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Camille Muffat

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Categories: Sports

Olympic gold medalist Camille Muffat was killed on March 9 in a helicopter crash while filming a reality TV show in Argentina. She was 25.

The versatile French swimmer first hit the pool when she was just 7 years old. By the time she was 12, Muffat was training under Fabrice Pellerin, head coach of Olympic Nice Natation, a top training facility for champion swimmers.

Although she became accomplished at the breaststroke, Muffat’s speciality was the front crawl, which she used to win a gold medal in the women’s 400 freestyle — and set a new Olympic record in the process — at the 2012 London Olympics. Muffat also took home the silver medal in the women’s 200 meter freestyle, and a bronze medal as a member of the women’s 4×200 freestyle relay.

Muffat was the former world record holder in the 400 and 800 SCM freestyle, Swim Swam reported. In 2012, she was named the French Sportswoman of the Year.

Muffat retired from the sport in 2014, citing “personal reasons.”

When asked about life outside of the pool, Muffat told Le Monde that she enjoyed playing with her Persian cat Lulu and English bulldog Brioche, going shopping, doing puzzles and spending time with her friends and family.

At the time of her death, Muffat was a cast member on the French reality TV show “Dropped,” in which two teams of celebrities are left in separate remote locations and challenged to be the first to return to civilization.

During filming on Monday, Muffat was killed when the helicopter she was on collided in mid-air with another in La Rioja province, BBC reported. Olympic boxer Alexis Vastine, a bronze medal winner for France at the 2008 Games in Beijing, champion sailor Florence Arthaud, who won the Route du Rhum in 1990, five members of the show’s production staff and two Argentine pilots also perished in the crash.

–Originally published in The Huffington Post.

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Kenji Ekuan

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Categories: Artists, Business

 

From London to Los Angeles, the sight of a shapely bottle sitting on a table at a Japanese restaurant signals the promise of a fresh meal seasoned by the salty sauce of soy.

You may never have given this condiment container much thought; for decades it has always been there, waiting for you to reach out and use on your platter of sushi. But the ubiquitous red-topped glass container with its dripless polystyrene spout didn’t exist before 1961. It came from the mind of Kenji Ekuan and his team, and was created for the Kikkoman Corporation.

#lapotenza #kikkoman #bottle #kenjiekuan #soysauce #sketch #japan #design #vintage

A photo posted by Fabian Schmidt (@lapotenza) on

According to a 2012 article in The New York Times, the iconic tear-shaped bottle has been in continuous production ever since. To date, more than 300 million dispensers have been sold worldwide.

Ekuan’s soy sauce dispenser has even been recognized as a work of art. In the mid-oughts, the bottle was added to the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York as part of its Humble Masterpieces exhibition, which honors the design of everyday objects.

soy sauce
Photo by Kiersten Chou

Ekuan graduated from Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music and the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. He became an industrial designer, a maker of the things we use every day (and often can’t imagine life without).

Ekuan founded GK Industrial Design Associates in 1957, which later became the GK Design Group. Today GK Design comprises eight domestic and four international firms providing product, transportation, environmental and communication design.

Over the course of his illustrious six-decade career, Ekuan designed the distinctive Akita bullet train and motorcycles for Yamaha. Considered Japan’s foremost industrial designer, Ekuan was also the author of “The Aesthetics of the Japanese Lunchbox” and several other books.

For his contributions, Ekuan received many honors, including the ICSID Colin King Grand Prix, the International Design Award, The Blue Ribbon Medal, the Sir Misha Black Medal and the Order of the Rising Sun.

Ekuan died on Feb. 8 of a heart rhythm disorder, Kyodo reported. He was 85.

–Originally published in The Huffington Post.

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In Memoriam: A Look Back At The People We Lost in 2014

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Categories: Misc.

hourglass.jpgSome people view obituaries as morbid stories, but in truth only one line of an obit deals with death. The rest of the story focuses on the amazing lives people lead. In 2014, these 15 obituaries were the people/stories that most resonated with me:

* Robin Williams, comedian and actor
* Josefa A. Platzer, restauranteur
* Archibald Andrews, comic book hero
* Philip Seymour Hoffman, actor
* Ben Bradlee, editor
* Jay Lake, author
* Margot Adler, author
* John Pinette, comedian
* Frank Mankiewicz, former president of NPR
* Hal Douglas, voiceover actor
* Eli Wallach, actor
* Mickey Rooney, actor
* R.A. Montgomery, author
* John Tull, survivor of the plague
* Timothy Dowd, police detective

Other wonderful obituaries that shouldn’t be missed (and people who shouldn’t be forgotten):

* H.R. Giger, artist
* Arthur Gelb, journalist
* Edwin Kagin, atheist attorney
* Milton William Jones, one of the last Pullman porters
* Larry Agenbroad, paleontologist
* Jean Beliveau, hockey Hall of Famer
* Mike Nichols, director
* Betty Jo Simpson, Internet sensation
* Ralph White, actor
* Don Pardo, broadcaster
* Maya Angelou, poet
* Ruby Dee, civil rights activist and actress
* Shirley Temple Black, actress and ambassador
* Harold Ramis, director
* Joan Rivers, comedian
* Casey Kasem, DJ
* Lauren Bacall, actress
* Pete Seeger, folk singer
* Gabriel García Márquez, author
* Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier, ruler of Haiti
* Ariel Sharon, former Israeli Prime Minister
* Marion Berry, former DC mayor
* Oscar de la Renta, fashion designer
* Sir Richard Attenborough, director
* Sid Caesar, comedian
* James Garner, actor
* Elaine Stritch, actress
* Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, boxer
* Joe Cocker, singer
* Ann B. Davis, actress

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Jimi Jamison

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Categories: Musicians

Jimi JamisonJimmy Wayne “Jimi” Jamison, the lead singer of the 1980s arena rock band Survivor, died on Aug. 31 of a heart attack. He was 63.

The band’s official Facebook page shared the news of Jamison’s death on Monday: “The entire Survivor family is very shocked and saddened by the passing of our brother Jimi Jamison. Our thoughts, love and prayers go out to his family and friends.”

Born in Mississippi and raised in Memphis, Jamison was just 13 years old when he first performed in public. Even at such a young age, he’d found his calling.

Jamison spent the 1970s and early 1980s as the frontman for the hard rock bands Target and Cobra. He also provided back-up vocals for numerous recording artists, including ZZ Top and Joe Walsh.

When vocal problems caused Survivor lead singer Dave Bickler to leave the band, numerous people tried out for the gig. But it was Jamison who landed the coveted job of performing alongside guitarist Frankie Sullivan, keyboardist Jim Peterik, bassist Stephan Ellis and drummer Marc Droubay.

Although Jamison originally joined Survivor in 1983, the charismatic performer would leave and return many times over the next few decades. However, when there was harmony between the bandmates, the music shined.

Jamison’s first Survivor release was “The Moment of Truth,” a song that didn’t fare well on the radio but became the theme for the hit movie ‘The Karate Kid.” His debut album with the band was much more successful; “Vital Signs” (1984) went platinum and spun off several hits, including the rock ballads “I Can’t Hold Back,” “High On You” and “The Search Is Over.”

“I’m stronger on ballads,” Jamison told The Los Angeles Times in 1985. “I like to sing them more than anything else but I didn’t get much of a chance before. I wanted to sing more ballads. Being in this group is just right for me.”

Survivor’s biggest hit, “Eye of the Tiger” — which sold over 2.5 million copies, topped the Billboard Hot 100 and became an athletic anthem as part of the soundtrack for “Rocky III” — was released two years before Jamison joined the band. During the next 30 years, he would perform the soaring tune countless times in concert, much to the joy of fans. He also recorded the vocals for “Burning Heart,” a song that appeared on the “Rocky IV” soundtrack.

After Survivor disbanded in 1989, Jamison decided to focus on a solo career. He released two albums, “When Love Comes Down” (1991) and “Empires” (1999), and cowrote and sang “I’m Always Here,” which became the theme for the the TV show “Baywatch.”

Survivor reunited in 1993, with former lead singer Dave Bickler back on the mic. But Jamison reunited with the band in 2000, remained for six years, left for five and then returned again in 2011. He performed his last Survivor show on Saturday night in Morgan Hill, Calif., The Arizona Republic reported.

Singer/songwriter Richard Marx took to Twitter to remember Jamison.

“So sad to hear of Jimi Jamison’s sudden passing,” Marx wrote. “Just saw him last December at a benefit. He was a kind and talented man.”

Guitarist Paul Sidoti also praised Jamison’s singing talents.

“RIP Jimi Jamison.. Your incredible vocal talents fronting Survivor were a big part of my childhood.. May you sing with the angels,” Sidoti said.

In a statement released to the public, Jamison’s family described him as friendly and caring.

“Jimi was a friend to everyone he met. He was a loving father and grandfather and was always a person who valued people more than anything else,” the family stated.

Photo by James L. Dickerson. Used with permission.

–Originally published in The Huffington Post.

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Betty Jo Simpson

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Categories: Extraordinary People

Betty Jo Simpson, the Instagram sensation known as Grandma Betty 33, died on Aug. 2 of lung cancer. She was 80.

Earlier this year, Zach Beldon, 18, of Jeffersonville, Ind., created an account on Instagram to share pictures of his great-grandmother and her battle with cancer.

“The idea was to start an account for my friends who know Grandma Betty,” Beldon said. “And it turned out to be something everybody started to enjoy.”

Over the course of the next seven months, more than 690,000 people followed the joyful octogenarian, liking and sharing photos of her adventures. From sitting on a motorcycle:

… to dressing up as a clown:

… to sharing her blue-tinted tongue after eating candy:

One of the most popular posts involved Simpson dancing to Pharrell Williams’ hit song, “Happy”:

Simpson said she enjoyed becoming “the world’s grandma,” but she also hoped her advice would help others.

“You have to love people,” she said. “I mean from your heart out, just not from your mouth.”

On her Instagram page, Simpson described herself as a resident of Jeffersonville, Ind., a cancer fighter and a follower of Jesus. But outside of her fame on social media, she was a member of the Shepherdsville Gospel Church and retired from BRB Plastics. Simpson raised three adopted children, and lost both her husband, Clarence Simpson, and her daughter, Billie Pedigo, to cancer.

As her own condition worsened, family members posted updates about Simpson’s health on Instagram. This prompted thousands of strangers to send cards and share their thoughts and prayers of support.

Devyn Purvis was one such fan. She followed Grandma Betty’s Instagram posts and found comfort from them.

“Whatever you do please never shut down her instagram,” Purvis wrote. “I have looked at it every day for as long as it has been up and everyday it has made me smile. She was an inspiration to me.”

Another fan, artist Dagmara Cielecka, drew pictures of the impish Simpson after having a conversation on Snapchat:

Not surprisingly, word of Simpson’s death was first posted on Instagram. The announcement included a picture of her beloved dog Harley, sitting alone in her rocking chair, and the message: “Although Grandma Betty is no longer physically with us, she will forever be in the hearts of the millions of people she touches every single day. Grandma Betty did not lose her battle to cancer, because her legacy she has left behind will inspire millions of people to #Smile, #BeHappy, and #StayHappy no matter what. The fight has ended. The battle is won.”

–Originally published in The Huffington Post.

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