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Obituaries in the News

August 7, 2000

LONDON (AP) _ Sir Alec Guinness, the Shakespearean actor who was knighted after his role in ``The Bridge on the River Kwai″ and became known to a new generation of fans as a wise Jedi knight in ``Star Wars,″ died Saturday. He was 86.

The cause of death was not revealed, but news reports Monday said he was battling liver cancer.

Guinness, whose career spanned more than 60 years, was one of the last surviving members of Britain’s greatest generation of actors, which included Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir John Gielgud.

From postwar comedies to Hamlet to the light sabre-wielding Obi-Wan Kenobi in ``Star Wars,″ Guinness played a variety of characters with subtlety and intelligence. He received an Oscar in 1957 for his role as a colonel in ``The Bridge on the River Kwai″ and a knighthood for his art and skill in 1959.

Guinness first made his mark in films in the Ealing Studio comedies of the late 1940s and the 1950s _ ``The Man in the White Suit,″ ``The Lavender Hill Mob,″ ``The Lady Killers,″ and, most remarkably, in ``Kind Hearts and Coronets.″ In that classic black comedy, he played the entire d’Ascoyne family _ in his own words, ``eight speaking parts, one non-speaking cameo and a portrait in oils.″

Midway through his blossoming career, Guinness joined the Royal Navy and became a commissioned officer in 1942. His first command was delayed because of construction problems, giving him time to perform in his first Broadway play ``Flare Path.″

Following World War II, his career again soared. In parts such as Fagin in ``Oliver Twist,″ Guinness was barely recognizable behind his makeup and costume. It was his Oscar-winning role that established his versatility, winning for his performance as the disciplined, inflexible Col. Nicholson in a Japanese prison camp.

Three years later he played Nicholson’s opposite _ the boorish, hard-drinking Jock Sinclair in ``Tunes of Glory.″

Guinness had a long film partnership with director David Lean, beginning in 1946 as Herbert Pocket in ``Great Expectations,″ through ``Dr. Zhivago″ and finally in ``A Passage to India″ in 1984.

His 1977 role as Obi-Wan Kenobi introduced him to younger filmgoers and made him financially secure. Guinness appeared in the 1980 sequel ``The Empire Strikes Back″ and again in 1983′s ``Return of the Jedi.″

Michael Kaniecki

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) _ Bishop Michael Kaniecki, a Detroit native who spent much of his career ministering in the vast expanse of Alaska, died of a heart attack Sunday. He was 65.

A veteran pilot, Kaniecki flew his plane to visit the many remote communities in the Fairbanks Roman Catholic diocese. He died minutes before he was to celebrate a confirmation mass in the western Alaska village of Emmonak.

Kaniecki, who was born in Detroit in 1935, ministered to Catholics in 47 parishes in an area that covered nearly 410,000 square miles.

His first assignment was at the church’s mission in the Yukon River village of Holy Cross. He later served at the church’s school for Alaska Native children in St. Marys.

He served as pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church in Kotzebue from 1967 to 1975 and later in the village of Holy Cross. In 1982 he was appointed Religious Superior of the Jesuit Community in Alaska and in 1985 he was installed as the third bishop of the diocese.

Maureen McNerney

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ Maureen McNerney, The Courier-Journal’s arts and entertainment editor for 14 years, was found dead Sunday morning at her home. She was 59.

Autopsy results were pending.

McNerney worked for the newspaper for 34 years, beginning as an assistant in the former women’s department in 1966. She later was a reporter, copy editor and assistant editor in the features department.

She was named editor of the newspaper’s Accent lifestyle section in 1979 and arts and entertainment editor in 1986.

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