PASSINGS: William Weaver, Barbara Park, Sheila Mathews Allen, Billy Hardwick

William Weaver

Acclaimed translator of


prominent Italian writers

William Weaver, 90, one of the world's most honored and widely read translators, who helped introduce English-language readers to the works of Umberto Eco, Italo Calvino and many other Italian writers, died Nov. 12 at a retirement home in Rhinebeck, N.Y., his family said. The retired Bard College literature professor had been in poor health for years after a stroke.

An ambulance driver in Italy during World War II, Weaver went on to translate some of that country's popular and influential books, notably Eco's international bestseller "The Name of the Rose" and Calvino's singular historical tale, "Invisible Cities."

"He was a pioneer in bringing many of the most significant postwar Italian voices into English," said Jonathan Galassi, the publisher of Farrar, Straus & Giroux and himself an acclaimed translator of Italian poetry.

Born in Virginia on July 24,1923, William Fense Weaver was encouraged by his family to pursue his dream of becoming a writer. When he was sent to boarding school at the age of 12, his going-away present was a typewriter. As a teenager, he wrote poetry.

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, he vowed to become a conscientious objector but instead signed on with the American Field Service, which allowed civilians to drive ambulances. He served in Africa, then Italy, absorbing Italian through movies, plays, conversations and study of a grammar book.

After the war, he graduated from Princeton University and went on to graduate studies at the University of Rome. In a 2000 interview with The Paris Review, Weaver detailed a translator's travails. Calvino's writing had such distinctive rhythms that translating them was particularly challenging; Weaver said he worried that even a single misplaced comma would spoil the narrative.

He also endured the author's misplaced confidence in his understanding of English.

"Every now and then he would fiddle with a sentence in his English," Weaver said. "At one point, he fell madly in love with the word 'feedback', and he didn't realize that in America, 'feedback' is ... jargon and cliche, and you can't use it anymore. The word is dead to literature, but to him it was new and fascinating."

Barbara Park

Author of Junie B Jones

books for young readers

Barbara Park, 66, author of million-selling books about the mishaps of irreverent grade-schooler Junie B. Jones, died Friday after battling ovarian cancer, according to a statement from Random House Books for Young Readers. She was a longtime resident of Scottsdale, Ariz.

Starting in 1992, Park wrote more than 30 illustrated chapter books about the smart-mouthed girl with an ungrammatical opinion of everybody — her parents, her teachers, her friends and her classmate and enemy for life, May, who is so mean that she won't even acknowledge Junie's middle initial (which stands for Beatrice: "Only I don't like Beatrice. I just like B and that's all," Junie warned).

The books' titles alone were windows into Junie's slangy mind: "Junie B. Jones and Her Big Fat Mouth," "Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus," and "Junie B. Jones and That Meanie Jim's Birthday." Junie was stuck in kindergarten for years before Park advanced her to the next class, starting with Book 18 and "Junie B., First Grader (at last!)."

In an interview with, she said: "I find that when I'm struggling to think of how a 6-year-old would feel about something, I just have to go right down to the common denominator, find the simplest way that you can look at an object or a problem, and not muck it up with all of the stuff that adults do and over-analyze."

Park's books sold more than 55 million copies in North America, according to Random House, and the series was adapted into a popular musical theater production. Parents and educators occasionally objected to Jones' personalized language and cheeky ways, worrying that she was a bad influence on her fans. The series has appeared on the American Library Assn.'s list of "challenged" books.

Born Barbara Tidswell on April 21, 1947, in Mount Holly, N.J., Park remembered herself as a troublemaker who knew well the path to the principal's office. She had planned to become a teacher, majoring in education at the University of Alabama, but a year of being a student teacher for seventh-graders convinced her that any further classroom experiences should be confined to paper.

Sheila Mathews Allen

Actress married to

producer Irwin Allen

Sheila Mathews Allen, 84, an actress who married producer Irwin Allen and appeared in his TV shows and movies, including "Lost in Space," "The Poseidon Adventure" and "The Towering Inferno," died Friday at her home in Malibu of pulmonary fibrosis, according to publicist Melissa Zukerman.

In recent years, Allen had been an executive producer on several remakes of her husband's creations, including the 2006 Wolfgang Petersen disaster movie "Poseidon," and the 1990s documentaries "Lost in Space Forever" and "The Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen."

She was born Feb. 2, 1929, in New York City, began singing professionally as a child and eventually performed in musicals and acted on stage and in television.

She married Allen, a producer and director known for his science fiction adventure tales and epic disaster films, in 1975. By that time, she had acted in "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea," "Lost in Space" and "Land of the Giants" on TV and "The Poseidon Adventure" and "The Towering Inferno" on the big screen.

Her husband died in 1991.

Billy Hardwick

Hall of Fame bowler

won 18 PBA titles

Billy Hardwick, 72, a two-time Professional Bowlers Assn. player of the year and 18-time winner in his Hall of Fame career, died Saturday, the PBA Tour announced. According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Hardwick apparently died of a heart attack while traveling from his home in Sarasota, Fla., to Memphis, Tenn., where he owned a bowling alley

Hardwick was the PBA Tour's rookie of the year in 1962 and took player-of-the-year honors in 1963 and 1969. He was a three-time major champion, completing the PBA's Triple Crown by winning the 1963 PBA National, 1965 PBA Tournament of Champions and 1969 Bowling Proprietors Assn. of America All-Star (now U.S. Open).

In 1969, he won a then-record seven PBA Tour titles. That year, he starred in a Miller High Life ad and became one of the first professional athletes to appear in a beer commercial.

A native of Birmingham, Ala., who grew up in San Mateo, Calif., Hardwick retired in 1976 after developing arthritis. He was inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame in 1977 and the U.S. Bowling Congress Hall of Fame in 1985.

Hardwick's son Chris is a comedian who created the Nerdist podcast and hosts AMC's "Walking Dead" aftershow "Talking Dead."

Times staff and wire reports