PASSINGS: Tom Wilson Sr., Jack Garner, Martha L. Willman


Tom Wilson Sr.

Creator of comic strip character Ziggy

Tom Wilson Sr., 80, creator of the hard-luck comic strip character Ziggy, died of pneumonia Friday at a Cincinnati hospital, his family said.


Wilson was an artist at the American Greetings Corp. card company in Cleveland for more than 35 years and first published Ziggy in a 1969 cartoon collection, “When You’re Not Around.”

Ziggy was launched in 15 newspapers in 1971 and now appears in more than 500 daily and Sunday newspapers. The character also has appeared in books, calendars and greeting cards.

His son, Tom Wilson Jr., took over the comic strip in 1987.

“Ziggy is a last-in-line character,” the son said. “The last picked for everything and kind of a lovable kind of loser character.”

Tom Wilson Sr. was born in 1931 in Grant Town, W.Va. He served in the Army before studying at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

Jack Garner

TV, film actor also was a golf teaching pro

Jack Garner, 84, an actor and golf teaching pro who appeared frequently on television with his younger brother, James Garner, died Sept. 13 at a hospice in Rancho Mirage after breaking his hip in a recent fall, his family announced.

Born Jack Edward Bumgarner in Norman, Okla., on Sept. 19, 1926, he was the second of three brothers. An all-round athlete in high school, he pitched for 11 years in baseball’s minor leagues before working at a golf course in Florida.

He moved to California in the 1960s, changed his last name to Garner and began singing at the Cocoanut Grove nightclub at the old Ambassador Hotel and acting on television.

He appeared dozens of times on his brother James’ series “The Rockford Files” in the 1970s and was a regular on his brother’s 1981-82 series “Bret Maverick.” He also had small parts in TV movies based on “The Rockford Files” series.

Garner, who also had a handful of bit parts in movies, was a golf pro at Oakmont Country Club in Glendale for many years before moving to Palm Desert.

Martha L. Willman

Veteran local reporter for the L.A. Times

Martha L. Willman, 68, a reporter who specialized in local coverage during her more than 30 years with the Los Angeles Times, died of cancer Sept. 15 at her home in Valencia, said her daughter, Kim Niemi.

“She just loved local reporting and had a sense that was where a reporter can have the most impact on a community,” said Bob Rawitch, who was executive editor of The Times’ Valley and Ventura editions, where Willman spent most of her career.

After graduating in 1964 from what is now Cal State Northridge, Willman worked at the San Fernando Sun before joining The Times as a staff writer in 1969.

She would amass more than 3,000 bylines before retiring in 2001.

In 1997, Willman received a first-place award from the Greater Los Angeles Press Club for an article about a Saugus couple’s struggle to get their children back from county welfare officials. Among her investigative pieces was a mid-1970s series on irregularities in California’s milk-pricing laws.

She was born Martha Lee Ball on Aug. 23, 1943, in Burbank.

With her husband, Minor D. Willman, she raised pure-breed Arabian horses for more than 20 years at their Santa Clarita Valley ranch. They had been married for 24 years when Minor, a former Times news editor, died in 1993.

— Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports