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Phil Hands

political cartoon


May 13, 2022




















Freshly Squeezed

by Ed Stein


February 15, 2014



















by Garry Trudeau


October 16, 2011








































life        USA














in the prime of life        USA










assisted-living center        USA










life-sustaining miracle machines        USA










live        USA










UK > life expectancy gap

between rich and poor people in England        UK        2010










Memento Mori        USA










genetic entrepreneur

J. Craig Venter’s Synthetic Genomics >

Company > Human Longevity       USA

















stillbirth        UK












stillbirth        USA






















stillborn baby        UK












maternal mortality rate        USA




article/roe-wade-abortion-maternal-mortality-supreme-court - May 4, 2022


















Arthur Tress chooses

The Spirit Leaves the Body sequence (1968)

by Duane Michals


‘By means of double exposures

Michals summons an ethereal “ghostly apparition”

with a magical transparency.


It impressed me with its daring concept

of making photographically concrete the idea of what,

according to Duane, happens to us at the fleeting moment of dying

– transforming the mundane into a spiritual and metaphysical lesson.’


Photograph: © Duane Michals


The one shot that changed everything – in pictures

From Don McCullin to Alec Soth and Joy Gregory,

photographers pick the image that cast a spell on them

– and made them reconsider their own way of doing things


Tue 26 Oct 2021    07.00 BST

















die        UK / USA









































watch?v=aZdDXNmD9wk - G - 14 November 2019

































































































die of N










succumb to the new coronavirus        USA

























die at home        USA
























die in the hospital        USA










die / death without dignity        USA












learning how to die        USA










Sherwin B. Nuland's “How We Die”        USA        published in 1994










die at 55

























Death doulas:

helping people face up to dying        UK

4 May 2014


People often seek support

to bring a new life into the world,

but what about

when we are preparing to leave it?


Rebecca Green

talks about what she does










death doulas        USA




























American way of dying / end of life        USA












dying        UK












the dying        UK










the dying        USA










dying        USA









- August 11, 2020


















































dying early        USA










dying patients        USA










last moments        USA










aid-In-dying medication        USA










dying wishes        UK










dying wish        USA












the dying        USA






















the dying person        UK


























pass away        UK












pass away        USA












passing        UK










passing        USA




















cease to exist        UK










demise        UK










loss        UK














loss        USA


https://apps.npr.org/memorial-interactive/ - 2021



































sense of loss        USA










lose        UK










lose        USA




















Illustration: Jaime Jacob


Living Intimately With Thoughts of Death

Laboring to survive in the present,

we simultaneously imagine our future demise.


July 25, 2019
















David Bowie    My Death    3 July 1973





David Bowie

Music video    My Death    Hammersmith Odeon, London, 3 July 1973












death        UK


podcast - Guardian podcast














































death mask        UK










UK > death mask        USA










attitudes toward death

in the Victorian period        UK










'good death'        UK










die a good death        UK










Black Death        USA
























































































































death        USA































































































































































































heat deaths        USA












tragic death        USA










Vietnam war > movies > 1979 > USA > Apocalypse Now >

airstrike > helicopters > motto > "Death from Above"    USA










poetry of death        USA










neonatal death        UK










brush with death        USA










positive death movement        USA










death cafe movement        USA










lonely death        USA










teenagers > early death        USA










deathbed        USA












deathbed visions        USA










last wish        USA










death with dignity        USA










certificate of death        USA










death certificate        UK










palliative care        USA










palliative care doctor        USA










crib death        USA










A Man's Death Unites The Women Who Loved Him        USA

NPR        by NPR Staff        March 14, 2014










On-The-Job Deaths        USA











Facing Death

Aired: 11/23/2010        53:40        Rating: NR


FRONTLINE gains access to the ICU

of one of New York's biggest hospitals

to examine the complicated reality

of today's modern, medicalized death.




















Chris Riddell


And for the grim reaper's next trick… cartoon

Britain faces a no-deal Brexit as the coronavirus continues to take its toll


Sat 28 Nov 2020    18.00 GMT

Last modified on Sat 28 Nov 2020    21.42 GMT

















Grim Reaper        UK












Grim Reaper        USA


















memento mori        USA


















near-death experience        UK












near-death experience        USA










at the edge of death        USA










the end        UK










the end        USA


















sudden infant death syndrome / cot death        UK















sudden infant death syndrome    SIDS
















brutal death        USA










'death pits'        USA


























death rate        USA






















journalism > ‘death knock’        UK


















life atfer death        USA

















death penalty / capital punishment        USA










death penalty / capital punishment > death chamber        USA

















autopsy        USA












postmortem / autopsy        UK



















death certificate        USA










face death        UK










death etiquette        UK










mortality        UK














USA > mortality        UK / USA














maternal mortality rate        USA


article/roe-wade-abortion-maternal-mortality-supreme-court - May 4, 2022








immortality        USA










What kills Londoners?        UK


For the first time,

data reveals

the biggest causes of death

in each London borough.










Mortality statistics:

every cause of death

in England and Wales in 2009        UK


How do we die?


Are you more likely

to get knocked down by a car,

bitten by a dog

or fall down the stairs?


Find out

with the latest mortality statistics












cause of death        USA










diphteria        UK


Diptheria, nicknamed "the strangler",

was until the mid-1920s

the prime cause of death among children

up to their mid-teens.










homicide        USA










sudden death        UK










comforting a death in prison        USA












death toll        USA












dead        UK










USA > dead        USA / UK




















be pronounced dead at the scene








On Being Not Dead        USA










deadly        USA










the dead        UK










the dead        USA












the faithful departed        UK









lost loved ones        USA










pay tribute to N        UK


























the living dead


















zombie        USA




















psychics        UK










last journey        USA


























morgue        UK

























morgue        USA

















morgue workers        USA










temporary morgue worker        USA










 refrigerated trailer        USA

















All Saints' Day


All Saints' Day

(also known as

All Hallows' Day or Hallowmas)

is the day after

All Hallows' Eve (Hallowe'en).


It is a feast day

celebrated on November 1st

by Anglicans and Roman Catholics










All Souls' Day


All Souls' Day

is marked on 2nd November

(or the 3rd

if the 2nd is a Sunday),

directly following All Saints' Day,

and is an opportunity

for Roman Catholics

and Anglo-Catholic churches

to commemorate

the faithful departed.


















Love and Stuff    NYT    8 May 2014





Love and Stuff

Video        Op-Docs | The New York Times        8 May 2014


After her mother passes away,

the filmmaker Judith Helfand

struggles to pack up her things

— figuring out what to keep and how to let go.


Produced by: Judith Helfand

Read the story here: http://nyti.ms/1uFOxVv

Watch more videos at: http://nytimes.com/video


















body        UK










the body parts market
















embalmer        UK










mummy        UK










mortal coil        UK










remains        UK / USA












Native American human remains


As the United States pushed

Native Americans from their lands

to make way for westward expansion

throughout the 1800s,

museums and the federal government

encouraged the looting of Indigenous remains,

funerary objects and cultural items.


Many of the institutions continue to hold these today

— and in some cases resist their return

despite the 1990 passage

of the Native American

Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.


“We never ceded or relinquished our dead.

They were stolen,”

James Riding In,

then an Arizona State University professor who is Pawnee,

said of the unreturned remains.


ProPublica this year

is investigating the failure of NAGPRA

to bring about the expeditious return of human remains

by federally funded universities and museums.


Our reporting, in partnership with NBC News,

has found that a small group of institutions

and government bodies

has played an outsized role in the law’s failure.


repatriation-nagpra-museums-human-remains - January 11, 2023

























macabre        USA



















be survived by N
















mortality        UK










mortality        USA

















will        UK






will        USA








make a will        UK






living will        USA


the documents

that let people specify

what medical measures

they want or do not want

at the end of life












care at the end of life        USA






solicitor        UK






inheritance        UK






assets        UK






estate        UK








estate        USA






last wish        USA
















sympathy        UK






tribute        UK






vigil        USA










pay respects to N        USA






condolences        USA








The Lost Art of the Condolence Letter        USA        2014


















Bill Day

editorial cartoon



16 August 2011
















the deceased








Her husband predeceased her in 1990.

She is survived

by two daughters and one son.
















Harper Lee, 1926- 2016

Obituary    NYT    23 February 2016





Harper Lee, 1926- 2016    Obituary

Video    The New York Times    23 February 2016


Harper Lee, whose first novel,

“To Kill a Mockingbird,”

about racial injustice in a small Alabama town,

sold more than 40 million copies,

died at the age of 89.






















newspapers > obituary / obituaries        UK
















obituary, obituaries        USA












obituary writer        USA





















afterlife        USA










spirit        USA










evil spirit        USA










in the spirit world        USA










visit        USA










spiritualism        UK










summon the spirits        UK










commune with the dead / contact the spirit world        UK










medium        UK












Corpus of news articles


Life / Health > Death





the Keys to Your Digital Afterlife


May 25, 2013

The New York Times



IT’S tough enough to write an ordinary will, deciding how to pass along worldly goods like your savings, your real estate and that treasured rocking chair from Aunt Martha in the living room.

But you may want to provide for your virtual goods, too. Who gets the photographs and the e-mail stored online, the contents of a Facebook account, or that digital sword won in an online game?

These things can be important to the people you leave behind.

“Digital assets have value, sometimes sentimental, and sometimes commercial, just like a boxful of jewelry,” said John M. Riccione, a lawyer at Aronberg Goldgehn Davis & Garmisa in Chicago. “There can be painful legal and emotional issues for relatives unless you decide how to handle your electronic possessions in your estate planning.”

Many services and programs have sprung up to help people prepare for what happens after their last login.

Google has a program called Inactive Account Manager, introduced in April, that lets those who use Google services decide exactly how they want to deal with the data they’ve stored online with the company — from Gmail and Picasa photo albums to publicly shared data like YouTube videos and blogs.

The process is straightforward. First go to google.com/settings/account. Then look for “account management” and then “control what happens to your account when you stop using Google.” Click on “Learn more and go to setup.” Then let Google know the people you want to be notified when the company deactivates the account; you’re allowed up to 10 names. You choose when you want Google to end your account — for example, after three, six or nine months of electronic silence (or even 12 months, if you’ve decided to take a yearlong trip down the Amazon).

Google has ways to make sure that your electronic pulse has really gone silent; it checks for traces of your online self, for example, by way of Android check-ins, Gmail activity and Web history. Then, a month before it pulls the plug, Google alerts you by text and e-mail, just in case you’re still there. If silence has indeed fallen, Google notifies your beneficiaries and provides links they can follow to download the photographs, videos, documents or other data left to them, said Nadja Blagojevic, a Google manager.

And if you just want to say goodbye to everything, with no bequests, you can instruct Google to delete all of the information in your account.

Naomi R. Cahn, a professor of law at George Washington University Law School in Washington, says Google’s new program is a step forward in digital estate planning. “People should carefully consider the fate of their online presences once they are no longer able to manage them,” she said.

Other companies may also be of help in planning your digital legacy. Many services offer online safe deposit boxes, for example, where you can stow away the passwords to e-mail accounts and other data. Accounts like this at SecureSafe, are free for up to 50 passwords, 10 megabytes of storage and one beneficiary, said Andreas Jacob, a co-founder. Accounts can be accessed from a browser, or from free iPhone, iPad and Android apps. The company also offers premium services for those who need a larger storage space, more passwords or more beneficiaries.

There is always your sock drawer or another physical repository to store a list of your user ID’s, should you be deterred from online lockboxes by fear of cyberattacks or the risk that computer servers that may not be there in a few decades, said Alexandra Gerson, a lawyer at Helsell Fetterman in Seattle.

“Make a private list of all your user names and passwords for all the accounts in which you have a digital presence, and make sure you update the list if you change login information” Ms. Gerson said. “Don’t put user names and passwords in your will, though, as it becomes a public record when you die.”

Make sure that your executor or personal representative understands the importance of preserving these digital assets, and knows how to find them, said Laura Hoexter, a lawyer at Helsell who also works on inheritance issues. “Preferably the person should be tech-savvy,” she said, and know about your online game accounts, your PayPal account, your online presence on photo storage sites, social media accounts and blogs, and even your online shopping accounts where your credit card information is stored so that the information can be deleted.

AFTER you die, an executor or agent can contact Facebook and other social media sites, establish his or her authority to administer the estate, and request the contents of the account.

“Most accounts won’t give you the user name and password, but they will release the contents of the account such as photographs and posts” to an executor, Ms. Hoexter said.

Transfer at death can depend on the company’s terms of service, copyright law and whether the file is encrypted in ways that limit the ability to freely copy and transfer it. Rights to digital contents bought on Google Play, for example, end upon the person’s death. “There is currently no way of assigning them to others after the user’s death,” Ms. Blagojevic said.

Encryption is a common constraint, but there are exceptions. Apple’s iTunes store, for example, has long removed its anti-copying restrictions on the songs sold there, and Ms. Gerson advises people to take advantage of this in their digital planning. “Get your music backed up on your computer,” she said.

Up to five computers can be authorized to play purchases made with one iTunes account, and a company support representative advises that users make sure that their heirs have access. At Kindle, too, family members with user ID information for the account can access the digital content.

Professor Cahn in Washington says the time to prepare for the digital hereafter is now, particularly if serious illness is a factor. “If someone is terminally ill,” she said, “in addition to getting emotional and financial issues in order, you need to get your Internet house in order.”

Bequeathing the Keys to Your Digital Afterlife,






You Are Going to Die


January 20, 2013

9:00 pm

The New York Times



My sister and I recently toured the retirement community where my mother has announced she'll be moving. I have been in some bleak clinical facilities for the elderly where not one person was compos mentis and I had to politely suppress the urge to flee, but this was nothing like that. It was a very cushy modern complex housed in what used to be a seminary, with individual condominiums with big kitchens and sun rooms, equipped with fancy restaurants, grills and snack bars, a fitness center, a concert hall, a library, an art room, a couple of beauty salons, a bank and an ornate chapel of Italian marble. You could walk from any building in the complex to another without ever going outside, through underground corridors and glass-enclosed walkways through the woods. Mom described it as "like a college dorm, except the boys aren't as good-looking." Nonetheless I spent much of my day trying not to cry.

At all times of major life crisis, friends and family will crowd around and press upon you the false emotions appropriate to the occasion. "That's so great!" everyone said of my mother's decision to move to an assisted-living facility. "It's really impressive that she decided to do that herself." They cited their own stories of 90-year-old parents grimly clinging to drafty dilapidated houses, refusing to move until forced out by strokes or broken hips. "You should be really relieved and grateful." "She'll be much happier there." The overbearing unanimity of this chorus suggests to me that its real purpose is less to reassure than to suppress, to deny the most obvious and natural emotion that attends this occasion, which is sadness.

My sadness is purely selfish, I know. My friends are right; this was all Mom's idea, she's looking forward to it, and she really will be happier there. But it also means losing the farm my father bought in 1976, where my sister and I grew up, where Dad died in 1991. We're losing our old phone number, the one we've had since the Ford administration, a number I know as well as my own middle name. However infrequently I go there, it is the place on earth that feels like home to me, the place I'll always have to go back to in case adulthood falls through. I hadn't realized, until I was forcibly divested of it, that I'd been harboring the idea that someday, when this whole crazy adventure was over, I would at some point be nine again, sitting around the dinner table with Mom and Dad and my sister. And beneath it all, even at age 45, there is the irrational, little-kid fear: Who's going to take care of me? I remember my mother telling me that when her own mother died, when Mom was in her 40s, her first thought was: I'm an orphan.

Plenty of people before me have lamented the way that we in industrialized countries regard our elderly as unproductive workers or obsolete products, and lock them away in institutions instead of taking them into our own homes out of devotion and duty. Most of these critiques are directed at the indifference and cruelty thus displayed to the elderly; what I wonder about is what it's doing to the rest of us.

Segregating the old and the sick enables a fantasy, as baseless as the fantasy of capitalism's endless expansion, of youth and health as eternal, in which old age can seem to be an inexplicably bad lifestyle choice, like eating junk food or buying a minivan, that you can avoid if you're well-educated or hip enough. So that when through absolutely no fault of your own your eyesight begins to blur and you can no longer eat whatever you want without consequence and the hangovers start lasting for days, you feel somehow ripped off, lied to. Aging feels grotesquely unfair. As if there ought to be someone to sue.

We don't see old or infirm people much in movies or on TV. We love explosive gory death onscreen, but we're not so enamored of the creeping, gray, incontinent kind. Aging and death are embarrassing medical conditions, like hemorrhoids or eczema, best kept out of sight. Survivors of serious illness or injuries have written that, once they were sick or disabled, they found themselves confined to a different world, a world of sick people, invisible to the rest of us. Denis Johnson writes in his novel "Jesus' Son": "You and I don't know about these diseases until we get them, in which case we also will be put out of sight."

My own father died at home, in what was once my childhood bedroom. He was, in this respect at least, a lucky man. Almost everyone dies in a hospital now, even though absolutely nobody wants to, because by the time we're dying all the decisions have been taken out of our hands by the well, and the well are without mercy. Of course we hospitalize the sick and the old for some good reasons (better care, pain relief), but I think we also segregate the elderly from the rest of society because we're afraid of them, as if age might be contagious. Which, it turns out, it is.

Because of all the stories we've absorbed, we vaguely imagine that our lives will take the shape of a narrative - the classic Aristotelian ramp diagram of gradual rising action (struggle and setbacks), climax (happy marriage, professional success), and a brief, cozy denoument (kicking back with family and friends, remembering the good times on a porch someplace pretty). But life is not shaped like a story; it's an elongate and flattened bell curve, with an attenuated, anticlimactic decline as long as its beginning. Friends have described seeing their parents lose their faculties one by one, in more or less the reverse order that their young children are acquiring them.

Another illusion we can't seem to relinquish, partly because large and moneyed industries thrive on sustaining it, is that with enough money and information we'll be able to control how we age and die. But one of the main aspects of aging is the loss of control. Even people with the money to arrange to age in comfort can die in agony and indignity, gabbling like infants, forgetting their own children, sans everything. Death is a lot like birth (which people also gird themselves for with books and courses and experts) - everyone's is different, some are relatively quick and painless and some are prolonged and traumatic, but they're all pretty messy and unpleasant and there's not a lot you can do to prepare yourself.

I'm not trying to romanticize the beauty of osteoporosis, the wisdom of Alzheimer's or the dignity of incontinence. More than one old person has ordered me, "Do not get old." They did not appear to be kidding. I'm not talking about Learning from the Invaluable Life Experience of Our Elders, or even suggesting we need to accept the inevitable with grace. I am all for raging against the dying of the light, and if they ever develop DNA rejuvenation or some other longevity technique I will personally claw, throttle and gouge my way through Warren Buffett, Rupert Murdoch and any number of other decrepit billionaires in order to be first in line.

But we don't have a choice. You are older at this moment than you've ever been before, and it's the youngest you're ever going to get. The mortality rate is holding at a scandalous 100 percent. Pretending death can be indefinitely evaded with hot yoga or a gluten-free diet or antioxidants or just by refusing to look is craven denial. "Facing it, always facing it, that's the way to get through," Conrad wrote in "Typhoon." "Face it." He was talking about more than storms. The sheltered prince Siddartha Gautama was supposedly set on the path to becoming the Buddha when he was out riding and happened to see an old man, a sick man and a dead man. Today he'd be spared the discomfiture, and the enlightenment, unless he were riding mass transit.

Just yesterday my mother sent me a poem she first read in college - Langston Hughes's "Mother to Son." She said she could still remember where she was, in her dorm room at Goshen College, when she came across it in her American Lit book. The title notwithstanding, it does not make for Hallmark-card copy. Life for me ain't been no crystal stair. It tells us that this life is not a story or an adventure or a journey of spiritual self-discovery; it's a slog. And it orders us to keep going, don't you dare give up, no matter what. Because I'm your mother, that's why.


Tim Kreider is the author of "We Learn Nothing,"

a collection of essays and cartoons.

His cartoon, "The Pain - When Will It End?"

has been collected in three books by Fantagraphics.



This post has been revised

to reflect the following correction:

Correction: January 21, 2013

An earlier version of this article misspelled

Warren Buffett's surname.

You Are Going to Die,






Death on Display:

UK Show Investigates Inevitable


November 14, 2012

The New York Times



LONDON (Reuters) - Celebrating death is an odd concept for an exhibition, but a new show in London on the topic that many people would rather avoid is at times beautiful, macabre, harrowing, comforting and funny.

"Death: A Self-Portrait" opens at the Wellcome Collection, which specializes in scientific and medical themes, on Thursday and runs until February 24 next year.

It contains around 300 paintings, puppets, models, drawings and artifacts from the collection of Richard Harris, an American antique print dealer who just over a decade ago decided to dedicate his time to assembling works of art related to death.

He has around 2,000 items in total, most of them in storage, and would love to display the collection around the world to help people come to terms with their ultimate fate.

"My real aim is to have this show all over the world," the 75-year-old said at a preview of the exhibition on Wednesday.

"All the world needs to continue to promote the discussion and dialogue about this just to make it ...something that is not taboo and something that we cringe about and close our eyes and our minds to," Harris told reporters.

With a broad smile and jaunty manner perhaps at odds with his chosen obsession, he added: "Like it or not, we're not going to live forever."

Curator Kate Forde organized the exhibition around five themes, and sought to make the show feel as personal as possible rather than being a spectacle.

By placing artifacts from Japan and Nepal close to those from the United States and Mexico, the exhibition underlines how different cultures deal with death in radically different ways.

Mexico, with its Day of the Dead holiday, takes a more head-on approach than some cultures who seek to avoid the subject.

"It's an acknowledgement that death is there, it is a part of life and there is a way still of connecting with the dead and that can be joyous as well as full of grief and sorrow," Forde said of the tradition.



Among the most disturbing works on display are 51 prints by German artist Otto Dix based on his time fighting as a machine-gunner on the Western Front during World War One.

Unflinching in their portrayal of agony, death, fear and rape, they are inspired both by Goya and Callot, whose works hang alongside them in the "Violent Death" section.

In "Commemoration" sits a "tau tau", an Indonesian "grave guardian", or wooden model of the deceased placed next to the graves of prominent members of the Toraja ethnic group.

The oldest item on display is the Nuremberg Chronicle, an illustrated adaptation of the Bible and world history from 1493, left open at an image of skeletons leaping and dancing frenetically beside an open grave.

The show also features contemporary works, including a 2009 giant "chandelier" by British artist Jodie Carey which comprises some 3,000 plaster-cast bones.

Harris said he was not obsessed by death, and did not know the value of his collection which includes works by prominent artists as Dix and Albrecht Duerer.

"As long as we don't go to the poor house," he joked. He continues to collect - his latest purchase was a 1969 Chevrolet car decorated with Day of the Dead motifs.

Next year, the Wellcome Collection will undergo a 17.5 million pound ($28 million) redevelopment after its exhibitions, talks and library attracted nearly half a million people over the last year compared with the 100,000 it had expected.

Forde put the success down to the combination of science, medicine and art. "I definitely think there's a hunger to look at science in that rounded way," she said.

The development is scheduled for completion in 2014.


(Reporting by Mike Collett-White,

editing by Paul Casciato)

Death on Display: UK Show Investigates Inevitable,
NYT, 14.11.2012,






Looking for a Place to Die


December 21, 2011
The New York Times



THE patient was a fairly young woman and she’d had cancer for as long as her youngest child had been alive. That child was now walking and talking and her mother’s cancer had spread throughout her body to the point where there were no more curative options. Aggressive growth of the disease in her brain had stripped her of her personality and her memories.

She had another child, too, a few years older, and a husband whose drawn eyes and tense frame bore the strain of trying to keep it all together. Extended family lived far away and couldn’t be brought closer. The husband and kids lived more than an hour’s drive from the hospital.

No one could say for sure how long she would live, but continued hospital care was clearly pointless. Nor could she go home: she needed more attention than her family could provide. Everyone — her physician, the husband, the palliative care team, we nurses — agreed she needed inpatient hospice care, and that it should be provided close to home.

The problem was, she had no place to go. There was a hospice facility near her house, but it would accept her only if she would die within six days.

I’ve run up against these kinds of time limits before in my work as an oncology nurse. There’s a certain logic to it: hospice insurance benefits are ideally used to cover the costs of end-of-life care in patients’ homes, for up to six months, while periods of inpatient care are for the “short term.” And although patients do die in inpatient hospices, part of the mission of hospice is allowing patients to remain at home instead of in a hospital; hence the turn away from inpatient care, which is costly and often intrusive.

But that leaves people like this patient — more than a few days away from death, unable to be adequately cared for at home and unable to afford to pay out-of-pocket for a facility — struggling to find a place to die.

Dying at home was neither safe nor compassionate for this patient. She needed constant supervision: she would struggle to sit up and moan in frustration, or lurch dangerously over the side of the bed. Her speech was more sounds than words, and she had no control over her bowels or bladder.

Her husband looked as if he might fold in on himself at any minute, and he’d already borne the burden of care for a long time. Though I didn’t know for sure, it’s likely that his insurance couldn’t guarantee continuous nursing care in the home as a covered expense. And the patient’s children had already lost so much of their mother; she no longer even recognized them. Did they need to witness her final deterioration up close at home?

Home was not the only option. She could have stayed in the hospital and pursued aggressive care. Indeed, if her physician or a family member had said “do everything,” meaning keep her alive as long as possible through intravenous medications and hydration and, ultimately, sending her to the intensive care unit on a ventilator, it would have cost thousands of dollars but, paradoxically, most insurance companies would have considered it a legitimate care option.

Doing everything possible to extend her life wouldn’t have benefited her or her family, though. Roughly a third of family members of I.C.U. patients show symptoms of post-traumatic stress, according to research by the French intensive-care expert Elie Azoulay and his collaborators. If a loved one dies in intensive care after discussions about advance directives and patient wishes — that is, after the family has been made fully aware of the finality of the situation — the psychological fallout is even greater, approaching 80 percent. We do not always aid the living by inflicting high-tech ministrations on the almost-dead.

In other words, inpatient hospice care made sense medically, financially and psychologically for this patient, but the system simply wouldn’t allow it.

The only option, then, was for me to convince the hospice staff that she would die within six days. I spoke with the inpatient coordinator, the administrator and the hospice admissions nurse, who came to the hospital floor to assess the patient.

My explanations were precise: “She’s on an antibiotic now, but that’ll stop in hospice so she could go septic. Her kidney function is already diminished; kidney failure is only a matter of time. She has periods of difficulty breathing, and hospice won’t have the respiratory support she’ll need, but you can give her morphine to stop the air hunger.”

All of us will at some point come to this pass; we will all need a place to die. It’s not easy to think about, but it is true. We can turn away from that hard fact, try to stall death, even bend it to our will for a little while in the I.C.U. Or we can face that most difficult of life’s trials and ask ourselves how to make it easier.

With this patient I ended up being persuasive enough, and she got her inpatient admission. Was she dead in six days? Probably; I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that her sad husband and two young children, who would never really know their mother, had a chance to grieve and say goodbye in the most humane way possible for them.


Theresa Brown, an oncology nurse,

is a contributor to The New York

Times’s Well blog and the author of

“Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death,

Life and Everything in Between.”

Looking for a Place to Die,






A Voice,

Still Vibrant,

Reflects on Mortality


October 9, 2011
The New York Times


HOUSTON — Christopher Hitchens, probably the country’s most famous unbeliever, received the Freethinker of the Year Award at the annual convention of the Atheist Alliance of America here on Saturday. Mr. Hitchens was flattered by the honor, he said a few days beforehand, but also a little abashed. “I think being an atheist is something you are, not something you do,” he explained, adding: “I’m not sure we need to be honored. We don’t need positive reinforcement. On the other hand, we do need to stick up for ourselves, especially in a place like Texas, where they have laws, I think, that if you don’t believe in Jesus Christ you can’t run for sheriff.”

Mr. Hitchens, a prolific essayist and the author of “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything,” discovered in June 2010 that he had Stage 4 esophageal cancer. He has lately curtailed his once busy schedule of public appearances, but he made an exception for the Atheist Alliance — or “the Triple A,” as he called it — partly because the occasion coincided almost to the day with his move 30 years ago from his native England to the United States. He was already in Houston, as it happened, because he had come here for treatment at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, where he has turned his 12th-floor room into a temporary library and headquarters.

Mr. Hitchens is gaunt these days, no longer barrel-chested. His voice is softer than it used to be, and for the second time since he began treatment, he has lost most of his hair. Once such an enthusiastic smoker that he would light up in the shower, he gave up cigarettes a couple of years ago. Even more inconceivable to many of his friends, Mr. Hitchens, who used to thrive on whiskey the way a bee thrives on nectar, hasn’t had a drink since July, when a feeding tube was installed in his stomach. “That’s the most depressing aspect,” he said. “The taste is gone. I don’t even want to. It’s incredible what you can get used to.”

But in most other respects Mr. Hitchens is undiminished, preferring to see himself as living with cancer, not dying from it. He still holds forth in dazzlingly clever and erudite paragraphs, pausing only to catch a breath or let a punch line resonate, and though he says his legendary productivity has fallen off a little since his illness, he still writes faster than most people talk. Last week he stayed up until 1 in the morning to finish an article for Vanity Fair, working on a laptop on his bedside table.

Writing seems to come almost as naturally as speech does to Mr. Hitchens, and he consciously associates the two. “If you can talk, you can write,” he said. “You have to be careful to keep your speech as immaculate as possible. That’s what I’m most afraid of. I’m terrified of losing my voice.” He added: “Writing is something I do for a living, all right — it’s my livelihood. But it’s also my life. I couldn’t live without it.”

Mr. Hitchens’s newest book, published last month, is “Arguably,” a paving-stone-sized volume consisting mostly of essays finished since his last big collection, “Love, Poverty and War,” which came out in 2004. The range of subjects is typically Hitchensian. There are essays — miniature pamphlets, almost — on political subjects and especially on the danger posed to the West by Islamic terrorism and totalitarianism, a subject that has preoccupied Mr. Hitchens since 2001. But there are just as many on literary figures; there’s a paean to oral sex, and there are little rants about unruly wine waiters, clichés and the misuse of “fuel” as a verb. The book’s epigraph is from Henry James’s novel “The Ambassadors”: “Live all you can: It’s a mistake not to.” And in an introduction Mr. Hitchens writes: “Some of these articles were written with the full consciousness that they might be my very last. Sobering in one way and exhilarating in another, this practice can obviously never become perfected.”

In his hospital room he suggested that an awareness of mortality was useful for a writer but ideally it should remain latent. “I try not to dwell on it,” he said, “except that once in a while I say, O.K., I’m not going to make that joke, I’m not going to go for that chortle. Or if I have to choose between two subjects, I won’t choose the boring one.”

He added, talking about an essay on Philip Larkin that made it into “Arguably”: “I knew the collection was going to come out even if I did not, and I was very pleased when I finished that one, because of the way it ends: ‘Our almost-instinct almost true:/ What will survive of us is love.’ I remember thinking, if that’s the last piece I write, that will do me.” After a moment he went on: “The influence of Larkin is much greater than I thought. He’s perfect for people who are thinking about death. You’ve got that old-line Calvinist pessimism and modern, acid cynicism — a very good combo. He’s not liking what he sees, and not pretending to.”

His main regret at the moment, Mr. Hitchens said, was that while he was keeping up with his many deadlines — for Slate, The Atlantic and Vanity Fair — he didn’t have the energy to also work on a book. He had recently come up with some new ideas about his hero, George Orwell, for example — among them that Orwell might have had Asperger’s — and he said he ought to include them in a revised edition of his 2002 book, “Why Orwell Matters.” He had also thought of writing a book about dying. “It could be called ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting,’ ” he said, laughing.

Turning serious, he said, “I’ve had some dark nights of the soul, of course, but giving in to depression would be a sellout, a defeat.” He added: “I don’t know why I got so sick. Maybe it was the smokes, or maybe it’s genes. My father died of the same thing. It’s pointless getting into remorse.”

On balance, he reflected, the past year has been a pretty good one. He won a National Magazine Award, published “Arguably,” debated Tony Blair in front of a huge audience and added two states to the list of those he has visited. “I lack only the Dakotas and Nebraska,” he said, “though I may not get there unless someone comes up with some ethanol-based cancer treatment in Omaha.”

Mr. Hitchens has an extensive support network that includes his wife, Carol Blue, and his great friends James Fenton and Martin Amis. Mr. Amis is known for being cool and acerbic, but as he kissed and embraced Mr. Hitchens last week, visiting on the way to a literary festival in Mexico, his affection for his friend was unmistakable. “Hitch’s buoyancy is amazing,” he said later. “He has this great love of life, which I rather envy, because I think I may be deficient in that respect. It’s an odd thing to say, but he’s almost like a Tibetan monk. It’s as if he’d become religious.”

    A Voice, Still Vibrant, Reflects on Mortality, NBYT, 9.10.2011,






Dealing in Death,

and Trying to Make a Living


December 25, 2010
The New York Times


LOS ANGELES — Body bags go for $20. Yellow crime scene tape is $6. Toe tags are normally $5, but they were sold out this month. The merchandise comes in a white plastic shopping bag that says “Los Angeles County Department of Coroner.”

Tucked in the corner of a squat brick building that houses a huge depository of the dead is the strangest of gift shops. For years, the county coroner has run the shop, aptly named Skeletons in the Closet, selling knickknacks playing off the rather morbid humor that the department’s business arouses in many people.

But it turns out that the shop’s slogan — “We’re dying for your business!” — is all too accurate. The shop was once supposed to make enough money to pay for an anti-drunken-driving course for teenagers that includes a visit to the morgue.

But a recent report from county auditors shows that it has not made a profit for years and is actually subsidized by the very program it was meant to finance.

So the shop needs county money to order more of the “undertaker” boxer shorts and the business-card holders shaped like skulls.

But all that kitsch does not necessarily translate into a return on investment.

“It’s certainly a problem for us from a financial sense,” said Craig Harvey, the director of operations for the coroner. “We’re not necessarily a place that has a lot of experience in business, so this is simply a kind of wake-up call to see if we can do better at selling what we have.”

Still, Mr. Harvey said, the store is quite a draw for a “certain segment of people.” It has particular cachet among foreign tour guides. During the summer, busloads of Asian and European tourists come to the out-of-the-way office a few miles east of downtown. The most popular item is the $30 beach towel with a life-size body outline.

But for the most part, the shop’s only marketing has been word of mouth and free publicity in the news media. The store has a rudimentary Web site and is only now starting to explore ways to use the Internet to drive sales through Amazon, eBay and Facebook. There, it hopes to find a larger market for sweatshirts, notepads and pens bearing the same logo that department officials display in the field.

At its peak, in 2003, Skeletons in the Closet pulled in $280,000. Last year, it made $151,000.

The store was created almost by accident nearly 20 years ago by a secretary who noticed how popular mugs and T-shirts with the coroner’s logo were at the forensic conferences the department held each year. So she began ordering more and selling them from her desk. Eventually, there was enough business that the merchandise moved to a small closet (the name came not long after that).

Now the shop fills a small room just off the department’s only public entrance. A sign reminds visitors of the real purpose of a coroner, pleading with potentially overeager shoppers to “Please be considerate of our families here on business.”

“Everyone who comes in here is kind of weird,” said Edna Pereyda, who handles the shop’s day-to-day operations. “Why else would you come here?”

The occasional celebrity stops in if he or she is filming nearby; local detectives and police officers are typically the most loyal customers.

“I advise if you like something you should get it now,” Ms. Pereyda told Officer Robert Alvarado of the Los Angeles Police Department, who stopped by one recent morning. “You never know when it will be gone.”

Officer Alvarado, who was there with his girlfriend, said he frequently wore his favorite purchase — a barbecue apron emblazoned “L.A. County Coroner Has ♥” in the center and two pockets labeled “spare ribs” and “spare hands.”

As they looked around the small wood-paneled shop, a large couch resembling the inside of a coffin caught the eye of his girlfriend, Monica Rodriguez. It was not for sale, but Ms. Pereyda said she could order a custom version from a company that advertised at the store, promising “eternal comfort” for $3,000.

Ms. Rodriguez’s 10-year-old son stood by, looking rather confused.

“What’s that?” he asked, pointing at the outlined image on a T-shirt that read “Our Bodies of Work Speak for Themselves.”

Officer Alvarado smiled before answering. “Back in the old days, they traced dead bodies with chalk,” he said. “They don’t do that anymore. Now they just leave you there on the ground.”

A few minutes later, they left without buying anything.

Ms. Pereyda said that much of the merchandise in the store had been the same for years, leaving many regular customers eager for more. So she is brainstorming new ideas and is particularly excited about a shipment of water bottles that is supposed to arrive next month.

The containers will be labeled “bodily fluids.”

    Dealing in Death, and Trying to Make a Living, NYT, 25.12.2010,






Robert Butler,

Aging Expert,

Is Dead at 83


July 6, 2010
The New York Times


Dr. Robert N. Butler, a psychiatrist whose painful youthful realization that death is inevitable prompted him to challenge and ultimately reform the treatment of the elderly through research, public policy and a Pulitzer Prize-winning book, died Sunday in Manhattan. He was 83 and had worked until three days before his death.

The cause was acute leukemia, his daughter Christine Butler said.

Dr. Butler’s influence was apparent in the widely used word he coined to describe discrimination against the elderly: “ageism.” He defended as healthy the way many old people slip into old memories — even giving it a name, “life review.”

In speech after speech, he pounded home the message that longevity in the United States had increased by 30 years in the 20th century — greater than the gain during the preceding 5,000 years of human history — and that this had led to profound changes in every aspect of society, employment and politics among them.

Dr. Christine Cassel, president of the American Board of Internal Medicine, said in an interview that Dr. Butler had in effect “created an entire field of medicine.” She said he had helped change attitudes so that aging could be perceived “a positive thing.”

Dr. Butler was the founding director of the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health and advocated for the aging before Congress and the United Nations. He helped start and led the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, the Alzheimer’s Disease Association and the International Longevity Center. President Bill Clinton named him chairman of the 1995 White House Conference on Aging.

“He really put geriatrics on the map,” Dr. David B. Reuben, chief of the division of geriatrics at the University of California, Los Angeles, said in an interview.

Dr. Butler challenged long-held conceptions about aging, calling it “the neglected stepchild of the human life cycle.” He helped establish, for example, that senility is not inevitable with aging. When the Heinz Family Foundation presented him with an award in 2003, it called him “a prophetic visionary.”

The most noted exposition of his vision was the 1975 book that earned him his Pulitzer, “Why Survive? Being Old in America.” It went from a bleak explication of the elderly’s condition to prescriptions to improve it.

“Human beings need the freedom to live with change, to invent and reinvent themselves a number of times through their lives,” Dr. Butler wrote.

Dr. Butler’s mission emerged from his childhood, he wrote in his book. His parents had scarcely named him Robert Neil Butler before splitting up 11 months after his birth on Jan. 21, 1927, in Manhattan. He went to live with his maternal grandparents on a chicken farm in Vineland, N.J.

He came to revere his grandfather, with whom he cared for sick chickens in the “hospital” at one end of the chicken house. He loved the old man’s stories. But the grandfather disappeared when Robert was 7, and nobody would tell him why. He finally learned that he had died.

Robert found solace in his friendship with a physician he identified only as Dr. Rose. Dr. Rose had helped him through scarlet fever and took him on his rounds by horse and carriage. The boy decided he could have helped his grandfather survive had he been a doctor. He also concluded that he would have preferred that people had been honest with him about death.

From his grandmother, he learned about the strength and endurance of the elderly, he wrote. After losing the farm in the Depression, she and her grandson lived on government-surplus foods and lived in a cheap hotel. Robert sold newspapers. Then the hotel burned down, with all their possessions.

“What I remember even more than the hardships of those years was my grandmother’s triumphant spirit and determination,” he wrote. “Experiencing at first hand an older person’s struggle to survive, I was myself helped to survive as well.”

Dr. Butler served in the United States Maritime Service before entering Columbia University, where he earned his bachelor’s and medical degrees. During his internship in psychiatry at St. Luke’s Hospital, he had many elderly patients and realized how little he had been taught about treating them. He began reading about the biology of aging.

After his residency at the University of California, San Francisco, he worked at the National Institute of Mental Health as a research psychiatrist. He studied the central nervous system in elderly people, work that became part of a large study of aging. He also helped Ralph Nader investigate problems in nursing homes.

The book that emerged from his experiences proposed many specific reforms to help old people, including a national service corps that would enlist the elderly as community volunteers.

In 1975 he succeeded in creating a National Institute on Aging and was its head for six years.

“Nobody thought research on aging was a legitimate field until Bob came along and convinced them to create a separate institute,” Dr. Cassel said.

In 1982, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan asked Dr. Butler’s advice on whom to hire for a new geriatrics chair. He proposed instead that the school create a department devoted solely to gerontology. It did, and was one of the first to do so.

He wrote numerous articles and several books, including the bestseller “Sex after Sixty,” which he wrote with his second wife, Dr. Myrna I. Lewis, in 1976.

Dr. Butler’s first marriage, to Diane McLaughlin, ended in divorce. Dr. Lewis died in 2005. Besides his daughter Christine, he is survived by three other daughters, Carole Butler Hall, Cynthia Butler and Alexandra Butler; and six grandchildren.

Dr. Butler acknowledged in an interview two years ago with The Saturday Evening Post that his views on his own aging had changed: he feared death less.

“I feel less threatened by the end of life than I perhaps did when I was 35,” he said.

Robert Butler, Aging Expert, Is Dead at 83, NYT, 6.7.2010,






After a Death,

the Pain That Doesn’t Go Away


September 29, 2009
TH e New York Times


Each of the 2.5 million annual deaths in the United States directly affects four other people, on average. For most of these people, the suffering is finite — painful and lasting, of course, but not so disabling that 2 or 20 years later the person can barely get out of bed in the morning.

For some people, however — an estimated 15 percent of the bereaved population, or more than a million people a year — grieving becomes what Dr. M. Katherine Shear, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia, calls “a loop of suffering.” And these people, Dr. Shear added, can barely function. “It takes a person away from humanity,” she said of their suffering, “and has no redemptive value.”

This extreme form of grieving, called complicated grief or prolonged grief disorder, has attracted so much attention in recent years that it is one of only a handful of disorders under consideration for being added to the DSM-V, the American Psychiatric Association’s handbook for diagnosing mental disorders, due out in 2012.

Some experts argue that complicated grief should not be considered a separate condition, merely an aspect of existing disorders, like depression or post-traumatic stress. But others say the evidence is convincing.

“Of all the disorders I’ve heard proposed, they have better data for this than almost any of the other possible topics,” said Dr. Michael B. First, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia and an editor of the current manual, DSM-IV. “It would be crazy of them not to take it seriously.”

There is no formal definition of complicated grief, but researchers describe it as an acute form persisting more than six months, at least six months after a death. Its chief symptom is a yearning for the loved one so intense that it strips a person of other desires. Life has no meaning; joy is out of bounds. Other symptoms include intrusive thoughts about death; uncontrollable bouts of sadness, guilt and other negative emotions; and a preoccupation with, or avoidance of, anything associated with the loss. Complicated grief has been linked to higher incidences of drinking, cancer and suicide attempts.

“Simply put,” Dr. Shear said, “complicated grief can wreck a person’s life.”

In 2004, Stephanie Muldberg of Short Hills, N.J., lost her son Eric, 13, to Ewing’s sarcoma, a bone cancer. Four years after Eric’s death, Ms. Muldberg, now 48, walked around like a zombie. “I felt guilty all the time, guilty about living,” she said. “I couldn’t walk into the deli because Eric couldn’t go there any longer. I couldn’t play golf because Eric couldn’t play golf. My life was a mess.

“And I couldn’t talk to my friends about it, because after a while they didn’t want to hear about it. ‘Stephanie, you need to get your life back,’ they’d say. But how could I? On birthdays, I’d shut the door and take the phone off the hook. Eric couldn’t have any more birthdays; why should I?”

Hours of therapy and support groups later, Ms. Muldberg was referred to a clinical trial at Columbia. After 16 weeks of a treatment developed by Dr. Shear, she was able to resume a more normal life. She learned to play bridge, went on a family vacation and read a book about something other than dying.

A crucial phase of the treatment, borrowed from the cognitive behavioral therapy used to treat victims of post-traumatic stress disorder, requires the patient to recall the death in detail while the therapist records the session. The patient must replay the tape at home, daily. The goal is to show that grief, like the tape, can be picked up or put away.

“I’d never been able to do that before, to put it away,” Ms. Muldberg said. “I was afraid I’d lose the memories, lose Eric.”

For some, the recounting is the hardest part of recovering. “That was just brutal and I had to relive it,” said Virginia Eskridge, 66, who began treatment 20 years after the death of her husband, Fred Adelman, a college professor in Pittsburgh. “I nearly dropped out, but I knew this was my last hope of getting any kind of functional life back.”

At the same time patients learn to handle their grief, they are encouraged to set new goals. For Ms. Eskridge, a retired law school librarian, that meant returning to the campus where her husband had taught.

“Everywhere I went there were reminders of him, because we had been everywhere,” she said. “It was like I was getting stabbed in the heart every time I went somewhere.”

That feeling finally went away, and Ms. Eskridge was even able to visit her husband’s old office. “It really gave me my life back,” she said of the treatment. “It sounds extreme, but it’s true.”

In a 2005 study in The Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Shear presented evidence that the treatment was twice as effective as the traditional interpersonal therapy used to treat depression or bereavement, and that it worked faster. The study supported earlier suggestions that complicated grief might actually be different not only from normal grief but also from other disorders like post-traumatic stress and major depression.

Then, in 2008, NeuroImage published a study of the brain activity of people with complicated grief. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, Mary-Frances O’Connor, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles, showed that when patients with complicated grief looked at pictures of their loved ones, the nucleus accumbens — the part of the brain associated with rewards or longing — lighted up. It showed significantly less activity in people who experienced more normal patterns of grieving.

“It’s as if the brain were saying, ‘Yes I’m anticipating seeing this person’ and yet ‘I am not getting to see this person,’ ” Dr. O’Connor said. “The mismatch is very painful.”

The nucleus accumbens is associated with other kinds of longing — for alcohol and drugs — and is more dense in the neurotransmitter dopamine than in serotonin. That raises two interesting questions: Could memories of a loved one have addictive qualities in some people? And might there be a more effective treatment for this kind of suffering than the usual antidepressants, whose target is serotonin?

Experts who question whether complicated grief is a distinct disorder argue that more research is needed. “You can safely say that complicated grief is a disorder, a collection of symptoms that causes distress, which is the beginning of the definition of a disease,” said Dr. Paula J. Clayton, medical director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “However, other validators are needed: family history and studies that follow the course of a disorder. For example, once it’s cured, does it go away or show up years later as something else, like depression?”

George A. Bonanno, a professor of clinical psychology at Columbia known for his work on resilience (the reaction of the 85 percent of the population that does adapt to loss), was skeptical at first. But, Dr. Bonanno said, “I ran those tests and, lo and behold, extra grief symptoms were very important in predicting what was going on with these people, over and above depression and P.T.S.D.”

Regardless of how complicated grief is classified, the discussion highlights a larger issue: the need for a more nuanced look at bereavement. The DSM-IV devotes only one paragraph to the topic.

Studies suggest that therapy for bereavement in general is not very effective. But Dr. Bonanno called the published data “embarrassingly bad” and noted they tended to lump in results from “a lot of people who don’t need treatment” but sought it at the insistence of “loved ones or misguided professionals.”

Even if clinicians did identify people with complicated grief, there would not be enough therapists to treat them. Despite Dr. Shear’s “terrific research” on the therapy she pioneered, said Dr. Sidney Zisook, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, “there aren’t a lot of people out there who are trained to do it, and there aren’t a lot of patients with complicated grief who are benefiting from this treatment breakthrough.”

The issue is pressing given the links between complicated grief and a higher incidence of suicide, social problems and serious illness. “Do the symptoms of prolonged grief predict suicidality, a higher level of substance abuse, cigarette and alcohol consumption?” said Holly G. Prigerson, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the Center for Psycho-oncology and Palliative Care Research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. “Yes, yes and yes, over and above depression; they’re better predictors of those things.”

In an age when activities like compulsive shopping are viewed as disorders, the subject of grief is especially sensitive. Deeply bereaved people are often reluctant to talk about their sorrow, and when they do, they are insulted by the use of terms like disorder or addiction. Grief, after all, is noble — emblematic of the deep love between parents and children, spouses and even friends. Our sorrows, the poets tell us, make us human; would proper therapy have denied us Tennyson’s “In Memoriam”?

Diagnosing a deeper form of grief, however, is not about taking away anyone’s sorrow. “We don’t get rid of suffering in our treatment,” Dr. Shear said. “We just help people come to terms with it more quickly.”

“Personally, if it were me,” she added, “I would want that help.”

After a Death, the Pain That Doesn’t Go Away, NYT, 29.9.2009,






TV Actor Chalks Up

Dramatic Demise No. 7


June 3, 2009
The New York Times


Tuck this tidbit away somewhere: It is easier to die with your eyes open. Eyes closed — much harder.

“There’s nothing worse than sitting there holding your breath and concentrating on not moving your eyelids,” said Mike Doyle, an actor with a quick grin and a knife sticking out of his chest on the set of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” last month.

It was May 7, a day Mr. Doyle spent mostly playing dead for the season finale on Tuesday on NBC. Mr. Doyle played Ryan O’Halloran, a forensics expert who first appeared in 2003. More than 50 appearances later, revealing little about himself other than occasional impatience with his fellow officers and a drive to solve crimes, O’Halloran ran afoul of a co-worker, Dale Stuckey, who has snapped and gone on a killing rampage.

Dying on screen is nothing new for Mr. Doyle. At 36, he has been killed off in so many made-for-television movies and shows that if there were a gold statue on his mantel at home, it would be lying flat on its back with a chalk outline around it.

“This will be No. 7,” he said. “I’ve been shot with a shotgun, shot with a machine gun. I’ve been blown up in a boat. I’ve been burned in a submarine fire. I’ve been strangled and today, stabbed.”

He paused, counting on his fingers.

“Oh — and I was electrocuted on a fence. After being gang-raped.” Later, after further reflection, he realized that he had not, in fact, been shot by a machine gun, but was the one firing it. Furthermore, that particular shooting and the boat explosion happened to the same character on “Smith,” a canceled CBS show that starred Ray Liotta. For the record, Mr. Doyle’s character was shot, then the body blown up. But the total number still stands at seven, as Mr. Doyle counts a quiet death off-camera on the CBS movie “Bella Mafia.”

“They didn’t show how I died,” he said. “It’s a mystery. James Marsden meets me at a roadside stop, and the next scene, he’s wearing my clothes.”

Mr. Doyle, it should be noted, has survived several roles as well, most recently on HBO’s therapy drama “In Treatment,” in which he had a brief cameo as Bennett Ryan, the boss and lover of the character Mia, played by Hope Davis. Later in the season she described in graphic detail his shortcomings in the bedroom, but she doesn’t kill him. He also had small roles in the films “Rules of Attraction” and “P.S. I Love You,” and has a supporting role in the forthcoming film “Rabbit Hole.”

After a small role in the “ABC Afterschool Specials,” his first big acting job also included his first death on screen. “It was a movie-of-the-week called ‘Loss of Innocence,’ ” he said, a 1996 drama set in 1920s Utah about a Mormon community. Mr. Doyle’s character goes hunting with his brother, who happens to be having an affair with his wife. There is an “accident,” and then there is one fewer brother.

In 1997 Mr. Doyle had the bit part in “Bella Mafia.” In 2002 he appeared in a four-episode arc on the HBO prison drama “Oz” that was particularly grim even by that show’s standards. He played Adam Guenzel, a rich kid convicted of rape who is in turn transformed into a lipstick-wearing sex slave behind bars. It was on this HBO show that he met Christopher Meloni, who also played a prisoner and went on to star in “Special Victims Unit.”

“I took one look at that face,” Mr. Meloni recalled in his dressing room, “and said, ‘Bye-bye.’ Pretty boys don’t last long on ‘Oz.’ ” Mr. Doyle’s character was raped by Aryans, then killed in an attempt to escape, last seen hanging — eyes open — over the top of a prison fence.

“It looked so cool,” Mr. Doyle said. “The makeup was phenomenal.”

Next he will be strangled in a flashback scene of a horror movie called “Sibling: Marcus Miller the Orphan Killer.” We take him at his word for this as the film has not been released.

The role of O’Halloran on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” was Mr. Doyle’s longest job. Only a couple of weeks before filming, he learned of his character’s demise from Neal Baer, a producer, in a telephone call to his apartment in the East Village, where he has lived most of the last 12 years.

Mr. Meloni, his old co-star from “Oz,” searched for a bright side: “He said, ‘At least you’re not getting gang-raped,’ ” Mr. Doyle said.

The staging of the death was fairly elaborate. Strapped to Mr. Doyle’s chest was a metal plate with a center slot holding the retractable blade of a fake knife. He walked onto the set in a warehouse in North Bergen, N.J., on May 7, and somebody shouted, “Dead man walking!”

He lay on his designated spot on the floor of the crime lab, and no fewer than 18 people hovered over him, dabbing fake blood on his shirt and hands and angling the knife just so. “Mike, bring your left leg in that way,” said George Pattison, a camera operator. “Go for comfort. You know that.”

Between takes, his co-stars shared their own past death scenes. The actor Noel Fisher, who plays Stuckey the killer, recalled his suicide scene on “Huff,” in which he shot himself in the mouth, and fake blood and cottage cheese blasted out of the back of his head. Mr. Meloni was hanged in one movie and made a deadly swan dive in “Oz.”

There is one person who will never get used to seeing Mr. Doyle die on screen, no matter how many times it happens: his mother, who picks up the phone in Northern California every time.

“She’ll call me and say, ‘I know it’s not real, but I just want to make sure you’re O.K.,’ ” he said. “Not that many mothers have seen their son die over and over.”

    TV Actor Chalks Up Dramatic Demise No. 7, NYT, 3.6.2009,






Obituaries in the News


May 6, 2009
Filed at 7:31 a.m. ET
The New York Times



Dom DeLuise

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Dom DeLuise, the portly entertainer and chef whose affable nature made him a popular character actor for decades with movie and TV audiences as well as directors and fellow actors, has died. He was 75.

DeLuise died Monday evening at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, said his agent, Robert Malcolm. The family did not release the cause of death.

DeLuise appeared in scores of movies and TV shows, in Broadway plays and voicing characters for numerous cartoons. Writer-director-actor Mel Brooks particularly admired DeLuise's talent for offbeat comedy and cast him in several films, including ''The Twelve Chairs,'' ''Blazing Saddles,'' ''Silent Movie,'' ''History of the World Part I'' and ''Robin Hood: Men in Tights.''

His TV credits included appearances on such shows as ''The Munsters,'' ''The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.,'' ''Burke's Law,'' ''Sabrina the Teenage Witch'' and ''Diagnosis Murder.'' On Broadway, DeLuise appeared in Neil Simon's ''Last of the Red Hot Lovers'' and other plays.

In part because of his passion for food, the actor battled obesity, reaching as much as 325 pounds and for years resisting family members and doctors who tried to put him on various diets. He finally agreed in 1993 when his doctor refused to perform hip replacement surgery until he lost 100 pounds (he lost enough weight for the surgery, though gained some of it back).

His love of food also resulted in two successful cookbooks, 1988's ''Eat This -- It Will Make You Feel Better!'' and 1997's ''Eat This Too! It'll Also Make You Feel Good.''


Marilyn French

NEW YORK (AP) -- Marilyn French, the writer and feminist whose novel ''The Women's Room'' sold more than 20 million copies and transformed her into a leading figure in the women's movement, has died. She was 79.

French died Saturday of heart failure at a Manhattan hospital, said Carol Jenkins, a friend and president of New York's Women's Media Center.

French was an academic in 1977 when ''The Women's Room,'' her first novel, was published.

The landmark novel, which was translated into 20 languages, details the journey to independence of a 1950s housewife who gets divorced and goes to graduate school. The book mirrored aspects of French's own life experiences, including the rape of her daughter.

She was called anti-male after a character in the novel says: ''All men are rapists, and that's all they are. They rape us with their eyes, their laws, and their codes.''

The male subjugation of women is the main theme of French's novels, essays, literary criticism and her four-volume, nonfictional ''From Eve to Dawn: A History of Women.''

A Brooklyn native, French graduated from Long Island's Hofstra University with a master's degree, studying philosophy and English literature. She taught there in the 1960s. After her divorce, she earned a doctorate from Harvard and was an English professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.

Her last novel is to be published this fall, and she also was working on a memoir.


Martha Mason

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Martha Mason, who spent nearly 61 years living in an iron lung after being stricken with polio but graduated at the top of her college class and wrote an autobiography, has died. She was 71.

Mason died Monday at her home in Lattimore, said Mary Dalton, an associate communications professor at Wake Forest University who produced a documentary about Mason's life in 2005.

Mason was paralyzed from the neck down at age 11 during the polio epidemic in 1948. She was home-schooled and graduated in 1960 from Wake Forest, where she studied English. She was well-versed in politics and literature, but it wasn't until 1994 that a voice-recognition computer allowed her to write about her life.

Her book, ''Breath: Life in the Rhythm of an Iron Lung,'' was published in 2003.

Mason spent most of her life confined to an 800-pound, 7-foot airtight yellow tube that enabled her to breathe, though she could leave the machine for about an hour a few times a day when she was young. She was able to be helped across the stage during her graduation, Dalton said. But several bouts of pneumonia in her 20s further weakened her already frail body.

With the help of her mother's hand, Mason was able to record her thoughts and wrote some pieces for the local newspaper. After her father suffered a heart attack, her mother's caregiving time was divided and the writing diminished.


Hal Perry

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Hal Perry, who teamed with Bill Russell and K.C. Jones on San Francisco's back-to-back NCAA champions in the 1950s, has died. He was 75.

The school said Tuesday that Perry died last Thursday in the East Bay after a long illness.

Perry was a starter on Dons team that dominated college basketball in the mid-1950s, winning the title in 1955 and '56. San Francisco went 57-1 in his two years as a starter, including a 29-0 mark in 1956.

Perry averaged 6.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game as a junior. The following year he increased his output to 9.1 points and stayed at 1.9 rebounds per game.

He was a member of the all-tournament team in 1956, scoring 28 points in his two Final Four games.

    Obituaries in the News, NYT, 6.5.2009,






And at the End,

All the Comforts of the Carlyle


October 22, 2008
The New York Times


Marie-Dennett McDill loved the Carlyle Hotel.

She stayed there whenever she was in New York, and adored the regular entertainers like Bobby Short and Eartha Kitt at the Café Carlyle, and the pianist Loston Harris in the lively Bemelmans Bar. She loved the uniformed elevator men and bellmen and the family of longtime staff. She loved that Central Park was only a short block away.

So when Mrs. McDill, who grew up in society in Washington and was enjoying an outdoors life in South Woodstock, Vt., learned she had terminal cancer this summer, her family immediately booked her a suite on the eighth floor for an open-ended stay, but one they sadly knew would not be open-ended enough.

“The family came to me and said, ‘We want to check her in till the very end,’ ” said Alexandra E. Tscherne, director of residences at the Carlyle. “It was a unique request, one I’ve never had previously. They wanted her set up in one of her favorite places, and they didn’t know how long it would last.”

It lasted 10 weeks. Mrs. McDill died in her sleep in the Carlyle last Wednesday.

Mrs. McDill was youthful and full of energy at 71 and spent her days outdoors gardening and painting, so it was shocking to her three children when she learned at the beginning of August that she had a fast-spreading cancer.

“It wasn’t a fight for life anymore, but a matter of time,” said her son Thomas Gardner.

The family hired 24-hour hospice care, but Mrs. McDill, at least until the very end, was in sufficient mental and physical shape to enjoy her final stay at the Carlyle. The hotel, at Madison Avenue and 76th Street, is one of New York’s most luxurious, with a long list of celebrities, presidents and royalty who have stayed or lived there.

Even as she was dying, she would take walks in Central Park in the daytime, and in the evening sit in a back booth in Bemelmans Bar, looking at the whimsical illustrations of New York City on the wall by the artist Ludwig Bemelmans, best known for the Madeline children’s books, and listening to Mr. Harris play. She loved Cole Porter, and she would pass requests to the waiter.

The family hired Mr. Harris to play Mrs. McDill’s favorite songs at her memorial service at St. Bartholomew’s Church on Park Avenue on Saturday. It was a sophisticated, poignant and kick-up-your-heels affair, almost like something out of a Cole Porter song. Mr. Harris played “Just One of Those Things” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”

Month-to-month suites at the Carlyle are always expensive, but less so during the summer months, when they cost about $17,000 a month.

“It wasn’t a search for extravagance, but a search for comfort. It wasn’t the inexpensive option, but it was the greatest comfort we could afford, so of course we would do that for her,” said Mr. Gardner, chief executive of the Motley Fool, a financial information company he founded with his brother, David Gardner.

Staffers helped her with chores related to her impending death, said Ms. Tscherne, who agreed to sign as a witness to Mrs. McDill’s will and even ran across the street to get a notary public.

The family hired two attendants from Brooklyn to care for Mrs. McDill: Rose Marie Moore and her sister Shirley Innis. In the evenings, Ms. Moore would sing spirituals for Mrs. McDill.

“She would put her head back and close her eyes and ask me to sing ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.’ She’d say, ‘Give me the long version, Rose,’ ” said Ms. Moore, who took the subway from East New York to stay in the Carlyle with Mrs. McDill.

“It was like low class to high class, going in there,” she said. “I would call her my queen, my majesty, and she called me her princess, and treated me like one.”

Ms. Moore sang “Swing Low” again at the memorial service on Saturday, and family members recalled Mrs. McDill as hardly the demure society type, but more like a Katharine Hepburn character.

After graduating from Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School in Washington, she dreamed of art school, but wound up going to Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y., obeying the wishes of her father, H. Gabriel Murphy, part-owner of the Washington Senators baseball team, which later moved to Minnesota and became the Twins.

Mrs. McDill’s first husband was Paul Gardner Jr., a lawyer. After a divorce, she married Jonathan McDill, formerly in charge of cataloging for the Dartmouth libraries. He died in 1998. As a gardener, she took design cues from formal French and Italian gardens and added her own resourceful touches.

She loved the paintings of Henri Matisse and the writing of Mark Twain and Robert Frost. She sold a few paintings but gave away many more. She rarely bothered with computers or cooking.

“It was not that she could not cook, but that she did not,” David Gardner said.

After the memorial service, some of her friends said they were rethinking their own send-offs.

“People came up to me and said, ‘We’re changing our plans for our funeral — we want it to be fun,” Thomas Gardner said. “The only sad thing was that Mom wanted to keep living.”

    And at the End, All the Comforts of the Carlyle, NYT, 22.10.2008,






This Land

Through Decades of Change,

a Core Crew Remains


June 30, 2008
The New York Times


Danbury, Conn.

Lately, in the maintenance garage at the Danbury rest stop just off Interstate 84, the topic of conversation can shift suddenly from grass-cutting and litter pickup to death. What happens afterward? Where do we go? When I die, will you remember me?

Is there coffee in heaven?

The conversation among the four workers might return just as abruptly to what needs to be mowed next, or it might simply surrender to silence, like a lawn mower out of gas. After a while they will wriggle their hands back into their work gloves and return to prettifying the grounds for people who barely notice them, who are just passing through.

Then, when midafternoon arrives, the men will climb back into a state-owned van. Bob, 57, who wants to be known simply as Bob, sits in the way back, his Special Olympics cap worn at an almost jaunty angle. Bobby McKay, 62, sits in the middle row, staring out the window, his travel-worthy coffee mug cradled like a puppy in his hands. Tony Daversa, 59, sits in the front passenger seat, chattering about everything he sees, including a passing cemetery.

“There’s the body,” he says one afternoon.

“Will you shut up,” his friend Bob jokes from the back.

“There’s the body,” Tony says again, in sing-song.

At the wheel is Dave Lavery, 51, their driver, supervisor, counselor, friend. On the way to work he always stops the van at the South Britain Country Store so they can buy coffee, and on the way home he stops there again because refills are free. He gently reminds Bob not to curse. He encourages Bobby to talk. He listens to Tony’s questions about mortality, prompted by recent deaths in Tony’s small, removed world.

Soon a collegelike campus comes into view, signaling that Dave has safely returned them once again to the Southbury Training School, a 1,600-acre residence for people with mental retardation. Bob, Bobby and Tony have lived here since before man landed on the moon, since before J.F.K. was shot, for as long as they remember.

The van drops the men off in front of their home buildings. Bobby, who had a paper route before he was placed here as a teenager, back when his hair was dark, plops onto the couch, exhausted but still eager to go to a minor-league baseball game in a few hours. Bob, whose parents placed him here when he was 8, leans before his stereo system and pushes buttons until it emits the feel-the-fire wailing of Kenny Rogers.

“Listen to this,” Bob says, playing air drums. “Listen.”

Tony, who bounced around foster homes before coming here as a young teenager, stops briefly in his bedroom, then hustles out to a second job picking up trash in another building. His lined face conveys the then and the now of his life: the wide eyes of full engagement with his world today, offset by a telltale mangled ear.

Decades ago someone stomped on his ear while he was sleeping; stomp might be too gentle a word, given that his ear now looks like a small conch.

“I don’t know who did it,” he says, big eyes looking away.

These men were here at the Southbury Training School — opened in 1941 as a “school for mental defectives” — in the early 1960s, when it was the best that government had to offer: a place where even the well-to-do sent their mentally impaired and troubled boys and girls, a place of many swing sets.

They were here in the mid-1980s, when conditions became so substandard, even dangerous, that the school, then with a population of more than 1,100, was placed under federal oversight and stopped accepting admissions.

They were here through the 1990s, as the school struggled to improve its care, as some residents moved off campus, often to group homes, and other residents, mostly older ones, died. And they were here in 2006, when the school was released from the supervision of a court monitor, although a consent decree with the federal government remains.

The swing sets are gone, but these men are here still, a part of a declining, aging population that has dropped below 500. They live in settings similar to group homes, have one-on-one contact with social workers, work out in the gym, keep bank accounts, plan for day trips and shopping trips. And every weekday morning they climb into that van and head off for work at a rest stop welcoming people to Connecticut.

Twenty years ago, the state Department of Transportation hired a crew from the training school to maintain the rest area’s grounds. Dave was put in charge, and among those he selected for the initial crew was Bobby, who some staff members thought should not leave school grounds. Bobby has proved them wrong; he and his crew mates continue to work hard to keep the rest area clean, and they take evident pride in their yellow D.O.T. vests.

“It says to the world: I made it,” Dave explains.

Another workday dawns. Dave drives the van through the school’s verdant campus, collecting his crew. He has known these men for decades. A couple of them spend Thanksgiving with his family every year.

As always, the van stops at the country store for coffee. The men sit mostly in silence on the 25-mile ride to the rest stop, save for the occasional slurp from a travel mug. And soon after they arrive at the maintenance garage and open its doors, Tony puts on a pot of coffee.

Over the years, a lot of coffee has been drunk in the van and at the garage, because coffee has special meaning. It goes back to when an extra cup of coffee could be a privilege, or maybe a way for a staff member to say thank you, good job, I can depend on you. A hint of independence now flavors their coffee.

And over the years, the crew’s makeup has changed; people have come and gone. Two years ago, there were five: Dave, Bob, Bobby, Tony and a birdlike man named Robert, who did not speak but would communicate with gestures. Dave would look in his rearview mirror and see Robert moving fist over fist. Coffee, he was saying.

But Robert, who used to set out napkins for his workmates when they ate lunch in the maintenance garage, died last summer. Then Danny, another training school resident, died. Then others died, including Bob’s father and a beloved staff member at the school named Gina.

Tony in particular began struggling with mortality. As a result, the garage’s refrigerator is adorned with a haphazardly taped collage of death notices and memorial announcements — for Robert and Danny and Gina and Bob’s dad. There is also a circled advertisement for the Naugatuck funeral home that Tony says will take care of him when he dies and goes to heaven — where, he has been assured, there will be coffee.

“But God don’t want me yet,” he says.

The men finish their coffee. Bobby sits. Tony has a cigarette. Bob lights up a pipe. Among them, a combined 140 years at the Southbury Training School.

After a while, Dave says it’s time to get back to work. The men stand up and walk out of the dim garage.

Through Decades of Change, a Core Crew Remains, NYT, 30.6.2008,






US Cancer Deaths

Rose by 5, 400 in 2005


February 20, 2008
Filed at 3:02 a.m. ET
The New York Times


ATLANTA (AP) -- U.S. cancer deaths rose by more than 5,000 in 2005, a somewhat disappointing reversal of a two-year downward trend, the American Cancer Society said in a report issued Wednesday.

The group counted 559,312 people who died from cancer.

The cancer death rate among the overall population continued to fall, but only slightly, after a couple of years of more dramatic decline.

In 2005, there were just under 184 cancer deaths per 100,000 people, down from nearly 186 the previous year. Experts said it wasn't surprising that the rate would stabilize.

The cancer death rate has been dropping since the early 1990s, and early in this decade was declining by about 1 percent a year. The actual number of cancer deaths kept rising, however, because of the growing population.

So it was big news when the rate dropped by 2 percent in both 2003 and 2004, enough to cause the total number of cancer deaths to fall for the first time since 1930.

President Bush and others hailed that as a sign that federally funded research was making strides against the disease.

But now the death rate decline is back to 1 percent. And the 2005 numbers show annual cancer deaths are no longer falling, but are up more than 5,400 since 2004.

''The declining rate was no longer great enough to overcome the increase in population,'' said Elizabeth Ward, a co-author of the cancer society report

Officials with the organization say they don't know why the decline in the death rate eased.

It may be that cancer screenings are not having as big an effect as they were a few years ago, said Dr. Peter Ravdin, a research professor in biostatistics at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

One possible example: In 2004, the largest drop in deaths among the major cancers was in colorectal cancer. Experts gave much of the credit to colonoscopy screenings that detect polyps and allow doctors to remove them before they turn cancerous. They also mentioned ''the Katie Couric effect'' -- a jump in colonoscopy rates after the ''Today'' show host had the exam on national television in 2000.

In the new report, the colorectal cancer death rate decreased by about 3 percent from 2004 to 2005, after plunging 6 percent from 2003 to 2004.

Colorectal cancer screening rates through 2003 did not show a decline. But it's possible they have fallen since then, Ravdin said.

Cancer society officials have also voiced concern that cancer deaths may increase as Americans lose health insurance coverage and get fewer screenings.

The good news is the cancer death rate is still declining, and that since the early 1990s is down more than 18 percent for men and more than 10 percent for women. Those reductions translate to more than half a million cancer deaths avoided, according to the cancer society.

Experts attribute the success to declines in smoking and to earlier detection and more effective treatment of tumors.


On the Net:

American Cancer Society report: www.cancer.org/statistics

US Cancer Deaths Rose by 5, 400 in 2005, NYT, 20.2.2008,






One of last U.S. WWI veterans dies


21 December 2007
USA Today


NORTH BALTIMORE, Ohio (AP) — J. Russell Coffey, the oldest known surviving U.S. veteran of World War I, has died. The retired teacher, one of only three U.S. veterans from the "war to end all wars," was 109.

Coffey died Thursday at the Briar Hill Health Campus in North Baltimore, where he had lived for the past four or five years, said Gaye Boggs, nursing director at the nursing home. No cause of death has been determined, she said Friday. His health began failing in October.

More than 4.7 million Americans joined the military from 1917-1918. Coffey never saw combat because he was still in basic training when the war ended.

The two remaining U.S. veterans are Frank Buckles, 106, of Charles Town, W.Va.; and Harry Richard Landis, 108, of Sun City Center, Fla., according to the Veterans Affairs Department. In addition, John Babcock, 107, of Spokane, Wash., served in the Canadian army and is the last known Canadian veteran of the war.

Coffey once confided to his daughter, Betty Jo Larsen, that he wished people would remember his contributions rather than his old age. "He told me 'even a prune can get old,"' she said last spring. She died in September.

Coffey had enlisted in the Army while he was a student at Ohio State University in October 1918, a month before the Allied powers and Germany signed a cease-fire agreement. He was discharged a month after the war ended.

His two older brothers fought overseas, and he was disappointed at the time that the war ended before he shipped out. But he told The Associated Press in April 2007: "I think I was good to get out of it."

Born Sept. 1, 1898, Coffey played semipro baseball in Akron, earned a doctorate in education from New York University, taught in high school and college and raised a family.

He delivered newspapers as a youngster and would read the paper to immigrants, his daughter said. "That was the beginning of him being a teacher," she said.

Coffey returned to Ohio State University after he left the Army and received two degrees there.

He said he loved teaching. "I could see results," he said. "I could see improvement."

He taught junior high and high school in Phelps, Ky., and Findlay. He then taught physical education at Bowling Green State University from 1948 until 1969.

He had a remarkable memory and was independent, his daughter said. He drove his car until he was 104, and lived in his own home until a year later. He was a swimmer and credited healthy eating and exercise for his longevity.

His wife, Bernice, whom he married in 1921, died in 1993.

One of last U.S. WWI veterans dies, UT, 21.12.2007,
wwi-veteran-dies_N.htm - broken link






Neighbors Reflect

on a Death No One Noticed


December 5, 2007
The New York Times


For the last years of her life, Christina Copeman kept to herself.

She stopped answering the door shortly after her estranged husband died in 1990. She turned away from her friends and neighbors in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, ignoring their hellos.

So when Ms. Copeman dropped out of sight altogether, people were not immediately suspicious. Perhaps she had gone back to Trinidad for a vacation, they said. Maybe she had gotten sick there, or decided to stay.

That was nearly two years ago.

Outside Ms. Copeman’s brick row house on East 92nd Street, the days grew longer and shorter again. Mail piled up in the vestibule behind the glass front door. Neighbors collected trash from her porch so she would not get summonses.

Ms. Copeman was upstairs, dead, curled in a fetal position in the hallway, where the police found her skeletal remains on Monday morning, said Peter Bishop, her nephew. She was dressed to go out, in a coat and a beret, Mr. Bishop said.

“Winter clothes on,” he said yesterday, “so I guess she died in the winter.”

Ms. Copeman had died of heart disease, the medical examiner said yesterday. The police said she had been dead between a year and 18 months.

It seems impossible for a person to fall through the cracks like that, to die in her own home and go undiscovered. New York is a big city, but it is impersonal only at a distance. People have neighbors. They have relatives.

But Christina Copeman, who would be 70 if she were alive today, managed to slip away almost by sheer force of will.

“It’s a shame,” said her next-door neighbor Ruby Fulmer, 92, a retired nursing professor who said she had been calling 311 for more than a year trying to figure out how to solve the mystery of Ms. Copeman. “But I think it’s also part of the way she lived the last few years of her life.”

Althea Bishop, Ms. Copeman’s sister-in-law, said she could not figure out how to get help for her.

“What am I going to do, call the cops and say there’s a lady inside who doesn’t want to talk?” she said. “If she couldn’t walk or see or hear, it would be one thing. But she was fine. She just didn’t want to deal with us.”

Another neighbor, Dolores Harvey, said that she had called the local precinct, the 67th, in summer 2006 after smelling an intermittent foul odor from Ms. Copeman’s house, but that two officers who went to the house the next day told her they smelled nothing amiss. “They said that if she had passed away in the house, we would have smelled it,” said Ms. Harvey, 49. “They said there was nothing to do; they couldn’t break down the door.”

The Police Department’s chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said yesterday that the police had reviewed the last 20 months of records and found no calls to Ms. Copeman’s address until Saturday, when the police checked on her at Mr. Bishop’s request but did not break down the door. When Mr. Bishop accompanied the police to the house on Monday, they forced their way in and found her body, Mr. Browne said.

Ms. Copeman, who immigrated from Trinidad as a teenager and worked for years at a bank in Manhattan, was a quiet woman to begin with, her relatives and neighbors said.

“She just liked to work, and come home, didn’t have too many friends coming over,” said Mr. Bishop, 50, who lived with the Copemans in the 1970s. “Maybe watch a little TV. She read love stories.”

After her husband, Joseph Copeman, left her in the 1980s, she grew more withdrawn and depressed, Ms. Fulmer said. Then Mr. Copeman and Ms. Copeman’s father died in quick succession.

Soon, Ms. Fulmer said, “she stopped talking to everybody. I’d see her right on the front step and say ‘Hello, Christine’ and she’d turn her head. If you saw her coming halfway down the block and said ‘Hey Christine, wait up,’ she’d roll her eyes and turn the other way.”

Ms. Bishop said she last spoke to Ms. Copeman in about 1991. “She stood behind the curtain and she talked through the door. ‘I’m fine, you all could leave now,’” Ms. Bishop recalled her saying. Subsequent visits from the Bishops were greeted with either silence or a call to the police, Ms. Bishop said.

Ms. Fulmer said she last saw Ms. Copeman alive sometime in 2005. “She was wearing a coat, kind of sweeping around her front porch,” Ms. Fulmer said. “She didn’t talk to me then, either.”

Another neighbor, Lester Watson, said he ran into Ms. Copeman on the street around the fall of 2005. “She told me she was going away for a little while,” he said.

Months passed. Bills came and went unpaid. Con Edison officials said that they canceled Ms. Copeman’s account last year but left her power on, and that there had been no power use at the home for more than a year. The pile of unclaimed mail grew, puzzling neighbors. A spokeswoman for the Postal Service, Patricia McGovern, said that while mail carriers often take it upon themselves to notify the authorities when a customer does not seem to be collecting the mail, there is no requirement that they do so.

In 2006, Ms. Copeman’s roof began leaking, affecting Ms. Fulmer’s house. Ms. Fulmer called 311. The Department of Buildings sent an inspector, who documented the house’s condition in impressive detail. “Large holes in roofing paper at various locations on roof,” the report said. “Flashing at sides broken. Large holes observed. Fascia board rotten at front of building.”

The department issued Ms. Copeman a violation in April 2007.

It said, “Remedy: Make safe immediate repair.”

The yellow violation notice fluttered in the cold breeze yesterday on Ms. Copeman’s front porch, half-buried beneath phone books and business cards and fliers for furniture sales long past.


Ann Farmer contributed reporting.

Neighbors Reflect on a Death No One Noticed, NYT, 5.12.2007,






Brooke Astor, 105,

Aristocrat of the People,



August 14, 2007
The New York Times


Brooke Astor, who by night reigned over New York society with a decided disdain for pretension and by day devoted her time and considerable resources to New York’s unfortunate, died yesterday afternoon at her weekend estate, Holly Hill, in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. She was 105.

Her death was confirmed by Kenneth E. Warner, a lawyer for Mrs. Astor’s son, Anthony D. Marshall. The attending physician listed the cause of death as pneumonia, Mr. Warner said.

Mrs. Astor’s image as a benevolent society matron was overshadowed last year by that of a victimized dowager at the center of a very public family battle over her care and fortune. Yet for decades she had been known as the city’s unofficial first lady, one who moved effortlessly from the sumptuous apartments of Fifth Avenue to the ragged barrios of East Harlem, deploying her inherited millions to help the poor help themselves.

Among the rich of New York, she was perhaps the last bridge to the Gilded Age, when “society” was a closed world of old-money families, the so-called Four Hundred, who were ruled over by a grandmother of Mrs. Astor’s by marriage, Mrs. William Backhouse Astor.

But it was a changing social order that Brooke Astor oversaw. Hers was a society defined more by balance sheets than bloodline. It opened its doors to entrepreneurs and Wall Street movers and shakers who had bought entree with so many millions that in the 1980s Mrs. Astor declared herself “nouveau pauvre.”

Although aristocratic in upbringing, style and social milieu, she never sought to be the arbiter of society that the Astor name might have entitled her to be. She never wanted to rule over a world that she was among the first to recognize was no more.

And in her advanced age, her own world seemed to collapse as well. In a startling episode that played out in court and on the front pages of the city’s newspapers last year, one of her grandsons, Philip Marshall, filed a lawsuit accusing Anthony Marshall, her only son, of neglecting her care and exploiting her to enrich himself and his wife.

Although her son denied the accusations, the public was suddenly given a picture of Mrs. Astor as a mistreated centenarian. By the grandson’s account, she had been stripped of her dignity and some of her favorite art, denied medicine and the company of her dogs, Boysie and Girlsie, and forced to sleep in misery on a couch smelling of urine.

The dispute stretched over months, its every wrinkle making headlines. Then, last Oct. 13, the parties announced a settlement, avoiding what could have been a costly and sensational trial. Her close friends said her declining physical condition left her unaware of the tumult; doctors were later said to have diagnosed dementia. But it was a bitter and unlikely last chapter for a woman who had defined high society and made philanthropy her career for almost four decades.

She took up that vocation after her third husband, Vincent Astor, heir to the fur and real estate fortune of John Jacob Astor, died and left about $60 million to her personally and an equal amount for a foundation “for the alleviation of human suffering.” Her husband had told her, “You’ll have fun, Pookie.”

In fact, she said she had a great deal of fun giving money away as it grew over time into the hundreds of millions. With a wink and a sly smile, she liked to quote Dolly Levi in Thornton Wilder’s play “The Matchmaker,” saying, “Money is like manure; it’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around.”

It was Mrs. Astor who decided that because most of the Astor fortune had been made in New York real estate, it should be spent in New York, for New Yorkers. Grants supported the city’s museums and libraries, its boys’ and girls’ clubs, homes for the elderly and other institutions and programs.

She made it her duty to evaluate for herself every organization or group that sought help from the Vincent Astor Foundation. In her chauffeur-driven Mercedes-Benz, she traveled all over New York to visit the tenements and churches and neighborhood programs she was considering for foundation grants. Many times a welcoming lunch awaited her on paper plates and plastic folding tables set up for the occasion. She would exclaim over what she called the “delicious sauces”: deli mustard and pickle relish.


A New York Presence

At night — almost every night, even into her 90s — she could be found surrounded by crystal and caviar, done up in her designer dresses and jewels, seated to the right of the host. (She was always seated to the right of the host.)

If she nurtured a playful and sometimes wicked eye for the manners of high society (she once said that “unlike Queen Victoria, we are amused — we are always amused”), she made a point of showing her appreciation for people who worked to help the needy. She always “made an effort,” to use a phrase of the upper class.

For her forays around the city, she dressed as she did when she joined the ladies who lunch at East Side bistros: a finely tailored suit or a designer dress, a hat in any weather, a cashmere coat when it was cool and, in her last years, an elegant cane, her one apparent concession to age. “If I go up to Harlem or down to Sixth Street, and I’m not dressed up or I’m not wearing my jewelry, then the people feel I’m talking down to them,” she said. “People expect to see Mrs. Astor, not some dowdy old lady, and I don’t intend to disappoint them.”

She could talk to anyone as she made her rounds, offering encouragement to a child working at a library computer, counseling a mother about the importance of reading. To a janitor at a branch library — and she tried to visit every branch — she might give a word of thanks “for keeping this place so clean.” She was thrilled when the Bronx Zoo named a baby elephant in her honor.

When the Astor Foundation closed its doors in December 1997, Mrs. Astor had overseen the disbursement of almost $195 million, almost all within New York City. Although the foundation was not large compared with powerhouses like Ford, Rockefeller and Carnegie, its contributions often served as seed money: others followed, knowing that if Mrs. Astor had given her seal of approval to a cause, it was worthy of support.

As she neared 99, she said she was glad she had not lived in the kind of indolence that her fortune would have allowed. If she regretted anything, she said, it was that she had not visited friends in Europe often enough and that she had not been able to read, and write, all the books she would have wished.

She was slight of build, somewhat frail and very thin in her last years, but her hair remained honey-colored, and she liked to boast, although it was widely doubted, that she had never had a face-lift. She kept fit well into her advanced years by swimming 1,000 strokes each weekend day and nearly every day in summer, even in the chilly waters that surrounded her house in Northeast Harbor, Me. Every year she liked to march behind the fire engine in Northeast Harbor’s Memorial Day parade, waving a little American flag.

Even into her 90s, she loved to go out, especially to places where there would be dancing. “When that music starts,” she said, “it enters my blood like a fever.” When she stayed home, she would have people in. An invitation to one of her luncheons or dinners — especially if it was for a first lady, like her friend Nancy Reagan — was a sign of having arrived at the highest level of society.

When Mrs. Astor slowed down, it was often at Holly Hill, her 68-acre weekend estate. “It’s like backing up to the Esso and getting refueled,” she once said.

In her 98th year, she was still writing articles for Vanity Fair magazine, noting with regret, for example, that gentlemen no longer wore hats and that women no longer flirted, something she said she herself never failed to do.

If she had any weakness, it was for her dogs. She always had several and called them her “lovey babes.”

Mrs. Astor spent a good deal of her time in the boardrooms of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Morgan Library & Museum, Rockefeller University and other prestigious cultural centers. A trustee of each, she worked with curators and other staff members. She finally devoted herself almost exclusively to the New York Public Library, where she remained honorary chairwoman until her death.

Vartan Gregorian, who was president of the library when Mrs. Astor took it as her main cause, observed then that she stood apart from her class. “She is of them, but not part of them,” said Mr. Gregorian, who is now president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. “She’s not dominated by the same considerations many socialites are.

“Hers is not a socialite’s attitude,” he went on. “She is genuinely concerned. There’s a lot of effort and mental discipline. She’s one of the few who have read so much. She’s a teacher; she teaches by example, by analogy. If you spend an evening with Brooke Astor and come away empty, there’s something wrong with your antennae.”


The Early Years

Brooke Russell was born in Portsmouth, N.H., on March 30, 1902. She remembered a childhood that was secure and happy, if often solitary. She had no siblings and spent much of that time in foreign lands. One of her earliest memories was of standing on her bed saluting as a marine bugler outside played during a flag-raising at the American legation in Beijing, where her father, Maj. Gen. John H. Russell, was commander of the guard. (She remembered that the bugler’s name was Johnny Malone, and that she had loved him.)

Her father, who later became commandant of the Marine Corps, also took the family along when he was assigned to Hawaii and Panama. She remembered her mother, Mabel Howard, as beautiful and flirtatious.

Mrs. Astor kept the diaries, letters and drawings from her childhood travels squirreled away in Briarcliff Manor in a closet that she called her “archive room.” Some of her early drawings, poems and plays were reproduced in an illustrated edition of “Patchwork Child: Early Memories,” published in 1993.

Her writing came to include many magazine articles, two published volumes of autobiography — a 1962 edition of “Patchwork Child” and “Footprints” (1980) — and two novels, “The Bluebird Is at Home” (1965) and “The Last Blossom on the Plum Tree: A Period Piece” (1986).

What she remembered as an idyllic childhood ended abruptly, she said, when, at age 16, she was invited to the senior prom at Princeton to fill in for a girl who had fallen ill. There she met J. Dryden Kuser. Her mother, she said, was “dazzled” by Mr. Kuser’s substantial fortune. After a brief courtship, he asked Brooke to marry him, and though she felt unprepared for marriage, she said, she reluctantly agreed.

“Dryden promised me my own house, all the dogs I wanted, and a car as soon as I was old enough to have a driver’s license,” she said.

They married in 1919, and for 11 years they lived in great luxury and considerable misery. Her merry nature gradually darkened as the marriage headed for disaster in every respect except for the birth of her son, Anthony. She and Mr. Kuser divorced in 1930.

Her second marriage, two years later, to Charles Marshall, known to everyone as Buddie, brought her 20 years of happiness. Mr. Marshall, she said, was the love of her life. She wrote that her son admired him so much that he adopted his last name as his own.

Charles Marshall died suddenly in 1952, leaving Mrs. Astor without an inheritance. She took a job at House & Garden, a Condé Nast magazine.

Not long afterward, still in mourning, she met Vincent Astor at a dinner. A month later, he proposed. She described the scene in “Footprints”: “I couldn’t believe my ears. ‘But you hardly know me,’ I said. ‘We really don’t know each other at all.’

“ ‘I know a lot about you,’ Vincent answered. ‘And I can swear on the Bible that if you marry me I will do everything I possibly can to take care of you and make you happy — and earn your love.’ Well, such suddenness would have thrilled me and elated me at 20, but in my late 40s, I was frightened by it.”

Within months, however, she became his third wife, in 1953. She had, perhaps, been right to hesitate. Vincent Astor, she said, was a suspicious man who thought everyone wanted something from him. As a result, the couple were often alone. She said she lost contact with friends. He asked her not to chat on the telephone when he was at home.

The marriage was brief. In five and a half years, Mr. Astor was dead, leaving his millions for her and for the foundation. “After Vincent died, I recreated myself,” Mrs. Astor said, referring to her decades of philanthropy at the Vincent Astor Foundation. In one of many meetings and interviews since the 1980s, she remarked, “Now I feel I’ve become a public monument.”


A Living Landmark

She was, in fact, named a living landmark by the New York Landmarks Conservancy, which said in 1996 that “a list of the city monuments is incomplete without her name alongside.” The Astor Foundation’s annual reports had become a Baedeker to the city, showing contributions to what she called New York’s “crown jewels”: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Morgan Library and the New York Botanical Garden, as well as Cornell University Medical College, Rockefeller University, the New York Zoological Society (now the Wildlife Conservation Society), the South Street Seaport and others.

In 1977, when Mrs. Astor made the New York Public Library her primary cause, the Astor Foundation offered a $5 million matching grant if the library could raise $10 million. She then went out to help raise the $10 million. The main entrance of the research library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street was named Astor Hall in her honor. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she took a particular interest in the construction of the Chinese courtyard and scholar’s room, which was named Astor Court.

Foundation money often went for necessities the public never knew anything about. There was no Astor name affixed to things like air-conditioning or a staff lunch room at an institution.

Astor money went to provide new windows for a nursing home on Riverside Drive, fire escapes for a homeless residence in the Bronx, a boiler for a youth center in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn and vest-pocket parks around the city. The foundation was among the first to support neighborhood and community-based development projects as well as jobs programs. Grants, to name a few, also went to institutions then known as the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, the National Academy of Design and Columbia College as well as Carnegie Hall, Central Park, the Museum of Natural History, Ellis Island and the Animal Medical Center, to care for the pets of the elderly poor.

“Old people have old pets,” she said. “It’s a wonderful place. When I’m sick, that’s where I want them to take me.”

Mrs. Astor remained at her Park Avenue duplex apartment as age and infirmity overtook her. Though she made occasional social appearances in her last years — the banker David Rockefeller gave her a 100th birthday party at the Rockefeller family’s Pocantico Hills estate in 2002 — she had become all but a recluse toward the end.

In July 2006 came the astonishing news that Philip Marshall had sued his father, accusing him of stripping Mrs. Astor’s apartment of artwork to enrich himself and neglecting her in ways that threatened her health and safety.

Philip Marshall enlisted the affidavits of Annette de la Renta, Mrs. Astor’s friend of more than 45 years, as well as Mr. Rockefeller, Henry A. Kissinger and others as he sought to wrest control of Mrs. Astor’s affairs from his father. Anthony Marshall, 83, a Broadway producer and former diplomat, said the accusations were “completely untrue.”

Under the settlement, he and his wife, Charlene, admitted no wrongdoing, but both were required to give up their roles as co-executors of Mrs. Astor’s estate, and Mr. Marshall agreed to cease being steward of his mother’s health care and financial affairs. They were also required to rescind the transfer of Mrs. Astor’s Maine estate to themselves.

The settlement stipulated that JPMorgan Chase & Company and Mrs. de la Renta would be her permanent guardians. Mrs. de la Renta quickly moved her from New York to Mrs. Astor’s estate in Briarcliff Manor. The bank, which had overseen Mrs. Astor’s finances since the court filing in July 2006, agreed not to pursue litigation to recover millions of dollars in cash, property and stocks that it believed Mr. Marshall might have improperly obtained.

Besides her son, Anthony, of New York, and her grandson Philip, of South Dartmouth, Mass., Mrs. Astor is survived by another grandson, Philip’s twin brother, Alec, of Ossining, N.Y., and three great-grandchildren.

A widow for 48 years, Mrs. Astor had a number of suitors in that time but did not want to marry again. “I just don’t want anyone tugging at my sleeve at 10 o’clock telling me it’s time to go home,” she once told her friend Marietta Tree.

She joked easily about her romantic life. A former dinner companion recalled saying to her one evening, “Mrs. Astor, you’re such a beautiful woman, you must have had many lovers.” She responded, “When I can’t fall asleep at night, I sometimes start counting them, but I’m asleep long before I get to the end of the list.”

She remained open to new friends. She used to say that each year she took on one new friend to replace an old one who had died. While Mrs. Astor lost track of some friends over the years, she regretted the misunderstandings that arose from time to time. When she was 98, she recalled with satisfaction that she had telephoned a man who had once made her so angry that she had stopped talking to him. The call was to compliment him on an article he had written. “I want to be at peace with all of my friends when I die,” she said.

Brooke Astor, 105, Aristocrat of the People, Dies, NYT, 14.8.2007,






Oscar the Cat

Predicts Patients' Deaths


July 26, 2007
Filed at 4:28 a.m. ET
The New York Times


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- Oscar the cat seems to have an uncanny knack for predicting when nursing home patients are going to die, by curling up next to them during their final hours. His accuracy, observed in 25 cases, has led the staff to call family members once he has chosen someone. It usually means they have less than four hours to live.

''He doesn't make too many mistakes. He seems to understand when patients are about to die,'' said Dr. David Dosa in an interview. He describes the phenomenon in a poignant essay in Thursday's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

''Many family members take some solace from it. They appreciate the companionship that the cat provides for their dying loved one,'' said Dosa, a geriatrician and assistant professor of medicine at Brown University.

The 2-year-old feline was adopted as a kitten and grew up in a third-floor dementia unit at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. The facility treats people with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and other illnesses.

After about six months, the staff noticed Oscar would make his own rounds, just like the doctors and nurses. He'd sniff and observe patients, then sit beside people who would wind up dying in a few hours.

Dosa said Oscar seems to take his work seriously and is generally aloof. ''This is not a cat that's friendly to people,'' he said.

Oscar is better at predicting death than the people who work there, said Dr. Joan Teno of Brown University, who treats patients at the nursing home and is an expert on care for the terminally ill

She was convinced of Oscar's talent when he made his 13th correct call. While observing one patient, Teno said she noticed the woman wasn't eating, was breathing with difficulty and that her legs had a bluish tinge, signs that often mean death is near.

Oscar wouldn't stay inside the room though, so Teno thought his streak was broken. Instead, it turned out the doctor's prediction was roughly 10 hours too early. Sure enough, during the patient's final two hours, nurses told Teno that Oscar joined the woman at her bedside.

Doctors say most of the people who get a visit from the sweet-faced, gray-and-white cat are so ill they probably don't know he's there, so patients aren't aware he's a harbinger of death. Most families are grateful for the advanced warning, although one wanted Oscar out of the room while a family member died. When Oscar is put outside, he paces and meows his displeasure.

No one's certain if Oscar's behavior is scientifically significant or points to a cause. Teno wonders if the cat notices telltale scents or reads something into the behavior of the nurses who raised him.

Nicholas Dodman, who directs an animal behavioral clinic at the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and has read Dosa's article, said the only way to know is to carefully document how Oscar divides his time between the living and dying.

If Oscar really is a furry grim reaper, it's also possible his behavior could be driven by self-centered pleasures like a heated blanket placed on a dying person, Dodman said.

Nursing home staffers aren't concerned with explaining Oscar, so long as he gives families a better chance at saying goodbye to the dying.

Oscar recently received a wall plaque publicly commending his ''compassionate hospice care.''


Science writer Alicia Chang in Los Angeles

contributed to this report.


On the Net:

New England Journal of Medicine: http://content.nejm.org/

Oscar the Cat Predicts Patients' Deaths, NYT, 26.7.2007,






Mentally ill die 25 years earlier,

on average


By Marilyn Elias


Adults with serious mental illness treated in public systems die about 25 years earlier than Americans overall, a gap that's widened since the early '90s when major mental disorders cut life spans by 10 to 15 years, according to a report due Monday.

"We're going in the wrong direction and have to change course," says Joseph Parks, director of psychiatric services for the Missouri Department of Mental Health. He's lead author of the report from eight states — Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas, Utah and Arizona — that will be released at a meeting of state hospital directors in Bethesda, Md.

About 60% of the 10.3 million people with serious mental illness get care in public facilities, 90% as outpatients, Parks says. They have illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression. Although the mentally ill have high accident and suicide rates, about 3 out of 5 die from mostly preventable diseases, he says.

Obesity is a serious problem. These patients often get little exercise, and many take a newer type of anti-psychotic, on the market for 18 years, that can cause drastic weight gains, promoting diabetes and heart disease, Parks says. He thinks these drugs are contributing to deaths from cardiovascular disease.

Recent studies question the advantage of the newer drugs. "Many could be switched to safer medicines," Parks says. Schizophrenics are thought to have a higher risk for diabetes already, he says.

Mentally ill adults also are more likely than others to have alcohol and drug-abuse problems, and to smoke.

Because of their mental disorder, patients often aren't good health advocates for themselves, says Andrew Leuchter of the UCLA School of Medicine. When patients do seek help, "I hear of great difficulty getting appointments even for simple problems like high blood pressure. … The public health system is underfunded, and it's gotten worse over the years."

Medical needs of the mentally ill are least likely to fall through the cracks when psychiatrists and primary care doctors practice in the same facility, according to a 2003 report from the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. But integrated clinics are "quite rare," says Bazelon policy director Chris Koyanagi.

Sometimes internists disregard medical symptoms of the mentally ill, chalking them up to the patient's disorder, says Kenneth Duckworth of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. And needed treatment may be harder to get. He points to a study showing that after the mentally ill suffer heart attacks, they're less likely than other patients to get state-of-the-art care.

Parks thinks agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should track the health of adults with mental illness, just as they do other vulnerable groups, to identify problems and solutions. "Many struggle for decades to overcome mental illness," he says, "and after all that struggle, it's particularly cruel to think that you would die young."

Mentally ill die 25 years earlier, on average, UT, 3.5.2007,






Obituaries in the News


March 29, 2007
Filed at 6:38 a.m. ET
The New York Times


Paul Joseph Cohen

PALO ALTO, Calif. (AP) -- Paul Joseph Cohen, a mathematician who won several of the world's most prestigious math awards, has died. He was 72.

Cohen died Friday of a rare lung disease, according to Stanford University, where he taught for four decades.

In 1964, he won the American Mathematical Society's Bocher Prize for analysis, and in 1966 he won the Fields Medal -- the math world's equivalent of the Nobel Prize -- for logic. Cohen won the 1967 National Medal of Science for his work in logic, and he was an honorary foreign member of the London Mathematical Society.

Cohen's passion was studying extremely difficult, long-standing mathematical problems, such as the Continuum Hypothesis, which is considered central to set theory -- the idea that sets of items are the fundamental objects defining all ideas in mathematics.

Cohen shocked the math establishment by proving that the Continuum Hypothesis could not be decided. The notion that conventional mathematics couldn't prove or disprove concrete and well known assertions caused an uproar among academics.

Cohen was born April 2, 1934, in Long Branch, N.J., the fourth and youngest child of Jewish immigrants from Poland. His sister, Sylvia, checked out a library book on calculus for him when he was 9.


Bill Fisk Sr.

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Bill Fisk Sr., an end on Southern California's 1939 national championship team who later played seven seasons in the NFL, has died, athletic department spokesman Tim Tessalone said Wednesday. Fisk was 90.

He played in two Rose Bowl games when USC defeated previously unbeaten and unscored-upon teams: Duke in 1939 and Tennessee in 1940.

Fisk was honored as the Trojans' most inspirational player in 1939.

A third-round draft pick by Detroit in 1940, he played four years for the Lions, two for the San Francisco 49ers, and his final season for the Los Angeles Dons.

He was a USC assistant coach from 1949-56 and later worked in the aerospace industry.


Ransom Myers

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) -- Ransom Myers, a Canadian scientist renowned for his groundbreaking research and blunt warnings about the extinction of marine species, has died. He was 54.

Myers died Tuesday in Halifax after an illness linked to an inoperable brain tumor, according to colleagues at Dalhousie University.

Myers, a marine biologist who was a vocal critic of Ottawa's management of Canadian fisheries, was admitted to the hospital last November after being diagnosed with brain cancer.

In a study published in 2003, he found that global industrial fishing had cut populations of large fish, such as tuna, swordfish and marlin, to a mere 10 percent of 1950 levels.

At the time, Myers said bluntly that the world was in ''massive denial'' and was spending its energy fighting over the few fish left instead of cutting catch limits before it was too late.


Marshall Rogers

FREMONT, Calif. (AP) -- Marshall Rogers, a comic book artist remembered for bringing a film noir feel and an architect's eye to Batman comics in the 1970s, has died. He was 57.

Rogers died unexpectedly in his home either Friday night or Saturday morning, according to his sister. Autopsy results showing the cause and time of his death were pending.

Rogers took over work on Batman for Detective Comics in 1977, creating editions that were prized by collectors.

Born Jan. 22, 1950, in Flushing, N.Y., and raised in Ardsley, N.Y., Rogers studied architecture at Kent State University in Ohio. His training showed in his realistic, detailed renditions of Gotham City, collaborators said.

Together, writer Steve Englehart and Rogers produced only six issues, but the works became a reference for future comic artists, and favorites with Batman fans.

Rogers also drew other characters, including the Silver Surfer, Mister Miracle, Dr. Strange, Iron Fist and G.I. Joe. He created two characters, Cap'n Quick and A Foozle.

After a stint with the video game industry in the 1990s, Rogers turned back to comics. A Batman project with Englehart and artist Terry Austin was in the works when Rogers died.


Bill Scott

SEATTLE (AP) -- Bill Scott, who entertained Seattle sports crowds as ''Bill the Beerman'' and later worked as a professional cheerleader and superfan across the country, has died. He was 58.

Scott died Sunday after battling colon cancer for more than five years, wife Katherine Olason said.

He became a Seattle sports fixture in the days when the drab Kingdome hosted the deafening crowds of fans supporting the NFL's Seahawks.

As a beer vendor, Scott's booming voice would both coax customers and encourage fans to cheer. ''Freeze your teeth, and give your tongue a sleigh ride,'' was among his memorable sales pitches.

In the 1980s, Scott dropped the beer tray and took up cheerleading for a living, although he had a different name for the job: ''synergy facilitation.''

Scott was later imported to work the crowd for the NBA's Portland Trailblazers, and the Boise Hawks, a minor-league baseball franchise.

He eventually branched out, working across the country for the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, the Continental Basketball Association and other minor-league baseball parks.


Charlotte Winters

BOONSBORO, Md. (AP) -- Charlotte Winters, the last known surviving American female World War I veteran and a refined Civil War buff who met face-to-face with the secretary of the Navy to fight for women in the military, has died. She was 109.

Winters died Tuesday at a nursing home near Boonsboro in northwest Maryland, the U.S. Naval District in Washington said in a statement. Her death leaves just five known surviving American World War I veterans.

In 1916, Winters met with Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels to persuade him to allow women in the service, said Kelly Auber, who grew up on South Mountain, where Winters and her husband, John Winters, settled.

When the Navy opened support roles to women, Winters and her sister, Sophie, joined immediately in 1917, Auber said. By December 1918, the Naval District said more than 11,000 women had enlisted and were serving in support positions.

Winters served as a secretary and retired in 1953 with the rank of yeoman in the Naval Reserve.

Obituaries in the News, NYT, 29.3.2007,






Obituaries in the News


March 24, 2007
Filed at 7:03 a.m. ET
The New York Times


Robert E. Petersen

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Robert E. Petersen, the publishing magnate whose Hot Rod and Motor Trend magazines helped shape America's car culture and who gave millions to a museum dedicated to his passion, has died. He was 80.

Petersen died Friday of complications from neuroendocrine cancer at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, said Dick Messer, director of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.

''Mr. Petersen helped create and feed the American obsession with the automobile, delivering gasoline-powered dreams to the mailboxes of millions,'' Messer said.

Petersen, the son of an auto mechanic, founded Hot Rod magazine in 1948 while trying to promote the custom-designed car show at the Los Angeles Armory. The following year, he launched Motor Trend for automobile enthusiasts.

A dozen other specialty consumer magazines followed, including Guns & Ammo, Sport, Motorcyclist, Hunting, Mountain Biker, Photographic, Teen and Sassy.

By the time his publishing empire was sold in 1996, Petersen Publishing's annual revenue was about $275 million. He later donated $25 million to pay off the debt of the Peterson Automotive Museum he opened in 1994.


Herman Stein

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Herman Stein, a composer whose music for ''It Came From Outer Space,'' ''Creature from the Black Lagoon,'' and ''The Incredible Shrinking Man'' helped define the dramatic soundtrack of 1950s science fiction and horror movies, has died. He was 91.

Stein died of congestive heart failure at his Los Angeles home on March 15, his record producer, David Schecter, said Friday.

As a staff composer at Universal Studios, Stein collaborated with Henry Mancini and others to create music for nearly 200 movies and shorts, though he didn't get credit for all of his work because of the studio's tendency to give solo credit to a project's music supervisor.

''It was an unwritten rule at Universal that if he wrote less than 80 percent of the score, then his name would not be credited in the picture,'' Schecter said. ''Herman had few credits to his name.''

Nonetheless, Stein has been recognized for writing or co-writing music for an array of movies, from Westerns to comedies to dramas. They include Roger Corman's civil rights drama ''The Intruder'' and Douglas Sirk's comedy ''Has Anybody Seen My Gal?'' His other notable horror film compositions include ''Tarantula'' and ''King Kong vs. Godzilla.''

He also composed music for such television shows as ''Gunsmoke,'' ''Lost in Space,'' and ''Daniel Boone.''


Richard Conway Casey

NEW YORK (AP) -- Richard Conway Casey, who was the nation's first blind federal trial judge and presided over high-profile cases including an abortion-law challenge and the Peter Gotti trial, died Thursday. He was 74.

Casey's death was confirmed by his office. The cause was an apparent heart attack.

Casey was nominated for federal judgeship by President Clinton in 1997, 10 years after he became blind from an inherited degenerative eye disease.

He was a fixture in U.S. District Court in lower Manhattan, arriving each morning with his guide dog, Barney.

Casey sat over several trials that attracted public interest. In addition to the constitutional challenge of the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, he presided over the prosecution of Gotti, the Gambino crime family boss.

Born in Ithaca, Casey played football at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts. After graduating from Georgetown University Law Center, he worked as a federal prosecutor in Manhattan from 1960-1963, winning convictions of three Russian spies.

Some questioned whether a blind judge could accurately assess the credibility of a witness he could not see. Casey said truth could be found by following the facts to see if they string together in a coherent, logical way. He did occasionally swap a trademark case with a colleague because it depended on visual observation.


Carol Richards

VERO BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Singer Carol Richards, who was known for recording ''Silver Bells'' with Bing Crosby, has died, her family said Friday. She was 84.

Richards died of kidney failure March 16 at the Indian River Memorial Hospital in Vero Beach, her husband Edward Swiedler said.

Richards was born as Carol June Vosburgh on June 6, 1922, in Harvard, Ill. She was one of four children of George and Martha Vosburgh.

Richards dubbed the singing voice of actresses in movie musicals including Cyd Charisse with Gene Kelly in ''Brigadoon,'' Swiedler said.

She married Swiedler in 1966 after she moved to the Boston area, he said.


Walter Turnbull

NEW YORK (AP) -- Walter Turnbull, who founded the Boys Choir of Harlem and led the organization to international acclaim and performances at the White House and Vatican, died Friday. He was 62.

Turnbull died in a New York City hospital, said his brother, Horace Turnbull. He said Turnbull had suffered a stroke months earlier.

Turnbull's death marked the latest in a sad string of events for the famed choir, which has been reeling from scandal since a choirboy accused a counselor six years ago of sexually abusing him. City investigators chided Turnbull for his handling of the allegations.

The chairman of the choir's board, former New York Mayor David N. Dinkin, said the board was dedicated to preserving the choir. The renowned institution has fallen into debt, and the 50-boy choir was evicted last year and now has a reduced, mostly volunteer staff.

Born in Greenville, Miss., Turnbull studied music at Tougaloo College and moved to New York to become an opera singer, eventually performing with the New York Philharmonic.

He founded the choir at the Ephesus Church in 1968 and built the after-school program into the 600-student Choir Academy of Harlem, which opened in 1993. The choir has released albums and been heard on the soundtracks of films such as ''Jungle Fever,'' ''Malcolm X'' and ''Glory.''

Beyond its musical training, the choir provides educational and personal counseling each year to hundreds of inner-city children ages 9 to 19.

    Obituaries in the News, NYT, 24.3.2007,






Autopsy Begins

on Anna Nicole Smith


February 9, 2007
The New York Times
Filed at 11:58 a.m. ET


HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) -- A medical examiner began an autopsy Friday on Anna Nicole Smith, whose mother blamed drugs for the former Playboy playmate's sudden death that ended an extraordinary tabloid life at just 39.

''I think she had too many drugs, just like Danny (Smith's late son),'' her mother, Vergie Arthur, told ABC's ''Good Morning America'' on Friday. ''I tried to warn her about drugs and the people that she hung around with. She didn't listen.''

''She was too drugged up,'' Arthur said. ''By the last interview I saw of her, she was so wasted.''

Smith's attorney, Ron Rale, said the one-time reality TV star had been ill for several days with a fever and was still depressed over the death five months ago of her 20-year-old son from what a private medical examiner determined was a combination of methadone and two antidepressants.

On Thursday, authorities say, a private nurse found Smith unconscious in her room at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and called 911. A bodyguard performed CPR, Seminole Police Chief Charlie Tiger said, but Smith was declared dead at a hospital.

Late Thursday, sheriff's deputies carried out at least eight brown paper bags sealed with red evidence tape from Smith's hotel room.

Several detectives are reviewing the hotel surveillance tapes to see if they might provide a clue to what happened, Deputy Police Chief Michael Browne said Friday. He said they had interviewed everyone connected to the death and no one was under suspicion.

''Nothing about this death seems suspicious. We're not treating it that way,'' Browne said. ''We're being very thorough. We're going to look at everything.''

Edwina Johnson, chief investigator for the Broward County Medical Examiner's Office, said an autopsy was under way Friday morning to try to determine the cause of death.

If Smith died of natural causes, the findings will likely be announced quickly, but definitive results could take weeks, said Dr. Joshua Perper, who was performing the autopsy.

''I am not a prophet, and I cannot tell you before the autopsy what I am going to find,'' he said.

Smith's son's death in the Bahamas on Sept. 10 came just a few days after she gave birth to a daughter, Dannielynn, whose custody remains in dispute.

The birth certificate lists Dannielynn's father as attorney Howard K. Stern, Smith's most recent companion, who Rale said was with Smith at the hotel and was too choked up to talk when he called Rale with the news. Smith's ex-boyfriend Larry Birkhead is waging a legal challenge, saying he is the father.

A hearing was scheduled in Los Angeles on Friday at which lawyers were expected to discuss an emergency motion filed by Birkhead's attorney seeking DNA from Smith's body, her attorney Rale said. The reasons for the motion were not immediately clear, but an attorney for Stern, James T. Neavitt, was frustrated.

''There's no question about her being the mother,'' he said. ''So what's the purpose of the DNA testing? Why do they need her DNA?''

Debra Opri, the attorney who filed Birkhead's paternity suit, said only that doctors told her to get a DNA sample, declining to elaborate.

She said Birkhead was devastated. ''He is inconsolable, and we are taking steps now to protect the DNA testing of the child. The child is our No. 1 priority,'' she said.

The baby was being cared for in the Bahamas by the mother of Shane Gibson, the Bahamian immigration minister who is a close friend of Smith's, People magazine reported on its Web site, citing unidentified sources.

A visibly shaken Gibson declined comment as he was leaving his office Thursday night, and he has not responded to several message left by The Associated Press seeking comment.

Through the '90s and into the 21st century, Smith was famous for being famous, a pop-culture punchline because of her up-and-down weight, her Marilyn Monroe looks, her exaggerated curves, her little-girl voice, her ditzy-blonde persona and her over-the-top revealing outfits.

Recently, she lost a reported 69 pounds and became a spokeswoman for TrimSpa, a weight-loss supplement. In recent TV appearances, her speech was often slurred and she seemed out of it. Some critics said she seemed drugged-out.

''Undoubtedly it will be found at the end of the day that drugs featured in her death as they did in the death of poor Daniel,'' said Michael Scott, a former attorney for Smith in the Bahamas.

Rale said he had talked to her on Tuesday or Wednesday, and she had flu symptoms and a fever and was still grieving over her son. He dismissed claims her death was related to drugs as ''a bunch of nonsense.''

''Poor Anna Nicole,'' he said. ''She's been the underdog. She's been besieged ... and she's been trying her best and nobody should have to endure what she's endured.''

The Texas-born Smith was a topless dancer at a strip club before she made the cover of Playboy magazine in 1992. She became Playboy's playmate of the year in 1993. She was also signed to a contract with Guess jeans, appearing in TV commercials, billboards and magazine ads.

In 1994, she married 89-year-old oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II, owner of Great Northern Oil Co. After his death the following year, she engaged in a protracted legal fight with her former stepson, E. Pierce Marshall, over whether she had a right to the estate.

A federal court in California awarded Smith $474 million. That was later overturned. But in May, the U.S. Supreme Court revived her case, ruling that she deserved another day in court.

The stepson died June 20 at age 67, but the family said the court fight would continue.

Smith starred in her own reality TV series, ''The Anna Nicole Show,'' in 2002-04. She also appeared in movies, performing a bit part in ''The Hudsucker Proxy'' in 1994.

Smith was born Vickie Lynn Hogan on Nov. 28, 1967, in Houston, one of six children. Her parents split up when she was a toddler, and she was raised by her mother, a deputy sheriff.

She dropped out after 11th grade after she was expelled for fighting, and worked as a waitress and then a cook at Jim's Krispy Fried Chicken restaurant in Mexia, Texas.

She married 16-year-old fry cook Bill Smith in 1985, giving birth to Daniel before divorcing two years later.


AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch

in Los Angeles

and AP Writers Curt Anderson in Davie, Fla.,

Sarah Larimer in Hollywood, Fla.,

and Ana Beatriz Cholo in Los Angeles

contributed to this report.

    Autopsy Begins on Anna Nicole Smith, NYT, 9.2.2007,






Sad end to a troubled life


Updated 2/8/2007
11:08 PM ET
USA Today
By Ann Oldenburg


She came from nothing, but she lived bigger than most.

A small-town girl who was determined to make something of herself, Anna Nicole Smith had the quintessential train-wreck life: intriguing, eye-popping, tragic.

The high school dropout-turned-dazzler, who died Thursday at 39 in a hospital in Hollywood, Fla., was fascinating to celebrity watchers — not because she was an A-list star but because she was an unpredictable blond bombshell who was always in the middle of controversy.

She married a billionaire 60 years her senior and then battled his heirs over the estate, ending with a victory at the Supreme Court.

The world watched as she battled her weight, gaining, losing, then gaining again.

She became a TV star, riding the reality show mania, in a series that offered a candid look at how a celebrity lived.

In a span of days, she gave birth to a daughter, and her 20-year-old son was found dead in her recovery room. Now Dannielynn, 5 months, is without a mother, and her father's identity is uncertain.

Smith's former lawyer Lenard Leeds told TMZ.com it's no secret that Smith "had a very troubled life" and added that she had "so many, many problems."

Still, she flirted and laughed her way through life.

"She was light and fluffy," Tom O'Neill of In Touch Weekly said on CNN late Thursday.

Said Rob Chilton, features director of OK! magazine: "She was a great pop icon, almost like a cartoon character."

Shots of her on red carpets vamping like her childhood idol Marilyn Monroe ran on cable news channels for hours after the news broke Thursday, proof that Smith had achieved her goal of finding a place in the spotlight.

Smith made everyone laugh along with her — and at her — until it just wasn't funny anymore.

At 17, she met Billy Smith, a co-worker at Jim's Krispy Fried Chicken, and they had baby Daniel. Two years later, they divorced. She began working at topless bars in Houston to pay the bills.

Her nickname was "Sweet Cheeks." Though her body was voluptuous, her breasts weren't, and she was allowed to work only the afternoon shift.

Still, she believed she was destined for greater things.

The first order of business: breast implants. In 1991, at 24, she entered a Playboy contest and won. In 1992, she listed her "turn-ons" as "Men who wear braces, cowboys! I also get off on scary movies." In 1993, she was Playmate of the Year. (Founder Hugh Hefner issued a statement Thursday saying he was "saddened" by the news of Smith's death.)

After that, she was offered a modeling job for Guess? jeans.

"I didn't know what Guess? jeans were," she told People magazine in an interview at the time. "I just shopped at Wal-Mart and Kmart and stuff like that."

In 1994 she made her big-screen debut in Naked Gun 331/3: The Final Insult.

Anyone who didn't happen to see that movie had probably heard of her anyway: It was the same time she married oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II, who was in a wheelchair and more than 60 years her senior. They had met years earlier when she was an exotic dancer.

Though branded a gold digger, she seemed to have found happiness with her husband.

When she was defending her marriage to Marshall, she told In Touch: "Nobody has ever respected me or done things for me. So when Howard came along, it was a blessing."

But the blessing was short-lived. His death less than two years later, in 1995, left behind a fortune estimated at $1.6 billion. She was still fighting for a share of the money when she died.

Smith battled her weight and struggled with other addictions. She acknowledged that she had a problem with prescription drugs.

Her wild behavior was on display on The Anna Nicole Show, her often-bawdy reality series that aired on E! from 2002 to 2003. But it also showed her softer side.

Children and dogs — she had a toy poodle named Sugar Pie — were her true loves. Her son, Daniel, whom she raised as a single mother, was often by her side.

"I don't have any good memories from Christmas when I was a girl," Smith told People in 2004. "So I tried to make them special for Daniel. We never missed a trip to the mall to see Santa to take pictures."

Gabriel Rotello, who directed a 2003 Showtime documentary about Smith, said in People: "Even her most vehement detractors reluctantly admitted that she was a good mother. Daniel was just a really well-adjusted, smart kid."

She was devastated by his death Sept. 10. The cause, as determined by a medical examiner, was an accidental interaction of methadone and two antidepressants.

Last November in an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Smith said: "I'll never accept that (Daniel is) gone. I don't understand why God took him and didn't take me."

Since then, Smith's troubles seemed to double.

She was hospitalized for pneumonia for a week in November. She was sued, along with diet-supplement company TrimSpa — for which she has been a spokeswoman and a model client — in a class-action lawsuit that claimed the company's marketing of a weight-loss pill was false or misleading.

Dannielynn is the subject of a DNA test battle with Smith's former boyfriend, Larry Birkhead, who says he is the father of the child. Smith's longtime friend and lawyer, Howard K. Stern — with whom Smith shared a commitment ceremony on Sept. 28 in the Bahamas — also says he is the girl's father.

Considering her difficult life — and especially her recent past — few were surprised at Thursday's news.

"I am very, very sad, but I am not shocked," Smith's former publicist, David Granoff, told MSNBC. He had seen Smith on television Wednesday, "and she had no spark any more."

But Smith's star tale is far from over.

"This is a massive story," OK! magazine's Chilton says. "We'll now see all the stories about how she died and loads of conspiracy stories and loads of rumors about was it drink or drugs?"

And, he says, her memory will be that of someone who was a larger-than-life celebrity.

"She really was a celebrity. That sums her up perfectly. She had loads of charisma, and she was always doing something crazy. There was always an Anna Nicole Smith story floating around."


Contributing: Karen Thomas

Sad end to a troubled life, UT, 8.2.2007,
anna-nicole-collapse_x.htm#go - broken link






World's oldest person

dies in U.S. at 114


Mon Jan 29, 2007
9:01 AM ET


BOSTON (Reuters) - A Connecticut woman who just last week set a record as the world's oldest person has died, her great-nephew said on Monday. She was 114.

Emma Faust Tillman died Sunday night in the Hartford, Connecticut nursing home where she had lived for the last four years, said John Stewart Jr.

Tillman was born on November 22, 1892, near Greensboro, North Carolina. The child of former slaves, she was one of 23 children in a long-lived family. Three of her sisters and a brother lived past 100.

But Tillman's longevity topped them all. She lived independently until the age of 110. In the nursing home, she spent much of her time caring for an ailing roommate who was more than 20 years her junior.

"Her comment is always, 'If you want to know about longevity and why I lived so long, ask the man upstairs,'" Stewart said in an interview last week after Guinness World Records confirmed Tillman was the world's oldest person.

Tillman never smoked, drank or wore eyeglasses, Stewart said. For a time, Tillman worked as a servant for American actress Katharine Hepburn, he noted.

She is survived by an 80-year-old daughter, Marjorie, and a large number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Stewart said.

According to the International Committee on Supercentenarians, the world's next oldest person is Yone Minagama, 114, of Japan.

Guinness World Records by Monday had not verified that claim, according to spokeswoman Amarilis Espinoza.

World's oldest person dies in U.S. at 114, R, 29.1.2007, http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?






Oldest person dies aged 116


Tuesday December 12, 2006
Guardian Unlimited
Associated Press


Elizabeth "Lizzie" Bolden, recognised as the world's oldest person, has died. She was 116.

Born on August 15, 1890, according to the Gerontology Research Group, a Los Angeles organisation that tracks the ages of the world's oldest people, she died yesterday in a nursing home.

Family members said this year that Ms Bolden had 40 grandchildren, 75 great-grandchildren, 150 great-great-grandchildren, 220 great-great-great grandchildren and 75 great-great-great-great grandchildren.

Guinness World Records recognised her as the oldest person in the world in August after the death of Maria Esther de Capovilla of Ecuador, who also was 116.

She died at a nursing home where she had been living for several years. Ms Bolden had suffered a stroke in 2004, and her family said she spoke little after that and slept much of the time.

Emiliano Mercado del Toro, 115, of Puerto Rico is now expected assume the title of world's oldest person, said Robert Young, a Guinness researcher. The Gerontology Research Group lists Mr Toro's date of birth as Aug. 21, 1891.

Oldest person dies aged 116, G, 12.12.2006,






Obituaries in the News


October 6, 2006
The New York Times
Filed at 12:04 a.m. ET


Gary Comer

CHICAGO (AP) -- Gary C. Comer, founder of the Lands' End casual clothing company, died Wednesday. He was 78.

Comer, who grew up on Chicago's South Side, died after a long battle with cancer, according to a statement from University of Chicago Hospitals.

Comer founded Lands' End in the early 1960s and stepped down as president in 1990. He remained chairman of the board and the majority stockholder until the company was sold to Sears, Roebuck & Co. in May 2002.

Only after 10 years as an advertising copywriter did a 33-year-old Comer decide to start his own company. In 1962, he launched a mail-order sailing equipment business. He and his partners incorporated Lands' End Yacht Stores a year later in Chicago.

Comer moved the company's warehouse and phone operations to Dodgeville, Wis., in 1978. In 1986, Lands' End went public.

Comer was known for his philanthropy.

He and his wife, Frances, made several donations over the past 10 years totaling more than $84 million. The gifts led to the creation and expansion of the University of Chicago's Comer Children's Hospital.


Tamara Dobson

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Tamara Dobson, the tall, stunning model-turned-actress who portrayed a strong female role as Cleopatra Jones in two ''blaxploitation'' films, died Monday. She was 59.

Dobson died of complications from pneumonia and multiple sclerosis at the Keswick Multi-Care Center, where she had lived for the past two years, her publicist said.

At 6 feet 2, Dobson was striking as the kung-fu fighting government agent Cleopatra Jones in 1973. She reprised the role in 1975's ''Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold.''

Dobson also appeared in ''Come Back, Charleston Blue,'' ''Norman, Is That You?'' ''Murder at the World Series'' and ''Chained Heat.''

She had TV roles in the early 1980s in ''Jason of Star Command'' and ''Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.''

Dobson lived most of her adult life in New York, her family said. She was diagnosed six years ago with multiple sclerosis.


Sally Gray

LONDON (AP) -- Sally Gray, the spirited, husky-voiced British star of the 1930s and 40s who turned down a lucrative Hollywood contract, died Sept. 24, her family said. She was 90.

Gray, who became Lady Oranmore and Browne when she married into the aristocracy, died at her London home.

Gray's appearance in two RKO productions in Britain -- ''The Saint in London'' (1939) and ''The Saint's Vacation'' (1941) -- persuaded the Hollywood studio to offer her a contract.

But she turned it down, saying she preferred to stay in England.

Born Constance Vera Stevens in north London, Gray trained at the Fay Compton School of Dramatic Art and was spotted by John Gliddon, the agent who discovered Vivien Leigh, at age 18 when she appeared in the chorus of a musical, ''Jill Darling,'' in 1934.

She was soon taking lead roles in musicals, appearing as Miss America in Olympic Honeymoon (1936), ''Lightning Conductor'' (1938) with Gordon Harker and with Lupino Lane in ''Lambeth Walk'' (1940).

One of her best-known roles was as the cheating wife of a psychiatrist in ''Obsession'' (1949).


George King

George King, the former NBA player who coached West Virginia and Purdue and had a long run as the Boilermakers' athletic director, died Thursday. He was 78.

King died in Naples, Fla., Purdue announced on its athletic Web site.

King was born in Charleston, attended Stonewall Jackson High and starred at Morris Harvey College. The 6-foot guard played six seasons with the NBA's Syracuse Nationals and Cincinnati Royals.

In Game 7 of the 1955 NBA Finals between Syracuse and Fort Wayne, King made the go-ahead free throw with 12 seconds left, then stole the ball to preserve the title, the first of the shot-clock era.

King was head coach at his alma mater for one season in 1956-57, became an assistant coach at West Virginia University the following year and took the head coaching job when Fred Schaus followed WVU standout Jerry West to the Los Angeles Lakers. King was credited with integrating WVU's basketball team. He compiled a 102-43 record in five seasons as WVU coach, earning two Southern Conference titles and three NCAA tournament bids.

The two-time state amateur athlete of the year was inducted into athletic halls of fame at Purdue and the University of Charleston, the successor to Morris Harvey College.


J. Patrick Lyons

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- J. Patrick Lyons, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress seven times and mounted legal challenges against opponents in those races, died Thursday. He was 62.

Lyons died at Middle Tennessee Medical Center, a representative of the Feldhaus Memorial Chapel said.

Lyons sought the Democratic nomination for the 4th District House seat in 1992 but was defeated in the primary by Rep. Jim Cooper.

He ran as an independent in 1994, 1996 and 2000 for the seat and as an independent in 2002 and 2004 in the 6th District. He ran in the 6th District Democratic primary this year and was defeated by U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon.

Lyons sued Van Hilleary, who served as 4th District congressman from 1995 to 2003, claiming that Hilleary's membership in the National Guard made him ineligible to hold a congressional seat.

Lyons also claimed in a lawsuit against Gordon that an incumbent congressman could not succeed himself. A hearing on the lawsuit was scheduled for Oct. 13.

Lyons, who was a veteran, was self-taught on legal issues but was not a lawyer.


Oskar Pastior

BERLIN (AP) -- Oskar Pastior, a Romanian-born German writer who was celebrated for his creative use of language, died Thursday, his publisher said. He was 78.

Pastior died in Frankfurt, where he was visiting the annual book fair, said Christine Knecht, a spokeswoman for the Carl Hanser Verlag publishing house.

Among Pastior's early works was ''Offne Worte'' published in 1964; he made his literary debut in Germany in 1969 with ''Vom Sichersten ins Tausendste,'' a collection of poems.

Pastior was born on Oct. 20, 1927 in the Transylvanian city of Sibiu, where he lived as a member of the German-speaking minority.

After being interned in Soviet labor camps following World War II, he returned to communist Romania in 1949 and studied German at the University of Bucharest. He worked in radio before turning to writing.

Pastior fled to West Germany during a study trip to Vienna, Austria, in 1968 and settled in West Berlin. He had been working on a book about his time in Soviet labor camps at the time of his death.

    Obituaries in the News, NYT, 6.10.2006,


















Rodney Gordon, father of Army Sgt. David W. Gordon,

weeps after he was handed a flag from his son's casket

on Friday in Oil City, Pa.

Gordon was killed Sept. 8 in Iraq

when an improvised explosive device detonated

near his vehicle.


Photograph By Jerry Sowden



War price on U.S. lives equal to 9/11



http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2006-09-22-war-toll_x.htm - broken link
















War price on U.S. lives equal to 9/11


Posted 9/22/2006
9:48 PM ET
The New York Times


WASHINGTON (AP) — Now the death toll is 9/11 times two. U.S. military deaths from Iraq and Afghanistan now match those of the most devastating terrorist attack in America's history, the trigger for what came next. Add casualties from chasing terrorists elsewhere in the world, and the total has passed the Sept. 11 figure.

The latest milestone for a country at war came Friday without commemoration. It came without the precision of knowing who was the 2,973rd man or woman of arms to die in conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. The terrorist attacks killed 2,973 victims in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

The Pentagon's report Friday night of the latest death from Iraq, an as-yet unidentified soldier killed a day earlier after his vehicle was hit by a roadside bombing in eastern Baghdad, brought the U.S. death toll in Iraq to 2,695. Combined with 278 U.S. deaths in and around Afghanistan, the 9/11 toll was reached.

Not for the first time, war that was started to answer death has resulted in at least as much death for the country that was first attacked, quite apart from the higher numbers of enemy and civilians killed.

Historians note that this grim accounting is not how the success or failure of warfare is measured, and that the reasons for conflict are broader than what served as the spark.

The body count from World War II was far higher for Allied troops than for the crushed Axis. Americans lost more men in each of a succession of Pacific battles than the 2,390 people who died at Pearl Harbor in the attack that made the U.S. declare war on Japan. The U.S. lost 405,399 in the theaters of World War II.

Despite a death toll that pales next to that of the great wars, one casualty milestone after another has been observed and reflected upon this time, especially in Iraq.

There was the benchmark of seeing more U.S. troops die in the occupation than in the swift and successful invasion. And the benchmarks of 1,000 dead, 2,000, 2,500.

Now this.

"There's never a good war but if the war's going well and the overall mission remains powerful, these numbers are not what people are focusing on," said Julian Zelizer, a political historian at Boston University. "If this becomes the subject, then something's gone wrong."

Beyond the tribulations of the moment and the now-rampant doubts about the justification and course of the Iraq war, Zelizer said Americans have lost firsthand knowledge of the costs of war that existed keenly up to the 1960s, when people remembered two world wars and Korea, and faced Vietnam.

"A kind of numbness comes from that," he said. "We're not that country anymore — more bothered, more nervous. This isn't a country that's used to ground wars anymore."

Almost 10 times more Americans have died in Iraq than in Afghanistan, where U.S. casualties have been remarkably light by any historical standard, although climbing in recent months in the face of a resurgent Taliban.

The Pentagon reports 56 military deaths and one civilian Defense Department death in other parts of the world from Operation Enduring Freedom, the anti-terrorism war distinct from Iraq.

Altogether, 3,030 have died abroad since Sept. 11, 2001.

The civilian toll in Iraq hit record highs in the summer, with 6,599 violent deaths reported in July and August alone, the United Nations said this week.

Among the latest U.S. deaths identified by the armed forces:

•Army 2nd Lt. Emily J.T. Perez, 23, Fort Washington, Md., who died Sept. 12 in Kifl, Iraq, from an explosive device detonated near her vehicle. A former high school sprinter who sang in her West Point gospel choir, she was assigned to the 204th Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

•Marine Sgt. Christopher M. Zimmerman, 28, Stephenville, Texas, killed Wednesday in Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

A new study on the war dead and where they come from suggests that the notion of "rich man's war, poor man's fight" has become a little truer over time.

Among the Americans killed in the Iraq war, 34% have come from communities reporting the lowest levels of family income. Half come from middle income communities and only 17% from the highest income level.

That's a change from World War II, when all income groups were represented about equally. In Korea, Vietnam and Iraq, the poor have made up a progressively larger share of casualties, by this analysis.

Eye-for-an-eye vengeance was not the sole motivator for what happened after the 2001 attacks any more than Pearl Harbor alone was responsible for all that followed. But Pearl Harbor caught the U.S. in the middle of mobilization, debate, rising tensions with looming enemies and a European war already in progress. Historians doubt anyone paid much attention to sad milestones once America threw itself into the fight.

In contrast, the United States had no imminent war intentions against anyone on Sept. 10, 2001. One bloody day later, it did.

War price on U.S. lives equal to 9/11, UT, 22.9.2006,
war-toll_x.htm - broken link






American Album

Body Collector in Detroit

Answers When Death Calls


September 18, 2006
The New York Times


DETROIT — With all the spectacular ways to die in this dying city, the fate of a man named Allan was almost pathetic. There he lay, in a weedy lot on the notorious East Side, next to a liquor bottle, his pockets turned out.

But as it goes with such things, one man’s misery is another man’s money. The body retrievalist for the county morgue had arrived on the scene. He was happy. He sang strange little ditties. Cracked odd little jokes. Said things like: “We got plenty of room in this here van, yes sir.”

Do not judge him. A happy attitude is necessary in his profession. It keeps the mind from shattering, salts one’s sanity. Call the job dirty. Call it 14 bucks the hard way — $14 a human body, $9 an animal. He said he made $14,000 last year. He made most of it at night.

His tax forms officially read “body technician.” Unofficially, Mike Thomas calls himself body snatcher, grim reaper, night stalker, bag man. Whatever you call it, it is one man’s life.

For Mr. Thomas, the demise of Allan was a cheerful occasion because, you see, work had been dead. There had been an odd lull in homicides, suicides and even natural passings here in one of the most violent American cities. It was the height of summer and people were supposed to be outside and killing each other, dropping dead from sunstroke, etc. Mr. Thomas wondered how he was going to feed his children the next week.

“I ain’t making nothing on these bodies,” he said on his porch, the screen door half gone. “I know that’s kind of weird to hear; I mean waiting around for somebody to die. Wishing for somebody to die. But that’s how it is. That’s how I feed my babies.”

He is happy to have the job, there are so few in Detroit. Unemployment hovers around 14 percent, more than twice the national average, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. The slow death of the car industry has led to the slow death of the blue-collar Motor City and now the State of Michigan in general. About 300,000 jobs have disappeared from the state since 2000 and another 65,000 factory jobs are expected to be gone by next year. Mostly car-related jobs.

One of the few people working long hours most weeks, it seems, is Mr. Thomas.

There used to be money in Detroit. Known in the 50’s as the Paris of the Midwest, it had a population of 1.8 million, 83 percent white. It now has fewer than 900,000 and is 83 percent black. It is the poorest big city in the nation, with a third of the population living below the poverty line.

Detroit is an annual competitor for the ignominious title of Murder Capital. Last year there were 359 homicides. Halfway through this year, there were 220. There are about 10,000 unsolved homicides dating back to 1960.

Mr. Thomas, 34, subscribes to a simple theory: Unemployment leads to drugs. Drugs lead to misplaced passion. Misplaced passion leads to death. And that’s where he comes in.

“There’s 360 ways to die, and I done seen them all,” he said, dressed in black, waiting on a hot evening to be summoned to the latest body. “I seen an old lady standing dead at her stove, her purse hanging on her elbow. I done picked up the pieces of a man who stepped in front of a train. I done picked up people just around this corner, here, from my house.”

People he knew. People from his neighborhood, like Steve, who Mr. Thomas said should have known better than to rob a stripper. Like a prophet on the hill, Mr. Thomas explained the meaning not of life, but of death to guys from the neighborhood congregated on the porch, who robbed the beer truck in the afternoon and so came bearing gifts.

“You see,” he begins, “80 percent of people die naked and 70 percent die in the toilet. That means most people die naked in the toilet. I can’t explain it. It’s like Elvis. But as far as the afterlife goes, I believe through what I seen that those who commit horror and sin are doomed to repeat life, which is hell.”

He is a macabre observer of the economic times. Mr. Thomas and some of his workmates say they notice some disturbing trends. By midyear, 8,559 people had died in Wayne County, which includes Detroit, and more and more, technicians see bodies remaining in the cooler longer because family members don’t come to pick them up. They attribute this to the breakdown of family values as well as the lack of financial resources of people to bury their loved ones.

According to state statistics, the vast majority of homicides occur in the predominately black city, and the preponderance of suicides occur in the mostly white suburbs.

“My theory?” Mr. Thomas offered. “White people kill themselves. Black people kill each other. Chinese people don’t die.”

“True, true,” shouted one young pilgrim, though no sighting of a white or Chinese man could be made within a 20-block radius of the porch.

Michael Thomas was born in rural Alabama in 1972 and moved with his family to Detroit a year later when Coleman A. Young was the city’s first black mayor. Like most people in the city — black, white or Arab — the Thomas family came for the factory jobs and achieved the middle-class life. Mr. Thomas grew up on the East Side, raised through his teenage years by a white stepfather, for whom he was always having to go to fists with the other black kids in the neighborhood. He is short and broad-shouldered.

After graduating from high school, Mr. Thomas was sent to prison at the age of 17 for carjacking. He served four years, kept to himself, got out safely and worked a string of hamburger jobs until his uncle connected him with the job at the morgue five years ago. He supports three children and has a fledgling rap career on the side. The autobiographical song “Transporters” is a neat little trick that can be found on the Web (www.myspace.com/gangstaclyde).

“One thing my stepfather taught me was the value of work,” Mr. Thomas said on his way to another scene. “A man who don’t have work don’t feel much like a man. A man without work, well, he takes the only way he can and that’s usually no good.”

A call came from the southwest side of town, with its Tudor style homes with brick and aluminum siding. A man had killed himself. He was white. Early 50’s. He had lost his job at the boat yard earlier that day, a detective said. He came home, drank himself into a depression and put a bullet in his head — the second white man to kill himself this day.

It was a sad, quiet scene on the street. The man’s family standing there silently stunned. Cans of cheap beer in their hands.

Mr. Thomas was sanguine. “We got plenty of room.”

Body Collector in Detroit Answers When Death Calls,


















A memorial sits in front of the home

of U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow in Chicago.


Lefkow's husband and mother

were murdered in the home

in February 2005.


The number of threats

against judges in fiscal year 2005

increased 63% from 2003.


Photograph: Getty Images, March 2005


25 July 2006


Threats up against federal judges


26 July 2006

2006-07-26-judges-cover_x.htm - broken link

















Daughters of Dominggus Pasalbessy

with Henry Fersko-Weiss,

who helped guide them

as Mr. Pasalbessy neared death.


Photograph: James Estrin

The New York Times


For the Families of the Dying,

Coaching as the Hours Wane


20 May 2006


















Mr. Fersko-Weiss, a hospice executive,

joined the Pasalbessy daughters

for a "closure session"

at the apartment of one.


Photograph: James Estrin

The New York Times


For the Families of the Dying,

Coaching as the Hours Wane


May 20, 2006
















For the Families of the Dying,

Coaching as the Hours Wane

May 20, 2006

The New York Times



Greg Torso's death announced itself with a long exhale and then silence, as the breath literally left his body. His mother had been told to expect this, so she was not scared.

Ms. Torso had worried that an undertaker would barge in moments after her 42-year-old son died, before she had had time to say goodbye. She had been assured she could spend as much time with the body as she wanted.

Could she bathe and dress him? Save a lock of his hair? Commemorate his passing with wine and reminiscence at the bedside? All of that was fine, she had been told, setting the stage for a death that she later said had left her "on the edge of euphoria."

Ms. Torso was coached and consoled through the final days and hours of her son's life, a rarity even under the umbrella of hospice, which for three decades has promised Americans a good death, pain-free, peaceful and shared with loved ones at home.

But there is a growing realization that hospice has its limitations. Doctors, nurses, social workers, clerics and volunteers are rarely there for the final hours, known as active dying, when a family may need their comforts the most.

Now those final moments are a focus of new attention as hospices broaden their range of services, inspired by a growing body of research on the very end of life. More are encouraging the calming properties of music, meditation, aromatherapy and massage for both patients and families. Some are increasing the training for so-called 11th-hour companions who families can request be with them.

Holding a dying person's hand may be frightening for a loved one alone at the bedside. Relatives and friends may not know that hearing is the last sense to go, and neglect to soothe the patient with a steady, reassuring murmur. Leaving the room briefly may mean missing the moment of passing and always carrying that regret.

"These final moments matter, but often, when families and patients need us most — to explain the process, calm the situation, take away the negative energy and allow them to be more present — we aren't there," said Henry Fersko-Weiss, vice president for counseling services at Continuum Hospice Care in New York City, which has a new program that has been keeping vigil with the dying and their families.

The American hospice movement has grown from one program in 1974 to 3,650 in 2004, serving eight million Americans, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. And more people are expected to choose hospice care as it extends its reach into hospitals and nursing homes, where palliative care is not routinely available. At the same time, those who seek aggressive treatment up to the end are welcome at hospice programs that once turned them away but that are now "open access."

Despite all these changes, most people, in fear or denial, wait until the last minute to enroll. That robs them of the preparation that was so vital to Greg Torso's mother, Carol, and that hospice leaders, like Andy Duncan of the national organization, say should be routine.

"Actually coaching and counseling people through the time of active dying," Mr. Duncan said, "is something we hope to convince every hospice in the nation to do."



The Torsos were the first to use Continuum's vigil program, which has coached and consoled a dozen families in its first year.

Greg had survived 15 years with AIDS and related cancers. When his doctor said further treatment would be useless, Mr. Torso enrolled in hospice, and welcomed extra help from Mr. Fersko-Weiss and 29 specially trained volunteers who call themselves doulas.

That is a Greek term for women who serve, more commonly at home births to assist both midwife and mother. But the guiding philosophy is the same and borrows from Eastern religions: to honor the end of life as well as the beginning.

Mr. Fersko-Weiss is a gentle man who insinuates himself slowly. When he first described the dying process to Ms. Torso, she found it hard to listen. So they shifted gears, talking about Greg's life and looking at photos of him in better days.

On a subsequent visit, Ms. Torso sought reassurance that she would not "just fall apart." On another, Mr. Fersko-Weiss told her there might come a moment when she would have to give her son explicit permission to die. She did — "You can go, Greggy. You can go whenever you want" — toward the end of what would be a 68-hour vigil, involving 10 doulas (pronounced DOO-lehs).

Gwen Lee's needs were different as she prepared for the passing of her eldest sister, Vivienne, who died at 60 after a 10-year battle with brain cancer.

Years of pretending that all was fine had given way, for both of them, flight attendants from Ireland, to acceptance. As Gwen put it, "We were prepared for the end of her life, but no one else was." Some friends and relatives began second-guessing the decisions, arguing at Viv's bedside, arriving uninvited and creating a "soap opera," Gwen said, "where we were left trying to keep them happy."

It is not uncommon, hospice workers say, for those not involved in day-to-day care to bring their own fears and conflict to the deathbed and inadvertently become a burden. Into the tumult came Mr. Fersko-Weiss, a Buddhist whose religion says that "what happens to the soul is partly determined by how it leaves this life." The scene of death, he said, is a "sacred space," and the doula's job is to protect it.

To that end, he and Gwen, 51, considered moving Vivienne, and her two beloved cats, to an in-patient hospice where they could control who visited. Just knowing there was a fallback position reassured them.

"It made all the difference," Gwen said. "Henry pulled me out of the chaos and kept my head on the goal."


The Vigil

Chloe Tartaglia, a pre-med student, yoga teacher and former birth doula, had never seen anyone die when she volunteered for the vigil program.

She learned the signs of imminent death in her 16-hour training program, how to match her breathing to the patient's and use visualization and aromatherapy to calm everyone in the room. On the subway, headed to her first case, Ms. Tartaglia, whose father was a hospice physician, concentrated on her goal: to be "like water and flow to the place where there's need."

She found herself in a shabby apartment near New York University. A tiny woman lay in bed, wasting away from "failure to thrive," Ms. Tartaglia had been told. The woman's husband was terrified, venturing into the room only to give her morphine, as he had been instructed by hospice nurses.

The woman's daughter, none too fond of her stepfather, was at work, having left behind a phone number. Ms. Tartaglia pulled a chair to the bedside.

For five hours, Ms. Tartaglia said, she sat beside the woman and held her hand "with intention," as she had been taught, enclosing it between her own. She had no sense of time passing until her shift was about to end.

"I told her I'd be leaving soon but that someone else was coming and she wouldn't be alone," Ms. Tartaglia said.

Five minutes later the woman died.

Ms. Tartaglia called the daughter, who arrived calm and efficient, ready for the logistics that follow death. "I can't deal with him," she told Ms. Tartaglia as the old man keened.

Ms. Tartaglia guided him into the kitchen and fixed tea. "You deal with yourself and your mom," she told the daughter. Ms. Tartaglia followed her heart and suggested a deathbed ritual. As she slipped from the apartment, the daughter was combing her mother's hair.

There would be more vigils for Ms. Tartaglia. One of the most memorable, she said, included the chance to hear Gwen Lee take her sister on whispered journeys to places Vivienne had most loved in the days when being a stewardess was glamorous.

With one of Vivienne's cats at her head and the other draped over her legs, Gwen would set the scene: An overnight flight to Africa. Glaring sun as the cabin doors open. Days between flights to romp at the beach with captain and crew.

While Gwen soothed her sister, Ms. Tartaglia lighted candles. She massaged Gwen's feet, helped choose the music for Vivienne's grand exit, Sarah Brightman singing "Time to Say Goodbye."

Ms. Tartaglia's shift ended three hours before Vivienne died. As she left, Ms. Tartaglia removed the oxygen mask that was intended to make Vivienne more comfortable but was chafing her face.


The Aftermath

A month to the day after Dominggus Pasalbessy died, Mr. Fersko-Weiss visited the three daughters who had cared for him. This was a formal opportunity for Pat Jolly, 62, Helen Santiago, 58, and Anita Pasalbessy, 55, to review their experience. After a death, Mr. Fersko-Weiss told them, "something said or not said, something you wish you had done differently, can stick inside you like a splinter."

The lights were low in Ms. Pasalbessy's Riverside Drive apartment, and Mr. Fersko-Weiss suggested a CD their father had loved, music from the South Moluccan islands, now part of Indonesia, the native land he had left as a teenager on a tramp steamer. The sisters sat for a brief meditation, letting the bustle of their day be replaced with images of their father, who died of lung cancer in the same bed where his wife had died a dozen years earlier.

All three described feeling peaceful and reverent at the time of his passing. It was like being "inside a cocoon," Ms. Pasalbessy said, "just me and my sisters, and Daddy, all together, in a place where nothing bad could touch us."

Only when pressed did each recall her particular moment of distress.

Ms. Pasalbessy agonized that she had compromised the independence of a man who "never wanted to be fussed over." Mr. Fersko-Weiss reminded her that eventually her father had stopped resisting his daughters' ministrations and had told them, "You're good girls, such good girls."

Ms. Jolly's concern was whether they had adequately medicated him. But her father's mantra had been "mind over matter." Perhaps, Mr. Fersko-Weiss suggested, he chose a measure of pain, rather than unawareness, as an assertion of strength.

Ms. Santiago had trouble forgetting the sisters' squabbling as they tried to dress him, three strong-willed women each with her own idea of how to get his arm through a pajama sleeve. "He had to have felt our tension, our nervousness," she said. "But that's when you guys walked in and everything fell into place."

Three doulas were with the family, in shifts, from dusk on April 9 until late afternoon on April 11. At 3:10 p.m., after a telltale rattling in his chest, Mr. Pasalbessy let out a breath. Then another, as two tears trickled down his cheek.

"It was like we could hear you talking to us," Ms. Jolly told Mr. Fersko-Weiss. " 'You'll see this. You'll hear a certain breathing pattern.' This dying was such a wonderful experience, if death can be that. And it's because there was no fear of the unknown."

For the Families of the Dying, Coaching as the Hours Wane,






The Horrid Death

of Milton Rocano,

Unseen and Unnoticed


April 27, 2006
The New York Times


Few saw Milton Rocano during the short time he lived in this city, and no one saw him die, a death horrible in its circumstances and its sheer isolation, its invisibility.

Mr. Rocano, an employee at a privately owned recycling-transfer station in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, climbed into the rear of an empty open-top tractor-trailer on Saturday morning and was buried alive in an avalanche of debris dumped by a co-worker who did not know he was there, the police said. The truck later dumped the debris, and Mr. Rocano's body, in a landfill in Suffolk County, where it was found three days later, after the company and the police had tracked it there.

Even by the standards of New York City, where anonymous people often die in extraordinary ways, this death stands out for all the little things that did not happen: the worker who killed Mr. Rocano by all accounts never knew it. If Mr. Rocano did shout, no one heard him in the din. At the company's offices on Anthony Street, a large window looks straight down into the area where the truck had been. But no one was looking through it on Saturday morning.

A camera recorded the accident, but the images were not seen until two days later. Mr. Rocano, 20, was not missed as the shift changed. No one noticed that he had not used his time card to punch out in a dusty, harried corner of Brooklyn, rumbling with Brooklyn-Queens Expressway traffic from above and big trucks that come and go all day, a place where it is as hard to breathe as it is to hear.

"It's part of the city that people don't see," said Paul D. Casowitz, a lawyer for the recycling center, City Recycling Corporation. "The gritty part. Everyone sees the trucks. No one wonders where they go."

Mr. Rocano's sister Maria Rocano said as much herself yesterday, but her words were packed with fury: "It's like he was a dog that was just finished off."

Mr. Rocano was the fifth of six siblings born and raised in Ecuador, and the third to move to New York City to earn some money, arriving six months ago. He shared an apartment with roommates in Sunnyside, Queens, and spent most of his free time with his sisters, Maria and Ana Rocano, who live in Brooklyn. When he was not with them, they said, he was probably in church, a man so faithful that he was known to write letters to God.

"He always included God in everything," said Ana Rocano.

One of his roommates was Miguel Coronel, 34, a livery-cab driver from Ecuador. "Oh, what a nice guy," Mr. Coronel said in an interview at his apartment yesterday. "He never drinks, he never goes outside. A quiet, nice guy."

Mr. Rocano quickly found work at City Recycling, just across Newtown Creek from his home in Queens. It is a bustling transfer station, where debris — mostly from construction sites — is dropped, sorted and trucked out again. No garbage or chemicals are dumped at the site, and nothing stays for long.

Tractor-trailers wait in line to back into one of the company's two loading and unloading areas, where a device called a grapple snatches debris from the full trucks and drops it into a pile. On clear days, workers spray the piles with water to keep the dust down. Truck drivers waiting their turn eat quiet lunches behind the wheel.

When a truck is emptied, workers in bright orange vests and hardhats climb up the sides and drop inside to clean up the scraps. That was Mr. Rocano's job. His first impressions of the place were not good and did not improve.

"It was tiring and he was exhausted, and he spoke of that," said a friend, Luis Amon, 24. "It was dirty work he did not want to do forever."

As he did on every day that he worked, he left his apartment at 5 a.m. on Saturday. He died about six hours later, Mr. Casowitz said, basing his estimate on a time stamp on one of the company's several surveillance cameras, which read 11:07 a.m. Mr. Casowitz said he had seen the recording, and he described it as follows:

Mr. Rocano, for reasons Mr. Casowitz said were unknown, climbed into an empty truck, which is not standard procedure. No one saw him enter the truck.

A large front-end loader approached. "The loading commences, and he's struck with debris," Mr. Casowitz said. "You see him in there, and the debris. He's covered in debris." The loader operator, who could not have seen inside the truck, dropped two more loads, and the truck left. The company did not identify the loader operator, but he is "understandably very upset," Mr. Casowitz said.

When Mr. Rocano did not come home, his worried sisters visited the company on Monday, they said. Ana Rocano said a manager told her: " 'Just wait. Wait. He's out drinking or with a girlfriend somewhere and he'll show up.' " Mr. Casowitz said that he could not confirm or deny the statement, but said that the manager clearly did not know that there had been an accident.

The sisters called the police to report Mr. Rocano missing, and investigators visited the site on Monday morning. An office manager at the company later reviewed the video, and when it became clear what had happened, called the police back to the site, Mr. Casowitz said. The truck and its load were tracked to a landfill on Spagnoli Road in Melville, N.Y., where the body was found shortly after noon on Tuesday.

No criminal charges have been filed, and the company does not expect any, Mr. Casowitz said. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating, a spokesman said. Work at the station continued yesterday.

Mr. Rocano's family plans to return his body to Ecuador for burial. Mr. Casowitz said the company would like to help defray the cost of the funeral. But, he said, no one at the company knew how to reach Mr. Rocano's sister.


Mick Meenan contributed reporting for this article.

The Horrid Death of Milton Rocano, Unseen and Unnoticed,
NYT, 27.4.2006,






For a Price,

Final Resting Places

That Even Tut Could Appreciate


April 17, 2006
The New York Times


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Ed Peck is in no hurry to get there, but when the time comes for him to go to eternity, he wants his last earthly stop to be consistent with his social station.

So Mr. Peck, a real estate developer who made his fortune in Florida condominiums in the 1970's, not long ago joined a small but growing number of Americans who have erected that most pharaonic of monuments to life-in-death, the private family mausoleum.

A Greek-pillared neo-Classical style structure of white granite, Mr. Peck's mausoleum has a granite patio, a meditation room, doors of hand-cast bronze and a chandelier. The family name is carved and gilded above a lintel that in the original sales model carried the legend "Your Name."

Developed just over two years ago to accommodate a growing demand for mausoleums like the one Mr. Peck bought, which including its lot has a retail cost of $400,000, the Private Estate Section at the century-old Daytona Memorial Park here has 15 lake-view lots. Six have been sold.

"The mausoleum says, 'I'm really significant in this world, I think I'm really significant to my family,' and this is one way to communicate that to the community," said Nancy Lohman, an owner along with her husband, Lowell, of this and several dozen other Florida cemeteries and funeral homes.

Mr. Peck, 87, an Atlanta native with a sonorous voice and a laconic manner, framed a similar thought more modestly. "It began to occur to me that I did not want to be in the ground covered with weeds and whatnot and totally forgotten," he said. "I don't like the idea of dirt being dumped on me."

Six feet up and not six feet under is increasingly the direction in which people want their remains stored when they die, representatives of the funeral industry say. In addition to custom single-family mausoleums, community mausoleums for both coffins and cremated remains are also gaining popularity; in classical or contemporary styles, these often have room to hold hundreds of niches for coffins or urns.

The Cold Spring Granite Company, among the country's largest makers of cemetery monuments, sold 2,000 private mausoleums last year, up from about 65 during a good year in the 1980's. Prices range from $250,000 to "well into the millions," said Michael T. Baklarz, a vice president of the company.

The development is perhaps logically to be expected of those at the leading edge of the baby boom generation, which forms the bulk of the market. The progression seems natural for the folks who gave the world blocklong, gas-hogging sport utility vehicles and lot-hogging 40,000-square-foot suburban homes.

"It's in keeping with the McMansion mentality of boomers," said Thomas Lynch, an author and funeral director in Michigan. "Real estate is an extension of personhood."

The market for the custom structures is greatest on the coasts, although exclusive estate sections have recently been set aside for private mausoleums at cemeteries in Atlanta, Cleveland and Minneapolis.

Some mausoleums echo the temple of the goddess Fortuna Virilis in Rome. Some are hefty, rusticated stone barns. Some have more square footage than a good-size Manhattan studio apartment, their interiors fitted out with hand-knotted carpets, upholstered benches and nooks for the display of memorabilia. In late 2004, a Southern California family ordered a mausoleum with room for 12 coffins, 20 cremation niches and a patterned marble vestibule.

Commonplace in the 19th century, when both newly prosperous immigrants and robber barons vied to stake claims on American soil by investing in the only real estate that is "permanently valuable," as Mark Twain famously remarked, the mausoleum seemed to have lost favor in recent years.

More people were choosing to be cremated — industry experts say that more than a quarter of the 2.3 million people who died in 2004 were cremated — and some opted for new forms of interment like the "green burials" that flickered onto the cultural radar after a character from the HBO series "Six Feet Under" was buried unembalmed and without a coffin, in an unmarked grave protected by a nature preserve.

Yet the brief buzz about eco-burial, executives from America's nearly $15 billion funeral industry say, may obscure the larger reality that, as in seemingly every other facet of contemporary life, the taste for personalization has touched the funeral industry in time to provide an otherwise static business with an opportunity for growth.

"Nobody wants a cookie-cutter burial anymore," said Robert M. Fells, the external operating officer of the International Cemetery and Funeral Association, the industry's leading trade group. At the group's annual convention in March in Las Vegas, the resurgent interest in building private mausoleums was striking, Mr. Fells said.

"The private family mausoleum used to be considered a high-ticket, upscale item that only the wealthy could afford," Mr. Fells said, and there is no reason to amend that impression given that $250,000 is the average base price to build a private family tomb. "The pendulum is swinging back to people being willing to spend money for things that are meaningful to them," he said.

The need to create "new concepts in the death care industry," said Christine Toson Hentges, vice president of a company that owns three cemeteries in Wisconsin, has helped increase the appeal of private estate sections.

"We've reversed the traditional way of selling," Ms. Hentges added. Traditionally, funeral directors or cemetery owners began their post-mortem pitch to families by quoting the most affordable options. "But now we're going top-down and starting with private buildings," she said, "because there is this influx of people who are financially successful and who are thinking about these issues and how to have a structure that tells the story of their lives."

At the historic Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, a spokesman said that there had been no marked increase in private mausoleums lately, but last year the cemetery completed a five-story, $16 million crypt mausoleum for 2,500, replete with skylights and waterfalls.

"All of this is recent," said Herbert B. Klapper, president of Cedar Park Cemetery, a 300-acre site in Paramus, N.J., that offers burials in mausoleums where crypt space is priced the way urban real estate often is, by neighborhood and floor. (From the ground or "prayer" level, crypt prices ascend to the "heart" level and then to "eye" and are reduced again for the harder-to-reach berths at a tier called "touch.")

Yet the most grandiose niche in Paramus is humble compared with the granite extravaganza erected at Daytona Memorial Park to house the mortal remains of L. Gale Lemerand, a Florida philanthropist who founded a residential insulation company that he sold in 1995 for an estimated $150 million.

Two $4,000 Medjool date palms shade Mr. Lemerand's red granite mausoleum, which cost $650,000 and has ample space, as the cemetery co-owner Lowell Lohman explained, to accommodate Mr. Lemerand, 71, along with his family.

A granite balustrade flanks the doorway and from it one can stand and gaze across a palm-fringed lake, where two swans named Ed and Hilda glide, adding to the pastoral landscape an almost inevitable touch of Evelyn Waugh. On the far shore is Ed Peck's family tomb.

"People who are going to be buried here can well afford it, so money is obviously not an issue," Mr. Peck said on an afternoon of blustery winds that propelled an armada of fleecy postcard clouds across the Florida sky. "It's a very pleasant place to be. As pleasant as it could be, considering."

    For a Price, Final Resting Places That Even Tut Could Appreciate,
    NYT, 17.4.2006,






Life, Hope and Healing

Are Focus of Service for Miners


January 16, 2006
The New York Times


BUCKHANNON, W.Va., Jan. 15 - On the horrific morning when their hope turned to heartbreak, miners' families came to this town to identify bodies and to seek solace in the Georgian-style chapel on the campus of West Virginia Wesleyan College.

The families returned on Sunday, along with 2,300 other mourners, to say goodbye to the 12 men who were killed Jan. 2 at the Sago Mine, seven miles south of here, and to give thanks for the men they knew and loved.

Mourners began filing into the sanctuary more than 90 minutes before the service, and the crowd spilled into a gymnasium, where 500 people watched the service on a video screen and heard it through speakers. Outside the chapel, a miner's helmet sat atop a wooden cross, boots beneath it. Those at the service wore white ribbons that said "Sago 2006."

Family members lighted white candles on the altar, one for each of the 12 miners, while Anna McCloy, the wife of the sole survivor, Randal McCloy Jr., lighted a red candle in his honor.

The last time some family members had been on the quiet campus was to identify the fallen miners at a makeshift morgue in an old school building owned by the college. Many of them then went to Wesley Chapel to grieve, remember and pray.

But Sunday's service focused less on the deaths and more on the lives of the miners. They were praised as men who had a work ethic that would not quit, who hunted and fished and followed Nascar races when they were not in the hollow of a mountain, who laughed and loved to tell stories, who had unshakable faith.

Homer H. Hickam Jr., an author, recalled the words of his father, a miner: "There's no men in this world like miners; they're good men, strong men, the best there is. No matter where you go, you will never know such good and strong men." Mr. Hickam - whose memoir, "Rocket Boys," chronicled his upbringing in the town of Coalwood, W.Va., and was later turned into the movie "October Sky" - traveled from his new home in Alabama to attend the service.

The Rev. Wease Day, pastor of Sago Baptist Church, recalled two miners he knew well, James A. Bennett, 61, of Philippi, and George Hamner, 54, of Gladyfork, who was known as Junior.

"I'm sure there was a prayer meeting going on in that coal mine the other day like we've never heard before," Mr. Day said. "I can hear Jim Bennett hollering, 'Boys, you need the Lord in your life.' Then I can hear Junior Hamner saying, 'Anybody got any cards? Let's play a round.' "

Everybody laughed.

As others spoke of hope, healing and honor, photos of the miners flashed on a huge screen behind the altar, and some sobbed at the sight. But the Rev. Mark Flynn, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Buckhannon, urged mourners to believe the miners were in a better place.

Gov. Joe Manchin III recalled a drawing in a newspaper that showed St. Peter on top of the clouds and one of the Sago miners reaching toward him amid brilliant sunshine at the gates to heaven.

"It looks like we're still in West Virginia," the miner said.

Mr. Manchin spoke of the long night at Sago Baptist Church, where family members and friends had gathered to await word and where there was a brief moment of elation with the news - later proved heart-wrenchingly in error - that 12 miners had been found alive. "During those difficult hours that we were together," he said, "we grew stronger."

The governor also renewed his promise that a thorough investigation would determine why the accident happened and find ways to prevent a repeat.

"We cannot know the purpose of this tragedy, but I pledge to you we will determine the cause," Mr. Manchin said. "Your loved ones did not die in vain."

At the end of the service, thousands of white balloons were released into the blue sky.

Outside, in a white memory tent, easels held photographs of the miners and a big board where people could leave notes. Many mourners left prayers and good wishes.

A note to one miner, Jerry Groves said, "Enjoy heaven until we get there," and was signed Wanda. Another, to Jack Weaver, read, "Love heals."

A single red rose for each miner, each with a white ribbon and a picture of one of the 12, had been placed in the tent.

On David Lewis's rose, a note read, "From almost heaven West Virginia to the pearly gates."

And a note to Jesse Jones said, "God definitely has 12 more angels. God bless you all."

Life, Hope and Healing Are Focus of Service for Miners, NYT, 16.1.2006,






Hundreds Express Grief and Faith

as 6 Miners Are Buried


January 9, 2006

The New York Times



BUCKHANNON, W.Va., Jan. 8 - West Virginians began burying their fallen miners on Sunday, mourning their losses but celebrating the lives and legacies of men who prided themselves on making a living by harvesting coal from deep within the earth.

In the mountain hamlets surrounding the Sago Mine, hundreds of mourners turned out for the funerals of 6 of the 12 men who died there last week. But the grief, sympathy and prayers extended well beyond the funerals, most of them private services from which reporters were banned.

White ribbons and bows adorned utility poles in Buckhannon, and dozens of roadside signs conveyed the somber mood. "Healing hurts," one sign said outside a doughnut shop here. One just north of town read, "God just got 12 new angels."

At the service for Jesse L. Jones, a 44-year-old miner from Pickens, the Rev. Donald Butcher, pastor of Sand Run Baptist Church, spoke the names of each of the 12 men killed at the mine and spoke of their way of making a living and making a life.

"You see, coal miners are a different breed of men; they don't have any fear," Mr. Butcher said to about 200 mourners at a funeral chapel just north of the mine. Miners, he said, give us electricity for lights as well as powerful lessons on working tirelessly, no matter the circumstances.

"God gives us people who are heroes, and we don't even realize it," he said. "We got lots of coal miners here with us today. America is great because of this profession and because of men like Jesse, who put their lives on the line."

The pastor spoke of one of Mr. Jones's grandfathers, who was killed in a mine explosion, and of members of his own family, one of whom lost his sight and others who lost their fingers mining.

The other miners buried Sunday were Alva Martin Bennett, 51; Jerry Groves, 56; David Lewis, 28; Martin Toler, 51; and Jack Weaver, 52.

At Sago Baptist Church, where inaccurate first reports of the survival of 12 miners brought euphoria that later turned to grief, the Rev. Wease Day stood in front of a huge picture of the Last Supper during regular Sunday morning services and tried to make sense of it all.

Wearing a blue tie with the face of Jesus on it, Mr. Day told the congregation, "The other night when we received what we all believed to be good news, we all shouted and rejoiced, but you know when the other news came it broke our hearts as well."

But, he said, God would never forsake his people and was with them throughout the heartbreaking ordeal even if they could not understand or answer the unanswerable questions.

"Many times people think, 'Well, it was God's fault,' " Mr. Day said, "but God has a master plan, and everything comes together in that master plan. He was in control every minute.

"We were in this building the other night and it came to mind that the spirit was so great here and it was so great outside and God had just covered these old hilltops with his holy spirit, his holy power."

After the service, the church bells rang 12 times, echoing through the mountains. Just down the road near the entrance to the Sago Mine, 12 black ribbons hung from a fence.

Even as the towns mourned their dead, people kept praying for the recovery of the sole survivor of the mine disaster, Randal McCloy Jr., 26. Doctors at West Virginia University Hospitals, where Mr. McCloy is being treated, said that he remained in critical condition Sunday night but that his heart, lung and muscle functions had improved.

Mr. McCloy was breathing on his own, and doctors had stopped sedating him.

At First United Methodist Church, the pastor, the Rev. Mark Flynn, told congregants that he had been with the families of the miners almost nonstop for three days.

"I went to Sago to minister to those families, and they ministered to me," Mr. Flynn said. "I was touched by the strength, the love and the wisdom. In those dark days and nights at the Sago Baptist Church, I saw some light. I saw light in the faith and love of the family members with whom I talked.

"Their faith was not just a vague notion that somehow everything would turn out as they wished. These people believe that they and their loved ones were in the hands of God, no matter what happened in that mine."

Hundreds Express Grief and Faith as 6 Miners Are Buried,






Here, a Dec. 31 Not of Revelry

but of Remembering


January 1, 2006

The New York Times



There is one New York for the living, another for the dead. Fourteen miles from the New Year's Eve preparations at Times Square, on some of the city's rare green hills, is a place where the two often meet: Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.

Thomas Soukas, 66, went there yesterday morning to light a candle for his father. The day held no particular significance for Mr. Soukas. He visits his father's grave every five days or so, replacing the old candle with a new one. His father died in 2001, and still Mr. Soukas visits regularly, bearing new light.

Christopher Soukas was 86 years old when he died of cancer. He left behind three sons, eight grandchildren and his wife, Alexandra. He had worked as a furrier in Manhattan; his wife - they had been married 62 years - still has the mink coat he made for her years ago.

Snowflakes dusted the grave and the flowers and the headstone as Mr. Soukas bent down to lift open the silver lid of the red-tinted candleholder.

"I'm not sure who's better off," said Mr. Soukas, a retired banker. "The ones that don't come at all, or the ones that come regularly like me. Time heals, to a certain extent. You just do less crying, that's all."

This was how New Year's Eve was marked at Woodlawn yesterday - as a quiet kind of afterthought amid personal mourning. There were no crowds. There were only two burials, of Stephen Bartko and Johnny Morris, and three cremations, of Vincent Grayman, Marvin Grimes and Barbara Shuler.

There was a man who stood at his mother's grave on a hill, sipping a cup of coffee in the cold. It was her birthday.

"To me, it's a place for the living, not a place for the dead," said Steven G. Sloane, vice president of the nonsectarian cemetery. "Everybody should have a spot where you can be remembered."

The last day of the year feels a lot like any other at Woodlawn. It is a timeless place, far enough removed from the bustle of the city that each crunchy step on the leaves and twigs seems to echo, yet not isolated enough to shut out completely the sounds of the outside world - police sirens, the low hum of traffic on East 233rd Street, jets overhead.

Woodlawn is a kind of melancholy city-within-a-city, permanent population 303,400, with its own lake, street signs, curvy avenues and neighborhood clusters with names like Evergreen, Crown Grove and Rose Hill. Elaborate and expensive monuments and mausoleums rise high above the ground like stone skyscrapers, some as tall as three-story buildings. Yesterday morning, the snow coated them all, from giant obelisks that tower like miniature Washington Monuments to small, simple headstones.

Thin white lines formed along the carving of a ship in front of a mausoleum for Isidor and Ida Straus, who drowned together on the Titanic in April 1912. "Many waters," an inscription reads, "cannot quench love - neither can the floods drown it."

Two victims of another historic disaster are also at Woodlawn, side by side: Firefighters Manuel Del Valle Jr. and Gerard Baptiste, who both died on Sept. 11, 2001.

The cemetery, like the city itself, is home to both fame and obscurity.

Not long after its first burial in 1865, Woodlawn became known as the resting place for some of New York's legendary figures. Buried here are Fiorello H. La Guardia, the celebrated mayor; Robert Moses, the master power broker; and Herman Melville, the author of "Moby-Dick," whose gravestone, decorated with a blank scroll, has a collection of small rocks recent visitors placed on top.

But the icons of old New York share these 400 acres with everyday New Yorkers. Here are Nellie Bly, the reporter, and Frank Woolworth, the discount store king. Then there is Thomas N. Demakakos, a retired electrician with Local 3.

Mr. Demakakos died at the age of 75, two days before Christmas. He was a Korean War veteran, and he is buried alongside his comrades in the 9th Regiment of the New York Guard.

He earned the nickname Uncle Tom, because even strangers would think of him as family and seek out his advice, his relatives said.

"That's what we're all going to miss - the long conversations," said his daughter, Paulette Kouroupakis, who visited her father's grave yesterday with her brother, sister, mother and other family members. "He was always there by the phone, waiting for our calls."

Mr. Soukas, who brought a candle for his father, waved to a groundskeeper who passed by. He finds a kind of peace here, and sorrow, too. There, on the barren patch of earth where he stood, next to his father's headstone, is the spot where he himself will be buried one day.

Here, a Dec. 31 Not of Revelry but of Remembering,






A living message

from the valley

of the shadow of death


23 July 2005

The Daily Telegraph

By Charles Moore


There has been a great deal of death in the news, so I apologise to readers for what might look like an entire column on the subject. In fact, though, it is about life.

In 1949, a Jew from the Warsaw ghetto, called David Tasma, lay dying of cancer in London. He had no family, but he was comforted by a tall, shy, young woman almoner (hospital social worker), who was more than half in love with him. He left her everything he had, which was £500, and told her that this would make "a window in your home".

In 1967, that home took the form of St Christopher's Hospice in Sydenham. There are now more than 200 hospices based on its model in Britain, and the hospice movement is active in more than 120 countries. The woman almoner was called Cicely Saunders.

She died last week, of a cancer from which she had suffered for several years, in the home that Tasma's bequest inspired. Dame Cicely has attracted admiring obituaries, of course, but I am not sure that people have quite noticed the scale of her achievement.

To the dying Tasma, Cicely recited the 23rd Psalm, the favourite for funerals. It says, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." Almost all of us, when our time comes to take that walk, fear evil very much indeed. She observed this, and worked out how to minister to that fear.



















A living message from the valley of the shadow of death

The Daily Telegraph

23 July 2005















Dame Cicely's gift was to unite the physical with the spiritual. She started as a nurse and had to give that up because of back trouble and become an almoner. Then, in her thirties, she returned to school to become a doctor.

She was therefore an entire professional health care team in one. When she was a nurse during the war, she was horrified by how patients had to "earn their morphine" by exhibiting unmanageable levels of pain. Doctors shunned it, because of fear of addiction and because they thought it did not work by mouth.

In research which she began in the late 1950s, Cicely Saunders discovered that pain could be managed by oral drugs, and that if, in terminal cases, people were given strong analgesia before the onset of pain, they could be relieved with relatively small doses, and without addiction.

This was a purely medical discovery. But with it, she developed the concept of "total pain". She saw that people's suffering as they approached death might involve everything about their lives - their fear of extinction or punishment, their anxiety for the family they were leaving, their remorse, their sense of meaninglessness.

This was real pain, which heightened the physical agony, just as the physical agony heightened the other fears. Her answer was to listen to the dying, on the grounds that each death, like each life, was unique: "You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life."

Common sense, you might say, common humanity. Yet it went against the prevailing medical view. When he set up the National Health Service, Aneurin Bevan declared that he would "rather be kept alive in the efficient if cold altruism of a large hospital than expire in a gush of sympathy in a small one".

That coldness was seen by many as a virtue in itself. Death was a form of inefficiency and, for a doctor, a sort of failure, since it could never be "cured". Dying was not part of the vision of the NHS. Recent evidence about what happens to old people in so many hospitals today (see Panorama's programme this week) suggests that it still isn't. This is a great moral, human disaster.

Dame Cicely understood that the "gush of sympathy" or, rather, the calm, steady flow of the stuff was just as much a part of the ministry of health (as opposed to the Ministry of Health) as was technical expertise. She sought "the match between heart and mind - research, training, understanding, had to be matched with the vulnerable friendship of the heart".

Almost as bad as sheer neglect of the dying was the belief - convenient for professionals, and also for those families who didn't want the difficult conversations - that the approach of death, particularly in the form of cancer, should be concealed from the patient because it was unbearable.

It wasn't the kindest thing to jolly people along, Dame Cicely thought: it was a failure to confront the truth, to acquire "the full understanding of what is happening". Again and again she found (and she went on personally ministering to the dying right into her seventies) that if people had the chance to work through their perplexities, they could face what was coming.

She particularly remembered one man who had been in great agony of mind, but had at last resolved it, about an hour before he died: "Suddenly he looked amused." Talk mattered a great deal, she believed, but so did silence, and she emphasised how important it was that people should have the right things to look upon - art by their beds, design that soothed, a chapel to pray in.

The phrase "being there for someone" is now a cliché of pop-psychology, but it means something, and Dame Cicely thought of it. She derived it from Jesus's request to his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his death: "Watch with me" (an injunction which they disobeyed).

I did not know Cicely Saunders. I gather from people who did that she had the mental toughness which is to human goodness what physical fitness is to athletes. You and I read thrillers in the bath: she read spiritual classics.

She said that her favourite pastime was "a sacred cow shoot". She was formidable, could even be forbidding. She stared at you, unblinking. People who disagreed with her sometimes got short shrift. She fitted the Florence Nightingale, Mother Teresa model of fierce devotion to the great task.

But when she spoke of the "vulnerability of the heart", she knew what that meant, too. She had loved David Tasma, and it was his loss that inspired her. When doing her research into pain control at St Joseph's Hackney, she fell in love with a second Pole, who died there. She eventually married a third Pole, Marian Bohusz-Szyszko, an artist, who died in 1995. "Total pain" was something she had seen, had felt. People who watched her die testified that she had overcome it.

Because of demography and medical advance, there has never been a time in our civilisation when death has come so stealthily and so late to so many. Compared with our forebears, we are privileged. But as is often the case with the privileged, we are also frightened.

So we more and more seek euthanasia, which in turn only increases fear. We think that we can take some bypass which avoids the valley of the shadow of death. No, says Cicely Saunders: we're all on the same journey; let us make it together, to the very end.

Information appearing on telegraph.co.uk is the copyright of Telegraph Group Limited and must not be reproduced in any medium without licence.

A living message from the valley of the shadow of death,






Brain dead American woman

gives birth to girl


Tue Aug 2, 2005

10:46 PM ET



WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A 26-year-old brain dead pregnant woman kept on life support for almost three months at a Virginia hospital gave birth to a baby girl on Tuesday, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The baby, delivered by caesarean section, weighed one pound and 13 ounces (0.8 kg) and was being monitored in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Virginia Hospital Center, the hospital said in a statement.

The mother, Susan Torres, suffered a stroke on May 7 in the 17th week of her pregnancy due to an aggressive melanoma and was brain dead, her family said.

A statement on The Susan M. Torres Fund Web site said the baby, named Susan Anne Catherine Torres, was doing well and there were no complications during delivery.

The fund was established to help the Torres family raise money to defray medical costs not covered by insurance. The mother was kept on life support at Virginia Hospital Center to allow time for the fetus to develop.

"The entire staff and administration of Virginia Hospital Center, especially the physicians and nurses caring for Susan Torres and Baby Girl Torres, are delighted with the successful delivery," the hospital statement said.

The hospital provided no further information.

Brain dead American woman gives birth to girl,
Tue Aug 2, 2005,
10:46 PM ET,










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