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Obituaries in the News

November 13, 2001

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (AP) _ Carolyn Barrow, the American-born widow of Barbados’ first prime minister, died Sunday. She was 83.

Barrow, born in Orange, N.J., was a radio journalist and the wife of the late Errol Barrow, who led Barbados to independence in 1966. He served as the island’s prime minister until 1976.

The two met in London after World War II. She was working as an actress and he was studying at the London School of Economics after serving as a military pilot.

They married and settled in Barbados in the 1950s.

As her husband made his way in politics, Barrow worked in radio and produced women’s programs for Barbados Rediffusion. She worked at the station intermittently until the 1980s.

Melvin Burkhart

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ Magician Melvin Burkhart, known in the heyday of carnivals as ``The Human Blockhead″ for his ability to hammer a spike into his head through a cavity behind his nostril, died Thursday of a stroke. He was 94.

Burkhart could make both sides of his face do different things, and he could squeeze into enough shapes to be known as ``The Anatomical Wonder.″

``It’s the end of the era,″ said friend and magician Bill Dahlquist.

``He did what everybody else always talked about doing,″ said daughter-in-law Jane Burkhart. ``He ran away and joined the circus.″

Carrie Donovan

NEW YORK (AP) _ Carrie Donovan, the fashion editor whose outsized glasses and flamboyant speech gave her a second career touting T-shirts and cargo pants in Old Navy commercials, died Monday. She was 73. No cause of death was given.

Donovan’s eye for trends and outgoing personality brought her success as a fashion journalist, first as a reporter for The New York Times and then as an editor for Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and The New York Times Magazine.

With her trademark pearls and oversized black-rimmed glasses, Donovan was a one-of-a-kind fashionista. Her home on the Upper East Side had red walls, red furnishings and leopard carpeting, and she sprinkled her speech with French phrases.

Although she worked as a journalist more than 30 years, well into the computer age, she wrote all her copy by hand _ never having mastered the typewriter. And although she studied dressmaking, she never mastered needle and thread.

Donovan began working for Old Navy in 1997, taping a series of television ads that showcased her quirky image and fashion sense.

She appeared in 42 spots, often sharing the screen with a dog named Magic.

Ray Kelly

VALLEY COTTAGE, N.Y. (AP) _ Ray Kelly, a mascot for Babe Ruth with the New York Yankees during the 1920s, died Sunday. He was 83.

Ruth took a liking to the boy when both lived in Manhattan, and the youngster quickly became a good luck charm for the slugger. Kelly, known to the team as Little Ray, became a fixture around Yankee Stadium in Ruth’s years with the club.

Kelly was a keynote speaker at Hofstra’s 1995 Babe Ruth Conference.

Melody Lightfeather Watson

ALBUQUERQUE (AP) _ Melody Lightfeather Watson, a Pima Indian artist whose work has appeared in the White House and Smithsonian Institution, was killed Nov. 7 in a car crash. She was 49.

Lightfeather’s acrylics and watercolors, based on ancient Indian symbols and the history of New Mexico, have been shown in galleries and collections in the United States and Europe.

She adorned her paintings with an encircled Indian symbol with three hanging feathers and two staffs tipped with arrowheads.

Her sculptures were lifelike _ real horse hair on her horses; sand and sagebrush from the New Mexico desert.

Her beadwork often was whimsical _ black athletic shoes decorated with turquoise skies, rainbows, white diamond clouds and burgundy mesas.

She had said her first big break came in 1982 when an Albuquerque hotel commissioned 600 original paintings.

In 1984, she won the grand prize in the National Juried Art Competition.

One watercolor, ``Spirit of the Eagle Dancer,″ was a gold medal winner in 1984 in the International Competition of the Nations in Paris. The painting was later exhibited at the Louvre.

Frank Messer

DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Frank Messer, who broadcast New York Yankees games for 16 seasons, died Tuesday. He was 76.

Messer, a Marine, served in the South Pacific during World War II. He broke into baseball broadcasting in 1964 with the Baltimore Orioles.

In 1968, Messer brought his clear and simple announcing style to the Yankees’ booth, replacing Joe Garagiola and joining Phil Rizzuto and Jerry Coleman.

Rizzuto and Messer were joined by Bill White in 1971, and they were broadcast partners until Messer’s last season in 1984.

Messer broadcast Yankee championships in 1977 and 1978 and helped fans get through the death of catcher Thurman Munson in 1979. He also worked as the master of ceremonies for the Yankees Oldtimer’s Game until last year.

Percy Ross

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Percy Ross, the millionaire-turned-philanthropist who doled out cash to readers of his syndicated column for more than 16 years, died Saturday. He was 84.

Ross was best known for his newspaper column ``Thanks a Million,″ through which he gave out millions of dollars worldwide.

Ross closed his wallet when he ended the column in September 1999. He estimated he had handed out as much as $30 million.

The column ran in about 800 newspapers, from major dailies to tiny weeklies. Through it and other philanthropy, Ross helped pay for organ transplants and recreational centers and handed out silver dollars along with his homespun wisdom.

The son of poor immigrants from Latvia and Russia, Ross made his fortune producing plastic film and trash bags.

After selling his company for $8 million in 1969, he split the money four ways among his wife and two sons.

Ross used the $2 million he kept for himself, and with subsequent investments, established himself as a philanthropist. He launched the column in March 1983.

Elena Tcherkasskaia

MOSCOW (AP) _ Elena Tcherkasskaia, coach of two-time U.S. figure skating bronze medalist Angela Nikodinov and other elite skaters, died Monday of complications from pancreatic cancer. She was 64.

A prima ballerina with the Bolshoi Ballet for 22 years, Tcherkasskaia became a figure skating coach through her friendship with three-time Olympic pairs champion Irina Rodnina. Her most recent student was Nikodinov, who moved closer to the top of American skating under Tcherkasskaia’s guidance.

Tcherkasskaia also did choreography for American stars Michelle Kwan and Nicole Bobek. She coached world-level ice dancers Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz of Canada, Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko of Russia, and Radka Kovarikova and Rene Novotny of the Czech Republic.

John Simon White

SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) _ John Simon White, who helped steer the New York City Opera to its position as an important repertory company, died Nov. 6. He was 91.

White, who moved from New York City in July, was the company’s first voice coach and retired as its managing director in 1980. He remained a consultant until recently.

The company was started in 1944. White was hired in 1946 after teaching at the New School and the Lycee Francais.

After the company’s founding director, conductor Laszlo Halasz, left in 1951, White and conductors Julius Rudel and Felix Popper took charge. They moved the company from the former Mecca Temple in Manhattan to Lincoln Center.

The Vienna-born trio remained dominant figures at the city opera through the 1970s. Their repertory company included Beverly Sills, Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras and Frances Bible.

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