Other Notable Deaths

November 26, 2007


Medal of Honor recipient

Retired Marine Col. Jefferson DeBlanc Sr., an ace fighter pilot who was awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery during World War II, died Thursday in Lafayette, La., of complications from pneumonia.

Colonel DeBlanc was presented with the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military honor, on Dec. 6, 1946, for his actions during a bombing raid against the Japanese in the Solomon Islands on Jan. 31, 1943.

A lieutenant barely in his 20s, he was in charge of the six planes providing air cover. In an F4F Grumman Wildcat, he downed two Japanese float planes and one fighter before heading back for the naval base at Henderson Field. But he spotted two more Japanese planes coming up behind the bombers.

With the rest of his flight group headed back to the base, he remained on the scene and shot down the two enemy aircraft, though it was unlikely he would have enough fuel to make it back safely.

His plane was hit, and Colonel DeBlanc parachuted into the ocean and swam all night to reach Kolombangara Island, where he was captured by tribesmen and bartered to a friendly tribe for a sack of rice.

He was eventually picked up by a Navy float plane and reunited with his squadron.

After the war, he was a schoolteacher and administrator. He retired from the Marine Corps Reserve in 1972.


New Jersey congressman

Joseph G. Minish, a strong supporter of organized labor and a Democratic Party loyalist who held a New Jersey congressional seat for 22 years, died Saturday at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, N.J. The cause of death was not disclosed.

Mr. Minish was a labor leader in northern New Jersey for many years before being elected to the House of Representatives in 1962.

A supporter of the Vietnam War, Mr. Minish railed against defense contractors for profiteering and pushed for truth-in-lending laws. He also advocated food-safety reforms, including tougher regulation of additives.

Mr. Minish lost his seat to Republican Dean Gallo in 1984.


Connecticut governor

William Atchison O'Neill, a two-term Democratic governor of Connecticut who frustrated allies and opponents with a willingness to buck public opinion, died Saturday. He had been in poor health, said David McQuade, who was chief of staff in Mr. O'Neill's administration.

Mr. O'Neill was lieutenant governor when Gov. Ella T. Grasso resigned because of poor health in 1980. He was elected to full terms in 1982 and 1986, and was the last Democrat to hold Connecticut's highest office.

A former tavern owner, Mr. O'Neill was elected to the state House in 1966 and served six two-year terms, the last four years as majority leader.

A Korean War Air Force veteran, Mr. O'Neill never graduated from college. He frequently mangled the language - saying "astigmatism" when he meant "stigma" and "abstinence" when he meant "absence" - but that down-to-earth quality only seemed to help endear him to voters.

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