Obituaries of the Week: Comedic Legend, Provocative Columnist, Poetry Slam Movement’s Star, and Prominent Businessman and Philanthropist



This week, we pay tribute to a comedic legend, newspaper columnist, poet and philanthropist.

Sid Caesar was a legendary comedian and TV visionary. He paved the way for fellow funny people Mel Brooks, Woody Allen and Neil Simon, who all wrote for Caesar’s sketch-comedy program Your Show of Shows. He also helped inspire Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner’s “Two Thousand Year Old Man” routine and was a mentor to dozens of other comedians. As Mel Brooks put it, “No Sid Caesar, no Mel Brooks.”

Gregory Kane, a former newspaper columnist for The Baltimore Sun, was a provocative writer who described himself as “a lifelong Baltimore resident, liberal on some issues, conservative on others, a veritable fascist on the topic of crime.” ‘He challenged a lot of traditional political thought in the African-American community,” said talk-show radio host Anthony McCarthy. ‘When I’d have him as a guest on my show, he’d say to me, ‘I’m your token conservative.’ He was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize with reporter Gilbert Lewthwaite in 1997 on a three-part series about slavery in Sudan.,0,3008962.story#ixzz2ttaXhhHB

Maggie Estep was a novelist and poet who brought spoken-word poetry mainstream in the 1990’s. The Los Angeles Times says “Estep was a sassy, slightly twisted New Yorker who wrote and performed humorous, biting pieces that merged poetry with stand-up comedy.” She rose to fame by performing in HBO’s “Def Poetry Jam,” Woodstock ’94 and Lollapalooza.–maggie-estep-20140214,0,6984728.story#ixzz2tteqREwv

Stewart W. Bainum Sr. arrived in Washington D.C. in 1936 with three dollars in his pocket. He went on the found the nursing home and hospitality chains now known as HCR Manor Care and Choice Hotels International, which includes brands such as Comfort Inn, Quality Inn, Clarion, Econo Lodge and Sleep Inn. He and his wife founded the Commonweal Foundation in 1968 to support the education of underprivileged youths. In 1988, Mr. Bainum promised 67 seventh-graders at Kramer Junior High School in Southeast Washington that he would finance their college educations if they graduated from high school. He remained in touch with some of those students until his death, his son told the Washington Post.



Obits of the Week: A Folk Legend, Heroic Veteran, Cartoonist, Marlboro Man and Rodeo Clown










We stated it in an earlier post on The Finale and we’ll state it again: a well-written obituary—whether it be for a movie star, rodeo clown (see below) or your next door neighbor—can be fascinating, funny, evocative and an opportunity to learn about some interesting people who aren’t necessarily being profiled in major publications.

Each week, The Finale will highlight a few of the many, many interesting obituaries from the week, honoring a handful of the countless magnificent people who left this world better than they found it. The fist installment includes a folk legend, heroic veteran, cartoonist, Marlboro man and rodeo clown.

Pete Seeger, the legendary folk singer and activist who “sang for the labor movement in the 1940s and 1950s, for civil rights marches and anti-Vietnam War rallies in the 1960s, and for environmental and antiwar causes in the 1970s and beyond. ‘We Shall Overcome,’ which Mr. Seeger adapted from old spirituals, became a civil rights anthem.”

James David Addis, a WWII hero who, as a teenager, served with the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airbone Division. Jim saw combat in Sicily, Holland and Germany, where he fought in the Battle of the Bulge. After being captured and then released by German soldiers, Addis helped liberate Auschwitz.

Morrie Turner was one of the first mainstream black cartoonists and was most famous for the comic strip “Wee Pals,” which Ebony called “the first truly integrated strip.” Mr. Turner said he wanted the strip to promote tolerance and understanding, or “rainbow power.” He once wrote that of wanting “to portray a world without prejudice, a world in which people’s differences — race, religion, gender and physical and mental ability — are cherished, not scorned.”

Eric Lawson, the actor who portrayed The Marlboro Man in the 1970’s, also had bit parts in “Baretta,” “Charlie’s Angels,” and “Dynasty.” He is the fifth “Marlboro Man” to lose his life due to a smoking-related illness. Lawson was later featured in an anti-smoking ad and an Entertainment Tonight segment about the dangers of smoking.

Quail Dobbs was a rodeo clown for 35 years, and was inducted into the ProRodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2002. He retired in 1998 to become a West Texas judge.