Obituaries in the NewsThe Associated Press , Associated Press
Feb. 15, 2006 6:26 AM ET
Undated John Belluso
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Playwright John Belluso, who championed the rights of disabled people in both his work and through the writer's program he helped direct, died Friday. He was 36.
Belluso was found in his Manhattan hotel room, New York police Detective Chris Filippazzo said.
The cause of death was under investigation, but Filippazzo said foul play was not suspected. Belluso, who used a wheelchair, had a debilitating bone disease called Engleman-Camurdrie Syndrome, according to friends.
Until last July, Belluso had helped direct the Other Voices Project, a development program at Los Angeles' Mark Taper Forum for writers with disabilities.
``He was a good storyteller, and he wanted to tell the stories of the disabled from a personal point of view,'' said Gordon Davidson, founding artistic director of Mark Taper Forum.
Davidson produced Belluso's 2001 play ``The Body of Bourne,'' about Randolph Bourne, a World War I pacifist and writer disfigured by childhood spinal tuberculosis.
Belluso had been staying in New York while he completed ``The Poor Itch,'' a play about a disabled American veteran returning from Iraq. It had been commissioned by New York's Public Theater.
Other works included ``Gretty Good Time,'' about a 32-year-old woman with post-polio paralysis living in a nursing home; ``Traveling Skin,'' about a New Jersey waitress with cerebral palsy; and ``Henry Flamethrowa,'' in which a miracle-imbued comatose girl is visited by those praying to be healed from illness.
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Shoshana Damari, whose voice came to embody the emerging nation of Israel and comforted its people in trying times, died Tuesday after suffering from pneumonia. She was 83.
Damari, known as ``the queen of Hebrew music,'' entertained Israeli civilians and soldiers for nearly seven decades with her booming alto voice, continuing to perform until shortly before her death.
Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called Damari ``one of Israel's cultural greats.''
She made many recordings and helped soothe the nation during its war of independence in 1948. She performed for Israeli military units in the country's subsequent wars.
Her songs, such as ``Kalaniot,'' or ``Anemones,'' were played repeatedly Tuesday on Israel's radio stations. Israeli television went to special programming Tuesday night, with tributes to her career and airing her last interviews and concert performances.
In 1988, Damari was awarded Israel's top civilian honor, the Israel Prize, for her contribution to Israeli vocal music.
Mary Condon Gereau
HELENA, Mont. (AP) _ Mary Condon Gereau, a former state schools superintendent who pushed for public school systems on Montana's seven American Indian reservations, died Sunday in Fredericksburg, Va., according to her husband, Gerald Gereau. She was 89.
Gereau worked in education as a teacher as well as on education legislation at the state and federal level for nearly four decades.
In 2000, Gereau was given a medal of honor by the Veteran Feminists of America for her work on behalf of the Equal Rights Amendment and related women's causes.
She was elected Montana's superintendent of public instruction in the 1950s and served two terms. Gereau lobbied for federal education legislation that included Head Start and the Higher Education Act of 1965.
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Jockey Shabalala, a member of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, South Africa's most famous a cappella ensemble, died Saturday. He was 62.
Shabalala, whose brother Joseph founded and still leads the ensemble, died of natural causes surrounded by family at his home in Ladysmith, said Mike Wilpizeski, a spokesman for the U.S.-based Heads Up International record label. He had suffered from various ailments.
Jockey Shabalala joined Ladysmith Black Mambazo in the 1960s and featured on Paul Simon's ``Graceland'' album, which won the Grammy Award for album of the year in 1986.
He continued to tour and record with the group until early last year, when they won a second Grammy for their recording ``Raise Your Spirit Higher.''
The group, which fuses Zulu and gospel music traditions, was touring the United States to promote their latest release, ``Long Walk to Freedom,'' when news of Shabalala's death reached them. Joseph Shabalala said they would not interrupt the tour.
Wilfred Edward Sieg, Sr.
RAMSEY, Ind. (AP) _ Wilfred Edward Sieg, Sr., whose likeness graced thousands of boxes of his family's ``Cousin Willie's Popcorn,'' died Feb. 2 from lung cancer. He was 74.
Sieg died in southern Indiana's Harrison County Hospital, said Veronica Battista, one of Sieg's 13 children.
He spent decades as president and general manager of Ramsey Popcorn Co. Inc., a business founded in 1944 by his parents. Until his death he remained the president emeritus of the world's fourth-largest popcorn processor.
Sieg's bearded face, plaid shirt and cowboy hat first graced Ramsey boxes in the 1980s and remains a fixture on the company's products today.
Sieg and his three brothers took over the company in the 1960s after graduating from Indiana University. The family's third generation now manages Ramsey's business.
Rabbi Yehuda Chitrik
NEW YORK (AP) _ Rabbi Yehuda Chitrik, a 106-year-old Lubavitcher scholar known for his storytelling and longevity, died Tuesday.
Chitrik had been hospitalized after suffering a heart attack Feb. 8, said Rabbi Zalman Shmotkin, a spokesman for the Chabad Lubavitch movement.
A book of translations of Chitrik's stories, ``From My Father's Shabbos Table,'' was published in 1991.
Chitrik, born in 1899 in Krasnolok, Russia, was sent by his father at age 15 to the town of Lubavitch, where he studied at the central Chabad Lubavitch yeshiva until communism and persecution forced him and other scholars to leave.
In 1926, he began teaching in what is now the Ukraine, where he married Kaila Tumarkin. While there, he also met Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, who later became the seventh Lubavitcher rebbe, the spiritual leader of the Chabad Lubavitch movement.
After World War II, Chitrik's family lived in Belgium and Holland before moving to Montreal, where he taught in a yeshiva, an institution for study of the Torah. He moved to Brooklyn after his wife died in 1983.
Chitrik's memories of Schneerson, who died in 1994, have helped scholars learn more about the late rebbe, Shmotkin said.
The Lubavitchers' movement is one of many forms of Hasidism, a religious lifestyle and ideology focused on prayer and the study of Jewish holy books. Its world headquarters is in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.