She never forgot her father’s final words at Auschwitz. He became the first black mayor of Ann Arbor, Mich., in 1975. She died of cancer at 31, but her battle inspired millions of MTV viewers.
Their stories are culled from among the more than 2,600 submissions readers sent in for The Times’s Overlooked project, spotlighting people who deserved, but did not get, obituaries in our pages.
Some of the people eulogized here achieved prominence in their fields; others were more quietly inspirational. Here are eight submissions that especially moved us, edited and condensed for clarity.
Kathryn A. de Domingo
She spoke for the ‘silent ones.’
Remembered by her husband, Gilles de Domingo
My wife could have become a wealthy entrepreneur. Instead, as a result of a traumatic event in her youth, she devoted herself to the cause of brain injury. She decided to work to heal others, to prove that the human spirit is capable of “good.”
She got a master’s in speech therapy, helped manage a clinic in Portland, Ore., and was president of the Oregon Speech-Language & Hearing Association. She called brain injury victims the “silent ones” who could not communicate their frustrations; who, as a result of accident or gunshot or war, saw their lives change forever.
She volunteered to fly around the world helping institutions in need of expertise. In March 2017, when she was 52, Kathy was headed for the airport, to a Saudi Arabian brain injury clinic. At 10 a.m., she had a seizure. At 11 a.m., she was told she had a brain tumor. After hearing it was inoperable, she asked me to help find a replacement for her trip, thinking of the clinic even when she knew she would die.
Her tumor, in a cruel twist of fate, was located in the speech area.
Forty-five days after the diagnosis, she died as she lived, protecting others.
Her last words were, “I am sorry, honey.”
He turned himself into a museum piece. The art world noticed.
Remembered by his domestic partner of 13 years, Joanna Bigfeather
James was a performance artist who lived on the La Jolla reservation in San Diego County, Calif., where his mom grew up. When we started dating, I was living in New York. I moved out to the reservation in 2002.
What put him on the map was when he displayed himself in 1987 at the San Diego Museum of Man. He wore a loincloth and lay in state in a display case. He had text cards pointing to scars he got in a fight and artifacts on display like his divorce papers. People didn’t know if he was real; they came up and poked him. He had great humor, but his work always looked at the Native American experience. He did pieces on alcoholism. He exhibited or performed at the Venice Biennale, the New Museum and the Whitney in New York, and won a Guggenheim fellowship. He broke a lot of barriers for native people and encouraged so many young artists. His funeral was huge.
He had a difficult life, difficult childhood. Living with him was good, and very hard.
After he had his first heart attack, he was put on dialysis and I thought if I was a match I’d give him a kidney. When I got a call saying he had died, at 68, I was stunned. He still had so many plans.
She showed a big audience what courage looks like.
Remembered by her friend Colleen Kluttz
Kaylin was an artist and fashion designer. I met her while working on MTV’s “World of Jenks.” Andrew Jenks spent a year checking in with her to see what it’s like to be young and living with cancer. Here is some of what I sent my family about being with her on her last day at Memorial Sloan Kettering:
“My friend Kaylin passed away last night, at age 31. Today, she was supposed to fly to Sacramento, where her mom had hospice set up. Instead, her family was on the phone with her through the day and her New York family was with her — five of us took turns holding her hand, telling her we loved her, telling stories, playing music and crying.
“Most people in Kaylin’s situation would have gone home to be taken care of years ago — or months ago when she was told her body could not handle more chemo or radiation. But Kaylin insisted on staying in New York. She could not accept defeat. This summer she spent seven weeks traveling through Europe; she walked all day and even went to a friend’s wedding in Germany and danced till 6 a.m.
“Dying young is a unique kind of heartbreak. It gives you perspective on how precious life is. If I’m ever the one in that hospital bed, I pray you are all there with me, laughing, playing music and telling me you love me.”
Myrtle E. Pringle
She blazed trails for her daughters.
Remembered by her daughter Naomi Pringle
My mother emigrated from Jamaica in 1921 at age 9. Her father left life as a prestigious landowner to become a janitor in New York City, so his daughters would have a good future. Despite being told not to apply to Hunter College High School because of her color, my mother passed the entrance exam. She graduated from Hunter College in 1936, the only black person in the math department. She worked for the city social services department in statistics and personnel until retirement.
As a young immigrant she was teased about her accent, skin color and hair. She suffered many racial indignities. She took none of it to heart. She took my sister and me to Broadway plays, museums, the ballet at City Center, ice skating at Madison Square Garden. The three of us studied Latin and French.
She blazed a trail, showing us by example how to be a pioneer. My sister became an actress; I became a broadcast journalist at WABC radio. I wrote two novels about my mother and her Jamaican heritage. My dad, who preceded mom in death, called her the most beautiful and smartest woman he had ever met.
She died in February 2018 at 106. I miss her terribly.
Virginia M. Bouvier
She helped broker peace in Colombia.
Remembered by her mother, Jane Bouvier
She was my daughter. She was a longtime human rights activist, teacher, United Nations consultant and Latin America expert. She was a senior adviser at the United States Institute of Peace and instrumental in achieving a Colombian peace accord. She ensured that women, Afro-Colombians and other previously excluded groups were included in the process.
She had systemic lupus, but it never stopped her. She contracted salmonella and typhoid on her last Colombia trip, when she was 58; her immune system went crazy. A week before she died, the folks she worked with in Colombia had a “Circle of Prayer.” They all stopped what they were doing on July 19, 2017, at 10 a.m. to pray for Ginny.
At her memorial service, the chaplain described walking into Ginny’s office once and finding her in tears. She was reading testimony from Colombian people who were homosexual, who had been tortured. The chaplain said, “Imagine, in Washington, D.C. — she wore her heart on her sleeve!”
She was probably proudest of her daughter, Maya, who is 26 and looks just like her mom.
Losing a daughter is the hardest cross I’ve ever had to bear.
She was a prestigious surgeon who made house calls well into her 70s.
Remembered by her niece Mary Imogen Grimmer
Lucile Loseke was my aunt. For my girl cousins and me, she was a fairy godmother. She gave us trinkets from Tiffany’s, took us to lush afternoon high teas. She endowed us with quiet confidence, usually meant for boys. It’s hard to overstate her influence.
She was born on a Nebraska farm, the oldest of six girls, and educated in a one-room schoolhouse. She worked her way through college and medical school to become a pioneer surgeon who treated Hubert Humphrey and consulted for the Shah of Iran.
She was a surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering from 1940 to 1981 and developed a new test for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. We witnessed patients paying teary homage to her at our weekly Sunday brunch table at the Plaza. Many mornings, when she was far into her 70s, I woke in her gorgeous Upper East Side apartment as she returned from making house calls all night.
She lived life so fully.
One night, I overheard her matter-of-factly but compassionately tell her neighbor (and patient), whose life was near its end, to take a long cruise, from which she likely would not return. The woman cruised the Greek islands and passed away on board. A good prescription, I think.
I still feel comforted by my aunt’s fearless model.
Albert H. Wheeler
He was the first black tenured professor at the University of Michigan.
Remembered by his granddaughter, Rebecca J. McDade
My grandfather Albert H. Wheeler, a microbiologist, was the University of Michigan’s first black tenured professor and Ann Arbor’s first black mayor. He helped write the Michigan state constitution’s civil rights amendment and, with my grandmother, Emma, was a tireless civil rights leader. My grandparents integrated their neighborhood and gave significant amounts of money to black families suffering systemic discrimination.
Throughout my professional career, I have been either the only or one of not even a handful of black lawyers in the office. Although my path has sometimes been difficult, and often lonely, it is my grandfather’s voice I hear, decades after his death, warning me that the fight is not over. It is the God’s honest truth that when things are hardest, I think of all the doors my grandfather opened for countless people he never knew and tell myself, “If he could endure all the hatred thrown his way to accomplish the truly amazing things he did, I can endure ... more.”
She survived Auschwitz and made sure the world remembered.
Remembered by her friend Lisa Walborsky
Born in Krakow, Rosa was almost the sole survivor of her father’s Hasidic family, escaping Auschwitz and coming to America in a children’s transport program. Her father told her before they were separated: “You shall live. Remember what you saw. Tell it to the world.”
In 1949, she met Harry Strygler. They built his company into one of the country’s largest wholesalers of pearls and colored stones. Rosa was a passionate leader of the New York City Holocaust Commission.
Rosa and I met when I joined a group raising money for New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage, which she helped found. She volunteered at the Rikers Island juvenile division. She wanted young inmates to know that she survived being a prisoner, too; that there is always hope and that they must work hard and contribute to society. They stood at attention, in a show of respect, when she arrived.
She lost her son and survived cancer as well. But no one would know she suffered hardships. When asked how she was, she would say, “I am marvelous, wonderful!” And she made it so.
From a speech she gave 10 years ago: “To remember is to create links between past and present. You must never forget, the world must never forget. For my generation, hope cannot be without sadness. Let the sadness not be without hope.”
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