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Obituaries in the News

December 21, 2006

Anne Rogers Clark

NEW YORK (AP) _ Anne Rogers Clark, the first woman professional handler to win best in show at The Westminster Kennel Club contest, died Wednesday in Wilmington, Del., according to the dog show organization. She was 77.

Clark had attended every Westminster show since 1941 and three times handled the best-in-show winner at America’s top event. She judged 22 times at Westminster, and was scheduled to review the terrier group at Madison Square Garden in February.

Clark became the first woman professional handler to win best in show at Westminster in 1956, handling a toy poodle champion named Wilbur White Swan. She also handled the winners in 1959 and ’61.

Clark later was the only person to judge best in show and all seven groups at Westminster. With her late husband, James, bred miniature and standard poodles, Norfolk terriers and whippets. In 2002, a miniature poodle that she co-bred won best in show at Westminster.

She frequently wrote about dogs and her latest book, ``Annie on Dogs!″ was a compilation of her monthly columns written for Dogs In Review magazine.

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Ma Ji

BEIJING (AP) _ Ma Ji, a roly-poly Chinese comedian best known for his mastery of puns and satirical dialogues with other performers, died Wednesday. He was 72.

Ma, whose given name was Ma Shuhuai, died at the Anzhen Hospital in Beijing, Chinese Central Television reported. His death was caused by a heart attack, state media reported.

A biography on the official China Daily Web site said Ma was born in Beijing in 1934 and worked in a textile factory before he started studying Xiangsheng, or Crosstalk, in 1951.

Crosstalk is a traditional Chinese comic form involving one or two actors bantering on a fixed topic, usually at a quickening pace, that relies heavily on slang, puns and imitation.

He joined China’s Central Broadcasting Recitation and Ballad Troupe in 1956 and later became a regular feature on CCTV’s hugely popular Lunar New Year variety show, it said.

Pudgy and with big ears, Ma was a talented mimic and particularly quick with puns. He innovated the Crosstalk art form by focusing on the absurdities of China’s rapid modernization and other social changes.

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Herman Klurfeld

BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) _ Herman Klurfeld, a longtime ghostwriter for pioneering gossip columnist Walter Winchell, died Monday. He was 90.

Klurfeld died at his Boca Raton home of a heart arrhythmia, his son said Wednesday.

Klurfeld worked for three decades as a ghostwriter for the columnist and radio broadcaster. From 1936 to 1965, he wrote two to four of Winchell’s columns a week and at one point wrote large and signature sections of Winchell’s Sunday evening broadcasts.

A native of New York City’s Bronx borough, Klurfeld began reading and writing jokes while sick in bed as a teenager, according to family. His ease with words later caught the attention of Winchell at the New York Mirror.

While prolific, Klurfeld was most proud of the work he and Winchell did to make Americans aware of the danger of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, said his son, James Klurfeld, vice president and editorial page editor of Newsday.

Klurfeld was unmasked as Winchell’s ghostwriter in 1952 in the New York Post. He also wrote half a dozen books, including a memoir, ``Winchell: His Life and Times.″ HBO later made a film out of the book.

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Mildred Millet McNees

OREM, Utah (AP) _ Mildred Millet McNees, a piano teacher who composed a uniquely Mormon alternative to the traditional ``Happy Birthday″ song, died Sunday. She was 81.

McNees died in Orem, according to Teri Sundberg of Sundberg-Olpin Mortuary.

In 1963, McNees penned ``Happy, Happy Birthday,″ which quickly became one of the most popular songs with children belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

``Happy, Happy Birthday″ closes with the lines, ``If I had one wish, then it would be/A happy, happy birthday to you from me!″

McNees, who taught both piano and dance, had lived in Orem since 1970. She previously lived in Long Beach, Calif., and Albuquerque, N.M. She was twice married and the mother of four sons.

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Saparmurat Niyazov

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan (AP) _ Saparmurat Niyazov, the authoritarian president of energy-rich Turkmenistan who created an elaborate personality cult during more than two decades at the helm of the former Soviet republic, died Thursday, officials said. He was 66.

State television showed Niyazov’s portrait in a black frame, and a news presenter was reading a list of his accomplishments and merits. A spokesman for the Turkmen Embassy in Moscow confirmed the report.

Niyazov, who underwent major heart surgery in 1997, acknowledged last month that he had heart disease but did not appear seriously ill.

Niyazov, an important ally in the U.S. war on terror, came to power in 1985 when the Central Asian nation that borders Afghanistan was still a Soviet republic.

He retained control after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union and turned Turkmenistan into one of the most oppressive of the ex-Soviet states, crushing all opposition and drawing condemnation from abroad.

Creating an elaborate personality cult, he ordered the months and days of the week named after himself and his family, and had statues of himself erected throughout the nation. Children pledged allegiance to him every morning in schools and his writings were required reading.

Turkmenistan _ a majority Muslim country dominated by the vast Kara Kum desert _ has the world’s fifth-largest natural gas reserves, but Niyazov failed to convert that wealth into prosperity for his country’s 5 million people.

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Neville Willoughby

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) _ Neville Willoughby, a respected Jamaican radio broadcaster known for his interviews with reggae legend Bob Marley, died Tuesday in Jamaica. He was 69.

Willoughby died at the University of the West Indies Hospital of injuries from a car accident in Kingston, said Gary Allen, managing director at Radio Jamaica.

Willoughby had worked at the station since 1969.

He recorded a reggae Christmas song, ``Christmas J.A.″ He is best known for a long 1973 interview with Marley that has been released as a separate recording and is considered one of the most in-depth discussions with the star.

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