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Ben DeFelice

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Categories: Government

Benedetto DeFelice’s job was to help in times of crisis.
As the chief of the CIA’s casualty affairs branch, DeFelice was the official liaison to families of missing, killed or captured employees. For 20 years, his duties involved sharing information, taking care of finances and consoling families of agents. He worked with the Red Cross and the State Department to get food delivered to captive CIA employees and arrange for family visits.
DeFelice aided the families of Richard G. Fecteau and John T. “Jack” Downey, two CIA employees who were shot down over Manchuria by the Chinese government during the Korean War. Fecteau was sentenced to 20 years for espionage; Downey received a life term. When Downey returned to the states in 1973, DeFelice was there to greet him.
The Rhode Island native served in the Army during World War II. He graduated from the foreign service school at Georgetown and earned a law degree from the university’s law school.
DeFelice joined the spy agency in 1953. For 20 years, he headed the Ad Hoc Committee on Prisoners, and spent a decade as deputy director of personnel. He was also instrumental in creating a program that provided retirement, health and life insurance benefits to U.S. citizens contracted by the agency. DeFelice retired in 1987 as director of information services. For his many years of dedication, he received a “trailblazer” award for being one of the 50 officers who most helped shape the CIA.
DeFelice died on April 5 of cancer. He was 79.

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Niki Sullivan

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Categories: Musicians

Niki Sullivan, a member of the band Buddy Holly and the Crickets, died on April 6. Cause of death was not released. He was 66.
Sullivan was born in California but raised in Lubbock, Tex. He served in the Navy for a short period then returned home and became a professional musician. He played rhythm guitar and sang backup with Buddy Holly and the Crickets on 27 of the 32 songs Holly recorded before his death. Sullivan was known in the press as the “other one with glasses.”
The Crickets’ first record sold 50,000 copies. The band appeared on “American Bandstand” and “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and shared the stage with early rock ‘n’ roll legends such as Chuck Berry, Little Richard, The Drifters, the Everly Brothers and Paul Anka. Sullivan quit the group in 1957 to take a break from the hectic touring schedule. In 1959, a plane carrying Holly, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson and Ritchie Valens crashed, killing everyone on board.
Sullivan recorded a single as a solo artist that attained modest regional success, but he stopped performing in the 1970s. His final years were spent living near Kansas City and working at Sony Electronics. He was inducted into the Buddy Holly Walk of Fame in 1986.

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Herbert Choy

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Categories: Law, Military, Politicians

Herbert Young Cho Choy, the first Asian American to serve on the federal bench, died on March 10 of complications from pneumonia. He was 88.
Born on Kauai to Korean immigrants, Choy graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1938. He earned his law degree from Harvard University then became the first lawyer of Korean ancestry to gain admission to the bar.
After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Choi enlisted in the U.S. Army. He began his military career as a lieutenant and left as a captain, serving in both Japan and Korea. When he retired from the military in 1947, Choy moved to Honolulu and went into private practice with Katsuro Miho and Hiram Fong, who later became a U.S. senator. In 1957, Choy was named the attorney general for the Territory of Hawaii — the first person of Korean descent to hold such a post.
President Richard M. Nixon appointed Choy to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1971. The court hears cases originating in nine western states and two Pacific Island jurisdictions. The legal pioneer achieved senior status when he retired in 1984, but continued to work on cases for the San Francisco-based court.

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Joan Richman

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Categories: Media

Joan Richman, the first woman to become an executive producer of network news, died on April 2 from lung cancer. She was 64.
Born in St. Louis, Richman graduated from Wellesley College. Determined to work in television, she moved to New York City and took a job as an archivist in the CBS News research library. In 1968, Richman was promoted to a producer position. Working with Walter Cronkite, she covered the first trip to the moon and won two Emmy Awards — one in 1971 for covering Apollo 13 and Apollo 14, and another in 1972 for covering Apollo 15.
Richman spent two years producing the ABC News magazine, “The Reasoner Report,” hosted by Harry Reasoner, then returned to CBS News in 1975 to serve as the executive producer of “CBS Sports Spectacular” and the weekend editions of “CBS Evening News.” It was the first time a woman had reached such a position at the network level.
A no-nonsense journalist with a penchant for smoking packs of Pall Malls, Richman handled election night coverage in 1976, 1978 and 1980. As vice president and director of special events for CBS News, she ran the network’s coverage of major breaking news events from 1981 to 1988. Some of the stories she supervised included the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1982, the U.S. invasion of Grenada in 1983 and the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986.
Her remaining years were spent teaching media and politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.