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Obituaries in the News

February 1, 2003

Hazel Penniman Luther

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Hazel Penniman Luther, the oldest woman in Florida, has died, officials said. She was 113.

Luther was taken to Halifax Medical Center early Friday after developing a cold and high temperature, the Rev. Pam Stewart said. She died peacefully in the emergency room.

Born Dec. 11, 1889, Luther was the world’s ninth-oldest living person, according to the Gerontology Research Group. She was the fifth-oldest living American and the second-oldest Florida resident: John McMorran of Lakeland was born 175 days before Luther.

At her 113th birthday party, Luther was asked if she wanted to live forever.

``I think I already have,″ she replied.

Luther attended Juilliard School of Music, then known as the Institute of Musical Art, and earned two diplomas in singing. She performed classical music and taught voice lessons.

She met her husband, Robert Luther, in 1918. They eventually moved to Detroit, where he worked for Provident Mutual Life Insurance company. The couple had no children.

They moved to Daytona Beach in the mid-1950s when they retired. Hazel Luther lived alone after her husband’s death in 1957 until she was 104.

Leslie Fiedler

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ Leslie Fiedler, an author and literary critic whose works included a celebrated essay on homoerotic themes in ``The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn″ has died at 85.

Fiedler, who taught at the University of Montana for more than 20 years, had battled Parkinson’s disease and prostate cancer. He died Wednesday after collapsing at his home in Buffalo.

He was the Samuel Langhorne Clemens professor of English at the State University of New York at Buffalo and was ``not only one of the greatest critics of American literature and culture in the 20th century but one of the most provocative,″ said the English department’s chairman, Joseph Conte.

``Love and Death in the American Novel,″ published in 1960 and probably his best-known book, analyzed the work of Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway and other writers. Fiedler contended that American literature was defined by alienation, the exclusion of women and homoerotic feelings between men, notably between Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and the slave Jim.

``He was very interested in outsiders, and I think he saw himself as an outsider,″ said the literary critic Harold Bloom.

Fiedler’s still-celebrated 1948 essay ``Come Back to the Raft Ag’in Huck Honey!″ revealed his bent for radical thinking. In it, he examined male bonding in 19th-century American literature.

Fiedler, who called himself a ``literary anthropologist,″ won Guggenheim, Rockefeller, Gauss and Fulbright fellowships and was awarded the Furioso Poetry Prize and the National Institute of Arts and Letters award for excellence in creative writing. The National Book Critics Circle gave him the Ivan Sandroff Award for lifetime achievement.

Born and raised in Newark, N.J., Fiedler worked his way through college by selling women’s shoes. He was a military cryptologist and Japanese-language interpreter during World War II and witnessed U.S. fighting men raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi in Iwo Jima in 1945.

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