The Washington Post

Obituaries of Nnote: Beryl Davis, Stanley Bergstein, Thomas McNeeley Jr.

Beryl Davis
big-band singer

Beryl Davis, a British-born big-band singer who made her U.S. debut on Bob Hope’s radio show and later performed with Frank Sinatra and Benny Goodman, died Oct. 28 in Los Angeles. She was 87.

She had complications from Alzheimer’s disease, family spokesman Greg Purdy said.

Ms. Davis was the daughter of British band leader Harry Davis. At 12, she was accompanying violinist Stephane Grappelli and guitarist Django Reinhardt in their jazz band, Quintette du Hot Club de France.

During World War II, she sang with Grappelli and pianist George Shearing in a group that performed in London clubs throughout the Blitz. She sang with Glenn Miller’s Army Air Force Band near the end of the war.

After Hope’s radio show, Beryl Davis appeared with Sinatra on the “Your Hit Parade” radio show. In the 1950s, she formed a vocal quartet with Jane Russell, Connie Haines and Della Russell. Their biggest hit was “Do Lord.” Actress Rhonda Fleming later replaced Della Russell, and the group continued to tour until the early 1980s.

Starting in the 1970s, Ms. Davis was a regular performer on the cruise ship circuit.

Stanley Bergstein
harness racing executive

Stanley Bergstein, a member of the harness racing Hall of Fame and longtime executive vice president of Harness Tracks of America, died Nov. 2 of a heart ailment at his home in Tucson. He was 87.

U.S. Trotting Association spokesman Ken Weingartner confirmed the death.

Besides his role as an industry executive, Mr. Bergstein served as a television analyst, columnist, historian, auctioneer, race announcer and racing secretary. He is the only person to be inducted twice into the Hall of Fame in Goshen, N.Y., as a member of both the Living Hall of Fame and the Communicator’s Corner.

In 1962, Mr. Bergstein called the first of 17 consecutive Hambletonian races.

Mr. Bergstein was born in Pottstown, Pa. He was first involved with harness racing at local county fairs. He attended Northwestern University and served briefly as a publicist for the Harlem Globetrotters.

Thomas McNeeley Jr.

Thomas McNeeley Jr., 74, a boxer who battled heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson and raised a son who took on Mike Tyson, died Oct. 25 at a hospital in Weymouth, Mass., of complications from a seizure.

His death was confirmed by a son, Thomas McNeeley III.

Thomas McNeeley Jr. was 23-0 when he took on Patterson, who stopped him in the fourth round of their December 1961 bout in Toronto after repeatedly knocking him to the canvas.

“The stories about the fight said I went down nine or 10 times,” Mr. McNeeley told the Boston Globe in 1994. “The writers were being nice to me. I have the film. It was more like 12 or 13.”

A decided underdog, Mr. McNeeley said he had no doubt he’d win before the fight. He said that before the introductions, he was daydreaming about who would sing the national anthem before his first title defense. But Mr. McNeeley hit the floor twice in the first round, then several more times after. He later joked that Patterson was so fast, he thought the referee was sneaking in some punches.

Mr. McNeeley had his moment, though, catching Patterson on the temple and causing the champ to briefly drop to a knee. “I have a picture in my house of him on the canvas,” Mr. McNeeley told the Globe.

After retiring, Mr. McNeeley served as commissioner of the Massachusetts Boxing Commission and as a U.S. marshal. He later worked in state House of Corrections athletic department and finished his career as a counselor for state employees, including prison guards and police officers.

Mr. McNeeley struggled with sobriety during his life but would have been 25 years sober this Christmas, his son said.

Mr. McNeeley’s son Peter followed his father into boxing and was Tyson’s first fight after Tyson served three years in prison for rape. Tyson stopped Peter McNeeley a minute and a half into their August 1995 bout, when he knocked McNeeley down for a second time and McNeeley’s manager stepped in and ended the fight.

— From news services

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