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In Passing

Monterey, Calif.

Colin Fletcher, hiking enthusiast

Colin Fletcher, who was considered the father of modern backpacking for his lyrical and practical writings on hiking, including “The Complete Walker” and “The Man Who Walked Through Time,” died Tuesday in Monterey, Calif. He was 85.

Fletcher died at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula of complications related to old age and injuries suffered in 2001 when he was hit by a car as he crossed a rural road.

“He brought this idea that you didn’t have to be a nut case to take long solitary walks in the wilderness at a time when a lot of people were really looking for ways to create holistic lives and escape from the craziness of Vietnam and the stresses of the ‘60s,” said Jonathan Dorn, editor in chief of Backpacker magazine.

“The Complete Walker,” published in 1968, is an exhaustive guide to outdoor travel that is regarded as the backpacker’s bible. The book brims with advice on gear and frank observations, such as why someone should consider wilderness walking: It “remains a delectable madness, very good for sanity.”

“He was to backpacking what Jack Kerouac had been to road trips,” Annette McGivney wrote in Backpacker magazine in 2002.


Guy de Rothschild, financier

Guy de Rothschild, 98, the dynamic patriarch of one of the world’s dominant banking families and whose business savvy helped revive and expand the multibillion-dollar enterprise after World War II, died Tuesday in Paris. No cause of death was disclosed.

For generations, the Rothschilds had been economic advisers to European royalty, heads of state and even popes. Guy de Rothschild’s ancestors settled in Paris and started a French banking branch in 1817 that financed wars and railroads as well as occasional explorations in mining and archaeology.

They became one of the richest and most powerful families in the world. Yet for all their wealth, they largely operated away from public scrutiny. This changed with Baron Guy de Rothschild, whose title had been passed down since the emperor of Austria recognized the contributions of a Rothschild ancestor during the Napoleonic wars.

He took control of the family’s Paris branch – which along with its London office was one of its most powerful offices – and set about modernizing operations after their near ruin during the Nazi occupation of France.

Although he guided investments into blue-chip firms, including Michelin, De Beers and IBM, it was said that Baron de Rothschild’s greatest role was overseeing an aggressive expansion of investments overseas, including oil digs in the Sahara and iron mining in Mauritania. He also financed lead mines in Peru and ski resorts in the Swiss Alps.

Acton, Calif.

John Tracy, actor’s son

John Tracy, the deaf son of actor Spencer Tracy who inspired his parents to establish the pioneering John Tracy Clinic in Los Angeles to help young hearing-impaired children and their families, has died. He was 82.

Tracy died Friday at his son’s ranch in Acton, Calif., where he had lived for five years. The cause of death was not specified.

He was 17 when his mother, Louise Treadwell Tracy, first spoke publicly about rearing a deaf child. The speech at the University of Southern California led her to found the clinic in a campus bungalow in 1942, and she helped build the nonprofit into a leading institution for deaf education. For the first few years, Spencer Tracy was the clinic’s sole support.

“As a child, John Tracy couldn’t have known that he would be the inspiration of a whole movement to give new hope to parents of children with hearing loss,” Barbara F. Hecht, president of the clinic, told the Los Angeles Times.

The clinic was among the first to start a hearing-impaired child’s training in infancy and make parent education a critical component. It has helped an estimated 245,000 parents and children.

It tries to educate “deaf children through their mothers and fathers, who otherwise would not know what to do with them. … I hoped it would help a great deal,” John Tracy wrote in 1946 in The Volta Review, the journal of the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

The story, written when he was 22, was headlined “My Complicated Life.”

After attending what is now the California Institute of the Arts, Tracy worked for several years in the art props department at Walt Disney Studios. Tracy stopped working when his eyesight started to fail in the late 1950s.

Well into adulthood, Tracy learned that his deafness was due to Usher syndrome, a genetic disease that eventually would steal his eyesight. By the early 1990s, he was legally blind from retinitis pigmentosa.


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