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Chuck Niles

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Categories: Actors, Media, Military, Musicians

Chuck Niles, the velvety voice of jazz in Los Angeles, died on March 15 from complications of a stroke. He was 76.

Born Charles Neidel, Niles learned the clarinet when he was seven years old, and was playing the saxophone professionally by the time he was 14. He joined the Navy in 1945 and served briefly in the South Pacific. After returning to the states, he played alto sax in the jazz band, the Emanon Quartet, earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from American International University and landed a job playing music on WTXL in Springfield, Mass.

In 1956, Niles moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting. He appeared in a few films (“Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “Teenage Zombies”) and stage productions until his friend Sleepy Stein recruited him to be an announcer on KNOB.

He would remain on the air for more than 40 years.

Niles hosted shows on several L.A. stations. Known as “Be-Bop Charlie,” “Mr. Jazz” and the “Minister of Cool,” he spent the past 14 years making the afternoon drive time a pleasant and informative experience for listeners of KKJZ. His love of the genre also endeared him to jazz artists, who wrote songs like “Niles Blues,” “Nilesology” and “Bebop Charlie” in his honor. Niles is the only jazz disc jockey to earn a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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Sheikh Ahmed Yassin

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Categories: Criminals, Religious Leaders

Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder and spiritual leader of the Islamic group Hamas, died on March 20. He was killed when an Israeli helicopter fired three missiles at him as he left a Gaza City mosque. He was in his mid-60s.
Born in what is now known as the Israeli city of Ashkelon, Yassin was paralyzed in childhood in a sporting accident. He grew up in Palestinian refugee camps in the Gaza Strip, studied at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, then became a teacher and spiritual leader.
The quadriplegic preacher founded Hamas in 1987 as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas, which provides education and health care to impoverished Palestinians, is also responsible for scores of suicide bombings and other deadly attacks on Israelis. The militant group rejects the existence of Israel and seeks to establish an Islamic state in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.
When Hamas was formally outlawed by Israel in 1989, Yassin and 200 others were jailed in a mass raid. He was convicted of organizing attacks on civilians and ordering the kidnappings of two Israeli soldiers. Although he was sentenced to life in prison, Yassin was released in 1997 when a botched assassination attempt in Jordan forced Israel to release dozens of Palestinian prisoners.
In Sept. 2003, the Israeli military dropped a bomb on a building where he was meeting with top Hamas leaders. Everyone inside escaped and Yassin received a slight wound on his hand.

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William H. Pickering

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Categories: Scientists

wpickering.jpgWilliam Hayward Pickering, a pioneer of the U.S. space program, died on March 15 from pneumonia. He was 93.
Born in Wellington, New Zealand, Pickering spent his teens building an early radio station with a classmate that allowed him to communicate with people all over the world by Morse code. He attended Canterbury College then traveled to America in 1929 to study at the California Institute of Technology. After earning a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a doctorate in physics, he became a U.S. citizen in 1941.
Pickering joined the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and organized electronics efforts to support guided missile research and development. In Oct. 1957, Sputnik 1 made the Soviet Union the first nation to send an artificial satellite into orbit around the Earth. Charged with matching this feat, Pickering rose to the challenge and oversaw the launch of the first U.S. satellite, Explorer 1, just 83 days later. That satellite, and Explorer III (also launched in 1958), discovered the Van Allen radiation belt, which encircles the Earth. Known as “Mr. JPL” and “Rocket Man,” Pickering headed the laboratory from 1954 to 1976. Under his guidance, the JPL team sent robotic probes to the Moon, Venus and Mars.
In retirement, Pickering worked at the University of Petroleum and Minerals in Saudi Arabia. He also founded the energy company, Lignetics Inc. For his contributions to science and technology, Pickering received NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal and the National Medal of Science. He was given an honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II, and twice appeared on the cover of Time magazine.

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Brian Maxwell

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Categories: Business, Sports

Brian Maxwell, a former world-class marathon runner and the founder of the multimillion-dollar PowerBar empire, died on March 19 from a heart attack. He was 51.
Although Maxwell was born in London, he grew up in Toronto and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1975 with a degree in architecture. He was an outstanding student athlete on the school’s track team who went on to represent Canada in many international competitions as a long-distance runner. Once ranked the No. 3 marathon runner in the world by Track and Field News, Maxwell served as a member of Canada’s Olympic track team when it boycotted the Moscow Games in 1980.
Maxwell invented the PowerBar after he was forced to drop out of a 26.2-mile marathon race at the 21-mile mark. He did some research and learned that was the point where the body ceased burning carbohydrates and began burning muscle tissue. So he and his wife, Jennifer, worked to devise a portable, tasty source of energy. They began selling PowerBars out of their kitchen in 1987. Within a decade, the popular energy bar company grew to $150 million in sales and 300 employees. They sold the company to Nestle SA in 2000 for a reported $375 million.
In the final years of his life, Maxwell sat on the board of directors of Coolsystems Inc., a sports medical device startup in Berkeley, Calif.

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Princess Juliana

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Categories: Royalty

juliana.jpgJuliana Louise Emma Marie Wilhelmina, Princess of Orange-Nassau and former Queen of The Netherlands, died on March 20 from pneumonia. She was 94.
The only child of Queen Wilhelmina and Prince Hendrik, Juliana studied literature and religion at Leiden University. During the Depression of the early 1930s, she represented the Royal House at many official events and served as president of The Netherlands Red Cross. Juliana and her family were briefly forced to flee to England when the Nazi army invaded The Netherlands in 1940. She spent several years living in Canada then returned to her impoverished homeland after the war ended.
Juliana was 39 years old when she took the throne in 1948. Over the next three decades, she helped rebuild her country, officially ended 346 years of colonial rule in the former Dutch East Indies and oversaw the recognition of an independent Indonesia.
Known as a kind and down-to-earth monarch, Juliana was also active in social issues. She frequently visited hospitals and retirement homes, and toured the southern provinces of Zeeland and South Holland during the floods of 1953, in which 1,800 people died. Her children attended public school, and she was often spotted riding her bicycle or shopping at the local supermarket.
Although she abdicated the throne to her daughter Beatrix in 1980, Juliana remained popular with her subjects. The Dutch continued to celebrate their national holiday on her birthday, despite the fact that she declined the title of queen mother and chose to be called princess instead. Her final years were spent in seclusion.

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