This page lists the obituaries of people who made news during their lifetimes. Obituaries of historians can be found here.
Henry Lafont, a French pilot who took part in a harrowing aerial escape from North Africa to fight for the honor of France after its capitulation to Hitler and who became the last surviving French veteran of the Battle of Britain, died on Dec. 2 in Trémuson, in the Brittany region of France. He was 91.
His death was announced by the French Embassy in Washington.
When France fell to the Germans in June 1940, and a collaborationist government based in Vichy was being formed, Mr. Lafont, a noncommissioned officer, was stationed in Oran in Algeria, then a French colony. Shortly after midnight on June 30, Mr. Lafont and five fellow servicemen, several of them pilots, convinced an airfield sentry that they were on a patrol, then stole a twin-engine, six-passenger transport plane that they knew carried fuel and set off to link up with British forces in Gibraltar.
What they did not know made for an unnerving flight....
On a Friday in 1948, six aeronautical designers from the Boeing Company holed up in a hotel suite in Dayton, Ohio. They stayed put until Monday morning, except for the one who left to visit a hobby shop and returned with balsa wood, glue, carving tools and silver paint.
The group emerged with a neatly bound 33-page proposal and an impressive 14-inch scale model of an airplane on a stand. Col. Pete Warden, the Air Force chief of bomber development, studied the result and pronounced, “This is the B-52.”
One of those six was Holden Withington, and on Dec. 9, at age 94, he became the last of the B-52 designers to die. His daughter, Victoria Withington, said he died at his home on Mercer Island, Wash. He had Alzheimer’s disease.
It takes a vast team of experts to design a complex airplane, particularly one like the B-52 Stratofortress, with its eight engines and radically swept-back wings. Mr. Withington, called Bob, played down the achievement, saying it evolved from earlier plane designs and not a little luck....
Vaclav Havel, the writer and dissident whose eloquent dissections of Communist rule helped to destroy it in revolutions that brought down the Berlin Wall and swept Havel himself into power, died on Sunday. He was 75.
His assistant, Sabina Tancevova, said that Mr. Havel died in his sleep at his country house in northern Bohemia. “He suffered from long-term health problems to which he succumbed,” Ms. Tancevova said, adding that Mr. Havel’s wife Dagmar was at his side.
A Czech embassy spokesman in Paris, Michal Dvorak, said in a statement that Mr. Havel, a heavy smoker who almost died during surgery for lung cancer in 1996, had been suffering from severe respiratory ailments since last spring.
A shy yet resilient, unfailingly polite but dogged man who articulated the power of the powerless, Mr. Havel spent five years in and out of Communist prisons, lived for two decades under close secret-police surveillance and endured the suppression of his plays and essays. He served 14 years as president, wrote 19 plays, inspired a film and a rap song and remained one of his generation’s most seductively nonconformist writers....
Ante Markovic, who as the last prime minister of Yugoslavia tried to stave off the ethnic warfare that led to the disintegration of that nation, died on Nov. 28 in Zagreb, the Croatian capital. He was 87.
Croatia’s state news agency, HINA, reported the death.
Mr. Markovic, a Croat born in what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina, was named prime minister in January 1989, two years before his formerly Communist country fell apart. Despite ancient ethnic rivalries, Yugoslavia had been held together during the 35-year regime of Marshal Josip Broz Tito as perhaps the most open of the totalitarian Eastern European states. Mr. Markovic’s predecessor, Branko Mikulic, made early attempts at liberalization, but resigned in December 1988 when the Yugoslav Parliament rejected his economic reforms. On Jan. 19, 1989, the collective presidency — representing Yugoslavia’s six republics and two autonomous provinces — chose Mr. Markovic as prime minister....
SOURCE: NY Daily News(12-8-11)
Jerry Robinson, the pioneering comic book artist credited with creating Batman’s archnemesis, the Joker, and later a crusading hero for cartoonists in his own right who helped restore “Superman’s” creators’ rights in a single bound, died in his sleep Wednesday night. He was 89.
“Everyone who loves comics owes Jerry a debt of gratitude for the rich legacy that he leaves behind,” Jim Lee, DC Entertainment co-publisher and popular “Batman” artist, said in a statement.
Discovered by “Batman” creator Bob Kane as a 17-year-old journalism student enrolled at Columbia University, Robinson entered comics in 1939 as an inker and letterer on the fledgling comic. Though Kane claimed he and writer Bill Finger came up with the idea for the Joker — embodied by Heath Ledger in the 2008 film, “The Dark Knight” — most comic historians credit Robinson for the iconic villain....