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Obituaries in the news

David B. Ast

LAGUNA HILLS, Calif. (AP) -- David B. Ast, a New York dentist who helped show the effectiveness of fluoridated drinking water in preventing tooth decay, has died. He was 104.

Ast died Feb. 3 of heart failure at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills, where he had lived for several decades, said his daughter, Jill Michtom.

In 1944, Ast began a 10-year study of fluoridation that bolstered the use of fluoride in public drinking water to prevent tooth decay.

He selected two towns of similar size along the Hudson River, Newburgh and Kingston, and compared the health and dental records of their residents. During the study, Newburgh's water was treated with fluoride compounds, while Kingston's water was not.

The results showed that children in Newburgh had a 60 percent reduction in numbers of cavities between the ages of 6 and 9, and a nearly 70 percent reduction in cavities by the time they reached ages 12 to 14. Moreover, the study found no significant difference in the incidence of cancer, birth defects and heart or kidney disease between the two towns.

The use of fluoride in Newburgh was subsequently used as a landmark case study for other municipalities in New York State. In the 1950s, Ast and others successfully repeated the experiment in Mineola, on Long Island. Ast called for adding fluoride to New York City's water, which was finally done in 1965.

Ast, born in New York City, received his dental degree from New York University and a master's degree in public health from the University of Michigan.

He practiced dentistry and eventually became an assistant commissioner of New York State's health department.

After World War II, Ast spent nearly 18 months in Europe where he helped dentists re-establish dental clinics and resume their practices, Michtom said.

Ast's wife of 74 years, Isabel, died in 2003. The couple lived in Albany, N.Y., before moving to Laguna Hills in the 1970s.


Carl Luther "Hoot" Combs

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Carl Luther "Hoot" Combs, who played basketball at Kentucky for Adolph Rupp and was a football graduate assistant for Paul "Bear" Bryant, has died. He was 87.

Combs died Saturday at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Lexington. His son, Carl Salyer "Hooter" Combs, said a stroke and pneumonia were the causes of death. Combs got his nickname because he liked the cowboy film star Hoot Gibson and as a youngster would try to portray his hero.

Combs became UK's public address announcer in the early 1960s, working about a decade during the Wildcats' final years at Memorial Coliseum in basketball and Stoll Field in football.

He lettered in 1940 in basketball, and in 1938, '39 and '40 in football and was a former sports information director at UK, according to Scott Stricklin, associate athletics director for media relations.

Combs claimed to be the university's oldest living letterman, said Russell Rice of Daytona Beach, Fla., a retired UK sports information director and former sports editor of The Lexington Leader.

He graduated from UK in 1941, and he served with the Army in World War II in North Africa and Italy, earning several decorations. He returned to UK and earned a law degree and was in private practice for many years.

Combs moved to Hilton Head, S.C., in 1979 and returned to Kentucky in 2006.


Will Maslow

NEW YORK (AP) -- Will Maslow, a former leader of the American Jewish Congress and a civil rights lawyer noted for his efforts on behalf of minorities, has died. He was 99.

Maslow died Friday at his Manhattan home, said Belle Faber, director of development for the AJC.

Maslow, born in Kiev, Russia, moved to the United States in 1911, grew up in Chicago and attended Cornell University despite its restrictive admissions policies, an experience that influenced his commitment to civil rights causes.

While attending Columbia University law school he worked at The New York Times and as a model, and after a brief period in private law he became a counsel for the National Labor Relations Board.

Maslow devoted decades to challenging barriers to the rights of blacks, Jews and other minorities in employment, education and other fields. During World War II he headed a federal committee on employment practices, investigating discrimination in defense contracts.

At the AJC, he founded a legal office called the Commission on Law and Social Action, modeled on the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Through Maslow, the AJC became known for an aggressive legal approach, with noteworthy campaigns against racial bias at a Manhattan housing complex and job discrimination against blacks at a major Queens retail store.

Maslow filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Little Rock school discrimination case in the 1950s and helped organize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1968 civil rights march on Washington, D.C.

He was named executive director of the AJC in 1960 and served 12 years in that role, then continued as its general counsel into the 1980s.

In 1966, he quit the Congress of Racial Equality over an anti-Semitic remark by a CORE official.

Maslow, a nephew of Paula Ben-Gurion, wife of Israel's founding prime minister, was a dedicated Zionist and helped lead the Jewish state's fight against an Arab boycott in the 1970s.


George Preas

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) -- George Preas, who won two NFL championships on the offensive line of the old Baltimore Colts, has died. He was 73.

His death Saturday was confirmed by Oakey's Funeral Service, which is planning the memorial services. Preas, who had Parkinson's Disease, had been living in a nursing home.

Preas played for the Colts from 1955-65. Baltimore beat the New York Giants for the NFL title in 1958 and 1959.

His teammates on those teams included running back Lenny Moore, quarterback Johnny Unitas, receiver Raymond Berry, left tackle Jim Parker, defensive tackle Art Donovan and defensive end Gino Marchetti.

At Virginia Tech, he played offensive and defensive tackle.


Howard V. Ramsey

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Howard V. Ramsey, Oregon's last living World War I veteran, has died. He was 108.

Ramsey died Thursday in his sleep at an assisted living center in southeast Portland, said Sandra Linnell, one of Ramsey's two granddaughters

An Army corporal in France, Ramsey was a truck driver who ferried officers, carried water to troops on the front lines and returned the bodies of soldiers killed in battle.

By some accounts, he was the nation's oldest surviving combat veteran.

When Massachusetts veteran Antonio Pierro died Feb. 8, Jim Benson of the federal Veterans Administration said that left only seven World War I veterans on VA rolls. He said there could be three or four others not on the rolls, but it is difficult to be certain.

Ramsey was mentioned in a 2005 speech by Vice President Dick Cheney commemorating the 75th anniversary of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

"I recently read the story of a gentleman from Oregon named Howard Ramsey, who when he tried to get into the Army as a youth was rejected for being underweight," Cheney said.

"But he wasn't the kind of kid who gave up easily. Instead he went out and stuffed himself with water and bananas, and then showed up to be weighed again. This time the Army took him, and before long he was in Europe fighting for his country.

Ramsey was born in Colorado in 1898 and graduated from Washington High School in Portland in 1916. While in high school, he joined the Naval Militia and enlisted in the Army later that year. He returned to Portland around 1920 and later worked for Western Electric (later AT&T). He retired in 1963 at the age 65.