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Obituarities in the News

March 13, 2002

DOWNEY, Calif. (AP) _ Al Cowens, a former outfielder who won a Gold Glove and with the Kansas City Royals in 1977, died Monday of a heart attack. He was 50.

The Los Angeles native was a product of the Royals’ farm system. He made his major league debut with the team in 1974 and played with Kansas City through the 1979 season.

In 1977, Cowens had his finest season. He batted .312 with 23 home runs and 112 RBIs, earned a Gold Glove and finished second to Rod Carew in balloting for the American League’s MVP.

Cowens also played for the then-California Angels in 1980 and the Detroit Tigers for parts of two seasons. He joined the Seattle Mariners in 1982 and finished his playing career with the team in 1986.

In 13 seasons, Cowens batted .270 with 107 home runs and 717 RBIs.

After his retirement, Cowens continued scouting players for the Royals.

Clara Belle Hooks Eschmann

MACON, Ga. (AP) _ Clara Belle Hooks Eschmann, cookbook author and longtime food editor and columnist for The Macon Telegraph and The Macon News, was found dead at her residence Tuesday, having apparently died in her sleep. She was 85.

Eschmann joined the Macon Telegraph and News in 1963 and became food editor in 1968. For 19 years, she was widely known to thousands of middle Georgia readers who enjoyed her recipes, cooking tips and reminiscences.

After retiring in 1987, Eschmann continued a weekly column. The final one appeared in Wednesday’s food section of the newspaper.

Eschmann traveled internationally over the years with several food editors and writers groups.

Carmine Mennella

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ Carmine ``Bud″ Mennella, the trainer for J. Fred Muggs, the chimpanzee sidekick on NBC’s Today show in the 1950s, died Sunday after suffering from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. He was 80.

Mennella had trained as an opera singer, but paralyzing stage fright kept him from pursuing a career, his son, Gerald Preis, said. Instead, he took a job as a page at the NBC studios in New York and purchased a pet shop in Glen Rock, N.J. in 1952.

He bought a baby chimp from an animal wholesaler to use in publicity events for his new business and named him Muggs.

Mennella had taken the primate to the hospital to visit Mennella’s ailing father when he stopped off at the NBC coffee shop. Muggs _ dunking a doughnut in a cup of coffee _ caught the eye of an NBC executive, Preis said.

An overnight hit, Muggs pulled in child viewers and later their parents. Former Today producer Richard Pinkham once estimated that Muggs’ saving the show was worth more than $100 million to the network.

Mennella and Muggs, who turns 50 on Thursday, retired to Tampa 27 years ago to perform at Busch Gardens and to provide the chimps with a tropical retirement home. Living with Muggs is his performing chimp girlfriend, Phoebe B. Beebe, who is 48.

Neila C. Seshachari

OGDEN, Utah (AP) _ Neila C. Seshachari, a Weber State University professor of English and an expert on F. Scott Fitzgerald, died Sunday of a ruptured aorta. She was 67.

Seshachari, a native of India, immigrated to the United States in 1969. She received her Ph.D. in English from the University of Utah.

She pursued writing, editing, drawing, painting, sewing, cooking and, most recently, performing Hindu weddings and devotional services as a licensed Hindu priest.

She wrote short stories and critical essays, and received critical acclaim for her editing of ``Conversations with William Kennedy.″

She was editor of Weber’s literary journal, Weber Studies, and served on the Utah Arts Council and the Utah Humanities Council. She was the first woman president of the Utah Academy of Arts and Sciences and was the first non-Mormon woman elected president of the Association for Mormon Letters.

At the time of her death, she was contemplating taking a sabbatical from teaching to write a book on Utah’s immigrants from eastern India.

Howard Thompson

NEW YORK (AP) _ Howard Thompson, a reporter and television reviewer for The New York Times, died Sunday of pneumonia at his Cape Canaveral, Fla., home. He was 82.

For more than 20 years, Thompson wrote one-line reviews in the newspaper’s television section. His reviews were known as ``Howardisms″ and ``Tiny Thompsons.″

For ``Angel,″ a 1937 film with Marlene Dietrich, Thompson wrote: ``Angel cake. Delicious.″ For a 1954 Tony Curtis musical, ``So This Is Paris,″ Thompson wrote: ``Is it?″

Born in Natchez, Miss., Thompson studied journalism at Louisiana State University before serving in the Army as a paratrooper. He was a prisoner of war for six months in Germany.

Thompson joined the Times in 1947 as an office boy and retired in 1988. He also later served as chairman of the New York Film Critics.

Hubert Wagner

WARSAW, Poland (AP)_ Hubert Wagner, coach of Poland’s volleyball ``wonder team `` that beat the Soviet Union for the gold medal at the 1976 Olympics, has died. He was 61.

Wagner’s car was involved in a crash in the center of Warsaw on Tuesday, officials said, but doctors who tried to resuscitate him said it appeared he had a heart attack before the accident.

Wagner was the creator of Poland’s ``wonder team″ in the 1970s, winning the 1974 World Championship in Mexico.

Two years later, Wagner and members of the team became national heroes when they beat the Soviet Union to win the gold medal in Montreal. Beating the powerful teams from the Soviet Union was considered a heroic achievement in states under Moscow’s control during the Cold War.

Wagner later coached the Polish women’s team and had another run as men’s coach. In recent years, he worked for the Polish volleyball federation and as a television analyst.

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