Remembering The Remarkable Lives Lost In 2010
On our fifth annual obituary show, we remember those who may not have made the front pages when they died but whose lives still made an impact. NPR's Neal Conan, Joanne Silberner and Sonari Glinton are among those who share their remembrances.
Vonetta McGee, Actress
Remembered by Alicia Montgomery
At a time when Americans were just discovering that black was beautiful, a girl named Lawrence dazzled audiences and critics with her elegance and strength on-screen.
Named after her father, Lawrence Vonetta McGee was born in San Francisco in January 1945. As an actress, she was known simply as Vonetta McGee.
Her celebrity began in Italy, with films like Faustina and 1968's Il Grande Silenzio (The Great Silence). That led to a string of starring roles in 1970s films like Blacula, Hammer and Shaft In Africa -- movies that many characterize as "blaxploitation." But McGee felt that tag didn't do those films -- or the performers in them -- justice. In a 1979 interview with the Los Angeles Times, McGee said that people dismissed films as blaxploitation "so you don't have to think of the individual elements, just the whole. If you study propaganda, you understand how this works."
McGee famously co-starred with Clint Eastwood in the 1975 film The Eiger Sanction, but on-screen and off, actor Carl Lumbly was her partner. McGee played his wife in the groundbreaking 1980s cop drama Cagney and Lacey. They married in 1986, and McGee later played Lumbly's wife in the critically acclaimed 1990 independent film To Sleep With Anger.
In a 1972 appearance on the music show Soul Train, McGee joked with host Don Cornelius that she had to go through "pure pain" to become an actress. But she clarified that she meant she spent a lot of time acting in church basements and other free venues to earn her success.
Vonetta McGee died in July of cardiac arrest. She was 65.
Frank Frazetta, Artist
Remembered by Neal Conan
Wednesday, a listener e-mailed to ask that we remember Frank Frazetta, an artist who drew a thousand comic books in the 1940s and '50s and went on to provide the covers for dozens of science-fiction and fantasy novels as well as the illustrations for one character in particular.
As a kid, growing up in New York, I haunted the used-book stores that used to occupy shabby storefronts along Fourth Avenue, places where dime mysteries still sold for a dime and a dreamy teenager could search out the immortal works of Doc Smith, Robert Heinlein and Clifford Simak. And every store I went in, every time, I asked if any copies had shown up of books by Robert E. Howard, the pulp writer from Cross Plains, Texas, the king of sword and sorcery and the creator of Conan The Barbarian.
Owner after owner shook his head and explained that Skullface and the Conan books were long out of print; they stayed that way until 1966, when Lancer Books published a series of reissues in paperback with fantastic covers by Frank Frazetta that reeked of sex and dripped with gore -- and defined the character forever.
Beryl Bainbridge, Novelist
Remembered by Barrie Hardymon
There are the books you love that everyone loves -- War And Peace! Great Expectations! Eat Pray Love! -- and then there are those gems, those small novels that, when you find them, you pass on like a secret. The brilliant novels of British writer Beryl Bainbridge fall into that latter category; dark and funny novels with a heavy dose of deadpan. (Often the pan comes down on some poor character's head.)
You have only to look at her to see a woman of efficiency and wit (and wardrobe!) -- or, even better, read one of her glorious sentences. As a mother-to-be, I giggle whenever I read this one, from 1977's Injury Time: "Being constantly with children was like wearing a pair of shoes that were expensive and too small. She couldn't bear to throw them out, but they gave her blisters."
Bainbridge described writing once as, "talking on paper, and in time, learning what not to say." She was known to chain smoke while she wrote -- her writing has a whiff of cigarettes about it -- stylish, acute, with a strain of the morbid.
Beryl Bainbridge died last summer, at the age of 77. If you haven't read any of her books, a) I'm jealous, and b) get started.
Peter Niiler, Oceanographer
Remembered by Marisa Penaloza
Peter Niiler was my father-in-law. He died suddenly from a massive heart attack on Oct. 15 in San Diego. I know my son already misses talking on the phone with him. and he seems to know that we won't see Papa Pete when we visit San Diego next.
Peter was a renowned oceanographer -- a world authority on ocean circulation and a professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif. But to my 5-year-old son, Diego, he was simply "Papa Pete." Diego would anxiously count the days before our trips to San Diego. Before Peter's death, it was he and his wife, Nancy, who were preparing to visit us in D.C. for Halloween. But most important, at least to Diego, Papa Pete was coming to build a treehouse for him in our backyard. The back-and-forth conversations about design and dimensions kept us busy for months.
Papa Pete was an amateur architect -- he built several houses during his lifetime. He loved designing and taking precise measurements to build pieces or rooms with his hands. For our wedding in La Jolla, at the last minute we realized we didn't have a stand for our cake. Well, Pete got to work and made a simple, but elegant-looking cake stand.
Since July, when the idea of the treehouse jelled during a trip to San Diego, my husband, Eric, and Diego had made many trips to the library to research treehouses. They bought and sent Papa Pete a couple of their favorite treehouse books. Then, on the phone, Pete and Diego would talk about their favorite parts of the books. Diego would find his favorite treehouse and, while pointing to it, would say "Papa Pete, this is the one I want, can you see that?"
Peter was one of those rare individuals who even though they had a demanding, engaging profession were not defined by it. He had many different talents and navigated different worlds effortlessly. He was a generous man, a green thumb gardener, a great cook, a fantastic host, a good art collector, a keen traveler. But most of all, to Diego he was a terrific grandfather. Papa Pete taught Diego big words about all kinds of subjects -- like how the jets in the Jacuzzi worked and how to put his head down in the water. Diego, on the other hand, taught Papa Pete how to explain things so a 5-year-old would understand.
My son is too little to know what "dying" means and too little to even think about how Papa Pete's death will actually have an impact on his life. It is the things that Papa Pete and Diego won't share that will be missed the most.
Paul Miller, Advocate For The Disabled
Remembered by Joanne Silberner
There are plenty of ways to label Paul Miller. He was a highly effective advocate for the disabled. He was one of the longest-serving commissioners of the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission. He was an adviser to both President Clinton and President Obama. He was a devoted father and husband. He was a much lauded law professor at the University of Washington. He had a wicked sense of humor. And he was a dwarf.
After a long battle with cancer that included the removal of one of his arms, Paul Miller died in October at the age of 49. Before he died, he had his own label for himself: "the only one-armed Jewish dwarf in the Obama administration."
If Miller was sitting at a table when you first met him, you wouldn't know he was a dwarf. What you'd know, within seconds, is that he was vitally interested in you, and that he was deeply committed to helping the disabled. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he was rejected by dozens of law firms and was told that he'd scare off the clients. He dedicated his life to helping people with disabilities. His most recent missions were fighting employment discrimination and genetic discrimination -- he was working on genetic discrimination up to a few days before his death.
Remembered by Frannie Kelley
The rapper Guru, nee Keith Elam, died this spring at the age of 47. He was one-half of the monumental New York rap group Gang Starr, who released one of the first rap songs to sample a jazz recording in 1989. "Words That I Manifest" opened up a whole new lane for producers. Guru's partner, DJ Premier, would eventually become known as one of the greatest to ever do it.
Guru's laid-back, chesty delivery stands as one of the most recognizable and respected in hip-hop. He often mocked the posturing and cartoonish violence he heard in other early and mid-'90s rap music. He talked about his work ethic. When he insulted other rappers he was matter of fact, not hysterical, so you believed him. He was funny.
My favorite Gang Starr song, "Work," always sounds fresh -- buoyant and classy. The music Guru made with Premier and without him -- on his four Jazzmatazz records he rhymed over the playing of jazz musicians like Donald Byrd and Branford Marsalis -- is never pushy. It's confident but inviting, muscle-bound without sounding harsh. His flow wasn't superspeedy or slowed down; it was conversational, never overexcited or awkwardly emphasized.
On record Guru sounds gruff, like he's doing us a favor by opening his mouth at all. He put thousands of words on wax over the years, but he always sounded like a private man. So when drama between his family and his business partner spilled onto the Internet immediately following his death it was confusing and ugly. "My only crime was that I'm too damn kind," he said on "Moment of Truth." Let him rest in peace.
John Lowell Gliedman, Intellectual
Remembered by Margot Adler
I lost my husband this year. John Lowell Gliedman. We were together for 35 years. I "adopted" a bench in Central Park. It reads: "Runner Stargazer Writer. Dreams of space travel. Never a boring thought or conversation." John died at 67, a diagnosis of inoperable stomach cancer coming out of the blue. He had no symptoms until two weeks before diagnosis -- a man who never smoked, ate perfectly, was fit, had no genetic indications, and hoped to live past 100.
He was not famous. He wrote a couple of books, but he never really achieved what he called his Archimedean point. He wrote articles about quantum physics, but it was hard to get a book published because his Ph.D. was in experimental psychology and linguistics. He and a co-author wrote a classic work on disability still used by every policy wonk, but it never got into paperback to help ordinary people who might need its insights. He was funny, smart, a brilliant intellectual, but like so many of us in the world, he never achieved to the level of his abilities. At his memorial service we played a tape of him talking about space. He said contact with an alien life form would be so helpful to human beings, because it was limiting to only look at ourselves in the mirror. It was only when I was watching Avatar that I realized we would never travel the stars, never explore the possible futures together.
Sally Menke, Film Editor
Remembered by Zoe Chace
Sally Menke cut every movie made by Quentin Tarantino since Reservoir Dogs: Kill Bill 1 and 2, Grindhouse, Pulp Fiction and the rest.
Tarantino has such a distinctive style -- does it make you stop in your tracks to know he worked with the same editor on all of his movies? It killed me when I found this out. I had thought of Tarantino as the sole auteur, the mad genius behind the violent tense nuttiness that is Kill Bill. But it was just as much Menke. Menke was there all along. I didn't know it! Now I can't get her out of my mind. The invisible editors everywhere, shaping culture through cutting.
Menke described her relationship with Tarantino as "symbiotic. On the same railroad track, going to the same place." Quentin Tarantino said -- unsurprisingly -- the same thing: "I write by myself. But when it comes to the editing, I write with Sally. I don't remember what was her idea or what was my idea. We're just right there. Together." Menke usually wasn't on set. Tarantino sent her the reels. But she was on set in his mind all the time -- in fact, every time an actor flubbed a line, they would say straight into the camera, "Hi Sally"; her presence was that immediate.
Menke told The Guardian newspaper this, in one of the only interviews she ever did:
Watching Scorsese and Schoonmaker's work, I learned how to collapse time in action but still push characters through a scene. It's a trick to give the illusion it's all real; that's become crucial to us because the Tarantino thing is to make the mundane feel very spicy. It's the illusion that time is ticking away. It's all about tension, so you follow the emotional arc of a character through a scene, even if, as in the opening of Inglourious Basterds, they're just pouring a glass of milk or stuffing their pipe. We're very proud of that scene -- it might be the best thing we've ever done.
Think about the split screen in Kill Bill. Think about the camera zooming in on Thurman's chest with a syringe sticking out of it in Pulp Fiction. The card-playing scene at the bar in Inglorious Bastards, where we know the man pretending to be a Nazi is in fact running from them, and yet sitting at the bar matching Nazis shot for shot (whiskey that is, and then bullets). The never-ending car chase scene in Death Proof, waiting for the chick to fly right off the roof of the car. For a showcase of some of Menke's best, click here.
Editors are the quiet heroes of movies, Menke told The Guardian, and I like it that way. I keep Menke in mind now, as I cut tape for the radio. Editing is creating tension. Tension is storytelling. Therefore: Editing is storytelling. Filmmakers and storytellers everywhere miss you dearly.
Deborah Howell, Journalist
Remembered by Alicia Shepard
Deborah Howell had a foul mouth. But that was only part of her charm.
She was a tough, blunt, funny, no-nonsense newspaperwoman who crashed through glass ceilings to become one of the first female editors of a large American newspaper, the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
She took no prisoners. Never held back saying what she really felt or thought, earning her the sobriquet, The Dragon Lady.
But her other nickname was Mother Mary Deborah because she had a heart of gold and would do anything for you.
She knew everyone in American journalism, and everyone knew her. If you wanted the latest gossip about who was doing what in newspapers, you called Howell. You called her too if you wanted to know who the Pulitzer finalists were before they were announced.
Few referred to her by her first name; instead she was simply "Howell."
No doubt that was because she spent most of her career fighting her way up the newsroom food chain to obtain the jobs and better pay handed to men. She used to joke that she had become another "white male editor," a role she felt she had to play to be accepted into a fraternity that was happy to have feisty female reporters but not as top bosses.
Anyone who knew her well knew that her tough-talking, hard veneer was just that, a veneer. What she was, was a good friend, always willing to make time to listen, help or advise. She loved everything about journalism and cared passionately about the news business. I counted on her wisdom as Washington Post ombudsman when I embarked in 2007 as NPR's ombudsman.
Howell, 68, died on Jan. 2 in New Zealand where she and her husband were on a bucket-list trip. She was getting out of a car to take a photograph in a country where cars travel on the "wrong" side of the road. An oncoming car hit her.
But in life, Deborah Howell was never on the wrong side.
Jaime Escalante, Teacher
Remembered by Luis Clemens
In 1987, a single school in East Los Angeles accounted for one-fourth of all the Mexican-American students nationwide who passed the AP Calculus exam. Jaime Escalante was the math teacher responsible for that monumental accomplishment. His success was profiled in a book by Washington Post columnist Jay Mathews, Jaime Escalante: The Best Teacher in America.
More than 20 years have passed since Mathews wrote that book, but he still speaks about Escalante with awe and unabashed enthusiasm. Mathews sums up Escalante's attitude toward the students at James A. Garfield High School like this: "Their problem wasn't being poor. Like all American teenagers they were lazy. ... They weren't dumb Mexicans. They were as bright as the kids in Beverly Hills."
Mathews says actor Edward James Olmos, who played Escalante in the movie Stand And Deliver, beautifully portrayed the teacher's driven nature and use of language.
There's a moment in the film when Edward James Olmos says, "There will be no free rides, no excuses. ... You're going to work harder here than you've ever worked anywhere else. And the only thing I ask from you is ganas. Desire."
Mix the ganas of students with encouragement from a teacher, plus long hours of preparation, and that equals success.
"As a culture, we assume that poor kids can't learn very much," Mathews says. "Jaime [Escalante] destroyed the basis of that assumption."
Meinhardt Raabe, Actor
Remembered by Theo Balcomb
As the little girl who dressed up as Dorothy year after year for Halloween, I was thrilled to call up one of the last remaining Munchkins from The Wizard Of Oz.
Meinhardt Raabe was the man. And I called him to set up an interview with Scott Simon in September 2009.
Raabe agreed to take the long drive from his retirement home to a member station in Florida. When he arrived there, I wasn't sure if he'd be up for the interview. But, boy, was he.
He talked about making The Wizard Of Oz -- "Every day was a new experience," he said. He remembered just how much he and the other "actors who played Munchkins" adored Judy Garland. He reported on his life now -- "I am living now in a retirement community with a lot of, shall we say, senior citizens who are avid fans of The Wizard Of Oz because it reminds them of their early years."
He heralded his big moment in Munchkinland when he was chosen to be the coroner. That meant a big speech. A speech he recited perfectly then and would continue to recite so many years later. He'd pronounce it loudly for all who'd ask:
As coroner, I must aver
I thoroughly examined her.
And she's not only merely dead,
She's really most sincerely dead.
But it wasn't the only oft-repeated, much beloved rhyme that Raabe perfected. He was also an Oscar Mayer salesman who traveled around the country in the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.
And he was an aviator, serving in the Civil Air Patrol during World War II. He died in April at 94. Over all those years, he brought joy with every speech and every interview to every little girl who dreams of one day making it to Oz.
Brian Howard, Apple Engineer
Remembered by Selena Simmons-Duffin
Brian Howard was the 32nd employee of Apple Computer, and one of the original four members of the Macintosh Project team. Early Apple employees describe how Brian's personality -- calm, full of warmth and self-effacing humor -- was instrumental in making the original Macintosh come to fruition. Jef Raskin was the Mac's visionary, but he and Steve Jobs couldn't stand each other. Brian acted as a go-between, and without him there would be no Mac. He worked there for 30 years and was Apple's longest continuous employee (longer than Steve Wozniak or Jobs).
Although I was always in awe of Brian's role in computer history, his loss is also very deep for those of us who knew him otherwise. Besides being an engineer, he was also deeply creative. He sang in choirs and played early music instruments like the cornetto and the recorder. That's how he entered my life: He met my parents in an early music ensemble at Stanford and ended up as a close friend, even acting as a best man at their wedding. As a family friend, he was a fixture in my life, and even when I was the littlest kid he talked to me like I mattered, like I had something to say.
Brian died of cancer on Feb. 1. He was 65. Even in his last days, when he came home from the hospital after many years of cancer treatments, he still had a sense of humor. When asked if he needed anything he replied, "I could use some hair." He is missed for all these things: the sweetness, the humor, the music and the historic role he played in making the machines that are now so instrumental to our lives, including the very laptop on which I write this remembrance.
Carlos Hernandez Gomez
Remembered by Sonari Glinton
Carlos Hernandez Gomez was a former colleague. It almost seems gratuitous to pick a former public radio reporter to commemorate here. I guess because Carlos never cared about any one medium, it's OK. Carlos was a Chicago television political reporter and to really get him you needed to see him, mustache, fedora, horn-rimmed glasses and all. And boy did he cover Chicago. His big scoop was the indictment of former Gov. George Ryan. The man who's now president was on Carlos' radar a decade ago. And there are a few Chicago politicians who are resting a little easier because they're not on Carlos' radar anymore.
Carlos was a throwback to another era of journalism, but he had a casual style that presaged the current Daily Show. He never said "jail" when "pokey" would do. He was a man of deep faith, a devout Roman Catholic who swore with abandon. For the people who pay close attention to Chicago politics, Carlos was the real deal. He was completely fearless. I saw him stand toe to toe with congressmen, senators, presidents, even mobsters. In the end, he faced cancer with the same fearlessness. As the Rod Blagojevich trial played itself out, or when Richard Daley decided not to run, or when Rahm Emanuel decided to run, I thought of Carlos. So many people in so many media organizations would call him to ask, "What's really going on?"
NEAL CONAN, host:
This is TALK OF THE NATION. Im Neal Conan in Washington.
At the end of each year, we take time to remember those we lost over the past 12 months and focus on those whose obituaries may not have made the front page but whose accomplishments and influence should still be noted.
Just yesterday, Ronald Lee Herrick, the first successful organ donor, died. He donated his kidney to his twin brother in 1954.
We've asked a few of our colleagues here at NPR to join us, and we want to hear from you. If there's somebody you knew or knew of who died in 2010 that you think we ought to remember, give us call, 800-989-8255. Email us, firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.
And we begin with NPR Jerusalem bureau chief Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, who joins us from Jerusalem, and great to have you with us today.
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: Thank you, Neal.
CONAN: And many listeners will remember a story you filed I guess about 11 months ago, in January, from NPR's bureau in Baghdad.
(Soundbite of archived audio)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: First, came the shooting...
(Soundbite of gunshots)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...several insurgents attacking the front gate of the Hamra Hotel, then a minibus packed with explosives pushed through, detonating just yards away from the main entrance.
(Soundbite of explosion)
CONAN: The Hamra Hotel, also the site of the NPR bureau, and what you could not tell listeners in that news report was that you lost a friend that day.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I did, and it's actually very odd to hear that explosion because it's not very often that you get to hear or know the moment that a friend of yours dies, and that was the exact moment that my friend Yassir(ph) died. I know that because I was there. I heard that explosion. You know, amid all the chaos and random violence in Iraq, I know when he died.
And I met Yassir very shortly after the invasion. He was my husband's driver, and we traveled all over the country together. He saved my life on at least one occasion, and I guess I could go on about the bond that we formed, but, you know, I'll kind of be brief.
I think you know this, Neal: When you're surrounded by war and death and fear, friendships become so very strong. And Yassir, over the many years that I knew him, protected us, helped us. We got to know him. We got to know his family.
And, you know, more than anything, I guess we lived the terrible trajectory of the Iraq War through his experiences. You know, I know the pain of the death of his father, the joy of the birth of his daughters, you know, and the terrible terror that he felt being chased out of his neighborhood by militants. So hearing that again is difficult.
CONAN: I remember another story you did, this was after travel became easier in Iraq, and you did a story that touched down in various places around the country and I think in Mosul and in Basra and out west, as well. Was he your driver on that trip?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: He wasn't my driver on that particular trip. He worked, as I said, for my husband. But, you know, we'd often - I'd often work with my husband on stories, and we'd go with Yassir.
And, you know, he was an incredible optimist, which is a difficult thing to remember about someone in Iraq. You have to imagine all the difficult circumstances that he lived in, and yet he had this incredible, infectious laugh.
And he'd call me prince - his English wasn't very good. And I would always tell him: It's princess, it's princess. And he'd laugh and say no, it's prince, it's prince.
And it's strange. He always thought Iraq was going to get better. He always said he didn't want to leave Iraq, you know, even during the worst of it. So many people would say I want to get out of here, can you help me get out of here. And he never wanted to leave. And I guess he never lived to see that.
And I guess one of the ironies is that his family, his brother also works as a driver for an international news agency, and they're part of a refugee program that has taken so many workers of news agencies to the United States. And they're leaving soon to the U.S., and Yassir won't be going with them, and that's a very difficult thing to think about.
And also his family as well, his wife and his two young children, have decided to stay behind because they say they will not leave the country where he shed his blood.
CONAN: And how are they doing?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Not well, as you can imagine, not well. His mother, particularly, is old and infirm and took his death incredibly difficult, incredibly, you know, hard. She just didn't want to believe that he had died.
In fact, she would insist for months and months afterward that he was in an American prison somewhere, that the Americans had arrested him, that he wasn't actually dead.
It's very difficult to see his family and the situation that they find themselves in at the moment because, you know, when someone like that has been taken from you, rebuilding is very difficult. Bringing the family back together is very, very difficult.
And, you know, the reason I wanted to come on the show today is because of Yassir, because I promised myself I was never going to forget him, but also because I was looking today, just as I was researching before coming on the show, and I saw that 4,000 Iraqis also died violent deaths, according to Iraq Body Count this year, in Iraq.
And I think people want to forget this war, and I think people would like to forget all the American service men and women and all the Iraqis that have died, and I think it's important not to.
CONAN: Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, with us from NPR's bureau in Jerusalem, where she's our bureau chief. And thank you for being with us to remember your friend Yassir.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Thank you for having me.
CONAN: We want to hear your recollections of somebody you think we ought to remember who passed away this past year, 800-989-8255. Email email@example.com.
Paul(ph) from San Jose wanted us to remember Tobias Wong, the playful and youthful designer of the now-enigmatic Sun Jar, to name but one design. Rubber-coated pearls, an inverted diamond ring, a gold-plated McDonald's stirrer and a Philippe Starck chair made into a lamp are others.
Tobias died an early, possibly accidental death, at the height of his career, leaving behind his partner and a bereaved art world. I have his spirit in my Sun Jar, where it continues to glow today.
CONAN: Let's go next to Jennifer(ph) and Jennifer with us on the line from Boston.
JENNIFER (Caller): Hi.
CONAN: Hi, Jennifer.
JENNIFER: My mother died in January, and it was obviously - she was 89, just about 89, and it was a huge personal loss. But I think she's part of a dying generation.
She was one of the first groups of WAVES to enlist in the WAVE Corps during World War II, and she was stationed in Oahu after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. And one of the interesting things about her experience there was that she was the first person on U.S. soil - she was a radioman in the Navy, the first person to announce the end of the war in the Pacific. And I think she's a dying breed.
CONAN: A dying breed. What did she do during the war?
JENNIFER: She was a radioman, a communications officer. So while she was stationed at Oahu, she was responsible for communications, you know, to the front and to Washington.
CONAN: And you obviously remember her better as your mother.
JENNIFER: Obviously, yes.
CONAN: And did she...
JENNIFER: She was a fabulous mother, but I think she's also - I think it's unique to have people of her generation. You know, she was 21 when she enlisted, and not a lot of people, not a lot of young women of her generation did. And I think it took a lot of courage.
And she went to a place that was, you know, on the front, basically, and although she didn't fight, she helped the United States incredibly. And I think there are probably a lot of people like her, but they are dying off at the moment.
CONAN: Jennifer, thanks very much for the call.
JENNIFER: Thank you for letting me remember her. Bye.
CONAN: This email we have from AJ(ph) who wrote: Earlier this year, the professor emeritus of tuba and euphonium from Indiana University, Harvey Phillips, passed away. I was never fortunate enough to study with Harvey due to my age and his age, but now as a graduate student in euphonium at the University of Arkansas, I've really begun to understand the profound impact Mr. Phillips gave to the music community and to the tuba-euphonium community.
I grew up in southern Indiana, not far from Bloomington, where Mr. Phillips lived and taught, but I never went to IU, and I never capitalized on the opportunity to go and study with a true music legend, at least for tuba-euphonium people.
I finished my undergraduate degree Indiana State, where I studied with one of Dan Perantoni's students. Mr. Perantoni is the current professor of tuba-euphonium at IU, and he's an incredible musician that I've had the opportunity to take a lesson or two from.
It saddens me that when I finish my master's, I will never be able to go and play for Mr. Phillips, but I take comfort in the fact that most great tubists and euphonists right now all carry on Mr. Phillips' legacy of outstanding musicianship and pedagogy.
Sorry for my poorly written email. I don't think he did too bad.
This from Daryl(ph) in Sacramento: Satoshi Kon died on August 24th this year at age 46 of pancreatic cancer. He was an acclaimed directed of animated feature films.
After Kon's death, I watched his featurettes on my DVD of "Paprika" that showed how much detail and work Kon put into his storyboards for the movie. Some of the visual ideas he came up with were pure genius.
In the Japanese anime industry, where nowadays filmmakers too often rely on clich�s and tried-and-true gimmicks, Satoshi Kon was an original, an innovator and one who showed the way toward deeper and more challenging works of art.
The world of animation will be much poorer without him, and therefore, we should remember him as someone of particular importance who we lost in 2010.
This from Steven(ph) in Clarkesville, Tennessee: I want to remember O. Ivar Lovaas. He developed the use of behavior therapy in the treatment of autism.
One name came up more often than any other in your emails. That's our old friend and colleague Daniel Schorr, well-remembered as the tough reporter who wound up on President Nixon's enemies list, as Ed Murrow's last hire at CBS and Ted Turner's first at CNN, and for his many years as senior news analyst here at NPR.
Since this hour is devoted to those who got less attention, we'll focus on Dan Schorr's career as a concert singer. Long-time listeners will remember his friendship with the brilliant and iconoclastic musician Frank Zappa, who called him out on stage at Washington's Warner Theater in 1988 to urge everyone in the audience to register to vote and to entertain.
(Soundbite of archived audio)
(Soundbite of applause)
Mr. FRANK ZAPPA (Musician): We know that you can talk. You just proved that you can talk, and you talk every day on the radio. But I've heard that you can sing.
DAN SCHORR: Oh, come on, sing? Oh, no.
Mr. ZAPPA: Now, I know that before you became a reporter, you were actually a classical music reviewer.
SCHORR: You are an investigative reporter yourself. How'd you find that out?
Mr. ZAPPA: You told me.
(Soundbite of song, "It Ain't Necessarily So")
SCHORR: (Singing) It ain't necessarily so. It ain't necessarily so. They tell all you children the devil's a villain, but it ain't necessarily so.
CONAN: And that took nerve. The late Daniel Schorr, with the late Frank Zappa at the Warner Theater in Washington, D.C., in 1988.
We're remembering lives we lost in 2010, people whose contributions made an impact on the way we live and the way we see, hear and interpret the world.
We're taking your calls at 800-989-8255. You can also send us email. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
(Soundbite of music)
CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Im Neal Conan in Washington.
This hour, we celebrate the lives of people who may not have made the front pages but whose lives made an impact as we put together our look at some of those who died in 2010 who may not have received recognition in the public obituary.
We're asking you who you would like to remember, 800-989-8255. Email us, email@example.com. You can also join the conversation on our website, npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.
Listener Deb Woodell(ph) in New Jersey writes: I'm a great fan of the folk group Disappear Fear, led by Sonia Rutstein. Her father passed away in 2010, adventurer, author Harry Rutstein. He retraced Marco Polo's steps and shared his adventures in books, lectures and video.
John Coward(ph), listening from Tulsa, Oklahoma, wanted to remember Wilma Mankiller, the first female Chief of the Cherokee tribe, one of the few women to lead an American Indian tribe.
And listeners James Adam(ph) wrote in to remember his great-uncle Hamad Aladin(ph). He was a great jazz instructor and musician from Kansas City, Missouri. The saxophonist's career spanned over six decades.
We've also asked some of our colleagues here who they wanted to remember. Head over to npr.org, where you can read remembrances of writer Beryl Bainbridge, actress Vonetta McGee and rapper Guru, among others.
And Neda Ulaby is here with us in Studio 3A. She covers art, entertainment and cultural trends for NPR. Nice to have you with us today.
NEDA ULABY: Thanks, Neal.
CONAN: And Neda, you're here to talk about a woman many people may not be familiar with, though many will recognize her voice.
(Soundbite of television program, "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer")
Ms. BILLIE MAE RICHARDS (Actor): (As Rudolph) Well, what do you want?
Ms. JANET ORENSTEIN (Actor): (As Clarice) You promised to walk me home.
Ms. RICHARDS: (As Rudolph) Aren't you going to laugh at my nose, too?
Ms. ORENSTEIN: (As Clarice) I think it's a handsome nose, much better than that silly false one you were wearing.
Ms. RICHARDS: (As Rudolph) It's terrible. It's different from everybody else's.
ORENSTEIN: (As Clarice) But that's what makes it so grand. Why, any doe would consider herself lucky to be with you.
Ms. RICHARDS: (As Rudolph) Yeah?
CONAN: That's Billie Mae Richards, the voice of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer from the 1964 Christmas classic. Neda, why do we remember her?
ULABY: Well, of course, she left an incredible, enduring legacy as the voice of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. That is a telecast that aired in 1964 and has played virtually uninterrupted every Christmas ever since. It switched from a couple of networks, but I can't imagine what - who you are that you haven't seen and enjoyed that movie at least once over the past few years.
CONAN: How old was she when she did that?
ULABY: She was 42 years old. She specialized in playing little boys. She was a Canadian voiceover actress, and if you were living in Canada in the 1960s, you almost certainly heard her.
The reason why they went up to Canada to find their stable of voiceover actors was because it was a lot cheaper and because radio dramas were much bigger in Canada at the time than in the United States.
CONAN: So they had a stable of performers to choose from.
ULABY: They did. And one of the sad things about Billie Mae Richards is that she only got paid for the three years after that first aired. The only star in "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was Burl Ives, who played the sort of avuncular snowman who narrated the Christmas special. None of the other actors, who were largely Canadian, got paid for the long term.
CONAN: Burl Ives, though, got royalties for the rest of his life...?
ULABY: I'm not sure how long the terms of the contract, but it was a considerably longer amount of time.
CONAN: Neda Ulaby, thank you very much for being with us to remember Billie Mae - anything else you remember that she did?
ULABY: Well, she was in a bunch of little bit movies, and the only thing that stuck in my mind was she was in a horror movie called "Bram Stoker's Shadow Builders," in which she got chopped to death by an axe.
CONAN: Well, we should all go with that on our obituary. Thanks very much for being with us.
ULABY: Thank you.
CONAN: Neda Ulaby covers art, entertainment and cultural trends for NPR, kind enough to join with us today in Studio 3A. Happy new year.
And let's see if we can get another caller on the line. Let's go next to Nick(ph), and Nick's with us from Ann Arbor.
NICK (Caller): Hi, Neal, it's good to talk with you.
CONAN: Hi, happy new year.
NICK: I wanted to remember Mark Linkous, the founding member and kind of only sustained member of the band Sparklehorse, who died earlier in the year. He killed himself in Knoxville, Tennessee, and he was an astonishing musician, extraordinary talent.
He had a real interest in collecting vintage keyboard instruments, stuff that nobody has ever heard of in many cases, the orchestron, the optigan, the militron(ph), which is more famous.
But he would use these vintage instruments to craft really serene, elegiac sounds, and one of his albums, "It's a Wonderful Life," is, in my opinion, the most beautifully recorded Indie album of the last, I don't know, 10, 15 years, however long you want to draw it out. It's a really wonderful album.
CONAN: So an IndieStar, Sparklehorse his band, and so he would not have hits that people would remember?
NICK: You know, there may be a couple. He was - I think there was a song played on "The O.C." at some point. But he was much more artistic than that gives him credit for, I'm afraid.
CONAN: Well, sorry to hear of his passing, Nick, and thank you for remembering him.
NICK: Thank you.
CONAN: This is an email we have from Johan(ph) in Dundas, Ontario: My grandfather passed away this year at the age of 88. Eit Kaminga(ph) grew up in the Netherlands during the second world war. He was captured by the Nazis and forced to work at a factory in Germany, where he survived allied air raids and, near the end of the war, being caught in cross-fires between the Americans, the Russians and the Nazis.
He emigrated to Canada with my grandmother and mother in 1953. He started his own bakery in Thorold, Ontario, and raised four children. He was a wise and generous man, a gifted baker and a wonderful storyteller.
He was deeply loved by his family, and I miss him very much. Thanks for the show. All the best for 2011.
Let's see if we can go next - this is Ellen(ph), Ellen with us from Savannah.
ELLEN (Caller): Hello, Neal.
CONAN: Hi, Ellen. Who do you want to remember?
ELLEN: I want to remember Edwin Gardner.
CONAN: And what do we remember him for?
ELLEN: Well, there's so many things that can be said about Edwin. Every day I get on my bike to ride to work, I think of Edwin. He had the energy and conviction - as you see, I emailed you all an article - of someone in their 20s, and he was in his 60s.
He was - he lost his life when he was riding his bicycle home from his morning row on the Cooper River.
One of the many things he did, he created a mosquito fleet where he taught the inner-city Charleston, South Carolina, children about their rich history of boat-building and actual rowing by building boats. And it was a really wonderful thing he started about - with junior high school students - about 15 years ago.
CONAN: Well, thank you for...
ELLEN: This enabled the children to reconnect with their, you know, rich history.
CONAN: Ellen, thanks very much. The person I'd like to have remembered, writes Sherri McKee(ph), is my art instructor at Feather River College in Quincy, California. The obituary below briefly mentions his art classes at FRC. He taught everything from drawing one to life drawing to everyone from local senior citizens to bored college football players.
Football players were often amazed to find that Bill(ph) could pull a hidden talent from within them, seemingly effortlessly, and they ended up actually liking the classes.
In his later career as an artist and protector of wildlife, he was often offered commissions from state and local governments all across the country. At the time of his untimely death, he'd become a renowned wildlife artist yet remained just friendly, helpful, jovial Bill to the people of this small community. He is missed.
Let's go next to Lindsay(ph), Lindsay with us from Orange in Massachusetts.
LINDSAY (Caller): Oh, hi. I just wanted to remember the director of the UMass Minuteman Marching Band, George N. Parks. He passed away earlier of a heart attack while he was with the band on a big trip. And I just can't think of anyone more passionate and more dedicated to the band.
CONAN: What was his specialty?
LINDSAY: Oh, he was a tuba player.
CONAN: Another tuba player.
LINDSAY: Yes, that's what made me think of it, actually.
CONAN: And what was his accomplishment in particular with the band, do you think?
LINDSAY: Well, we were called the power and class of New England, and he really gave us that power and that class.
CONAN: Well, thanks very much, Lindsay, for the remembrance. He died on a trip, it sounds like he was where he wanted to be.
LINDSAY: Absolutely, yes.
CONAN: Thanks very much for that, and happy new year. This email from Carol(ph) in Sacramento: I would like Greg Bunker, who was executive director of Francis House to be remembered on air. Greg died of a massive heart attack on Tuesday, December 28.
He grew Francis House, which provides services to homeless people, from less than $100,000 a year to $650,000 a year. He was with Francis House for 21 years.
All the people who knew Greg, especially the homeless, respected and loved him for the work he did. There's a long article in today's Sacramento Bee about Greg Bunker. And we thank Carol for that email.
This from Robert in Des Moines: The theater community lost a giant one: Craig Noel. The founding director of the Old Globe Theater in San Diego passed away in April. During his 70-plus years in the business, Craig nurtured the careers of hundreds of acclaimed actors and directors, introduced the magic of theater to millions of audience members, and was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2007.
Though his name was not as recognizable as those who had success on Broadway, he was a major and incomparable force in the rise of American regional theater.
Let's go next to - this is Nina(ph), Nina with us from Needham in Massachusetts.
NINA (Caller): Hi, Neal.
NINA: I wanted to remember my father, Irwin Silber. He passed away. He was 84. He passed away in September. He was a founding editor of Sing Out! magazine and helped officiate the folk music revival at the end of the '50s and the early 1960s.
CONAN: Sing Out! magazine, as I remember, published in New York City.
NINA: It did publish in New York City. It also - it published for the first time a lot of folk songs that we know today, like "If I Had a Hammer." It was sort of the first place where you could read the words to those songs.
CONAN: And I think was instrumental in, well, the careers of so many, but you think of Pete Seeger, then going back to the early Bob Dylan as well.
NINA: Exactly. Yeah. My father, you know, did a lot of work with Pete Seeger. He's also known for writing a critical letter of Bob Dylan when he went electric.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: I suspect he may have changed his mind.
NINA: He might have. I think you're right. Yeah.
CONAN: Nina, thanks very much for the call.
NINA: All right, thank you. Bye-bye.
CONAN: And here's an email from Todd. Todd says: Don't forget Chuck Jordan, GM's fourth design chief. As Cadillac's design chief earlier in his career, he was responsible for the big tailfins on the '59 Caddy and went on the '63 Buick Riviera, '67 Cad Eldorado, and many more.
Let's see if we go next to Jennifer. Jennifer with us from Hampton in Virginia.
JENNIFER (Caller): Hi. I just want to make sure we don't forget Frankie Manning. Frankie Manning was a swing dancer. He was one of the original teenagers in the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem who invented the way to dance to syncopated jazz, which is swing dance. And in fact, when he was interviewed by Life magazine, he invented the term lindy hop.
CONAN: The lindy hop, wow.
JENNIFER: Yeah. Eventually he went on. He was a mail carrier. And when there was the big resurgence of swing dancing around, you know, late '90s and 2000, a bunch of people tracked him down. He was a mail carrier, and they got him to start, you know, teaching lessons, and he became an old man of the swing dance scene. I actually was fortunate to take a class from him when he was about 81. And he was a really gentle soul and just a phenomenal dancer.
CONAN: And I wonder, every dancer of that era seemed to be known for a trademark move. Did he have one?
JENNIFER: He had a - oh, oh, oh, oh, I forget what it's called. It's kind of a - like a lift where basically you lift up the girl and then you spin her 180 degrees and then put her down again. I forget what it's called.
CONAN: A helicopter spin maybe.
JENNIFER: Yes, or something like that.
CONAN: Something like that. Well, those were incredibly creative dances and...
JENNIFER: Oh, my gosh, yeah.
CONAN: ...we see, I guess, their legacy going on into the hip-hop era.
JENNIFER: Right. And, well, he influenced so many white dancers who really kind of took credit, I think, for what they all invented until a little bit later on.
CONAN: Well, thanks very much for the call, Jennifer. Appreciate it.
JENNIFER: Sure thing. Bye-bye.
CONAN: This email we have from Dag, Dag calling from Lake City in Minnesota: Tine Thevenin - I hope I'm not mispronouncing that too badly - my wife since 1990 died on June 21, 2010. She wrote the book "The Family Bed: An Age Old Concept in Child Rearing" in late - in 1970. Self-published and sold close to a hundred thousand copies before it was taken over by a publishing house. Her book was groundbreaking. As a result, she was on many of the national talk shows - "Oprah" and three times on "Donahue," always paired with a doctor opposing her views, but she prevailed, and "The Family Bed" concept is today well accepted. She also authored the book "Mothering and Fathering: The Gender Differences in Child Rearing." Details about Tine can be found on her website, www.tinethevenin.com. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
You can also find more from our colleagues here at NPR over at our website. That's at npr.org, where among others you'll find appreciations of Apple engineer Brian Howard, journalist Deborah Howell, and Paul Miller, an advocate for the disabled.
And let's see we go next to - this is Gerald. Gerald with us from Battle Creek.
GERALD (Caller): Yeah, thanks for taking my call. I got to remember Ron Santo.
CONAN: Oh, Ron Santo, of course, the - often described as the best player not in the Hall of Fame.
GERALD: Yeah. The Cubs third baseman. He is a - I would see him a lot of years on WGN Radio broadcasting the Cubs game. His voice was so soothing and stuff(ph). I've got a little story about Ron. There's a friend of mine, Scott Hale - he's a sergeant major of the Salvation Army (unintelligible) home town. He would(ph) come out of a bathroom at Wrigley, at Wrigley one Sunday afternoon, he missed church. Ron Santo come riding by his little cart and Scott said to Ron - said thanks for all the years. Ron says thanks. But Scott said God bless you. And Scott - Ron (unintelligible) came back and gave my friend Scott a big hug and said thank you for that, you know, 'cause a lot of people don't know that JDRF - childhood diabetes - is very bad in this country.
CONAN: And Ron Santo lost both his legs as a result of diabetes.
GERALD: And he also had cancer too, but he played for a lot of years, you know, with that horrible disease. I have that myself.
CONAN: Well, I'm sorry to hear that, Gerald, and...
GERALD: And I model my life after Ron. You know, he did a lot for - not just for baseball, and he did a lot for us diabetes victims. You know, it's hard to be someone with that disease, but Ron was a shining light. And, you know, I hope baseball writers and the - now in the other division - whatever it's called - let him get into the Baseball Hall of Fame because it's - he's one of the guys out there that will always be a shining light to a lot of people with this disease and, you know...
CONAN: Gerald, we should also probably remember Ernie Harwell and Dave Newhouse, other great broadcasters, play-by-play men, who passed away this past year. Thanks very much for the call. We remember Ron Santo.
CONAN: This from Dakota in Nashville: We have to remember the great mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, the father of fractals. His theories have influenced everything from computer engineering to pop art.
This is from Marti: I like to remember my husband, Boogie Woogie Bob Peters, who died in March of a heart attack. He was well known and well loved boogie piano player in our region, a retired Navy SEAL, a U.S. postal worker for 33 years, a gentleman who followed the rules, and a gifted artist with many original drawings. He was loved by many, especially me, his wife. I can honestly say he was as good and as talented a person as everyone believed him to be. The world is a little darker for many without him. Thank you. Again, that from Marti Peters.
Coming up, we'll discuss more undersung lives that we lost in 2010.
Listener and State Senator Constance Johnson wants us to remember Hannah Diggs Atkins. She was a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1968 to 1980, the first African-American woman elected to it.
And Buzz Lloyd sent us a Facebook message to remember Kate McGarrigle, half of the McGarrigle sisters from Canada originally, long resident in New York. Here she is singing with her sister, Anna McGarrigle, "Talk to Me of Mendocino."
(Soundbite of song, "Talk to Me of Mendocino")
Ms. KATE McGARRIGLE and ANNA McGARRIGLE (Singers): (Singing) Talk to me of Mendocino. Closing my eyes I hear the sea. Must I wait. Must I follow. Won't you say come with me. Won't you say come with me.
CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.
(Soundbite of music)
CONAN: Today it's our annual obit show. We've asked our friends and colleagues here at NPR to remind us of some of those we lost this past year but ought to remember better. We'd like to hear about the people you'd like to remember too. Send those along to NPR.or - to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us, 800-989-8255. Email, email@example.com.
Listener Sarah Nedels(ph) writes us about her former colleague Mark Lundahl, managing editor of the Reno Gazette-Journal. She says everyone who worked with him will remember him. He worked as hard as anybody in the newsroom, even after he became a manager. He was kind and fun even under the deadline pressure, something I seldom manage to pull off. He loved the blues and loved sharing his love for music with others.
NPR's Michel Martin, host of TELL ME MORE on NPR, is here with us in Studio 3A, taking a break from her program to join us. Michel, nice of you to be with us.
MICHEL MARTIN: Thank you, Neal.
CONAN: And I know there's somebody you want to remember this year.
MARTIN: I do. It's my brother.
CONAN: And your brother died this past year. He was in a way one of the lingering victims of 9/11.
MARTIN: I think so. That is how I think of it. He took his own life on the day after Mother's Day, and he was a firefighter in New York, a member of the fire patrol. It was a specialized unit which was - had been around for a century. It was founded in the early 1900s, and it was funded by the New York Underwriters. And initially they specialized in securing properties that had been damaged by fire. At a time when, you know, a lot of people didn't have things like carpeting and home computers, and of course now everybody, you know, has that so there was less of a need for this unit and it closed a couple of years ago. But he and his group were first responders to both attacks on the World Trade Center - the initial one in '98 and the one, obviously, in 2011(ph). And I do believe that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. As I said, he took his own life.
CONAN: His unit suffered terribly that day.
MARTIN: He lost three men in his house, and one of them was his best friend, and they found the rig on New Year - on Christmas Eve of that year - later that year. It's still tough to think about.
CONAN: I know it has to be hard to think about. There was a piece of legislation that passed to the end of this year that provides health services to first providers who were - lungs were damaged by sucking in the toxic fumes. Your brother would have been included in that group.
MARTIN: Well, yes. But, you know, you could lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. I mean, there were already services - mental health services, particularly, available to a lot of people in New York, but you could, you know, you have to want to go. And I'm not sure that - I don't know. I guess I don't know. I'd like to think that it will help certain people. I know it certainly will help some people, but at the end of the day, this is a comprehensive issue.
And, you know, I learned a lot about suicide after this happened, you know, and more people take their own lives in this country than - every year - than our -killed by other people, by far, by far. And if you look at, you know, risky behaviors, if you include risky behaviors and accidental death that derive from that, like drinking and driving or drug overdose, that you know, more soldiers now die by their own hands than in combat, and this is going on with two wars. I guess, you know, the lesson I learned here is that this is a huge, huge issue, but it doesn't, you know, change how individually it affects each of us. I'm sorry. This is harder than I thought it was going to be.
CONAN: I'm sorry, Michel.
MARTIN: And his birthday is coming up, by the way. His birthday is January 5th. He would have been 50 years old. And I'm really glad I'm working that day. That's the day the new Congress comes back. I'm really glad I have something to focus on.
CONAN: We say first responder, 9/11 victim, suicide victim. Tell us a little bit of what he was(ph) liked.
MARTIN: Well, he was hilarious, actually. He - you know, you're right. I don't know if I think of him as - and I don't. I think of him as very brave - very brave, very strong. I mean, he was built - I used to call him Conan the fireman, because, I mean, he was built like an ox. I mean, he'd started working out as a teenager and just really strong. I mean, he was the - and he used the strength for good.
You know, I like to say, well, you know, use your powers for good and not evil. I mean, he - if he saw somebody lifting heavy groceries, changing a tire on the side of the road, you know, pushing somebody in a wheelchair up a heavy incline, you know, he was your guy. You know, he'd run to help out. He's very funny, had a, you know, wicked temper. He's a very nice person, very nice person.
CONAN: Michel Martin, thank you for being with us and remembering your brother. I'm sure you remember him every day.
MARTIN: I do. Thank you, Neal.
CONAN: That's funny you should remember Conan. Yesterday, a listener emailed to ask that we remember Frank Frazetta, an artist who drew 1,000 comic books back in the 1940s and '50s, went on to provide the covers for dozens of science fictions and fantasy novels, including one character in particular.
As a kid, when I was growing up in New York, I haunted the used bookstores that used to occupy shabby storefronts along Fourth Avenue, places where dime mysteries still sold for a dime. And a dreamy teenager could search out the immortal works of Doc Smith, Robert Heinlein and Clifford Simak. Every store I went into, every time, I asked if any copies had shown up, or books by Robert E. Howard, the pulp writer from Cross Plains, Texas, the king of sword and sorcery and the creator of "Conan, the Barbarian." Well, naturally.
Owner after owner shook his head and explained that "Skull Face" and others in the Conan books had been long out of print and stayed that way until 1966, when Lancer Books published a series of reissues in paperback with fantastic covers by Frank Frazetta that reeked of sex and dripped with gore and defined the character forever.
You can see one of them at our website, npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.
And also, I noticed that Arnold Schwarzenegger's movie version was vanilla by comparison. Frazetta held on to those paintings. And recently, one of his Conan covers sold for a million dollars.
Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. 800-989-8255. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason(ph) is on the line, calling from Columbus, Ohio.
JASON (Caller): Hi, Neal. Thank you for taking my phone call today.
JASON: I just wanted to remember my grandfather passed away this year, Edmund Cart Myers(ph) of High Point, North Carolina. He was actually born in Carthage, North Carolina. And he was born August 6th, 1921, and died this Easter, April 5th, 2010. And he was decorated war veteran from World War II. He was a paratrooper. He was on Mindanao, Negros, in the Philippines and what have you. And nobody in the family knew him until he passed this year but he was a recipient of three Bronze Stars, as well.
CONAN: The Bronze Star, a very - well, he must have done something extraordinary to get three of them.
JASON: Yeah. The family was flabbergasted when we found out. We were just - we had no idea. He spoke a lot about his experiences in the war and told stories, funny ones, bad ones, you know, and different stories. But nobody ever knew that part about him. And he battled cancer, he had esophageal cancer, came out of that about three years ago. About five years ago, he had triple bypass surgery, came out of that with flying colors.
And late last year, he was diagnosed with cancer of the lung that went to the liver and in hospice, eventually metastasized to the brain and we lost him on Easter.
CONAN: Jason, I'm sorry to hear that. Thank you very much for the call.
JASON: Thank you for taking me, Neal.
CONAN: Bye. Just before Christmas, the MBTA and students at BU lost Green Line driver Tomas Wood Senior. This, according to Janice, Jan Dumas(ph), who emailed us. He drove out of the Lake Street barn, right across the BU for 37 years. He never had an accident in those 37 years. He drove the early morning route. Okay, so maybe he did not meet many BU students, but his warmth and joy at the wheel made my morning commute a joy to behold.
And this email from Sherry(ph) in Fayettesville in Georgia. James E. Wall was the second African-American stagehand at the CBS television network. But it was what he did for one of the shows he worked on that brought him to prominency. Suggested the show have a black character. It was all white.
I stayed on the case about not having a black performer, a black guest on the show, he said years later, because I said, listen, this is America and you are dealing with our leaders of tomorrow. Theyre the children. You've got to let them know what America is. The show, "Captain Kangaroo," a children's program -and the show listened and didn't just give Wall the part, but made him audition for it. Later, the captain came down and eased up to me, he says, you got the part, he says, not just because we know you and like you, you did the best audition.
In 1968, six years after he was hired on to the show as a stage manager, Wall was cast as Mr. Baxter, a teacher and Captain Kangaroo's neighbor. He played the role for 10 years. Even after officially retiring from CBS in 1988, Wall still regularly worked as a stage manager, including on the CBS "Evening News" and "60 Minutes" and for 41 consecutive years on the U.S. Open tennis championship telecast. He didn't fully retire until 2009. He died October 27th, at the age of 92.
Let's go next to Dick(ph) and Dick with us from St. Louis.
DICK (Caller): Yeah. Hi, there. Id like to remember one of those friendly voices on the radio. A disc jockey named Ron Lundy, who - when I grew up in St. Louis, I listened to him and he later went to WABC...
CONAN: I remember Ron Lundy.
DICK: You got it. And he was there and at CBS FM. He was just one of those dependable - you know, you'd always know he was there and he always was one of those friendly voices on the radio that always played the top hits.
CONAN: Yes. The Top 40 hits. And no more, no fewer.
DICK: Exactly. And he worked with other legendary - like Dan Ingram and Cousin Brucie and Gary Owens when he was here in St. Louis. But he was just - and just a delight to listen.
CONAN: Well, thanks, Dick, for reminding us of Ron Lundy. I did not know he had passed.
DICK: Thanks a lot.
CONAN: Here's an email from Belle(ph). The Origami community and the art world at large lost one of the masters of paper-folding, Eric Joisel. Eric, a French origami master, was larger than life origami artist. He started out as a sculptor, but devoted the rest of his life in the art of paper-folding. Anyone who sees his work would be amazed at the models he folded from one sheet of paper. Personally, he was jovial, self-deprecating man who was always thrilled to teach everyone how to bring a simple sheet of paper to life. He will be sorely missed.
Examples of his models are available on his website. That's at http://ericjoisel.com. We'll put a link to that on our website. Itll be up later today at npr.org, click on TALK OF THE NATION. This is TALK OF THE NATION, coming to you from NPR News.
Richard in Cookeville, Tennessee, would like us to remember his friend, Hamp Morrison(ph), writing: He was an uncommon man by today's standards, a member of that great generation that fought in World War II, then never talked about it again. It was just the thing to do. He also decided to sit on the optometry board exams again when he turned 70 years old, and loved technology. He was like a kid on Christmas morning, showing off the new technology in his office to anyone that would be interested. He's a good example of the few that are left from that generation.
Let's see if we can go next to - this is Carl(ph), Carl with us from Charlottesville in Virginia.
CARL (Caller): Yes, good afternoon, Neal.
CONAN: Go ahead, please.
CARL: I'd like to remember a young man from Charlottesville who died this year. The gentleman's name is David M. Bailey(ph). And he is an individual that 12 years ago was diagnosed with a glioblastoma, which is the nastiest of brain tumors. He was given, at the time, six months to live by the doctors.
He had been a guitar player earlier in his life, like most - like lots of young men. And his wife brought his guitar out to him, handed it to him in the backyard. And for the next 12 years, when he was given six months to live, for the next 12 years, David M. Bailey cranked out folk music that is designed specifically for individuals that are suffering, either from cancer or from any other number of things.
His songs are imbued with hope, and his message is love the time that you have here on Earth. He is a man of - was a man of deep, deep faith. And he was born and raised in Beirut, where his father was a missionary. Just a tremendous man, a tremendous life. And he has left behind a legacy of music that can be so helpful to so many people out there that are suffering. And I just - it's sad that he is gone, but he has left behind such wonderful music.
CONAN: Carl, thanks very much, and happy New Year to you.
CARL: And to you as well.
CONAN: This from David: I nominate Nancy L. Patterson for inclusion. She was the lead lawyer who co-wrote the indictment of Slobodan Milosevic, which ensured that he died in prison awaiting judgment for war crimes rather than be allowed to commit more. Before joining the U.N. in Holland, she worked as an ADA in Manhattan, helping to form one of the first sex crimes units whose doings are now a routine part of television crime drama.
She was quietly exceptional, beginning with being a standout on a boy's little league team in the 1960s before doing the same on Miami University of Ohio's women's basketball team in the 1970s. Your feature today on celebrity - this is a - that was yesterday's feature on celebrity - underscores that celebrities and public figures often receive praise wholly out of proportion to any qualities that, good or evil, they might have done. Nancy's life illustrates how dependent we all are on the exceptional work done by ordinary people.
And please don't forget to mention Louise Bourgeois - this from Anou Rada(ph) -the formidable sculptor who passed away this year at the age of 98. In addition to her great significance to the canon of modern art, Bourgeois was an inspirational figure to women and artists everywhere who struggled to balance their work with the demands of family.
While raising three children, she retreated from the art world but continued to work prolifically, emerging as a major force and finally getting her due only in her 70s. Bourgeois' long life and career serve as a needed counterpoint to our contemporary obsession with youth and to the fashionable assumption that children are an obstacle to creative accomplishment. Her impact cannot be overstated.
And let's see if we go next to - this is Rebecca(ph), Rebecca with us from Dexter in Michigan.
REBECCA (Caller): Yeah. Hi, Neal. I wanted to remember my friend, Elizabeth Thompson, who passed away in September this year. She died in her sleep at the age of 29. And she was someone who spent all of her waking time, which is most of her time because she suffered from insomnia, devoted to helping people organize for causes she believed in. She worked for the human rights campaign and she worked for a company organizing tutors for inner city kids in Detroit and to help Detroit public schools.
She's someone who left us too soon. She leaves behind parents, friends and so many people who loved her. She was obsessed with music, and she shared music with everyone she met. And she used to spend all of her vacation time touring with bands and recording their music, and bringing them back to try and share how wonderful her trips were with all of her friends.
CONAN: We're sorry to hear of your loss, Rebecca. Thank you very much for the call.
REBECCA: Thanks for taking my call, Neal.
CONAN: And this from Jeff(ph) in Cincinnati: Hundreds of St. Cloud, Minnesota prison inmates are missing the gentle counseling and comfort of Father Pat Riley, a Catholic priest who ministered them for decades. While caring for their difficult lives, Father Pat found a way to humor them in every setting, no matter what crimes had gotten them into the St. Cloud Prison. Father Pat died just last week. He'll remember - be remembered in the lives of thousands.
Of course, we also want to remember our friend and colleague, Dr. Billy Taylor, who passed away yesterday. And this is some of his music. We want to thank our colleagues who joined us today and everyone who called, write and shared their memories.
To read additional remembrances from NPR staff numbers, go to our website at npr.org. Special thanks to producer Sarah Handle(ph) and Nicole Coen(ph) for pulling that together. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.