Standing Room Only at Craig Drake’s Memorial Service

drake-400x400“He’s a character out of a Tom Wolfe story.” That’s how a friend of mine describes Craig Drake, who died on March 15th at age 79. The metaphor is apparently apt: One of Drake’s oldest friends, speaking of him at a packed memorial service yesterday at The Church of the Holy Trinity on Rittenhouse Square, also compared Drake’s life to a novel, with one important caveat: “It would all be true.”

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Singer Joe Cocker Dead at 70

British singer-songwriter Joe Cocker has passed away at the age of 70. The Huffington Post reports that he died after a long battle with lung cancer. His rep, Sony Music, released the following statement:

John Robert Cocker, known to family, friends, his community and fans around the world as Joe Cocker, passed away on December 22, 2014 after a hard fought battle with small cell lung cancer. Mr. Cocker was 70 years old.

Joe Cocker was born 5/20/1944 in Sheffield, England where he lived until his early 20’s. In 2007 he was awarded the OBE by the Queen of England.

His international success as a blues/rock singer began in 1964 and continues till this day. Joe created nearly 40 albums and toured extensively around the globe.

 

Gloria Casarez Passes Away at 42

gloria casarez

It’s a terribly sad day in gay Philadelphia. The incomparable Gloria Casarez, the City’s first director of the Mayor’s Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs has passed away at the age of 42.

She had been battling cancer, but Gloria was a fighter till the end. One of her last public appearances was at the rainbow flag raising at City Hall on October 2nd to mark LGBT History Month in Philadelphia. Despite her illness, she stood up and rallied the crowd as the flag made its way to full mast.

The mayor’s office just released the following statement, which highlights some of her biggest accomplishments—which include everything from being executive director of GALAEI and working to put into place the groundbreaking LGBT Equality Bill that helped Philadelphia earn a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index.

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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Dr. Walter P. Lomax Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, sits up in his hotel room bed in Philadelphia, Feb. 10, 1968 while being examined by Dr. Walter Lomax, a Philadelphia physician. On the physician's orders Dr. King canceled his appointments and speaking engagements for the day because of a throat ailment. Dr. King has been in Philadelphia for past two days recruiting followers for proposed march on the nation's capital in April. (AP Photo)

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, sits up in his hotel room bed in Philadelphia, Feb. 10, 1968 while being examined by Dr. Walter Lomax, a Philadelphia physician. (AP Photo)

A version of this story ran last October.

On October 10, 2013, at 8:30 a.m., 81-year-old Dr. Walter P. Lomax Jr. passed away. “So what?” you ask. “What’s the big deal? Don’t old men die every day?”

The big deal, I answer, is that he wasn’t just an old man. The big deal is that he was and is a great man.

Dr. Lomax was a prominent physician, prosperous entrepreneur, and selfless philanthropist. The youngest of four children and a graduate of La Salle University and Hahnemann University Hospital, he opened his first medical office in a row house near his South Philly family home in 1958.

That small-scale clinic expanded over the years to six top-notch medical centers with 22 physicians who provided quality care regardless of income.

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Wild Bill Guarnere and Babe Heffron: A Remembrance

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Edward “Babe” Heffron and William “Wild Bill” Guarnere in Philadelphia in 2007. Photo by AP.

In the span of 14 weeks, Philly and the world lost two heroes. Edward “Babe” Heffron and William “Wild Bill” Guarnere — World War II paratroopers from Easy Company, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne, who gained unexpected but well-deserved fame from the 2001 Stephen Ambrose book Band of Brothers and the Tom Hanks miniseries it inspired — took their final jumps on December 1st and March 8th, respectively.

As flags fly at half-staff today in Pennsylvania as Bill is laid to rest — a perfect final salute to him and his brothers in arms — it’s hard to fathom that I’ll never again be able to call Bill and hear his exuberant “Yowwwza!” And then “What’s shakin’, kid?” Or hear Babe on the phone go from a sleepy “Hello?” (after prowling Center City all day) to a booming “Oh, my achin’ back! How the hell are ya?”

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Drexel Sophomore Dies Suddenly, Meningitis Suspected

Meningitis is suspected in yesterday’s sudden death of Drexel sophomore Stephanie Ross, NBC 10 reports. She was found unresponsive by her sisters in the Phi Mu – Beta Tau sorority house yesterday afternoon and taken to Penn Presbyterian hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Though no official cause of death was given, Drexel said they are working with city health officials under the assumption that the death was due to meningitis. The college didn’t reveal what type of meningitis is suspected.

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Walt Keller, Leukemia Survivor, Has Passed

Walter Robert Keller, 1953-2014

In late 2011, I saw a story in the New York Times. A clinical trial of a new kind of cancer therapy at the University of Pennsylvania had jolted two elderly leukemia patients into apparent remission. The therapy had never been tried before in humans, only in mice. Developed over 25 years by a team of Penn doctors, it used genetic techniques to give new powers to a patient’s own cells, transforming them into “serial killers” able to attack and eliminate tumor.

It seemed to be one of those rare moments in cancer science when an experimental treatment actually worked. I wanted to know more, so I asked Penn if they’d connect me with a patient. They pointed me to Walter Keller, a cabinet refinisher in Southern California, the seventh adult to ever receive the therapy.

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Philip Seymour Hoffman Dead at 46

philip seymour hoffman

The Wall Street Journal has the first word:

Award-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead Sunday afternoon in his New York City apartment, a law-enforcement official said.

The New York Police Department is investigating, and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to determine exact cause of death. The official said Mr. Hoffman, 46 years old, was found dead at his apartment at 35 Bethune St. in the West Village neighborhood of Manhattan.

The New York Post reports that the cause of death was an apparent drug overdose. Hoffman opened up about his substance addiction when he checked himself into rehab last year.

In one of his most recent films, God’s Pocket, which played at this year’s Sundance, Hoffman plays a father from South Philadelphia who searches for answers following the death of his son.

UPDATE: The man who found Hoffman dead was David Bar Katz, son of notorious Philadelphian Harry Jay Katz.

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