Jack Horkheimer

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Categories: Education

jhorkheimer.jpgFoley Arthur “Jack” Horkheimer, the award-winning astronomer who entertained millions as the host of the PBS show “Jack Horkheimer: Star Gazer,” died on Aug. 20 of a respiratory ailment. He was 72.
Born in Randolph, Wis., Horkheimer was always in poor health. As a child, he suffered from severe allergies, depression and numerous phobias, including acrophobia (fear of heights) and agoraphobia (fear of crowds). Throughout his life, he also battled bronchiectasis, a degenerative lung disease.
Horkheimer’s father, the longtime mayor of Randolph, reportedly urged him to be an athlete, and his mother wanted him to become a priest. He preferred to please people, working as a disc jockey, a jazz organist, a playwright and a nightclub entertainer. After dropping out of Marquette University and the Honolulu School of Fine Arts in Hawaii, Horkheimer attended Purdue for six years, where he studied drama and worked as a writer/producer in Purdue’s Repertory Theatre. Once Horkheimer finally earned a bachelor’s degree, he moved to South Florida because the warm, humid air helped his inflamed lungs.
While Horkheimer never took an accredited astronomy course, his future would soon be written in the stars. A meeting with Art Smith, chief of the Southern Cross Astronomical Society, led to a job running the brand new Space Transit Planetarium (also known as The Miami Planetarium). With a $150,000 Spitz projector at his disposal, Horkheimer created multimedia stargazing shows that were a memorable mix of fact and fantasy. He called it “cosmic theater.”
“A planetarium is not for scientists. It’s not for the Ph.D.’s. It’s for the people,” Horkheimer said in a 1982 profile in The Miami Herald. “A planetarium is supposed to mediate between the scientists and the public. It’s to teach, to tantalize. Real astronomers aren’t supposed to be running planetariums. It’s living death for them. They’re supposed to be researching.”
Over the next 35 years, Horkheimer served as executive director of the planetarium, putting on shows and teaching the public about astronomy. He took his message to the masses with “Jack Horkheimer: Star Hustler,” a weekly TV series made available to all PBS stations free of charge. The one- and five-minute episodes offered astronomical lore and advice on what to look for in the night sky. The name was changed to “Star Gazer” in the 1990s to make it easier for children to find the correct Website.
With infectious enthusiasm and over-the-top showmanship, Horkheimer used “Star Gazer” to sell the idea of naked-eye astronomy with a memorable three-word motto: “Keep looking up.” Sky & Telescope Magazine described the show as “arguably the most successful five-minute program in television history.” When “Star Gazer” celebrated its 30th anniversary on Nov. 4, 2006, over 1,500 weekly episodes had been recorded. In recent years, those episodes have been offered on iTunes and YouTube in the form of a video podcast.
Horkheimer was a founding member of the International Planetarium Society, a founding co-editor of “The Planetarian” and a past editor of “Southern Skies.” He won numerous awards, including an Emmy and a Telly, but was most proud of his work encouraging young astronomers to explore the heavens. Each year, The Astronomical League presents The Jack Horkheimer Award for Exceptional Service by a Young Astronomer; the winner receives a $1,000 check and a high-quality telescope.
Horkheimer was a lover of good music, good food and champagne and once collected old Cadillacs and Lincoln Continentals. Although his lifelong contributions to popularizing astronomy were occasionally derided by some in the field for not being more academic, the International Astronomical Union honored his efforts by renaming “Asteroid 1999 FD9” to “Asteroid Horkheimer.”
Long before his death, Horkheimer penned a fitting epitaph:
“Keep looking up was my life’s admonition,
I can do little else in my present position.”


Isaac Bonewits

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Categories: Writers/Editors

ibonewits.jpgPhillip Emmons Isaac Bonewits, an author, educator and archdruid emeritus of Ar nDraiocht Fein: A Druid Fellowship, died on Aug. 12 of colon cancer. He was 60.

Born in Royal Oak, Mich., Bonewits was only 13 years old when he first became interested in the occult. Although he briefly considered becoming a priest, and even entered a Catholic high-school seminary, he decided against that path and began studying magic, parapsychology and the structure of rituals.

Bonewits joined the Reformed Druids of North America while attending the University of California, Berkeley, where he would earn a bachelor’s degree in magic and thaumaturgy in 1970. That degree, which was signed by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, led to a publishing contract and the release of his first book, “Real Magic: An Introductory Treatise on the Basic Principles of Yellow Magic.”

Over the next four decades, Bonewits became one of North America’s leading experts on ancient and modern druidism, witchcraft and the rapidly growing Earth religions movement. He was a 3rd Degree Druid within the United Ancient Order of Druids, a retired High Priest in both the Gardnerian and the New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn traditions of Wicca and an initiate of Santeria and the “Caliphate Line” of the Ordo Templi Orientis. Despite all these achievements, Bonewits said he was not a pagan spiritual leader, but merely one of the Neopagan movement’s better-known “unindicted co-conspirators.”

Bonewits edited the neopagan journal, Gnostica, and founded the Aquarian Anti-Defamation League, a civil liberties organization for members of minority belief systems. He published several books (“Bonewits’s Essential Guide to Druidism,” “Neopagan Rites” and “Real Energy: Systems, Spirits, and Substances to Heal, Change and Grow,”) and released two albums (“Be Pagan Once Again” and “Avalon Is Rising.”) In August 2010, he donated all of his scholarly papers to the University of California, Santa Barbara, for inclusion in the American Religions Collection.

When not focused on his religious and occultist path, Bonewits made a living as a computer consultant, technical writer and professional speaker. He married six times, the last to tarot expert and Wiccan priestess, Phaedra Bonewits, with whom he also co-founded the Real Magic School, an online school of neopagan and general occult studies. Bonewits also fathered one son, Arthur Lipp-Bonewits.

In 1983, Bonewits launched Ar nDraiocht Fein (ADF), an international fellowship devoted to creating a public tradition of neopagan druidry. Druids are polytheistic nature worshippers who practice in a solitary fashion or in congregations known as groves. The organization, which was founded with the goal of “researching and expanding sound modern scholarship about the ancient Celts and other Indo-European peoples, in order to reconstruct what the Old Religions of Europe really were,” currently has more than 1,100 members. ADF plans to hold a special service to celebrate Bonewits’s life and achievements on Aug. 19 during Summerland, an ADF unity festival and pagan spiritual retreat in Yellow Springs, Ohio.


Edith Shain

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Categories: Extraordinary People, Medicine

shain.jpgWhen Edith “Edie” Shain kissed a stranger 65 years ago, she became a part of history.
The New York native was working as a nurse at the now-demolished Doctors Hospital in Manhattan on August 14, 1945, when President Harry S. Truman announced that the war with Japan had ended. To celebrate, Shain headed to Times Square, where she encountered an equally-joyous American seaman wearing a dark-blue uniform. Just as she emerged from the subway, the sailor pulled Shain into his arms and kissed her. That kiss was captured by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, who published the image in Life Magazine. It eventually became the most reproduced picture in the history of the publication.
For decades, Eisenstaedt didn’t know the identity of the couple immortalized in his iconic V-J Day photograph; the couple apparently parted ways and disappeared into the cheering crowd right after the kiss ended. But in the late 1970s, Shain wrote to Eisenstaedt and claimed to be the nurse in the picture.
Shain’s letter gave the editors of Life Magazine the idea to write a followup article. That story, which appeared in the Aug. 1980 issue, urged the kissing sailor to come forward. Two months later, the editors noted that 11 men and three women had claimed to be the subjects of the photograph. Although Shain is generally considered to have the best claim — Eisenstaedt agreed that she was the woman in the picture after meeting her in California — the identity of the sailor remains a mystery.
“Someone grabbed me and kissed me, and I let him because he fought for his country,” Shain once said. “I closed my eyes when I kissed him. I never saw him.”
To commemorate the 60th anniversary of V-J Day, artist J. Seward Johnson II designed a 25-foot, 6,000 pound replica of the kiss that he called “Unconditional Surrender.” A life-size aluminum statue of the famous embrace also stands in Times Square, and each year couples gather near it and reenact the amorous moment of jubilation.
After the war ended, Shain earned an education degree from New York University. She moved to Los Angeles in the early 1950s and spent the next three decades teaching kindergarten and first grade and raising a family. To make ends meet, she moonlighted as a nurse at an area hospital.
Once Shain went public about appearing in the Life magazine photo, veterans groups around the nation invited her to take part in commemorative events. In 2008, she even served as the grand marshal in New York City’s Veterans Day parade.
Shain died on June 20 of liver cancer. She was 91.
(Photo by Troy Li. Used with permission.)


Gene Allen

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Categories: Politics

Eugene Allen, a former White House butler who worked for eight presidents, died on March 31 of renal failure. He was 90.

Allen was born on July 14, 1919, in Scottsville, Va. His childhood occurred during a time when the state was strictly segregated. Blacks were forced to ride in the back of buses and attended poorly funded “colored” schools. They were not permitted to use public bathrooms or enter retail establishments that were reserved for white patrons. Interracial marriage was illegal and anyone with a trace of non-white blood was required by law to pay a poll tax in order to vote.

Like many blacks, Allen became a service employee, working as a waiter at whites-only resorts and country clubs. In 1952, he landed a job at the White House as a “pantry man.” The position paid him $2,400 a year to wash dishes, stock cabinets and shine silverware, but it also allowed him to witness many historical events of the 20th century.

For 34 years, Allen catered to the needs of Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, James Carter, Ronald Reagan and their families. He never missed a day of work, and always performed his duties diligently and discreetly.

As a member of the White House domestic staff, Allen met civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and numerous entertainers, including Sammy Davis Jr. and Elvis Presley. Eisenhower gave him a painting. Nixon took Allen on a trip to Romania aboard Air Force One. Ford celebrated his shared birthday with Allen, and First Lady Nancy Reagan invited him and his wife Helene to attend a state dinner for German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. After Kennedy was assassinated, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy asked Allen to attend the funeral, but he volunteered to stay at the White House to help with the meal after the service. She later gave him one of the late president’s ties.

By the time he left 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 1986, Allen had been promoted to the position of maître d’hôtel, which is the most prestigious position among White House butlers. And on Jan. 20, 2009, when Barack Obama was sworn in as the nation’s first African-American president, Allen attended the inauguration as a VIP.

“I never would have believed it,” Allen told The Washington Post. “In the 1940s and 1950s, there were so many things in America you just couldn’t do. You wouldn’t even dream that you could dream of a moment like this.”

Although Allen often received offers to write a tell-all book or give speeches about his interactions with American leaders, he always declined. However, a Hollywood picture about his life is currently in the works. Laura Ziskin, the film’s producer, said the movie would act “as a portrait of an extraordinary African-American man who has lived to see the world turn.”

Allen and Helene were married for 65 years; she died the night before the 2008 election. He is survived by his son, Charles, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.


He Pingping

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Categories: Extraordinary People

He Pingping, the world’s shortest man, made a big impression on everyone who crossed his path.
Born in Huade County in Wulanchabu, China, He was afflicted with a form of primordial dwarfism. People with this very rare condition are born at extremely low birth weights and generally grow into a smaller but proportional body size. Their bones are very thin and they face numerous health risks, including scoliosis, heart issues and aneurysm. Few primordial dwarfs live past the age of 30.
He stopped growing when he turned 18, after reaching a height of 2 feet, 5.37 inches. In 2008, the Guinness World Records officially named him as the shortest man in the world. Over the next two years, He traveled to the U.S., Japan, Britain and Italy to take part in photo shoots and TV shows, and appeared in the documentary, “The World’s Smallest Man and Me.”
Privately, He enjoyed watching TV, listening to music, smoking and spending time with cats. His home included several features adapted to someone of diminutive size, including lowered doorknobs and a special chair that allowed him to eat from a table. When he wasn’t on the road, He helped out at his sister’s cafe in Inner Mongolia.
“From the moment I laid on eyes on him I knew he was someone special — he had such a cheeky smile and mischievous personality, you couldn’t help but be charmed by him,” Craig Glenday, editor-in-chief of Guinness World Records, said. “He brightened up the lives of everyone he met, and was an inspiration to anyone considered different or unusual.”
He died on March 13 of a heart condition at the age of 21. Khagendra Thapa Magar, who is 22 inches tall, is likely to claim the record for world’s smallest man later this year.

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