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Obituaries of note

By Wire services
Published November 7, 2003

HELEN MORLOK, 73, one of four sisters listed as the world's oldest identical quadruplets, died Oct. 31 in Lansing, Mich. She and Edna, Sarah and Wilma were born on May 19, 1930, to Sadie and Carl Morlok. It was the first pregnancy for the 31-year-old nurse and the 41-year-old unemployed factory worker. The sisters were listed several times in Guinness World Records as the world's oldest identical quadruplets. Their birth was hailed a medical miracle. At that time, the odds of having quadruplets was one in 500,000. Their sister Wilma died in January 2002.

CHRISTABEL BIELENBERG, 94, the author of The Past Is Myself, an acclaimed memoir of her struggle to survive Nazi Germany, died Sunday Nov. 2 at her family estate in rural Ireland, relatives said. Her book, published in 1968, became a bestseller in the mid 1980s after it was turned into the British television drama Christabel starring Elizabeth Hurley.

EDWARD E. LANCTOT, 84, who co-founded a tiny hardware company that became the True Value hardware chain, died Oct. 30 in Chicago.

WALTER EDWARD WASHINGTON, 88, the great-grandson of a slave who became the first elected mayor of the nation's capital since the Civil War, died Oct. 27. Mr. Washington, the first African-American to head a major American city, was appointed mayor-commissioner of the District of Columbia by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967. President Richard M. Nixon reappointed him twice. When Congress approved home rule for the district, he ran for mayor in the 1974 election. He defeated Clifford Alexander to become the city's first elected mayor in 104 years.

BEHRAM N. KURSUNOGLU, 81, a physicist who founded and led the Center for Theoretical Studies, an influential research organization at the University of Miami, died Oct. 25 in Coral Gables. The center, which operated in Coral Gables from 1965 to 1992, trained postdoctoral fellows and provided a forum for scientists to exchange ideas. Among them were 35 scientists who had already won Nobel Prizes or went on to win them, said Arnold Perlmutter, a retired Miami physics professor who helped run the center.

THE REV. FLOYD MASSEY JR., 88, a leader in both the black National Baptist Convention USA Inc. and the predominantly white American Baptist Churches USA, died Oct. 28 in Los Angeles, said his son, Floyd Massey III. He was pastor of the Macedonia Baptist Church in Los Angeles from 1965 to 1987.

SHIRLEY "SHIRL" JENNINGS, 63, blind for 40 years until operations restored his vision in 1991, died Oct. 26 in Atlanta. The cause was chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. His life was depicted in the 1999 Hollywood film At First Sight, starring Val Kilmer and Mira Sorvino. When two operations restored his sight, he suffered from sensory overload, said his wife, Barbara Jennings. "His visual cortex had lost the ability to process images," she said. "It was much easier to be blind."

JOHN HART ELY, 64, a renowned University of Miami law professor, died Oct. 25 at home. He wrote three books, most notably Democracy and Distrust, which is the most frequently cited book about law published in the 20th century, said Carol Cope, assistant dean of external affairs at the University of Miami Law School.

LOUISE DAY HICKS, 87, a former member of Congress and an antibusing activist who became a symbol of Boston's racial divide during the 1970s, died Oct. 21. A federal judge's decision in 1974 to racially integrate schools by busing students sparked violent racial conflict in Boston. Ms. Hicks seized on the issue, and she opposed court-ordered busing as a member of the Boston School Committee. She came within 12,000 votes of being elected mayor of Boston in 1967. When the controversy over busing died, she faded from the public eye. In 1980, she lost her re-election bid to the City Council.

WENDY MARX, 36, president of the Wendy Marx Foundation for Organ Donor Awareness, died Oct. 28 in Stanford, Calif., awaiting her third transplant. She received her first transplant in 1989 at age 22 after hepatitis B destroyed her liver. In 1990, she and Jeffrey Marx and Olympic champion Carl Lewis, a family friend, founded the Washington, D.C., nonprofit organization to increase public awareness about the need for organ donors.

TAKASHI SONOBE, 62, chairman of Mitsubishi Motors Corp., died Oct. 28 in Tokyo. In 2000, he took over as president after his predecessor resigned in disgrace to take responsibility for a defect coverup scandal.

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