Jennifer Jones, 90, a raven-haired actor who was nominated for Academy Awards five times, winning in 1943 for her portrayal of a saintly nun in The Song of Bernadette, died Dec. 17 at her home in Malibu, Calif. Known for her intense performances, she was one of Hollywood's biggest stars of the 1940s and '50s. Despite her heavily dramatic screen roles, she conveyed an aura of shyness, even aloofness offstage. She rarely gave interviews, explaining to a reporter in 1957: "Most interviewers probe and pry into your personal life, and I just don't like it. I respect everyone's right to privacy, and I feel mine should be respected, too."
Alaina Reed-Amini, 63, a Broadway star and TV actor best known for her long-running roles on Sesame Street and 227, died Dec. 17 in Santa Monica, Calif., after a two-year battle with breast cancer. She joined the Sesame Street cast in 1976 and played Olivia, a photographer and sister of the character Gordon. She remained on the show until 1988. On 227, she played the landlady and best friend of the show's main character.
Kim Peek, 58, the man who inspired the title character in the Oscar-winning movie Rain Man, died Dec. 19 after a major heart attack in the Salt Lake City suburb of Murray. He was a savant with a remarkable memory and inspired writer Barry Morrow when he wrote Rain Man, the 1988 movie that won four Academy Awards. The movie went on to win Oscars for best film and best actor for Dustin Hoffman, whose repetitive rants about being an excellent driver and the People's Court about to start were a hit with moviegoers. Although the character was technically fictional, Peek's father, Fran, said his son was every bit as amazing as Hoffman's portrayal of him.
Dr. Walter E. Stamm, 64, whose discoveries on the diagnosis and treatment of urinary tract infections and of the relationship between chlamydia and pelvic inflammatory disease saved thousands of women from infertility, died Dec. 14 in Seattle. He had been battling melanoma. His diagnostic and treatment recommendations "have remained the standard of care for physicians throughout the world, even now, 25 years later," said Dr. Lawrence Corey of the University of Washington, where Stamm spent the bulk of his career. Pelvic inflammatory disease is particularly insidious because it can lead to infertility or other problems even in the absence of overt symptoms.
Yitzhak "Ike" Ahronovitch, 86, the captain of the Exodus ship whose attempt to take Holocaust survivors to Palestine built support for Israel's founding, died Wednesday in northern Israel after a long illness. The Exodus 1947 ship left France in July 1947 carrying more than 4,500 people — most of them Holocaust survivors and other displaced Jews — in a secret effort to reach Palestine. At the time, Britain controlled Palestine and was limiting the immigration of Jews. The British navy seized the vessel off Palestine's shores, and after a battle on board that left three people dead, turned the ship back to Europe, where the refugees were forced to disembark in Germany.