• U.S.

Milestones Apr. 16, 2007

4 minute read
David Bjerklie, Scott Brown, Harriet Barovick, Tony Karon, Jackson Dykman, Bryan Walsh, Elisabeth Salemme, Carolyn Sayre, Joe Lertola and Camille Agon


She was worth $4.2 billion, but Nina Wang, Asia’s richest woman, liked to eat takeout and shop at discount outlets. The saga of “Little Sweetie,” as she was dubbed by the Hong Kong press, became tabloid fodder as she battled her father-in-law over the fortune of her real estate–tycoon husband Teddy Wang, who was kidnapped in 1990 and never seen again. (A 2005 ruling allowed her to hold on to the estate.) She was 69 and reportedly had ovarian cancer.

• Few people have the inside view of the bathrooms of U.S. Presidents. As the main White House plumber for seven Presidents, Howard Arrington (above, center) fished out golf balls that Dwight Eisenhower drove into the South Lawn fountain and appeased a testy Lyndon Johnson’s demands for more body sprays in his shower. After Watergate made plumbing a nasty euphemism, Arrington explained, “I’m the real White House plumber.” He was 79.

• If his name does not sound familiar, that’s just how maverick clarinetist Tony Scott wanted it. Among the loudest horn blowers in jazz and a venerated sideman for greats like Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington, he was one of the rare masters of bebop–a jaunty sound previously deemed incompatible with the clarinet’s soft tones. The arranger and composer also branched out to embrace sounds from countries like Japan and Senegal, helping launch the genre now known as world music. In doing so, he skirted classification–and high-voltage celebrity. “Without experimenters,” he said, “jazz would die a lingering death.” He was 85.

• Though he abandoned medical school during World War II, don’t discount the healing powers of Jacques Courtin-Clarins. The founder of European cosmetics giant Clarins ditched the doctor dream to soothe Paris’ war wounded as a masseur and found fans with his home-brewed treatment oils. Named for a character he portrayed in a high school play (he took the name as his own in the 1970s to celebrate his success), the family-owned company helped popularize therapeutic, plant-based skin-care products and grew to include salons around the world. He was 85.

• He liked to say his greatest record was having “one job and one wife,” but college football coach Eddie Robinson will be remembered for single-handedly putting Louisiana’s tiny Grambling State University on the national map. Until 2003, when John Gagliardi of St. John’s topped him, his 408-165-15 record over 56 years made him the winningest coach in college football. But he was proudest of the 200-plus players he sent to the NFL, including Paul Younger, the league’s first player from an all-black school, in 1949, and Super Bowl MVP quarterback Doug Williams, who in 1998 succeeded Robinson as Grambling coach. He was 88.

• Thankfully, Robert Austrian was never one to accept the presumed wisdom of his colleagues. After World War II, when doctors insisted that penicillin and other new antibiotics obviated the need for a vaccine to combat illnesses like pneumonia, Austrian turned this theory on its head. Convinced that certain bacteria were resistant to antibiotics–and aware that pneumonia was still killing thousands of people annually–he led a groundbreaking 10-year study of the issue at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y. By its culmination in 1962, Austrian had persuaded the medical community of the continued need for a pneumococcal vaccine; his was licensed in 1977. He was 90.

• Long, long ago, when wrestling was still covered in the sports section, one of its more compelling figures was the beefy Polish-born fighter Abe Coleman. At 5 ft. 3 in. and 200 lbs., the man dubbed the Hebrew Hercules fought such he-men of the 1930s as George Temple (Shirley’s brother) and the 465-lb. Man Mountain Dean, whom the agile Coleman once lifted in the air before the pair crashed through the ring. Among Coleman’s moves: the airplane spin, the flying head butt and his trademark “kangaroo kick”–an assault on an opponent’s jaw that he allegedly learned from marsupials when he toured Australia. He was 101.

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