Obituaries [Oct 2010]

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2010:
(Actual press date November 3.)

“I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do
lives after them. The good is oft interred with their bones.”
–William Shakespeare
Robert J. White, M.D., 84, died on September 16, 2010 at
his home in Geneva, Ohio from complications of diabetes and prostate
cancer. Recalled Grant Segall of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “White
founded the MetroHealth Medical Center neurosurgery department and
Pope John Paul II’s Committee on Bioethics. He belonged to the
Pontifical Academy of Sciences and stumped for what he considered the
right to life at all ages. He examined Vladimir Lenin’s preserved
brain, consulted with Boris Yelstin’s doctors, and joined the
medical team treating John Paul II’s critical injuries from gunshots.

He wrote for Reader’s Digest and many other periodicals, edited
scholarly journals and published more than 700 papers. He performed
more than 10,000 surgeries. He raised 10 children.” But White also
was among the most notorious of vivisectors. From 1963 to 1968 White
killed about 30 rhesus macacques in attempts to make the head of one
animal live on the body of another. Then-Washington Post health
writer Larry Thompson reported in 1988 that White built on work begun
by French vivisectionist Claude Bernard, who in 1887 tried to graft
the heads of newly guillotined prisoners to the bodies of large dogs.
Working at Case Western Univ-ersity, White competed to perfect the
experiment with David Gilboe of the University of Wisconsin in
Madison. Gilboe in 1964 reported decapitating 15 dogs and keeping
their heads alive with pumps. By then, White had already
transplanted a macacque’s head to another body. News media said the
head appeared to be conscious after awakening from anesthesia,
snapped at researchers’ hands, and lived more than a week. The
claim that one of White’s transplanted heads survived a week has
often been echoed, including by White in his later years. But
Thompson, apparently after investigating medical literature,
reported that “The longest surviving Case Western monkey lived only
36 hours.” Since White did not successfully link the nerves from one
animal’s spine to another’s brain, none of the heads had any control
of bodily functions. The bodies to which they were attached were in
effect just biological pumps, circulating blood to the mute heads
much as Gilboe’s machines did. After White’s last attempted head
transplant in March 1970, appalled colleagues reportedly saw to it
that such experiments were never again funded. However, White
continued publishing papers based on his head transplant experiments
until 1997. An aggressive public advocate of animal experimentation,
White in the 1980s and 1990s infiltrated several animal rights
groups, but withdrew when recognized by journalists.
Jack Powers, 73, died in Boston on October 14, 2010 from
complications of dementia brought on by strokes. “The oldest of six
children, Powers grew up in and around housing projects in Roxbury
and graduated from Cathedral High School in the South End. A semester
studying chemical engineering at Northeastern University was enough
to show him his path lay elsewhere,” recalled Bryan Marquard of the
Boston Globe. A conscientious objector, Powers refused military
induction, then hitchhiked and rode freight cars west, arriving in
San Francisco on April 14, 1958–the same day that the Giants
baseball team made their San Francisco debut. “I thought they were
giving me a parade, but it was just the Giants,” Powers later
laughed. Powers rented a room in an old house whose other tenants
included Beatnik poet Allen Ginsberg. Ginsberg and other Beats
introduced Powers to vegetarianism, Buddhism, and poetry.
Returning east circa 1960, Powers was for a time a New Hampshire
sportswriter, but returned to Boston in the mid-1960s, organizing
weekly poetry readings and vegetarian dinners for the poor. The
dinner project continued into the mid-1980s. From 1970 to 1980
Powers owned the Stone Soup bookstore and art gallery in downtown
Boston, hosting innumerable gatherings in support of various causes,
including animal rights. Powers’ best known project was founding the
Stone Soup Poetry Collective, which has hosted weekly open
microphone readings for more than 40 years, usually opened either by
themed readings or readings by visiting celebrity poets. Stone Soup
from 1980 to 1989 hosted annual readings of pro-animal poetry
coordinated by Merritt Clifton, editor of ANIMAL PEOPLE since 1992.
The Stone Soup Poetry Collective offers part of the 1987 reading at
<>, videotaped by a longtime
regular known as The Wombat. Powers himself often presented poems by
Cathy Czapla, the ANIMAL PEOPLE newswire monitor since 1996.
Tony Curtis, 85, died on September 29, 2010 at his home
near Henderson, Nevada. Born Bernard Schwartz, Curtis was in 1933
made a ward of the court, due to the schizophrenic behavior of his
mother, and lived for a time in an orphanage operated by the
American Humane Association on the premises of the Mohawk & Hudson
River Humane Society. He returned to New York City to attend Seward
Park High School in Manhattan. Curtis turned to acting after Navy
duty during World War II, winning his first screen role in 1948 and
continuing to perform on screen until 2008. Curtis married his sixth
wife, horse trainer and former competitive rider Jill VandenBerg,
in 1998. “Alerted to the suffering of abused and neglected horses,”
Curtis “became the greatest supporter of Shiloh Ranch, a rescue and
sanctuary for old, abused and neglected horses outside Las Vegas,
which his wife had founded with her mother,” recalled Jacques Von
Lunen in The Portland Oregonian.
Jill Schecter died on September 6, 2010, eight days before
her 76th birthday. “She was a native New Yorker, but spent her last
30 years in South Florida,” recalled her daughter, Ronnie Ellen
Kramer, Ph.D. “She told us that as a child, she had an unusual
sensitivity toward animals,” Kramer told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “As she got
older, that sensitivity strengthened and was manifested in her
decision to become a vegan for ethical and moral reasons.” Schecter
formed a pro-animal letter writing service which eventually had more
than 1,400 subscribers, sending correspondence to media,
legislators, heads of state, corporate executives, “and anyone
else in a position to enact change,” Kramer said. Failing health
forced Schecter to discontinue her service in 2007. Her estate will
benefit at least four animal charities.
Dan Palmer, 49, died on October 24, 2010 after being
removed from life support at the London Health Sciences Center in
London, Ontario. Police investigating a report that someone was
beating a dog found Palmer unconscious in a stairwell of the
building, which is across the street from the police station.
Three dogs were impounded at the scene. Christopher Martin, 26, was
charged with causing unnecessary pain and suffering to an animal.
Carl Boyer, 26, was charged with aggravated assault after allegedly
biting a police officer during the arrest. Neighbors told QMI Agency
reporter Joe Belanger that Palmer was beaten after intervening on
behalf of the dogs, but “A police source has said the beating was
not related to the dogs,” Belanger wrote. Police did not say
whether additional charges would be filed against the suspects.
Sinkey Boone, 73, died September 1, 2010 in Brunswick,
Georgia. Recalled Turtle Restoration Network founder Todd Steiner,
“His daddy was a shrimper, he and his brothers were shrimpers, and
some of his sons and grandsons still are shrimpers. But Sinkey was
much more–a welder, net-maker, generous purveyor of folk wisdom,
and an inventor. One of his inventions saved the lives of hundreds
of thousands of sea turtles. Sinkey invented a turtle excluder
device that shrimpers would accept. Called the Georgia Jumper, it
was a modification of an earlier invention of Sinkey’s called the
Jelly-ball excluder, used to keep jellyfish from clogging shrimp
nets. He liked to call the Georgia Jumper a trawling efficiency
device, because it helped reduce the unwanted catch of many species
besides sea turtles.” The Georgia Jumper replaced a
government-developed turtle excluder device that shrimpers found
unwieldy. “Sinkey and his family also helped promote the Sea Turtle
Restoration Project’s groundbreaking Turtle-Safe Certification
Program in the 1990s,” Steiner added.
Don Hornsby, 55, of Bedfordview, South Africa, was
fatally trampled by an elephant on October 13, 2010 at Mutsadona,
near Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe. “Don was a great supporter of wildlife
and assisted us in the feeding of Tatenda, an orphaned baby rhino,”
e-mailed Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force founder Johnny Rodrigues.
“Don and some friends were fishing from the bank of the lake when the
elephants came to drink water,” Rodrigues said. “He was running to
fetch his camera when the elephant charged at him. Usually the rule
at the lake is that people may only catch fish from their boats, and
not from the banks–because the animals drink there. I don’t know
why they were on the bank. As a passionate conservationist, Don
would have been especially aware of the ways of nature and the
tension of the elephants.” Rodrigues noted that the elephants around
Lake Kariba are especially edgy because many have been shot at by
poachers, and have seen humans killing and butchering wildlife.

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