Alden Whitman, 76, a retired New York Times obituary writer who traveled around the world interviewing public figures to prepare their obituaries in advance of their deaths, died Sept. 4 at a hospital in Monaco after a stroke.
He lived in Southampton, N.Y., and was in Monte Carlo for a birthday celebration for food writer Craig Claiborne.
Mr. Whitman wrote obituaries for the Times from 1964 until he retired in 1976, and he believed they should be as lively and informative as anything else in the newspaper. This conviction influenced the craft of obituary writing not only at the Times but at other U.S. newspapers.
It also made Mr. Whitman a minor celebrity. He appeared on such television shows as "What's My Line?" News magazines wrote stories about him, and former New York Times writer Gay Talese profiled him in an article titled, "Mr. Bad News."
The Polk Memorial Awards of 1980 included a special award to Mr. Whitman for setting "new standards of excellence at what had been considered a routine assignment."
Edited collections of his writings had been published in two books, "The Obituary Book" and "Come to Judgment," in which Mr. Whitman described the ideal obituary as "a lively expression of personality and character as well as a conscientious exposition of the main facts of a person's life. A good obit has all the characteristics of a well-focused snapshot, the fuller the length the better . . . . "
He also wrote two other books, "Early American Labor Parties," in 1944 and "Portrait: Adlai E. Stevenson," in 1965. In 1983 he was the editor of a biographical dictionary, "American Reformers."
A native of New Albany, Nova Scotia, Mr. Whitman grew up in Bridgeport and Fairfield, Conn. He graduated from Harvard University and worked for the Bridgeport Post-Telegram, the Bridgeport Herald, the Buffalo Evening News and the New York Herald Tribune before joining the staff of The New York Times in 1951.
He was a copy editor there for 13 years before he became an obituary writer.
In 1956, in hearings before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, Mr. Whitman acknowledged having been a member of the Communist Party from 1935 to 1948, but he refused to name other members. This brought a contempt citation and a conviction for contempt of Congress in U.S. District Court here in 1957. The conviction was later reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court, but Mr. Whitman was retried and convicted a second time. He was sentenced to 10 days' probation.
During his years as an obituary writer, Mr. Whitman interviewed and prepared advance obituaries about Pablo Casals, Helen Keller, Charles Lindbergh, Ho Chi Minh, Pablo Picasso, Haile Selassie, Charlie Chaplin, British statesman Anthony Eden, Earl Warren and hundreds of others. His byline continued to appear in The Times five years after he retired, the last time being on Sept. 19, 1981, on an obituary about insurance executive James Kemper.
His own obituary, in yesterday's New York Times, had no byline. "It was written by committee," Irvin Horowitz, the Times obituaries editor, told the Associated Press. "Several people worked on it, and it was the third time it had been rewritten."
Survivors include Mr. Whitman's wife, Joan, and four children by a previous marriage.
PAUL F.J. LePORE
Howard County Fire Administrator
Paul F.J. LePore, 70, a retired Howard County fire administrator who had also been chief of the Fort Meade and Fort Belvoir fire departments, died of a heart ailment Sept. 3 at Greater Laurel-Beltsville Hospital. He had diabetes.
After serving as fire administrator in the 1970s, Mr. LePore was later a member of the Howard County Fire Board and the Howard County Democratic Central Committee.
Mr. LePore, who lived in Laurel, was born in Baltimore. He grew up in Laurel and became a firefighter with the Fort Meade Fire Department in 1941. During World War II, he served in the Navy.
He was chief of the Fort Meade Fire Department in 1968 when he became chief of the Fort Belvoir Fire Department. He held the latter position until 1971, when he was appointed fire administrator of Howard County.
In 1979, he joined the Howard County Fire Board and in 1982, the Howard County Democratic Central Committee. He retired in 1986.
Mr. LePore was a member of the Savage, Md., Volunteer Fire Department, the Laurel Moose Lodge, the American Legion and St. Mary's Catholic Church in Laurel, where he was a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus.
Survivors include his wife, Regene LePore of Laurel; six children, Rose Mary Ray, Martin Joseph LePore and Karen Maureen Harvie, all of Laurel, Paul Edward LePore of Taunton, Mass., Mary Teresa Fogwell of East Lansing, Mich., and Colleen Ann LePore of Rockville; three sisters, Lucia Longfellow of Beltsville, Celeste Wilson of Rockville and Dolores Hauser of Laurel; four brothers, Alfred and Joseph LePore of Laurel, James LePore of California and Humbert LePore of Connecticut; and nine grandchildren.
DONALD A. SUTHERLAND
Army Signal Corps Employee
Donald A. Sutherland, 83, who worked for the Army Signal Corps for 26 years before retiring in 1972 as a communications specialist, died of a heart ailment Sept. 2 at his home in Bowie.
Mr. Sutherland was born in Jamaica and came to this country about 1920. He worked for Western Union in New York City and served in the Army in Europe during World War II before becoming a civilian Army employee in 1946.
He was a founding member of St. Pius X Catholic Church in Bowie. He also was a member of the Knights of Columbus and the Pentagon Athletic Club.
Survivors include his wife of 58 years, Edith Lanning Sutherland of Bowie.