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In passing

Sun., May 16, 2004

Robert Mokros, 90, custom shoemaker

Minneapolis Robert Mokros, an amputee who made custom-made shoes for people with disfigured feet, died May 1, his son said. He was 90.

Mokros learned to be a shoemaker at a religious school for children with disabilities, where he was sent after losing his foot in a farming accident in his native Germany when he was 13. Eventually he would make footwear for customers all over the United States.

Norbert Mokros said he saw customers walk for the first time because of the shoes produced by his father at his shop in downtown Minneapolis.

The shoemaker could look at a person’s feet and cut a likeness of them from a block of wood, his son said. He would also use sketches, footprints on dye, and paper and plaster casts of disfigured feet, eventually transforming his designs into leather shoes and boots.

Rita Fraad, 88, art collector

Scarsdale, N.Y. Rita Fraad, an art collector who lent works to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art and other museums and galleries, has died, her daughter said. She was 88.

Fraad, who collected 19th- and 20th-century works by such American greats as Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins and Edward Hopper, died Sunday of cardiac arrest, daughter Sara F. Henderson said.

She frequently gave pieces to Smith College, from which she graduated in 1937, and was a member of an advisory board to the school’s renowned art museum until last year.

Part of her collection was shown at Smith in a 1988 exhibition, “Realism Today,” and she established an endowment for American art at the school.

Fraad sat on the visiting committee on American art and sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She was also a trustee of the Archives of American Art, a division of the Smithsonian Institute that catalogs the records and papers of American artists, critics, art historians and museums.

Syd Hoff, 91, New Yorker cartoonist

Miami Beach, Florida Syd Hoff, a former cartoonist for The New Yorker magazine who is known to generations of children as the author of “Sammy the Seal” and “Danny and the Dinosaur,” died May 12 of pneumonia, his daughter said. He was 91.

The Bronx-born Hoff wrote and illustrated the inaugural volume of the “Danny and the Dinosaur” trilogy in 1958. The book, about a dinosaur who comes to life, was part of the I Can Read series, a line of books aimed at beginning readers.

Anne Hoppe, executive editor of the HarperCollins children’s books division, said Hoff was one of the first creators of books for beginning readers.

“Syd was so good at humor for young readers and for creating big-hearted characters,” Hoppe said. “There is so much competition (in entertainment), but children are still very excited to be able to read. That magic hasn’t gone away.”

Hoff enrolled in the National Academy of Design in New York City at age 16 in the hopes of becoming a fine artist. “But a natural comic touch in my work caused my harried instructors to advise me to try something else,” he once said.

He contributed a total of 571 cartoons to The New Yorker, from 1931 to 1975. Hoff also had two syndicated cartoons. “Tuffy,” about a little girl, started in 1939 and ran 10 years. “Laugh It Off” started in 1958 and ran for 20 years.


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