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Celebrity Death Watch - November and December 2020

I have let the Celebrity Death Watch report slip for way too long, so it gets its own entry. Feel free to ignore it if you don’t share my obsession. Actually, this got long enough that I think I will divide it up into two entries and just do November and December of 2020 right now.

First, there’s a leftover from May, that I only learned about a few weeks ago. Pepper White is best known for having written the book, The Idea Factory: Learning to Think at MIT. This is still the best book I know of about the MIT experience - and, particularly, the experience in the Mechanical Engineering Department.


November 2020: Rachel Caine wrote science fiction, urban fantasy, and thrillers for both adults and young adults. Dorothy Christ played outfield in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. Baron Wolman was the chief photographer for Rolling Stone in the late 1960’s. Tom Metzler was a white supremacist. Geoffrey Palmer was an actor who appeared in several British sitcoms. David Feinstein was a prominent Orthodox rabbi and author. Ken Spears was an animator and producer who co-created Scooby-Doo. Norm Crosby was a comedian. Henry Haller was the White House executive chef for over 20 years. Fred Hills was an editor who worked with (among others) Vladimir Nabokov, William Saroyan, and Ann Rule. Seymour Topping was a journalist for the New York Times, best known for his work as a foreign correspondent. Lynn Kellogg was a singer and actress who originated the role of Sheila in Hair. Jerry Rawlings was the President of Ghana for most of the 1980’s and 1990’s. Doug Supernaw was a country musician, who earned me 15 ghoul pool points as a reload after Alex Trebek died. Sheldon Solow was a real estate developer and art collector. Marguerite Ray was the first black actor to appear regularly on the soap opera The Young and the Restless. Hayford Peirce wrote science fiction and mystery novels and stories. Jake Scott was a Super Bowl MVP. Donal Leace was a folk singer. Patrick Quinn created the ice bucket challenge that raised money for ALS research. David Dinkins was the mayor of New York in the early 1990’s. Hal Ketchum was a country singer-songwriter. Mamadou Tanja was the president of Niger from 1999-2010. Diego Maradona was an Argentinian soccer player. Bob Miller pitched for the Phillies. Sara Leland was a ballerina. Joe Mooney was a long time groundskeeper at Fenway Park. James Rous Morris was the founder of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.


Jonathan Sacks was the Chief Rabbi of the U.K. from 1991 to 2013. He wrote a large number of books and newspaper opinion pieces, as well as holding several academic appointments.


Alex Trebek hosted Jeopardy! for 37 years. That included my appearance on the show, which was before they started giving everybody a photo of themselves with him. His death was not surprising, as his struggle with pancreatic cancer was well known. He earned me 15 ghoul pool points.


Amador Toumani Toure was the President of Mali from 2002-2012. He made a grand appearance at the Festival au Desert outside Timbuktu when I attended it in 2011. ATT, as he was called, seemed to be popular, but he was later deposed in a coup and went into exile.


Jan Morris was a travel writer. She also wrote a well-received book about her transition from male to female.


Ben Bova was a science fiction writer and editor. He won the Hugo Award six times. He was also the president of the National Space Society.


December 2020: Frank Carney cofounded Pizza Hut. Valery Giscard d’Estaing was the President of France and co-Prince of Andorra from 1974 to 1981. Rafer Johnson was an Olympic champion in the decathlon. Alanna Knight wrote romance and mysteries under her own name and as Margaret Hope. Alison Lure was a novelist, best known for The War Between the Tates, but she also wrote collections of folk tales for children. Goldie Gershon was the president of the Canadian Jewish Congress in the late 1990’s. Grace Knowlton was a sculptor. David Lander played Squiggly on Laverne & Shirley. Phyllis Eisenstein was a writer of science fiction and fantasy. Sheila Hellstrom was the first Canadian woman to become a brigadier general (in 1987). Dame Barbara Windsor was an English actress who appeared on East Enders among other things. Jack Steinberger won a Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on neutrinos. Frank Baumann pitched for the Red Sox in the late 1950’s. Al Cohen owned a magic shop in Washington, D.C. Jeannie Morris was one of the first women to be a sports journalist, Stanley Cowell was a jazz pianist. Roger Berlind was a theatre producer, who won 25 Tony awards. Chad Stuart was half of the pop duo, Chad and Jeremy. Sandy Grant Gordon created a global market for single malt scotch, particularly Glenfiddich. K. T. Olin was a country singer-songwriter. Jay Walljasper wrote books about urban planning. James E. Gunn was a science fiction author. Rebecca Luker was an actress who starred in many Broadway musicals, notably originating the role of Lily in The Secret Garden. John Outterbtidge was an artist, known especially for his work in assemblage. Barry Lopez wrote books about the Arctic and nature in general. Tony Rice was a bluegrass guitarist. George Robert Caruthers was a physicist and engineer who developed instruments for NASA. Brodie Lee was a professional wrestler. Claude Bolling was a jazz pianist and composer. Pierre Cardin was a fashion designer. Dawn Wells was an actress, best known for playing Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island.


Chuck Yeager was a test pilot, who is best known for having been the first person to exceed the speed of sound in level flight.


John le Carre wrote spy novels. Among the best known are The Spy Who Came In From the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.


Charley Pride was a country singer, best known for “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’.” He’d also played baseball for the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro Leagues in the 1950’s.


Ann Reinking was a dancer and choreographer, notable for winning a Tony for her choreography for the revival of Chicago. She was also Bob Fosse’s protege and, for a while, his lover.


Kim Chernin was a feminist writer whose best-known books discussed eating disorders. She also wrote a lot about the relations between mothers and daughters and about Judaism.


Tim Severin was a British historian and one of my favorite writers. He specialized in recreating historic and legendary voyages I particularly recommend The Brendan Voyage in which he and his crew sailed a leather boat across the Atlantic.


Phil Niekro was a pitcher, primarily for the Braves, who had more wins then any other knuckleballer.

Parnell Hall was a mystery writer. He was probably best known for his Puzzle Lady series, though I think his comic hard-boiled novels, featuring Stanley Hastings, were better. He competed in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, ending up near the bottom of the rankings. He was also notable for his humorous songs, such as “Signing at a Waldenbooks.” He was a gracious and kind and funny man, who I will miss, though I didn’t know him very well.

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