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PASSINGS: Toshi Seeger, Zelma Stennis, David H. Solomon, John D. Wilson

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Toshi Seeger

Partner in activism with husband Pete Seeger

Toshi Seeger, 91, folk singer Pete Seeger's wife of 70 years and a close partner in his social and environmental activism, died Tuesday at the couple's home in Beacon in New York's Hudson Valley, according to family friend Thom Wolke. The cause was not immediately known.

Toshi Aline Ohta Seeger was born in 1922 in Munich, Germany, to an American mother and a Japanese father and was brought to the United States as a baby. She met her future husband as a teenager in New York City when he performed at a square dance and stayed after to dance.

The couple married in 1943, just before he entered military service during World War II. They built their cabin in Beacon after the war and remained on the bluff by the Hudson, where they raised three children.

On his recently released spoken-word CD, "Pete Seeger: The Storm King," the 94-year-old singer recalls how his wife raised their young family initially without running water or electricity while he spent months on the road.

"I'd be away. She'd put one baby on her hip and the other tugging at her skirt and walk 150 yards down a steep slope into a ravine where there was a little brook of clear water, and she got a pail and walked back with water to wash with and cook with," Seeger said.

Toshi Seeger was active with the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, an environmental group.

"Without my grandmother, there would be no Pete Seeger the way people understand it," said her grandson Tao Rodriguez-Seeger. "That's not an exaggeration. She kept everything working so that he could focus on the world-saving, civil rights, anti-nukes, Clearwater — all of the projects that my grandfather worked on."

Zelma Stennis

Founded Golden Bird restaurant chain

Zelma Stennis, 90, who with her husband Willie founded the chain of Golden Bird fried chicken restaurants in South Los Angeles, died July 2 at her Los Angeles home of natural causes, her family said.

Born in Detroit on July 26, 1922, Stennis moved west with her husband, Willie, in the 1950s. Later that decade the couple opened their first Golden Bird takeout stand at West Adams Boulevard and South Normandie Avenue, where a previous chicken takeout restaurant had failed.

"Golden Bird is part of our lives. We grew up there," Kevin Stennis, one of their four sons, told The Times in 1982.

At its peak, the Golden Bird chain had 16 locations. Willie Stennis died in 1993, and the family sold its interest in the restaurants 10 years ago.

David H. Solomon

Advanced the study of medical care for the aged

Dr. David H. Solomon, 90, a retired UCLA geriatrics professor who was among the first faculty members at the university's medical school and later founded the UCLA Center on Aging, died Tuesday at his Thousand Oaks home, his family said. No cause was given.

In 2002 the American Geriatrics Society established the David H. Solomon Distinguished Public Service Award to honor his commitment to community service and for advancing the study of medical care for the aged.

David Harris Solomon was born March 7, 1923, and grew up in Brookline, Mass. He received a bachelor's degree from Brown University in 1944 and his medical degree from Harvard University in 1946, the year he married his wife Ronda.

He arrived at UCLA in 1952, a year after the first students enrolled at the School of Medicine. According to the university, Solomon was a leader in the study of the thyroid and other glands.

In 1966 he became chief of medicine overseeing the training of new doctors at Los Angeles County Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance. He returned to the Westwood campus in 1971, serving as chairman of the UCLA Department of Medicine until 1981.

In the '80s he began focusing on geriatric medicine and gerontology. He established the university's Center on Aging in 1991 and served as its director until 1996.

John D. Wilson

Animator whose film appeared at the World's Fair

John D. Wilson, 93, a British animator and filmmaker whose credits include the futuristic short film "Journey to the Stars" that was exhibited at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, died June 20 in Blackpool, England. His son Andrew confirmed his death. Wilson had Alzheimer's disease.

Wilson also drew the opening title sequence for the 1978 movie musical "Grease" that featured animated depictions of John Travolta's Danny and Olivia Newton-John's Sandy.

Born in 1919 in London's Wimbledon district, John David Wilson began drawing as a youth. He served in the British Army during World War II and was injured in Africa. After the war, he returned to England and got a job in the art department at Pinewood Studios in London.

He moved to the United States in the early 1950s and worked at Walt Disney Studios for a time. Disney credits him as a layout artist for "Pigs Is Pigs," which was nominated for a 1954 Academy Award for animated short subject.

In 1955 Wilson opened his own animated film production studio, Fine Arts Films. One early effort was an animated version of "Petrushka," with composer Igor Stravinsky conducting the ballet score for the short.

For "Journey to the Stars," Wilson used animation, stop-motion technique and optical effects to create a 15-minute space voyage that was shown in the 70-mm Cinerama format at the World's Fair and later in other theaters.

He also produced animated segments for television programs including "Exploring" in the 1960s and "The Sonny and Cher Show" in the 1970s.

Wilson returned to his native England in the 1990s.

-- Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports

news.obits@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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