Of Note

August 20, 2012
Veronique Peck
widow of Gregory Peck

Veronique Peck, the French-born widow of actor Gregory Peck and a supporter of civic and cultural causes in her adopted country, died Aug. 17 of a heart ailment at her home in Los Angeles. She was 80.

Her death was confirmed by her family.

As a young journalist, Veronique Passani met Peck in 1953 when she interviewed him for a French newspaper. They were married on New Year’s Eve 1955, soon after his divorce from his first wife was finalized.

In the late 1960s, Mrs. Peck helped her husband raise $50 million for the American Cancer Society.

She persuaded Harper Lee, the reclusive author of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” to accept the Los Angeles Public Library Literary Award in 2005. While in Los Angeles, Lee stayed with Mrs. Peck, a friend since Gregory Peck starred in the 1962 film based on Lee’s book. He won an Oscar for the role.

On April 5, Mrs. Peck and her family marked the 50th anniversary of the film at a private White House screening hosted by President Obama on what would have been the actor’s 96th birthday. Peck died at 87 in 2003.

Frank Godden
pioneering developer

Frank Godden, who played a significant role in the development of Val Verde, a secluded and long-closed local resort community known as “the black Palm Springs,” died Aug. 3 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 101.

His death, from cancer, was confirmed by his family.

Val Verde was founded in 1924 in the Santa Clarita Valley at a time when the region’s black residents were barred from beaches, parks and other attractions because of the color of their skin. There they could escape racism, if only for a weekend.

Mr. Godden’s connection to Val Verde dated to 1939, when he headed west after receiving a bachelor’s degree in commercial industries from the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. He was a native of Live Oak, Fla.

“I wanted to get as far away from the South as possible,” Mr. Godden told the Los Angeles Times in 1994.

As an assistant to white real-estate developer Harry Waterman, Mr. Godden was integral to the development of Val Verde.

At its peak, Val Verde was home to about 750 year-round families and served as a summer retreat for blacks from across the United States.

After hard-fought gains in civil rights, the resort began to fade in the 1950s and 1960s as blacks started spending their time and money elsewhere.

Ben Isaacs
Pullman porter

Ben Isaacs, who was believed to be the oldest surviving Pullman porter, died Aug. 15 at his home in Victorville, Calif. He was 107. He had kidney failure, according to his brother Andrew Isaacs.

Mr. Isaacs was born Sept. 8, 1904, in Kansas City, Kan. In April 1936, he began working as a Pullman porter, according to the Chicago-based Newberry Library, which keeps data on Pullman employees.

The Pullman Palace Car Co. was founded by George Pullman in 1867 and was most famous for developing the railroad sleeping car. As porters, the company primarily hired African Americans, many of whom were elevated to middle-class status by their jobs.

Mr. Isaacs retired from the railroad in December 1968, records from the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board show. Records kept by the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum in Chicago had recognized 102-year-old Lee Wesley Gibson of Los Angeles as being the oldest living Pullman porter, until Mr. Isaacs — born five years earlier than Gibson — came forward in 2010.

Svetozar Gligoric
chess grandmaster

Svetozar Gligoric, a Serbian and Yugoslav chess grandmaster who was the national champion 12 times and one of the world’s top players in the 20th century, died Aug. 14 in Belgrade. He was 89. Serbia’s Chess Federation confirmed the death. Serbian news media reported that he had a stroke.

Mr. Gligoric was born in 1923 in Belgrade in what was then the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. He made his first chess career moves early, winning his first title at age 15 at the Belgrade Chess Club championship.

His parents died by the time he was 17. During World War II, Mr. Gligoric joined the anti-Nazi guerrillas and put his chess career on hold.

After winning his first international tournament in Warsaw in 1947, Mr. Gligoric became Yugoslavia’s champion 12 times and played in 15 biennial Chess Olympiads, collecting one gold, six silver and five bronze medals. He was awarded the grandmaster title in 1951.

The World Chess Federation said Mr. Gligoric was among the top 10 players of the world for many years.

— From news services

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