Human obituaries

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2001:

Dorothy Checci-O’Brien, 70, died on August 27 at home in
Plymouth, Massachusetts. A longtime valuable news source for ANIMAL
PEOPLE, Checci-O’Brien stood under five feet tall and weighed less
than 100 pounds, but was fined $405 in October 1985 for allegedly
beating up two hunters she caught trying to shoot waterfowl near her
house despite her “No Hunting” signs. Considered the most effective
pro-animal lobbyist in Massachusetts, working strictly as a
volunteer, Checci-O’Brien earlier led a long and eventually
successful effort to wrest the Ellen Gifford Sheltering Home for Cats
in Brighton from the allegedly self-aggrandizing control of corporate
attorney John G. Kilpatrick Jr., and closely monitored the financial
affairs of the Massachusetts SPCA and the Animal Rescue League of
Boston. New England Anti-Vivisection Society president Theo Capaldo
called Checci-O’Brien “the mother of animal activism in
Massachusetts.” Friends of the Plymouth Pound held a memorial
celebration of her life on September 29.

Fred Neil, 64, died of cancer on July 7 at home in
Summerland Key, Florida. A master of the 12-string guitar, Neil
wrote “Everybody’s Talkin'”, made famous by Harry Nilsson as theme
song for the 1969 film Midnight Cowboy, and wrote other hits
including “A Little Bit of Rain,” “Other Side of This Life,” “The
Dolphins,” and “Ba-De-Da,” but lost interest in music after
cofounding The Dolphin Project in 1970 with Ric O’Barry, and last
performed in 1977. Neil arranged benefit concerts for The Dolphin
Project by Jimmy Buffett, David Crosby and Stephen Stills, Dion,
Phil Everly, Richie Havens, Joni Mitchell, John Sebastian, and
Jerry Jeff Walker. “Fred was my best friend,” said O’Barry, who
was in Guate-mala returning two ex-traveling show dolphins to the
wild when Neil passed away.

Vicki Hearne, 55, died on August 21 of lung cancer at a
hospice in Branford, Connecticut, near her home in Westbrook. Born
in Austin, Texas, Hearne became a self-employed animal trainer at
age 21, but taught English and creative writing from 1969 to 1995 at
the University of California/ Riverside, Stanford, and Yale. In
addition to her successful 1986 volume Adam’s Task: Calling Animals
By Name, about animal intelligence, Hearne wrote five other books
on animal themes, including Bandit: Dossier of a Dangerous Dog,
which was turned into the film documentary A Little Vicious. She
became best known as a strident advocate of pit bull terriers and
critic of the animal rights movement, especially in two essays for
Harper’s Magazine, “What’s Wrong With Animal Rights?” (1991) and
“Can An Ape Tell A Joke?” (1993), which defended the Las Vegas
orangutan trainer Bobby Berosini.

Vincent Lowe, 49, of Brooksville, Florida, owner of
Florida Cougar Inc. with Lesa Lucas, was fatally mauled on July 31
at Savage Kingdom, a tiger facility owned since 1971 by Robert
Baudy, 79, whose tiger acts were often featured on The Ed Sullivan
Show. Experienced with their five pumas but not familiar with
tigers, Lowe and Lucas accidently put a tiger named Tie into an
adjacent cage with a hole in the fence while attempting to repair
Tie’s cage. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission reported that
Lowe “ignored a park manager who asked him not to attempt repairs
until he was present, should have left the cage rather than trying
to calm the tiger by striking his cage with a crowbar, and presented
himself as prey when he knelt to make the repairs.” As the tiger came
through the hole, Lowe and Lucas tried to hold him back with a
board. He got through after Lowe sent Lucas to fetch Baudy, who
shot Tie, too late to save Lowe.

Mitzi Leibst, 62, died on August 12 in Seattle. A retired
Army officer, Leibst and longtime friend Hilde Wilson were noted
animal rescuers, feral cat colony tenders, and critics of the
Seattle Animal Control Board. Leibst was also active with the
Northwest Animal Rights Network and Margaret Kyros Foundation for

Linda Cherney, 47, died on August 11 in Norwich, New York,
after an 8-year battle with multiple sclerosis. Cher-ney and Bob
Blake, her companion of 22 years, started the Beingkind animal
rescue society in New York City in 1987. With volunteers, they
rehomed an estimated 8,000 animals before moving upstate in 1999,
to have more room for animals. “They were a fixture at street fairs
and on the Upper West Side, setting up their tent to find homes for
animals,” recalled friend Elizabeth Forel.

Bob Martwick, 75, died in Lom-bard, Illinois, on August
26 from pulmonary fibrosis. Martwick ran a kennel and bred dogs in
the 1950s, but by 1960 mostly trained animals to perform in TV
commercials. He rescued his first big star, Morris I, from a
Chicago shelter just before the personable orange tom was to be
killed. Morris I made 58 commercials for 9 Lives cat food between
1969 and his death at age 19 in 1978; was featured in two books;
was reputed model for the cartoon cat Garfield, drawn by Jim Davis;
and traveled 200,000 miles making appearances. His successor,
Morris II, came from a Massachusetts shelter. Altogether, Martwick
traveled with the two cats for 27 years. Martwick also helped
discover and train Spuds MacKenzie, the bull terrier who sold beer
for Anheuser-Busch.

Carolyn E. Stebe, 68, died on August 20 from a heart attack
in New Albany, Indiana. A marionette performer on Long Island during
the 1960s, Stebe was impressed by parrot acts at Disney World and
turned to teaching hens to roller skate–an act eventually featured
on MTV. She retired from New York to New Albany in 1998, but
continued to give frequent free shows with her hens at retirement

Robert F. Willson, DVM, 90, died on August 2 in Detroit
from congestive heart failure. Willson was chief veterinarian for
the Detroit pound during the 1940s and 1950s, then served as
director of the Detroit Zoo from 1968 until 1975. After retirement
he volunteered at the zoo until 1987.

Robert Edward Steele III, 81, was killed on September 11 in
Sanibel, Florida, apparently while trying to kick an 11-foot
alligator away from his dog. The dog survived. Ironically, Steele
and his wife Ellen “were trying very hard to protect the alligators
in this area,” recalled Art Weiss-bach, who volunteered with Steele
for the Sanibel/Captiva Conservation Foundation.

Bipin Chand Pandey, a deputy ranger at Jim Corbett National
Park in Uttaranchal, India, was killed on August 28 while tracking
a gang suspected of poaching five elephants, raping a woman,
abducting forest guard Dayal Singh Rana, and stripping several other
forest guards of their uniforms. Pandey’s team rescued Rana, but
fellow forest guards Hira Singh and Janardan Pathak were also shot
and were in critical condition.

Matthias Mpiranya, a park ranger at the Karisoke Research
Center in Rwanda, was fatally ambushed by Hutu rebels on August 20
while tracking the resident mountain gorillas.

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