Those We Lost: recent Irish-American passings
Costello is survived by his brother Sean, his wife Susanne Rasmussen, his daughters Pia and Gillian, and two grandchildren.
Sir John Crofton, a medical pioneer, researcher and clinician who demonstrated the effectiveness of combinations of antibiotics in curing tuberculosis, died November 3 at age 97 in his home in Edinburgh. He began his work in the late 1940s, when antibiotics were first being used in clinical practice, but tuberculosis was resistant to each drug that doctors attempted to treat it with. Crofton used a three-antibiotic combination on tuberculosis patients in Edinburgh and announced his findings at the 1958 meeting of the British Medical Association. His treatment had cured tuberculosis in 63 patients over 18 months.
Born the son of a physician in Dublin, Ireland, Crofton received bachelor and doctor of medicine degrees from Cambridge University. During WWII, he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and served in France, Germany and the Middle East, including Egypt, where he met Dr. John Guyett Scadding, a British expert who invited Crofton to work with him after the war and steered him towards the research that would form the basis of his career.
Crofton is survived by his wife Eileen, three daughters, two sons, 11 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Robert Degen, a former club musician who held a claim to authorship of the popular song and dance “The Hokey Pokey,” died on November 23, his 104th birthday, in Lexington, Kentucky. The song’s origins are long disputed, with credit usually given to Larry LaPrise, who recorded “The Hokey Pokey” with the Ram Trio in the late 1940s. Robert Degen’s version, “The Hokey Pokey Dance,” was copyrighted in 1944, years before the LaPrise recording. A similar song called “Hokey Cokey” or “Cokey Cokey” was popular among English and American soldiers in England during World War II and attributed either to Northern Irish songwriter Jimmy Kennedy or London bandleader Al Tabor. Some Roman Catholics claim that the song derives from the words “hocus pocus” and was created by 18th-century Puritans to make fun of the Latin Mass.
Robert Degen was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania in 1905. He performed as a full-time musician prior to World War II and in the 1920s was a member of the Scranton Sirens, a jazz group that once featured Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey. His son William told The New York Times that Degen did not copyright any other songs and wrote “The Hokey Pokey Dance” with friend Joe Brier.
Degen is survived by his wife of 74 years, Vivian, sons William and Robert, a grandson and two great-grandchildren.
Roy E. Disney
Roy E. Disney, the nephew of company founder Walt Disney who helped to breathe new life into the brand, died at age 79 on December 16th of stomach cancer, in Newport Beach, California. He was the last member of the founding family to work at the entertainment conglomerate formed by his uncle and his father. Growing up as a test audience for films like Pinocchio, Disney began his career as an assistant film editor on the television show Dragnet before he joined the Disney company to work on nature documentaries in 1953.
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