Lives well lived 2014
July 19, 1923-May 28, 2014
Community activist and advocate, first black woman to serve on Oklahoma Crime Commission, helped establish the Margaret Hudson Program
Bennett once went undercover as a prisoner at a correctional facility. After reviewing intake procedures, her report would help persuade the state to construct the Mabel Bassett Correctional Facility for Women, the first facility serving female prisoners outside of McAlester. She worked on behalf of many — inmates, members of minorities, people with developmental disabilities, underprivileged youth and the elderly.
Susan Savage, former mayor of Tulsa, says of Bennett:
“I was always struck by Lena Bennett’s optimism, enthusiasm and sense of purpose. She had a passion for education and believed it was every child’s right to have access to learning and training. She was an advocate, a problem solver and most especially, a courageous voice willing to speak on behalf of those who could not.”
April 24, 1924-Sept. 19, 2014
Longtime architect and former architectural consultant to Tulsa Public Schools
Ervin and business partner Joe Coleman saved Tulsa’s Old City Hall by buying and remodeling it into offices. They also repurposed the old Central High School building and the Adams Hotel.
Larry W. Johnston, CEO of CJC Architects Inc., says of Ervin:
“C. Bruce Ervin was highly respected for his faith, passion, work ethic and professionalism by his friends, fellow workers, employees and construction contractors. He mentored and taught several young architects and engineers who are successes today.”
Aug. 14, 1929-June 20, 2014
University of Tulsa associate professor emeritus of communications and voice of Public Radio 89.5KWGS
Dumit’s resonant baritone was once called “Oklahoma’s Most Beautiful Voice.” A valued member of the Tulsa arts community, he also coached more than 20 Miss Oklahoma winners on voice and diction and announced students’ names at nearly 40 TU graduation ceremonies.
Rich Fisher, general manager of KWGS, says of Dumit:
“He was crucial to the development of public radio in Tulsa with his 50-year association with KWGS as announcer, general manager, program director, and arts producer. … Above all, Edward was a consummate gentleman … who broadcast with humility, mentored with tact and gentleness and always looked for the goodness in people and the beauty and art in life.”
Oct. 4, 1922-Feb. 18, 2014
Champion of women’s rights, equality, diverse social service needs and the arts
Feldman and her husband, Raymond, explored every continent, including trekking the Himalayas and Mount Everest.
Ken Busby, president of the Arts & Humanities Council of Tulsa, says of Feldman:
“Nancy Feldman was a true original. Whatever her focus — social justice, arts for all, education — Nancy gave 110 percent with a twinkle in her eye. She was always making connections and establishing partnerships to improve the community that she loved.”
Aug. 12, 1926-Feb. 26, 2014
Activist for abused and neglected children, police department chaplain, listener with Resonance
Farish and another Tulsan launched the local Parents Anonymous Chapter, which grew into The Parent Child Center.
Desiree Doherty, executive director of The Parent Child Center of Tulsa, says of Farish:
“Ruby was a lovely and gracious person who cared so much about children at risk for abuse and neglect and their parents. She looked at a tragic problem in our community and said, ‘I could do something about that.’ And she did.”
May. 17, 1950-Sept. 7, 2014
Architect, longtime Tulsa Preservation Commission member and preservation advocate
Fritz helped repurpose the Tulsa Fire Alarm Building and renovate Will Rogers High School, the Tulsa Historical Society and part of the Tulsa International Airport.
Amanda DeCort, preservation planner for City of Tulsa planning department, says of Fritz:
“He advocated not just for buildings, but for the people who would enjoy them for generations. Smart and outspoken, Herb lived without fear of what anybody else thought of him, which made him all the more beloved.”
Ed Goodwin Jr.
Dec. 7, 1935-July 25, 2014
Former publisher, Oklahoma Eagle
The second generation of a Tulsa newspaper dynasty, Goodwin was a classic old-school journalist who did it all — from writing a story to typesetting to printing to selling.
Julius Pegues, Federal Aviation Administration consultant and John Hope Franklin Center chairman, says of Goodwin:
“Edward L. Goodwin Jr., better known as Mr. Ed, was my personal friend. We sold the The Oklahoma Eagle when we were very young. … Mr. Ed was one of a kind. He was my buddy, and he was a great, great newspaper man. I miss my friend and especially those early morning phone calls.”
July 17, 1950-Sept. 21, 2014
Social justice advocate and former Oklahoma executive director, American Diabetes Association
Before becoming an award-winning fundraiser for ADA, Ketcham served two years as a Peace Corps health worker in Niger. She protested the Black Fox Nuclear Plant construction and — through Rotary Club of Tulsa — supported freshwater drilling in Nicaragua and the delivery of medical supplies to Niger.
Katie Croskrey, American Diabetes vice president of mid markets west division, says of Ketcham:
“We have lost a stellar member of the diabetes community. She leaves a legacy that will not be matched.”
Dan L. Harrison
Jan. 19, 1953-July 31, 2014
Senior vice president, ONEOK Inc., and community leader
Harrison led the successful inaugural VisitTulsa capital campaign. He was a founding board member of Leadership Oklahoma, past president of the Tulsa Press Club and board member of the Tulsa Community Foundation, Tulsa Opera and the Oklahoma Commission on State Government Performance.
John W. Gibson, non-executive chairman of ONEOK, ONEOK Partners and ONE Gas, says of Harrison:
“For 22 years, Dan was one of my most loyal and trusted friends. In the seven years I served as CEO, Dan contributed so much to our organization. In the areas of communications and investor relations, Dan made ONEOK the ‘best in class.’”
May 16, 1925-July 2, 2014
Former superintendent of Tulsa Vo-Tech (now Technology Center), inductee to the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame
Lemley developed one of the first vocation-technical schools in the country and the first in Oklahoma.
Roy Peters, former state director of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, says of Lemley:
“Pioneers like Dr. Joe Lemley were key to building the great foundation for the Oklahoma CareerTech system’s great reputation. It was a new concept in the 1960s, and it had to be done right. Joe knew how to do it right.”
May 30, 1938-Aug. 2, 2014
Activist and best-selling author of “Where the Heart Is”
Recipient of the Walker Percy Literary Award and two-time winner of the Oklahoma Book Award for fiction, Letts published her first book at 57. She also spoke out against the Vietnam and Iraq wars. At 69, she was handcuffed and arrested while protesting a local appearance by then-Vice President Dick Cheney.
Teresa Miller, executive director, Oklahoma Center for Poets and Writers, said of Letts:
“I always thought of Billie’s novels as nonfiction, because all of the compassion that emanates from those books, all of the humor and hopefulness—that came from Billie herself. Billie understood the art of caring, and she found a platform for it with her stories. So it's not just an eloquence of words that distinguishes Billie's writing; it's an eloquence of the human spirit brought forth by an extraordinarily gifted, yet humble woman.”
Mary Murray McCracken
April 1, 1927-July 7, 2014
Founder, Mary Murray’s Flowers
An inductee into the Oklahoma State Florists’ Association Hall of Fame, Murray McCracken began her career by playing flower shop on her front porch as a young girl. Her arrangements often graced the tables of Tulsa fundraising events.
Brenda Davis, family friend, says of Murray McCracken:
“Mary was a friend of both my mother and I. In her business, whatever was important to you was paramount to her. Her friendship was the same. I am lucky to be touched by her life.”
Nov. 9, 1949-Sept. 24, 2014
Teacher, state legislator, University of Oklahoma-Tulsa vice president
In high school, Lewis fought against racism as she traveled throughout Oklahoma City with a team of students giving talks promoting racial harmony. After serving in the legislature, she directed the Sooner Start program for infants and children with disabilities.
William O. Ray, Ph.D, associate vice president for academic affairs, OU-Tulsa, says of Lewis:
“Nancy Lewis’s deep commitment to education, civil service and community engagement inspired all who knew her. OU-Tulsa continues to benefit from her dynamic leadership, which helped shape the vision, mission and substance of our presence in Tulsa. Her passion for and dedication to education will benefit all of us for years to come.”
Sept. 26, 1931-June 24, 2014
Former owner, Margo’s Gift Shop
Known for her inclusive spirit, Nelson was the second generation to operate the 80-year-old store Margo’s Gift Shop, founded by her mother.
Catherine Ann Pierpont, family friend, says of Nelson:
“It was a great honor to be part of Ann Nelson’s life. I have a very special place in my heart filled with wonderful memories that I will forever cherish. She was one of the most giving and caring individuals I have ever known, and how she treated people was truly a special gift she possessed.”
George W. Prothro
Dec. 29, 1920-Oct. 25, 2014
Former director, Tulsa Health Department and University of Oklahoma medical school faculty member
A leader in public health, Prothro ramped up THD’s services and, with Dr. Jerry Gustafson, created a one-of-a-kind prescription-recycling program that made unused medicines available for free to low-income Tulsans. It has salvaged more than $15 million in medication.
Chris Traband, former executive director, RSVP of Tulsa, says of Prothro:
“Dr. George Prothro gave so much to so many. From children to the elderly, he was willing to assist those in need of a helping hand that was also followed by one of his famous smiles.”
Feb. 26, 1923-Aug. 3, 2014
Former director, H.A. Chapman Institute of Medical Genetics
A pediatrician, Say wanted to save more children’s lives and specialized in genetics to discover better ways to treat rare disorders. Recruited to Tulsa from Turkey, he established the genetics program at Hillcrest’s Children’s Medical Center (later the H.A. Chapman Institute) and served as director for more than 30 years.
Dr. David Jelley, Hille chair in diabetes and associate professor of pediatrics, University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine, says of Say:
“Dr. Say was a kind and humble man who made tremendous contributions to both our community and the field of genetics. .... He was internationally renowned in the recognition and diagnosis of rare genetic disorders, with many of the syndromes he identified being named for him.”
Feb. 16, 1932-Jan. 21, 2014
Former Tulsa City Councilor
A strong advocate for north Tulsa, Turner served District 3 for four terms after working 21 years for the city as a boiler inspector.
Kathy Taylor, former mayor of Tulsa, says of Turner:
“Councilor Turner was often misunderstood by many, including initially by me. He was a man of conviction and frankly, usually right. If you earned his loyalty, he stood by your side as a steadfast friend and advocate.”
May 12, 1944-Aug. 6, 2014
Former area chamber leader; executive director, Rogers County Industrial Development Authority
Thompson served chambers in Tulsa, Bixby and Broken Arrow with a focus on economic development. He was chairman of the Oklahoma Economic Development Council.
Mike Neal, president and CEO, Tulsa Regional Chamber, says of Thompson:
“We knew Mickey Thompson as a man who never took ‘no’ for an answer — someone who never gave up on projects that would bring jobs and grow our region’s economy. Indeed, he had a key role in bringing thousands of jobs and millions of dollars to northeast Oklahoma. His contributions have forever shaped our region.”
Feb. 12, 1916-Jan. 18, 2014
Tulsa oilman and philanthropist
One of Tulsa’s most generous men, Zarrow touched many areas of the city with quiet gifts that focused on children and poverty. His $1 million challenge grant to Tulsa Public Schools stirred others to action. His promise led to a total $2.2 million grant to the school system.
Keith Ballard, Tulsa Public Schools superintendent, says of Zarrow:
“The generosity of Henry Zarrow and his impact on our children is beyond measure. His legacy continues in the hearts and minds of countless teachers, administrators and students whose admiration will reach far into the future. Mr. Henry’s compassion and giving ways left an indelible impression at Tulsa Public Schools, and we are deeply thankful for his innovation and commitment to education.”
We also remember:
Aurora Helton, longtime Hispanic community activist, Oct. 8, 1924-Dec. 28, 2013
Leonard Kishner, longtime Tulsa Public Schools health director, March 20, 1919-Feb. 10, 2014
Kris Nichols, arts volunteer, Feb. 6, 1943-May 16, 2014
Barbara Lynn Martin, award-winning community volunteer, April 15, 1955-Feb. 28, 2014
The Rev. Bill Skeehan, social justice advocate, Dec. 8, 1925-Nov. 29, 2014
Mary Ann Wilcox, community volunteer, Oct. 17, 1924-Dec. 1, 2014
Photos courtesy of family, friends and TulsaPeople archives. Some quotes condensed and edited for length.