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Obituaries in the News

July 27, 2000

NEW YORK (AP) _ Nija Battle, whose custom-made furs were worn by entertainers like Whitney Houston, Lil’ Kim, and Kid Rock, died July 20 from a brain aneurysm. She was 37.

Battle began making furs about 10 years ago and started her own business, which gradually gained a following among rap and hip-hop stars who saw her wearing her own designs.

Battle did not have a store and often met her future clients at clubs or outside restaurants. She was a relative unknown in the fashion world until she was written about in Vogue magazine last year.

Her designs, often dyed in colors like champagne, burgundy and green, projected a high urban style that not only appealed to her celebrated clientele but also evoked the 1970s in fashion.

One of her clients, rapper Puff Daddy, had her make trousers for him in black sheared mink.

Oscar Shumsky

RYE, N.Y. (AP) _ Violinist Oscar Shumsky, a brilliant performer who trained generations of successful younger artists, died Monday from heart disease. He was 83.

Shumsky displayed his musical talent at an early age, first picking up a violin when he was 3 years old. His father, an amateur player who recognized his son’s brilliance, took him to the Curtis Institute of Music, where he was accepted as a student by violinist Leopold Auer and was later taught by Efrem Zimbalist.

At the age of 9, Shumsky performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and after graduating from Curtis in 1936, he began playing around the world to widespread critical acclaim. He later branched into conducting.

Shumsky was featured at Lincoln Center’s ``Great Performer Series.″

He trained generations of violinists at some of the nation’s most prestigious music schools, including the Curtis Institute, the Peabody Conservatory, Yale University and, for 25 years, at the Juilliard School.

Yoshimi Takeda

ALBUQUERQUE (AP) _ Yoshimi Takeda, a former director of the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, died Sunday of complications from cancer. He was 67.

He had been music director and resident conductor of the NMSO from 1974 to 1984, holding the post concurrently with that of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra.

Takeda made his debut with the Tokyo Symphony in 1958. He began his U.S. career in 1962 as a Kulas Fellow with the Cleveland Orchestra in a conductor advanced training program.

He came to the NMSO in 1970 after six years as the Honolulu Symphony’s associate director.

Francis Millspaugh Wheat

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Francis Millspaugh ``Frank″ Wheat, an environmentalist and former member of the Securities and Exchange Commission, died Friday of cancer. He was 79.

Wheat, a prominent securities lawyer, served on the SEC during the Lyndon B. Johnson administration. He wrote the 1999 book, ``California Desert Miracle,″ which chronicled the 27-year fight to preserve the Mojave Desert.

He helped fight for passage of the California Desert Protection Act, which President Clinton signed in 1994. The law preserved much of the Mojave as wilderness and increased the size of Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks.

Wheat also was a founding director of the Center for Law in the Public Interest and a founder and past president of the Alliance for Children’s Rights, which provides free legal assistance to poor children and their caretakers.

Several environmental groups claimed Wheat as a trustee, including: the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, the California Desert Protective League and the Anza Borrego Foundation.

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