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Last Word
Listen to the latest editionFriday   16:00-16:30
Sunday 20:30-21:00 (rpt)

Radio 4's weekly obituaries programme
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This week
Friday 3rd October 2008
(Rpt) Sunday 5th October
Matthew Bannister
Matthew Bannister tells the life stories of people who have died recently: Warrant Officer Second Class Gary O’Donnell, Paul Newman, Boris Yefimov and Alys Lancaster.
Warrant Officer Class 2 Gary O'Donnell
Bomb disposal expert who has died aged 40

Warrant Officer Second Class Gary O’Donnell was one of the most experienced bomb disposal experts in the British Army. He was killed while trying to defuse an improvised explosive device near the town of Musa Qualeh in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.

Gary was serving with the Royal Logistic Corps. He had been awarded the George Medal for his courage during tours of duty in Iraq in 2006. Whilst stationed in Basra he handled 30 incidents, including manually defusing the rockets on a crashed helicopter and working for four hours in scorching temperatures to strip down a bomb. He had also served in Sierra Leone and Northern Ireland.

He was born in Edinburgh and joined the army when he was twenty four. He had four children, the youngest of whom was born just nine weeks before he died.

Matthew Bannister talks to some of Gary O’Donnell’s comrades by phone from Afghanistan: Sergeant Steve Limbrick, Warrant Officer Second Class Moxy James and Captain Mike Webb.

Warrant Officer Class 2 Gary O'Donnell was born July 21 1968 and died September 10 2008.
Paul Newman
Actor who has died aged 83

Paul Newman’s piercing blue eyes made his already handsome features even more alluring, but his success over nearly fifty years on the silver screen was based on much more than good looks. Nominated for Oscars ten times in five different decades, he carried off the golden statuette for the first time for Color of Money in 1986. His outstanding roles included the pool shark of the Hustler, the stud in Hud and the rebellious prisoner in Cool Hand Luke.

Paul Newman was born in Cleveland, Ohio and was a keen sportsman at school. He took up acting when he was kicked off the college football team for being involved in a bar room brawl. After war service in the navy and a spell running his father’s sports equipment store, Newman moved to New York where he studied at the home of method acting – The Actors Studio.

Matthew Bannister talks to Barry Norman.

Paul Newman was born January 26th 1925. He died September 26th 2008.
Boris Yefimov
Russian cartoonist aged 108

Boris Yefimov was the leading Russian political cartoonist of the 20th century and a witness to much of his country’s turbulent recent history. Born in 1900, he had seen the last Tsar and later met Lenin and became friends with Trotsky. At one time Stalin wrote the captions for his cartoons and he continued working until his death, being given the honorary title of Chief Artist of the newspaper Izvestia when he was 107 years old.

Boris was born in Kiev, the son of a Jewish shoemaker. He was a student at art school in the city during the Russian revolution. In order to escape persecution, he changed his name from the Jewish sounding Fridland to the more Russian Yefimov.

Matthew Bannister talks to Professor Robert Service of Oxford University and to the writer and broadcaster Zinovy Zinik.
Boris Yefimov was born September 28th 1900. He died October 1st 2008.
Alys Lancaster
The former face of Blackpool who has died aged 95

In her heyday in the 1930s, Alys Lancaster was a very British beauty queen. Under her maiden name, Alys Milner, she was a mannequin – nobody used the term “model” - who rode the wave of popularity for the new woollen one piece swimsuit to become Morecambe Carnival Queen, Miss Blackpool and Beauty Queen of the North. In 1936 she was chosen as the face of Blackpool for a widely distributed poster featuring the town’s famous illuminations.

When Alys married the wealthy property developer Gordon Lancaster, the wedding was covered in the society pages of the newspapers. The couple made their home at Northwood in Middlesex, where Alys continued to live until her death. 

Matthew Bannister talks to her neighbours for the last thirty years, John and Anne Matthews.

Alys Lancaster, nee Milner, was born December 17th 1912. She died August 9th 2008.
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