Obituaries - Dec. 21, 1999


* Roger Frison-Roche; Mountaineering Writer

Roger Frison-Roche, 93, a mountaineer and writer who made the first live radio broadcast from the summit of Europe’s highest peak, Mont Blanc. Frison-Roche was born in Paris in 1906 and moved to Chamonix in the French Alps in 1923, when he began to train as a mountain and ski guide. In 1932, he produced the first live radio program from the top of Mont Blanc for Radio Lyon. During World War II he was a correspondent who covered the fighting in North Africa. He was arrested by the Germans, escaped and joined the French Resistance. He described his experiences as a freedom fighter in “Mountain Dwellers of the Night” and wrote a novel about that time, translated into English by Paul Bowles, called “The Lost Trail of the Sahara.” He wrote many books about mountaineering, including a well-received 1996 coffee table book, “A History of Mountain Climbing,” described by one reviewer as an “adrenalizing and copiously illustrated survey” of the world’s most challenging peaks and the adventurers who tackled them. “The normal human race is not made to live so high,” the noted alpinist wrote. His other books include “The Great Crevice,” “Arctic Light” and “Hunters of the Arctic.” On Thursday in Chamonix.

* Peter La Haye Sr.; Optical Entrepreneur

Peter G. La Haye Sr., 59, an entrepreneur who earned millions of dollars in the eye care industry producing implantable lenses for cataract patients, a diet supplement designed to prevent degenerative eye disorders and stick-on reading lenses for sunglasses. A high school dropout from Canada, La Haye left home at the age of 16 and began a career in optical manufacturing at Bell & Howell four years later. La Haye then formed his own company, Iolab, which by the late 1970s controlled nearly half the global market for implantable lenses for cataract patients. He eventually sold that company to Johnson & Johnson and retired at the age of 40. But by the mid-1980s, he was restless for work again and formed La Haye Laboratories, which made the dietary supplements. Last year, he sold that company to Nestle S.A. for a substantial price. In 1995 he formed another firm, Neoptx, which makes removable reading lenses for sunglasses. La Haye’s interests ranged far outside business, however. In 1982, he was one of the founders of Orbis International, a New York-based nonprofit organization that seeks to reduce avoidable blindness in developing nations. Since it was founded, Orbis has conducted nearly 360 training programs in 79 countries. Nearly 42,000 health care professionals have been trained, and Orbis doctors have saved or restored the sight of nearly 22,000 patients. Earlier this year, La Haye and his wife garnered national media attention when they put their 30,000-square-foot, five-acre waterfront estate, just down the road from Bill Gates’ home in the wealthy Seattle suburb of Medina, on the market at $45 million. On Dec. 12 in a private plane crash in Pennsylvania.

* Kazuo Sakamaki; First Japanese POW in WWII

Kazuo Sakamaki, 81, the first Japanese to be taken prisoner in World War II. As an ensign in the Imperial Japanese Navy, Sakamaki was captured by U.S. soldiers when his submarine armed with two torpedoes ran aground before the Pearl Harbor attack Dec. 7, 1941, and he swam to shore. The surprise attack killed or wounded 3,700 people, brought the United States into World War II and ignited the war’s Pacific theater. Sakamaki was moved around several American POW camps including one in Wisconsin where several Japanese were injured in a riot against camp guards. Although he published a book titled “The First Prisoner” in the 1950s, Sakamaki said little about his experiences as a prisoner of war. Falling into the hands of the enemy was considered shameful to the Japanese, and colleagues said Sakamaki had difficulty putting his feelings into words. When he returned to Japan at war’s end, Sakamaki began working for the company that eventually became Toyota Motor Corp., and from 1969 to 1983 was president of a Brazilian subsidiary of Toyota. He retired in 1987. On Nov. 29 in Tokyo.