Deaths Elsewhere

Deaths Elsewhere

February 28, 2003

John McMorran, at 113 years and 250 days the oldest man in the United States, died Monday in Lakeland, Fla.

Mr. McMorran was the world's fifth-oldest man in history, said Dr. L. Stephen Coles of the Gerontology Research Group, a nonprofit international research organization based at the University of California, Los Angeles, which verifies birth dates and tracks the 35 to 45 people around the globe who are 110 and older.

Mr. Coles said that 41 people remain alive in that category, and that the oldest living American is Mary Christian, one week McMorran's senior, of San Pablo, Calif.

Nearly deaf and blind and in a wheelchair, Mr. McMorran remained spirited until his death. Robert McMorran Jr. said his grandfather, a widower for nearly 40 years, particularly enjoyed women and boasted several girlfriends at his nursing home.

"I drink a cup of coffee before every meal - and stay away from cheap whiskey," Mr. McMorran said after he turned 111. He gave up alcohol in his 50s, younger relatives said, but used tobacco until he was 97.

Born in a log cabin north of Imlay City, Mich., on June 19, 1889, Mr. McMorran grew up on farms and spent most of his working life driving trucks - hauling freight, milk and mail around Michigan. He retired and moved to Florida in 1973. He outlived his three younger siblings, his wife of 50 years, Matie, and their only child, Robert, and is survived only by his son's three generations of descendants.

Albert R. Hibbs, 78, who dreamed of going to the moon, worked his way through graduate school partly at the roulette wheel, and became a rocket scientist and the voice of Voyager and other unmanned spacecraft, died Monday in Pasadena, Calif., after heart surgery.

Dr. Hibbs retired in 1986 as director of space science for the California Institute of Technology's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

He served as system designer of Explorer I, which on Jan. 31, 1958, became the first U.S. satellite to orbit Earth. Designated to explain the results of the tiny satellite's launch from Cape Canaveral, Dr. Hibbs soon became known for his clarity in explaining the physics and other complex science that could send man-made objects through space. He emerged as the unmanned space program's official voice, tracking for the world, via television and radio, the travels of Ranger and Surveyor to the moon, the Mariners to Venus, Mars and Mercury, Voyager to Neptune and the Vikings to Mars.

In 1967, although seven years older than the age 35 limit, Dr. Hibbs qualified to become an astronaut on Apollo 25. But the moon-landing program ended with the Apollo 17 mission.

"Even though I didn't make it to the moon, my machines [Ranger and Surveyor] did," he told the Los Angeles Times in 2001. "That was not quite as good - but it was pretty good."

Vincent G. Liff, 52, a casting director who hired actors for some of Broadway's biggest hits, died of brain cancer Tuesday in New York.

Mr. Liff helped cast more than 150 Broadway and touring productions, including Cats, Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, The Elephant Man and Amadeus.

Mr. Liff began his Broadway career at the age of 24, when he and business partner Geoffrey Johnson were chosen to help select the cast of The Wiz. Two of the actors they hired, Ted Ross and Dee Dee Bridgewater, won Tony Awards for their performances.

Felice Marks Lippert,73, a co-founder of the Weight Watchers diet system, died of lung cancer Saturday in New York.

She helped to turn a fledgling business into an international blockbuster with millions of subscribers to its weight-control program. She helped develop the company's programs and served as a director and vice president of Weight Watchers International until the H.J. Heinz Co. bought the business in 1978.

In 1963, Mrs. Lippert and her husband, Albert, realized that they had put on weight and she contacted a woman, Jean Nidetch, who was teaching a diet regimen in New York. The couple went on the program and lost 100 pounds between them.

The Lipperts and Jean and Marty Nidetch then came up with a plan to market the diet through weekly meetings at which Jean Nidetch spoke. Within a year, Mr. Lippert was selling franchises.

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