Lives well lived
Remembering the prominent Tulsans we lost in 2018.
An artist, an architect, an advocate, a historian, two musicians, two journalists, two restaurateurs, three government servants, several businessmen, entrepreneurs and philanthropists; lovers of animals, books and all things Tulsa. Famous and familiar names and faces, recognized for their achievements and their good deeds. These are the individuals TulsaPeople recognizes in its annual Lives Well Lived compendium. They shall not pass this way again. Let us remember them one more time.
Former city councilor
Sept. 4, 1943-Dec. 20, 2017
Benjamin moved to the city nearly 50 years ago, when he began a lifetime of community work, including serving as a Tulsa city councilor. He was involved particularly with the Tulsa Regional Chamber, Tulsa Sports Commission and the Southside Rotary. He loved skiing and golf. In his last years, he became a well-recognized advocate for a volunteer-run and privately funded dog park, which was renamed Benjamin’s Biscuit Acres in his honor.
“John was totally dedicated to the development and opening of the park. He worked with Southside Rotary to raise over $100,000 for it. He worked tirelessly in getting volunteers and supporters, formed a board of directors and worked with the Tulsa Parks Department to help maintain it. He was there almost every day.” — Becky Clark, president, Biscuit Acres Volunteer Association
Sanford “Stan” Burnstein
Aviation entrepreneur, philanthropist
Feb. 6, 1934-March 5, 2018
Burnstein found his passion as a young man when he learned to fly. He went on to work as a flight instructor and commercial pilot, and to develop several aviation businesses. It allowed him and his wife to create the Sanford P. and Irene F. Burnstein Family Foundation, which gave generously to many Tulsa-area nonprofits. After seeing a similar nonprofit elsewhere, he and his wife founded A New Leaf, a horticultural training program for Tulsans with developmental disabilities, to help their daughter.
“Stan was an incredible visionary who made a tremendous impact in the Tulsa community. The vision to begin A New Leaf almost 40 years ago has greatly transformed the lives of those with development disabilities. I am grateful to have had the privilege of knowing him and being a part of his vision.” — Mary Ogle, CEO, A New Leaf
Chairman, PennWell Corp.; Chairman, Valley National Bank
Sept. 22, 1939-Nov. 8, 2017
Biolchini, an attorney, was known for his leadership of PennWell, where he had worked since 1970, first serving on its board of directors and as general counsel. He also served on numerous industry boards. He was a past president and board chairman for Gilcrease Museum, and was devoted to his family and his alma mater, Notre Dame. At his death, he was chairman and owner of Valley National Bank.
“Bob was a brilliant lawyer and a passionate businessman with incredible instincts; therefore, always a force to be reckoned with, and you wanted him on your side. When Bob became president and CEO of PennWell in 2000, he accelerated the expansion of the company that he had worked for 30 years before that. I miss him as a boss and as a friend who loved life and was larger than life.” — Mark Wilmoth, president and CEO, PennWell Corp.
Internationally known country musician
April 15, 1933-Nov. 15, 2018
Known as the “superpicker,” the Country Music Hall of Fame and Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame inductee also was the recipient of Grammy, Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music awards. Millions enjoyed his 24 years on “Hee Haw,” a country variety show. He became a Tulsan in 1974, and along with Bill Rollings, helped save the Tulsa Drillers.
“Roy was a kind friend to the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame since the birth of our organization in 1996. We inducted Roy into the Hall in 2000 and he made many friends and gained many admirers throughout our community. Roy was a fantastic human being and artist. He gave Oklahoma and the world the beautiful gift of his music. Thank you, Roy Clark ... you are missed.” — Amy Love, board president, Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame
Tulsa Sound singer
Dec. 2, 1937-June 5, 2018
With his signature Panama hat and reputation as “the blue-eyed soul singer,” Davis was a local legend, enjoying a more than 45-year music career in Tulsa. He sang just about everywhere — churches, bars, the Tulsa State Fair. He idolized black singers, and sought to honor them with his music. He opened for Leon Russell and Joe Cocker, and had the talent for the big time, but preferred his hometown.
“The first time I saw Bill was many years ago at a bar on Admiral. I was blown away with his singing; it was so impeccable. Bill was one of the best singers I ever played with, better than Bob Seger. He had boundless energy and always had funny things to say. He was an amazing person.” — Dave Teegarden, friend and fellow musician
Longtime owner, Jamil’s Steak House
Oct. 12, 1938-June 8, 2018
The son of restaurant founder Jamil “Jim” Elias, Tyrone Elias was an avid pilot by inclination and a restaurateur by breeding. He opened two Jamil’s locations, in Oklahoma City and Houston, returning to Tulsa in 1977 to take over the landmark Lebanese dining establishment at his father’s death. He became the new face of the popular eatery, which introduced Tulsans to such delicacies as hummus and tabouli.
“Dad believed in the tradition of the restaurant. It meant the world to him. People have come in and told us this was where they had their first date, or celebrate their anniversary. I am trying to carry on the family tradition. He would have wanted me to do so.” — Jennifer Alcott, daughter
Jan. 9, 1954-June 24, 2018
Gilpin’s world revolved around art and animals, and she owned a personal menagerie of dogs, cats and parakeets. She loved her studio “because it is my home, and this is where my heart is … the place where I find my inspiration,” she once told TulsaPeople. She taught art, exhibited her own colorful, quirky work and often used it to benefit others, including co-chairing the Oklahoma Alliance for Animals Fur Ball.
“She could make the most ordinary thing into something extraordinary through her beautiful art. Sometimes when I look up at the sky at night, I think to myself that someday the stars will be a little more colorful after Dana decorates them.” — Jamee Suarez-Howard, president/founder, Oklahoma Alliance for Animals
Executive director, Tulsa Literary Coalition; co-founder, Magic City Books
Nov. 17, 1959-Sept. 19, 2018
Hulsey believed in the power and magic of books and reading. So much so, she changed careers and became a librarian. After 17 years with the Tulsa City-County Library, in 2015 she led the creation of the Tulsa Literary Coalition, which celebrates reading with programs and with nonprofit groups. She co-founded Magic City Books, proceeds of which help fund Coalition programs.
“I hired Cindy at the library in 1999, then when she was opening the bookstore, she asked that I come work for her. It was all about the books. … Her passion and goal was to connect people with books and to advance the cause of literature in Tulsa.” — Barry Hensley, friend, former boss, co-worker, employee
First African-American woman in the U.S. Coast Guard; one of the last known survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre
Feb. 12, 1915-Nov. 21, 2018
As a 6-year-old, she hid under a tablecloth while a mob ransacked her home and her father’s clothing business was destroyed. Later she became an advocate for justice, helping found the Tulsa Race Riot (now Massacre) Commission, sharing her stories nationally. After earning her doctorate, she taught psychology at Fordham University.
“Dr. Olivia Hooker was a trailblazing force of courage, strength and tenacity. She was a diligent and fierce advocate for civil rights, truth and justice, and her passing reignites a commitment to honor and acknowledge those who have paved the way to a much brighter path.” — Mechelle Brown, program coordinator, Greenwood Cultural Center
Former vice president, Tulsa Tribune
Sept. 9, 1938-May 14, 2018
The son of Tulsa Tribune editor and publisher Jenkin Lloyd Jones, David forged his own path in journalism, serving the family-owned newspaper in various capacities from entertainment to editorial writer. For many years, he served as its Washington correspondent. He also had wide interests: movies, theater (he was once president of Theatre Tulsa), Sherlock Holmes and sports. A former bookstore owner, he was knowledgeable in all these fields.
“David was a special friend to me. It was an honor to have him writing for our publications. We had fun together, as he was a Washington Nationals baseball fan and we would banter back and forth due to my support of the Cincinnati Reds. He was always a fun person. I miss you, David.” — D. Forrest Cameron, editor and publisher, GTR Media Group
Robert Lawton Jones
May 12, 1925-Sept. 14, 2018
Co-founder of the well-known Murray Jones Murray architectural firm, Jones made a 1963 presentation that led to one of the first professional efforts to address pollution. After 35 years of private practice, he directed the University of Oklahoma’s Urban Design graduate program, and then served as campus planner at the University of Tulsa. He and his wife, Lynn, were involved in social justice peace movements, which were recognized by the National Conference for Community and Justice and Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry.
“Bob hired me as an intern design architect in training in January 1972, and we worked together on many of the most significant architectural projects in the history of Tulsa and Oklahoma. He was my friend and a guiding influence throughout my 46 years of architectural experience.” — Steven C. Alter, owner, ALTERARCHITECTURE and the Development Services Network LLC
Daniel (Dan) Keating
Tulsa businessman, community leader
Feb. 10, 1944-Nov. 24, 2018
The co-chairman of Oklahoma’s Trump for President campaign, Keating carved his own course, particularly in education, serving on the Oklahoma Board of Education, the Tulsa Community College Board of Regents and Oklahoma Wesleyan University Foundation. He also was a board member of the State Chamber, Oklahoma Historical Society and Salvation Army, as well as numerous local nonprofits.
“Dan Keating served the state of Oklahoma on various appointments and served with honor. He was a strong advocate for quality education, he served his nation in the Marine Corps, and his whole life revolved around service to his country, state and community. He will be missed.” — David McLain, chairman, Republican Party of Tulsa County
Former radio station owner, philanthropist
Sept. 11, 1938-Feb. 12, 2018
The former owner of radio stations including KRAV and the son of well-known philanthropists Raymond and Bessie Kravis, George was an aficionado of industrial design. He collected everything from midcentury modern furniture to streamlined toasters to space-age cocktail tools, and loaned or donated many pieces to museums.
“George Kravis believed that beauty was an essential part of life. He was committed to providing opportunities for everyone to experience that beauty and, if possible, express themselves creatively. He brought this philosophy to life through his years of generosity toward Gilcrease Museum. George’s commitment to Gilcrease, his passion for the arts and his willingness to share his blessings with others will not be forgotten.” — Susan Neal, executive director, Gilcrease Museum
Former director of libraries, University of Tulsa
May 31, 1934-Feb. 5, 2018
Known worldwide as a Woody Guthrie expert, his writing and research on Western Swing also led the guitar-playing, singing scholar to produce the first Western Swing festival on National Public Radio, consult on the Woody Guthrie movie “Bound for Glory” and helped found the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival. He and his wife, Phyllis, were inducted into the 2018 Tulsa Hall of Fame.
“It’s good to know that Guy Logsdon’s personal papers and collections are extensive, but there is no way those artifacts contain as much knowledge as what he carried in his head. Guy’s passion for all things Oklahoma, especially Woody Guthrie, has enriched the lives of those who also love this state.” — S. Michelle Place, executive director, Tulsa Historical Society and Museum
Chairman, Tulsa City Council
April 22, 1951-Sept. 14, 2018
First elected in 1996, Patrick served nine terms on the Tulsa City Council, the longest of any current councilor. He first became civically involved as a member of the Maxwell Community Council and Dawson Neighborhood Association. He had a reputation — after others had wrangled over possible answers to problems — for coming up with simple, straightforward solutions.
“David was the real thing; a colleague, friend and always an advocate for his district and the City. He cared about people and cared about making sure those without a voice had one through him. (He) understood that his job as a councilor was to hold the other branches of Tulsa’s government accountable ... a standard he expected of himself.” — M. Susan Savage, CEO, Morton Comprehensive Health Services; former Tulsa mayor
Former owner, Renberg’s department store
Oct. 14, 1942-Feb. 9, 2018
For more than 85 years, Renberg’s was one of Tulsa’s largest department stores. Robert Renberg was the third generation to take the reins of the storied chain. An impeccable dresser, he believed in quality, workmanship and good taste. Family members say he was humble and a hopeless romantic.
“The world that Bob Renberg created in his store already seems like another time and place. The racks were full of beautiful garments, and it always felt like back-to-school in a city where fall is the most heartening season. But the main thing was Bobby’s exquisite tenderness. He managed to nudge every relationship toward intimacy, to enfold others in a wrapper of warmth and care.” — Rabbi Marc Boone Fitzerman
Former owner, Tulsa Drillers
May 4, 1930-April 21, 2018
A contractor by profession, Rollings wasn’t going to let Tulsa go without a baseball team, so he went to bat to get the town a new one. It took him three months. With co-owner Roy Clark, he managed to establish a tradition that just gets better with age. Along with love for his family, he poured his heart into the Akdar Shriners’ work with sick and injured children, transporting them to the organization’s hospitals for needed care.
“Bill Rollings saved Tulsa baseball. Twice. After Tulsa Oilers owner A. Ray Smith took the team to New Orleans following the 1976 season, Rollings acquired the Lafayette, Louisiana, Texas League team and moved it to Tulsa for the 1977 season. Then in 1981 he built Drillers Stadium. Rollings was a true public servant.” — Wayne McCombs, Tulsa baseball historian
Owner, Celebrity Club
May 17, 1924-Nov. 1, 2018
When Samara came to Tulsa in 1963, he began making his name as a restaurateur, owning or having interest in many well-known eateries. The most enduring was his Celebrity Club (now Celebrity Restaurant), the scene for many Tulsans celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and marriage proposals. When liquor was legalized, he was the first to serve a legal alcoholic drink.
“Ultimately Dad was the celebrity of the Celebrity Club. I once said to him, ‘Dad, you do such a good job of making your customers feel special.’ He quickly replied, ‘They are special!’ And that’s why he was so loved by so many.” — Michelle Bruns, youngest daughter
Journalist and former business editor, Tulsa World
Jan. 3, 1959-Aug. 10, 2018
Stancavage, Eagle Scout, epitomized all that moniker implies. As his obituary states, he was “smart, steady and persistent — the person others ask to lead.” The beloved local journalist once wanted to be an orthodontist. Instead, he found interviewing people was his true calling. He served two separate terms as president of Leadership Tulsa, as president of the Oklahoma Business Ethics Consortium and worked with Junior Achievement. He was an avid golfer, designed his home and loved his wife.
“He was devoted to ensuring diverse voices were heard, respected and included in everything Leadership Tulsa did. He will be missed for his tenacity, his advocacy, his humor and most certainly his steady, sure, unflappable friendship.” — Wendy Thomas, executive director, Leadership Tulsa
Former Oklahoma state legislator
May 6, 1937-April 16, 2018
An advocate for women and education, Williams believed women should be in the House and the Senate. Over 23 years, she served in both. She was a force, co-authoring the landmark House Bill 1017 education and reform package, authoring bills that would establish the University Center at Tulsa and Art in Public Places, and heading the state’s Equal Rights Amendment committee.
“Penny embraced life and held a zest and curiosity about all things that made up our families, community and her world of all she touched. She was an excellent communicator and held close her insights of those she served and cared for. Penny charged ahead, making paths through new frontiers that left many of us trying to keep up.” — Jeannie McDaniel, former Oklahoma state representative
We also remember
Former Tulsa County District Judge
Jan. 20, 1936-Feb. 12, 2018
Longtime River Parks Authority director
July 28, 1942-March 12, 2018
Dorothy “Cookie” Coffey
Former executive director, Operation Aware
Dec. 11, 1945-Feb. 9, 2018
Former chair, University of Tulsa Department of Sociology
Feb. 20, 1931-May 2, 2018
Jan. 14, 1925-Jan. 29, 2018
Former Tulsa County District Judge
July 16, 1936-April 5, 2018
Former president, League of Women Voters
June 1, 1944-March 20, 2018
Former president and CEO, Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA)
Aug. 29, 1950-Nov. 3, 2018