Deaths Elsewhere

Deaths Elsewhere

February 17, 2003

James Thomas Flexner, 95, who wrote 26 books, including prize-winning biographies of George Washington, died Thursday in his Manhattan apartment.

Mr. Flexner's four-volume biography of Washington earned him the National Book Award and a special Pulitzer citation for the final volume, Anguish and Farewell. He followed up with a one-volume abridged version, Washington: the Indispensable Man. Both works were later adapted into television miniseries.

In his biographies, researched from original sources, Mr. Flexner presented Washington as strikingly human and noble.

Joe Connelly, 86, a television writer-producer who co-created the wholesome family comedy Leave It to Beaver, died Thursday of stroke complications in Newport Beach, Calif.

Born in New York, Mr. Connelly worked for the Merchant Marine before being hired by the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency, where he met his eventual partner Bob Mosher.

Both men left the agency in 1942 for the Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy radio show. In the mid-1940s, after writing for the Frank Morgan and Phil Harris radio shows, they began a 12-year run writing for Amos 'n' Andy, including the early 1950s TV version of the popular radio show.

The pair's most notable work was Leave It to Beaver, which became a household name. The show ended in 1963 after six seasons, but continues in syndication around the world.

Other TV credits for Connelly and Mosher include The Munsters. Mr. Connelly also produced Elvis Presley's final movie, Change of Habit.

Harriet Ann Hale, 60, who could not talk or use her arms and legs but found the will and spirit to become a painter and help establish an arts group for the disabled, died in Seattle Feb. 8 of complications from pneumonia.

Miss Hale, a native of Kansas City, Mo., had cerebral palsy as a result of brain damage at birth.

She and six others started the artists group Very Special Artists in Seattle after entering a residence for the disabled in 1980. She also helped found VSA Arts, a nonprofit guild that provides services to 200 disabled artists.

Miss Hale's paintings were shown around the country in the group's shows.

Taught to read by her mother, a former teacher, and to spell out words using eye signals devised by her father, she began painting as a form of therapy at age 15 with the encouragement of her mother.

Wearing a headpiece that gripped the paintbrush, she dipped her head toward the canvas for each stroke.

Her paintings were shown at the Pacific Northwest Arts and Crafts Fair in Bellevue after being selected by jurors who were unaware of her disability.

Vera Hruba Ralston, 79, a Czech-born ice skater who starred in Republic Pictures B-movies, died of cancer Feb. 9 at her home in Santa Barbara, Calif.

In 1941, Herbert J. Yates, head of Republic Pictures, featured her in Ice-Capades, and followed up in 1942 with Ice-Capades Revue.

In 1943, Miss Ralston signed a long-term contract with Republic, where she became a protegee of Mr. Yates and later his wife.

20th Century Fox had signed Norwegian Olympic gold-medalist-turned-actress Sonja Henie. Miss Ralston, who competed in the 1936 Olympics, was billed as Republic Pictures' star who "skated out of Czechoslovakia into the hearts of America."

Her first leading role was in The Lady and the Monster," a 1944 thriller costarring Erich von Stroheim and Richard Arlen. Over the next 14 years, she appeared in 23 other Republic films.

She added the surname Ralston - taken from the name of a popular breakfast cereal - because Americans had difficulty pronouncing Hruba.

Sister Marie Patrice Manley, 92, a nun whose desire to care for a sick child led to a residential program for 65 children, many of them disabled, died Thursday at a nursing home in High Point, N.C.

She was helping area textile workers take care of their children in 1956 when she encountered Maria Morrow, an infant born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. The infant's 19-year-old mother had brought her to the old Sacred Heart College run by the Sisters of Mercy, a Catholic order of nuns.

Sister Patrice got permission to care for the child and started the Holy Angels program. She served until 1982 as administrator of the group, which houses residents - many with mental retardation - in three different programs.

She is survived by Maria Morrow, her godchild, who works as an assistant for the Holy Angels program.

Augusto "Bobbit" Sanchez, 70, a human rights lawyer and former Philippine labor secretary who spent years fighting dictator Ferdinand Marcos, died of a heart attack Saturday in Manila.

Mr. Sanchez defended opponents of Marcos during the strongman's 1972-1986 rule and led lawyers and activists in street protests. After a 1986 "people power" revolt ousted Marcos, his successor, Corazon Aquino, made Mr. Sanchez labor secretary, hoping his strong links to leftists and the labor movement would calm labor unrest already heated before Marcos fell.

He resigned as labor secretary in 1987 to run unsuccessfully for the Philippine Senate, then returned to private practice. He continued his activism, joining the campaign against U.S. military bases in the Philippines.

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