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Obituaries in the News

April 2, 1999

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. (AP) _ Graenum Berger, an American credited with helping relocate tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel, died Wednesday at his home in New Rochelle, N.Y. He was 90.

Berger, a social worker who worked for the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York, founded the American Association for Ethiopian Jews more than 25 years ago.

In the 1960s Berger witnessed bigotry towards Ethiopian Jews, or Falashas, who lived in what he termed the most extreme poverty in the world. He sought to make American Jews aware of the problems faced by what has been called Ethiopia’s Jewish tribe.

He lectured about the Falashas to American audiences, and was helped in his cause by the Israeli rabbinate’s 1975 decision to legally recognize the Falashas as Jews.

The association lobbied Congress and Jewish groups to help the Falashas, and Berger called publicly for Israeli action. Large-scale airlifts were eventually organized by Israel in 1984 and 1985, and again in 1991.

The end result of Berger’s efforts was the establishment of a 50,000 member Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel by 1993, and the virtual removal of all Jews from Ethiopia.

Sheldon E. Kopp

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Sheldon E. Kopp, a psychologist and author best known for his 1972 book ``If You Meet a Buddha on the Road, Kill Him,″ died of cardiac arrhythmia and pneumonia Monday. He was 70.

Kopp was the author of 17 books, many of them written as guides to help readers discover importance in their own existence.

``If You Meet a Buddha on the Road, Kill Him″ examined the struggle to find meaning in oneself while relying less on spiritual teachers.

His other books include ``The Hanged Man″ (1974), ``The Hidden Meanings″ (1975), ``This Side of Tragedy″ (1977) and ``An End to Innocence″ (1978).

Gil Perkins

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Actor-stuntman Gil Perkins, a familiar face on such TV shows as ``Perry Mason,″ ``Here’s Lucy″ and ``Wagon Train″ and co-founder of the Stuntmen’s Association of Motion Pictures, died Sunday. He was 91.

Perkins was a stunt double for Spencer Tracy, Yul Brenner and Gene Hackman.

Perkins arrived in Hollywood in 1928 and got parts in movies like ``King Kong,″ ``Moby Dick,″ ``Robin Hood″ and ``Mutiny on the Bounty.″

In the 1950s and 1960s, Perkins was a familiar TV face with appearances ranging from ``Batman″ to ``The Virginian.″

In 1960, he co-founded the Stuntmen’s Association, which got stunt workers recognized as entertainers deserving the title of industry professionals.

Alex Thien

MILWAUKEE (AP) _ Alex Thien, who filled his thousands of Milwaukee Sentinel humor columns with donated jokes, newsy bits and examples of the twisted language called ``Milwaukee-ese,″ died Thursday. He was 69.

Thien, who retired in 1994, was diagnosed in fall of 1997 with the degenerative nerve disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Less than a month ago, he told of his struggle with ALS in a story on Milwaukee station WTMJ-TV previewing a local fund-raiser for money to combat the disease.

A native of Chicago, Thien worked for The Associated Press in Milwaukee before being hired in 1961 as press secretary to then-Mayor Henry Maier. Thien later left for a public relations job and was hired in 1967 by the Milwaukee Sentinel.

He started the column in 1970 and continued it until his retirement, packing the daily piece with puns, pet peeves, odd news items and gossip picked up around town.

At the holidays, Thien would use several days worth of columns to list names of everyone who had contributed to his column or otherwise deserved to be recognized, in alphabetical order.

Thien served two years in the Army, much of it as a photographer in Korea.

Survivors include his wife, Marjorie, known to column readers as Marjie, and three sons.

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