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Obituaries in the News

November 20, 2000

CLINTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) _ State Rep. Janet Kukuk died Sunday after a five-year battle with breast cancer. She was 58.

Kukuk was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago but underwent treatment that caused the disease to go into remission. With her health restored, she ran for the Michigan House seat vacated by her husband, Alvin, who was forced out by term limits in 1998.

Kukuk won the election and was appointed to the House Appropriations Committee, but she was diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer in 1999 and left the House to undergo additional treatment. She returned and worked to pass legislation revising Michigan’s informed consent abortion law.

Jimmy Payne Sr.

CHICAGO (AP) _ Jimmy Payne Sr., a tap dancer whose rhythm and technique as well as a mastery of precise steps attracted Bob Fosse, June Allyson, Gregory Hines, Lena Horne and others to his Chicago studio, died Nov. 13. He was 95.

The son of a Cuban mother and Barbadian father, Payne grew up in the Panama Canal Zone before moving to New York in 1917.

After traveling from New York to Chicago in 1947, Payne helped introduce African and Afro-Cuban rhythms to the dance scene. He taught in a number of Chicago dance studios from the 1950s into the 1970s.

He continued to teach some of the city’s top dancers until his regimen was slowed by a number of strokes in his early 90s.

Gordon Rich

SOUTH NYACK, N.Y. (AP) _ Gordon Rich, an investment banker at Credit Suisse First Boston who designed some of the largest mergers in corporate history, died in an automobile accident Sunday. He was 43.

Rich apparently fell asleep at the wheel while driving to his home in New Jersey, according to police.

Rich played a critical role in the rarified world of mergers and acquisitions, negotiating deals on behalf of corporate raiders in the 1980s and conglomerates during the 1990s.

His role in the fight surrounding the takeover of RJR Nabisco was chronicled in the book, ``Barbarians at the Gate.″

Rich was described by colleagues as a ``blue-collar investment banker,″ for his sometimes stubborn, anti-establishment approach in an industry steeped in tradition.

He began his career as a lawyer after graduating from Harvard University. He later joined First Boston, which was later acquired by Credit Suisse Group.

Mel Ruder

COLUMBIA FALLS, Mont. (AP) _ Mel Ruder, publisher-emeritus of the weekly Hungry Horse News and Montana’s first winner of the Pulitzer Prize, died Sunday. He was 85.

He had been ill since suffering a stroke at his home in Kalispell in April 1999.

The Hungry Horse News made its debut on Aug. 8, 1946, with eight pages and a circulation of zero. Much of the content was ``boilerplate″ _ preprinted feature material that came from a variety of sources.

Ruder’s crowning achievement was his coverage of the disastrous flood of 1964. During the flood, he turned his weekly into a daily, printing as many as 12,550 copies a day, compared with normal circulation of 3,900.

Ruder went out on the floodwaters in a boat, and when the road was washed out, he drove his car down the railroad tracks to photograph flood scenes. He worked day and night for nearly a week. He fed news steadily to The Associated Press and to area radio stations.

It was a remarkable one-man performance, recognized with a Pulitzer Prize in 1965. Ruder learned of his Pulitzer while covering an eighth-grade conservation tour of a local farm. He deposited the $1,000 prize money in the bank for a scholarship fund.

For years, his wife Ruth, whom he married in 1950, helped him in the Hungry Horse News. She tolerated his long hours and singular dedication to his work. She died of Alzheimer’s disease in 1996.

Ruder sold the Hungry Horse News in 1978, and turned his attention to philanthropy. In 1998, Ruder gave more than $200,000 to Flathead Valley Community College and the University of Montana’s journalism school.

Survivors include daughter Patsi Morton and her family.

Charles Ruff

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Charles Ruff, the powerful Washington lawyer who represented President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal and his impeachment trial, died Sunday in an accident. He was 61.

Details of the accident were not available.

Ruff had used a wheelchair since contracting a rare tropical paralyzing disease while teaching law in Africa in the 1960s.

After building a career representing powerful political figures and, occasionally, their adversaries, Ruff was asked by Clinton in 1997 to become his chief legal adviser. At the time, Clinton was being investigated by independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr for possible wrongdoing in an Arkansas land deal.

The investigation, known as Whitewater, soon expanded to include his affair with Lewinsky, a former White House intern. Starr’s investigation led to the House impeaching Clinton in December 1998.

Ruff also represented Anita Hill in her sexual harassment accusations against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.

Ruff entered the realm of hardball Washington politics during the 1970s. He initially helped prosecute President Nixon’s chief fund-raisers for taking illegal campaign contributions and then took over as special prosecutor in 1975.

Ruff left the government in 1982 to join the Washington law firm of Covington & Burling, where he earned his reputation for helping political leaders in legal hot water. He retuned to public service in 1995 when he accepted the job as chief lawyer for the District of Columbia.

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