Esther Peterson, 91, the mother of consumerism and a champion of women's issues in modern American politics, died Dec. 20 at her home in Washington after a stroke.
An activist in the labor, women's and consumer movements for more than half a century, Mrs. Peterson served in high posts in four Democratic administrations. She was the first person to be special White House assistant for consumer affairs, a position she held under Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Jimmy Carter. President John F. Kennedy appointed her director of the Women's Bureau and made her an assistant secretary of labor. She also was a former teacher, a union official, the first vice president for consumer affairs for Giant Food Inc., a member of numerous commissions on labor and consumer matters and a United Nations representative to the International Organization of Consumer Unions. Under President Clinton, she was a delegate to the U.N. General Assembly.
By trade, Mrs. Peterson was a lobbyist, and she relished the role.
"I love to use the word because people's ears usually prick up," she told an interviewer. "Actually, one should understand that it's an extremely essential part of our democratic process of government. I don't know what senators would do, what people would do, without lobbyists. The main thing is to strengthen the lobby of the people who represent the people's interests."
Issues with which Mrs. Peterson was associated over the years ranged from safe fabrics and truth-in-packaging to equal pay for equal work for women. A tireless advocate, she was credited with having consumer affairs offices set up in each government department.
As a veteran of scores of legislative and regulatory battles, she understood the give-and-take that is part of such struggles. She quoted Eleanor Roosevelt, one of her heroes, on the efficacy of compromise: "You have to compromise, but compromise upward."
By Mrs. Peterson's own account, the major disappointment of her career was the refusal of Congress to pass legislation establishing an independent consumer protection agency in the 1970s. Consumer activist Ralph Nader blamed the Carter White House, saying it failed to give the measure its full support, but Mrs. Peterson said the bill failed because of the powerful counteroffensive launched by big business.
Esther Eggertsen was born in Provo, Utah, on Dec. 9, 1906. Her parents were Lars and Annie Eggertsen. She graduated from Brigham Young University in 1927. She taught briefly in Utah and then went to Teachers College at Columbia University in New York for a master's degree in education. While there, she met Oliver A. Peterson, whom she married in 1932. It was through her husband that she became interested in social issues.
"I had been raised in a very tight Republican family," she said in an interview in 1985. Oliver Peterson "was a socialist, a Norman Thomas socialist. He began taking me to meetings and factories and slums, and hearing all the great speakers of those periods, my eyes were opened a little bit.
"Then I went to Boston because he was going to Harvard, and I started to volunteer in the church again. And he said, Do something different, Esther.' So, I volunteered at the YWCA, and I got assigned to the industrial department of the Y."
Through that connection, Mrs. Peterson went to work for the Consumers League for Fair Labor Standards. She got involved in a strike by female garment workers who were asked to sew heart-shaped pockets on dresses instead of simpler square ones without an increase in pay.
"It was called the heart-break strike,' and I've never forgotten it," she said.
While working for the Consumers League, she met Eleanor Roosevelt and learned that "you could use your purchasing power to help direct social policy."
From 1932 to 1939, Mrs. Peterson taught at labor schools for women and held temporary positions with the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. In 1939, she became education director of the latter. In 1945, she transferred to Washington as its legislative representative. From 1945 to 1948, she also served on the D.C. minimum wage board as the representative for the laundry industry.
From 1948 to 1957, Mrs. Peterson lived in Sweden and Belgium, where her husband, a Foreign Service officer, was a labor attache. In Brussels, she worked for the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.
When she returned to Washington, she was a legislative assistant for the AFL-CIO until joining the Kennedy Administration in 1961 as director of the Women's Bureau. She was made an assistant secretary of labor in August of that year to highlight the administration's interest in how women fared in the workplace.
While holding that position, Mrs. Peterson received an additional appointment as presidential special assistant for consumer affairs. She had a desk and a secretary in the White House but little else. Her early efforts were devoted to acquiring a staff and developing an agenda.
In the 1970s, she was the consumer adviser for Giant Food. She joined the Carter Administration in 1977 and worked in the White House until 1981. She worked for the United Nations at the International Organization of Consumer Unions until the late 1980s.
When she was 78, Mrs. Peterson was asked why she remained so busy, and she replied, "Well, I love it when people come to me and ask me to do things."
Mrs. Peterson was a member of the Woman's National Democratic Club. One of her prized possessions was a mink coat that once belonged to Eleanor Roosevelt that was given to her by club members.
Her husband died in 1977.
Survivors include four children, Karen Kristine Wilken of Fort Collins, Colo., Eric N. Peterson of Alexandria, Iver E. Peterson of Lawrenceville, N.J., and Lars E. Peterson of Washington; and 11 grandchildren. ROBERT J. CONNER Jr. Chrysler Vice President
Robert J. Conner Jr., 63, former vice president of government affairs for Chrysler Technologies Corp., died of cancer Dec. 17 at the Hospice of Northern Virginia.
Mr. Conner, a resident of Arlington, was born in Strasburg, Va. He came to Washington in 1948 as a Senate page under the sponsorship of Sen. Harry F. Byrd Sr. (D-Va.). Later, while attending American University at night, he worked on the staffs of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Stuart Symington (D-Mo.), the Senate sergeant-at-arms and the Republican and Democratic cloakrooms.
After receiving a law degree at American University in 1964, he joined the Washington office of Chrysler Corp., where he became director of federal relations. After his retirement there in 1991, he became counsel to the office of the House of Representatives sergeant-at-arms, and he retired there in 1994.
In 1995, he founded Conner Investment Corp.
He was a member of Episcopal Falls Church.
Survivors include his wife, Peggy Ritenour Conner of Arlington; two sons, Kendall P. Conner of Annandale and Robert J. Conner III of Lusby; his mother, Barbara Stickley Conner of Locust Grove, Va.; two sisters, June C. Perrego of Falls Church and Carol C. Woolfrey of Locust Grove; a brother, Richard N. Conner of Herndon; and four grandchildren. THOMAS PATRICK PAT' GOGARTY Real Estate Appraiser
Thomas Patrick "Pat" Gogarty, 73, who was an independent real estate appraiser for about 15 years until his retirement in 1986, died of complications of ruptured aortic aneurysm Dec. 17 at Washington Hospital Center. Mr. Gogarty, who lived in Rockville, was born in New Haven, Conn., and raised in Washington. He graduated from Mount St. Joseph High School in Baltimore and the University of Maryland.
He served in the Army Air Forces during World War II and the Air Force during the Korean War. In the 1960s, he owned a gas station and an auto parts store in Laurel.
He was a member of St. Jude Catholic Church in Rockville.
Survivors include his wife, Sally Gogarty of Rockville; two sons, Thomas Jr., of Germantown, and Matthew, of Crofton; seven daughters, Patricia Toole of Alexandria, Kathleen Gajan of Youngsville, N.C., Martha Brady of Silver Spring, Anne Carroll of Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., Mary Schwarz of Belleville, Ill., Claire Gogarty of Rockville and Stephanie Hutchinson of Milwaukee; a brother; and 14 grandchildren. JOY SCHWAN-BEST Lawyer
Joy Schwan-Best, 56, a lawyer who served as assistant state's attorney for Montgomery County from 1983 to 1987, died of ovarian cancer Dec. 16 at her home in Potomac.
Mrs. Schwan-Best, a native of Texas, was a graduate of Middle Tennessee University. After arriving in the Washington area in 1979, she was diagnosed with leukemia and enrolled in a research program at the National Institutes of Health to treat her illness.
With the leukemia in remission, she returned to school and received a law degree from American University in 1983. After leaving the state's attorney's office in 1987, she opened a private practice and specialized in drunken driving cases.
She was a member of Potomac Presbyterian Church and a founding member of an a cappella trio that performed at charity and private functions in the Washington area.
Her marriage to Carl Schwan ended in divorce.
Survivors include her husband, Robert H. Best of Potomac; two children from her first marriage, Amber Schwan Barry of Atlanta and Scott E. Schwan of Charlotte; and two stepchildren, Brad Best of Oxford, Miss., and Stacy Best of Gaithersburg. MILLARD R. MAC' McCALLUM Food Broker
Millard R. "Mac" McCallum, 69, who retired in 1993 as senior vice president of Kluge, Finkelstein & Co., a food brokerage, and then started his own company, died of cancer Dec. 17 at Suburban Hospital.
Mr. McCallum, a resident of Bethesda, was born in Mize, Miss. He graduated from the University of Mississippi, where he majored in chemistry, and attended George Washington University law school. He served on active duty as an Army Reservist from 1951 to 1953.
Mr. McCallum moved to the Washington area in 1949. From 1950 to 1956, with time out for military service, he was a food chemist with the National Canners Association. He then joined Kluge, Finkelstein & Co. He started his own food brokerage, McCallum & Associates, in 1993 and was its president until his death.
He was a member of All Saints Episcopal Church in Chevy Chase.
Survivors include his wife of 40 years, Doris Hogan McCallum of Bethesda; three children, Lisa Kelly McCallum and Mark Hogan McCallum, both of Bethesda, and Ann Stinnette McCallum of Baltimore; a brother, Maurice McCallum of Chesapeake, Va.; and a sister, Imogene Hutchison of Columbus, Miss. GLADYS RUTH WHITE GRODSTEIN Physicist
Gladys Ruth White Grodstein, 90, who retired in the early 1960s after about 20 years as a physicist with the National Bureau of Standards, died of coronary artery disease Dec. 5 at her Washington home.
Mrs. Grodstein, a native of North Carolina, was a graduate of Duke University. She held various teaching jobs, including a position at Bryn Mawr College in the 1930s. She then joined the Textiles Section of Organic and Fibrous Materials Division at the National Bureau of Standards in 1942. A few years later, she moved to the Nuclear Physics Section and Radiation Theory Section.
Her husband, Navy Cmdr. Irving Grodstein, died in 1958.
She leaves no immediate survivors. BILLY CAL KESTER GAO Auditor
Billy Cal Kester, 70, a Washington area resident since 1972 who spent 17 years with the General Accounting Office before retiring in 1990 as an auditor, died Dec. 18 at Potomac Valley Nursing Home. He had Alzheimer's disease.
At the GAO, he specialized in Defense Department weapons projects.
Mr. Kester, who lived in Derwood, was a native of Kansas City, Kan., and a 1949 mechanical engineering graduate of the University of Kansas. Before coming to the Washington area, he had worked in the Kansas City area for the Bendix Corp. and the Atomic Energy Agency.
Survivors include his wife, Martha, of Derwood; a son, Grant, of Idaho; a daughter, Kimberly Nakon of Pennsylvania; a sister, Lola Moore of Shawnee, Kan.; and a grandson. SAM C. LaMANNA Executive Chef
Sam C. LaManna, 77, who had been executive chef at what is now the Capital Hilton Hotel and assistant to the executive chef at Congressional Country Club, died of complications from diabetes Dec. 19 at his home in Arlington.
Mr. LaManna, a Washington native, graduated from McKinley High School. In the 1930s, he started working in the Mayflower Hotel kitchen, then served as a mess sergeant with the Army during World War II.
After the war, he became a cook at the Capital Hilton and rose to executive chef by the 1960s. He later worked as executive chef at Andrews Air Force Base, then was an assistant at Congressional Country Club from 1977 until his retirement in 1987.
He was a member of the American Legion.
Survivors include his wife of 56 years, Helen W. LaManna of Arlington; two children, Thomas J., of Burke, and Pamela Derrickson of Herndon; two brothers; and three grandchildren. KENNETH P. GRAY Electrical Engineer
Kenneth P. Gray, 70, who retired in 1988 after 26 years as an electrical engineer with the Department of Transportation, died of congestive heart failure Dec. 19 at his home in Falls Church.
Mr. Gray, who was born in Toronto, graduated from the University of Toronto. He began his career as an electrical engineer in Toronto and later worked for the Canadian Department of Defense in Ottawa.
He came to the Washington area in 1962 when he joined the Transportation Department. After retiring, he became a merchandise representative for Philip Morris.
He was a member of the Knights of Columbus and enjoyed golf, bowling and traveling.
Survivors include his wife of 43 years, Audrey Gray of Falls Church; three daughters, Elaine Gray Paukstitus of Potomac, Linda Gray of Fairfax and Sharon Gray of Falls Church; three sons, Daniel and Michael, both of Annandale, and Jeffrey of Fairfax; and four grandchildren. CHARLES EDWARD JURGENS Coast Guard Commander
Charles Edward Jurgens, 68, a retired U.S. Coast Guard commander who later became an audit director with Fannie Mae, died of cancer Dec. 18 at his home in Rockville.
Cmdr. Jurgens was a native of Middleboro, Mass., and a 1952 graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. He received a master's degree in business administration from Harvard University.
He spent 21 years as a commissioned officer with assignments in Seattle, Cambridge, Mass., New Orleans, New London and Alameda, Calif. He served as chief contract officer at USCG headquarters in Washington shortly before his retirement in 1973.
He joined Fannie Mae in 1973 and worked there for 17 years until his retirement in 1990.
Survivors include his wife, Joan E. Jurgens of Rockville; two children, Richard D., of Vienna, and Jay M., of Gaithersburg; a sister; a brother; and a grandson. ROSE TAYLOR MacMURRAY Teacher
Rose Taylor MacMurray, 76, who taught poetry at Haycock Elementary School in Falls Church, died Dec. 17 at Sibley Memorial Hospital of complications after knee replacement surgery.
Mrs. MacMurray, who lived in McLean, was born in Chicago. She grew up in Washington and spent part of her youth in France. She graduated from a prep school in Middlebury, Conn., then attended Bennington College in Bennington, Vt., before settling in the Washington area in 1949.
In the 1960s and 1970s, she served as a trustee of the Potomac School while her children were students there. She founded the school newspaper and was instrumental in improving faculty salaries and benefits. She joined the staff of Haycock Elementary in 1980 and taught poetry in a program for gifted and talented students until her retirement in 1994.
Her interests included watercolor painting and traveling. She recently wrote a novel about Emily Dickinson.
Survivors include her husband of 56 years, Dr. Frank G. MacMurray of McLean; three children, Frank G. MacMurray Jr. of Portland, Ore., Adelaide Aitken of Cambridge, Mass., and Worth MacMurray of McLean; a sister, Adelaide Kernochan of Bedford, Mass.; a brother, Richard Chatfield-Taylor of Chevy Chase; and four grandchildren. TOM J. THOMPKINS Bricklayer
Tom J. Thompkins, 76, a retired bricklayer who was a Navy combat veteran of World War II, died Dec. 18 at Doctors Community Hospital in Lanham after a stroke. He lived in Mitchellville in a house he built in the mid-1950s.
Mr. Thompkins, a Florida native, served in the Pacific during the war aboard the carrier Cowpens, part of the famous Fast Carrier Task Force. After the war, he settled in Washington and became a member of a bricklayers union. In addition to work in this area, he also did bricklaying in Florida and New Orleans during the winter.
He worked for the Izzo Construction Co. in Washington from the mid-1950s to mid-1970s. He then became self-employed until retiring in the late 1980s. Over the years, he worked on homes throughout the Washington area and had been involved in brickwork projects at several Metro stations.
Survivors include his wife of 48 years, Alberta Luray "Ray" Thompkins of Mitchellville; three sons, Emmanuel, of Bowie, Bernard, of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, and Ellis, of Forestville; two daughters, Diane Thompkins of Glenarden and Patricia Thompkins of Cleveland Heights; two sisters, Ethel Givens of Pinetta, Fla., and Theola Jones of Los Angeles; four brothers, Bennie, of Tallahassee, Frank, of Los Angeles, and Herbert and Isaac, both of New Orleans; a half brother, Arters Stephens of Orlando; and three grandchildren.