In passing

‘Bert’ Given, 88, trash disposal inventor

Bertram F. “Bert” Given, who developed the Waste King garbage disposal six decades ago and later became active in charitable causes, has died. He was 88.

Given died Thursday in Ashland, Ore., while visiting relatives. The cause of death was heart failure, his family said.

Born in El Paso, Texas, Given grew up in Los Angeles, honing his fascination with machines and engineering at his father’s Given Machinery Co. He studied architecture at University of California, Berkeley, but dropped out in 1939 to join his father in the business.

Attuned to what housewives wanted in the kitchens of the new houses proliferating during the postwar boom in southern California, he began working on a way to get rid of garbage.

What he came up with was the Waste King garbage disposal, one of the first appliances of its kind. In 1946, he established Given Manufacturing Co. to build the devices, which quickly became a must-have item for any new kitchen and many old ones as well.

In his continuing study of household needs, Given decided that a way to hide dirty dishes and sanitize them was almost as important as getting rid of food scraps. So he added dishwashers to his line. Later came barbecue grills and cooking ranges.

By 1957, the brand had become so popular that he renamed his company Waste King Corp.

Mortimer Levitt, 98, men’s fashion mogul

Mortimer Levitt, who built a men’s fashion empire of made-to-measure shirts, starting with one Custom Shop Shirtmakers store in New York City and growing to include more than 60 others around the country, died Tuesday. He was 98.

Levitt, who also wrote five books about men’s style and related subjects and was an avid supporter of arts programs, died at his summer home in Greens Farms, Conn., of complications from a stroke, his daughter, Elizabeth Levitt Hirsch, said Thursday. He was a longtime resident of New York City.

The self-made mogul was born in Brooklyn and dropped out of high school to help support his mother and brothers. At age 20, he started his business of custom-order shirts for men priced at $2.15 each. From then on, he kept the price far lower than the typical cost of a custom-made shirt.He was a founder of the Manhattan Theater Club in New York City, and for more than 25 years served as chairman of the board of Young Concert Artists, which fosters the careers of promising young classical musicians. Pianist Emanuel Ax and violinist Pinchas Zuckerman were once part of the program.A flamboyant dresser who knew the rules of good taste, Levitt wrote several how-to books about men’s fashion. “The Executive Look and How to Get It” (1981) and “Class, What It Is and How to Acquire It” (1984) attracted attention in part because of Levitt’s writing style.

“Fashion is an industry rip-off. Forget it! Stay with the classics,” he pronounced in the first book.

Dame Cicely Saunders, 87, hospice pioneer

Dame Cicely Saunders, who launched the modern system of hospice care, has died in the London hospice she founded in 1967. She was 87.

Saunders died Thursday of cancer at St. Christopher’s Hospice, where she had been a patient for some time, said Barbara Monroe, chief executive of the hospice.

“Countless patients and families in this country and all over the world have benefited from Dame Cicely’s vision and leadership on end-of-life care,” said Mike Richards, Britain’s national cancer director.

While working in the late 1940s at a London hospital, Saunders met the man who would change her life – and the deaths of many others.

He was a 40-year-old survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto named David Tasma who was dying of cancer. She was his only visitor, and as the two became close, they talked about the care patients need at the end of their lives.

“I was already thinking I must do something about the dying,” Saunders told the Times of London in May. “He said he had a bit of money to leave – and that he would like to help set up a home for the dying. ‘I’ll be a window in your home’ was how he put it.” He left 500 pounds – about $880 in today’s U.S. dollars. It would take almost 20 years of fund-raising before she could build “a home around Tasma’s window,” she said.

Joe Harnell, 80, pianist, arranger

Los Angeles Joe Harnell, the Grammy-winning pianist, arranger and conductor, died Thursday of heart failure at Sherman Oaks Hospital in the San Fernando Valley, according to his publicist. He was 80.

He enlisted in the Army Air Forces during World War II, touring with the Glenn Miller Air Force Band.

After his discharge at the end of the war, he studied composition with Aaron Copland and worked as a music director or accompanist for a number of leading singers.

Harnell worked with Peggy Lee in concert tours and on several of her albums in the late 1950s and early ‘60s. He conducted the orchestra on the albums: “Anything Goes: Cole Porter” and “Peggy Lee and the George Shearing Quintet,” and he played piano on Lee’s “Things Are Swingin’ ” album.


Click here to comment on this story »



Contact the Spokesman

Main switchboard:
(509) 459-5000
Customer service:
(509) 747-4422
(509) 459-5400
(800) 789-0029
Back to Spokesman Mobile