Other Notable Deaths


December 05, 2007

Willard Sweetser, 105, oldest Academy alumus

Willard Sweetser, a retired Navy rear admiral who was the U.S. Naval Academy's oldest living alumnus, died Friday at the Veterans' Home in Paris, Maine. He was 105.

Admiral Sweetser served aboard the gunboat USS Panay, which was attacked in 1937 by the Japanese while at anchor in the Yangtze River in China. He went on to command the destroyers USS Lardner and USS Hickox in the Pacific. His awards included the Silver Star and two Bronze Stars.

Admiral Sweetser, whose parents ran a grocery store in Gray, Maine, enrolled in the Naval Academy in 1922, his interest in life at sea mirroring that of ancestors who had been shipmasters.

"I guess, as young folks do, my father at a young age had a passion for the sea and wanted to serve his country," said Willard Sweetser Jr. of Annapolis, one of his two children.

After World War II, Admiral Sweetser served as naval attache at U.S. embassies in the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, a posting that involved gathering intelligence on the Communist governments then in power.

"He would count smokestacks. He would count airplanes," his son said. "There was an awful lot of subterfuge going on in those days."

After his retirement in 1956, Admiral Sweetser earned a master's degree from Purdue University and went on to teach mathematics and statistics at LaSalle University in Philadelphia.

After his wife, the former Martha Callanan, died, Admiral Sweetser remarried. In 1972, he moved back to Gray, where he lived with his second wife, Barbara, until her death. He co-authored a book about his hometown's history.

Admiral Sweetser's caretaker, Elaine Verrill, described him as an independent person who lived a full life. "When he turned 100, he made a conscious decision not to drive his automobile again. He put his license in a drawer," she said.

Admiral Sweetser's son said his father kept a positive outlook and remained vibrant, even at 105.

"He was reading the Wall Street Journal every day, and his memory was like the memory of an elephant," his son said.

A private funeral is planned.

Besides his son, Admiral Sweetser is survived by a daughter, Ellen Allen, of Stony Brook, N.Y.

JAMES KEMSLEY, 59 Comic strip artist

James Kemsley, a cartoonist who penned the Ginger Meggs comic strip for more than 20 years, died Monday at his home in the eastern Australia town of Bowral after a two-year battle with motor neuron disease, friends said. His death was confirmed by Peter Broelman, president of the Australian Cartoonists' Association.

Mr. Kemsley was the fourth cartoonist to draw the comic strip about the precocious red-haired boy named Ginger.

He took over production of the comic in 1984, and was widely credited with transforming the Sunday strip to a daily format and expanding readership to more than 120 newspapers around the world, including the United States, Brazil, India and Thailand.

Mr. Broelman said Mr. Kemsley was working on Ginger Meggs until the day he died.

ROBERT BOYLE, 71 Detailed police torture

Robert Boyle, a former Cook County prosecutor who later wrote a report that detailed allegations of Chicago police torture, died Thursday at his home in suburban Lincolnwood of an apparent heart attack.

Mr. Boyle, hired in the state's attorney's office in 1962, went on to become a private practice attorney specializing in corporate law for 37 years.

The Chicago native, who grew up on the city's Northwest Side, was asked in 2002 to join special prosecutor Edward Egan in investigating allegations of torture by police officers under former Cmdr. Jon Burge on the South Side.

Their 300-page report, released in 2006, focused on allegations that nearly 200 black men were tortured in Chicago police interrogation rooms in the 1970s and 1980s. The scandal drew attention from human rights groups nationwide.

The report found that numerous suspects were tortured at Commander Burge's Area 2 violent crime unit. But Mr. Boyle and Mr. Egan angered victims by concluding the cases were too old to bring criminal charges.

PETER LAMOTTE, 78 Founded hospital

Dr. Peter LaMotte, founder of Hilton Head Hospital and a former team physician for the New York Mets, died Sunday of complications from a fall. Dr. LaMotte died at Hospice House in Savannah, Ga., said his wife, Beryl LaMotte. He had fallen outside his Bluffton, Ga., home Nov. 15, she said.

Jim Chaffin, former vice president of Sea Pines Resort, said he introduced the LaMottes to the island in 1970, when it contained little more than woods, mosquitoes and a bridge.

The couple moved here in 1972. LaMotte was asked by Sea Pines founder Charles Fraser whether he'd be interested in opening a hospital. It opened in 1975.

The hospital was sold to Tenet Corp. in 1994 and the proceeds were used to create a $22 million community foundation.

Born in New York City, Dr. LaMotte attended Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., and George Washington University Medical School in Washington. He was chief of trauma surgery and chief of orthopedic surgery at Roosevelt Hospital in New York as well as the Mets' physician before moving to Hilton Head.

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