Obituaries in The New York Times give account of the lives of the people around us — what they accomplished and how they lived — and reading them can be an exercise in discovering, or rediscovering, the marvelous things they created.
Here is a sampling of obituaries from recent weeks showcasing the legacies of creative people.
A Life Legacy
Bill Ray was there when Pvt. Elvis Presley blew kisses to fans before shipping out. He was there when Jacqueline Kennedy married the billionaire shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. And he was at Madison Square Garden when a movie star sang “Happy Birthday” to a president. Mr. Ray was one of the last surviving photographers who had made their names at Life magazine, which provided a photographic chronicle of its times.
If the 1960s had a look, Wes Wilson had a hand in it. He designed psychedelic-tinged concert posters using wild colors, swirling lettering and vibrant images that helped give a visual imprint to an era.
A Best-Selling Cornucopia
When the Simon & Schuster publishing house asked staff members in 2014 to vote on their 90 favorite books issued by the company over the past 90 years, nearly one-third of the winners had been edited by one person: Alice Mayhew. She left behind a slew of nonfiction political page-turners.
A ‘Goldberg’ to Rival a Legend
Peter Serkin was born to musical royalty, but as a young man in the 1960s he rebelled against his aristocratic past and many of the conventions of classical music. Before he went on a soul-searching hiatus, however, he released an exemplary recording of Bach’s “Goldberg” variations, at age 18, that some critics compared favorably to Glenn Gould’s storied version.
Del Pitt Feldman turned the seemingly mundane medium of crocheting into something hip and fashionable, designing crocheted garments and selling them out of her East Village store, which became popular with counterculture personages and mainstream celebrities.
Crashing Pools of Color
Emily Mason was an abstract painter who compared painting to playing chess: “Pick it up, make a move, wait, let time go in between,” she said. “Then I know what to do.” One critic described her works as “pools of colors crashing into each other.”
More Than 30,000 New Yorkers on Paper
Jason Polan was a Don Quixote of the city streets, an artist who tilted at the windmill of sketching every single person in New York City. He published a book with more than 30,000 such drawings. He had other projects, too, like drawing every item on display at the Museum of Modern Art, meeting regularly with drawing mavens at a Taco Bell, and depicting random “Things I Saw” for The New York Times.
‘Hairspray’ and Other Broadway Hits
Margo Lion was an independent producer who put her own money into shows and worked to rustle up funds from other investors to get a show mounted. She was a major force in bringing “Jelly’s Last Jam” and “Hairspray” to Broadway.