• U.S.

Milestones Feb. 12, 2007

5 minute read
Barbara Kiviat

WON. Serena Williams, 25, her third Australian Open championship and eighth Grand Slam event, in a stunning display of force that promises to reinvigorate the women’s tour; in a definitive rout of No. 1–ranked Maria Sharapova in straight sets; after injuries and fashion pursuits had sidelined her for more than a year; in Melbourne. Motivated, she said, by the memory of her murdered older half sister Yetunde–whose name she invoked after every net change–Williams became the lowest-ranked woman to win a Grand Slam singles trophy in 29 years and jumped in the world rankings, from 81 to 14. Vowing to refocus her energies on tennis, she said, “I think I get the greatest satisfaction just … proving everyone wrong. I just love that.”

DIED. Dale Noyd, 73, decorated Air Force captain and longtime Air Force Academy teacher who in 1966 drew worldwide attention as a humanist and conscientious objector to one war: Vietnam; of emphysema; in Seattle. After the Air Force refused his request to resign his commission based on his belief that the war was illegal and immoral, he filed a suit against the Pentagon that the Supreme Court declined to hear. Around the same time, he was court-martialed for refusing to train a pilot destined for Vietnam, sentenced to a year in jail and dishonorably discharged.

DIED. Molly Ivins, 62, acerbic commentator, whose columns skewered the high and mighty; after a seven-year fight with breast cancer; in Austin, Texas. Ivins, who famously referred to George W. Bush as “Shrub,” could write with heartfelt earnestness yet just as naturally refer to height-challenged politicians as “runts with attitudes.” The three-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, in a recent column on Bush’s troop surge, offered what could serve as her epitaph: “Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous.”

DIED. Hugo Moser, 82, neurologist and world authority on the rare disorder adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), known in part for his depiction in Lorenzo’s Oil, a 1992 film detailing the struggles of parents Augusto and Michaela Odone to find treatments for their son; in Baltimore, Md. In 2005, after the Odones patented a treatment involving a blend of olive and other oils, Moser published a study showing that Lorenzo’s Oil, now deemed experimental by the Food and Drug Administration, can prevent the onset of symptoms for most boys with a diagnosis of ALD.

DIED. Robert Drinan, 86, liberal Democrat from Massachusetts and the first Roman Catholic priest to become a voting member of Congress; in Washington. A staunch opponent of the Vietnam War, he was elected in 1970 (with the help of campaign aide John Kerry and the slogan “Father Knows Best”). He charmed, and sometimes cowed, colleagues with his clerical clothing–he said he had no other suits–and was the first to call for Richard Nixon’s impeachment, over the U.S.’s secret bombing of Cambodia. He left politics in 1980, after Pope John Paul II ordered him to resign, citing a canon law barring priests from elective office.

DIED. Bob Carroll Jr., 88, veteran TV writer who helped define the seminal ’50s sitcom I Love Lucy; in Los Angeles. Carroll and partner Madelyn Pugh were the first permanent writers hired for Lucille Ball’s 1940s radio show My Favorite Husband–the precursor to the TV hit starring Ball and real-life husband Desi Arnaz. Carroll, who later wrote for The Lucy Show and Life with Lucy, went on to write for every I Love Lucy episode.

DIED. Sidney Sheldon, 89, Oscar- and Tony-winning writer who became a publishing powerhouse in his 50s, when he began to pen steamy best sellers–many of which became TV mini-series–detailing the travails of bewitching women spurned by cruel men; in Los Angeles. As a TV producer, he created The Patty Duke Show and I Dream of Jeannie, but in midlife, he went for grander plotlines. His novels, including Are You Afraid of the Dark?–published when he was 87–and The Other Side of Midnight, sold 300 million copies in 180 countries and made him one of the world’s most translated authors.

All superior racehorses have their Secretariat moment, that brief stitch in time when they reveal the true measure of their talent, and for BARBARO that instant arose as the horses came charging to the turn for home in the 2006 Kentucky Derby. Lying dangerously close to a fiery pace, the colt rushed to the lead and–following one of the fastest final quarter miles in Derby history–won the Roses by nearly seven lengths, the longest Derby victory margin in 60 years. I had witnessed every Derby but one since 1972, and Barbaro struck me–for his sheer athleticism, his explosive speed, his unbridled joy for running–as the finest 3-year-old I had seen since Spectacular Bid in 1979. Vast ability aside, he had all the extras: a classic pedigree, a gentlemanly demeanor and a body that could be by da Vinci. Two weeks later, he shattered his right hind leg in the Preakness. Barbaro may have hobbled off the racetrack with his promise unfulfilled, but in his eight-month struggle to survive, he became the most enriching story in sports, the warm center of a high-wire drama that featured two owners who spared no expense trying to save him; a team of caregivers at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center who nursed him through surgeries and bouts of deadly laminitis; and thousands of fans around the country who sent cards, flowers, candy and prayers for his recovery. Barbaro himself endured the ordeal with fortitude and poise, with patience and even sweetness. Alas, facing yet another painful siege of laminitis last week, Barbaro was put to sleep by lethal injection, but not before he came to represent the noblest qualities of his breed–as the humans around him came to represent the best of theirs.

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