Other Notable Deaths

March 14, 2008

ERWIN GESCHONNECK, 101

German actor

Erwin Geschonneck, a German actor who spent years in Nazi concentration camps for his communist sympathies and went on to star in scores of East German films, died yesterday at his Berlin apartment, Germany's Academy of Arts said in a statement. His "engaging artistic and political efforts were recognized with the highest international acclaim for decades," the statement said.

The son of a cobbler, Geschonneck was born in East Prussia on Dec. 27, 1906, and grew up in Berlin.

He joined the Communist Party in 1919, and spent years with theater groups that performed agitprop, with workers' choirs and in a young people's theater.

He made his big-screen debut in 1931 as an extra in Slatan Dudows' Kuhle Wampe, a film about unemployment in the Weimar Republic written by famed playwright and director Bertolt Brecht.

After the Nazis came to power in 1933, Geschonneck went into exile in the Soviet Union, settling in Odessa where he worked in a German-language collective theater until he was expelled in 1938.

He ended up in Prague, where he was arrested by the SS in 1939 after the Nazis took over, then thrown into the Sachsenhausen concentration camp outside Berlin.

After the war, Geschonneck resumed acting in 1946 in Hamburg in the theater, and also took on several supporting film roles.

He rose to become one of East Germany's best-known actors with scores of films to his credit, and won several awards for his work. He also became vice president of the country's film and television federation.

ERICA JESSELSON, 86

Jewish education benefactor

Erica Jesselson, a benefactor of Jewish education and the arts in the United States and Israel who supported major institutions including Yeshiva University and the Israel Philharmonic, died yesterday of natural causes at her home in the Bronx, son Michael Jesselson said. She also had a home in Jerusalem.

Jesselson was the driving force behind the Yeshiva University Museum, serving as board chairwoman from 1973 until her death. As renowned collectors of Judaica, she and her husband helped the university acquire rare materials, making the collection accessible to students and scholars.

Born Erica Pappenheim in Vienna in 1922, she was sent to England along with her sister before World War II as part of the "Kindertransport" of Jewish children from Austria, Czechoslovakia and Germany. The sisters were reunited with their family in 1940, when the Pappenheims moved to New York.

Jesselson's husband was a powerhouse in commodities and trading, and together, the Jesselsons financed a synagogue at the Haifa Technion, also known as the Israel Institute of Technology; founded a religious school for girls in Jerusalem; endowed a program for rabbinic scholarship at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel; and helped build Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem.

They also contributed to the Israel Museum and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

In the United States, through the Jesselson Foundation, she supported organizations including the Riverdale Jewish Center and the SAR Academy and High School, billed as a modern Orthodox learning complex.

DAVE STEVENS, 52

Illustrator

Dave Stevens, a respected comic book artist and illustrator and creator of The Rocketeer, died Monday at a Turlock, Calif., hospital of complications from treatment for leukemia, colleague William Stout said.

Born July 29, 1955, Stevens was known for his meticulous work and classic pinup-style drawings. He is widely credited for reviving interest in recent years in Bettie Page, the 1950s pinup idol.

His best-known work, The Rocketeer, about a man who finds a rocket pack that allows him to fly, was made into a 1991 feature film starring Bill Campbell, Alan Arkin and Jennifer Connelly.

In 1982, Stevens became the first person to win Comic-Con International's Russ Manning Award.

HARRY P. WARD, 75

Former college chancellor

Dr. Harry P. Ward, who led the transformation of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences from a medical school with a charity hospital to a major national research center, died Tuesday.

Ward, who served as UAMS chancellor from 1979 to 2000, had been ill for about a year, son Stewart Ward said. He said he did not know the cause of death.

An endowed professorship at UAMS carries Ward's name, in recognition of his role remaking the institution during his 21 years at its head. The title chancellor emeritus was bestowed on Ward in 2000.

"When Dr. Ward came, he provided a feeling that we could make this a different institution," said Dr. I. Dodd Wilson, who succeeded Ward as UAMS chancellor in 2000.

When Ward took over as chancellor, Wilson said, UAMS consisted essentially of four facilities -- the hospital itself, an education building, a student dormitory and a modest research building.

The campus now includes a major cancer research center, a radiation-treatment facility, a center on aging, an eye-care research and treatment center, a center for spinal and neurological treatment and research, and a biomedical research center.

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