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Obituaries in the News

April 10, 1999

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Gene Benson, a charismatic outfielder who starred in the Negro Leagues in the 1940s and mentored a young Jackie Robinson before Robinson broke baseball’s racial barrier, died Tuesday. He was 85.

Benson played for over a decade in the Negro Leagues. He debuted with the Philadelphia Stars in 1937 before being traded to the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1938. A year later, he returned to the Stars, where he played into the late 1940s.

Benson had his best years from 1944 to 1946, batting .327, .370, and .345, respectively, during those years.

Eva Cockcroft

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Eva S. Cockcroft, an art professor and muralist whose works grace walls from Germany to Los Angeles, died April 1 of breast cancer. She was 62.

Cockcroft taught art history at California State University, Long Beach and the University of California, Irvine.

The Vienna-born Cockcroft was lead artist on the 540-foot-long ``Earth Memory″ in Los Angeles. Painted in 1996, the mural represents the history of the universe.

She made murals in New York City and New Jersey until she moved to Los Angeles in 1989. Her upper Manhattan mural ``La Grande Jatte in Harlem,″ is an ode to French Impressionist Georges Seurat. Instead of Parisians in the park, Cockcroft painted Harlem residents.

Ira Hechler

NEW YORK (AP) _ Ira J. Hechler, a financier and private investor known for friendly buyouts amid the hostile takeovers that dominated the 1980s, died Sunday of complications from a heart attack. He was 80.

Hechler was involved in the acquisition of more than 25 companies, including U.S. Banknote, the Leslie Fay Companies, Big Bear Stores and book publishers New American Library and E.P. Dutton.

A longtime patron of the New York City Ballet and the Roundabout Theater, Hechler’s philanthropy to institutions and individuals was often anonymous.

Helen Mayer

NEW YORK (AP) _ Helen Aberson Mayer, who wrote the children’s story that inspired the 1941 Walt Disney cartoon ``Dumbo″ died Saturday. She was 91.

Mrs. Mayer, known as Helen Aberson when she wrote ``Dumbo, the Flying Elephant,″ moved from Syracuse, N.Y., to California in 1939 at the request of the Walt Disney Company.

Disney, following the 1940 release of the animated film ``Pinnochio,″ used Miss Aberson’s tale of a flying elephant to create one of the most easily recognizable cartoon characters and stories.

In the story, Dumbo the baby elephant is teased for his oversized ears, but eventually becomes a circus star when he realizes his ears allow him to fly.

Mark Peterson

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Mark Peterson, assistant business editor for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and former St. Louis correspondent for The Associated Press, died Friday of apparent heart failure. He was 44.

He collapsed during a weekly media pick-up hockey game.

Peterson began his journalism career with United Press International in 1979. A year later, he joined the AP’s Kansas City bureau. In November 1984, he was named correspondent in St. Louis, where he stayed until July 1989.

Peterson then joined the now-defunct St. Louis Sun as assistant managing editor. In 1990, he joined the Post-Dispatch as Illinois editor. He was named assistant business editor in fall 1996.

Survivors include his wife, Deborah Peterson, also a reporter at the Post-Dispatch, and three children.

Cardinal Raul Silva Henriquez

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) _ Cardinal Raul Silva Henriquez, an outspoken defender of human rights during Chile’s military dictatorship, died Friday. He was 91.

Silva’s order said he died of cardio-respiratory failure at a home for retired priests. He had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

The cardinal’s defense of human rights made the church a prominent opponent of Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s military regime, which seized power in 1973 and ruled until 1990.

Silva also was one of Chile’s most forceful advocates of dialogue and reconciliation after years of a chaotic Marxist-led government and the repressive military rule.

Silva received a law degree from Catholic University in Santiago in 1929 and was ordained a priest nine years later. Named Archbishop of Santiago in 1960, he became a cardinal two years after that.

It was during Pinochet’s regime that Silva became a symbol of human rights. He sponsored a group that gave legal aid to political prisoners and helped people dismissed for political reasons to find jobs. He also worked to collect evidence of torture and other human rights abuses.

An official Chilean report says 3,197 people were killed or disappeared at the hands of Pinochet’s secret police after he toppled elected President Salvador Allende in a bloody coup.

After Pinochet disbanded Silva’s group, the cardinal replaced it with an organization called the Vicariate of Solidarity, which for years aided the victims of repression.

Aaron Tolen

GENEVA (AP) _ Aaron Tolen, who served as president of the World Council of Churches from 1991 until last year, died Wednesday of a stroke. He was 61.

An Africa specialist and political scientist by profession, Tolen was a member of the Evangelical Church of Cameroon. He served in the World Student Christian Federation before joining the WCC.

Tolen was a member of an ecumenical team that traveled to South Africa in 1993 to monitor the run-up to the country’s first all-race democratic elections. He also led delegations to Burundi and Congo.

Edward Tripp

FRANKLIN, N.C. (AP) _ Edward Tripp, the editor in chief of Yale University Press from 1973 to 1986, died Tuesday at age 79.

Tripp helped acquire more than 200 books during his time at Yale. He also helped create the acclaimed ``Encyclopedia of New York City,″ published in 1995, which includes 4,300 articles on the nation’s largest city.

Tripp spent 20 years working as a New York City social worker and as a professional violinist before entering the publishing field.

In 1970, Tripp, along with Yale professor William Brown, approached historian Rayford Logan to start ``The Dictionary of American Negro Biography,″ which was published in 1983.

He joined Yale University Press in 1971. He retired in 1990 and spent his last few years at Yale as editor at large.

Herbert W. Wey

BOONE, N.C. (AP) _ Herbert W. Wey, president of Appalachian State University from 1969 to 1979, died Thursday at age 84.

Wey was president of Appalachian when the school became a member of the 16-campus University of North Carolina system. Student enrollment grew nearly 50 percent, to 9,200, under his leadership.

Wey organized the College of Business and the university’s continuing education division.

He began teaching at Appalachian in 1938 and also served as chairman of the education department and associate dean of education at the University of Miami.

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