical aids.

Telegraph:

Kurt Albert, who died on September 27 aged 56, invented the “redpoint” or free style of climbing – in which the ascent is performed without technical aids.

He developed the idea in the early 1970s on expeditions to the Franconian Jura mountains, when he would paint a red “x” on each piton he could avoid using for a foot- or handhold. Once he was able to complete a route avoiding all of them, he would paint a red dot at the base of the climb so that others could have a go. Albert’s “redpoints” sparked the development of the sport climbing movement and the term “redpoint” is used as a measure of performance.

Albert marked new redpoint routes from Patagonia to the Karakoram and from Greenland to Venezuela. In Alpinismus (1977, with Reiner Pickle) he recalled that “we managed to apply the red dot even to some climbs where pitons had previously been considered essential. Handles and steps appeared that had never been noticed before.”

His more audacious feats include the first ascent of “Eternal Flame” on Trango Tower (6239m) in Pakistan’s Karakoram Range – one of the finest big-wall rock routes in the world. He completed the climb in 1989 with Wolfgang Güllich, managing most of the route free, but using aids for a small section; it was a feat which marked the beginning of the craze for free climbing on high-altitude peaks. It was left to Albert’s compatriots, Alexander and Thomas Huber, to redpoint the climb last year.

Albert’s other pioneering climbs included the first ascent of the aptly-named “El Purgatorio” up the North Pillar of the Acopan Tepui in Venezuela (2006), and the “Royal Flush” on Mount Fitz Roy in Patagonia (with Bernd Arnold, 1995). The newly-opened route was named “Royal Flush” for a reason: statistically a climber in Patagonia will have only two to three continuous days of good weather before violent storms make the ascent impossible. The route up the 1,400m North Wall is one of the most difficult in the world — and Albert always considered the climb to be his most important.

Kurt Albert was born on January 18 1954 in Nuremberg and started climbing, at the age of 14, with a Catholic youth group in his local Frankenjura mountains. He soon progressed to more challenging climbs, such as the Walker Spur on the Grandes Jorasses and the North Face of the Eiger, which he climbed aged 18.

A turning point in his life came in 1973 during a trip to the Elbsandstein in Saxony, where he met climbers who were more interested in pushing the physical limits of rock climbing than in conquering peaks. From then on the ascent became the main challenge, and the more craggy and vertiginous the route the better. As he explained to an interviewer, he liked his climbs to be 80 per cent rock face. Trudging through snow held little appeal.

Albert was not a typical fitness fanatic. He liked strong coffee and cigarettes, and confessed to being “lazy” at home. His commitment to redpointing, however, extended to his mode of travel to and from base camp. He considered it a point of honour to get to the rock face which he intended to climb using “natural”, non-mechanical means of transport and using no advance supplies or porters. …

He died from injuries sustained after falling 18 metres from the Höhenglücksteig via ferrata in Bavaria.

The scene of the accident is featured in this unrelated YouTube video of the Höhenglücksteig:

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