Stanley Weston (pictured in main image) brought joy to the hearts of many young boys by the creation of the G.I. Joe action figure in 1963, the rights to which he more or less gave away – selling them to the US toy manufacturer Hasbro for a mere $100,000 – and then went on to set up a company licensing and merchandising other figures. He used to scour army and navy surplus stores to get ideas about what equipment G. I. Joe (and the many spin-offs) should be carrying. An American veteran of the Korean War, he died in California at the age of 84 on 1 May.
The epithet ‘distinguished’ is often applied to anybody who simply has reached a certain age. But both Hugh Thomas and Alistair Horne were truly distinguished historians. The former’s Spanish Civil War, published in 1961, set the direction for all future historians covering that conflict, while the latter’s The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916, published in 1962, was a brilliant corrective to the hitherto Anglo-centric view of the Great War. Thomas was professor of history at the University of Reading during 1966-75. When he set about writing his Spanish Civil War he knew nothing of the Spanish language; but being banned by General Franco’s dictatorship in Spain helped it gain huge success. He died on 7 May, aged 86. Alistair Horne, who wrote more than 20 books, died at the age of 91 on 25 May.
Quite a few footballers were taken by the Reaper this month
Mohamed Talbi, the Tunisian Islamic scholar who attempted to synthesize Islamic teaching with modern Western thought, died at the age of 95. His kind of balanced reasoning will be missed, particularly today. The award-winning Argentine writer Abelardo Castillo died at the age of 82, while at 83 the ground-breaking US journalist Anne Louise Morrissy Merick (pictured) died, from complications arising from dementia. Merick, who worked for ABC, successfully argued with the Pentagon to permit female reporters to go to the front lines with troops during the Vietnam War. The Mexican reporter Javier Valdez Cárdenas, who wrote widely and critically on organised crime and drug traffickers in his country, was shot and killed by unidentified gunmen. He was 50.
The Mexican reporter Javier Valdez Cárdenas, who wrote on organised crime and drug traffickers in his country, was killed by unidentified gunmen. He was 50.
You may never have heard of Yevhen Hrytsyak, who died in May at the age of 90; but he should be remembered. He was a leader of the Norilsk uprising in 1953, in the Arctic Circle in Russia. At the Gorlag gulag, or forced labour camp, in May to August 1953 the 16,000 prisoners, mostly political victims of Stalin, went on strike for 69 days, in protest at the shooting by gulag guards of several prisoners. A grandson of Stalin, Alexander Burdonsky, died from cancer at the age of 75; he’d spent his life as a theatre and film director. Dai Zijin lived until 101 and was best known for being a Chinese pilot with the Flying Tigers in the Second World War. The Tigers were more formally known as the First American Volunteer Group of the Chinese Air Force; in his later life Dai coached motorcyclists. The ‘Flying Finn’ Timo Mäkinen (pictured), who became famous in the 1960s and 70s for his success in Minis in motor-rally driving, died at 79.
Shulamit Kishik-Cohen lived a fascinating life and one fraught with risk and danger but managed to live to 100. Born in Argentina, she migrated to Palestine as a child and grew up near Jerusalem. From her youth she acted as a covert agent of the Israeli national intelligence agency Mossad, she spied on Lebanon and Syria from 1947 until 1961, when she was arrested by the Lebanese authorities, tortured, and sentenced to death, but in 1967 was freed as part of a prisoner exchange after the Six Day War. An equally risk-filled life was lived by the appropriately named Vince Deadrick Snr., the American stuntman who died aged 84. Deadrick’s career took in stints on Star Trek, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. The Canadian-born male impersonator Diane Marian Torr, who was a visiting lecturer at the Glasgow School of Art, died of a brain tumour aged 68. Mary Tsoni, the Greek singer and actress, was just 30 when she committed suicide on 8 May. Gabe Proctor, the African-American long-distance runner, also took his own life at just 27, following a long battle with severe depression.
The Macedonian percussionist Zoran Madzirov, who invented the Bottlephone, was killed at the age of 49 in a traffic accident
It wouldn’t be a regular round-up month for The Reaper without a mysterious Russian death and the demise of Vasily Mikhailovich Tarasyuk, a member of the extreme right-wing Liberal Democrat Party member of Russia’s State Duma, at 68, perhaps qualifies for being called odd. Apparently he drowned in the Red Sea while on holiday in Israel. On the other hand, it’s easier to be trapped upside down in the very salty Red Sea than one might imagine – particularly if a bout of heavy drinking has preceded the swim.
Her secret of living to an old age was munching on foie gras and pork belly
Picture sources: PSMS76, Wikimedia, Anonymous, Proleter