PASSINGS: Gordon Tootoosis, Eddy Nicholson, Mika Myllyla, Anna Massey, Robert H. Widmer, Richard Poff

Gordon Tootoosis

Actor known for Native American roles


Gordon Tootoosis, 69, a Canadian actor who often played Native American characters in movies and on television, including One Stab in the 1994 epic western

died Tuesday at a hospital in Saskatoon, Canada, said his agent, MaryJane MacCallum.

As One Stab, Tootoosis portrayed the venerable Cree who watches overBrad Pitt,Aidan Quinn and Henry Thomas, the on-screen sons ofAnthony Hopkins' Col. Ludlow. Tootoosis also provided the film's narration.

On television, he had roles in HBO's 2007 adaptation ofDee Brown's "Bury MyHeart at Wounded Knee," the 1993 CBS TV movie "Call of the Wild" withRick Schroder, as well as the Canadian productions "North of 60," ""Wapos Bay" and "Blackstone," among others.

Tootoosis also acted on stage in Canada and was on the board of directors of the Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company.

Tootoosis was born Oct. 25, 1941, on Poundmaker Cree Nation land in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. He toured with the Plains Intertribal Dance Troupe in the 1960s and '70s and landed his first film role in the 1974 western "Alien Thunder," starringDonald Sutherland.

Active in First Nations politics in Canada, Tootoosis had served as a vice president of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations.

Eddy Nicholson

Antiques collector paid record prices

Eddy Nicholson, 73, a businessman who jolted the American antiques market in the late 1980s when he paid more than $1 million each for two pieces of early American furniture, died June 16 in Westlake Village. He had a form of progressive dementia called Lewy body disease, his family said.

Nicholson was president and chief operating officer of Congoleum Corp., a conglomerate with divisions in floor covering, auto parts and shipbuilding, in 1980 when he began aggressively collecting 18th century American antiques. In 1986 he broke the auction record for American furniture twice, paying $1.045 million for a Philadelphia pie crust tea table and $1.1 million for a Philadelphia wing chair.

The son of an assembly line worker at a Levi's jeans plant, Nicholson was born in Texas in 1938 and studied business at the University of Memphis, where he earned a degree in 1960. He joined Congoleum in 1975, rising to president and chief operating officer in 1980, when he and partner Byron Radaker took the company private in a $445-million leveraged buyout, at the time the largest in American history.

They made Congoleum profitable before selling off its various units for more than $800 million in 1986.

That year, Nicholson raised his auction paddle at Christie's to pay a record price for the tea table, an elegant piece with a chiseled, scalloped top and ball-and-claw feet. Then he broke his own record at aSotheby's auction by buying the world's most expensive chair, which the collector admired for the graceful sweep of the back and arms. He placed the two pieces side by side in an 1845 New Hampshire farmhouse he restored with his wife, Linda.

In 1995 Nicholson auctioned off his collection for $14 million because, he told the Boston Globe, his grandchildren couldn't sit on the million-dollar furniture and he loved his grandchildren.

Mika Myllyla

Finnish cross-country, skiing great

Mika Myllyla, 41, a former Olympic cross-country champion and Finnish skiing great whose life unraveled after a doping ban in 2001, died Tuesday in Finland. Police declined to give details except to say no crime was involved. National broadcaster YLE said he was found dead in his apartment in the northwest town of Kokkola.

Myllyla won six Olympic medals, including gold in the classical 30-kilometer race at the 1998 NaganoWinterOlympics. He won a silver in the 50-kilometer race in the 1994 Lillehammer Games, and four bronzes over both Olympics.

He was a four-time winner at the world championships and captured three golds and a silver at the 1999 tournament at Ramsau, Austria.

Myllyla's career, however, was interrupted for two years after his positive test at the 2001 world championships, with five other Finnish skiers receiving the same ban. He made a comeback but failed to qualify again for Finland's team and retired in 2005.

After the ban, Myllyla briefly attempted a career as a real estate agent. But he battled alcoholism and was convicted of aggravated drunk driving in 2008. He also was convicted of three assaults and was again caught driving drunk in 2010.

Myllyla was born in 1969 in the northern town of Oulu. He rose to the top ranks of Finnish skiing in the late 1980s and early 1990s, participating in his firstWorld Cup race in 1991.

He was known for his unwavering stamina and unconventional training methods, such as summer training in swamps.

Anna Massey

Prolific actress from acting family

Anna Massey, 73, a member of an acting dynasty best known for her supporting roles as a lonely spinster, died Saturday after a battle with cancer, her London agent Pippa Markham said.

The actress was born Aug. 11, 1937, in Sussex, England, into a performing family — her father was Canadian actorRaymond Massey and her mother British actress Adrianne Allen. Her brother Daniel Massey also became an actor, and her godfather was directorJohn Ford.

Massey made her West End stage debut at 17 in "The Reluctant Debutante" and her film debut in Ford's 1958 police procedural "Gideon's Day."

She had roles in films includingMichael Powell's classic chiller "Peeping Tom,"Otto Preminger's "Bunny Lake Is Missing," Alfred Hitchcock's "Frenzy" and the 2002 adaptation of "The Importance of Being Earnest," in which she played the comic governess Miss Prism.

Massey worked most frequently in television and was a stalwart of British perioddramas, appearing in TV adaptations ofAnthony Trollope's "The Pallisers,"Thomas Hardy's "Tess of the D'Urbervilles,"Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist" and many others.

In 2006, she played former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the TV drama "Pinochet in Suburbia."

The actress revealed in a memoir that she had struggled with depression and stage fright, and suffered a nervous breakdown in the 1960s.

Massey was married to actor Jeremy Brett for four years until 1962. She met her second husband, Russian scientist Uri Andres, 27 years later.

Robert H. Widmer

Pioneer in aeronautical technology

Robert H. Widmer, 95, a pioneer in aeronautical technology who designed an early supersonic bomber and launched top-secret government programs at the height of the Cold War, died June 20 in Fort Worth, Texas, his family said. No cause was given.

In the late 1940s, Widmer created and designed the B-58, the first long-range aircraft capable of sustained supersonic flight. He also was responsible for such projects as the Tomahawk cruise missile, and many of his designs are echoed in today's fighter jets, including the B-2 stealth bomber.

Robert Henry Widmer was born May 17, 1916, in Hawthorne, N.J. His father was a chemist.


Widmer graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., with a bachelor's degree in 1938 and a year later earned a master's in aeronautical engineering from Caltech.


In 1939, Widmer joined the Consolidated Aircraft Corp. in San Diego. After World War II began, he was transferred to the Fort Worth division, where he oversaw the B-32 and B-36 bomber programs.

Widmer's family said government agents were parked for years at each corner of the street outside the family's Fort Worth home because of his involvement with classified projects.

He retired from General Dynamics in 1981 and was a consultant until the mid-1990s for the company, now Lockheed Martin.

Richard Poff

Turned down Supreme Court bid

Richard Poff, 87, a former congressman and state Supreme Court justice from Virginia who turned down a chance to sit on theU.S. Supreme Court rather than have a confirmation fight over his civil rights record, died June 27 in Tullahoma, Tenn., Virginia Gov.Bob McDonnell's office announced. No details were given.

Poff, a Republican first elected to Congress in 1952, confounded state and national politicians in 1971 by telling President Nixon that he didn't want to be nominated for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court to succeed Justice Hugo Black, who was resigning.

Poff's proposed U.S. Supreme Court nomination drew heavy opposition from civil rights groups. In 1956 he had signed the so-called "Southern Manifesto" that insisted states could resist federal power and not integrate their schools. Poff later said he knew the manifesto had no value: "I can only say now that segregation is wrong today. It was wrong yesterday. It was never right."

Nixon nominated Virginia attorney Lewis Powell, who served until 1987. Poff was appointed to the Virginia Supreme Court in 1972. He retired in 1988.

Richard Harding Poff was born Oct. 19, 1923, in Radford, Va., the son of a railroad man. He attended Roanoke College in 1942 and 1943. During World War II, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for flying 35 missions as a bomber pilot in Europe. Poff earned a law degree from the University of Virginia in 1948.

--Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports