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The Daily Goodbye

Patricia Sullivan

Good morning, after a late night.

Nothing like a pair of big obits late in the day to get your motor running. I speak, of course, about Patrick Swayze and Jody Powell, an unlikely pair who died within hours of each other.

The real-life Norma Rae, Crystal Lee Sutton, died last week in North Carolina. She was the textile worker whose attempt to unionize workers resulted in the loss of her job. As management ordered police to take her off the factory floor, "I took a piece of cardboard and wrote the word 'union' on it in big letters, got up on my worktable, and slowly turned it around. The workers started cutting their machines off and giving me the victory sign. All of a sudden the plant was very quiet," she said. Within a year, the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union had won the right to represent 3,000 employees at seven plants in Roanoke Rapids, including J. P. Stevens, which was then the second-largest textile manufacturer in the country. She got her job back, and Sally Field played her in an Oscar-winning movie.

Elizabeth Ann "Beth" Rickey, who was a 33-year-old graduate student when she stood up to neo-Nazi David Duke, died alone, broke, in Santa Fe last weekend. Her courageous stand, and subsequent gathering of proof that he was not a reformed politician, prevented the admirer of Hitler from attaining statewide office in Louisiana.

A keyboard player with Elton John's band for more than 20 years died of heart arrhythmia. Guy Graham Babylon was dismissed by a piano teacher for having little or no talent when he was nine years old. Two weeks later he began teaching himself and rock and roll fame followed.

One of 53 siblings to terrorist Osama bin Laden has died, his family announced. Details on the life or death of Thabet bin Laden were lacking.

By Patricia Sullivan  |  September 15, 2009; 8:20 AM ET
Categories:  Patricia Sullivan , The Daily Goodbye  
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