Rickie Layne, 81, a ventriloquist who frequently appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show with his Yiddish-accented dummy Velvel, died of heart failure Feb. 11 at a hospital in Tarzana, Calif.
Singer Nat "King" Cole discovered Mr. Layne in 1955 at Ciro's nightclub on the Sunset Strip and urged Mr. Sullivan to put the act on his popular Sunday night variety show. Mr. Cole even made an unusual guarantee: If Mr. Layne bombed, Mr. Cole would appear on the show for free.
Mr. Layne made his Sullivan debut Jan. 1, 1956, and returned several dozen times. Mr. Sullivan was such a fan that he often got into the act himself, serving as straight man for the dummy that called the typically stone-faced host "Ed Solomon."
Mr. Layne was born Richard Israel Cohen, the son of Russian immigrants. His mother was a popular vaudeville comic billed as Gypsy Sonya. Mr. Layne began entertaining at age 9 and toured as a ventriloquist when in his teens.
Anthony Burger, 44, a gospel music pianist who played for the popular Gaither Homecoming shows and earned Dove Award nominations for his albums of instrumental music, collapsed and died Wednesday while performing on a Gaither Homecoming cruise out of Miami.
He released many albums and videos of his piano music. His records included religious standards alongside secular classics like Debussy's "Clair de Lune."
Two Gaither albums and videos featuring Mr. Burger are currently in the top 10 on both music video and contemporary Christian album sales charts. Gaither Homecoming: Live From Toronto, has Mr. Burger's "Shout to the Lord/Rhapsody in Blue Medley," and Canadian Homecoming features his "Gettin' Ready to Leave This World."
Earlier in his career, Mr. Burger played for the Celestials and the Southern gospel quartet the Kingsmen.
Flossie Page, the oldest Kansan on record, died Wednesday of pneumonia in Rosalia, Kan., according to granddaughter Becky Humig. She was 112 years, 8 months and 10 days old. The Gerontology Research Group, which keeps a global database on people living past 100, said she was the sixth-oldest person in the United States and 11th-oldest in the world.
The former Flossie Elizabeth Bishop was born on her parents' homestead near the southern Kansas town of Haven. As a young woman, she taught at a one-room school. After the United States entered World War I in 1917, she went to Washington, working as a stenographer in the War Risk and Insurance Department. After the war, she worked in the Treasury Department before moving to Wichita to work for the Internal Revenue Service.
Ms. Humig said Mrs. Page lived by herself until she was 108 - one year after breaking her hip while cleaning windows and undergoing hip-replacement surgery.
The Rev. Earl Stallings, 89, a former pastor of First Baptist Church of Birmingham, Ala., who was one of the eight white clergy members the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. addressed in his "Letter From Birmingham Jail," died Thursday in Lakeland, Fla., where he had been living in a retirement center.
He was pastor of First Baptist Church from 1961 to 1965 and angered many in his all-white congregation by allowing blacks, including civil rights leader Andrew Young, to attend a Sunday worship service after Dr. King's arrest April 12, 1963.
Dr. King's letter detailed his argument for racial equality and the immediate need for social justice. He directed the letter to white moderate clergy members, chastising them for trying to delay his 1963 demonstrations in Birmingham.
James Shively, 63, a Vietnam prisoner of war who became a federal prosecutor, died Feb. 18 in Spokane, Wash., after a long fight with cancer. He died 33 years to the day after he was released by the North Vietnamese.
He entered the Air Force in 1964, and his fighter jet was shot down in 1967. He spent six years in the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" prison.
After a career spanning two decades with the Justice Department, he retired in 2004 as the first assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Washington. He was acting U.S. attorney from 2000 to 2001.