LIBBY

LIBBY

December 10, 2008

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A match made in heaven

Libby, treasured Keeshond of Debbie Lewandowski of Mission Viejo, passed away shortly before Christmas. She was believed to be about 12.  Adopted in February 2001 from a shelter that caters only to Keeshonds (a lively, intelligent breed recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1930), Libby (shown above with a certain friend) was named by shelter caregivers who felt they had “liberated” her from bleak circumstances. “I didn’t have the heart to change the name,” Debbie said.

The other love of her life

couple.jpgFor Debbie Hawkins (her last name at the time), it was a match made in heaven – in more ways than one. Libby was that rare Keeshond (pronounced “Kayz-hund”) able to bring pint-sized Debbie together with theother love of her life, Mark Lewandowski. The two met when Debbie was out for a walk with her eye-catching, gray-and-tan canine cohort. No one quite remembers if it was the lion’s ruff around Libby’s neck, the richly plumed tail that curled over her back, or the pink rhinestone collar and black leash decorated with doggie bones that grabbed Mark’s attention, not to mention everything about Debbie. Regardless, a new love story was born, two people meeting “cute” over a dog within a Mission Viejo condo community in the fall of 2003. Granted, Mark got to feeling like “an ambulance chaser,” hunting Debbie down until she agreed to marry him two years later.

Not exactly your ideal guard dog

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TONTO

TONTO

December 2, 2008

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 Diane felt blessed

Tonto, beloved companion of Diane Eisner of Trabuco Canyon, died of a stroke on Tuesday, December 2, 2008. He was hovering outside the kitchen, waiting for a snack, when he passed. The precise age of the black-and-white pit bull/Labrador mix with the sad eyes and crooked tail is unknown.  He was adopted.  Friends, unable to find a rental home that accepted two kids and a dog, opted to keep the kids and give Diane the dog. Diane felt blessed.

The result of hard knocks and obedience training (which didn’t quite take), Tonto liked to chase skunks, tree opossums and eat cat poop. An equal opportunity provider, he preferred to hump males but would also hump females – regardless of breed, age, ethnicity or appearance. He never quite came out of the closet.

“Why aren’t you scratching my ears?”

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MAGNETO

MAGNETO

2006-2007

 

You just sorta put up with the ruckus

black-cat-coco-2.jpgHow we felt when Magneto left us, well, you cannot fathom our grief. So young, less than two years old, so full of promise, he was gone too soon. Granted, he could get on your nerves, especially his stepbrother Wai’s nerves. Wai (Hawaiian for “water”) tolerated him well enough-up until Magneto decided to torment the hell out of him in the late afternoon. The fights got so bad at times we had to hold our ears. Few had the gall to chastise the boys. Daddy Fred, who spoiled them rotten, wouldn’t hear of inhibiting exuberant youth.

But when Fred got sick with cancer, a funny thing happened. Both boys became extraordinarily protective-especially Magneto, a mischievous scamp no one had ever accused of being the least mature. Two weeks or so before Fred died, in fact, the two hardly left his side. They lay there on his rented hospital bed, cuddled up at his feet, two guardian angels: Magneto, a slinky coal-black cat, and Wai, his longhaired, gray-and-white stepbrother.

Keep the kids together

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PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH’S POLYPS

July 21, 2007

War on Iran never materialized

cheney.jpgFive polyps, famous for ending the Bush presidency and sweeping Dick Cheney into office for all of two hours, perished Saturday, July 21, 2007. They were less than a centimeter. Doctors discovered the polyps in President Bush’s large intestine during a routine colonoscopy performed at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland after Bush temporarily ceded power to Vice President Cheney under the rarely invoked 25th Amendment. The fear that Cheney’s brief reign might inspire a declaration of war on Iran never materialized. The VP, according to what his people told our people, spent “a normal Saturday” at his home on the Chesapeake Bay in St. Michaels, Maryland. “He read a book,” said a source who wishes to remain anonymous. Details on which book were withheld.

More info on Bush’s colon than on Lewis “Scooter” Libby

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MARY AMANDA SPONSELLER LAWRENCE

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MARY AMANDA SPONSELLER LAWRENCE

September 15, 1921 to August 18, 2014

Adored Wife, Mother and Teacher

Mary Amanda Sponseller Lawrence, whose ancestral roots extend back to the Battle of Gettysburg and the Civil War, died peacefully at home in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Monday, August 18, 2014. She was 92.

mary-lawrence.jpgStriking and willowy with dark blonde hair, Mary Lawrence used her height (she was six-feet tall) to advantage in ways that always spelled out gratitude and love. She had a habit, in fact, of pointing accusingly at someone, looking them in the eye, and then saying emphatically, “I love you!” (Mary is shown above and at left as a Temple University student, a picture used on an invitation to her 90th birthday party in 2012.)

No one was more moved by Mary’s passing than her 18-year-old grandson, Thomas Lawrence. Unable to be at her side as she lay dying, Thomas wrote what he described as “the most difficult letter I’ve ever had to write.

You taught me not to judge 

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DOROTHY JEANNE CHELLMAN MCDONALD

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DOROTHY JEANNE CHELLMAN MCDONALD

January 19, 1924 to July 31, 2014

 By Margaret McDonald-Stewart

 A curious nature and a sense of style

Dorothy travelled through her life and this world with a curious nature and a sense of style. She died peacefully July 31, 2014.  Born to Thelma Evertsen Chellman and William Chellman in Chicago Illinois in 1924, she was raised in a bungalow on Wrightwood Avenue. Her close Scandinavian family supported and encouraged each other during the Depression and nurtured an unending love affair with dogs.

tribute.jpgDorothy graduated from Wright Junior College and earned a scholarship to Northwestern University. It was at Northwestern that Dorothy’s inveterate and die-hard liberalism was nurtured and grew to be an integral part of her personality. Dorothy worked through her college days at a variety of enjoyable jobs including as a Harvey Girl waitress at the Grand Canyon El Tovar Lodge and pivotally, for the Weisman Travel Agency. (Picture above left is a shrine made in Dorothy’s honor for a memorial brunch.)

A Saks Fifth Avenue Wedding Hat

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ROBIN MCLAURIN WILLIAMS

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ROBIN MCLAURIN WILLIAMS

July 21, 1951 to August 11, 2014

By Katharine Blossom Lowrie

Remembering the Genius

I’m of the Mork & Mindy generation. Although specifics of various segments of the mega-hit ‘70’s sitcom are hazy at best, the memories of Robin Williams in that iconic role remain utterly fresh—much like a first love in high school. The zany, unintelligible language spewed at warp speed; the rubber face that could stretch in any direction; the abrupt, angular, freaky movements that could easily have served as a precursor to hip hop—they all spelled genius.

One of his best friends, Christopher Reeves of Superman fame, wrote about Williams in his 1998 autobiography, Still Me. When the two met in 1973, according to the author, they were two of just 20 students accepted into an Advanced Program at New York’s famed Julliard School of Dance, Drama and Music, a program taught by John Houseman.

“an untied balloon”

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MASON GRAVES ZISETTE

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MASON GRAVES ZISETTE

April 21, 1998 to July 12, 2014

By Katharine Blossom Lowrie

Gone too soon

masonpic2.jpgNo more moving account of a young man’s life and character than that given by Gary Walsh, the grandfather of Mason Graves Zisette, who died on Thursday, July 12, 2014, two days after a freak bus accident on the San Diego Freeway in Hawthorne. (Details of accident at end of story.)

Mason was just 16, a fair-haired athlete and varsity tennis player on the verge of becoming a junior at Mira Costa High School and so much more.

There were plenty of tears at the jam-packed funeral mass at American Martyrs Church in Mason’s home town of Manhattan Beach on Saturday, July 26: Mason’s parents, Matthew and Amy Zisette, his sisters, Caroline and Katherine and brother Johnny; friends and what looked to be the entire student body of Mira Costa High School.

Many of the mothers of Mason’s pals looked young enough to be just out of college themselves, women in smart suits and dresses, closely shepherding their children; fathers, a good many in suits and ties, eyeing their precious sons.

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ANDREW CHARLES QUINN

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ANDREW CHARLES QUINN

August 22, 1944 to July 17, 2014 

A tireless advocate for farmers

Andrew Charles “Ac” Quinn, an accomplished man who cherished his family and advocated tirelessly for the interests of farmers, died Thursday, July 17, 2014 at Meeker Memorial Hospital in Litchfield, MN. He was 69.

A lifelong farmer, Andrew prized his “century farm”, which was homesteaded in rural Litchfield in 1866 by his Irish immigrant ancestors. Much of his personal life and passion were dedicated to advancing agribusiness.

Andrew held several leadership positions in local, state and national organizations, through which he led grassroots lobbying efforts at the state and federal levels.  He advocated on behalf of farmers while serving the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) and testified multiple times before state and federal congressional committees in support of agricultural legislation. Along with running for public office, he spoke to hundreds of audiences over the years and won countless awards.

Family made his heart sing

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FELISA VANOFF

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FELISA VANOFF

June 11, 1925 to May 29, 2014

A passion for life

Felisa Vanoff, who danced lead roles in the New York City Opera and choreographed many a Hollywood TV show, died of natural causes on Wednesday, May 29th, at her home in Beverly Hills. She was 89.

vanhoff3.jpgIn tandem with her Emmy-Award-winning producer husband, Nick Vanoff, Felisa was a magnificent hostess, whose joy in entertaining resulted in glittering gatherings of actors, painters, dancers, writers, composers, musicians, titans of industry and politicians. But it was her passion for life that trumped any star-studded affair.

The type to remark on the magnificence of a day or the color of a flower, Vanoff expressed the same enthusiasm for people, always making them feel special and encouraging them to pursue great things.

Explosively dramatic

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CHRISTAL ANN HIGGINS

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CHRISTAL ANN HIGGINS

October 2, 1985 to April 7, 2014

 “Be courageous”

Christal Ann Higgins, a vivacious blonde known for her generous spirit and unfailing optimism, passed away at a Fort Worth, Texas hospice on Monday, April 7. Just 28, she died of clear cell renal cell carcinoma (CCRCC), leaving family and friends devastated.

“Christal took on cancer with the same tenacity that she tackled life,” said her aunt, Sherilyn Ricketts of Fort Worth.84221874.jpg “It won the hearts of anyone who had the privilege to know her.”

As a young girl, Christal was told by her Great-Aunt Jo that she looked like the Princess of Monaco. The petite young woman, who so resembled Grace Kelly, battled cancer with humor, grace and dignity. Her motto was “Be courageous.” (Chrystal at right with one of her nurses.)

Christal “Scooter” Higgins came into the world on October 2, 1985 in Stephenville, TX, the older of two daughters born to Bennie Higgins and Michelle Carson. She was given the name “Scooter” by her father when she was a baby because she would scoot across the floor in her diaper. 

Theater Sweetheart

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DR. VICTORIA MARLENE JACKSON BINION

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DR. VICTORIA MARLENE JACKSON BINION

November 14, 1947 to March 4, 2014

By Andwele Lewis

She brought joy to all those around her

Dr. Victoria Marlene Jackson Binion, a distinguished clinical psychologist and passionate advocate for African Americans in the field of mental health, died Tuesday, March 4, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. She was 66.

She did it all: scholar, psychologist, professor, public servant, writer, researcher, activist, artist, textile weaver, collector, world traveler andmost of allloving wife, mother, sister, aunt and friend.

Scholarships, fellowships, and honors

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ELIZABETH “BETSY” BURKE SCHOTTKE

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ELIZABETH “BETSY” BURKE SCHOTTKE

September 7, 1916 to August 22, 1993

By Katharine Blossom Lowrie

A Beautiful Mind 

She was a superb golfer, award-winning painter, fiercely loyal friend, adoring wife and spectacular mother. She was not maternal8e5d67e9-628c-4485-821f-010bec57def8.jpg in the traditional sense, however. Elizabeth “Betsy” Burke Schottke didn’t sew, bake cookies or host Girl Scout meetings. But, oh God, was she ever fun. As her oldest daughter, I can attest to that. She was also shrewd in her advice, profoundly wise and blessed with a delicious sense of the absurd. She was darn frugal, however, as all of us vividly recall. “Mom never bought anything (in terms of clothes) unless it was on sale,” my sister Bonnie Daybell (the middle child) said. “Of course, it always had to come from Saks or Neiman Marcus.” Avoiding family discord was another Betsy trait, said my youngest sister, Julie Larson. “Mom liked to keep the peace. She didn’t want anyone to argue.”

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SUSAN FELIX

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SUSAN FELIX

April 15, 1949 to November 25, 2013


She married her soul mate

Susan Felix, cherished for her generous nature, love of whales and heavenly chocolate-chip-caramel bars, died peacefully on Monday, November 25, 2013 at William Beaumont Hospital in Troy, Michigan—her husband at her side. The 12-year resident of Shelby, MI (formerly of Clawson), was just 64.

Married nearly 40 years to the love of her life, Raymond R. “Buddy” Felix III, Susie, as many called her, realized her fondest dream earlier this year when Ray surprised her with a trip to go whale watching in Maine. “The trip was a big deal,” said one close friend.

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DOMINIC ALFRED LEONE

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A 2013 Special Remembrance

DOMINIC ALFRED LEONE
November 7 or 11, 1915 to September 16, 2003

By Katharine Blossom Lowrie

“A Mississippi River Card Shark”

Dominic Alfred Leone, a larger than life character who dressed like a high-roller and went AWOL from the Army in 1942 to marry the woman he loved, died of respiratory failure in Los Angeles on September 16, 2003. He was 87. All these many years after his passing, Dominic—or “Ace” as everyone called him—still dominates the conversation in a sprawling Italian family that occupies two coasts. Ace’s nephew, Paul Picerni, taking credit for the nickname, said his uncle always reminded him of a “Mississippi River card shark.” A slick dresser who identified with George Raft and Frank Sinatra, Ace could have passed for a Hollywood producer of the consigliore to the Gambino Family, his nephew said.

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Harry Curieux Adamson

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HENRY CURIEUX ADAMSON
November 14, 1916 to April 22, 2012

By Katharine Blossom Lowrie

A wildlife artist known to bird lovers everywhere

Harry Curieux Adamson—a wildlife artist who spent his life traipsing after the waterfowl he so majestically captured on canvas—passed away at home in Woodland, CA on Sunday, April 22, 2012. He was 95.

harry-cureiux-adamson.jpgAdamson painted to the end, even after he no longer packed up to travel the world in search of a migration of snow geese or gathering of pink-eared mallards.

A familiar sight in his California Waterfowl Association jacket and WW II veteran’s cap, the folksy, fair-haired artist with the ready sense of humor was known to bird lovers everywhere. He was that rare breed who raised millions for wildlife conservation and refused to hunt.

A flurry of Wigeon ducks

With his wife, Betty, at his side, he would spend hours in a duck blind, waiting for the rush of inspiration that informed his singular art—whether the ultimate result was a pair of stately Canadian geese escorting their young through a weedy marsh or a flurry of Wigeon ducks careening down from the heavens.

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GLORIA MCCLURE

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GLORIALEE MCCLURE
April 18, 1952 to December 1, 2011


By Katharine Blossom Lowrie

A knack for humor

Glorialee McClure understood something about human nature. The Florida bond specialist—a Pembroke Pines resident who dreamed of someday buying a farm and raising animals—preferred laughter to tears. She had a knack for humor, could whip out a wry aside in the time it takes to blink.

It was a familiar refrain, “You could have been a standup comic, Glowie,” people would say. Due to her effervescent nature and sunny approach to life, many called McClure “Glowie.” Others called her “Glo” or “Gloria.”

His mother’s generous spirit

The mother of two sons, Matthew and stepson William, Gloria raised them with equal passion and nobility. Matthew McClure may have summed up his mother’s generous spirit best. “You showed me how to be a man; you taught me how to have a heart; you were my best friend. I could talk to you about anything.”

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CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN

RECREATING THE CELEBRITY OBIT

 by Katharine Blossom Lowrie

One long, curly strip of dialogue

sleepless02.jpgWho can forget Tom Hanks as Sam Baldwin, the grieving widower in Sleepless in Seattle (1993) as he struggles to find the precise words to describe his late wife to son Jonah (Ross Malinger, shown left with Hanks), who fears his mom is fading from his memory. “She could peel an apple…in one long, curly strip,” Sam finally tells his son, a note of awe in his voice. “The whole apple.”

Obituaries, my stock and trade, rarely make a lasting impression on the living – not in comparison to that “one long, curly strip” of dialogue (thanks to screenwriter Nora Ephron) that resurrects the mother Jonah so longs to remember. Which brings me to a pet peeve: the sameness with which deceased celebrities are paraded past us at year’s end, not to mention the reels of film clips that spool in the midst of every Oscar-type telecast.

Familiarity has bred contempt. And I write this stuff!

Dean of Dirty Words

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Van Johnson

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CHARLES VAN JOHNSON
August 25, 1916 to December 11, 2008

by Katharine Blossom Lowrie

The perennial “guy next door”

Despite his lightweight reputation as the perennial “guy next door” in musicals and comedies of the ’40s and ’50s, Van Johnson (above with Esther Williams in an MGM publicity still ) accrued first-rate reviews for sturdier roles: the values-burdened naval lieutenant who relieves Captain Queeg (Humphrey Bogart) of his command in Edward Dmytryk’s 1954 adaptation of the Herman Wouk novel, “The Caine Mutiny”; Deborah Kerr’s illicit lover in Dmytryk’s 1955 adaptation of Graham Green’s “The End of the Affair,” and a bomber pilot in two WWII films, “A Guy Named Joe” (1943) and “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo” (1944), in which the one-time chorus boy proved he could hold his own against the formidable Spencer Tracy.

An MGM musical junkie

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