December 23, 2007 in Nation/World

J. Russell Coffey, WWI veteran

The Spokesman-Review
 

J. Russell Coffey, the oldest known surviving U.S. veteran of World War I, died Thursday. He was 109.

Coffey died at the Briar Hill Health Campus in North Baltimore, where he had lived for the four or five years, said Gaye Boggs, nursing director at the nursing home. No cause of death has been determined.

Coffey never saw combat because he was still in basic training when the war ended.

The two remaining U.S. veterans are Frank Buckles, 106, of Charles Town, W.Va., and Harry Richard Landis, 108, of Sun City Center, Fla., according to the Veterans Affairs Department. In addition, John Babcock, 107, of Spokane, served in the Canadian army and is the last known Canadian veteran of the war.

Born Sept. 1, 1898, Coffey played semipro baseball in Akron, earned a doctorate in education from New York University, taught in high school and college, and raised a family.

London

Arabella Spencer-Churchill

Arabella Spencer-Churchill, the unconventional granddaughter of Britain’s wartime prime minister and a founder of the Glastonbury rock festival, died Thursday. She was 58.

Spencer-Churchill, who had pancreatic cancer, died at home in Glastonbury, southwestern England, said her husband, Ian McLeod. On the same day, her son, Nicholas Jake Barton, was sentenced to three years in prison in Australia for his part in an Ecstasy drug racket.

Born Oct. 31, 1949, Spencer-Churchill was the daughter of Winston Churchill’s son, Randolph, and June Osborne.

She was a free spirit in one of the grandest families in Britain, drawn to the hippie life. In the mid-1970s, she lived the down-and-out life as a squatter in London, running a low-cost restaurant for fellow squatters.

She was embroiled in controversy in 1971 when she declined an invitation to represent Britain at a NATO festival in the United States.

Los Angeles

Beverly Allen, noted showgirl

Beverly Allen, who was listed by the 2005 Guinness World Records as the oldest showgirl regularly performing in a chorus, died Dec. 16. She was 90.

Allen, who lived in Tarzana, died of pneumonia at a hospital, said her daughter, Lora Le Maire.

A professional dancer since her youth, she was 80 when she joined the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies, a chorus show for women 55 and up.

She retired in 2004 at age 87.

Allen was born on Nov. 4, 1917, in Chicago and studied dance from an early age. In the 1930s, she was with the Merriel Abbott Dancers, who performed at the famed Empire Room of the Palmer House Hotel.

She did USO tours for troops in Europe during World War II.

Actress Jillian Kesner-Graver

Jillian Kesner-Graver, who played Fonzie’s girlfriend Lorraine on “Happy Days” and with her late husband, director-cinematographer Gary Graver, worked to preserve the legacy of Hollywood legend Orson Welles, died Dec. 5. She was 58.

Kesner-Graver, who lived in Rancho Mirage, had leukemia but died at an Irvine hospital of a staph infection, family friend Joseph McBride said.

Her husband, who died last year, had worked on many movies with Welles.

Kesner-Graver had been helping piece together footage her husband shot in the 1970s for Welles’ unfinished feature “The Other Side of the Wind.” The couple had hoped to complete and eventually release it.

Kesner-Graver also was a production coordinator for many of her husband’s movies.

In addition to her “Happy Days” role, Kesner-Graver appeared in a number of low-budget films, and on TV in “The Rockford Files,” “Mork & Mindy,” “Three’s Company” and other shows.

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