Molly Kool

Molly Kool received her captain’s papers in 1939 and was the first woman in North America to become a licensed ship captain. She overcame superstitions about women working at sea and won the respect of male counterparts as she sailed her father’s 70-foot boat in the dangerous waters of the Bay of Fundy. (Associated Press)

George McKelvey

Comedian, folk singer

George McKelvey, 72, a comedian who provided a bit of a boost to Steve Martin's early stand-up career and later became a club owner known as the "godfather" of the Denver comedy scene, died of a stroke Friday in Hemet.

McKelvey, who began his career singing folk songs in the late '50s and switched to comedy in the early '60s, wrote and recorded the 1964 satirical song "My Radiation Baby (My Teenage Fallout Queen)," which also appeared on the LP "A Crowd of George McKelvey."

As a comedian, McKelvey appeared on the Merv Griffin and Johnny Carson shows and performed with the San Francisco improvisational comedy group the Committee before moving to Denver, where he helped found Comedy Works, George McKelvey's Comedy Club in suburban Aurora and Wit's End.

McKelvey's assist to Martin's budding comedy career came in 1967: After breaking his leg skiing in Aspen, McKelvey asked the 21-year-old Martin to fill in for him at a small folk club there.

"He generously offered me all his salary -- I think it was $300 for the two weeks -- which would be more than I had ever earned, anywhere, any time," Martin wrote in his memoir "Born Standing Up."

McKelvey was born in Chicago on July 22, 1936, and launched his career in his hometown after a stint in the Navy.

Molly Kool

Pioneer female ship captain

Molly Kool, 93, the first woman in North America to become a licensed ship captain, died Feb. 25 at her home in Bangor, Maine.

Kool got her captain's papers in 1939 and sailed the Atlantic Ocean between Alma, Canada, and Boston for five years, her friend Ken Kelly said.

Kool grew up in the village of Alma in New Brunswick, where she learned a love of the sea and sailing from her father, a Dutch ship captain. At 23, she made history by earning the title of captain after the Canadian Shipping Act was rewritten to say "he/she" instead of just "he," Kelly said.

She overcame superstitions about women working at sea and won the respect of male counterparts as she sailed her father's 70-foot boat in the dangerous waters of the Bay of Fundy, said Mary Majka, who joined Kelly in a fundraising effort to pay to move Kool's ancestral home from Alma to a knoll in nearby Fundy National Park overlooking the bay this spring.

"She was good enough that she won the respect of the old salts," Majka said.

Kool left New Brunswick after marrying Ray Blaisdell of Bucksport, Maine, in 1944. They were together for 20 years before he died. In the 1960s, she married businessman John Carney, who bought her a boat, which he dubbed the Molly Kool.

Robert E.A. Lee

Former Lutheran film executive

Robert E. A. Lee, 87, the former executive secretary of Lutheran Film Associates, died Feb. 27 of cancer at his home in Long Island, N.Y., according to an announcement from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Lee was perhaps best known for his role as executive producer of "A Time for Burning," a civil rights film that was ultimately nominated for an Academy Award in the documentary category.

Fred Friendly, the former president of CBS News, called it the "best civil rights film ever made."

The film recounted an Omaha pastor's efforts to have 10 couples from his church reach out to 10 African American couples from all-black churches in the area. But the program created substantial divisions within the pastor's church and ultimately led him to resign.

The film was shown on PBS in 1966, and a New York Times critic called it "the most accomplished and sensitive hour of television this season."

Lee was also publicist for "Martin Luther," a biographical drama made in 1953 that was also nominated for Academy Awards for art direction and cinematography. But several areas with large Catholic populations, including the predominantly Catholic province of Quebec, banned the public screening of the film.

Born in Spring Grove, Minn., Lee earned a bachelor's degree in music from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. He served as a Navy pilot in the Pacific during World War II and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

He directed the Lutheran Film Associates, a pan-Lutheran organization, from 1954 until his retirement in 1988 at which time he opened his own communication firm.

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