The Washington Post

Notable deaths in the Washington area

Obituaries of residents of the District, Maryland and Northern Virginia.
Phil Brody, physicist

Phil Brody, 83, a Army Research Laboratory physicist who retired in 1998, died March 24 at a hospice in Washington. The cause was complications following surgery to repair aneurysms, said a niece, Jennifer Talhelm.

Mr. Brody was born in New York City. In 1951, he joined the staff of what then was a research facility of the Ordnance Development Division of the National Bureau of Standards. Later, it became the Harry Diamond Laboratories. In 1992, it was one of seven Army laboratories merged to form the Army Research Lab. In retirement, he took up bird and insect photography.

Howard C. Behrens, artist

Howard C. Behrens, 80, a Washington artist who specialized in palette knife paintings and had served 17 years — 10 as chief artist — at the Government Printing Office, died April 14 at a health-care facility in Potomac. The cause was complications from Parkinson’s disease and dementia, said a son, Jamie Behrens.

Mr. Behrens, who lived in Potomac, was born in Chicago. He left the GPO in 1981 to work full time as an independent artist, using a palette knife instead of a brush. This technique enabled him to create bright swirls of color by applying thick globs of oil paint onto a canvas. His artwork had been shown in museums and in one-man art gallery shows more than 300 times. He was an official poster artist for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.

Larry C. Williamson, ambassador

Larry C. Williamson, 83, the former ambassador to the West African country of Gabon and a 36-year veteran of the Foreign Service, died April 11 at a health-care center in Fairfax County. The cause was Lewy body dementia, said his wife, Norma Williamson.

Mr. Williamson, a resident of Vienna, Va., was born in Fort Smith, Ark. He was a Marine Corps veteran of the Korean War. From 1984 to 1987, he was ambassador to Gabon. Earlier he served in Sierra Leone, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya. He was deputy director general of the Foreign Service before retiring in 1994. In retirement, he was active at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter in Vienna.

Rosemary M. Mookerjee, piano teacher

Rosemary M. Mookerjee, 83, a pianist who gave private lessons in Bethesda since the mid-1970s, died April 13 at a hospital in Seattle. The cause was pneumonia, said a son, Kirit Mookerjee.

Mrs. Mookerjee was born Rosemary Mann in Milwaukee. She was a past secretary of the Baltimore-Washington chapter of the American Liszt Society and was a member of the Friday Morning Music Club, a group of Washington area musicians. She lived in Bethesda for 46 years before moving to Seattle in 2006.

Helen R. Oleynik, homemaker

Helen R. Oleynik, 93, a Potomac homemaker who served in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II, died April 16 at a hospital in Columbia, Md. The cause was congestive heart failure, said a son, David Oleynik.

Mrs. Oleynik was born Helen Rohal in Carnegie, Pa., and served as an intercept radio operator in the Women’s Army Corps. She was a member of St. Nicholas Cathedral in Washington and helped established an Orthodox church in Harrisburg, Pa.

Lester P. ‘Bootie’ Boswell, drywall finisher

Lester P. “Bootie” Boswell, 72, a drywall finisher who belonged to the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, died April 22 at his home in Knoxville, Md. The cause was pneumonia, said a daughter, Leslie Cook. He had a lung transplant nine years ago.

Mr. Boswell was born in the District and lived for much of his adult life in Montgomery County. He began his career as a motorcycle mechanic and worked in drywall finishing until his retirement in 1997. He belonged until his death to the Georgetown Big Brothers Club, a community group that supports youth-related causes.

Frank E. Hall, photographer

Frank E. Hall, 91, the chief photographer for the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Defense Department, died April 8 at his home in Fredericksburg, Va. The cause was congestive heart failure, said a daughter, Linda Soulen.

Mr. Hall was born in Milford, N.H. He served in the Army during World War II and began his career as a civilian photographer at the Pentagon in 1945. He retired in 1985. He was a former president of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Coin Club. He was a 51-year resident of Rockville, Md. He moved to Fredericksburg eight years ago.

Charles Miller II, HHS administrator

Charles Miller II, 90, who spent more than 30 years as an administrator of what is now the Department of Health and Human Services before retiring in 1981, died April 21 at his home in Lewes, Del. The cause was respiratory failure, said a daughter, Linda Miller.

Mr. Miller, a Philadelphia native, was a former deputy assistant secretary for financial management and a deputy assistant secretary for health at HHS. In the 1980s, he was an executive officer for the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences. He also taught English as a second language in Fairfax County and was a board member and volunteer ombudsman for Iona Senior Services, a Washington nonprofit group, before moving to Delaware from Washington in 2005.

Thomas H. Beckett, Naval Reactors deputy director

Thomas H. Beckett, 67, deputy director of the Naval Reactors, the agency that oversees the Navy’s nuclear propulsion program, from 1999 until his retirement in 2006, died April 21 at his home in Apex, N.C. The cause was leukemia, said a daughter, Ashleigh Cannon.

Mr. Beckett, a native of Bay Shore, N.Y., was hired in 1969 by Adm. Hyman G. Rickover, the “father” of the nuclear Navy, to work in Washington with the Naval Reactors program. He received the Presidential Meritorious Rank Award in 2002 and the Secretary of Defense Meritorious Civilian Service Award in 2006. He moved to Apex from Warrenton, Va., in 2013.

Dorothy M. Toole, teacher

Dorothy M. Toole, 93, an elementary school teacher at parochial and public schools in Washington and Montgomery County, died April 15 at a care center in Potomac. The cause was complications from dementia, said a daughter, Deborah Vergara.

Mrs. Toole, a Bethesda resident, was born Dorothy Miller in Detroit and had lived in the Washington area since 1951. In the 1960s and 1970s, she was a teacher at Our Lady of Victory School in Washington, St. Jane de Chantal Catholic School in Bethesda and Matre Dei School in Bethesda. She was a substitute teacher in Montgomery County elementary schools.

— From staff reports

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