Features

RIP June 2019


As Europe basks in its latest heatwave, the cries will be heard that an irreversible climate change is upon us. Many have already have escaped the catastrophic consequences of this mania; we note a few of them here.

South Korea has long had one of the world’s highest suicide rates, with one South Korean taking their own life on average every 40 seconds. Bearing that in mind, we perhaps should not be surprised that the accomplished actress Jeon Mi-seon (pictured below) became another statistic in late June, when she hanged herself in her hotel bathroom at the age of 48, during a bout of intense depression. The pressure to outperform – to succeed beyond expectations – has always been around, but has become exponentially more intense in the era of social media and instant mass castigation. Arild Berg, the acclaimed Norwegian footballer, also killed himself in June; he was 43. His career had never risen to its anticipated heights due to a mysterious illness that was eventually diagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome. Lilya Novikova’s death was ludicrous, absurd, avoidable. The Russian “online poker star” – a career that did not exist a decade ago – died at the age of 26 from electrocution. It’s never a good idea to use an electric hair dryer while you are in the bath, but Lilya learned that too late.

 

 

The world’s second-oldest person, Maria Giuseppa Robucci, died at the age of 116. She was born in 1903 in the Apulia region of Italy. At 100 she was still chopping her own firewood, but she gave that up when she was 111 and broke her hip. Kane Tanaka, in Japan, is the world’s oldest living person at 116 years and 180 days; five of the top ten oldest people are Japanese, and all of the top ten are women. Another tough woman died this month; her name was Ekaterina Illarionovna Mikhailova-Demina,  one of Soviet Russia’s Second World War heroines. She was the only woman to have served in the front lines with the Red Army’s marines, in the 369th Independent Naval Infantry Battalion, as a medic. Awarded the medal ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’, she personally rescued hundreds from various battlefields and was seriously wounded three times. She died at the age of 93.

Lübke made no secret of being pro-immigrants and threw down a gauntlet to right-wingers by saying that if they opposed helping refugees then they could leave Germany

The shooting on 2 June of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) politician Walter Lübke, when he was 65, by Stephan Ernst, 45, a far-right activist who has a police record, has reminded people of the presence of dangerously unhinged people who think they can subvert democratic life by resorting to murders that have a dual purpose – to get rid of one political opponent and to intimidate others. One thinks of the shooting of the Social Democrat Kurt Eisner, the first republican Prime Minister of Bavaria, in February 1919, or the slaying of Walther Rathenau, Germany’s Foreign Minister during the Weimar Republic, in 1922, killed by a machine gun at short range. While neither of the latter two assassinations directly brought Hitler’s Nazi Party to power, they contributed to a mood of anxiety and alarm – and who can say that we are living though any less anxious times right now? Lübke made no secret of being pro-immigrants and threw down a gauntlet to right-wingers by saying that if they opposed helping refugees then they could leave Germany. The German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CDU) reckons that the number of known right-wing extremists in Germany is more than 24,000, half of them known to be violent. The same day Lawrence Leathers, the gifted American jazz drummer, was found dead, sprawled on the stairway of his Bronx apartment building on East 141st Street in New York City. He was 37. A man and a woman have been arrested in connection with his death.

Of the centenarians who slowed to a stop in June, none was grander than the Princess Woizlawa Feodora Reuss, née the Duchess of Mecklenburg, who died on 3 June at slightly more than 100. The last of her line, and with no male descendants, the House of Mecklenburg is now considered extinct. Who will inherit her wealth? She married Prince Heinrich I Reuss of Köstritz on 15 September 1939, which was catastrophic timing. When the communists expropriated East German landowners in 1945 the family lost just about everything. Prince Heinrich died in 1982 and, after communism fell and Germany was reunified, Woizlawa made a claim for restitution of property in 1990, which saw her get a lot back, including the magnificent Thallwitz Castle.

The death of Xu Zhongyu, the Chinese writer and scholar, whose standard textbook has over 40 years sold more than 30 million copies, was announced on 25 June. He was 104, and had already donated his library of 50,000 books and his life savings of one million Yuan (about $145,000) to the university which employed him, the East China Normal University. David Louis Bartholomew, the American musician who was most famous for his partnership with Fats Domino, died aged 100. His first instrument was the tuba but he quickly moved to the trumpet and played his way through various genres. He hit the big time in the 1950s with songs made immortal by Fats, such as Ain’t That A Shame and Blueberry Hill as well as I Hear You Knocking memorably sung by Gale Storm. Bartholomew died of heart failure in New Orleans, where he had lived for years.

Image result for free photos of billy drago

One of Hollywood’s best known villains, Billy Drago (pictured above), died at the age of 73 in June, after he had a stroke. His real name was William Eugene Burrows. Drago appeared in many movies and was perhaps best known for his role as one of Al Capone’s hit men, Frank Nitti, adept with a knife, in Brian De Palma’s 1987 film The Untouchables. He worked first of all as a journalist for the Associated Press but soon gave that up for a real career as an actor. The British actor Bryan Marshall died aged 81, after a long and highly successful career playing tough characters, playing a bomb squad officer in Quatermass and the Pit, the 1967 big-screen remake of a BBC drama. He moved from Britain to Australia in 1983, where he was an equally popular performer.

His late meal was a medium thin-crust pizza with everything, 20 buffalo wings, one pint of butter pecan ice cream, apple pie, and some grape juice

Two actual villains died in June, one executed and the other from lung cancer. Marion Wilson was executed in the US state of Georgia for the murder in 1996 of Donovan Corey Parks; Parks was forced to lie on the ground and was then shot in the back of the head. Wilson was the 1,500th person to be executed in the US since capital punishment was resumed in 1976. His late meal was a medium thin-crust pizza with everything, 20 buffalo wings, one pint of butter pecan ice cream, apple pie, and some grape juice. Somchai Khunpluem was a Thai politician – and also a mobster – who had fingers in many pies. He used Thai political life to accumulate wealth, chopping and changing parties as it suited his own devious means. He was eventually sentenced to 25 years for orchestrating the murder of a rival minor politician in 2003, but wet on the run until captured in 2013 on his way to hospital. He was 82.

As usual, the ranks of those who fled Europe to escape the Nazis thinned out this month. George Rosenkranz, a Jew, was born in Hungary in 1916 and studied in Switzerland, where he took a doctorate, but ended up a Mexican citizen, having left Switzerland after Nazi sympathisers made life uncomfortable. His career in steroid chemistry saw him develop novel procedures using native Mexican plant sources as raw materials; he spent much of his professional life at Laboratorios Syntex, a company formed in Mexico City in 1944. By the time of his death he was named on more than 15o patents. Peter Selz, a Jew, was born in Munich and in 1936, aged 17, he escaped from Germany, fleeing the Nazis; his parents managed to escape a year later and joined him in the US. Selz, who lived to 100, became an art historian, joining the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1958 as curator of painting and sculpture exhibitions. He was project director in 1976 for Christo’s Running Fence, a 24.5-mile long fabric fence. Selz died aged 100.

Until next month – enjoy the sun.