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Obituaries in the News

August 19, 1998

SUNNYVALE, Calif. (AP) _ Al Bignotti, who worked with his brother George as a mechanic for some of auto racing’s top drivers, including six Indianapolis 500 winners, died Aug. 11. He was 89.

George Bignotti became chief mechanic for A.J. Foyt, and success for the Bignotti brothers came in 1961 and 1964, when Foyt won the 500. Al Bignotti joined his brother for four more victories while serving in the crews of Graham Hill in 1966, Al Unser Sr. in 1970 and ’71 and Gordon Johncock in 1983.

Josie Brown

LAVERGNE, Tenn. (AP) _ Josie Brown, a country music singer, died Sunday of heart failure. She was 55.

Brown had three songs on the country charts in the mid-1970s: ``Precious Memories Follow Me,″ ``Both Sides of the Line″ and ``Satisfy Me and I’ll Satisfy You.″

She also performed on the Grand Ole Opry.

Julien Green

PARIS (AP) _ Julien Green, an American novelist who enriched the French language with tales of the American South in a career that spanned more than six decades, died Thursday. He was 97.

In 1971 he became the first foreigner to be elected to the Academie Francaise, the elite panel that serves as a watchdog over the French language. He relinquished his seat in November 1996.

Green’s best-known works included ``Sud (South),″ a 1953 play about the Civil War, and ``Moira″ (1950), a novel dramatizing the struggle between man’s sensuality and spirituality.

He published more than a dozen novels, four short stories, five plays, an autobiography, numerous biographies and essays, and a multivolume daily journal _ all in French. The English exception was ``Memories of Happy Days,″ published in 1982.

Phil Leeds

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Comic actor Phil Leeds, who took his characters to the stage, screen and TV for roles in shows like ``All in the Family,″ ``Ally McBeal″ and ``Ellen,″ died Sunday of pneumonia. He was 82.

He began as a standup comic in his early 20s and landed his first stage role in 1942 with Betty Garrett in ``Of V We Sing.″

Leeds appeared in dozens of situation comedies, including ``All in the Family,″ ``Maude,″ ``Roseanne,″ ``Coach,″ ``Everybody Loves Raymond,″ ``Ally McBeal″ and ``Ellen.″

He also had film roles in ``Rosemary’s Baby,″ ``Ghost,″ ``Soapdish,″ and ``Beaches.″

Jerre Mangione

HAVERFORD, Pa. (AP) _ Jerre Mangione, an author of more than 10 books including the 1943 novel ``Mount Allegro″ that portrayed the life and heritage of Italian-Americans, died Sunday of heart failure. He was 89.

Mangione, whose nephew is trumpeter Chuck Mangione, was an editor with the Federal Writers Project in the 1930s. There, he worked with such authors as Studs Terkel, Ralph Ellison, Saul Bellow and Richard Wright.

Before joining Penn’s faculty in 1961, Mangione worked in public relations for the U.S. Justice Department and the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Kelvin McNeill

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) _ Kelvin McNeill, a former Boulder spokesman who handled media relations in the JonBenet Ramsey case, died Tuesday from injuries he suffered in an accident in Amsterdam, Netherlands. He was 28.

McNeill suffered brain damage in the Aug. 7 accident in which he was hit by a vehicle.

McNeill was a spokesman for the city of Boulder in the months following the Dec. 26, 1996, murder of JonBenet, a 6-year-old former beauty queen.

Pan Mingdong

CHANGSHA, China (AP) _ Pan Mingdong, a veteran dissident who was repeatedly jailed for his activism, died Sunday of cancer.

The Hong Kong-based Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement Pan’s said Pan was 49. China Peace, a New York-based group that also reported his death, said Pan was 50.

Pan took part in the seminal Democracy Wall movement of the late 1970s and in the massive pro-democracy protests of 1989.

Ken Norris

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Ken Norris, a marine-mammal researcher who laid much of the groundwork for the modern study of dolphins, died Sunday. He was 74.

Norris was known for his groundbreaking scientific advancements in marine-mammal research. In addition, he taught natural history for 18 years at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Norris served as scientific director of the Oceanographic Institute in Hawaii from 1968 to 1971. Later, as a scientific adviser to the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, he helped create the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.

He was also the founder of the 120,000-acre UC Natural Reserve System.

Norris and his research teams discovered much of what today’s marine biologists know about dolphins and their sonar communication techniques.

Harold J. Ruttenberg

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Harold J. Ruttenberg, an economist who helped organize the United Steelworkers of America, died Saturday. He was 84.

Ruttenberg, who proposed that steelworkers’ wages be tied to increased productivity in mills, became chief economist and director of research for the USWA after helping form the union.

He left the union in 1946 because he thought it should be less confrontational with management.

Later he became president of Stardill-Keystone Co. and an executive with Portsmouth Steel Co. in Ohio. In 1973, he became president and chief executive officer of American Locker Group, which manufactures and markets coin-operated metal lockers and plastic security mail boxes.

Iosif Sava

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) _ Iosif Sava, a prominent Romanian musicologist who supported soprano Angela Gheorghiu and numerous other artists, died Tuesday of a blocked intestinal track. He was 65.

Under dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, Sava was the only person promoting opera and classical music through his radio and TV broadcasts. But Ceausescu forbade his shows in 1988, allowing only patriotic songs that praised him and the Communist Party.

After the fall of communism, Sava hosted a weekly TV talk show featuring artists and musicians, who would anger the former ruling party with comments about difficulties they faced living in Romania. As a result, this show was also restricted by the authorities.

In his year 44-year career, Sava wrote 60 books about music, artists and composers and published thousands of articles.

Donn Weiss

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) _ Donn Weiss, who led choirs and singing groups at the University of California, Los Angeles for more than 35 years, died Monday of cancer. He was 70.

At UCLA from 1959 until his retirement in the mid-1990s, Weiss arranged music for choirs and directed campus singing groups in appearances around the world and on such television shows as ``The Dinah Shore Show.″

He directed the first Super Bowl half-time show in 1967.

Among the UCLA groups that Weiss directed were the Men’s Glee Club, the Madrigal Singers, Choral Union and University Chorus.

Dorothy West

BOSTON (AP) _ Dorothy West, one of the last living figures of the Harlem Renaissance literary movement, died Sunday. She was 91.

West was of a circle of black writers in New York that included Richard Wright, Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston.

Her first novel, ``The Living Is Easy,″ about the black middle class in Boston, came out in 1948.

A second novel, ``The Wedding,″ didn’t come out until 1995, when she was 88. It was so successful that Doubleday brought out a collection of her short stories and reminiscences, ``The Richer, The Poorer.″

West moved to New York, selling stories to the Daily News and serving as a welfare investigator and then as a relief worker during the Depression. She founded and edited two black literary journals, Challenge and New Challenge.

In Boston, she took a clerical job at the Vineyard Gazette newspaper, where she wrote personal essays and stories.

In the 1960s, she began ``The Wedding,″ a gentle portrait of the black aristocracy in Oak Bluffs and their preoccupation with social class and color differences. She stopped work on the novel amid the rise of radical black power.

In the 1980s, however, West’s essays in the Vineyard Gazette caught the eye of Doubleday editor Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who encouraged her to finish the novel.

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