J. Joseph Garrahy
Rhode Island governor

J. Joseph Garrahy, 81, a former Rhode Island governor remembered by many for the flannel shirt he wore while leading the state through the blizzard of 1978, died Jan. 24 of heart disease at a hospital in West Palm Beach, Fla.

The death was confirmed by his daughter-in-law, Barbara Cottam Garrahy.

Mr. Garrahy, a Democrat, was governor from 1977 to 1985. He had been in office for a year when the storm covered parts of Rhode Island with three feet of snow.

“Nearly every day, if I’m out someplace, people will say, ‘Where is your shirt?’ ” Mr. Garrahy told the Newport Daily News for the 25th anniversary of the blizzard in 2003. “I always tell people tongue in cheek, in eight years as governor I did a lot of great things, but the only thing people remember is my shirt.”

As governor, Mr. Garrahy worked to clean up pollution in Narragansett Bay, modernized the care of children with developmental disabilities and launched new programs for elderly residents. He also led efforts to attract high-tech businesses to the state and preserve undeveloped open spaces for recreation.

John Joseph Garrahy was born in Providence, R.I., to Irish immigrants. He served in the Air Force during the Korean War and attended the universities of Buffalo and Rhode Island. He served in the state Senate before being elected lieutenant governor in 1968.

Robert Hegyes
actor

Robert Hegyes, 60, the actor best known for playing Jewish Puerto Rican student Juan Epstein on the late-1970s sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter,” died of cardiac arrest Jan. 26 at a hospital in Edison, N.J.

The Flynn and Son Funeral Home in Fords, N.J., said it was informed of the actor’s death by his family.

Mr. Hegyes was appearing on Broadway in 1975 when he auditioned for “Kotter,” a TV series about a teacher who returns to the inner-city New York school of his youth to teach a group of irreverent, remedial students nicknamed the “Sweathogs.” They included the character Vinnie Barbarino, played by John Travolta.

Mr. Hegyes was born in Perth Amboy, N.J., and grew up in Metuchen, N.J. He was the eldest child of a Hungarian father and Italian mother. He attended Rowan University, formerly Glassboro State College, in southern New Jersey and headed to New York after graduation.

Mr. Hegyes appeared on several other TV series, including “Cagney & Lacey.”

Dick Kniss
musician

Dick Kniss, 74, a bassist who performed for five decades with the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary and co-wrote the John Denver hit “Sunshine on My Shoulders,” died Jan. 25 of pulmonary disease at a hospital near his home in Saugerties, N.Y., said his wife, Diane Kniss.

He was born in Portland, Ore., and was an original member of Denver’s 1970s band. He also played with jazz greats including Herbie Hancock and Woody Herman.

Active in the 1960s civil rights movement, Mr. Kniss performed at benefits for a range of causes and played during the first celebration of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a national holiday.

— From news services