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Obituaries in the News

November 28, 1999

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ William Benedict, a character actor best known as Whitey in the old Bowery Boys comedies, died Nov. 25. He was 82.

Benedict died from complications of heart surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said his sister, Susanne Quickel.

Born in Haskell, Okla., he was a newsboy and a plumber’s assistant before appearing in films as a youngster in the mid-1930s.

He played Skinny in some of the low-budget East Side Kids films about the exploits of a tough gang of New York youngsters. In the 1940s and ’50s, Benedict made regular appearances as Whitey in the Bowery Boys films, popular successors to the East Side Kids.

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Alvin Cash

CHICAGO (AP) _ Alvin Cash, who had a hit in 1963 with the dance tune ``It’s Twine Time,″ died Nov. 21. He was 60.

Cash died in his sleep at his Chicago home. The cause of death was not determined, though he had been suffering from stomach problems.

A native of St. Louis, Cash started his career as a tap dancer and performed with his brother in a group called the Step Brothers. He started singing later, hitting the Chicago scene with his group Alvin Cash and the Registers.

``It’s Twine Time″ earned them appearances on shows hosted by Dick Clark and Ed Sullivan. Follow-up dance tunes included ``The Funky Washing Machine,″ ``The Ali Shuffle″ and ``The Philly Freeze.″

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A. Bruce Clarke

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) _ A. Bruce Clarke, a former Western Michigan University provost, died Friday. He was 72.

Clarke died of complications from cancer.

He was a Fulbright lecturer in Finland, a professor of mathematics at the University of Michigan and served as Western Michigan’s chairman of the mathematics department, dean of its College of Arts and Sciences, president of academic affairs and provost.

He graduated from the University of Saskatchewan in his native Canada at age 18 and earned his Ph.D. in mathematics from Brown University at the age of 23.

During his 24 years at Western Michigan, Clarke helped the mathematical and statistical department progress toward the age of technology. He retired as provost in 1991.

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Fred Ford

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) _ Saxophonist Fred Ford, a versatile jazz and rhythm and blues musician who recorded with B.B. King and Jerry Lee Lewis, died Friday after a battle with cancer. He was 69.

Ford, a mainstay of the Memphis music scene, was known for his baritone sax skills. He played on hundreds of sessions, including recordings with Rufus Thomas, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Charlie Rich and Junior Parker.

Ford started playing professionally with the Douglass Swingsters Orchestra and the Andrew Chaplin Band in the late 1940s, before graduating from high school.

His most famous recording _ the 1952 classic ``Hound Dog″ by Big Mama Thornton _ had him barking instead of playing sax.

``It’s basically drums and guitar and a little bass,″ said producer Jim Dickinson. ``And the horn players were all sitting around because they had been called for the session. And they barked at the end like dogs!″

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James Geehan

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) _ James Geehan, editor and publisher of the Tucson Citizen from 1977 to 1981, died Wednesday after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 76.

Geehan culminated his 38-year career as vice president and general manager of Gannett News Service in Washington, D.C. He retired in 1986.

Geehan began his career as a reporter for the Providence Journal-Bulletin in Rhode Island. He worked there for 20 years, rising to state editor, managing editor and assistant general manager.

In 1968, he joined the Gannett Co. as editor of the Plainfield Courier-News, now The Courier-News of Bridgewater, in New Jersey. A year later, he was named editor and publisher of California’s San Bernardino Sun-Telegram, now The Sun, where he worked for eight years.

In 1977, Geehan took over the helm of the Citizen, succeeding William A. Small Jr., after Gannett bought the afternoon newspaper from Small’s family. Geehan moved back to Tucson after he retired in 1986.

Geehan was born in Somerville, Mass., and graduated from Brown University with a degree in economics. Prior to working in newspapers, he served with the Army Air Corps in Europe during World War II.

In addition to his wife, Betty, survivors include three children and a sister.

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Robert Little

LANSING, Mich. (AP) _ Robert Little, the youngest brother of Malcolm X, died Tuesday. He was 61.

Little, a former deputy director of the Office of Youth Services in the Michigan Department of Social Services, died at a Lansing hospital of complications from lymphoma, said his son-in-law, Democratic state Sen. Virgil Smith of Detroit.

Little had been working for Michigan State University on a study about kinship care, the care of children by grandparents or other relatives.

``He was very concerned about children, very concerned about how social services were dealt with,″ Smith said.

Little was 13 years younger than his brother Malcolm, who was assassinated in 1965.

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Calvin Dodd MacCracken

HANOVER, N.H. (AP) _ Calvin Dodd MacCracken, an inventor who developed products from electric hot dog cookers to space suits for astronauts, died Nov. 10. He was 79.

MacCracken died of pneumonia at the Kendall at Hanover retirement community, said his wife, Mary Burnham MacCracken. He also lived in West Cornwall, Conn.

He earned his first patent during World War II, when he worked for General Electric to reduce the size of a British design for a jet engine. After the war, he founded Englewood, N.J.-based Jet Heat Inc., now called Calmac Inc., and served as its president for 50 years.

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Ashley Montagu

PRINCETON, N.J. (AP) _ Anthropologist Ashley Montagu, known for combining rigorous scientific research with witty, accessible writing, died at home Friday after a long illness. He was 94.

Montagu wrote more than 60 books, ranging from an account of the life of Joseph Merrick, known as ``The Elephant Man,″ to lighter works such as a book on the history of swearing.

Montagu became a controversial figure in the 1950s when he suggested there was scientific evidence of race and gender equality. He recently published a revised version of his 1953 book, ``The Natural Superiority of Women,″ in which he argued for complete equality between men and women.

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Alain Peyrefitte

PARIS (AP) _ Alain Peyrefitte, a former Cabinet minister and close confidant of Gen. Charles de Gaulle, died Saturday of cancer, said staff at Le Figaro newspaper, where he worked. He was 74.

A senior figure in President Jacques Chirac’s Rally for the Republic Party, the right-wing Peyrefitte represented the Provins area, southeast of Paris, as deputy and mayor since 1958.

Chirac said in a statement Saturday that he was ``saddened by the loss of a very great Frenchman.″

Peyrefitte held numerous Cabinet posts dating back to 1962, including scientific research, culture, environment, administrative reform and planning, and justice. He was education minister during the student revolt of May 1968.

In the 1960s he worked as information minister in the government of De Gaulle, who was leading France out of the humiliation of Nazi occupation to its status as a modern world power.

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Thomas Pitfield

LONDON (AP) _ Thomas Pitfield, a composer whose music was noted for its humor and who also wrote books and poetry, died Nov. 11. He was 96.

He taught composition at the Royal Manchester College of Music (now the Royal Northern College of Music) from 1947 to 1973.

His compositions included a choral suite, ``Night Music″; ``The Sands of Dee″ for voice and piano; and ``Adam and the Creatures,″ a musical morality play. Though he was never regarded as being in the top rank of British composers, he produced music throughout his life in a variety of forms.

Pitfield was a versatile artist who wrote several books of memoirs and verse, designed his own home and produced watercolors and pencil drawings.

``He regarded as one of his finest achievements a remarkable book, ‘The Poetry of Trees,’ in which beautiful drawings combine with often touching poetry and his own wood-and leather bookbinding,″ said John McCabe, who studied composition under Pitfield.

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Arthur Telcser

CHICAGO (AP) _ Former state Rep. Arthur Telcser, a majority leader and liberal Republican who sometimes clashed with his more conservative colleagues, died Friday. He was 67.

Telcser died of a heart attack in his Chicago home.

He represented Chicago’s Lakeview district from 1967 until 1983. He was majority leader and served as speaker to fill the final few days of George Ryan’s term after Ryan was elected lieutenant governor in 1981.

Despite a liberal philosophy that sometimes caused clashes with more conservative Republicans, Telcser was known for his ability to strike compromises.

He pushed for laws on gun control, merit selection for the judiciary and public access for disabled people.

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