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Country Singer-Songwriter Townes Van Zandt Dies at 52

From News Services
Saturday, January 4 1997; Page B05
The Washington Post

NASHVILLE -- Townes Van Zandt, 52, a singer and songwriter who wrote the country hits "If I Needed You" and "Pancho and Lefty" and gained a cult following for his blues-inspired recordings about life's losers, died Jan. 1 at his home in Smyrna, Tenn., after a heart attack. He was recuperating from hip surgery.

The gaunt Fort Worth native began releasing albums in 1968, becoming one of a hard-living group of folk troubadours in that state that included Guy Clark, Jerry Jeff Walker and Mickey Newberry.

Although he was the son of a prominent oil family, he endured poverty. He also suffered from mental illness (as a teenager, he learned that he was a manic-depressive with schizophrenic tendencies) and alcoholism.

The characters in his compositions were usually down-and-out fringe figures fighting to survive or looking for a means to an end. His songs often told stories of prostitutes, bums, gamblers and other losers. But he said he wasn't always so somber as the desperate people who lived in his lyrics.

"I have a lot of heavy-duty songs," he said in a 1996 Associated Press interview. "I've always thought, if you took enough of them or any particular one seriously enough . . . you'd be in trouble."

In the song "A Song For," he wrote:

There's nowhere left in this world where to go

My arms, my legs they're a tremblin'

Thoughts both clouded and blue as the sky

Not even worth the rememberin'.

Don Williams and Emmylou Harris had a hit with Mr. Van Zandt's "If I Needed You," which reached No. 3 on the country charts in 1982. Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard teamed up the following year on a version of "Pancho and Lefty" that reached No. 1. Harris also recorded "Pancho and Lefty."

Mr. Van Zandt never had a hit as a singer, but he released a series of albums on independent labels such as Tomato, Poppy and Sugar Hill. His most recent was "No Deeper Blue," in 1994.

On stage, his tunes took on a spirit that usually overpowered his gaunt physique. He was rarely in good voice -- the effects of too much drinking and not enough sleep -- but his songs managed to rise above his limitations. Even when he stumbled in front of an audience -- Mr. Van Zandt was infamous for being carried off stage midway through a set -- his listeners never forgot the sad-looking fellow who sang about folks living on the edge.

He did not try to mold his talents for mass-market success, preferring to emulate the blues men he grew up admiring, especially Lightnin' Hopkins.

Latter-day artists such as Steve Earle, Hal Ketchum, Robert Earl Keen, the Cowboy Junkies and Rodney Crowell all cited the influence of Mr. Van Zandt. On the liner notes for Mr. Van Zandt's 1987 album "At My Window," Earle wrote, "Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world and I'll stand on Bob Dylan's coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that."

South Carolina-based Sugar Hill Records already had two Van Zandt albums scheduled for release in 1997: "Rear View Mirror," a reissue of a live album first released in the 1980s, on Jan. 21; and "The Highway Kind," a new live compilation, on March 18.


Author and Advocate

Anne Whitt Thompson, 66, an advocate for foster children and orphans who wrote about her own experience as an abandoned child in the 1983 book "The Suitcases," died of cancer Dec. 20 at Sibley Memorial Hospital.

Mrs. Thompson's book was published under her maiden name, Anne Hall Whitt. A condensed version was distributed by Reader's Digest in 21 countries. It was recorded in English and French by the Library of Congress.

It told of the lives of Mrs. Thompson and her two sisters as they were moved about as young children in orphanages and foster homes in North Carolina, after the death of their mother and abandonment by their father.

Mrs. Thompson, who lived in Gaithersburg, was born in Charlotte. Her mother died when she was 6, and she spent the remainder of her childhood years in orphanages and foster homes. She moved to the Washington area about 1950.

As an adult, Mrs. Thompson served on the Maryland foster care review board, and she was a trustee of North Carolina's Crossnore School, an orphanage where she had once lived.

As an advocate for children, she supported the concept of well-supervised group homes over loosely supervised foster care. In 1990, she initiated an informal "bring back the orphanage" campaign that helped focus national attention on problems in foster care.

Survivors include her husband, Richard C. Thompson of Gaithersburg; two sons, Richard C. Thompson Jr. of Arlington and Timothy Thompson of Washington; two sisters in Atlanta and North Carolina; and a granddaughter.


Federal Official

Bradley DeLamater Nash, 96, a retired federal official who had served as deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force from 1953 to 1956 and deputy undersecretary of transportation at the Commerce Department from 1957 to 1961, died Jan. 1 at Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Ransom, W.Va. He had pneumonia.

Mr. Nash also had served as mayor of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., from 1971 to 1977 and from 1981 to 1987. He had lived in Harpers Ferry since the late 1950s.

He was born in Boston and graduated from Harvard University.

In 1929, he came to Washington as secretary to President Herbert Hoover. During the 1930s, he was a financial adviser to the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and other New Deal agencies. He served in the Army in North Africa and Sicily during World War II and received a Bronze Star.

He retired from federal service in 1964 after having served as a historian and consultant with the National Park Service and a consultant with the U.S. Weather Bureau.

Mr. Nash wrote books on investment banking in England and on the U.S. presidency.

From 1977 to 1988, he served on the West Virginia Railroad Maintenance Authority.

His marriage to Elaine Hoffman ended in divorce, and his second wife, Ruth B. Cowan Nash, died in 1993.

Survivors include his wife, Virginia J. Ingram Nash of Harpers Ferry; and a stepdaughter, Lucy Hoffman Webb of Washington.


Capitol Hill Aide

Idajane McDowell "Jane" Ross, 77, a retired Capitol Hill aide and a secretary who had lived in Washington for 37 years before returning in 1996 to her native Richmond, died Dec. 29 at a Richmond hospital after surgery for a heart ailment.

From 1946 to 1955, Mrs. Ross had served as secretary to three Virginia governors. She came to Washington in 1959 as aide to Rep. Thomas N. Downing (D-Va.), a post she held until 1971.

From 1976 to 1978, she was executive secretary to the counsel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations. She was administrative secretary to Sen. Paula Hawkins (R-Fla.) in 1981 and 1982. She spent the last six years of her career as a confidential assistant to the assistant director of a White House commission for the preservation of historic black colleges and universities.

Mrs. Ross had done volunteer work for the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and CARE. She was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Colonial Dames, the International Eye Association and the Washington Black Tie, a social organization.

Her marriages to John B. Brawner and then to Dr. James K. Ross both ended in divorce.

Survivors include a daughter, Jane Taliaferro Brawner Alorn of Richmond; a sister, Mary McDowell Willard of Atlanta; and three grandchildren.


Riggs Vice President

Lundeen V. Steele, 87, who had been a vice president and assistant branch manager for Riggs Bank in Washington, died of pneumonia Dec. 29 at Woodbine Health Care Center in Alexandria. He had been an Arlington resident since 1930 before moving to Alexandria in 1995.

Mr. Steele was born in Florida and lived at a number of Army bases in the United States and abroad. During World War II, he served in the Army. After the war, he was a dockworker in New York before moving to Washington in 1930. That year, he joined the old Washington Loan and Trust Co. delivering packages as a runner. He remained with the company through its merger with Riggs Bank and was an assistant cashier, assistant branch manager and supervisor of bookkeeping and in 1971 became a vice president and an assistant branch manager. He retired in 1974.

He belonged to the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington.

His first wife, Ann Steele, died in 1989.

Survivors include his wife, Louise Steele of Arlington; a daughter from his first marriage, Nancy Dupree of Alexandria; a sister, Ruth Davis of Hereford, Ariz.; a brother, John Steele of Carlisle, Pa.; two grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.


Excavation Company President

Richard C. Morauer, 72, president of Morauer & Hartzell excavation company in Capitol Heights, died of cancer Dec. 31 at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He had lived in the Washington area nearly 60 years.

Mr. Morauer, a Philadelphia native, was raised in Riverdale and graduated from Hyattsville High School in 1941. He served in Europe during World War II as a pilot with the Army Air Forces. After the war, he joined the family excavating business and in the early 1960s, became president. In 1962, the company acquired Howat Concrete Co., which he also ran.

Through both companies, he helped build the J. Edgar Hoover Building, L'Enfant Plaza and various Smithsonian Institution buildings. He was also involved in the construction of the Metrorail system. In 1981, he co-founded the Charles County-based Goose Bay Aggregates, Inc., a sand and gravel mining company, and served as its chairman until his death.

Survivors include his wife of 47 years, Jeanne T. Morauer of Annapolis; a son, Richard Morauer Jr. of Bethesda; two daughters, Deborah M. Gallagher of Davidsonville and Susan F. Morauer of Jamestown, Colo.; and four grandchildren.



Muriel L. Klotz, 89, who had been a postmaster in Kentland and Riverdale, died Dec. 31 of heart ailments at Corsica Hills Nursing Home in Centreville, Md. She had lived in the Washington area nearly 40 years before moving in 1975.

Mrs. Klotz, a Philadelphia native, moved to Washington in 1936 and headed the claims department at Palace Laundry until the late 1960s. She then became postmaster for a post office branch housed in a Kay Cee drugstore in Kentland and later transferred to Riverdale. She retired in 1973. She moved to North Wolcott, Vt., and Grasonville, Md., before her recent move to Centreville.

Her first marriage, to Robert W. Klotz, ended in divorce. Her husband of 69 years, Walter C. Klotz, died last year.

Survivors include four children from her second marriage, Charles Klotz of Crofton Robert Klotz of Lanham, Barbara Tallman of North Wolcott, Vt., and Karen Sutter of Bowie; 13 grandchildren; and 21 great grandchildren.



M. Rita Elaine Keiler, a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, died of pneumonia Dec. 10 at St. Mary's retirement home in Notre Dame, Ind. She was born in Washington and had lived in the area on and off until 1988.

She graduated from St. Paul's Academy in 1930 and entered the order in Indiana in 1931. Later, she graduated from Dunbarton College in Washington and between 1933 and 1963, was a parish elementary school teacher and principal in New York, Alexandria, Norfolk and Pennsylvania.

She then moved to Washington, where she served as school supervisor for the Sisters of the Holy Cross. In 1969, she became regional superior for the Sisters of the Holy Cross of the East Region and later served in the pastoral care department at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring until her 1985 retirement.

After retirement, she lived in Kensington until moving to Indiana in 1988.

She had no immediate survivors.


Church Member

Winifred M. Ward, 78, a longtime member of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Bethesda, died of pneumonia Jan. 1 at Potomac Valley Nursing Home in Rockville.

Mrs. Ward, a Chicago native, moved to Bethesda in 1958 and joined the church shortly afterward. From the 1960s to the 1980s, she was a bowler in the Good Counsel High School Mothers Bowling League in Wheaton.

Her husband, Martin J. Ward Sr., died in 1982.

Survivors include seven children, Martin J. Ward Jr. of Bethesda, Patrick T. Ward of Indian Head, Md., Terence R. Ward of Chicago, Brian D. Ward of Bethesda, Kevin R. Ward Sr. of Ocean City, Md., Dennis J. Ward Sr. of Bethesda and Philip J. Ward of Tucson; 15 grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.



Robert J. Urick, 81, a physicist who specialized in underwater acoustics, died of pneumonia Dec. 31 at the Manor Care Fernwood facility in Bethesda. He had multiple myeloma. He lived in Silver Spring.

Mr. Urick retired in 1975 after 15 years at the Naval Ordnance Laboratory in Silver Spring. In retirement, he was an adjunct professor at Catholic University.

He wrote books on his specialty, including "Principles of Underwater Sound," "Propagation of Sound in the Sea" and "Ambient Noise in the Sea," and more than 200 technical papers. He had received a Distinguished Civilian Service Award from the Navy and a Pioneers of Underwater Sound Award from the American Acoustical Society.

Mr. Urick was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and graduated from Brooklyn College, then did postgraduate study at Columbia University and California Institute of Technology, where he received a master's degree in geological science.

From 1937 to 1942, he did seismic exploration for Shell Oil and Texas Co., then joined the Navy's radio and sound laboratory in San Diego. He came to Washington in 1945 to work at the Naval Research Laboratory.

He was a professor of engineering at Pennsylvania State University from 1955 to 1957, then head of the research division at the Navy Mine Defense Laboratory at Panama City, Fla., until 1960. He then moved back to Washington to join the Naval Ordnance Laboratory.

His wife of 42 years, Julia Urick, died in February.

Survivors include three children, Marianna J. Bledsoe of Silver Spring, Robert M. Urick of Crownsville and Victoria Cole of San Diego; and seven grandchildren.


Foreign Service Officer

Robert Cary Hayes, 94, a retired Foreign Service officer and historian, died of cancer Dec. 29 at Suburban Hospital. He lived in Bethesda.

Mr. Hayes was born in Lewiston, Maine, and grew up in Ohio and Illinois. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Illinois where he also received a master's degree in history. He had done additional study at Columbia University and at the Sorbonne.

He taught school as a young man, and he came to Washington in the late 1930s to teach at St. Albans School for Boys. During World War II, he served in the Navy in the Pacific, then after the war joined the State Department's historical office, where he edited papers of wartime conferences and wrote foreign policy histories.

He transferred to the Foreign Service in 1957 and was posted in Uruguay as labor attache. He remained there until his Foreign Service retirement in 1962.

On returning to Washington, Mr. Hayes worked another 10 years as a writer and researcher in the division of foreign labor conditions of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

On retiring from federal service in 1972, Mr. Hayes took up painting, which he studied for several years in Provincetown, Mass.

Survivors include his wife, Grace Person Hayes of Bethesda; two children, Martha Anne Hayes of Silver Spring and Benjamin Russell Hayes of Gaithersburg; and three grandchildren.


Coach and Teacher

John Joseph Yednock, 73, a former physical education teacher and coach at Fairfax County's Mount Vernon High School, died of complications related to leukemia Dec. 31 at Fairfax Hospital.

Mr. Yednock, who lived in Alexandria, was born in Phoenixville, Pa. During World War II, he served in the Navy. He came to Washington after the war and graduated from George Washington University where he also received a master's degree in physical education.

In 1979 he retired from Mount Vernon High School after 25 years as a physical education teacher, football and baseball coach.

His wife, Esther Mary Yednock, died last January.

Survivors include nine children, James Yednock of DeForest, Wis., Robert Yednock of Fredericksburg, Va., Joan Marie Comstock of Billings, Mont., Christopher Yednock of Oklahoma City, Jeanette Burkett of Trafalgar, Ind., Karen Roose of Leetonia, Ohio, Patricia Mosley and Stephen Yednock, both of Alexandria, and Theresa Yednock of Lorton; and 15 grandchildren.



Carolyn Darcy Blair, 34, who had practiced internal medicine in Fairfax from 1987 to 1995, died of cancer Jan. 1 at Norton Hospital in Louisville.

Dr. Blair was born in Wilmington, Del. She graduated from Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa, and received her medical degree from the University of Louisville. She came to the Washington area in 1986 for a medical residency at Georgetown University Hospital, then in 1987 joined the group medical practice of Davidov & Associates in Fairfax.

In 1995, she relocated to Louisville.

She was a member of the Washington congregation of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Survivors include her husband, Dr. Alex Andriuk of Louisville; her parents, Dr. David and Joyce Blair of Charleston, W.Va.; a sister, Kelly Freyer of Pennsylvania; and a brother, David Blair of Madison, Wis.


Club and Church Member

Marianne Morgan Moses Smith, 75, died Jan. 1 in a fire at her home in Chevy Chase.

Mrs. Smith was born in Benton, Ill., and moved to the Washington area in 1946.

She was a member of the Chevy Chase Club and All Saints Episcopal Church in Chevy Chase, and she had been active in the Junior League and the Multiple Sclerosis Society. She had also participated in various Republican women's groups.

Her husband, Hugh R.H. Smith, a founding partner of the Washington law firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, died in 1989.

Survivors include five children, Leslie C. Smith of Washington, Lindsay R. Smith of Bethesda, Morgan C. Smith of Westport, Conn., Tilman C. Smith of Seattle and Scott R.H. Smith of Chevy Chase; and three grandchildren.


Agriculture Official

Robert O. Link, 81, a manager in the export marketing service of the Department of Agriculture, died Jan. 1 at the Manor Care facility in Bethesda. He had suffered several strokes.

Mr. Link, who lived in Chevy Chase, was born in Williamsport, Pa. He graduated from George Washington University.

During World War II, he served in the Navy in the Pacific, then settled in the Washington area. He retired from the Department of Agriculture in 1973.

Survivors include his wife, Thelma P. Link of Chevy Chase; two children, James R. Link of Vienna and Dianne L. Heinselman of Littlestown, Pa.; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.



Helen V. Hinton Springs, 63, a former secretary for the Office of Personnel Management and a lifelong Washington area resident, died of kidney failure and heart ailments Dec. 29 at the Washington Home Hospice.

Mrs. Springs graduated from Armstrong High School and later attended clerical training school. She worked as a saleswoman for several Washington specialty stores and was a volunteer for the D.C. Office of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and D.C. Superior Court. In the late 1960s, she worked as a clerk for the Census Bureau before becoming a secretary for the Office of Personnel Management in 1974, a position she held until her 1992 retirement.

She was a member of St. Augustine Catholic Church in Washington.

Her first husband, Willie B. Hinton, died in 1982.

Survivors include her husband of five years, Anderson Springs of Laurel; three children from her first marriage, Ronald Hinton of Capitol Heights and Renelle Anderson and Rhonda Swann, both of Washington; two brothers, Gilbert Daniels of Hillcrest Heights and Robert Daniels of Washington; and three grandchildren.

A daughter, Pamela Dena Hinton, died in 1961.

@CAPTION: Townes Van Zandt wrote the country hits "If I Needed You" and "Pancho and Lefty." His most recent album was "No Deeper Blue," released in 1994.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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