17 amazing Tulsans we sadly lost in 2017
Each January, TulsaPeople remembers some of those we have lost in the past year — individuals who made the city great with their talent, passion or philanthropy.
Nov. 24, 1931-Jan. 11, 2017
Guitarist and music producer
An Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame inductee and Grammy Award winner, he was considered a renaissance musical genius, influencer and mentor who played with or produced the work of other greats, including Buddy Holly, Bob Wills, Willie Nelson and Hank Thompson.
“Not many musicians have been involved in major events in two different musical genres. But as the Buddy Holly sideman who gave up his airplane seat to Ritchie Valens as well as the producer of Bob Wills’ famous last recordings, Tommy Allsup left his lasting footprint on both rock ’n’ roll and Western swing.”
— John Wooley, music historian
Oct. 16, 1942-Dec. 6, 2016
Former executive director, Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry
Considered a pillar of Tulsa’s interfaith community, he was pastor, teacher, mentor and civil rights advocate. A denominational executive for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and a trustee emeritus of Phillips Theological Seminary, he served on the National and World Council of Churches, and as a member of the Oklahoma Conference for Community and Justice and Tulsa Interfaith Alliance.
“Stephen Cranford was a great statesman of interfaith work. He combined perfectly the clear head and the warm heart. Quiet and courageous, Stephen lived as if the truth were true.”
— Keith O. McArtor, president of Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry
Nov. 9, 1943-Feb. 26, 2017
Journalist, novelist and humorist
An inductee into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame and Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame, the longtime columnist for both the Tulsa World and the Tulsa Tribune provided smiles and laughter to Tulsans with his quirky take on everyday life. He wrote eight novels, several of which were adapted into films, including “Funny Farm,” “Good Vibes,” “Hold Up” and “Cheap Shot.”
“Every newsroom needs one, and probably only one, Jay Cronley. Something about his personality would draw people to try and win his approval. I was lucky enough to have my desk near his for more than a year, which meant every day there would be some argument about a TV show, or a movie, or a basketball game. I wanted to work at the Tulsa World my whole life, and I’m thankful I’ll always be able to say that I worked with Jay.”
— Dylan Goforth, editor in chief, The Frontier
Jan. 28, 1944-Sept. 3, 2017
Retired associate superintendent, Tulsa Public Schools; president, Tulsa Urban League
In 1970, as the school system’s first director of human relations, the former social studies teacher was tasked with responding to the federal government’s order to racially integrate Tulsa’s schools. It was a massive, multi-year undertaking that involved moving both teachers and students. As associate superintendent, he continued the effort by recruiting minority teachers and staff, then retired to head the Tulsa Urban League.
“ … His desire was to see our education system achieve the excellence he believed possible with change and true equality. He often stated that until every student in every school in the city of Tulsa was considered … real progress will not be made.”
— Jennettie Marshall, Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education member and longtime friend
Carol “Jerri” Jones
April 16, 1937-Jan. 11, 2017
Her involvement in civic and nonprofit work covered every aspect of Tulsa. Most notably, she served as the first female president of All Souls Unitarian Church and as vice president of Planned Parenthood. She was a founding member of the Tulsa chapter of Association for Women in Communications, and worked with Tulsa Junior League, Leadership Tulsa and as a docent for Philbrook and Gilcrease museums. But she also saw the world, visiting all seven continents and more than 100 countries.
“Jerri was more than a sister-in-law. I was lucky to know her for more than 50 years. A true artist in ceramics and the culinary arts, she was also a consummate volunteer; a deep, compassionate friend; an adventuresome traveler; and a source of laughter and light. I will miss her.”
— Georgia Snoke, sister-in-law
Jan. 10, 1941-June 1, 2017
Community leader and entrepreneur
The wife of U.S. Rep and Ambassador to Mexico James R. Jones, she carved her own path. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she was a partner in her husband’s political career. She worked as a law clerk and ran two businesses. She served on several boards and co-authored a book on English ceramics. Tulsans recall her fascinating stories, her sense of style and her practicality, from doing repairs on their home (the old Skelly Mansion) to riding her lawnmower to the nearby service station.
“Olivia dabbled in nothing. If a subject seemed interesting, she researched it exhaustively and became an expert in that subject … from residential reconstruction to knitting, needlepoint and sewing, to English and Chinese pottery and ceramics. She was a true scholar and renaissance woman. Alas, her last subject of intensive study was multiple myeloma, to which she ultimately succumbed.”
— Jim Kincaid Sr., longtime friend
May 18, 1947-Sept. 17, 2017
Former executive director, Gilcrease Museum; director Helmerich Center for American Research; vice president, museum affairs, the University of Tulsa
Known as a gentleman and a scholar, he was a widely recognized authority on Native American history, particularly Cherokee and Native American language and art. He began his tenure at TU in 2008. Among his other accomplishments were as founding editor, Journal of Cherokee Studies; executive director, Cherokee National Historical Society; and advisor to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum for the American Indian.
“Duane King was a remarkable man. His extraordinary intellect was matched by the strength of his character and gentle spirit. There’s no replacing Dr. King, but we are fortunate to be inspired by his memory to achieve excellence at Gilcrease Museum and the Helmerich Center for American Research.”
— Susan Neal, executive director, Gilcrease Museum; vice president, public affairs, the University of Tulsa
July 15, 1939-Sept. 25, 2017
Chairman and CEO, HM International; philanthropist
A past director of the Williams Cos., Williams Communications and Purolator, he also served as board chairman of his alma mater, Cornell University, where he and his wife, Nancy, founded the Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering. He also was a trustee of the University of Tulsa, to which he and his wife gave generously, and where he was named to the Business Hall of Fame as an outstanding entrepreneur.
“Peter Meinig’s life was marked by remarkable accomplishments, immeasurable generosity and unfailing kindness. He always made you feel like his friend. Simply put, Peter Meinig was a wonderful human being.”
— Linda Frazier, longtime friend
Aug. 13, 1926-July 18, 2017
Former vice president, First National Bank; civic leader
Beloved by decades of Tulsa’s younger professional women for her mentorship and encouragement, she used her public relations skills to promote the Tulsa Area United Way, the Red Cross and American Diabetes Association. She was president of Tulsa Press Club and was honored with a Saidie Lifetime Achievement award by the Tulsa chapter of the Association for Women in Communications. She was named Advertising Executive of the Year by the American Advertising Federation.
“Phyllis was not only a trailblazer for women in leadership, but an icon in the business community as a whole, leaving a significant imprint on the Tulsa area. She taught us through her example the importance of being professional, ethical and giving back to the community. And she did it all with such grace and style.”
— Becky Frank, chairwoman and CEO, Schnake Turnbo Frank
Dec. 31,1933-Oct. 6, 2017
Longtime community leader
She was a woman of firsts: founding the city’s first Black Arts Festival — which became Juneteenth — and starting the Oklahoma chapter of the National Association of Sickle Cell Disease. An arts lover, she was a founding member of the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, the Simon Estes Education Foundation and a member of the Tulsa Arts Commission and Tulsa Performing Arts Center Authority. She helped develop the North Tulsa Heritage Foundation and the Greenwood Cultural Center. Among her numerous honors was the League of Women Voters Pathfinder Award.
“What made Mable and I friends? It was feeling at ease and comfortable in conversation when we first met. Our journey began speaking our true sentiments, sharing our joys, our sorrows; staying out late at night — lots of fun; having the ability to accept one another’s weaknesses; recognizing one another’s talents. But more importantly, maintaining our love and loyalty for one another for 70 years. I will truly miss my best friend.”
— Maxine Horner, former Oklahoma state senator
July 3, 1945-Aug. 20, 2017
Former superintendent, Tulsa Public Schools
He spent 47 years in public education, serving five school districts across the country as superintendent. During his time in Tulsa (2000-2006) he was noted for his ability to listen to other viewpoints, especially those of the children he served. Navigating TPS through tough financial times, his proudest achievement was the implementation of a new district staffing plan, which included increases in art, music and physical education offerings. Through all this, he took time for his own arts education, learning and playing the banjo at church and school events.
“Dr. Sawyer’s superintendency had a tremendous impact on Tulsa Public Schools and the community. He led with his heart and keen instincts for what was ‘best’ for all students and staff. He never diverted from challenging situations or policies that hindered the district from becoming the leading school district in the state of Oklahoma.”
— Oliver Wallace, director of student and family advocacy, Tulsa Public Schools
April 4, 1949- July 30, 2017
President emeritus, the University of Tulsa
Affectionately known as “Uncle Stead” by students, the anthropologist-turned-university-president served two terms at TU (2004-2012) and (2012-2016), during which the institution grew significantly on all fronts. From housing to new classroom buildings, from community service to cutting-edge programs, campus life and a diverse student body, he helped transform a small university into a one of the top 50 private universities in the country.
“Stead was always interested in not only making TU a great university but also making Tulsa a great city. He made connections. He saw opportunities. He sought ways to make everything he touched better through compassion and competition. The university lost a visionary leader when my predecessor passed, and the city lost an unwavering advocate.”
— Dr. Gerard P. Clancy, president, the University of Tulsa
Rev. John Wolf
Sept. 6, 1925-Sept. 19, 2017
Former longtime minister, All Souls Unitarian Church
An outspoken, impassioned voice for personal and civil rights, he spoke for the needs of education, the arts, racial equality and the rights of women and the LGBT community. In 1965, he led a march through downtown Tulsa in response to the one in Selma, Alabama. He served All Souls for 35 years before becoming minister emeritus and was named to TulsaPeople’s 100 Tulsans Who Made a Difference during the city’s centennial year.
“Dr. Wolf was both a theologian and a preacher, who loved church but mistrusted religion. He rebelled against human indifference to other humans and exemplified a socially and politically engaged faith. He built the largest Unitarian Universalist church in North America here in Tulsa, Oklahoma.”
— Rev. Marlin Lavanhar, senior minister, All Souls
Sept. 22, 1931-June 19, 2017
Longtime weather broadcaster, KOTV
A seasoned broadcaster, Woodward filled a variety of roles for KOTV. He and his droll puppet sidekick, Lionel, first appeared on one of the station’s children’s shows. When it ended, demand was so great for the pair, Woodward brought him back to help announce the weather. Their banter helped KOTV dominate the evening news ratings during the 1960s and ’70s. An arts lover, Woodward was a talented painter, sculptor and tenor. He and Lionel emceed more than 26 children’s benefit concerts for Tulsa Public Schools.
“Lee Woodward never turned down anybody for a chat, and with King Lionel, a friendly greeting, somehow making a frozen-faced puppet sound as if it were smiling. He loved his own children, of course. He connected with others only with wires in a box and pictures that flew through the air.”
— Clayton Vaughn, longtime KOTV newsman and friend
July 18, 1933-April 1, 2017
Internationally recognized poet
Hailed by some as the greatest poet of his generation, he was a former Soviet dissident and human rights advocate who was known for his fearless criticism of his country’s repressive regime. His inspirational voice landed him on the cover of Time Magazine in 1962. The country changed, and from 1989-1991 he served in the Soviet Parliament. After some time teaching in New York, he moved to Tulsa in 1992, where he spent 25 years as a literature professor at the University of Tulsa.
“Yevgeny Yevtushenko became a literary sensation early in his career as he challenged his country to think critically about Soviet bureaucracy and the horrors of Stalin’s regime. Always outspoken and known for his colorful personality, (he was) yet a kind and compassionate friend to orphans and widows.”
— Sue Bennett, friend
We also remember
March 31, 1958-Nov. 1, 2017
Many knew the Union Public Schools teacher by his alter ego, Myron Noodleman.
Cover: May 2007
April 8, 1923-Sept. 17, 2017
A real “Rosie the Riveter” during World War II, Howland was a former TulsaPeople coverwoman.
Cover: November 2012