As we head into the new year, we look back at the remarkable local people we lost in 2020.
Weaver, designer, collector, gardener, author, world traveler, entrepreneur, teacher and cultural scholar, Jack Lenor Larsen was mentor to textile connoisseurs, designers, artisans and artists throughout his eventful and gratifying 93 years. He died peacefully on the evening of December 22, 2020 of natural causes at the LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton, the 16-acre garden and arts center that is his legacy. Larsen’s companion of more than 30 years, Peter Olsen, was at his side.
Cyril Fitzsimons, who owned and ran Cyril’s Fish House on the Napeague stretch for 25 years until it closed in 2016 amid controversy, died in the Bronx on Friday, April 24. He was 77, and died of COVID-19 complications at the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center. He had been recovering from a stroke at the Triboro Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in the Bronx, his son, Richard Fitzsimons said.
Rick Murphy, who worked for the Independent for 17 years, died on July 21 at the age of 70 at Southampton Hospital. His wife Karen Fredericks was by his side. As one of the most established journalists in Suffolk County, Murphy held awards from national and New York and Long Island newspaper associations. He has been nominated for a Pulitzer award twice and he was a six-time winner of New York Press Association’s award for Best Column.
Tony-winning playwright and East Ender Terrence McNally died on Tuesday, March 24 due to complications from the Coronavirus. He was 81. McNally was a groundbreaking and powerful theatrical voice with a huge body of work. He won Tony Awards for Ragtime, Master Class, Love! Valour! Compassion! and Kiss of the Spider Woman and received a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2019.
Harriett Gumbs, the matriarch of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, died the day before Thanksgiving. She was 99. Born and raised in poverty on the tribe’s reservation just outside of the Village of Southampton, she and her family lived behind Keep Out signs posted at every entrance into that community. Three men were the tribal chiefs. Women were not permitted to speak at tribal meetings, nor were they permitted to vote. In Harriett’s senior year at Southampton High School, the class went on a school trip to Washington, D.C., where she first encountered Jim Crow. She was required to stay at a hotel separate from her classmates because she was black. She could drink only from a water fountain marked “Colored Only.” She later said this experience had a profound effect on her.
Current Brooklyn Nets analyst Tim Capstraw said Bridgehampton graduate Robert “Bobby” Hopson “was not only a Hall of Fame athlete, but he was also a Hall of Fame person.” The news of Hopson’s April 21 death at age 48 after a long battle with diabetes shook his former Wagner College head coach. “Bobby was incredibly well-liked and respected among all he encountered,” said Capstraw, who coached Hopson from 1990 to 1994. “My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this time.”
Riverhead Town Justice Allen Smith, who was in public service for most of his 77 years, died Saturday at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore after suffering a brain aneurism. He had suffered a heart attack earlier this year but had recovered. “Justice Smith devoted his entire life to public service,” said Town Supervisor Yvette M. Aguiar. “A pillar of the community, he brought integrity and rectitude to all of Riverhead,” she said, adding that he was a former Riverhead Town Supervisor, town attorney and assistant Suffolk County district attorney.
Artist and gallerist Mark Humphrey died June 11 at The Kanas Center for Hospice Care in Quiogue, due to complications from cancer. He was 72. This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mark Humphrey Gallery in Southampton, which he established with his partner of 42 years, Larry Rundie.
Noted photographer and artist Peter Beard was found dead Sunday, April 19, in a thick wooded area not far from his Montauk home. Beard, 82, had been reported missing by his wife, Nejma, late in the afternoon on March 31. According to East Hampton Town police, Beard needed medication and was suffering from dementia.
Ruth Stevens Appelhof, 81, was more than the director of Guild Hall in East Hampton, a position she held for 17 years. She came to epitomize exactly how a sometimes difficult, always diverse position can be held: with glamour, class, and intelligence.
B. (Barbara Elaine) Smith, known for her effervescent personality, her style, her TV show, and her restaurants, died on February 22 at the home she shared in Sag Harbor with her husband, Dan Gasby. The former model, the first African American woman to grace the cover of Mademoiselle, and owner of B. Smith’s on the Long Wharf, had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in 2013 after fumbling for words on a cooking show. Both she and Gasby were vocal proponents of raising Alzheimer’s awareness.