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PASSINGS: Gordon Tootoosis, Eddy Nicholson, Mika Myllyla, Anna Massey, Robert H. Widmer, Richard Poff

Gordon Tootoosis, actor, dies at 69; Eddy Nicholson, antiques collector, dies at 73; Mika Myllyla, athlete, dies at 41; Anna Massey, actress, dies at 73; Robert H. Widmer, aeronautical pioneer, dies at 95; Richard Poff, who turned down Supreme Court bid, dies at 87

July 07, 2011
  • Gordon Tootoosis was active in Native Indian causes in Canada.
Gordon Tootoosis was active in Native Indian causes in Canada.

Gordon Tootoosis

Actor known for Native American roles

Gordon Tootoosis, 69, a Canadian actor who often played Native American characters in movies and on television, including One Stab in the 1994 epic western "Legends of the Fall," died Tuesday at a hospital in Saskatoon, Canada, said his agent, MaryJane MacCallum.

As One Stab, Tootoosis portrayed the venerable Cree who watches overBrad Pitt,Aidan Quinn and Henry Thomas, the on-screen sons ofAnthony Hopkins' Col. Ludlow. Tootoosis also provided the film's narration.

On television, he had roles in HBO's 2007 adaptation ofDee Brown's "Bury MyHeart at Wounded Knee," the 1993 CBS TV movie "Call of the Wild" withRick Schroder, as well as the Canadian productions "North of 60," ""Wapos Bay" and "Blackstone," among others.

Tootoosis also acted on stage in Canada and was on the board of directors of the Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company.

Tootoosis was born Oct. 25, 1941, on Poundmaker Cree Nation land in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. He toured with the Plains Intertribal Dance Troupe in the 1960s and '70s and landed his first film role in the 1974 western "Alien Thunder," starringDonald Sutherland.

Active in First Nations politics in Canada, Tootoosis had served as a vice president of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations.

Eddy Nicholson

Antiques collector paid record prices

Eddy Nicholson, 73, a businessman who jolted the American antiques market in the late 1980s when he paid more than $1 million each for two pieces of early American furniture, died June 16 in Westlake Village. He had a form of progressive dementia called Lewy body disease, his family said.

Nicholson was president and chief operating officer of Congoleum Corp., a conglomerate with divisions in floor covering, auto parts and shipbuilding, in 1980 when he began aggressively collecting 18th century American antiques. In 1986 he broke the auction record for American furniture twice, paying $1.045 million for a Philadelphia pie crust tea table and $1.1 million for a Philadelphia wing chair.

The son of an assembly line worker at a Levi's jeans plant, Nicholson was born in Texas in 1938 and studied business at the University of Memphis, where he earned a degree in 1960. He joined Congoleum in 1975, rising to president and chief operating officer in 1980, when he and partner Byron Radaker took the company private in a $445-million leveraged buyout, at the time the largest in American history.

They made Congoleum profitable before selling off its various units for more than $800 million in 1986.

That year, Nicholson raised his auction paddle at Christie's to pay a record price for the tea table, an elegant piece with a chiseled, scalloped top and ball-and-claw feet. Then he broke his own record at aSotheby's auction by buying the world's most expensive chair, which the collector admired for the graceful sweep of the back and arms. He placed the two pieces side by side in an 1845 New Hampshire farmhouse he restored with his wife, Linda.

In 1995 Nicholson auctioned off his collection for $14 million because, he told the Boston Globe, his grandchildren couldn't sit on the million-dollar furniture and he loved his grandchildren.

Mika Myllyla

Finnish cross-country, skiing great

Mika Myllyla, 41, a former Olympic cross-country champion and Finnish skiing great whose life unraveled after a doping ban in 2001, died Tuesday in Finland. Police declined to give details except to say no crime was involved. National broadcaster YLE said he was found dead in his apartment in the northwest town of Kokkola.

Myllyla won six Olympic medals, including gold in the classical 30-kilometer race at the 1998 NaganoWinterOlympics. He won a silver in the 50-kilometer race in the 1994 Lillehammer Games, and four bronzes over both Olympics.

He was a four-time winner at the world championships and captured three golds and a silver at the 1999 tournament at Ramsau, Austria.

Myllyla's career, however, was interrupted for two years after his positive test at the 2001 world championships, with five other Finnish skiers receiving the same ban. He made a comeback but failed to qualify again for Finland's team and retired in 2005.

After the ban, Myllyla briefly attempted a career as a real estate agent. But he battled alcoholism and was convicted of aggravated drunk driving in 2008. He also was convicted of three assaults and was again caught driving drunk in 2010.

Myllyla was born in 1969 in the northern town of Oulu. He rose to the top ranks of Finnish skiing in the late 1980s and early 1990s, participating in his firstWorld Cup race in 1991.

He was known for his unwavering stamina and unconventional training methods, such as summer training in swamps.

Anna Massey

Prolific actress from acting family

Anna Massey, 73, a member of an acting dynasty best known for her supporting roles as a lonely spinster, died Saturday after a battle with cancer, her London agent Pippa Markham said.

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