PASSINGS: Phyllis Gebauer, Les Guthrie, Freda Koblick, Lee Ames, Brian Haw

Phyllis Gebauer

Longtime UCLA Extension writing teacher

Phyllis Gebauer, 82, a teacher for two decades in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program who recently donated to the program signed first editions by reclusive author Thomas Pynchon, died Wednesday at City of Hope in Duarte. She had cancer, said longtime friend Alice Dworkin.


Gebauer taught more than 60 classes — novel writing and later memoir writing — at UCLA Extension. Linda Venis, director of the UCLA Extension program, said Gebauer was an “incisive” teacher with a “droll and wicked sense of humor.”

She was born Oct. 17, 1928, in Chicago. According to a biography on Gebauer’s website, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Northwestern University. In the 1950s, Gebauer moved to Seattle with her husband, Fred, who worked at Boeing. She taught Spanish at a junior high school.

While in Seattle they became friends with Pynchon, then a technical writer at Boeing. When Pynchon started writing novels, the Gebaurers received an inscribed copy after each of his books was published. His first novel, “V,” was published in 1963.

Unable to find a full-time teaching job after moving several times to follow her husband’s aerospace career, Gebauer started to write. Her novel “The Pagan Blessing” was published in 1979 and the memoir “Hot Widow” in 2008. Her husband died in 1998.

Gebauer told The Times in May that when Pynchon lived in Los Angeles “he did a lot of research at the UCLA research library. He likes the idea of these books being used to fund scholarships.”

Les Guthrie

He helped develop King Harbor

Les Guthrie, 84, a developer whose projects during a long career included the King Harbor in Redondo Beach, died June 11 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said his son, Sean. The cause was a rare form of leukemia.

Guthrie was general partner of Marina Cove Ltd., which operates the King Harbor marina. He held the largest leasehold there for several decades. Beginning in the late 1960s, he built the Harbor Cove Apartments, the Chart House restaurant and expanded the marina, among other projects, his son said.

Leslie Clare Guthrie Jr. was born Oct. 21, 1926, in Los Angeles. He served in the Navy from 1944 to ’46 and graduated from UCLA in 1948 with a bachelor’s degree in engineering.

Guthrie built hillside homes in Los Angeles until 1952, when he was recalled by the Navy. While on active duty he earned a master’s degree in civil engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York. He left the Navy in 1959 as a lieutenant commander.

Guthrie was vice president and head of development during the 1960s at Janss Corp., which developed much of Thousand Oaks and Camarillo. He also was involved in projects in Sun Valley, Idaho, and Kaanapali, Hawaii.

Freda Koblick

Sculptor pioneered work in acrylics

Freda Koblick, 90, a San Francisco sculptor who was a pioneer in the use of acrylics as an art medium, died Saturday in San Francisco. She had renal failure and diabetes, according to William Rukeyser, a longtime friend.

Koblick was born in San Francisco on Aug. 20, 1920. While studying English and engineering at San Francisco State College in the late 1930s, she became interested in making art from what were then new materials, particularly plastic, which, as she told the San Francisco Chronicle a few years ago, appealed to her “fascination with transparency.” In 1939 she moved to Los Angeles, where she enrolled at the Plastics Industries Technical Institute.

In the early 1940s she returned to San Francisco and made a living by producing small decorative accessories, such as Lucite doorknobs, trays, candleholders and lamps. Architects eventually hired her to make larger pieces such as fountains and wall sculptures, but she yearned to make her own artistic statements.

By the 1960s she was creating large-scale works on commission and also taught at the Royal College of Art in London. Her powerful, elegant designs, praised by San Francisco Chronicle art critic Allan Temko for their “mythical grandeur,” were recognized with a Guggenheim grant in fine arts in 1970.

In 1985, she was one of 19 Californians named as “Living Treasures” by the California Creative Arts League and was included in a show organized by the league for the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento.

Among her best-known public commissions was a large acrylic hanging sculpture that was displayed during the 1980s in the United Airlines t1erminal at San Francisco International Airport.

Never married, Koblick spent her last decades living and working in a converted synagogue in the city’s Mission District.

Lee Ames

Illustrator created ‘Draw 50' series

Lee Ames, 90, a former Mission Viejo illustrator whose “Draw 50" books taught generations of children how to draw “elephants, tigers, dogs, fish, birds and many more” — the list eventually accommodated aliens, vampires and biblical figures — died June 2 at a nursing home in Huntington, N.Y.

The cause was congestive heart failure, said his wife, Jocelyn.

Lee Judah Ames, who was born Jan 8, 1921, in New York City and received no formal training in art, began his career when he was 18 and won a Walt Disney drawing contest. The prize was a job in Disney’s Burbank studio and $50 for a bus ticket. He worked as an entry-level animator on “Bambi” and “Fantasia” but grew homesick and returned east after three months.

After serving in the Army during World War II, he scored his first hits with illustrations for children’s historical books.

It was the “Draw 50" books that eventually made his name. Originally conceived as make-work in between jobs as a contract illustrator for the publisher Doubleday, they sold more than 2 million copies, according to Ames’ website. With little or no text, they showed aspiring illustrators how to draw a world of lifelike figures by breaking them into simple geometric elements and adding layers of detail.

Ames met his future wife on a blind date and they married in 1945. The couple lived in Dix Hills, N.Y., and later in Mission Viejo.

Brian Haw

Peace activist held 10-year protest

Brian Haw, 62, a British peace activist who staged around-the-clock protests outside Parliament in London continuously for 10 years, died Saturday in Germany where he was receiving treatment for lung cancer, his family said.

An evangelical Christian and father of seven, Haw set up camp opposite the Houses of Parliament in June 2001 to protest U.S. and British bombing raids on Iraq. Over the years, British officials tried — but failed — to shut down his protests and remove him from Parliament Square.

The protester’s work became the subject of a work of art in 2007, when former Turner Prize nominee Mark Wallinger re-created Haw’s camp in the Tate Britain gallery.

Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports