Tuba player from the Jaws theme dead at 71

Tommy Johnson, who, along with Steven Spielberg and a mechanical shark, scared the crap out of movie-goers in the 1970s, died from complications of cancer and kidney failure at UCLA Medical Center on October 16. Johnson played the foreboding tones that let you know the shark was nearby and that bikini-clad vixen in the water was chum. Johnson played in thousands of movie scores during his half-century career, including The Godfather, Star Trek, and Titanic. He also worked with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Academy Awards Orchestra, and taught music at the high school and college levels. He was 71.

Source: Associated Press, IMDB

The Detroit Lions's first black player dead at 82

North Carolina native Bob Mann, honorable mention All-American and All-Big Nine star of the Michigan Wolverines, and the first African American Detroit Lion, passed away Saturday, October 21. Mann played on Wolverines coach Fritz Crisler's national championship and undefeated (10-0) team, and in 1948, he and back Melvin Groomes became the Lions's first African American players. In 1949, Mann set a team record for receptions with 66, and led the NFL in yards receiving with 1,014, making him the Lions's first 1,000-yard receiver. Mann was traded to the New York Yanks for future Hall of Fame quarterback Bobby Layne, and ended his career with the Green Bay Packers (1950-54). Following his football career, Mann earned his law degree and led the Robert Mann & Associates law firm for over thirty years. Mann was 82.

Sources: DetroitLions.com, Associated Press

First Italian woman to win an Olympic gold medal dead at 90

Trebisonda "Ondina" Valla, the 80-meter hurdles champion at the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin, died of natural causes in her hometown of L'Aquila, Italy. Valla tied a world record when she ran the 80-meter hurdles (no longer an Olympic event) in 11.6 seconds in the semifinals at the Berlin Games. She won the final in the event in 11.7 seconds, with four athletes rushing together at the finish line. A photo finish picture was needed to award the silver and bronze medals. Valla's life-long rival, Claudia Testoni, finished fourth, without a medal. Valla set 21 Italian records during her career until back problems forced her retirement in the early 1940s. She was 90.

Sources: Boston Globe, International Herald Tribune, Time.com

Doctor who delivered first "test-tube" baby dead at 87

Mason Andrews, an obstetrician and gynecologist who delivered Elizabeth Jordan Carr on Dec. 28, 1981, died last Friday, October 13 of pulmonary fibrosis. Andrews earned his medical degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1943, and finished his residency there in 1950, following a tour in the Navy. He was a co-founder of the Eastern Virginia Medical School and helped it's Jones Institute become a leader in reproductive medicine. Andrews delivered approximately 5,000 babies in the Norfolk, Virginia, area, the most famous being Carr, the nation's first baby conceived outside her mother's body. Doctors Howard Jones and Georgeanna Seegar-Jones oversaw the in-vitro process. Dr. Fred Wirth cared for the child immediately after birth and presided over the news conference to the nation declaring Carr healthy and normal. In addition to his career in medicine, Mason Andrews also served as a member of the city council for 26 years, and the mayor from 1992-1994, helping to revitalize Norfolk through planning and spending millions to lure private investment. He was 87.

Sources: San Francisco Chronicle, Associated Press, Washington Post

Mother of women's rowing dead at 97

Ernestine "Ernie" Bayer, credited with bringing women's rowing to the international stage, died of pneumonia on Sept. 10. Bayer's interest in rowing grew while supporting her husband, Ernest, during his training on Pennsylvania's Schuylkill River for the 1928 Olympics. Following a decade of pleading, Ernest allowed Bayer to begin rowing. She founded the Philadelphia Girls Rowing Club in 1938 with 16 friends and co-workers, and competed in numerous races during the 1940s and 50s. Bayer competed at the first National Women's Rowing Association championship regatta in 1966, and in 1967 persuaded U.S. rowing officials to select her club as the American crew to participate in the European women's rowing championships in Vichy, France. The team came in last, but lead to the inclusion of women's rowing at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. The U.S. women's team earned their first gold medal eight years later. Bayer became the first woman in the National Rowing Foundation's Hall of Fame. She was 97.

Sources: Yahoo News, National Rowing Foundation, Friends of Rowing History

Dick Van Dyke Show and Tracey Ullman Show writer dead at 68

Jerry Belson, an Emmy-winning comedy writer, died of cancer at his Los Angeles home on Tuesday. Belson began his career as a magician, comic book writer, and drummer, before selling his first script to The Danny Thomas Show at age 22. The Thomas script led to work writing for The Dick Van Dyke Show, Gomer Pyle, I Spy, The Odd Couple, and Tracey Takes On. Belson's producing and directing credits included The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, and The Drew Carey Show. Screenplay credits included the original Fun with Dick and Jane, The End, and Smokey and the Bandit II. Former writing partner Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman, Laverne & Shirley, et al.) said Belson "added dark, wild thoughts and lines," inserting bon mots he thought were funny even if only a few in the audience would understand or appreciate them. Belson was 68.

Sources: Yahoo News, IMDB, The Museum of Broadcast Communications

Fred Flintstone animator dead at 94

Ed Benedict, who brought Fred Flintstone and Yogi Bear to life for Hanna-Barbera Studios, died on August 28 in his sleep in Auburn, California. Benedict began his career at Disney Studios in 1930, followed by work with Woody Woodpecker creator Walter Lantz at Universal Studios throughout the 1930s. He returned to Disney in the 1940s. In 1952, Benedict was recruited by cartoon legend Tex Avery to become Avery's lead layout artist and designer at MGM. Benedict then joined the fledgling Hanna-Barbera Studios in the late 1950s where he designed the Flinstones, their neighbors Barney and Betty Rubble, as well as the cars, inventions, and landscapes for the primetime animated series (1960-1966). Benedict was also the primary designer of Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, Snagglepuss, and other H-B staples. Benedict freelanced for various studios in the 1960s and 70s before retiring. He was 94.

Sources: Cartoon Brew, Don Markstein's Toonopedia, Associated Press, Wikipedia

Father of network computing dead at 82

Ray Noorda, who founded Novell Inc., died of complications from Alzheimer's disease at his home in Orem, Utah, on October 9. Noorda served as a Naval Electronics Technician in World War II, and after earning a Bachelor's Degree in Engineering from the University of Utah, went to work for General Electric for 21 years. He became the CEO of Novell in 1983, making it the leader in software for corporate networks and personal computers until Microsoft caught up in the mid-1990s. Microsoft chair Bill Gates described his chief competitor as the "grumpy grandfather" of technology. Novell attempted to remain competitive by investing in the Unix OS, WordPerfect, and other products with limited success. Noorda left Novell in 1995 to form a capital venture firm. He was 82.

Sources: The Canopy Group, Associated Press

Negro League legend Buck O'Neil dead at 94

Star first baseman and manager in the Negro leagues, Buck O'Neil, died last Friday of congestive heart failure in Kansas City, Missouri. O'Neil gained famed late in life due to interviews featured in Ken Burns's 1994 PBS documentary "Baseball," which also generated renewed interest in the world of black baseball.

John Jordan O'Neil Jr., the grandson of a slave, was born in 1911 in Carrabelle, Florida, and was playing semipro baseball by age 12. In 1938, following semi-professional "barnstorming" experiences with the Miami Giants, New York Tigers, Shreveport Acme Giants, and Zulu Cannibal Giants, O'Neil joined the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League.

More »

Cleopatra Jones dead at 59

Tamara Dobson, the 6-foot 2-inch tall model-turned-actress who portrayed Cleopatra Jones in two "blaxploitation" films, died Monday of complications from pneumonia and multiple sclerosis at the Keswick Multi-Care Center. Dobson appeared in such movies as Fuzz, Murder at the World Series, and Chained Heat, but is best known for playing the kung-fu fighting government agent Jones in 1973, and reprising the role in 1975's Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold. According to IMDB, the Guinness Book of World Records has recognized Dobson as the tallest leading lady ever in film. She had roles in the sci-fi series Jason of Star Command and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Jones was diagnosed six years ago with multiple sclerosis and spent the last two years of her life at the multi-care center. She was 59.

Sources: Associated Press, IMDB, WebMD