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PASSINGS: Charles B. Pierce, Aaron Cohen, Paul Serchia

Charles B. Pierce, independent filmmaker, dies at 71; Aaron Cohen, former Johnson Space Center director, dies at 79; Paul Serchia, AIDS activist and blogger, dies at 52

March 08, 2010
  • Charles Pierce also ran an advertising agency. His autobiographical notes indicated that his 1972 "Legend of Boggy Creek" was made for $160,000 but ultimately made $25 million after becoming a cult hit.
Charles Pierce also ran an advertising agency. His autobiographical notes…

Charles B. Pierce

Filmmaker influenced 'Blair Witch'

Charles B. Pierce, 71, an independent filmmaker whose inexpensively made documentary-style drama "The Legend of Boggy Creek" influenced the hit film "The Blair Witch Project" decades later, died Fridayat a Dover, Tenn., nursing home of natural causes, his daughter, Amanda Squitiero, said.

Pierce was born June 16, 1938, in Hammond, Ind., but grew up in Arkansas and ran an advertising agency in Texarkana. But it was his 1972 low-budget movie that earned him fame.

"We just wanted to make a movie that tapped into the primal fear generated by the fact-or-fiction format, like 'Legend of Boggy Creek, '" Daniel Myrick, "Blair Witch" director, told the Tulsa World in 1999. "That was one of my favorites; it freaked me out when I was a little kid."

"Boggy Creek" was based on a local legend of a Sasquatch-like creature in Fouke, a town southwest of Texarkana, where retailers still capitalize on the connection to what was called the Fouke Monster.

Squitiero said her father's autobiographical notes indicated "Legend of Boggy Creek" was made for $160,000 but ultimately made $25 million after it became a cult hit.

Pierce's directing credits include "The Town That Dreaded Sundown" in 1977, "Winterhawk" in 1975 and "Sacred Ground" in 1983.

He was also credited with Earl E. Smith for writing the story for the 1983 Clint Eastwood film "Sudden Impact."

Aaron Cohen

Former Space Center director

Aaron Cohen, 79, the former director of NASA's Johnson Space Center who helped create the space shuttle program, died Feb. 25 in College Station, Texas, after a long fight with cancer, NASA announced.

Cohen was named director of the Johnson Space Center in 1986 after the space shuttle Challenger exploded, killing teacher Christa McAuliffe and six astronauts.

Cohen was at the helm when shuttle flights resumed nearly three years later and continued to lead the center until 1993. He resigned from NASA to teach at Texas A&M University, his alma mater.

"His engineering expertise and rigor were tremendous assets to our nation and NASA," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement.

Cohen, a mechanical engineer, was born Jan. 31, 1931, in Texas. He joined NASA in 1962 and managed the computer guidance systems for the Apollo command module and the landing module that first carried astronauts to the moon's surface. He was a leader in developing the shuttle.

Paul Serchia

AIDS activist and blogger

Paul Serchia, 52, a writer, editor, and marketing and design consultant who chronicled his battle against cancer and HIV on his blog, “Thinking Positive: a Blog about Cancer and AIDS,” died March 1 at a convalescent home in Los Angeles.

Serchia, HIV-positive since 1991, was diagnosed with cancer in January 2009. His partner, Bill Coady, died of AIDS in 1991.

A New York native, Serchia received a bachelor's in journalism from Pepperdine University in 1980. He worked as an editor and editorial cartoonist at the Thousand Oaks News Chronicle before becoming publications manager at AIDS Project Los Angeles.

Since 2005 he had worked at the Saba Free Clinic as a communications associate.

Serchia was active in AIDS awareness campaigns and was an avid member of the Positive Pedalers, a group of HIV-positive cyclists who take part in a San Francisco-to-L.A. ride that raises awareness and funds for the fight against the disease.

-- times staff and wire reports

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