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Obituaries in the News

February 25, 1999

PRESCOTT, Ariz. (AP) _ Bill Beers, an outdoorsman and wildlife conservationist who for years wrote a column for The Daily Courier, died Friday. He was 80.

Beers wrote outdoors columns for the Prescott Courier, later The Daily Courier, from about 1950 to 1975 and again from 1988 to 1998.

Biki

MILAN, Italy (AP) _ Biki, a Milan designer who opened a fashion atelier in 1936 and went on to create outfits for opera diva Maria Callas and others, died Tuesday. She was 92.

Biki, born Elvira Leonardi, was known abroad, especially in Japan, where she opened a shop in 1969. Other well-known clients included Esther Williams, the American swimmer and film star, and French actress Jeanne Moreau.

But it was her work for Callas that gave Biki her biggest fame. She reportedly numbered the clothes and accessories so the soprano would know how to best put them together for an elegant look.

She also designed for many of the women who frequented the circle of Gabriele D’Annunzio, the Italian poet and soldier.

She later designed a children’s collection that sold abroad.

Roger Boka

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) _ Roger Boka, a leading African black empowerment advocate whose bank collapsed last year amid questionable practices, died Sunday at 54.

He died aboard a private jet as it approached Harare’s airport. His daughter, Rudo, said Boka was returning from the United States where he sought treatment. She would not specify the illness.

Boka was wanted for questioning over the alleged illegal transfer abroad of $25 million from his collapsed United Merchant Bank.

Boka’s bank offered loans to blacks at favorable terms and accused multinational banks of discriminating against black entrepreneurs who lacked collateral.

Boka’s bank collapsed after it allegedly sold faked bonds, purportedly to raise capital for a state-owned slaughter and meat processing firm.

William Bronk

HUDSON FALLS, N.Y. (AP) _ William Bronk, an award-winning poet who wrote a poem for former Gov. Mario Cuomo’s first inauguration, died Monday. He was 81.

Bronk won the American Book Award for Poetry in 1982 for ``Life Supports,″ a compilation of poems he had written over 32 years. He wrote about things he encountered in his daily life.

Bronk said in an interview that he first declined to write ``Waterland″ for Cuomo’s inauguration. But after jotting down a few lines and giving the idea some thought, he changed his mind.

Dennis Cassano

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Dennis Cassano, a longtime reporter for the Star Tribune, died Monday of cancer. He was 58.

As a beat reporter, Cassano covered everything from city government and the criminal justice system to issues of urban sprawl, said Joe Rigert, a reporter who worked with Cassano for nearly 30 years.

Cassano joined the Minneapolis Tribune, the Star Tribune’s predecessor, in 1969. His most recent assignment was covering suburban news.

Survivors include his wife, Nancy; two sons; a daughter; and a sister.

Virginia Foster Durr

CARLISLE, Pa. (AP) _ Virginia Foster Durr, who grew up amid the trappings of privilege, then transformed herself into a civil rights crusader and the woman who bailed Rosa Parks out of jail, died in her sleep Wednesday at 95.

In 1955, Mrs. Durr and her husband, civil rights lawyer Clifford Durr, bailed out Mrs. Parks, who had been arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a segregated city bus.

The arrest prompted a bus boycott that propelled Martin Luther King Jr. to leadership and helped start the civil rights movement.

Mrs. Durr, who became a close friend of Mrs. Parks, now 86, was viewed by many as the white matron of the civil rights movement.

Mrs. Durr began rebelling against Old South ways while in college at Wellesley. She helped fight racist poll taxes, supported New Deal programs and backed the civil rights movement.

Mrs. Durr never held public office, but ran unsuccessfully for the Senate as a Progressive Party candidate in Virginia. She was an engaging and inspirational figure for movement veterans as well as powerful figures in Washington.

Carlos Hathcock II

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) _ Retired Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock II, who killed 93 enemy soldiers as a Marine sniper in Vietnam and was awarded a Silver Star for saving seven Americans after a mine explosion, died Monday of multiple sclerosis. He was 56.

On Sept. 16, 1969, Hathcock was riding an amphibious assault vehicle when it ran over a Vietnamese mine and exploded. Hathcock was sprayed with flaming gasoline and severely injured.

Although he was writhing in pain from burns to his face, arms, legs and body and at great risk from exploding ammunition, Hathcock went back into the flames and dragged seven Marines from the vehicle. He was awarded the Silver Star, the military’s third-highest decoration, in November 1996.

The burns ended Hathcock’s combat career, but he remained in the service until retiring in 1979.

Sir Anthony Nutting

LONDON (AP) _ Sir Anthony Nutting, who resigned from the government in 1956 because he felt he could not defend Britain’s Suez Canal policy, died Tuesday at age 79.

Nutting was a Foreign Office minister in Sir Anthony Eden’s government when the Suez crisis broke in 1956.

Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the canal in July 1956. When negotiations for a diplomatic settlement failed, Eden’s government secretly agreed with France and Israel on a plan to retake the canal.

The plan was for Israel to attack Egypt, which it did on Oct. 29, 1956. Britain and France then moved to seize the canal on Nov. 5 on the pretext of separating the combatants.

Facing opposition from the United States, Britain and France agreed to withdraw in favor of a U.N. peacekeeping force. The debacle shattered Eden’s career, and he resigned in January 1957.

Nutting resigned his ministerial post on Oct. 31, 1956, saying he was not prepared to lie to defend the policy, and quit the House of Commons later the same year. He told his side of the story in his book, ``No End of a Lesson,″ published in 1967.

He succeeded to the baronetcy when his father died in 1972.

Richard E. Wilber

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) _ Career newsman Richard E. Wilbur, who served as a reporter for Sun Newspapers of Omaha, the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, the Albuquerque Journal and The Albuquerque Tribune, died Sunday. He was 82.

Wilbur, a Cleveland native who was editor of the Yale Record while in college, covered World War II in London and Paris for the military newspaper Stars & Stripes. He joined the Tucson Citizen in 1968 _ when it was called the Tucson Daily Citizen _ and retired in ’88.

Survivors include his wife, Roberta ``Bobbie″ Wilbur.

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