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Obituaries in the News

July 19, 1998 GMT

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ George P. Abel, a builder, philanthropist and former Nebraska football star, died Thursday. He was 78.

A member of the Nebraska Business Hall of Fame, Abel turned a family business into Nebco Inc., a broadly diversified company with operations across the state.

Many streets and highways in Nebraska were built by his construction companies. Abel also shaped Lincoln and Nebraska by laying the groundwork for a number of charitable foundations.

While at the University of Nebraska, Abel became an All Big Six offensive guard and three-year letterman in football and a two-year letterman in track.


Also a defensive halfback, he is the only Nebraskan ever to play in the Rose Bowl, the Shrine East-West game and the College All-Star game.

Over the years, Abel was active in other businesses and was a noted philanthropist.

Abel’s father, George P. Abel Sr., founded Abel Construction Co. in 1911. By the time he died in 1937, it had grown into a major construction and building materials company.

Greta Alexander

DELAVAN, Ill. (AP) _ Greta Alexander, whose uncanny knack for helping police find missing people and bodies brought her national attention as a psychic, died Friday. She was 66.

Alexander claimed that a lightning strike when she was pregnant with her youngest child left her with psychic powers. She said she could visualize the past, see the future and describe events happening 100 miles away.

She helped pay the bills by reading palms and peering into the futures of paying clients, but did not charge for the police work.

Tazewell County Coroner Robert Dubois, a friend of 25 years remembers calling Alexander when out-of-state police had a suspect who admitted to killing his girlfriend and dumping her body somewhere between Alton and Peoria.

``I called her and asked if a body had been dumped in Tazewell County,″ Dubois said. ``She gave us a description of the girl, what she was wearing, where she was ... I think there were something like 21 points she gave us and all 21 turned out to be accurate.″

Alexander maintained that she didn’t understand herself how her powers worked.

William S. Armstrong

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) _ William S. Armstrong, whose long career as head of the Indiana University Foundation was tainted by an FBI investigation of the corporation, died Friday at 80.

During Armstrong’s tenure as head of the foundation that raises private-sector funds for the university, giving rose from about $80,000 in 1952 to more than $15 million when he retired in 1983.

Five years later, a federal grand jury indictment accused Armstrong and two other foundation officers of diverting about $100,000 of foundation money for their personal use. Federal judges dismissed the theft charges in 1989, ruling the statute of limitations had expired.

The three foundation officers later reimbursed the foundation.

Armstrong, a 1941 graduate of Indiana University and a World War II veteran, was honored with numerous awards for service to his alma mater, including being named a Sagamore of the Wabash _ the state’s highest honor _ by three governors.

James Flora

NORWALK, Conn. (AP) _ James Flora, a noted children’s author and artist, died July 9. He was 84.

Flora was one of the first artists to design and illustrate record album covers.

He was hired by Columbia Records in 1942 to create original artwork for 78 rpm records, and became an art director at the company, designing images for jazz recordings.

Flora also served as advertising manager and sales promotion manager at Columbia.

He later became a freelance illustrator, designing magazine covers for Life, Look, Holiday and The New York Times Magazine. He also produced artwork for RCA Records and served as art director for Park East magazine.

Flora wrote 17 children’s books. His first, ``The Fabulous Fireworks Family,″ was published in 1955. It told the story of the Guadillo family, who made fireworks in Mexico. Others included ``The Day the Cow Sneezed,″ ``Charlie Yup and his Snip-Snap Boys,″ and ``Wanda and the Bumbly Wizard.″

Survivors include his wife, Patricia, five children, three stepchildren and three grandchildren.

Henry J. Leir

NEW YORK (AP) _ Henry J. Leir, a leading commodities trader and philanthropist who fled Nazi Germany and founded a major international trading business in the United States, died Wednesday. He was 98.

Leir left his native Germany for Luxembourg in 1933. He came to United States five years later and founded Continental Ore Corp., dealing in ore, minerals, alloys and carbon products, and with offices in Luxembourg, London, Paris, Tokyo, Mexico City and Dusseldorf, Germany.

After selling his company to the International Minerals and Chemical Corp. for $40 million in stock in 1968, Leir focused on philanthropy, giving money to universities, hospitals and causes for underprivileged children and Jewish institutions.

Leir held honorary doctorates from Tufts, Denver and Sacred Heart universities, was an officer of the French Legion of Honor and received Luxembourg’s highest civilian award.

Herbert J. Sweet

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) _ Former Sgt. Maj. Herbert J. Sweet, who served as the top enlisted Marine during the corps’ heaviest fighting in Vietnam, died June 18 of respiratory failure. He was 79.

Sweet enlisted in the corps in 1937 at age 17 and saw action on Guam and Iwo Jima in World War II. He also fought in Korea and Vietnam.

He won a Bronze Star and the Navy Commendation Medal, each with a combat ``V.″ He also was warded four Purple Hearts.

He held the highest noncommissioned officer’s position in the corps from 1965 to 1969, serving as the fourth Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps.