Mike O’Callaghan

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Categories: Education, Heroes, Media, Military, Politicians, Writers/Editors

mocallaghan.jpgDonal “Mike” O’Callaghan, a newspaper columnist and former governor of Nevada, died on March 5 from a heart attack. He was 74.
Born Donal O’Callaghan in LaCrosse, Wis., he adopted the first name Mike when he was a teenaged boxer. At 16, O’Callaghan enlisted in the Marines as part of the post-World War II occupation forces. He served in the Air Force as an intelligence specialist then joined the Army in order to fight in the Korean War.
On Feb. 13, 1953, his company came under heavy fire from Chinese Communist forces. To rescue several soldiers trapped in an out-guard post, O’Callaghan voluntarily put himself in harm’s way. He was hit by a mortar and badly wounded. Rigging a tourniquet out of telephone wire, O’Callaghan saved the men, crawled back to the command post and continued to direct the firefight for three more hours. His left leg was later amputated below the knee, and his efforts were rewarded with the Silver Star and a Purple Heart.
When he returned to the states, O’Callaghan earned a master’s degree from the University of Idaho and moved to Henderson, Nev., to teach high school history and economics. He helped found and run the Henderson Boys Club, became the state’s first health and welfare director and was named regional director to the federal Office of Emergency Preparedness by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
An interest in politics led O’Callaghan to run for lieutenant governor in 1966. He lost that race, but was elected to the state’s top spot four years later. During his two terms in office, the popular Democrat was best known for supporting the Equal Rights Amendment and creating the state’s Consumer Affairs Office.
After his second term ended, O’Callaghan became a journalist, spending two decades as a columnist and executive editor at the Las Vegas Sun. A high school, a park and a hospital are all named in his honor.
Timeline of O’Callaghan’s Life


Noah Sylvester Purifoy

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Categories: Artists, Military

Noah Sylvester Purifoy could take a piece of trash and turn it into artwork worth thousands of dollars.
The African-American sculptor, who was considered the father of the Los Angeles black assemblage movement, used to scour swap meets and garage sales to find the items used in his sculptures. Bowling balls, toilets, old tires and other debris were gathered and erected into towering pieces of art. Purifoy was best known for “66 Signs Neon,” a sculpture he created from 3 tons of debris left over from the 1965 Watts riot. His assemblage art has appeared in the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., the Whitney Museum in New York and the California Afro-American Museum.
Purifoy learned welding, metal and woodworking skills in high school. After earning a bachelor’s degree in social science from the Alabama State Teacher’s College, he taught high school shop classes. During World War II, he enlisted in the Navy and served as a Seabee in the South Pacific.
Purifoy returned to home after the war and received a master’s degree in social work in 1948 from Atlanta University. After moving to Los Angeles, he reconsidered his plan of becoming a social worker. Instead, he applied to the Chinouard School of Art and became the first full-time black student to be admitted.
With the help of several friends, Purifoy co-founded the Watts Towers Arts Center in 1965. From 1976 to 1987, he worked for the California Arts Council and brought art to correctional institutions, schools and social programs.
Purifoy moved to the Mojave Desert and spent his remaining years building sculptures. In 1998, he established the Noah Purifoy Foundation to preserve and maintain the 100 pieces of art in his 2.5-acre garden.
Purifoy died on March 5 in a fire. When San Bernardino County firefighters found him inside his home, Purifoy was sitting in his wheelchair with third degree burns on over 90 percent of his body; it is believed he fell asleep while smoking. He was 86.
Listen to a Tribute From NPR


Adan Sanchez


Categories: Musicians

asanchez.jpgSinger Adan Sanchez, the son of balladeer Rosalino “Chalino” Sanchez, died on March 27 in an automobile accident in Sinaloa, Mexico. He was 19.

Sanchez was on a promotional trip through northwestern Mexico when the 1989 Ford Crown Victoria he was riding in blew a tire. The driver lost control and the vehicle rolled. Sanchez, who was not wearing a seatbelt, sustained serious head injuries and died on the scene. The other passengers were hospitalized for their injuries.

Chalino Sanchez was a Los Angeles-based music legend who transformed traditional Mexican ballads into tough tales about criminals and drug traffickers. He was kidnapped and murdered in 1992.

Adan, who adopted Chalino as his middle name, recorded nine albums of ballads and tributes to his father. His songs were mostly played on Spanish language radio stations, but his matinee idol looks appealed to thousands of teenaged fans. Sanchez’s final CD, “Homenaje a Mi Padre,” was released last year.


Paul A. Theis


Categories: Media, Military, Writers/Editors

Paul A. Theis, a former speechwriter in President Gerald R. Ford’s administration, died on March 24 from complications of heart surgery. He was 84.
Born in Fort Wayne, Ind., Theis earned a journalism degree from the University of Notre Dame and a degree in foreign service from Georgetown University. During World War II, he served in the Army Air Forces as a B-17 Flying Fortress combat pilot in Italy.
Upon his return to the states, Theis covered Washington for Newsweek and Army Times, then served as an executive assistant to Rep. Oliver P. Bolton (R-Ohio). He also worked on the inaugural committees of Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard M. Nixon, directed public relations for the Republican Congressional Committee and co-edited the book, “Who’s Who in American Politics.”
Shortly after President Ford was sworn into office, Theis joined the White House staff as head of its editorial department. There he was in charge of speechwriting, presidential messages, research and writing correspondence. President Ford named him deputy undersecretary of agriculture for congressional and public affairs in 1976. But when the president was defeated in the next election, Theis became a staff consultant to the House Committee on Agriculture.
Theis founded Headliner Editorial Service in 1981, and ran the Washington-based firm until his death. In January, he self-published his first novel, “Devil in the House.”


Alistair Cooke

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Categories: Media, Writers/Editors

acooke.jpgAlistair Cooke, the legendary broadcaster who produced the British radio program “Letter From America” for 58 years, died on March 30. Cause of death was not released. He was 95.
Born in Britain and given the name Alfred Cooke, he graduated with a degree in English from Cambridge University. Cooke changed his name to Alistair then traveled to the United States in 1932 to study at Harvard and Yale on a fellowship. Although drama was his first passion, a cross-country trip by car one summer gave him another: storytelling.
Cooke returned to England in 1934 and took a job as a film critic with the BBC. Four years later, he worked as a BBC radio commentator who reported on American affairs, both political and cultural. He even became a U.S. citizen in 1941.
The weekly radio segment, “Letter From America,” launched in 1946. Originally scheduled to run for 13 weeks, the program was so popular with listeners of the BBC World Service that Cooke continued to produce it for more than half a century. Heard by an estimated 22 million listeners around the world, it was the longest running radio broadcast in history. Cooke aired his final dispatch, “Letter No. 2,869,” on March 2.
In addition to his BBC work, Cooke was a correspondent for NBC, The Manchester Guardian and The Guardian newspaper. On television, he served as the host of “Omnibus” from 1952 to 1961, and narrated the NBC documentary series, “America.” From 1971 to 1992, Cooke presented “Masterpiece Theatre” on PBS, an act that was later parodied on “Sesame Street” and “Saturday Night Live.”
For his distinguished broadcasting efforts, Cooke won four Emmy Awards and three George Foster Peabody Awards. He also published 12 books, including the 1973 bestseller “Alistair Cooke’s America.” He was made an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1973.
Complete Coverage From the BBC

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