The death at 99 of Billy Graham (pictured) was immediately greeted with universal outpourings of praise. Yet Graham was a trimmer of the worst kind, adjusting his views according to the mores of the times he lived through. It’s now forgotten that he was an avid supporter of the American side in the Vietnam War; that he backed President Richard Nixon’s anti-semitic views in private conversations that were recorded – Graham later said that “I have no memory of the occasion”; that he was opposed to feminism and that he believed real womanhood was in being a wife, mother and homemaker; that he denied his daughters higher education; and that he opposed same-sex marriage. And it’s now all but forgotten that his earliest “crusades” were segregated affairs. When you come down to it, his only real message was ‘God loves you, so believe in God’.
“Anyone intelligent who has worked for that rancid bitch deserves all the help he can get.” So wrote Ed – Edward – Pearce to me when I worked as the researcher – the lowest of the low – on the Granada TV programme What The Papers Say (WTPS) in the late 1980s. The ‘rancid bitch’ was the programme’s newly-promoted, incompetent and ideologically-driven producer, with whom Pearce had crossed swords. WTPS was the easiest programme in the world to do; all you needed was a class act journalist, a few good stories, and away you went. But the producer who took over was a dim-witted creature who thought that all men should be junked from the screen; in pushing her personal agenda she ruined the programme. Pearce was an excellent WTPS performer – and was the WTPS columnist of the year in 1987 – but his swiftly-delivered verbal jabs and uppercuts failed to please the producer, who hadn’t a clue what he was on about. Edward Pearce was a very fine writer whose journalistic career spanned many publications and many genres. A true libertarian – following an early flirtation with Margaret Thatcher’s ideas he came to loathe her, as much as the former Soviet Union – and gifted writer, Pearce was a grammar-school educated child born in Shropshire and raised in the north-east. His voice, strong in the richness of the north, added to his authenticity. His first of many books, The Senate of Lilliput (1983) remains a classic guide to the tropes and unchanging habits of the buffoons and peacocks who occupy the Houses of Parliament. Ed sadly died on 9 February at the age of 78.
Anyone intelligent who has worked for that rancid bitch deserves all the help he can get
Pearce and Aitken embodied the highest standards of truth and integrity, unlike Luciano Benjamin Menéndez (pictured centre with dagger), who as Commander of the Third Army Corps in Argentina led the war against the Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo, ERP (the marxist People’s Revolutionary Army) in Tucuman province during 1975-79, at the height of the so-called dirty war. He was accused of almost 800 crimes of murder, kidnapping, and torture, but it was not until 2008 that he was finally served with a life sentence for crimes against humanity. Nor did he much love Chileans: he once said “if they let us attack the Chileans, we’ll chase them to Easter Island, we’ll drink the New Year’s Eve toast in the Palacio de La Moneda, and then we’ll piss the champagne into the Pacific.” A heart attack did for him on 27 February at the age of 90.
By the time he died at the age of 103 Dobri Dimitrov Dobrev, the Bulgarian ascetic, had walked thousands of kilometres
Helmut Sinn (pictured centre), the German maker of the eponymous watch brand, died aged 101. He flew with the Luftwaffe in the Second World War, was shot down over Russia and lost both his little fingers as a result. That didn’t stop him from starting his business in 1956, because he needed a job and “was looking for something that did not need much space or material.” Dorothy Rungeling, one of Canada’s pioneer aviators and the first woman to fly a helicopter solo, died at 106. The author of the first manual on rocket propellants, Barys Kita, who was born in St Petersburg Russia but later took up American citizenship, lived to 107.
The Moldovan model Anastasia Cecati was stabbed to death by her husband at the age of 31, 20 days after she gave birth to a daughter; her husband then jumped to his death
Dan Alon was a fencer and one of five Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics who avoided being held hostage by terrorists, who killed nine others; he died at the age of 72.
The longest-serving Dutch prime minister, Ruud Lubbers (pictured right), died aged 78; as president of the European Council of Ministers in late 1991 he brokered the Maastricht Treaty. In 2000 he was appointed the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees, where he was involved in covering-up the results of an investigation into allegations that he sexually harassed staff; when the story finally came out in the British press in February 2005 he resigned and – like many others since – claimed he had been smeared by the media and that he resigned “in the interests of the organisation.”
In the end, sweetness is all
Picture sources: Florida Memory, Enrique Rosito, Miriam Schumm, Marike Bok