Ruth Bishop; Teacher, Antiwar Activist

Ruth Bishop, 95, a kindergarten teacher from Los Alamitos who was one of 110 California teachers subpoenaed in 1959 by the House Un-American Activities Committee. A native of Tyler, Texas, Bishop earned a teaching degree from UCLA in 1926. During World War II, she worked in the shipyards of Long Beach as a welder to help the war effort. But she was also a social activist, and in later years was involved in protests against the conflicts in Korea, Vietnam and Nicaragua. During the Red Scare of the 1940s and ‘50s, California schoolteachers faced at least nine major investigations by the state and federal governments. Scores of teachers were named as subversives and hundreds were fired. Largely because of Bishop’s stance against the Korean War, she was served with a subpoena in 1959 to appear before HUAC. In the process of being served, she chased a policeman off her porch with a broom. She was later arrested at Los Alamitos Elementary School, where she was teaching kindergarten and charged with battery, disorderly conduct and resisting a police officer. She pleaded not guilty to the charges and declared that HUAC “destroys people’s reputations merely by making charges.” After a jury trial, she was convicted and fined $600. HUAC’s influence in the country was waning, however, and the Los Alamitos school board voted to allow Bishop to return to the classroom. The hearings for which she was subpoenaed never took place. She retired in 1969 after 42 years of teaching. On May 15 in Long Beach.

Damon W. Hall; Decorated WWI Veteran

Damon W. Hall, 105, who received the French Legion of Honor for his World War I service. To celebrate the 80th anniversary of the end of the war, the French government has been honoring foreign soldiers who helped liberate France from German occupation in 1918. Hall was one of 300 surviving American veterans who served in France during the war and qualified for the medal. In February, a French diplomat visited Hall at the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton, kissed him on both cheeks and pinned France’s highest honor on his lapel. In the 18 months he served in France, Hall--a railroad fireman--never carried a gun or wore a military uniform. He spent all his time on trains hauling supplies from the port of St. Nazaire to depots deep behind the front lines. He once told an interviewer that he was aboard a train on Nov. 11, 1918, when he heard that the war was over. “All the flags were up,” Hall said, “and everybody was celebrating.” He recalled that a group of English truck drivers arrived in the town and began waving the Union Jack. One driver scaled a flagpole and put the British flag atop the French banner. Hall said a fight ensued in which the Englishman was killed. “Feelings run high when you’re tampering with someone’s flag,” Hall said. On Tuesday in Tilton, Mass.

Lyndon Waldon Lyon; African Violet Developer


Lyndon Waldon Lyon, 94, developer of 800 varieties of African violets, including the double-pink. Lyon’s passion for the plant was sparked in 1949 with the gift of a single African violet leaf from a niece. Lyon set up an African violet nursery under artificial light in his home, where he studied the plant and experimented with hybridization. By the mid-1950s, Lyon had a greenhouse with 5,000 plants. His double-pink African violet created a sensation at the national convention of the Africa Violet Society of America. He then bred the star flower, with five petals of about equal size. Normally, flowers of the African violet have three lower petals that are larger than the upper two. Despite his successes, Lyon did not leave his “day job” as a machinist until 1957. At his peak, Lyon was developing about 100 crosses each year. By the early 1980s, he had created about 800 varieties of African violets and was selling more than 100,000 plants a year in a wholesale-retail business in upstate New York. He eventually sold the business to his grandson and devoted most of his time to developing new, hardier strains of the miniature rose.

Lawrence W. Markes; Comedy Writer

Lawrence W. Markes, 77, a comedy writer and songwriter who also wrote for films and television. A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Markes graduated from the University of Miami and joined the Army Air Corp during World War II, rising to the rank of captain. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Legion of Merit for service in the European theater. After his discharge, Markes got a job as a page at NBC studios in New York City. He eventually became a writer, mainly for NBC properties, contributing jokes to Dean Martin, Alan King, Steve Allen, Dave Garroway and Jack Paar. During the 1950s, he began writing songs with partner Dick Charles. Their songs included “Mad About Him, Sad About Him, How Can I Be Glad Without Him Blues,” which was a hit for Dinah Shore, and “Along the Navajo Trail,” which was a hit for Bing Crosby. For the small screen, he wrote for “McHale’s Navy,” “The Flintstones,” and “Love American Style.” His feature credits include “Wild and Wonderful,” starring Tony Curtis; and “For Love or Money,” which starred Kirk Douglas. In the 1960s, he wrote political jokes for Ronald Reagan, Hubert Humphrey and Barry Goldwater. On Wednesday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.