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PASSINGS: Vern Mikkelsen, Ray Schonbak, Sylvia Browne

Vern Mikkelsen, Hall of Fame player with Minneapolis Lakers, dies at 85; Ray Schonbak, general manager at KSWB-TV in San Diego, die at 70; Sylvia Browne, author and TV personality claimed to have psychic abilities, dies at 77

November 22, 2013
  • James Worthy, left, introduces Vern Mikkelsen of the Minneapolis Lakers. When the Lakers moved to Los Angeles before the 1961 season, they asked Mikkelsen to come out of retirement and move west.
James Worthy, left, introduces Vern Mikkelsen of the Minneapolis Lakers.… (Los Angeles Times )

Vern Mikkelsen

Star forward with Minneapolis Lakers

Vern Mikkelsen, 85, a Hall of Fame basketball player who won four NBA titles with the Minneapolis Lakers in the early 1950s, died Thursday at his home in the suburb of Wayzata, Minn., his family told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He had been in poor health in recent years.

The 6-foot, 7-inch, 230-pound Mikkelsen was a six-time All-Star during 10 seasons with the Lakers. Though known for his hard-nosed defense, he averaged 14.4 points and 9.4 rebounds in his career and emerged as one of the first true power forwards in the league. He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995.

The Lakers drafted Mikkelsen in 1949. Playing alongside George Mikan and Jim Pollard, Mikkelsen won championships with the Lakers in 1950 and from 1952-54. He retired in 1959 with 10,063 career points and the NBA record for most games fouled out.

When the Lakers moved to Los Angeles before the 1961 season, the owners asked Mikkelsen, who had started an insurance business, to come out of retirement and move west.

"I didn't think they would get to Sioux Falls, much less L.A.," Mikkelsen told The Times in 2002.

Arild Verner Agerskov Mikkelsen was born Oct. 21, 1928, in Fresno. His father was a Danish minister in the Lutheran Church who moved the family to Askov, Minn., when Vern was in seventh grade. Mikkelsen became a standout center at Hamline University in St. Paul during its basketball glory days in the 1940s, helping it win the NAIA championship in 1949.

After his playing career ended, Mikkelsen was the coach and general manager of the ABA's Minnesota Pipers in 1968-69.

Ray Schonbak

General manager at San Diego's KSWB-TV

Ray Schonbak, 70, a veteran broadcasting executive who had been vice president and general manager of Tribune Co.'s KSWB-TV station in San Diego since 2008, died Wednesday at his home in Rancho Santa Fe, the station announced. He had cancer.

At KSWB-TV Channel 5/69, Schonbak oversaw the station's transition from the CW network to Fox and launched a weekday morning news show and an evening newscast. The Tribune Co. also owns the Los Angeles Times.

Raymond J. Schonbak was born Jan. 29, 1943, in Pittsburgh. After serving in the Army during the Vietnam War, he attended the University of Pittsburgh on the GI Bill.

He began his career as an account executive at a TV station in Portland, Maine, then went on to work in sales at TV stations in Denver and Albany, N.Y. He became general manager of WTCN-TV, the NBC affiliate in Minneapolis-St. Paul, before starting KDAF-TV in Dallas, which was one of the first Fox affiliates in the country.

He held executive positions at Triad Communications, Benedek Broadcasting, Koplar Communications and Emmis Communications, where he was chief operating officer overseeing 16 Fox affiliates, including those in New Orleans and Orlando, Fla.

Schonbak is survived by his wife, Deborah.

Sylvia Browne

TV personality, author claimed psychic powers

Sylvia Browne, 77, an author and television personality who claimed to have psychic abilities, died Wednesday at Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose, hospital officials confirmed, without specifying the cause.

Browne said she believed in reincarnation and could help people communicate with their dead loved ones as well as see the future. She was a regular on "Larry King Live" and "The Montel Williams Show," where she fielded questions on topics ranging from marriage and careers to ghosts.

Browne was criticized in 2004 after telling the mother of Ohio kidnapping victim Amanda Berry that her daughter was dead. Berry and two other women who had been held captive for years were later found alive.

A native of Kansas City, Mo., Browne was the author of dozens of books.

-- Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports

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