Deaths Elsewhere

Deaths Elsewhere

May 18, 2004

Anna Lee, 91, whose nearly 70-year acting career in movies and television spanned from her breakthrough role in the movie How Green Was My Valley to an extended run on the television soap opera General Hospital, died of pneumonia Friday in Los Angeles.

Paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident a year after she began playing Lila Quartermaine in ABC's General Hospital, she acted in a wheelchair for more than two decades until she left the soap last year.

Born in Kent, England, Miss Lee studied acting in London and was known as "the British Bombshell" when touring with the London Repertory Theatre. In the early 1930s she moved to California to work in Hollywood, and appeared in more than 60 films including The Sound of Music (1965), Fort Apache (1948) and King Solomon's Mines (1937).

She was married three times, first to Robert Stevenson, the director of dozens of films, including The Love Bug and Mary Poppins. She was married to George Stafford for two decades, and in 1970 wed writer Robert Nathan, who died in 1985. Miss Lee was to be honored with a lifetime achievement award at the Daytime Emmy Awards ceremony Friday.

Charlotte Benkner, 114, recognized as the world's second-oldest person, died Friday in Youngstown, Ohio. The Guinness Book of Records recognized her as the oldest person in the world in November, but replaced her with a woman from Puerto Rico last month.

Mrs. Benkner, a widow who had no children, spent her final years rooming with her sister Matilda O'Hare, who died in January at age 99.

The two always ate their meals side by side and recited the Lord's Prayer in unison. Both loved music, especially symphonies and the Boston Pops. Mrs. Benkner's favorite television program was The Lawrence Welk Show.

Guinness initially recognized Benkner as the world's oldest person upon the death Nov. 13 of Mitoyo Kawate of Japan, at 114. But it subsequently gave that distinction to Ramona Trinidad Iglesias Jordan after a baptismal certificate showed she was born Aug. 31, 1889. Mrs. Benkner was born Nov. 16, 1889.

Arnold Stirewalt Gridley, 92, a colorful entrepreneur who invented the "motorized cable car" by replacing the cars' regular metal wheels with a truck chassis, died of kidney failure May 8 in San Francisco.

After buying some of the city's old California Street cable cars at an auction in 1958, the real estate agent refurbished them and replaced the cars' wheels. The result was San Francisco's first "motorized cable car," which didn't run on cables at all but looked like a traditional cable car and could be driven on any street.

At the time of his death, Mr. Gridley had 60 motorized cable cars, which had been used in at least 10 movies, all the Rice-A-Roni commercials and the Super Bowl championship parades of the San Francisco 49ers.

At Mr. Gridley's funeral Thursday, his casket was taken to the cemetery in a procession of motorized cable cars.

Bishop Kevin Britt, 59, who led the Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids, Mich., was found dead at his home Sunday morning. Ned McGrath, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Detroit, said Bishop Britt had canceled all his appointments last week because he hadn't been feeling well, and that no foul play was suspected.

He spent nearly a decade as an auxiliary bishop in the Detroit area before going to Grand Rapids.

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