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Obituaries in the News

January 1, 1998

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Floyd Cramer, who played piano on Elvis Presley’s ``Heartbreak Hotel″ and popularized the distinctive ``slip note″ style on instrumental hits such as ``Last Date,″ died Wednesday of cancer. He was 64.

He recorded more than 50 solo albums and in 1960 had his own hit, ``Last Date,″ which became an instrumental classic.

Along with guitarist Chet Atkins, saxophonist Boots Randolph and others, Cramer is credited with helping create ``The Nashville Sound″ _ smooth music, sometimes called ``countrypolitan,″ that helped lure pop audiences to country music in the 1950s and 1960s. born talent.″

Besides ``Last Date,″ Cramer’s hits included ``San Antonio Rose,″ ``Fancy Pants″ and ``On the Rebound.″

In 1955, he moved to Nashville and became one of the most sought-after session musicians in town. He played on sessions by Roy Orbison, the Everly Brothers, Patsy Cline and Perry Como, as well as the historic 1955 recordings Presley made in his debut at RCA.

Bill Crouch

PLACERVILLE, Calif. (AP) _ Bill Crouch, who won a Pulitzer Prize for photography at The Oakland Tribune for his 1950 picture of a near collision between two aircraft, died Saturday. He was 82.

Crouch joined the newspaper in 1941, left shortly thereafter to serve with the Marines in World War II, then returned in 1945.

In 1950, while off duty and attending an air show at Oakland International Airport, he snapped the prize-winning picture of a near collision between an upside-down biplane and a military aircraft. The pictures was transmitted around the world by The Associated Press. Crouch later won a National Press Photographer’s award. He worked for the AP before taking a job with the Tribune.

Crouch is survived by four daughters; a brother; and four grandchildren.

Dominique de Menil

HOUSTON (AP) _ Dominique de Menil, devoted arts patron and human rights activist died Tuesday. She was 89.

With her husband, John, she amassed one of the largest private collections in the world.

During World War II, she fled to New York with her then three children while her husband joined the French resistance during the occupation.

The de Menils settled in Houston in 1941, and the couple’s influence has been felt ever since in the arts, politics and education communities. John de Menil died in 1973.

The de Menils built the $21 million Menil Museum, designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano, to house their private art collection, which contained about 15,000 works. The museum opened in Houston in 1986.

In 1986, former President Jimmy Carter joined with Mrs. de Menil to form the Carter-Menil Human Rights Foundation, which promotes the protection of civil rights throughout the world.

Past recipients have included six Jesuit priests slain in El Salvador, Soviet physicist and dissident Yuri Orlov and the Norwegian people for their work in facilitating a peace accord between Israel and the PLO.

Danilo Dolci

PARTINICO, Sicily (AP) _ Danilo Dolci, a sociologist who organized Sicilian peasants in their fight against the Mafia for water rights, died Tuesday of a heart attack. He was 73.

Partinico was where Dolci had set up a center in the 1950s to research ways to stimulate growth in Italy’s underdeveloped south.

A decade later, Dolci’s crusade helped peasants secure access to water needed to irrigate their small farms. He denounced many of the Christian Democrat politicians who controlled Sicily at the time for being close to Mafia bosses _ who held and sold water rights at inflated prices.

Dolci also led the ``contadini,″ or farmhands, in nonviolent strikes and marches for better treatment, including such basic facilities as bathrooms.

Tony Griffin

KALAMAZOO (AP) _ Tony Griffin, the longtime news director of Western Michigan University’s public radio station WMUK-FM, died Tuesday of lung and bone cancer. He was 51.

Griffin had been with the station nearly 25 years and was its first news director. He was hired in 1973 to build the station’s news operation, his salary coming out of one of WMUK’s first federal Corporation for Public Broadcasting grants.

He was a former board member of the Michigan Associated Press Broadcasters Association, was president of the Administrative Professional Association at the university, was active in the national Public Radio News Directors Association and was a past board member of the Kalamazoo Association for Retarded Citizens.

Griffin had been news director and assistant operations manager at WBJC-FM, a public radio station in his hometown of Baltimore.

Survivors include his wife, Robin, daughter Kallie and his mother, Jean McEvoy.

Michael Kennedy

ASPEN, Colo. (AP) _ Michael Kennedy, the son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy who gained notoriety for an alleged affair with his family’s baby sitter, was killed Wednesday in a skiing accident. He was 39.

Kennedy was skiing with several members of his family at the Aspen Mountain resort about 4:15 p.m. when he crashed into a tree, the resort said.

Within about four minutes, the ski patrol was on the scene administering first aid that continued as he was brought to the base of the mountain.

Kennedy was the second of the 11 children born to the former senator and his wife, Ethel, to die under tragic circumstances. His brother David died in Florida in 1984 of a drug overdose.

Once viewed as the next political star in the Kennedy family, Michael suffered a fall from grace last spring when he was accused of having had an affair with his family’s baby-sitter.

The sensation created by that report was a factor in the withdrawal of his older brother, Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II, from the 1998 gubernatorial race in Massachusetts.

Kennedy headed Citizens Energy Corp., a nonprofit organization that supplies heating fuel to the poor, and managed his uncle Edward Kennedy’s U.S. Senate re-election campaign in 1994.

Bertha Klausner

NEW YORK (AP) _ Bertha Klausner, a literary agent who had Upton Sinclair and Eleanor Roosevelt among her clients during a seven-decade career, died Monday of complications from a stroke. She was 96.

Until her illness two months ago, she headed the Bertha Klausner International Literary Agency. Her client list also had included Cuban leader Fidel Castro, Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., novelist Israel J. Singer, Jewish activist Meir Kahane and actor Basil Rathbone.

Mrs. Klausner, widow of Edward S. Klausner, was the daughter of Jacob Adler, a humorist who wrote for the Daily Forward under the pen name B. Kovner.

Walt Lochman

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Walt Lochman, an influential force in Kansas City radio in the 1960s and 1970s, died Sunday of congestive heart failure. He was 68.

In 1966, Lochman was named vice president and general manager of KMBZ radio, then called KMBC.

His stations combined local personalities, music with cross-generational appeal and broadcasts of the Kansas City Royals baseball games to move to the front of the city’s radio market.

At KMBZ’s peak in the 1970s, the station often reached 20 percent of Kansas City area households and up to 40 percent during Royals games.

Survivors include his wife Wilma; along with their children, Teri Bennin and Larry Lochman.

Warren Mehrtens

MIAMI (AP) _ Warren Mehrtens, one of only 11 jockeys to ever ride to a Triple Crown, died Monday. He was 77.

Mehrtens rode Assault to wins in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont in 1946.

He never won the Kentucky Derby or Preakness again after 1946, but finished second aboard Better Self in the Belmont in 1948, just behind Eddie Arcaro on Triple Crown winner Citation.

Mehrtens retired from racing in 1952, and during the next 30 years served as a steward at several tracks.

Helen Kirkpatrick Milbank

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (AP) _ Helen Kirkpatrick Milbank, a Chicago Daily News foreign correspondent during World War II, died Monday. She was 88.

Mrs. Milbank began reporting on Europe’s political scene in 1939. She later covered the German bombing of London and accompanied Allied forces as they fought across North Africa, Italy and France.

Mrs. Milbank also worked as a freelance writer in the 1930s and was the author of two books, ``This Terrible Peace″ in 1938 and ``Under the British Umbrella″ in 1939.

At the end of the war, Mrs. Milbank was awarded the French Legion of Honor, the U.S. Medal of Freedom and the French Medaille de la Reconaissance.

She is survived by a stepdaughter, Daphne M. White; a stepson, David L. Milbank; seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Simone Ovide

PARIS (AP) _ Simone Ovide, the wife of former Haitian dictator Francois ``Papa Doc″ Duvalier, died Dec. 26. She was 83.

The cause of death was not released.

``Mama Doc,″ or ``Mama Simone,″ Ovide fled to France with her son, Jean-Claude, and his family in 1986 after a monthslong popular uprising ended decades of repressive rule by the Duvalier family.

Tens of thousands of Haitians were killed and tortured during the 1957-86 dynasty founded by Ovide’s husband, Francois, who was a doctor.

Jean-Claude _ known as ``Baby Doc″ _ became president at the age of 19 upon his father’s death in 1971. His militia, known as the ``Tontons Macoutes,″ waged terror across the country, living off extortion and enforcing the will of the Duvalier family and the rest of Haiti’s governing elite.

The younger Duvalier’s 1980 marriage coincided with an economic downturn later exacerbated by the excesses of his wife, who had air conditioning installed in the National Palace so she could wear her fur coats.

Norman W. Williams

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ Norman W. Williams, a retired executive vice president and general manager of May Broadcasting Co. died Monday of lung cancer. He was 75.

Williams managed radio station KMA in Shenandoah, Iowa, and television stations KMTV in Omaha and KGUN in Tucson, Ariz. He also managed the company’s affiliation with Omaha radio stations KFAB and KGOR.

The Omaha and Tucson broadcast outlets formerly were owned by May Broadcasting.

Williams joined May Broadcasting in 1951. Later he joined KMTV and was a producer and director five years later.

He also served as president of the Nebraska Broadcasting Association and Omaha Community Playhouse.

Survivors include a sister; two sons and three grandchildren.