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Peter Funt: They, too, will be missed

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Peter Funt
December 24, 2013

Humanitarian Nelson Mandela. Actor Peter O’Toole. Novelist Tom Clancy. Interviewer David Frost. Actress Julie Harris. Sen. Harry Byrd Jr.

They are among the very famous who left us in 2013. But we also owe goodbyes to many others whose passing might have escaped our attention.

Sam Barshop had an idea for a mid-priced hotel that would combine the styling of a country inn with the facilities of an urban establishment—the kind that would be emulated by Comfort Inn and Hampton Inn, among others. He built his first hotel in San Antonio in 1968, and now La Quinta Inns number more than 700. Barshop was 84.

Harvey Littleton grew up near the glass factory in Corning, N.Y. His dad was director of research there, but Harvey saw glass as an art form. One of the world’s most renowned glass sculptors, his pieces are displayed in museums worldwide. He was 91.

Dr. Janet Rowley was a pioneer in medical research. Her work at the University of Chicago led to targeted drug treatment for leukemia, saving tens of thousands of lives. Rowley succumbed to ovarian cancer at age 88.

In 1956, Richard Heffner created a public-TV series called “Open Mind” and served as its host until his death. As talented a listener as he was an interviewer, Heffner was 88.

When Chicago radio station WLS switched to rock ’n’ roll in 1960, it had no use for the numerous farm magazines that arrived each week. Larry Lujack began reading from the journals in what came to be known as hilarious “Animal Stories.” The self-described Superjock was 73.

Author Barbara Park created the irrepressible kindergartner Junie B. Jones, who appeared in 29 books that together sold more than 55 million copies. Park was 66.

When Dick Van Dyke found he’d have to dance in “Mary Poppins,” he requested Marc Breaux as choreographer. Breaux created such terrific dance numbers that he was hired for “The Sound of Music” and other memorable films. Breaux was 89.

Don Daily never finished high school, but he taught himself to program computers. In the 1980s, he began creating chess software and Komodo was the most successful. When Komodo 6 came out in October, Daily told fans he was dying of leukemia. He was 57.

MIT librarian Ann Wolpert helped create one of the earliest open-access programs for online learning. Then, in 2009 she developed the Open Access Mandate under which more than 150 universities provide access to research documents. She was 70.

Joseph Gomer was one of the last surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen, the elite squad of black fighter pilots in World War II. Gomer, who flew 68 combat missions, was 93.

In the book about her life she’s known as “The Prison Angel.” Mother Antonia Brenner was an American nun who chose to care for inmates at the notorious maximum-security La Mesa Prison in Mexico. She was 86.

Nowadays she’s well known to viewers of the Showtime hit “Masters of Sex.” Virginia Johnson and her partner, William Masters, pioneered research into human sexuality. She was 88.

By the time New Yorker Evelyn Kozak died in August, she had been declared the oldest Jewish person in history. She was 113.

As a boy, Joseph Unanue’s special skill was bottling olives. The family business became Goya Foods, the nation’s largest Hispanic-owned food purveyor. Unanue, given the Bronze Star for bravery in World War II, was 88.

David Kern graduated from the Brooklyn College of Pharmacy and years later used that training to invent Orajel, the medication that relieves gum pain. He was 103.

Kenneth Batteile was hairdresser to the stars. He created Jackie Kennedy’s bouffant and hairdos for Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. Known professionally as simply Kenneth, he was 86.

Jane Henson met Jim when they were freshmen at the University of Maryland. They became puppeteers and together invented the Muppets. Jane Henson was 78.

His 1982 creation was mocked and dubbed “McPaper.” But Al Neuharth’s USA Today helped redefine print journalism in its transition to the digital age. He was 89.

Eydie Gorme met Steve Lawrence in 1953 on the “Tonight Show,” and they married a few years later. They charmed audiences as a sweetheart vocal team with hits such as “Blame It on the Bossa Nova.” Steve was at her side when she died at 84.

The year ends, but the legacies live on.

Peter Funt’s book, “Cautiously Optimistic,” is available at Amazon.com and CandidCamera.com. His columns are distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.



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