Ralph S. Plaisted, an insurance salesman turned explorer who in 1968 led the first expedition that indisputably reached the North Pole over the ice, died Monday at home in Wyoming, Minn., his family said. He was 80.
Traveling by snowmobile, Plaisted and three other men reached the North Pole on April 19, 1968. An Air Force weather plane verified their position a day later and gave them a lift back.
The 1909 attempt to reach the North Pole by explorer Robert Peary, long credited as the first to make it there, was never validated by anyone outside Peary’s party.
Plaisted said in 1988 that Peary was a great navigator but his own difficulties in the Artic, including a failed attempt in 1967, had convinced him that Peary’s claim was only wishful thinking. The Plaisted expedition encountered cliffs of ice 40 feet high, days of waiting for a two-mile-wide stretch of water to freeze, occasionally falling through the ice and temperatures reaching minus-65.
His own expedition – 474 miles as the crow flies from the starting point at Ward Hunt Island, Canada – took a little more than 43 days. Plaisted said in 1988 that he “wouldn’t go back there if you put a million dollars on my desk right now.”
Gregory Poe, fashion designer
Gregory Poe, a fashion designer with an offbeat sensibility who caused a sensation in the late 1970s with a line of see-through purses and raincoats infused with plastic fish and other whimsical items, died Sept. 1 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 51.
In poor health for several years, Poe died in his sleep, according to Jeffrey Poe, his brother.
“He was very creative in an avant-garde way,” said Mary Stephens, director of the fashion design department at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles.
By the early 1980s, Poe’s creations were sold at Macy’s in New York. He later sold an American line of women’s ready-to-wear that was distinguished by slinky shapes and unusual textures.
Tina Allen, sculptor of black leaders
Tina Allen, whose sculptures of prominent blacks through history fill public spaces across the United States, died Tuesday in Los Angeles. She was 58.
Allen died of complications from a heart attack, her former husband, Roger Allen, said.
For every nationally known figure – agricultural scientist George Washington Carver for the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis or Sojourner Truth for Memorial Park in Battle Creek, Mich. – Allen created one of her likenesses of a prominent local leader.
She studied photos and other likenesses of her subjects, interviewing their friends if possible, and talked to experts about them. Then she made a clay model.
As she sculpted a likeness of Frederick Douglass, “he told me he’s not happy,” Allen said. It shows in his face, which resembles a famous photograph. “I’m looking at myself as speaking about the heart and soul of a people, and making sure they’re not forgotten,” Allen said in 2003