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Obituaries in the News

March 25, 2003

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) _ Former state Rep. John G. Garcia, a one-time boxer who became the first Hispanic to serve in the Ohio Legislature, died Sunday after a long illness. He was 74.

Garcia, a Republican, surprised many when he was elected in a Democratic-leaning district during the GOP sweep of 1994. He won re-election two years later but was defeated by Democrat Jeanine Perry in 1998.

He was best known for sponsoring a bill designed to cut down on gang violence. It defines a gang member as a person who actively participates in a gang knowing that the gang has taken part in crimes.

Garcia also was a member of the Ohio Athletic Commission and a vice president of the National Golden Gloves Officials Association.

Hans Hermann Groer

ST. POELTEN, Austria (AP) _ Retired Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer, forced by the Vatican to relinquish his church duties in 1998 amid allegations he sexually abused young boys and men, died of pneumonia Sunday night. He was 83.

The famed Pummerin bell in Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral tolled Monday to mark Groer’s death.

Groer was cardinal of Vienna from 1986 to 1995, when allegations first surfaced that he molested students at an all-male Catholic high school in the early 1970s.

Under pressure from church and lay groups, Groer resigned later that year as head of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference. In 1998, Pope John Paul II ordered him to relinquish all church duties, and Groer went into months of Vatican-imposed exile near Dresden, Germany.

Groer never admitted any guilt, but the scandal was the worst since World War II to rock the Roman Catholic Church in Austria.

Groer, who directed a retreat center before he was appointed cardinal, had applied for retirement in 1994, when he turned 75, but John Paul left him in his post.

Before the allegations of pedophilia surfaced, Groer had been well-liked by older churchgoers and some younger conservatives, and had sought to reach out to more liberal Catholics.

The scandal began in March 1998, when a newsmagazine reported charges from a former seminary student that Groer, his religion instructor, had abused him repeatedly in the early 1970s.

Naim Yousif Sarafa

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (AP) _ Naim Yousif Sarafa, a former Iraqi education official, died Friday of a heart attack. He was 97.

Sarafa earned a doctorate at Wayne State University and served as deputy minister of education in Iraq.

Born in Telkaif, Iraq, Sarafa became a teacher at age 18. He held administrative posts in his country’s Department of Education, wrote textbooks and became an education professor.

Sarafa came to Detroit 1959 to pursue a Ph.D., then returned to Iraq in 1961 and rose to deputy minister of education.

Sarafa moved his family to Southfield in 1978.

Allen G. Schwartz

NEW YORK (AP) _ Allen G. Schwartz, who served as New York City’s corporation counsel before becoming a federal judge, died Saturday of a heart ailment. He was 68.

Schwartz began serving as corporation counsel in 1978 after being appointed by then-Mayor Ed Koch. The two men had been partners together in the law firm of Koch, Lankenau, Schwartz and Kovner.

Over the next three years, Schwartz moved the headquarters of the corporation counsel into more modern offices, hired many lawyers from the private sector and implemented a pro bono program that allowed the city to receive free legal work from select major law firms. Schwartz held the position until 1981, when he returned to private law practice.

He also worked pro bono as the city’s sports commissioner in 1982 and 1983.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed Schwartz to the federal bench in the Southern District of New York. He served as a judge in Manhattan and White Plains until his death.

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