by Vito Lucia, The Chicago Times

NEW YORK – Celebrated children’s author Beverly Cleary passed away Thursday at 104 according to a news release by HarperCollins.  The author died Thursday in Carmel Valley, California.  No cause of the death was given.

Cleary began writing books in her 30s and gained worldwide renown for her adventure stories centered around “Henry Huggins” and his neighbors on the fictionalized version of Klickitat Street where the author grew up in her youth.

Cleary had recently given up writing and was quoted saying: “. . . it’s important for writers to know when to quit.”  However, Cleary did re-release three of her most famous titles with new forewords written by the author.

In March of 2016, Cleary admitted that she preferred to write her stories long hand because the processes of typing often interfered with what she wanted to write.  Cleary went so far as to get rid of her typewriter.

In an Associated Press interview, Cleary stated that she started writing books as a librarian since “. . . children were always asking for books about `kids like us.′ Well, there weren’t any books about kids like them. So when I sat down to write, I found myself writing about the sort of children I had grown up with.”

Born Beverly Bunn on April 12, 1916 in McMinnville, Oregon, Cleary lived on a farm until her parents moved to Portland.  Cleary was a slow reader as a student, which she blamed on a series of illnesses and a “mean spirited” first grade teacher that slapped pupil’s hands with a steel-tipped pointer.

Cleary would go onto graduate from junior college in Ontario, California; and the University of California at Berkeley where she met her future husband Clarence Cleary.  Married in 1940, they would remain together until Clarence’s death in 2004.  The Cleary’s would become the parents of twins that would go on to be the inspiration for her book “Mitch and Amy.”

Cleary would go on to study library science at the University of Washington and work as a children’s librarian and during World War II would serve as “post” librarian at the Oakland Army Hospital.

Cleary was an accomplished children’s author, wife, and mother.  She will be missed by millions today and in the future.


by Vito Lucia, The Chicago Times

NEW YORK – Famed conductor James Levine known for his work with the Metropolitan Opera for four decades has passed away at 77.  Levin died of natural causes in Palm Springs California on March 9 and is survived by his wife Suzanne Thomson, sister Janet Levine along with her husband Kenneth Irwin.

Levine’s four-decade career with the Met began in 1971 and ended in 2016 for health reasons.  Levine would conduct some 2,500 performances and rose to become one of the top internationally known conductors.  For his talents, Levine would go on to win 10 of the 37 Grammy Awards he was nominated for throughout his career.


by Vito Lucia, The Chicago Times

NETHERLANDS – Lou Ottens, inventor of the cassette tape, passed away Saturday at age of 94 according to electronics giant Philips.  The Dutch inventor had a stellar and long career with the multinational conglomerate since the 1950s.

As a teenager in occupied Netherlands, Ottens built a radio to listen to Radio Oranje broadcasts from Allied radio station.  To evade Nazi radio jammers, Otten constructed a directional antenna.  After the war, Ottens attended university and graduated as a mechanical engineer in 1952.

Ottens joined Philips in the 1950s and, as a development team supervisor, helped usher in the Philips cassette system in the early 1960s.  The compact cassette revolutionized the portable music industry not to mention the home recording hobby.  How many of us growing up in the 1980s and 90s recorded mixed tapes and radio show demos?

It was the combination of simple sturdy design and the invention of reliable battery-operated recording and playing devices that lead the to the market domination of the compact cassette.  Prior to the compact cassette, recording and listening depended on fragile records or cumbersome tape spools.

However, Ottens believed the compact cassette was only the beginning.  Ottens also contributed to the invention of the compact disc.  Although not always pocket friendly, the compact disc was and still is a durable recording and listening format.  We will never forget the easy recording and playability of the compact cassette as we recorded late into the night, and we will never forget Lou Ottens.  Thank you Mr. Ottens, farewell my friend.