Robert Friend, 99, a decorated fighter pilot who flew 142 combat missions with the fabled Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, then became an expert on missile systems and directed Project Blue Book, the classified Air Force investigation into unidentified flying objects, died Friday at a hospital in Long Beach, Calif.
Friend was one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen, who took to the skies in WW II as the first black military aviators. The roughly 1,000 black pilots who were trained in the program flew 15,000 combat sorties, destroyed 260 enemy aircraft and received 150 decorations of the Flying Cross and Legion of Merit, fighting the Nazi Luftwaffe while striking a blow against racism back home.
The unit's success was widely credited with paving the way for the integration of the military after the war, and in 2007, Friend and his comrades were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, recognized for their "unique military record that inspired revolutionary reform in the Armed Forces."
The son of an Ecuadoran immigrant who served in the Army during World War I, Friend flew a P-47 before taking the controls of a P-51 Mustang, a single-seat fighter that he nicknamed Bunny, for his girlfriend and future wife, and decorated with the distinctive red rudder, nose and wing tips that identified many of the Tuskegee Airmen's planes.
Frequently assigned to protect "Flying Fortress" bombers, Friend served as a wingman for Tuskegee commander Benjamin Davis — who later became the first black general in the Air Force — and received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions on Oct. 6, 1944, when he strafed airfields in German-occupied Greece.
In a 28-year military career, he went on to serve as an operations officer in the Korean and Vietnam wars; worked on the Titan, Atlas and Delta rocket programs; and from 1958 to 1963 oversaw Project Blue Book, which collected and analyzed more than 12,000 reports of flying saucers and other mysterious airborne objects.
But Friend was best known for his record as a Tuskegee Airman, notably for a two-week stretch when he twice averted disaster.
Striking an oil barge in Germany on Dec. 14, 1944, he unleashed a barrage of bullets that triggered an enormous, mushroom-shaped explosion, nearly taking down his aircraft. "The flame completely engulfed the diving ship," the Pittsburgh Courier reported at the time. "Friend said it was sort of like being in hell. He managed to pull his ship out at the last moment."
Days later, he faced bad weather and mechanical difficulties while flying over Italy. Disoriented in the darkness, praying to avoid crashing into a mountain or ejecting over the water, he took his chances and bailed out — and recalled in a 2006 lecture that he found himself parachuting toward a mountain.
The oldest of four children, Robert Jones Friend was born in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 29, 1920, and was raised in New York.
Robert Therrien, 71, whose lifelong fascination with household objects like tables and chairs and pots and pans led him to recreate them as colossal sculptures, died June 17 at his home in Los Angeles.
The cause was cancer.
It was in the 1970s and '80s that Therrien began drawing and sculpting generic things familiar to him from childhood: snowmen, keyholes, a coffin, a bird, a chapel, a hat on a stand. Those modest-size, minimalist works yielded in the 1990s to larger, more daring sculptures that toyed with perspectives of dimensions and space while adhering to realism.
For his best-known work, "Under the Table" (1994), he reproduced his dining room table in comically huge dimensions. At 10 feet high, 20 feet long and 12 feet wide, the table (and four chairs) is fit for a gathering of giants.
By making the table so large, Therrien seemed to render its viewers small while shifting their attention to what is beneath the table as they gaze upward.
For another work, Therrien stacked 4-foot-wide dishes nearly 8 feet high in such a vertiginous way that they appear ready to tumble. In still another he piled oversized pots and pans, seemingly willy-nilly, into a stack 9 feet high. Each work was secured by a metal spine that held the objects in place.
Transforming ordinary objects, like a table, into three-dimensional worlds proved a tantalizing challenge for Therrien.
"The reason the table became big was because I asked, 'What if people could walk into an environment like that?' " he told the New York Times in 2013, when the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, N.Y., mounted an exhibition of his sculptures.
Therrien was perhaps an heir to Claes Oldenburg and his humorous giant pop art sculptures. But with his more rigid attention to detail, Therrien, typically grim-faced in photographs, was more of a realist, as shown in his re-creation of an 8-foot-high folding table and chairs in 2007.
When the sculpture was included in an exhibition of hyper-real works at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in 2012, the museum's senior curator of visual arts, Siri Engberg, said: "To see how an artist elevated the mundane to the monumental was a showstopper and a head scratcher. What was fantastic was that it was not only gargantuan but totally functional. The legs fold like a card table's."
Photography led him to create his big, realistic sculptures, most notably "Under the Table." He drew on Polaroid pictures he had taken of his dining table to rethink it as "an interior with a complexity of horizontals and verticals and diagonals," he said, "so that it would be like being in a jungle of legs."
Robert Edward Therrien was born on Nov. 17, 1947, in Chicago and moved with his parents to Palo Alto, Calif., where he sought treatment for asthma.
Jim Taricani, 69, an award-winning TV reporter who exposed corruption and served a federal sentence for refusing to disclose a source, died Friday at his home in North Kingstown, R.I.
The cause was kidney failure.
Taricani covered Rhode Island for 40 years, 32 of them at WJAR-TV. He focused much of his reporting on organized crime and chronicled the crimes of the New England Mafia and figures including Raymond L.S. Patriarca. He also became a national advocate for a federal shield law to protect journalists from having to reveal sources.
Taricani was convicted in 2004 of civil contempt for refusing to reveal the source of a secret FBI videotape that showed a Providence city official taking a $1,000 bribe. The video was part of a corruption investigation that ultimately sent former Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci to prison.
He said at the time that it was important to air the video to show people what corruption looked like.
A federal judge sentenced him to six months and allowed Taricani to serve it at home because of his health; he had a heart transplant in 1996. He was released after four months for good behavior. When he retired in 2014, he said that he would not have done anything differently.
"I just believe that this is what a reporter does," he said. "I don't think any reporter wants to be in that position. But it's part of the job. It's part of the territory that we travel in."
The lawyer who was his source later admitted it and went to prison for contempt and perjury.
A Connecticut native, Taricani started in radio, and then was hired at WPRI-TV before going to WJAR, where he founded the station's investigative unit. He won four Emmys, the Edward R. Murrow award and the Yankee Quill Award, the highest individual honor presented by the Academy of New England Journalists.
He also became a mentor to generations of journalists, both at his own station and at competing outlets, including CNN's Christiane Amanpour. Rhode Island's governor, Gina Raimondo, called Taricani a "Rhode Island icon."
Taricani's wife, Laurie White, had received an outpouring of support Saturday, both from powerful politicians and regular people who loved and respected him. U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, who served as mayor after Cianci, remembered Taricani as "a person of extraordinary integrity and a principled journalist." The Rhode Island General Assembly, convening Saturday morning, held a moment of silence in Taricani's honor.
Despite his health problems, Taricani's transplanted heart was still going strong when he died, a family friend said.
Taricani said that he knew he was well beyond the life expectancy of someone with a heart transplant. "I've been lucky," he said. "Way lucky."