Deaths Elsewhere |

Nathan Green Gordon, Medal of Honor recipient

Nathan Green Gordon, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for rescuing 15 fellow airmen during World War II and later served 20 years as lieutenant governor, has died. He was 92. Gordon died Monday after suffering from pneumonia, said Allen Gordon, a nephew.

Gordon was piloting a Navy Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boat in February 1944 when he was ordered to search for downed pilots after a raid on a Japanese position along the Bismarck Sea near Papua New Guinea. Under fire, Gordon piloted the aircraft to three separate water landings, picking up nine men. On the way back, he learned of a life raft in the water and landed the already overloaded plane yet again, pulling six more airmen aboard while under heavy fire.

On his return to Arkansas, friends persuaded him to run for office and he wound up serving as lieutenant governor from 1947 to 1967, under four governors. Associated Press

Ralph Kovel, expert in antiques

Ralph Kovel, who with his wife co-wrote the popular Kovels' Antiques and Collectibles Price Guides that became a bible for antique shop and flea market treasure hunters, has died. He was 88.

Kovel, who had made his home in suburban Shaker Heights, Ohio, died Aug. 28 following complications after hip surgery, said Liz Lillis, a spokeswoman for Kovel and his wife, Terry.

The couple's price guides have been published annually since 1968. The 2009 edition was just released. The Kovels also published specialized guides to silver, furniture, art pottery and other antiques.

The publications will continue with the help of Kovel family members and staff, Lillis said. Associated Press

Ralph Plaisted, North Pole explorer

Ralph Plaisted, an insurance salesman-turned-explorer who in 1968 led the first expedition that indisputably reached the North Pole over the ice, has died. He was 80.

Plaisted died Monday of natural causes at his home in Wyoming, Minn., his family said.

Traveling by snowmobile, Plaisted and three other men reached the North Pole on April 19, 1968. An Air Force weather plane verified their position a day later and gave them a lift back.

The 1909 attempt to reach the North Pole by explorer Robert Peary, long credited as the first to make it there, was never validated by anyone outside Peary's party.

In 1988, Plaisted said Peary was a great navigator but his own difficulties in the Artic, including a failed attempt in 1967, had convinced him that Peary's claim was only wishful thinking.

Along the way, the Plaisted expedition encountered cliffs of ice 40 feet high, days of waiting for a two-mile-wide stretch of water to freeze, occasionally falling through the ice and temperatures reaching 65 below zero.

“(Peary) said he went to the North Pole in 37 days and came back over the same trail in 16, and we knew that couldn't happen because the roads we built were gone in a few hours,” said Plaisted. “Up there, there're 51/2 million square miles of ocean and it's moving constantly.”

“We knew Peary didn't do it. All the members of our expedition knew it,” he said.

His own expedition – 474 miles as the crow flies from the starting point at Ward Hunt Island, Canada – took a little over 43 days. Because of the dangers, Plaisted said in 1988, he “wouldn't go back there if you put a million dollars on my desk right now.”

In 1988, original navigational records uncovered from Peary's dog-sled voyage indicated the renowned explorer probably never got closer than 121 miles from the pole. But the Peary controversy has never been fully resolved.

When Plaisted's expedition reached the pole – which Plaisted called “one mass of jumbled ice not any different from anywhere else up there” – the group spent the night waiting for the U.S. Air Force plane to fly over and document their achievement.

“The next morning at 10 o'clock we had to move our tents some two miles so we could be in the same position as the night before,” he said. Associated Press