Category Archives: In Memoriam

Obituaries and memorials


RIP Ellsworth Kelly (1923-2015).

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George Bell, 1942-2014

A sublime (in the older, aesthetic sense of slightly frightening) piece by N. R. Kleinfield on the death and life of George Bell, who died alone in Queens. Memento mori, indeed.

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Passings: 2

Robert E. Simon, the developer who started the beautiful community where I have lived for the past 30 years, has passed away, according to Michael Neibauer’s report. If Reston hadn’t come into being, I’m not sure that I would still be living here in the D.C. metro.

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Keep in mind the tiny tots

Alas, Stan Freberg has moved on to a new agency.

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So, picking up some vibration in the air or other, I recently watched Keep On Keepin’ On (2014), Alan Hicks’s documentary about the relationship between veteran jazz trumpeter Clark Terry and the young pianist Justin Kauflin. The film was thin in the areas I was curious about, namely Terry’s career in the 1940s and onward—his departure from the Duke Ellington orchestra gets only an offhand mention, for instance—but it does a good job of telling the story it wants to tell. Terry was an influence on so many players, and he continued to nurture talents like Kauflin’s into his 90s. His body ravaged by diabetes, Terry kept on teaching.

My familiarity with Terry’s work is rather limited, but he was a gateway drug for me, like Dave Brubeck. I have a vinyl recording of Terry performing live with the Ohio State University Jazz Ensemble; this would be early 1970s, as I bought it after then band played a high school assembly for us. His work with the horn impressed me less than his vocal work, especially his signature piece “Mumbles,” an encore bit of rhythmic whimsy.

Anyway, it came as a slight shock to learn that Terry had died just this past week, as Reuters reports. Another one gone, but we have his recordings (more than 900 of them!) and his students.

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Baker Street

Sideman Raphael Ravenscroft, who earned a little sliver of immortality with an eight-bar riff, has joined Gerry Rafferty.

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Stand by

Iva Withers, Broadway utility infielder who once stepped into a role on seven minutes notice, has passed.

“Her motto was never to learn just your own lines — learn everybody’s.”

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Signing off

Bruce Morton, my favorite reporter on CBS in the Vietnam-to-Watergate days, back when I had time for TV news, has passed away. Morton had an edge to his on-air work that hinted that he had a firm grasp of how absurd the whole situation was. You can hear him in a couple of tiny clips in Wolf Blitzer’s remembrance.

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old boots 1Rather than an unboxing post about new hiking equipment, this is a goodbye to my old New Balance boots. They finally blew out on me, catastrophically, on a naturalist’s hike on the Appalachian Trail in May.

I bought these boots somewhere in the early 1990s—I know, nothing is built to last any more. Light and comfy, they took me up to Clingman’s Dome in Tennessee in 1993: that’s when I figured out that the nicely ventilating nylon uppers weren’t waterproof. Together, my footgear and I climbed in the Cascades of Washington, the Adirondacks, Yosemite, and many times up, down, and over the Blue Ridge.

old boots 2Stitched and glued back together several times, they’d finally had enough. So long, old boots.

Hey, the laces are new and in good shape. I can use them again for something.

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Liberal memories

Adam Gopnik considers the making of memorials (paywalled article):

Those who lack faith in fixed order and stable places have a harder time building monuments that must, in their nature, be monolithically stable and certain. Happiness writes write, and pluralism builds poorly. An obelisk can never be an irony. A pyramid can never symbolize a parenthetical aside. An eighty-foot-tall monument to fair procedure would not be a fair sight.

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Mae Keane, most likely the last surviving “radium girl,” a victim of occupational radiation poisoning at her workplace with the Waterbury Clock Company, has passed away.

After a few months, she [left the company]. It was the summer of 1924. She was 18. Within two decades she had lost all her teeth.

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Adieu, Little Miss Marker

Shirley Temple, child star of the 1930s and inspiration to my mother and many others, has died at 85.

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Margalit Fox’s obit for Imero Fiorentino, the lighting designer who made Richard Nixon look less bad in the televised Nixon-Kennedy debates, has this delicious second lede paragraph:

The maestro behind those feats was Imero Fiorentino, a lighting director who for more than half a century orchestrated the play of luminescence and shadow on television shows, in commercials and at live performances, illuminating — or not — everything from jowls to Jell-O to ginger ale.

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Al dente

Marcella Hazan, author of one of the two cookbooks that I actually cook from, has passed. She did prickly so well.

When Mrs. Hazan arrived in New York in 1955, Italian food was still exotic, served in restaurants with straw-covered Chianti bottles and red-checked tablecloths….

The culture shock nearly crushed her. She was appalled by canned peas, hamburgers and coffee she once described as tasting no better than the water she used to wash out her own coffeepot at home.

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Chord changes

NPR has the unhappy news of the passing of Marian McPartland, jazz pianist and genteel radio host. McPartland was one of the last four survivors of the photographic portrait from 1958, “A Great Day in Harlem.”

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