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Simon Channing Williams

British film producer

Simon Channing Williams, 63, a British film producer who made a string of acclaimed movies with director Mike Leigh, died Saturday after battling cancer for several years, his London production company said Tuesday.

Channing Williams died at his home in the county of Cornwall in southwest England, Thin Man Films said.

Born in 1945, Channing Williams began his career at the British Broadcasting Corp. He had a long association with Leigh, with whom he formed Thin Man Films in 1988. Together they produced 11 movies, including "Naked," "Secrets and Lies," "Topsy-Turvy," "Vera Drake" and "Happy-Go-Lucky."

The films won praise around the world. "Secrets and Lies," a gritty but warm family drama, won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award for best picture.

The Gilbert and Sullivan costume drama "Topsy-Turvy," 1940s abortion tale "Vera Drake" and quirky London comedy "Happy-Go-Lucky" also received Oscar nominations.

Leigh told the Guardian newspaper that Williams was "a natural-born producer -- a great leader, always an enabler, a protector; never a dictator or an interferer."

Channing Williams also worked with other directors, and in 2000 set up independent production company Potboiler Productions. It produced the Oscar-winning 2005 adaptation of John Le Carre's "The Constant Gardener," a tale of aid and diplomacy gone awry in modern Africa.

As a result of that film, Channing Williams helped set up the Constant Gardener Trust, which has funded sanitation and education projects among Kenya's poor. In December 2007, he was awarded the Order of the Grand Warrior, one of Kenya's top honors, for his work.

The Rev. Stanley L. Jaki

Prolific writer on science, theology

The Rev. Stanley L. Jaki, 84, a Benedictine priest who was a leading thinker in the philosophy of science and theology and on issues where those disciplines meet and diverge, died of a heart attack April 7 in Madrid, where he had traveled from Rome after delivering a lecture.

Jaki, who held doctoral degrees in physics and theology, was a physics professor for many years at Seton Hall University in New Jersey and achieved the rank of distinguished university professor in 1975. He wrote more than 40 books and hundreds of articles, chapters and essays, and also taught and gave lectures at scores of colleges, universities and institutions around the world.

In 1987, he received the Templeton Prize, an annual award given for advancing the quest to understand God. He was a strong proponent of the idea that Christianity created the intellectual climate that allowed science to flourish.

Jaki (pronounced YAH-kee) was born in Gyor, Hungary, in 1924. He was ordained a priest in 1948 and came to the United States two years later after earning a doctorate in theology at the Pontifical Institute of San Anselmo in Rome.

He taught at a seminary in Pennsylvania but, after losing his voice due to complications from a tonsillectomy, he enrolled in Fordham University's graduate program in physics and earned a doctorate in that discipline in 1957.

"A surgical mishap on my throat in 1953 gave me time to write and to think, and that's not always the case," Jaki told the Associated Press in 1987 after receiving the Templeton Prize. "Many writers of best-sellers don't think at all."

From 1957 to 1960, Jaki lived and worked as bookkeeper at the Woodside Priory, which he co-founded with six other Benedictine priests, in the San Francisco Bay Area town of Portola Valley.

Ernest Stempel

Former AIG vice chairman

Ernest Stempel, 92, a former vice chairman of American International Group Inc. and a self-made billionaire, died Monday after suffering a heart attack in Cape Town, South Africa, while visiting with his wife's family, said his New York-based attorney, Henry Christensen.

Stempel, who lived in Bermuda, had a personal fortune estimated at $1.3 billion as of last year, according to Fortune magazine.

Born May 10, 1916, in New York City, Stempel joined the organization that became AIG in 1938, working as a clerk while attending Fordham Law School at night.

After serving in the Navy during World War II, he was sent to Bermuda in 1953 and oversaw the American International Reinsurance Co.'s rapid growth in the British Atlantic territory. A vice chairman of the company starting in 1968, Stempel also developed operations in the Philippines.

-- times staff and wire reports news.obits@latimes.com

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