Deaths Elsewhere

Deaths Elsewhere

April 19, 2004

Dr. Henry Viscardi, 91, founder of the National Center for Disability Services and an adviser on disability issues to presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Jimmy Carter, died Tuesday in Roslyn, N.Y.

Born with physical deformities that kept him hospitalized for the first six years of his life, he became a lifelong advocate for the disabled. In 1952, Eleanor Roosevelt persuaded him to start Abilities Inc., a manufacturing company in West Hempstead that employed injured World War II veterans.

In the 1960s, he moved the center to Albertson and expanded its services to include vocational training and research. Its Human Resources School has become one of the nation's leading educational institutions for youngsters from kindergarten to 12th grade who have severe physical and medical disabilities. The school was named in Dr. Viscardi's honor in 1981 and the entire facility was renamed the National Center for Disability Services in 1991.

Rabbi Jay Litvin, 60, a leader of the rescue organization Children of Chernobyl, died Thursday, according to a spokesman in Jerusalem for Chabad, the Orthodox Jewish movement that founded the organization.

He developed cancer in 2000 and two years ago began writing a weekly column on the Web site His subjects included how he dealt with cancer, parenthood and spirituality.

He worked as medical liaison for the aid group that took children out of the area of the 1986 nuclear disaster in the Ukraine. In addition to about 4,400 people initially killed in the Chernobyl disaster, more than 2 million others were later hospitalized with related illnesses, including 473,400 children. In dozens of trips to the region, Rabbi Litvin coordinated the immigration of children to foreign countries for their medical treatment.

He was born in Chicago and immigrated to Israel in 1993.

Richard Brown, 66, who became an ambassador to Uruguay during his 36 years in the foreign service, died April 12. He spent much of his career in Latin America or on Washington assignments involving U.S. relations with Latin American countries.

As deputy director and later director of the Office of Caribbean Affairs from 1982 to 1985, he directed the diplomatic task force that planned and implemented the invasion of Grenada in 1983. He served as U.S. ambassador to Uruguay for more than three years in the early 1990s after working as deputy chief of mission at the embassy in Montevideo.

He was executive secretary of the Accountability Review Board that investigated the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. As a junior officer in the foreign service, he worked on a Cuban information project and served in Vietnam and Spain.

Helen Smith, 84, first lady Pat Nixon's press secretary during the Watergate scandal, died of vascular disease April 9 in Washington.

She joined Mrs. Nixon's press staff in 1968 after having been a secretary in the Washington bureau of the New York Daily News for nine years. She was promoted to press secretary in 1973 and stayed with the first lady until President Richard M. Nixon resigned in 1974.

After she left the White House, she moved to London to work as an assistant to Elliot Richardson, then U.S. ambassador to England. In the early 1980s, she was a spokeswoman for Energy Secretary James Edwards.

John C. Messerschmitt, 81, who as an executive of Royal Philips Electronics helped introduce optical disc technology, including the videodisc and the CD-ROM, to the American market, died of pancreatic cancer April 8 in New York City.

During his 42-year career at what is now called the Philips Electronics North America Corp., he organized the marketing of a variety of videodisc products.

He oversaw the selling of the Philips videodisc system for viewing movies and other entertainment on television in 1981 and Philips' introduction in 1984 of the CD-ROM - compact disc read-only memory - as a data storage medium.

Rex Hardy, 88, one of the elite group of photographers hired by Life magazine in 1936 for its first year of publication, died April 7 in Monterey, Calif. He was a pilot during World War II and stayed in aviation after the war.

At age 21 and recently graduated from Stanford University, he was the youngest of the first Life photographers, which included renowned shooters such as Alfred Eisenstaedt, Peter Stackpole and Carl Mydans.

William G. Thomas, 73, a longtime staffer to prominent Democrats who served as press secretary for Robert F. Kennedy's 1968 presidential campaign, died of diabetes Wednesday in San Francisco.

Before launching his political career, he was a reporter and editor at the San Francisco Chronicle.

As an aide to Rep. Phil Burton, he helped draft the legislation that created the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Later, under Rep. Nancy Pelosi, he drafted legislation to create the Maritime National Historical Park. A lifelong maritime buff, he was superintendent of the park from 1990 until he retired in 2002.

Wesley Wehr, 74, a painter, author and award-winning paleobotanist known for nurturing other artists, died of a heart attack April 12.

In an interview with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in September, he said art led him to fossils, which in turn led back to his painting, including richly worked, moody landscapes no bigger than the palm of his hand.

His books include The Eighth Lively Art: Conversations with Painters, Poets, Musicians and the Wicked Witch of the West and The Accidental Collector: Art, Fossils, Friendships.

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