2015 Obits – Those we lost in 2015 – January thru March

Jan. 1: Mario Cuomo, 82: former governor of New York. He had been recently hospitalized to treat a  heart condition. His family reported that he passed away at home, from “natural causes due to heart failure.” Cuomo was governor for three terms (1983-1995). He will be remembered as the “last liberal giant of New York politics.” He was married to his wife, Matilda, for more than six decades. They had five children, including the current New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, who was sworn in for his second term; Chris Cuomo, host of CNN’s “New Day” and daughter Maria Cuomo who is married to designer Kenneth Cole.

Jan. 1: Donna Douglas, 82: died in Baton Rouge, La. said her niece, Charlene Smith. Douglas was known for playing Elly May Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies.

Jan. 3: Muath al-Kasasbeh, 26: Jordanian fighter pilot and ISIS hostage, burned alive by the cowards who held him.

Jan. 4: Stuart Scott, 49: longtime SportsCenter anchor and ESPN personality known for his enthusiasm and ubiquity died after a long fight with cancer.

Al Bendich

Al Bendich

Jan. 5: Al Bendich, 85: the lawyer who successfully defended the right of free speech in two landmark midcentury obscenity cases involving Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl” and Lenny Bruce’s nightclub act died of a heart attack in Oakland, Calif., according to his wife, Pamela Bendich. He was the last living member of the defense team in the “Howl” case and was the sole defense lawyer in the first of Bruce’s obscenity trials in San Francisco in 1962. Of the four trials Bruce would go through, the San Francisco case was the only one to end in an acquittal.

Jan. 7: Tim Roberts, 38: independent wrestler, known as The Zombie, who appeared on the first episode of WWE’s ECW on Syfy in 2006 died of circumstances unknown at this time.

Jan. 7: Rod Taylor, 84: the suave Australian native who came to Hollywood and starred in such films as The Birds and The Time Machine, died four days shy of turning 85. Taylor’s big breakthrough came with his starring turn in The Time Machine, director George Pal’s 1960 adaptation of the H.G. Wells 1895 sci-fi classic. He also played the heroic Mitch Brenner in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 classic The Birds, coming to the aid of Tippi Hedren, and starred opposite Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in another 1963 release, The V.I.P.s.

Jan. 7: Notable French people killed in the Charlie Hebdo shooting: Cabu, 76, cartoonist; Elsa Cayat, 54, psychoanalyst and columnist; Charb, 47, caricaturist and journalist; Philippe Honoré, 73, cartoonist; Bernard Maris, 68, economist and journalist; Tignous, 57, cartoonist; Georges Wolinski, 80, cartoonist.

Andraé Crouch

Andraé Crouch

Jan. 8: Andraé Crouch, 72: Grammy-winning gospel singer died at Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles from complications after suffering a heart attack. His twin sister, Sandra Crouch said in a statement, “Please keep me, my family and our church family in your prayers. I tried to keep him here but God loved him best.” In addition to singing and composing, Crouch also produced and arranged for artists such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, Elton John and Diana Ross.

Jan. 9: Samuel Goldwyn Jr., 88: son of a fiercely independent-minded Hollywood mogul and producer of many independent films in his own right including Mystic Pizza and studio hits such as Master and Commander, died of congestive heart failure as reported by his son, John Goldwyn. In addition to his extensive film work he produced the Academy Awards ceremony twice in the late 80s, winning an Emmy in 1988 for his effort. He was married three times; to writer Peggy Elliott, with whom he had two children, and to actress Jennifer Howard, with whom he had four. He is survived by his current wife Patricia Strawn and four sons: producer John, actor Tony, Francis and Peter (senior VP of Samuel Goldwyn Films); and two daughters, Catherine and Elizabeth; and nine grandchildren.

Jan. 10: Taylor Negron, 58: actor and comedian known for The Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Easy Money, Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Jan. 11: Darrell Hugh Winfield, 85: one of the last of the original Marlboro Men who was discovered by The Leo Burnett ad Agency in 1968 while working on the Quarter Circle 5 Ranch in western Wyoming. He leaves behind a wife, son, 5 daughters and several grandchildren.

Anita Eckberg

Anita Eckberg

Jan. 11: Anita Eckberg, 83: Swedish-born actress and sex symbol of the 1950s and 60s who was immortalized bathing in the Trevi Fountain in La Dolce Vita.

Jan. 13: Andrew Brannan: a decorated Army officer who suffered from PTSD as a result of serving in the Vietnam War. In 1994 the Department of Veterans Affairs declared Brannan 100% disabled while he experienced depression and bipolar disorder. The Supreme Court refused to intervene at the last moment and Brannan was executed for the murder of Deputy Kyle Dinkheller at the age of 66 in Jackson, Georgia. (Another legitimate argument to do away with the death penalty.)

Jan. 14: Darren Shahlavi, 42: a talent martial artist who appeared in Mortal Kombat: Legacy (series) and Arrow, died in his sleep. The cause of death is unknown. Shahlavi had recently finished shooting Pound of Flesh with Jean-Claude Van Damme and is also known for his work in Ip Man 2 (2010), Watchmen (2009), 300 (2006) and Alone in the Dark (2005).

Jan. 17: George Gregory Plitt, Jr., 37: fitness model and reality TV star was struck and killed by a Metrolink train just slightly north of the station in Burbank in the afternoon. Plitt was actually walking on the tracks in an area where pedestrians are not allowed to cross. A native of Baltimore, Plitt was a cast member on Work Out and Work Out in The Zone on Bravo, and appeared on other TV shows and in some commercials.

Jan 19: Paul Campbell, 49: Campbell had small roles in major Hollywood movies and was childhood friends with Boston native Mark Wahlberg, who scored him the part of a toothless crack addict in 2010’s The Fighter. But early on January 19 he was fatally shot by police who had responded to a fatal stabbing, according to authorities. Campbell was agitated and armed with at least one knife when police came to the Weymouth home he shared with his mother, who was dead of multiple stab wounds. The two officers who responded to the 911 call that came from the home made simultaneous decisions to shoot Campbell and both shots struck and killed him. Patricia Campbell, Paul’s mother, 72, was found fatally stabbed at the front of the house.

Jan. 23: Ernie Banks, 83: Banks was a former Chicago Cubs baseball player. He was known as “Mr. Cub,” one of baseball’s optimistic ambassadors and the Cubs’ first African-American player who hit 512 home runs, had 1,636 RBIs and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977. Banks was playing with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro League when the Cubs discovered him in 1953. They purchased his contract for $10,000. He made his major league debut at shortstop on Sept. 17, 1953 and three days later hit his first home run. A statue of Banks’ likeness was unveiled outside of Wrigley field in 2008.

Jan. 27: Warren Hill, 54: the state of Georgia finally achieved its goal: it exected an intellectually disabled prisoner in an apparent flagrant violation of the US Constitution. The court turned down a plea from seven doctors who all agreed Hill was mentally impaired. The execution was in violation of ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Hill had the cognitive ability of a young boy. He was pronounced dead at 7:55pm on Tuesday, Jan. 27, having been administered a lethal injection. Hill had a lifelong recognized condition of intellectual disability, with his first recording of an abnormal low IQ at the age 7. All of the medical experts who interviewed him (including 3 appointed by the state) concluded that he was mentally impaired by a “preponderance of the evidence.” Georgia however required Hill to prove he was disabled “beyond a reasonable doubt” – a standard no other state in the union requires; which experts say is almost impossible to match. Hill was on death row for murdering a fellow prison inmate. He was originally sentenced to life for murdering his girlfriend, Myra Wright in 1985. (Yet another reason to not have a death penalty.)

Colleen McCullough

Colleen McCullough

Jan. 29: Colleen McCullough, 77: (© Danielle Smith): internationally famous Australian author of the worldwide bestseller, The Thorn Birds, a romantic Australian saga published in 1977, which became a popular mini-series (starring Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward). The paperback rights for The Thorn Birds, McCullought’s second novel, were sold at auction for a then record $1.9 million (US dollars). McCullough worked as a neuroscientist in the US before turning to writing full-time. She wrote 25 other novels, including a deeply researched series set in Ancient Rome. She died after suffering a series of small strokes.

Jan. 29: Rod McKuen, 81: the husky-voiced “King of Kitsch” whose music and verse recordings won him an Oscar nomination also made him one of the best selling poets in history.

Jan. 30: Geraldine McEwan, 82: a BAFTA-winning actress who was known for many roles including Miss Marple, the famous Agatha Christie detective in 12 TV episodes. She died of a severe stroke.

Jan. 31: Kenji Goto, 47: Japanese freelance journalist, whose work focused on refugees, children and other victims of war was apparently killed by the cowards known as ISIS. This group of terrorists who hide their faces under hoods and execute totally innocent victims continue to wage a war against major powers unheeded.

Feb. 4: Donald Newbury, 52: a three-time felon with a violent history, a convicted robber, already serving a 99-year prison term, then he joined six of his fellow convicts in the biggest prison break in the history of Texas in 2000. During the prison break, Newbury shot and killed a suburban Dallas police officer while robbing a sporting-goods store. He was pronounced dead at 6:25pm, almost 30 minutes after the procedure began. (Another reason to abolish the death penalty.)

Feb. 5: Sajida al-Rishawi, Ziad Karbouli: Sajida al-Rishawi was a suicide bomber whose release was requested by ISIS. Ziad Karbouli was a former top aide to the deceased leader of al Aaeda in Iraq. Al-Rishawi was executed for her role in a 2005 suicide bombing at a wedding reception in Jordan that killed dozens (unfortunately it didn’t kill her). Karbouli was sentenced to die in 2007 after he was convicted of terrorism that killed one person, plots of other attacks and the possession of explosives.

Kayla Mueller (© Mueller Family)

Kayla Mueller (© Mueller Family)

Feb. 6: Kayla Mueller, 26: ISIS first claimed she was killed by Jordanian bombings. ISIS cowards are responsible for yet another truly innocent victim murdered in a senseless act. Kayla was a compassionate young woman who represented everything good about the human spirit. She wanted to do nothing but good works in her lifetime: working at an HIV/AIDS clinic; working in Palestine and Turkey.

Feb. 7: Dean Smith, 83: North Carolina basketball coach who won two national championships died peacefully at his home. He had been retired since 1997.

Feb. 8: Pola Miller, 86: was an award-winning filmmaker and documentarian who served on the boards of Women in Film and the American Film Institute Associates. Miller was born Pola Chasman in 1928 in New York City. Both her parents taught English at the University of Maine — her father as a professor — and they later ran a school for continuing education in New York.

Feb. 9: Steve Sabol, 98: was the founder of NFL Films and made pro football look like “a Hollywood movie.” Sabol founded NFL Films in 1962 after filming his son Steve Sabol’s high school football games. In August 2011, Ed Sabol was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio — one of the few people to be inducted who never played or coached — and introduced by his son. During his tenure, which spanned 1964 through 1995, NFL Films won 52 Emmy Awards. He died at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Feb. 11: Jerry Tarkanian (Tark the Shark), 84: Hall of Fame basketball coach who led the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels to a national title passed away after a short hospitalization from breathing difficulties and an infection. During his career he guided three schools to the NCAA Tournament and posted a 729-201 career record in 31 years at the Division I level.

Bob Simon

Bob Simon

Feb. 11: Bob Simon, 73: 60 Minutes correspondent, who covered riots, Academy Award-nominated movies, wars and was even held captive for more than a month in Iraq, died after being in a car crash in Manhattan. Simon and the car’s driver were taken to a hospital, where Simon was pronounced dead.

Feb. 12: Wanda, 57: one of the oldest Asian elephants in North America, Wanda was humanely euthanized at PAWS’ ARK 2000 captive wildlife sanctuary in San Andreas, Calif. following a long history of arthritis and foot disease, the leading cause for the euthanization of captive elephants. Wanda was born in the wild but was captured at a young age to be put on display in the United States. During her lifetime she was moved from one place to another, including Disneyland, a circus, zoos in Texas and then Detroit. In 2005 the Detroit Zoo (a leader in animal welfare as well as providing sanctuary for animals in need of rescue) decided to end its elephant program and opted to relocate Wanda and fellow Asian elephant Winky to PAWS’ ARK 2000. (Winky passed away in 2008.) Another Asian elephant, Gypsy, arrived at the Sanctuary, and it was discovered that they had been in a circus together more than 20 years earlier. They instantly remembered one another and could always be found close together. Even in death, their friendship endured. After Wanda passed away, Gypsy approached her friend, stayed by her side for a period of time, gently touched her body and “spoke” to her in soft rumbles before slowly walking away.

Gary Owens © 2003 WireImage

Gary Owens © 2003 WireImage

Feb. 12: Gary Owens, 20: voice actor, television announcer; if you watched Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in (1968-73) then you know the voice of Gary Owens. He was also the voice of Space Ghost, Garfield and Friends, The Fantastic Four, Eek the Cat and Bobby’s World. He had a mellifluous baritone voice with impeccable nuanced timing, and was equally adept at comedy or deadpan delivery.

Maria Movita Castaneda

Maria Movita Castaneda

Feb. 12: Movita Castaneda, 98: was the second of Marlon Brando’s three wives and appeared in such films as Mutiny on the Bounty opposite Clark Gable and Fort Apache with John Wayne. Castaneda played Tehani, a beautiful Tahitian who marries one of the insurgent sailors, in the 1935 version of Mutiny on the Bounty. The film was remade in 1962 with Brando, then Castaneda’s husband, playing the Gable role of Fletcher Christian. She in a Los Angeles rehabilitation center after suffering a neck injury and was believed to be 98. imdb.com reports that she was 100 when she died.

Louis Jourdan as Kamal Khan in OctopussyFeb. 14: Louis Jourdan, 93: best known for Gigi and the James Bond movie Octopussy, Jourdan offered a certain charm that worked well in heroic roles and sinister ones. In Gigi, Jourdan starred with Leslie Caron and Maurice Chevalier. The film won 9 Oscars; though Jourdan was not among those honored. In the 80s he raised his profile with big screen appearance in Wes Craven’s campy monster movie Swamp Thing and the film Octopussy. All told, he starred in more than 50 movies and 37 television episodes; spanning 70 or more years. In that time he was nominated for one Golden Globe award, won a Second Place Laurel Award and has two Stars on the Walk of Fame. His wife, Berthe, to whom he was married for more than six decades, died last year. His son, Louis Henry died of a drug overdose in 1981. In 2010 he was award the Legion d’Honneur in Los Angeles. Friends including Sidney Poitier and Kirk Douglas were there to congratulate him.

Feb. 16: Lesley Gore, 68: singer-songwriter, with hits “It’s My Party,” “Judy’s Turn to Cry” and “You Don’t Own Me,” died of lung cancer according to her partner of 33 years, Lois Sassoon. Brooklyn-born and New Jersey-raised, Gore was discovered by Quincy Jones when she was a teenager and was signed by Mercury Records. She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College with an English/American Literature Degree. In addition to her recordings, she played Catwoman’s sidekick in the cult TV comedy Batman. In the 90s, Gore co-wrote “My Secret Love” for Allison Anders’ film Grace of My Heart, released in 1996. Several years later she appeared on Broadway in Smokey Joe’s Cafe.

Feb. 16: Lorena Rojas, 44: was a popular Mexican soap opera and movie actress. The actress battled cancer since 2008 and died in Miami surrounded by loved ones.

Feb. 17: June Fairchild, 68: was widely recognized as the Ajax Lady in Cheech and Chong’s 1978 comedy Up in Smoke. The actress, who is given credit for coming up with the unusual name for the band Three Dog Night, battled drug and alcohol addictions as her acting career fell apart. She died in a Los Angeles convalescent home from liver cancer.

Feb. 19: Harris Wittels, 30: executive producer of Parks & Recreation was found dead of a possible drug overdose. He had battled drug addiction in the past.

Feb. 21: Robert O. Marshall, 75: American convicted murderer, died in prison just weeks before his parole hearing. No foul play was suspected according to the Department of Corrections. “Blind Faith” killer Marshall was convicted of arranging the 1984 murder of his wife, Maria, in order to collect on a life insurance policy.

Ben Woolf

Ben Woolf

Feb. 23: Ben Woolf, 34: a preschool teacher by day, who played Meep in American Horror Story: Freak Show, died in an Los Angeles hospital from a head injury he suffered after being hit by a passing car. He apparently was clipped in the head by the side view mirror of an SUV as he was crossing a street in Hollywood. The driver was not arrested or ticketed because Woolf was jaywalking.

Feb. 24: Beatrice Small, 77: one of the original “Avon Ladies” and the author of more than 50 romances including many that hold the honored position of “the first I ever read” died at the age of 77. Small’s books, especially in the erotic romance circles pushes the envelope, redrew the boundaries and explored the limits – over 30 years ago.

Feb. 25: Ariel Camacho, 22: a popular singer and songwriter, who was signed to DEL Records was killed in his native city of Sinaloa in a car crash. Born Jose Ariel Camacho Barraza gained a following through his live shows and videos on YouTube, had been on tour promoting a deluxe version of his album “El Karma” when he was killed in the car accident on a highway outside the city of Sinaloa.

Leonard Nimoy Credit: Starz Encore Group

Leonard Nimoy Credit: Starz Encore Group

Feb. 27: Leonard Nimoy, 83: Susan Bay Nimoy confirmed the death of her husband, saying the cause was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Leonard Nimoy announced last year that he had COPD, attributing it to years of smoking, a habit he had give up three decades earlier. He had many artistic pursuits: poetry, photography and music in addition to acting; but it was as Mr. Spock, that Mr. Nimoy had become the world’s folk hero. “Live long and prosper” (from the Vulcan “Dif-tor heh smusma”).

March 1: Minnie Minosos, 92: first black player in Major League baseball in Chicago, came from the Cuban Negro league. He was an American League All-Star for seven seasons and a Gold Glove winner for three season when he was in his 30s. Miñoso was one of the most popular and dynamic players in Chicago White Sox franchise history. He left the major leagues following the 1964 season but went on playing and managing in Mexico through 1973. He rejoined the White Sox as a coach and made brief but highly publicized player appearances in 1976 and 1980. Miñoso attended a friend’s birthday party on February 28, 2015 and was found dead in the driver’s seat of a car near a gas station in Chicago at 1am on March 1. An autopsy revealed he died from a torn pulmonary artery resulting from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

March 1: Daniel von Bargen, 64: Cincinnati native, who had roles on Seinfeld, Malcom in the Middle, and in movies Broken Arrow, Super Troopers and O Brother, Where Art Thou died after a long illness due to complications from diabetes. In February, 2012 he suffered from a self-inflicted gunshot wound because he didn’t want to have surgery to have toes removed due to diabetic complications.

Dirk Shafer. (PRNewsFoto/Dirk Shafer)

Dirk Shafer. (PRNewsFoto/Dirk Shafer)

March 5: Dirk Shafer, 52: filmmaker, Playgirl centerfold, fitness trainer and male model who came out as gay, and who made the 1995 mockumentary “Man Of The Year” about his experiences was found dead in his car in West Hollywood. Shafer became an icon in the mid-90s when the 1992 Playgirl Man of the Year announced  he was gay to the magazine’s straight female audience. He decided to document the pressure he was under from all sides to pose as straight and to be honest in Man of the Year. As well as directing and starring in the film, he mostly wrote the “fictionalized” account. In 2001 he made Circuit, a film about the gay party scene. It was co-written with Gregory Hinton, which won best film at the 2001 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival.

izolaincustodyMarch 7: Izola Curry, 98: the American assailant who attempted to kill Martin Luther King, Jr. with a steel letter opener into his chest at a 1958 book-signing, a full decade before James Earl Ray assassinated him, died at a New York nursing home.

March 8: Sam Simon, 59: a co-creator of The Simpsons and nine-time Emmy winner, who wrote episodes of Taxi, Cheers and It’s Gary Shandling’s Show died of colorectal cancer at his home in Los Angeles. He was diagnosed in late 2012.

March 8: Lew Soloff, 71: American jazz trumpeter, who had a long and successful career and was an integral part of Blood, Sweat and Tears when they were at their peak, died after suffering a major heart attack. (I’m going to listen to BS&T now and enjoy their music.)

Windell D. Middlebrooks

Windell D. Middlebrooks

March 9: Windell Middlebrooks, 36: who co-starred on Body of Proof and was known as a diligent delivery guy in a series of ads for Miller High Life beer died at his home in the San Fernando Valley. An autopsy revealed that he suffered a fatal pulmonary embolism. He was a native of Fort Worth, Texas.

March 9: Juanita Nelson, 91: she worked for peace, civil rights and local farming. She created the idea for the Greenfield Free Harvest Supper which drew hundreds each year to eat together in Court Square, downtown Mass. She was 91.

March 9: Sam Simon, 59: the nine-time Emmy Award-winning comedy writer and producer who helped develop The Simpsons, made millions after leaving the show in 1993 and then donated his riches to charity.

March 10: Richard Glatzer, 63: American director, writer and producer (Still Alice, America’s Next Top Model) died just three weeks after Julianne Moore won a best actress Oscar for her role in Still Alice. Glatzer endured three years of ALS and died from it.

March 11: Jimmy Greenspoon, 67: American keyboard player and composer (Three Dog Night) died from melanoma. Greenspoon joined the band in 1968 and had been with them until last October (2015) when he took medical leave to pursue treatment for his cancer. Three Dog Night is known for its 60s & 70s hits: Joy to the World, Mama Told Me (Not to Come) and Black & White. Greenspoon also performed with Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and the Beach Boys.

March 11: Gerald Hurst, 77: American chemist and fire investigator died of complications from a prior liver transplant. Dr. Hurst was instrumental in driving the state of Texas to reform its outdated arson investigation practices which cost an innocent man (in prison) his life who was on death row and was executed (Cameron Todd Willingham, April 2004). He did manage to assist in stopping another man’s execution, that of Ernest Willis, who was also on death row after being wrongfully convicted of setting fire to a house that killed two women. Hurst was able to prove that the same faulty arson science that had been used to convict Willingham had also been used to wrongfully convict Willis. Willis was released and exonerated in 2004 at the age of 59. Willis said of Dr. Hurst’s passing, “I will forever be incredibly grateful to Dr. Hurst. That man helped save my life.” Another good argument to banish the death penalty — AB

March 12: Ray Arnett, 97: nicknamed “King of the Gypsies” early in his career for being the hardest-working choir boy in the now cult classic “Forgotten Musicals,” Arnett became Liberace’s stage director in the late 1950s, when the future Mr. Showmanship embraced a full showy stage persona. In HBO’s critically acclaimed Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra, Arnett was portrayed by Tom Papa.

Suzette Jordan

Suzette Jordan

March 13: Suzette Jordan, 40: Ms. Jordan, an Indian woman, waived her right to anonymity after being gang-raped in order to encourage other rape survivors to speak out, has died. She had been suffering from a deadly form of meningitis. The chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, had called Ms. Jordan a liar after she was attacked in February of 2012. She was working as a counsellor at a helpline for victims of sexual and domestic violence. Ms. Jordan was a single mother of two girls. She was gang-raped on Park Street, one of Kolkata’s busiest streets, after she left a night club. She reported the crime to the police and the media. India’s laws prohibit the disclosure of the identity of a rape victim and those guilty of doing so can be sent to prison for up to 2 years and be fined. Ms. Jordan refused to hide and in June of 2013 she revealed her own identity on the BBC stating “I am tired of hiding my real identity. I am tired of this society’s rules and regulations. I am tired of being made to feel ashamed. I am tired of feeling scared because I have been raped. Enough is enough. My name is Suzette Jordan and I don’t want to be known any longer as the victim of Calcutta’s Park Street rape.” Three of the five men Ms. Jordan accused of raping her were arrested and are on trial. They deny the charges. Police are still looking for the main suspect.

Helen Banks

Helen Banks

March 14: Helen Banks, 87: Founder of Second Chance for Greyhounds, spent much of her childhood rescuing strays. As an attractive woman in New York City, she became a professional model, but gave it all up to marry a man who raised horses in Connecticut. When she learned what happened to aging horses, she persuaded a local slaughterhouse owner to let her know when a horse was headed for slaughter before its time so she could rescue it. When her marriage ended 25 years later, Banks relocated to Bonita Springs, Florida. Hearing dogs barking in the distance one day, she investigated and found greyhound handlers walking dogs. She was hired as a “lead out” at the Naples/Fort Meyers Greyhound Track. One day when she was visiting a vet’s office … she “walked into this room that I thought was the ladies’ room and there was a stack of 12 dead greyhounds.” That summer, in anticipation of the upcoming racing season, she enlarged her home to accommodate rescue dogs and persuaded the track to allow her to set-up a table so she could identify and recruit suitable adopters for the dogs. Banks personally underwrote all the expenses. She worked other jobs at the track, cleaned homes and even worked at a local spa to cover veterinary fees, food, leashes, collars and other expenses. She incorporated Second Chance for Greyhounds in 1986.

March 15: Mike Porcaro, 59: long time Toto bassist succumbed to Lou Gehring’s Disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).

March 15: Cristie Schoen Codd/JT Codd: Cristie was a Food Network star who competed on Season 8. Christie and her husband were brutally murdered by their neighbor Robert Jason Owens, who admitted to the crime after human remains were found in his woodstove. He claimed to have hit JT with his truck, but no details were released on how he killed Cristie, who was five months pregnant at the time of her death.

March 16: Braydon Smith, 23: died two days after finishing a 10-round featherweight bout in Brisbane, Australia. He was in the final year of a law degree and had been in an induced coma since collapsing 90 minutes after a WBC Asian Boxing Council continental title bout. He had lost the fight in a unanimous points decision.

March 20: Cincinnati Red (Gregory Daves), 40: the southern California independent wrestler died of a heart attack.

March 20: Robert Kastenmeier, 91: American politician, member of the US House of Representatives (1959-1991) from Wisconsin, died of heart failure.

March 20: A.J. Pero, 55: American drummer (Twisted Sister, Adrenalie Mob), heart attack.

Gary DahlMarch 23: Gary Dahl, 78: American entrepreneur, inventor of the Pet Rock, COPD.

March 23: Lil’ Chris, 24: British singer-songwriter, actor, TV personality, who rose to fame after appearing in “Rock School” in 2006 was found dead in Lowestoft, Suffolk. Police were not treating the death as suspicious.

March 24: notable German people killed in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525: Oleg Bryjak, 54, Kazakh-born opera singer; Maria Radner, 33, opera singer.

J. Karen Thomas

J. Karen Thomas

March 26: J. Karen Thomas, 50: American actress, a beloved and vital member of Nashville’s theater, film, television and music communities, died from Multiple Myeloma. Thomas was a professional SAG actress, singer-songwriter and voice-over artist best known to television viewers for her role as Audrey Carlisle, the wife of mayor Coleman Carlisle (Robert Wisdom) in the first season of ABC’s Nashville. She was also on Drop Dead Diva, Army Wives, Criminal Minds and Ellen. She leaves behind her longtime partner of almost 20 years, Colette Divine.



March 27: Sarbi, 12: Australian war hero, who was awarded the War Dog Operational Medal and the RSPCA’s Purple Cross, and who went missing in Afghanistan for over a year, died after a short battle with brain cancer. Sarbi, a Labrador-Newfoundland cross was a bomb-sniffing dog and only the second animal to win the Purple Cross for wartime service.

March 28: Victor Sánchez, 20: Venezuelan baseball player and Seattle Mariners prospect died from a head injury he received when he was hit by a boat off of a beach in Carupano, Venezuela in February. In had been in intensive care for a fractured skull and a hematoma, which caused a stroke and then a coma.

March 31: Billy Butler, 69: known to many as the younger brother of the legendary “Ice Man” Jerry Butler, and to soul fans as a talented singer and guitarist, died at age 69. Though sometimes in the shadow of his iconic older brother, Billy had a successful career both as a solo artist and group member. He formed the group The Enchanters in 1963 while still in high school. He immediately began working with some of the most important producers in the burgeoning Chicago soul scene, including Carl Davis and Curtis Mayfield. His sessions with Davis led to his biggest hit and career highpoint, the 1965 top 10 R&B hit “I Can’t Work No Longer.”  (from soultracks.com)

March 31: Andrew Getty, 47: the grandson of J. Paul Getty died from massive blood loss from his intestines, based on a preliminary conclusion of the L.A. County Coroner. An ulcer is suspected. Andrew had been complaining of serious stomach pain for several days before he died.

March 31: Riccardo Ingram, 48: American baseball player and minor league instructor for the Minnesota Twins passed away after a second fight with brain cancer.

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