Archive for the ‘Death notices’ Category

Jane J. Robinson

October 6, 2015

On Thursday (the 8th) there will be a memorial for my old friend Jane J. Robinson at SRI International in Menlo Park CA (where she worked for 14 years, until her retirement in 1987), organized by Ray Perrault (director of the AI Center at SRI, specializing in artificial intelligence and computational linguistics) and Barbara Grosz (Higgins Professor of the Natural Sciences at Harvard, specializing in natural language processing and artificial intelligence).


SRI logo

Jane died on April 22nd, just short of her 97th birthday, but the news barely percolated outside the community of computational linguists (where she was a giant presence). On August 25th, however, an excellent obituary appeared on the site of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL), of which Jane was president in 1982 — very much oriented towards computational linguistics, naturally enough, but worth quoting from here.


ACL logo

I’ll add some straightforward biographical information (gathered by Ray Perrault for me — many thanks to Ray) and personal reminiscences as the story unfolds.


Jane at SRI


Two notes from the obits

September 24, 2015

Two language-related notes from the death notices in my edition of the New York Times yesterday (they appeared on two different days in NYC): a word inappropriate in context; wine that speaks.


Dennis Greene

September 15, 2015

In the NYT on the 10th, an obit (by Daniel E. Slotnik), “Dennis Greene, a Singer With Sha Na Na, Dies at 66”. As it happens, I’ve posted before about Sha Na Na (“More na na na” on 4/3/15) and the song (“Get a Job”) that gave them their name, but without singling Greene out. Here’s the group in their heyday:

Greene is in the back row, fourth from the left. Yes, the black guy.


A story of patient endurance

August 16, 2015

From yesterday’s NYT, on the front page, an obit by the estimable Margalit Fox, “Edward Thomas, Policing Pioneer Who Wore a Burden Stoically, Dies at 95”, which raised conflicting feelings in me. Here’s the beginning, with the bits that roused me  boldfaced:

When Edward Thomas joined the Houston Police Department in 1948, he could not report for work through the front door.

He could not drive a squad car, eat in the department cafeteria or arrest a white suspect.

Walking his beat, he was once disciplined for talking to a white meter maid.

Officer Thomas, who died on Monday at 95, was the first African-American to build an eminent career with the Houston Police Department, one that endured for 63 years. By the time he retired four years ago, two months shy of his 92nd birthday, he had experienced the full compass of 20th-century race relations.

His days were suffused with the pressure to perform perfectly, lest he give his white supervisors the slightest excuse to fire him — and he could be fired, he knew, for a transgression as small as not wearing a hat.

They were also suffused with the danger he faced in the field, knowing that white colleagues would not come to his aid.

In 2011, when Officer Thomas retired with the rank of senior police officer, he was “the most revered and respected officer within the Houston Police Department,” the organization said in announcing his death, at his home in Houston.

On July 27, two weeks before he died, the department renamed its headquarters in Officer Thomas’s honor.

On the one hand, you can feel pleased at how far race relations have come (though you can be sure that fellow officers referred to him as a nigger in the old days, and that some still do). On the other hand, the history is simply appalling, a tale of constant unyielding indignities.


Acting news, Welsh news, gay news, Jewish news, real-estate news

July 12, 2015

The solid and very enjoyable actor Roger Rees died on the 10th; here I want to celebrate some aspects of his life that not everyone might have appreciated. Much of this is compacted in this photograph:


Roger Rees, the actor, left, and Rick Elice, the playwright, at their Upper West Side apartment


Paul Chapin

July 9, 2015

From the Linguistic Society of America’s website on the 2nd:

In Memoriam: Paul Chapin, 1938-2015

The LSA mourns the July 1, 2015 death of Paul Chapin, LSA member since 1965, Life Member of the Society, Fellow of the LSA (Class of 2008) and former Secretary-Treasurer (2003-2008).


Anne Meara

May 27, 2015

A brief appreciation of Anne Meara, who died on the 24th. Meara in 1975:


Author, author!

May 12, 2015

In today’s NYT, an obit that began:

Chris Burden, a conceptual artist who in the line of duty had himself shot, pierced, starved, crucified, electrocuted, cut by glass, kicked down stairs, locked up, dropped from heights and nearly drowned, though by no means all at once, died on Sunday at his home in Topanga, Calif. He was 69.

Oh my, that’s wonderful, I thought. Then I looked at the by-line. Yes, the admirable Margalit Fox.

It’s a fascinating story, “Chris Burden, a Conceptualist With Scars, Dies at 69”. There’s a slide show of Burden’s body art.

Note: ethnic names

April 19, 2015

In the NYT on the 17th an obit by Daniel Slotkin, “Ira Lewis, Actor and Playwright, Dies at 82”. Fascinating life in the theater, ending with this familial note:

Mr. Lewis, who lived in Westfield, N.J., is survived by two brothers, Marvin and Seymour.

Lovely: Ira, Marvin, and Seymour, three traditional American Jewish names. Times have changed. A couple of generations ago, such names went out of fashion, to be replaced by more generically “American” (gentile) names — for men, by a collection of Irish-derived names. So Ira, Marvin, and Seymour became Kevin, Sean, and Brady.

Two obits

April 11, 2015

In my print copy of the NYT yesterday, two notable obits, for Ralph Sharon (the musician) and Richard Dysart (the actor).



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