PASSINGS: Clara Claiborne Park, Ronald Gans

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Author wrote about

her daughter’s autism


Clara Claiborne Park, 86, an English instructor who gained international acclaim for the books she wrote about her quest to understand her daughter’s autism, died July 3 at a nursing home in Williamstown, Mass., of complications from a fall, according to her family.

When “The Siege: The First Eight Years of an Autistic Child” was published in 1967, the developmental disorder was a mystery to nearly everyone outside the medical community, and to many doctors as well.

Park and her husband, David, a physics professor at Williams College, had four children. Their youngest, Jessy, was diagnosed with autism at age 3.

At the time, “parental rejection” and “maternal estrangement” were often cited as causes for what is now accepted as a neurological disorder. Today researchers are still studying the genetic clues for the disease, which can manifest itself in repetitive behavior, communication difficulties and disconnected social interactions. Treatment has improved, but there is no cure.

In “The Siege” and Park’s follow-up work, “Exiting Nirvana: A Daughter’s Life with Autism” (2001), she described her family’s struggle to comprehend Jessy’s interior life.

A New York Times review said the 2001 book, which included a foreword by neurologist Oliver Sacks, “remains a monument to the patience and care that brought Jessy out of her sterile paradise, as well as a fascinating excursion into an otherworldly mind.”


Born Aug. 19, 1923, in Tarrytown, N.Y., Park earned a bachelor’s degree in English at Radcliffe College in 1944 and a master’s at the University of Michigan in 1948. She taught at Williams College from 1972 to 1994 and previously at Berkshire Community College.


Actor frequently did

film, TV voice work

Ronald Gans, 78, an actor whose voice was frequently used in movies and television, died June 29 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center from complications of pneumonia, said his wife, Theresa.

Gans acted and did voice work on “Lost in Space” in 1966-67 and appeared on such series as “It Takes a Thief” in 1968, “Quincy, M.E.” in 1977 and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” in 1988.


His voice work included the television series “Welcome to Pooh Corner,” “Dumbo’s Circus” and “The Transformers.”

Movie roles included “Tarzan and the Jungle Boy” in 1968 and “Runaway, Runaway” in 1971.

Ronald Kenneth Gans was born Aug. 9, 1931, in Chicago and his family moved to California when he was 14. He graduated from Beverly Hills High School and attended USC before serving in the Navy, his wife said. He started acting after leaving the service.

Gans’ voice also could be heard on commercials and promos for television shows and movies, his wife said.

Times staff and wire reports