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The Daily Goodbye

Matt Schudel

Here's the roundup of today's interesting obituaries from around the country and around the world. We'll start, naturally, with The Post, where our lead obituary is of Igor Moiseyev, the remarkable Russian dance master who created a new form of dance, combining folk idioms with the high art of ballet.

Quite often when we write obituaries, we start from a knowledge point of absolute zero. But my mind is cluttered with information and experiences that would be useless in any other occupation, and I have a vivid recollection of the only time I saw Moiseyev's troupe perform, about 10 years ago in Florida. I tried to convey some of the mystery and majesty of Moiseyev's remarkable dancers.

Also today, Pat Sullivan has a pair of fine stories, the first a Local Life about Michael Forbes Robinson, who loved mountain climbing and died while on a trek in the Himalayas. Pat's second piece is an obituary of the remarkably eclectic Alann (yes, two n's) Lewis, who rode the rails in his youth, guarded mines in Nevada, worked as a reporter in Boston, wrote plays in New York and sold advertising in Washington. It also allowed our copy desk to get the wonderfully romantic word "vagabond" into a headline.

Elsewhere, the Atlanta Journal Constitution has a sweet obituary about Ronald W. Gee, who began bicycyling in his 50s and allowed his two-wheeled passion to lead him into all kinds of interesting byways and personal encounters. The Raleigh News & Observer has an interesting story about Robert E. Stipe, who devoted his life to historic preservation and teaching in North Carolina.

The Philadelphia Daily News has an obituary of John Walsh, who was a champion figure skater and spent two years as the skating partner of the great Sonja Henie. Robert Westover, a public affairs specialist for the U.S. Forest Service in Washington, has a touching piece in the San Diego Union Tribune about his grandmother, who went into a coma after the recent fires near San Diego and never recovered. And the Miami Herald has a fascinating story about a U.S.-born professor who fought with Fidel's revolutionary troops in Cuba, only to turn on the Cuban strongman and repudiate his ideas and legacy.

It's not a particularly strong obituary day for our British friends, but the Times does have this interesting piece about an expert in desert navigation.

A final note about an obituary I wrote for The Post last Sunday on singer Evelyn Knight. She was a popular singer in the 1940s and early '50s who had two No. 1 hits and was similar in style to Dinah Shore, Patti Page and other singers of the time. She was born in rural Virginia and came to Washington as a girl and got her start in D.C. clubs when she was 16. (Her mother lied about her age to help her work in places with liquor.) Miss Knight's sister, who lives in St. Louis, sent us a fax some weeks ago, after Miss Knight died on Sept. 28, and I put it aside and got sidetracked with other projects. (The Obits desk has been exceptionally busy of late.) I picked it up again, as the 30-day deadline was approaching -- all obituaries, with rare exceptions, must be published within 30 days of the date of death. Only then did I realize what an extraordinary career Evelyn Knight had. It was fascinating and sad to learn about the elegant milieu of supper clubs, hotels and swing bands in which she worked. I'm pleased that The Post's obituary of Miss Knight is the only major treatment of her life, so far.

By Matt Schudel  |  November 4, 2007; 1:57 PM ET
Categories:  Matt Schudel  
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