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Obituaries in the News

March 31, 2001

NORTH MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) _ Ann Leybourne Biebel, who earned the Chicago Police Department’s highest honor after killing a serial rapist who had abducted her, has died. She was 53.

Biebel died Monday of cancer, according to the Muskegon Chronicle.

She was a 25-year-old police recruit and off duty when she was kidnapped at gunpoint outside her Chicago home on New Year’s Day 1973.

She was thrown into a car and driven to a public housing project. When her attacker stopped, Biebel took a gun from her purse and shot Robert Ellis, forcing him to drop his gun, said her father, Douglas Leybourne.

The two struggled before Biebel picked up Ellis’ gun and shot him with it three more times, killing him.

Biebel initially believed she would be fired for killing her attacker, but learned Ellis was a long-sought rape suspect known in the Chicago media as ``the Friday night rapist.″

Mayor Richard J. Daley presented Biebel with the Award of Valor in a 1973 ceremony. She retired in 1998 with the rank of sergeant.

She is survived by her husband _ a retired Chicago police detective, a daughter, her father and a brother.

George Connor

HESPERIA, Calif. (AP) _ George Connor, the last surviving driver who competed in the Indianapolis 500 before World War II, died Thursday. He was 94.

Connor’s best Indy 500 finish was third, in 1949; his best pre-war finish was ninth in 1937. In his final appearance in the race in 1952, he placed eighth.

Connor retired from racing in 1954 at age 48 and accepted a job at Ford Motor Corp. He also served as an official at the Bonneville Salt Flats speed trials in Utah.

Donald Danforth

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Donald Danforth Jr., former executive vice president of Ralston Purina Co., prominent civic leader and brother of former Republican Sen. John Danforth, died Thursday of Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 69.

He joined Ralston Purina in 1957 and resigned in 1972 as executive vice president to form Danforth Agri-Resources Inc., a company that later acquired several businesses.

John Lewis

NEW YORK (AP) _ John Lewis, a pianist who masterminded one of the most famous ensembles in jazz, the Modern Jazz Quartet, died on Thursday. He was 80.

The M.J.Q., as the quartet was known, remained mostly unchanged from the mid-1950′s to the 90′s.

It began recording in 1952 with Lewis, vibraphonist Milt Jackson, bassist Percy Heath and drummer Kenny Clarke. When Clarke moved to Paris in 1955, Connie Kay replaced him and the quartet continued until Kay’s death in 1994.

Lewis contributed the bulk of the group’s compositions and arrangements, including ``Django″ and ``Two Degrees East, Three Degrees West,″ and he insisted members wear tuxedos to dignify jazz as an art.

He was born in LaGrange, Ill., in 1920, and grew up in Albuquerque, N.M. His entree to the jazz world came during World War II, when he met Kenny Clarke, an established drummer in the nascent bebop movement.

At Clarke’s urging, Lewis moved to New York after his discharge and eventually replaced Thelonious Monk as Dizzy Gillespie’s pianist. He also performed or recorded with Charlie Parker, Lester Young and Ella Fitzgerald.

In 1952 he formed the M.J.Q. with Clarke, Jackson and Heath. The quartet was a steady seller of records and concert tickets well into the 1970′s.

Lewis also taught music at Harvard and the City College of New York, and in the late 1950′s helped found the Lenox School of Jazz in Massachusetts.

Thomas D. Taylor

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ Thomas D. Taylor, a pioneer in the trucking industry who helped to develop some of the earliest Freightliner models, died Tuesday. He was 85.

Taylor was president of the Portland-based truck manufacturer for 10 years starting in 1951.

Taylor joined trucking company Consolidated Freightways in the 1930s and was put in charge of a handful of draftsmen and mechanics to design and build lightweight trucks for the fleet.

Their prototypes for a modern cab-over-engine truck built with aluminum and magnesium instead of steel became the basis for Freightliner’s success. The trucks were thousands of pounds lighter than the competition’s, allowing Consolidated Freightways truckers to haul more payload.

The truck-making operation moved to Salt Lake City in early 1940, but the factory was converted to war production and closed in 1944.

In 1947, Taylor was asked to help restart Freightliner in Portland. He was named president and chief executive officer in 1951.

Taylor was instrumental in developing Freightliner’s earliest truck models, including Hyster No. 1, the first transcontinental sleeper to roll 1 million miles.

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