Deaths elsewhere

February 15, 2010|By Tribune Newspapers

HENRY FUKUHARA, 96

Watercolorist

Henry Fukuhara, a California watercolorist and teacher who attracted many of the field's most noted artists to annual painting workshops at the Manzanar relocation camp in Owens Valley, where he and thousands of other Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II, died of natural causes Jan. 31 at a nursing home in Yorba Linda south of Los Angeles, according to his grandson, Paul Niwa. He was 96.

A retired flower grower and wholesaler who did not start painting in earnest until he was nearly 60, Fukuhara was known for energetic, abstract paintings, particularly of Manzanar and Santa Monica, where he grew up.

"Henry had such a unique style, so different from most plein-air artists," said Bill Anderson, whose Sunset Beach gallery represented Fukuhara. "He had a huge following of people he influenced."

Fukuhara started the Manzanar workshops in 1998, taking participants - many of them Manzanar internees - on painting excursions to various outdoor sites around the camp, including the Alabama Hills and the nearby town of Lone Pine.

The workshops, which drew about 80 participants a year, featured demonstrations by Fukuhara and other noted artists, including the late Milford Zornes, a leader of California's watercolor movement.

One of 10 children of Japanese immigrants, Fukuhara was born on April 25, 1913, in the Humboldt County town of Fruitland. He was encouraged to pursue his talent in art by a teacher at Santa Monica High School. After graduating in 1931, he enrolled at Otis Art Institute but was forced to drop out after a few months to help support his family through the Depression years.

Despite the hardships of the era, he kept up with his art and in 1936 had a show of linoleum block prints at what later became the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. A Los Angeles Times critic wrote that Fukuhara's landscapes had "a classical feel, real character and poetry."

Fukuhara was not bitter about his Manzanar experience, shrugging it off, he said, "because it's part of war" and "so many young men didn't return."

Fukuhara is survived by his wife, Fujiko; three daughters, Joyce Bowersox, Grace Niwa and Helen Fukuhara; a son, Rackham; four brothers, two sisters, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

ALEEN LESLIE, 101

Screenwriter

Aleen Leslie, a screenwriter from the 1930s to '50s who wrote the popular "A Date With Judy" radio show that became a hit film and early TV sitcom, died three days before her 102nd birthday.

Leslie, who was also a novelist and playwright, died Feb. 2 of pneumonia at her Beverly Hills home, said her daughter, Diane Leslie.

"A Date With Judy" was originally conceived as a radio vehicle for her friend, actress Helen Mack, whose "crazy stage mother" kept pestering Leslie to write a show for Mack, Diane Leslie said.

By the time the teen-angst comedy debuted on the radio in 1941, Mack was too old to star, but she directed episodes that Leslie wrote and produced.

During its radio run, which lasted until 1950, "A Date With Judy" was also made into a movie starring a teenage Elizabeth Taylor. Time magazine marveled that the "little lollipop of a cinemusical" made it to No. 1 at the box office in 1948.

"Date" was transformed again in 1951, this time into a daytime TV series that segued onto ABC's prime time schedule, airing live in 1952 and 1953.

In 1938, Leslie joined what is now the Writers Guild of America and was its oldest living member.

She was born Aleen Wetstein on Feb. 5, 1908, in Pittsburgh to a traveling salesman and his dressmaker wife.

At Ohio State University, Leslie studied playwriting, but she left after three years because of the Depression.

Soon after becoming a secretary for the influential Association Against the Prohibition Amendment, she started writing a weekly column, "One Girl Chorus," for the Pittsburgh Press in 1933.

She was one of about two dozen female screenwriters at the time, according to her daughter, and had compiled 19 film credits by the late 1950s.

In 1939, she married Jacques Leslie, a Pittsburgh attorney who became a prominent entertainment lawyer. She was a "two-desserts-a-day person" who smoked for 50 years, quitting after her husband died at 65 in 1974, her daughter said.

Besides her two children, Leslie is survived by her brother, Robert Wetstein, 96; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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