Local Obituaries

Notable deaths

Notable deaths from around the nation reported during the past week:

Irving Millman, 88, a microbiologist whose work led to the creation of a vaccine against hepatitis B that is credited with saving millions of lives, died April 17 in Washington.

The cause was internal bleeding, his daughter Diane S. Millman said.

Mr. Millman also helped create a test for hepatitis B that substantially reduced the risk of infection from blood transfusions.

Hepatitis B is one of five viruses known to cause liver inflammation; it can lead to cancer. By some estimates, more than 350 million people are carriers, especially in Asia and Africa. The virus spreads as HIV does — via blood, semen and other bodily fluids — but is more infectious.

The hepatitis B vaccine, which Mr. Millman worked to develop with future Nobel laureate Baruch S. Blumberg, is typically the first one given to babies because the virus can spread easily from mother to child during birth. It also is considered one of the first entrants in the growing group of vaccines against cancer.

George B. Rathmann, 84, who was the first chief executive of Amgen and helped build it into the world's largest biotechnology company, died April 22 at his home in Palo Alto, Calif.

His son James said Mr. Rathmann had suffered from kidney failure for several years.

Mr. Rathmann is widely considered one of the fathers of the biotechnology industry. There were only a handful of companies involved in genetic engineering in 1980, when Mr. Rathmann was recruited from Abbott Laboratories to run Amgen, which was little more than a vague idea by some venture capitalists to start a company, without knowing exactly what the company would pursue.

John A. Hoyt, 80, who made the Humane Society of the United States the largest anti-cruelty organization in the country during an era when changing cultural attitudes were greatly expanding the number of animal protection groups, died April 15 in Fredericksburg, Va. The cause was progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare brain disorder, said his daughter Peggy Hoyt.

Mr. Hoyt, who was president and chief executive of the Humane Society from 1970 to 1996, was best known for expanding its traditional stewardship over dogs and cats to include laboratory animals, livestock, wild horses, whales, endangered fish and rodeo bulls.

George Cowan, 92, a chemist who helped build the first atomic bomb, detect the first Soviet nuclear explosion and test the first hydrogen bomb, died Friday at his home in Los Alamos, N.M.

The Santa Fe Institute, a scientific research center that Mr. Cowan headed and helped found, announced the death.

For his many contributions, Mr. Cowan was awarded the U.S. Energy Department's highest honor, the Enrico Fermi Award, and the highest honor given by the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Los Alamos Medal.

LeRoy T. Walker, 93, a leading American track and field coach who was the first black to coach a U.S. men's Olympic track team and to serve as the president of the United States Olympic Committee, died Monday in Durham, N.C.

He gained coaching renown at North Carolina Central University, where he later was chancellor.

When he marched into Atlanta's Olympic Stadium as USOC president at the head of the 645-member American delegation to the 1996 Summer Games, Mr. Walker achieved a celebrated homecoming in an America far removed from his boyhood.

He was born in a segregated Atlanta, the youngest of 13 children. He was the only member of his family to attend college, receiving a bachelor's degree from a historically black college, Benedict College of Columbia, S.C. He was thwarted in his hopes of becoming a physician because medical school spots for blacks were severely limited and his family was poor. Nonetheless, he received a master's degree from Columbia University and a doctorate from New York University in physical education and allied fields.

Doris Betts, 79, an award-winning novelist and short-story writer whose characters grappled with religious faith, freedom, captivity and original sin in tales steeped in the Southern literary tradition, died April 21 at her home in Pittsboro, N.C.

The cause was lung cancer, said her son Erskine.

Ms. Betts, who taught English literature and creative writing for 30 years at the University of North Carolina, published six novels and three collections of short stories, one of which, Beasts of the Southern Wild, from 1973, was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Robert Earl "Bob" Smith, 78, an orthodontist whose passion for skiing deep powder snow helped turn him into a goggle and sunglasses pioneer, has died of complications related to heart surgery.

Dr. Smith's family confirmed his April 18 death in California.

After enduring frustrating goggle-fogging experiences while skiing in Utah, Dr. Smith began in the 1960s to develop prototypes for an advanced pair of goggles to solve the problem. Dr. Smith sat at the kitchen table with his wife, Jean, using dental tools and foam to create a double-lensed, vented ski goggle whose inner lens was protected from the cold.

Joe Muranyi, 84, a clarinetist whose mastery of pre-World War II jazz led to a four-year stint with Louis Armstrong's last band — and to an improbable moment of pop stardom — died April 20 in Manhattan, N.Y.

The cause was congestive heart failure, said his daughter Adrienne Fuss.

Mr. Muranyi was among a handful of jazz musicians who began their careers in the 1950s but looked to an earlier era for inspiration. He spent most of his career with Dixieland bands, and he was widely regarded as one of the premier clarinetists in that genre.

In 1963 he had a hit record with the feel-good instrumental Washington Square.

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