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Obituaries in the News

October 3, 2002

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BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) _ Ilie Ceausescu, who served as a deputy defense minister under his older brother Nicolae Ceausescu, the late communist dictator, died of pneumonia. He was 76.

Born in 1926 in the village of Scornicesti in southern Romania, the younger Ceausescu pursued a political and military career aided by his older brother, who ruled Romania from 1965 to 1989.

The elder Ceausescu was executed with his wife, Elena, during the 1989 revolt that toppled communism.

Ilie Ceausescu was a deputy defense minister from 1982 to 1989 and member of the Communist Party’s central committee from 1980 to 1989, retiring from public life after the revolt.

Ruth Schoenfeld Blethen Clayburgh

SEATTLE (AP) _ Ruth ``Mundy″ Schoenfeld Blethen Clayburgh, an arts philanthropist who helped establish the Joffrey Ballet, died Wednesday at age 92.

Clayburgh was one of three benefactors who founded the local arts foundation Patrons of Northwest Civic, Cultural and Charitable Organizations, widely known as PONCHO.

She also was instrumental in starting a chapter of Achievement Rewards for College Scientists, a scholarship fund.

She was born in Chicago, moved to Seattle in 1930 when she married L. Kenneth Schoenfeld, scion of a furniture store family, and outlived him and two other husbands _ William K. Blethen, publisher of The Seattle Times, and John Clayburgh of Los Angeles.

She began her arts patronage after marrying Blethen in 1956. That year she helped launch the Joffrey Ballet, which became one of the nation’s leading dance companies and is now based in Chicago.

In the company’s early years, she solicited donations of fabric from local shops to be sewn into costumes. On her 90th birthday, Joffrey co-founder Gerald Arpino created a ballet in her honor.

James B. Chapin

NEW YORK (AP) _ James B. Chapin, a political analyst, historian and adviser to former New York City Public Advocate Mark Green, died Monday. Chapin was 60.

Chapin worked for United Press International since 2000. Before that he advised Green from 1994 to 2000.

Chapin held a doctorate in history from Cornell University and had taught history at Yale and Rutgers.

He was also chairman of World Hunger Year, a national organization dedicated to ending hunger. Chapin’s younger brother, the singer Harry Chapin, who died in 1981, was the founder of the organization.

Chapin, a native New Yorker, had also been the president of the board of the Queens Borough Public Library.

Gertrude Murphy

EVERETT, Wash. (AP) _ Gertrude Murphy, a schoolteacher who became the last resident in the town of Lester near Stampede Pass in the Cascade Range, died of cancer Sunday at age 99.

Her teaching career spanned 41 years.

In the early 1920s Murphy went to work in a one-room school in Nagrom, a logging outpost roughly 50 miles east-southeast of Seattle. In 1929 she moved to Lester, which then had about 1,000 residents.

Lester’s fortunes declined with those of logging and the Northern Pacific Railroad.

In the 1960s the city of Tacoma began buying land to protect its primary source of drinking water, the Green River watershed, and within a decade many residents been sold out and left.

The last nearby logging camp, owned by Scott Paper, closed in 1978. Floods washed out much of the long-unused rail line and the school was closed in 1985. Murphy’s husband died and by 1987 she was the last living soul in Lester _ and a minor celebrity.

When her cottage by a creek caught fire about 10 years ago, she got letters and phone calls from well-wishers nationwide. She began going to Lester only for the spring and summer, and her visits became less frequent in recent years.

More than 100 former students gathered for her 94th birthday five years ago in Auburn.

James John Peters

NEW YORK (AP) _ James John Peters, the executive director of the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association and an advocate of research for spinal cord injuries, died Sept. 6 of a stroke. He was 57.

Peters suffered a spinal cord injury during a training accident at the Army Engineering College in Springfield, Mass., in 1967. Two years later, he became a deputy executive director of the association and in 1969 he became its director.

Over the course of his tenure, he raised funds and advocated for more clinical research into spinal injuries.

His efforts raised awareness and paved the way for the establishment of a new Center for Neuroscience and Regeneration Research at Yale University as well as the Department of Veterans Affairs’ national Spinal Cord Injury Service.

Don S. Sturgill

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) _ Don S. Sturgill, former Kentucky public safety commissioner and counsel for the horse racing industry, died Wednesday after a fall at his home. He was 74.

Sturgill, of the Lexington law firm Sturgill, Turner, Barker & Moloney, had represented some of the biggest names in the horse industry, including the Aga Khan, Robert Clay and Allen Paulson.

Sturgill was considered an expert in stallion syndication agreements and handled syndications of Triple Crown winners Seattle Slew and Affirmed.

He was also general counsel to the state and national Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association for many years.

Earlier this year, in the wake of a controversy involving free-lance work, he resigned as counsel for the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which represents 6,000 thoroughbred owners and trainers.

Sturgill became state deputy commissioner and acting commissioner of public safety in 1956 during the administration of Gov. A.B. ``Happy″ Chandler. Sturgill was appointed commissioner in 1957 and left the post in early 1960.

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