Archive for the ‘Death notices’ Category

Valete Bob and Ray

February 5, 2016

In the NYT yesterday, “Bob Elliott, Half of the Deadpan Bob and Ray Comedy Team, Dies at 92” by Peter Keepnews & Richard Severo (with a companion piece, “Recalling Bob and Ray, Who Paved the Way for Today’s Deadpan Humor” by Jason Zinoman):

Bob Elliott, who as half of the comedy team Bob and Ray purveyed a distinctively low-key brand of humor on radio and television for more than 40 years, died on Tuesday at his home in Cundy’s Harbor, Me. He was 92.

His death was confirmed by his son Chris Elliott, the actor and comedian, who said his father had had throat cancer.

Mr. Elliott and his partner, Ray Goulding — Bob was the more soft-spoken one, Ray the deep-voiced and more often blustery one — were unusual among two-person comedy teams. Rather than one of them always playing it straight and the other handling the jokes, they took turns being the straight man.

The pair early in their career:


Frances Kroll Ring

January 15, 2016

Posting a Zippy yesterday about F. Scott Fitzgerald reminded me of one of 2015’s more remarkable obituaries, for Frances Kroll Ring, who was Fitzgerald’s secretary and assistant. To put ths in context: Ring started working for Fitzgerald before I was born, and when the writer died, I was only three months old. Now I’m an old man, and Ring died only last June 18th (aged 99), a relic of times long gone by. Her story was told by J. R. Moehringer in the New York Times‘s “The Lives They Lived” issue on December 27th, under the heading “More Than a Secretary: She befriended F. Scott Fitzgerald and never let go”.


John Holm

January 8, 2016

A very brief death notice for John Holm, a great pioneer in the study of pidgin and creole languages (and, incidentally, a very nice man). The NYT had a substantial obituary for him (by William Grimes) on the 4th, quoting linguist (and Language Logger) Sally Thomason on the significance of his work (and noting that John is survived by his husband, Michael Pye, and a brother).

Ben Zimmer posted a death notice on Language Log on the 4th (in “R.I.P. John Holm (1943-2015)”), based on the NYT piece.

John was resolute in treating pidgins and creoles as languages in their own right, not as debased versions of other languages — an attitude that is commonplace now but took considerable work to establish, a job that John did a lot of the heavy lifting on.


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:



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