Saturday, July 13, 2013

Obit round-up

As threatened promised, here's a quick round-up of the best obituaries I saw this week.

In sports, mad props to Scott E. Entsminger of Columbus, OH, who "respectfully requests six Cleveland Browns pall bearers so the Browns can let him down one last time." And here's to the Browns who presented the family with a jersey with the number of his favorite player (Hall of Famer Lou Groza) but with his name on the back at the memorial service.

In spy news, not only did I enjoy the obituary this week for Austin Goodrich, a cold war spy who worked as a journalist, but I received a tweet from Kristina Goodrich who pointed me to two videos of Mr. Goodrich, entitled Born to Spy.

In feats of World War II derring do, I'm not sure much can beat the obituary of Nadezhda Popova,"a member of an elite corps of Soviet women — known as the “Night Witches” — who fought as bomber pilots in the air war against Germany, and the only one to win three Orders of the Patriotic War for bravery." Intrigued? You should be.
There was no radio; navigation was done with a stopwatch and a map. The planes carried no guns, no parachutes and had only enough weight allowance to take two bombs, forcing the pilots to make multiple sorties (Nadezhda Popova once flew 18 in a single night), returning to base each time to collect more bombs, which were released with a wire cable jury-rigged to the wings.
They would fly in under the radar, cut the engines, two would serve as decoys drawing enemy fire while the third would drop the payload of bombs (which, as you see above was connected by wire); then they would go around again, the second would drop the bombs while the other two drew enemy fire, and then go a third time. Amazing stuff. And because there were no engines and they whooshed along, the Germans called them Nachthexen, the Night Witches. Had you heard about them? I sure hadn't. (She's the one standing in the picture below.)

In canine news, I just read the obituary for Jim Buck who created the job of the professional dog walker.

Establishing Jim Buck's School for Dogs, he trained dozens of dog walkers, using as a test case an otterhound named Oliver the Awful.
During the 40 years Mr. Buck ran his school, he was an eminently recognizable figure: an elegantly turned out, borzoi-thin man of 145 pounds, he commanded the leashes of a half-dozen or more dogs at a time — a good 500 pounds of dog in all — which fanned out before him like the spokes of a wheel. 
He walked in sun; he walked in rain. In wintertime, his charges might be clad in small sweaters bearing the logos of the European resorts where their masters skied. 
Jim Buck’s School for Dogs was equal parts exclusive preparatory academy, exercise class and reform school. In a 1964 profile of Mr. Buck in The New York Times, Gay Talese described him, plying his trade, as looking “like Charlton Heston in the chariot-racing scene in ‘Ben-Hur.’ ” 
But with hindsight, it is more apt to liken Mr. Buck to Lee Marvin in the 1967 film “The Dirty Dozen.”
Oh, it's a wonderful obit. Do check it out.

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