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Obituaries in the News

March 7, 2006

Anne Braden

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ Anne Braden, a longtime civil rights activist best known for trying to dismantle segregation by purchasing a home for a black family in an all-white Kentucky neighborhood in the 1950s, died Monday. She was 81.

She died at Jewish Hospital, where spokesman Jeff Polson refused to disclose the cause of death, citing privacy laws. Braden’s biographer, Catherine Fosl, said she was admitted to the hospital over the weekend suffering from pneumonia and dehydration.

Braden, who was white, also was active in anti-war and women’s liberation movements, but it was her efforts in civil rights campaigns that brought her the most attention.

In 1954, Braden and her husband, Carl, bought a home in southwestern Jefferson County for a black World War II veteran and his family. The black family had been spurned when attempting to purchase the home themselves. The Bradens used the family’s money to purchase the house, then deeded it over to them, said Catherine Fosl, Braden’s biographer.

A few weeks later, the house was bombed; no one was injured.

The Bradens later were charged with sedition, and Carl Braden was convicted and given a 15-year prison sentence, Fosl said. He served seven months before his conviction was overturned.

Anne Braden was never tried on the state sedition charge.

The Bradens worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and other notable civil rights leaders.


Richard Kuklinski

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) _ Richard Kuklinski, a notorious Mafia hitman known as ``The Iceman″ who claimed to have killed more than 100 people and was the subject of several books and two cable television documentaries, died Sunday. He was 70.

He died at St. Francis Hospital in Trenton, Corrections spokeswoman Deirdre Fedkenheuer said Monday. She did not disclose the cause of death, but said it was not suspicious.

Kuklinksi was serving life prison sentences at New Jersey State Prison for two murders.

Just five years ago, he confessed to two murders on an HBO special, ``The Iceman Confesses: Secrets of a Mafia Hit Man.″

In one of those cases, the 1980 killing of New York City police detective Peter Calabro, he implicated another well-known mob hit man, Sammy ``The Bull″ Gravano.

Kuklinski, who preferred to kill by using a cyanide solution administered from a nasal spray bottle, earned the nickname ``The Iceman″ because he kept some victims’ bodies in a North Bergen freezer.


Kirby Puckett

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Kirby Puckett died Monday, a day after the Hall of Fame outfielder had a stroke at his Arizona home. He was 45.

Puckett died at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. He had been in intensive care since having surgery at another hospital following the stroke Sunday morning.

The bubbly, barrel-shaped Puckett carried the Twins to World Series titles in 1987 and 1991 before his career was cut short by glaucoma.

Puckett broke into the majors in 1984 and had a career batting average of .318. The six-time Gold Glove center fielder and 10-time All-Star with no choice but to retire after the 1995 season when he went blind in his right eye.

Out of the game, the 5-foot-8 Puckett put on a considerable amount of weight, which concerned those close to him.

He was elected to the Hall of Fame on his first try in 2001. His plaque praised his ``ever-present smile and infectious exuberance.″

Puckett’s signature performance came in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series against Atlanta. After telling anyone who would listen before the game that he would lead the Twins to victory that night at the Metrodome, he made a leaping catch against the fence and then hit a game-ending homer in the 11th inning to force a seventh game.


Robert J. Sandoval

DUARTE, Calif. (AP) _ Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert J. Sandoval, one of the city’s first openly gay prosecutors whose high-profile cases included the prostitution charges against Hugh Grant, died Feb. 28, his partner said. He was 56.

Sandoval had a heart attack while being treated for leukemia at City of Hope Hospital, said Bill Martin, his partner of 23 years.

He ended the practice of announcing in open court the results of AIDS tests given to people facing prostitution charges.

Among his high-profile cases was the 1995 prosecution of Grant. The British actor pleaded no contest to lewd conduct in a public place.

Sandoval and Martin were also one of the first gay male couples to adopt a child in Los Angeles County, Deputy City Attorney Matthew St. George said.

He was appointed to the Los Angeles Superior Court in 2001 by then-Gov. Gray Davis.


John Sandusky

BALTIMORE (AP) _ John Sandusky, an NFL player in the 1950s and a former longtime assistant coach with the Baltimore Colts, Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins, died Sunday. He was 80.

Sandusky died of complications from internal bleeding at the Coral Springs (Fla.) Medical Center, son Gerry Sandusky told the Baltimore Ravens. The son is a radio broadcaster for the Ravens.

John Sandusky spent 35 years as a coach, guiding the offensive and defensive lines for the Colts (1959-72), Eagles (1973-75) and Dolphins (1976-94). He was the Dolphins’ assistant head coach from 1989-94.

He played seven seasons in the NFL, the first six with the Cleveland Browns, where he saw action on the offensive and defensive lines from 1950-55. The Browns reached the NFL title game in each of those seasons. He finished his career with the Green Bay Packers in 1956.


Rodney Strong

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) _ Rodney Strong, a dancer turned winemaker who was a renowned champion of northern California’s Sonoma County wine-growing region, died Sunday. He was 78.

Strong, who had been in failing health for four years, died of complications from a stroke in Healdsburg, Michele Prinz, spokeswoman for Rodney Strong Vineyards said Monday.

Elegant and well-spoken, Strong was known for promoting high-quality winemaking practices in Sonoma County and for traveling the country to promote the region’s wines.

Strong trained as a dancer, a career that took him to Paris where he developed an interest in fine wines. He concentrated on the latter, he was known to say, after realizing it was easier to be an old winemaker than an old dancer.

He retired from dance in 1959, marrying his partner, Charlotte Ann Winson, and moving to California. He established Rodney Strong Vineyards in 1961. Although he later lost control of the winery because of financial troubles, he went on to serve as consultant and spokesman, said Tom Klein, owner of Rodney Strong Vineyards, whose family purchased the business in 1989.


Joseph Tecce

BOSTON (AP) _ Joseph Tecce, a Boston restaurateur who turned a fruit stand into a landmark North End restaurant that became a favorite of celebrities and everyday diners, died Saturday. He was 94.

Tecce died of heart failure at his Boston home, according to his son, Sal Tecce, who still helps run Joe Tecce’s Ristorante and Cafe.

Food was one of his father’s passions, along with boxing and politics, Sal Tecce said. So it’s no surprise that the restaurant became a hotspot for political functions.

Former House Speaker Thomas ``Tip″ O’Neill, Boston Mayor Kevin White, and Govs. Michael Dukakis, Paul Cellucci and Edward King were among the politicians who were regulars.

Elizabeth Taylor, Nancy Reagan, Frank Sinatra and Al Pacino were just some of the celebrities who dined at Tecce’s. The restaurant also hosted professional athletes including Celtics star Larry Bird and Bruins great Bobby Orr.

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