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Peter Secchia, Confidant of Ford and Bush, Dies at 83

This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.Peter Secchia rarely boasted about his success, but he often marveled at it.At 25, he went to work as a salesman for a lumber company that grossed $1 million annually. He ultimately worked his way up to chief executive and transformed it into a global conglomerate, with annual sales of $1.6 billion by the time he retired in 2002.Buoyed by his financial success, he emerged as a major donor to his alma mater, Michigan State University, and a civic leader and philanthropist in Grand Rapids, his adopted hometown, and adjacent Western Michigan.As a prominent Republican contributor and fund-raiser, Mr. Secchia (pronounced SUCK-ee-uh) also became a confidant of two presidents.Under ...

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Health

Chris Pendergast, Who Fought A.L.S. Mile After Mile, Dies at 71

In addition to his wife, Christine (Martin) Pendergast, a past president of the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association on Long Island, he is survived by a son, Christopher, who is known as Buddy; a daughter, Melissa Scriven; and a grandson.Mr. Pendergast and his wife chronicled the family’s collaborative effort to confront A.L.S. in a book, “Blink Spoken Here: Tales From a Journey to Within,” which was published this year. The title comes from the eye-tracker computer that uses infrared light to substitute for oral speech when patients lose their voice.After retiring from teaching in 2003, Mr. Pendergast often made public appearances, including a visit to Northport High School last February, to extol the power of perseverance when confronting adversity.In 2005, when he spoke to ele...

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Business

Daniel Menaker, Book Editor Who Wrote With Wit, Dies at 79

“Just think of it — going on 50 years now,” Mr. Menaker wrote. “Well, maybe don’t think of it. As you told me recently, comfortingly and disturbingly, ‘We can’t die young anymore.’”Robert Daniel Menaker was born on Sept. 17, 1941, in Manhattan to decidedly mixed lineage. His father, Robert Owen Menaker, who designed, sold and exported furniture to Mexico and South America, was the son of a Jewish immigrant from Russia whose rabbinical ancestry could supposedly be traced to King Solomon and who had been jailed in czarist Russia as a revolutionary. Mr. Menaker’s mother, Mary R. Grace, the chief copy editor at Fortune magazine, was said to be a descendant of William the Conqueror.A red-diaper baby, Mr. Menaker attended what he described as the “aptronymic” Little Red School House in Green...

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Business

David Graeber, Caustic Critic of Inequality, Is Dead at 59

David Graeber, the radical anthropologist, provocative critic of economic and social inequality and self-proclaimed anarchist who was a coiner of “We Are the 99 Percent,” the slogan of the Occupy Wall Street movement, died on Wednesday at a hospital in Venice. He was 59.His death was announced on social media by his wife, Nika Dubrovsky, an artist. She did not specify the cause, but Dr. Graeber reported on YouTube last week that he had been feeling ill.A public intellectual, professor, political activist and author, Dr. Graeber captivated a cult following that grew globally over the past decade with each book he published.In “Debt: The First 5000 Years” (2011), he explored the changing definitions of borrowing and who owed what to whom. He advocated a “jubilee” of loan forgiveness. Writ...

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Health

Dr. Seymour Schwartz, Who Wrote the Book on Surgery, Dies at 92

“Sy is the aspirational mentor that we all want to emulate,” said Dr. David Linehan, chairman of the surgery department at the University of Rochester Medical Center, who also holds the title Seymour I. Schwartz professor of surgery. Dr. Linehan praised Dr. Schwartz for “his towering intellect, spirit of collegiality, indefatigable work ethic, unending curiosity and enduring relevance.”Dr. Craig R. Smith, the chairman of the surgery department at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, recalled Dr. Schwartz’s “insatiable intellectual curiosity” and called him “a polymath of the first order” who was “much, much more than just another academic surgeon.”Seymour Ira Schwartz was born on Jan. 22, 1928, in the Bronx, to parents from Jewish immigrant families. His fat...

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Business

Ian McRae, Who Brought Electricity to Black South Africa, Dies at 90

They prepared to provide electrical power to the segregated urban areas reserved for nonwhites; upgraded the utility distribution systems in Angola, Lesotho and Mozambique with the intention of integrating them into a sub-continental power grid; and hired and trained Black workers to manage and maintain new power plants as demand for electricity grew.“Eskom was legally prohibited from providing electricity to Black communities,” Art Kleiner, Jeffrey Schwartz and Josie Thomson wrote in “The Wise Advocate: The Inner Voice of Strategic Leadership” (2019). But under Mr. McRae it became “one of the first companies to move away from apartheid,” by secretly negotiating with Black leaders, making their case to the government for electrical power and other concessions, and hiring through affirma...

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Business

Stephen F. Williams, U.S. Appeals Court Judge, Dies at 83

This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.Stephen F. Williams, an erudite lapsed liberal whose opinions reverberated from the bench of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia for three decades, died on Aug. 7 in a Washington hospital. He was 83.The cause was complications of the coronavirus, his daughter, Susan Ellis said.Judge Williams was a Democratic environmentalist who voted for George S. McGovern for president in 1972 and had joined in a vigil against the Vietnam War, but who evolved later in the decade into a born-again conservative.“‘When you’re young,’” Ms. Ellis quoted her father as saying, “‘it’s foolish to be conservative, and when you’re older, it’s foolish to be a liberal.’”His s...

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Business

Barbara Caplan, Spotter of Consumer Trends, Dies at 93

This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.Barbara Caplan, who was trained as a psychologist, built a career on predicting what consumers would crave, when and why. Ms. Caplan was also a trendsetter herself among women in the workplace.Physically fit but afflicted with dementia, she was admitted to a hospital in April and tested positive for the novel coronavirus. After she was released, her condition continued to deteriorate. She died on Aug. 7 in Dedham, Mass., outside of Boston. She was 93.Her daughter Amy Caplan said the cause was complications of Covid-19.After raising five children, she enrolled in graduate school, earned a master’s degree, taught child psychology at Pace University and was wooed to the marketi...

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Business

Doris Buffett, Her Family’s ‘Retail Philanthropist,’ Dies at 92

Doris Buffett, a self-styled retail philanthropist who once declared that her billionaire younger brother, Warren Buffett, “loves to make money and I love to give it away,” died on Tuesday at her home in Rockport, Me. She was 92.Her death was confirmed by her grandson Alexander Buffett Rozek.Ms. Buffett had been a benefactor in her own right when her brother, one of the world’s most successful investors, announced his intention in 2006 to donate nearly his entire fortune before he died, opening the gates to a flood of supplicants. At the time his worth was estimated at $44 billion.While he ran Berkshire Hathaway, the conglomerate that includes Dairy Queen, Duracell and Geico, Mr. Buffett entrusted his sister and a group of women she had recruited to sift the requests for financial help,...

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