Human obituaries

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2004:

Christopher Reeve, 52, died on October 10, 2004 in Mt.
Kisco, New York, from a severely infected pressure wound, a
complication of spending prolonged time in a wheelchair. Best
remembered as the star of the 1978 film Superman and three sequels,
Reeve “used his popularity and influence to support human rights,
animal rights, the environment, and other causes,” wrote
biographer Laura Lee Wren in 1999. Reeve was loudly booed, however,
when as a speaker at the June 1990 March for the Animals in
Washington D.C. he told the 24,000 assembled participants that, “If
you want to get things done, the worst thing that can happen to you
is to be identified as the fringe.” Reeve had nothing further to do
with the organized animal rights movement, but had just starred in a
documentary film about grey whales when in May 1995 he entered a
three-day riding competition. His horse, a thoroughbred named
Eastern Express, balked at the third jump. Reeve suffered a
severely broken neck, rendering him a quadruplegic for the rest of
his life, but recovered his ability to act and direct films. He
became a prominent spokesperson for animal use in biomedical
research, in counterpoint to the 1996 March for the Animals, and
merged two older organizations in 1998 to create the Christopher
Reeve Paralysis Foundation, raising more than $46.5 million for
spinal cord research.

Milton Searle, 77, died on October 1, 2004 in Fort
Lauderdale. Born in West Hartford, Connecticut, Searle started his
adult life as an automobile mechanic, then worked as a long-haul
trucker for a time before returning to West Hartford with his wife,
the former Pat Riley, and her brother Tom, to take a job as an
assistant dog warden. Promoted to chief dog warden, Searle
subsequently served as operatons manager for the Newington shelter of
the Connecticut Humane Society, rising to executive director by the
late 1960s, when he was recruited to head the animal protection
division of the American Humane Association in Denver. Searle
retired from the AHA in 1979, four years after the death of his
wife. With partner Mary Helen Abert and Tom Riley, Searle
subsequently ran a restaurant for many years in Marshfield,
Massachusetts. He and Abert relocated to Florida “about three years
ago,” recalled Barbara Riley, wife of Tom Riley, who added “It was
not a coincidence they they moved just up the road from us. It is
human nature to imbue the deceased with qualities they may not have
possessed, but in his case it would be almost impossible to find
anyone who did not love him.”

William A. Watkins, 78, died on September 24 of multiple myeloma at
his home in East Falmouth, Massachusetts. Employed for 40 years at
the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Watkins invented
underwater recording equipment that he used to document the calls of
more than 70 different marine mammal species. He was best known in
recent years for research involving the effects of underwater sound
on whales. Raised in West Africa by American missionary parents,
Watkins founded a missionary radio station in Liberia in 1950. He
was hired by Woods Hole to help develop ways to track whales in 1957,
and earned a Ph.D. in whale biology in 1981 in Japan, defending his
thesis in Japanese, one of more than 30 languages in which he was
reputedly fluent.

Phyllis Cook, 77, died on Sept-ember 6 in Milwaukee. At
one time a not very successful breeder and exhibitor of showdogs,
Cook cofounded the Washington County Humane Society in the mid-1970s,
and took early retirement from a job with Briggs & Stratton Inc. to
serve for 14 years as president. “During her tenure, Cook worked
with the U.S. Customs Service to locate potential narcotis sniffing
dogs, ran clinics to provide pet identification tattoos and rabies
vaccination, and raised money for the shelter through auctions and
the ‘Walk for Kindness.'” remembered Annysa Johnson of the Milwaukee
Journal Sentinel. Human participants walked nine miles. The animals
were given a ride after the first mile or two.

Samuel Abramson, DVM, 89, died of pneumonia on September 1
at his home in Bethesda, Maryland. Abramson joined the U.S. Public
Health Service in 1946 after earning his veterinary degree and a
master’s degree in microbiology and experimental pathology at the
University of Pennsyl-vania. He later did animal research at
numerous institutions. “His last position,” recalled The Washington
Post, “was senior staff officer with the Institute of Laboratory
Animal Resources. His work contributed to the development of a
revised public health policy for the care and use of laboratory
animals.” Abramson later “organized a national symposium on
Imperatives in Research Animal use,” the Post continued, and
“participated in the design and preparation of U.S. regional programs
on the care and use of laboratory animals.” He retired in 1985.

Williaam C. Reeves, 87, died on September 19 in Walnut
Creek, California. Reeves and University of California at Berkeley
colleague William M. Hammon in 1941 traced both western equine
encephalitis and St. Louis encephalitis to a virus carried by the
Culex tarsalis mosquito. Discovering that chickens develop
antibodies to mosquito viruses if bitten, but do not become ill,
Reeves developed the “sentinel chicken” system that is now used
globally to monitor the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. Reeves
retired from U.C. Berkeley in 1987, but continued to work four days
a week, and in 1999 was instrumental in helping the Centers for
Disease Control to identify West Nile Virus, a potentially
life-threatening disease to birds, humans, and many other nonhuman

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