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Obituaries in the News

June 15, 1998

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Author and playwright Nissim Aloni, hailed for his keen observation of Israeli foibles, has died at age 72 after suffering a stroke.

Aloni died Saturday night in a Tel Aviv hospital.

In his play ``Most Cruel the King,″ which had its premier in 1953, Aloni was the first to break with the literary realism of the post-independence generation of Israeli playwrights. He had a sharp ear for the dialect and manners of the myriad ethnic groups in Israel’s mainly immigrant society.

Winner of the prestigious Israel Prize in 1996, Aloni had an audience far larger than the theater-going public because he was also a leading writer of comedy skits and monologues for radio and the popular music hall.

Among his plays were ``The Emperor’s New Clothes,″ (1961), ``The American Princess,″ (1963), ``The Revolution and the Chicken,″ (1964), ``The Bride and the Butterfly Hunter,″ (1967), ``Napoleon, Dead or Alive,″ (1970) and ``The Gypsies of Jaffa,″ (1971).

Dr. Catherine F. Bontke

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Dr. Catherine F. Bontke, an international authority in the treatment of people with brain injury, died Thursday after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. She was 42.

Bontke, medical director of the Rehabilitation Hospital of Connecticut, died at a hospital.

Dr. Bontke was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and developed necrosis of her right hip in childhood. She originally wanted to be a nurse, but couldn’t bear the pain of standing up for long periods of time. So she became a doctor instead.

She graduated from St. Francis College in Brooklyn and was a graduate of the Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston, where she later taught.

Dr. Bontke also was vice chairwoman of the Connecticut Women and Disability Network, which assists women and girls with disabilities.

Joe Dixon

NEW YORK (AP) _ Joe Dixon, a jazz musician who played with some of the genre’s greatest bands during his 50-year-career, has died. He was 81.

Dixon, who died on May 28 at his home in Oceanside, learned the clarinet at age 8 and was performing four years later, playing on more than 100 recordings by the time he turned 21.

In 1936, Dixon, who was also a saxophonist, joined the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and later played with Bunny Berigan. He played briefly with Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians, then joined the Navy during World War II.

While still in the service, Dixon played with Eddie Condon’s band. Later, he worked the stages of Condon’s Manhattan nightclub.

In 1977, Dixon became director of jazz studies at Adelphi University, where he taught clarinet, saxophone and flute, as well as the history of jazz. He directed the Nassau County Jazz Festival and organized the Nassau Neophonic Youth Band.

He also played with the CBS staff band and the NBC Orchestra.

Edgar E. Easterly Jr.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) _ Edgar E. Easterly Jr., a retired journalist and former bureau chief for The Associated Press in Kentucky, died Saturday at age 88.

He had worked for newspapers in Milwaukee and Chicago, served as press secretary for two Kentucky governors and was a publisher of two weekly newspapers at Nicholasville.

Easterly helped establish and in 1953 was installed as first president of the Louisville chapter of Sigma Delta Chi, now known as the Society of Professional Journalists.

He joined the AP in Cincinnati in 1932, transferred to the Columbus, Ohio, bureau in 1934 and later was appointed state editor there.

He was moved to Louisville as bureau chief in 1950, serving five years in that capacity before resigning to become press secretary to Gov. A.B. Chandler. Easterly served in that same capacity for Gov. Bert Combs from 1960-63.

He retired in 1974 as vice president of public relations for the Appalachian Regional Hospitals, then became associate editor of the Kentucky Coal Journal in Lexington. He retired from that post in 1980.

A native of Knoxville, Tenn., he dropped out of high school in 1928, two months prior to graduation, responding to an advertisement in Editor & Publisher that led to an editor’s job at the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune.

While working at the newspaper, he met his wife, Ethel, a secretary to the publisher. They were married in 1929.

In 1990, the newspapers at Nicholasvillle were transferred to new ownership and are now consolidated as The Jessamine Journal.

Surviving, in addition to his wife, are five sons: Ed Easterly III. Nicholasville; Ellis Easterly, Baltimore; C. Thomas Easterly, Miami; James C. Easterly, St. Paul, Minn.; and Ronald F. Easterly, Morgantown, W.Va. There are 14 grandchildren.

Theresa Merritt

NEW YORK (AP) _ Theresa Merritt, a 1985 Tony Award nominee for her performance in ``Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,″ died Friday at Calvery Hospital in the Bronx. She was 75.

Ms. Merritt, who lived in Queens since 1945, succumbed after a six-year battle with skin cancer, according to her niece, M. Vicki Wacksman.

A native of Emporia, Va., who was raised in Philadelphia, Ms. Merritt appeared in more than a dozen television shows and films, including ``All About Ms. Merritt,″ for which she won an Emmy Award nomination.

Formally trained to sing opera, Ms. Merritt made her stage debut at age 21 in ``Carmen Jones,″ a Broadway musical. She also was a singer with Harry Belafonte and the late Jackie Wilson and performed at Carnegie Hall in the 1985 Kool Jazz Festival and Salute to Cole Porter.

John H. Richardson

NEW YORK (AP) _ John H. Richardson, a CIA station chief in Saigon in the early 1960s who briefly supported the regime of President Ngo Dinh Diem, has died. He was 84.

Richardson died June 1 in his home in Zapopan, a suburb of Guadalajara, Mexico. The cause was lung cancer, said his son, also named John H. Richardson.

As Saigon station chief in 1962 and 1963, Richardson’s mission was to influence Ngo Dinh Nhu, a brother of President Diem, Neil Sheehan, an author and authority on Vietnam, told The New York Times.

At the time, Sheehan said, Richardson was very optimistic about the war. Later, he changed his mind and he decided that the regime was really an impossible regime, Sheehan said.

Richardson was recalled to Washington in October.

During World War II, Richardson served in the U.S. Counter-Intelligence Corps in North Africa, Italy and Austria. In 1947, he became CIA station chief in Vienna, his family said. He also served as station chief in Athens and Manila before taking his post in Saigon.

Eric Tabarly

PARIS (AP) _ Eric Tabarly, France’s best-known yachtsman who crisscrossed oceans to win numerous solo titles, was declared dead Sunday after falling overboard near Wales during the weekend. He was 66.

Tabarly was knocked into the sea late Friday night while changing the main sail as his century-old sailboat _ the Pen Duick _ headed toward Scotland in rough seas, the boat’s crew said in a statement.

He was declared dead Sunday morning by officials in the Brittany port of Brest after air and sea searches failed to locate him.

Tabarly, who shot to fame in 1964 when he won England’s Transat solo race across the Atlantic, learned to love sailing from his father, a businessman and sailing enthusiast.

Tabarly was a 33-year-old naval officer when he won the Transat in June 1964. He finished the 3,350-mile race from Plymouth, England to Newport, R.I. in 27 days.

He went on to win the Morgan Cup, the Gotland Round, Channel Race and the Fasnet, among others.

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