1997 in Review: So Long

We lost a couple of talented and unpredictable sometime-Knoxvillians, both of them long before their time. Unconventional music journalist Chuck Dean died at the age of 33 in New York in April, and famed jazz drummer Samarai Celestial, formerly a stalwart of the late Sun Ra's legendary Arkestra, died at 42 in November. A favorite of many local musicians, Samarai had moved back to his native Savannah last year, hoping to recover from a heart ailment.

Former furniture store magnate Jack Fielden, known in his TV commercials of the '70s and '80s as "Mad Jack" for outrageous stunts like jumping off buildings into vats of Jell-O, or scaling the side of the Plaza Tower, died just after Thanksgiving. Mad Jack, who made and lost a fortune, had fallen on bad times in recent years, but kept on plugging. When his health failed and he could no longer indulge in the Evel Knievel-esque stuff he so loved, he took up chess, and quickly rose in the ranks of that sedentary sport.

Boy Scout Troop 40's charismatic scoutmaster Ray Dyke died suddenly at age 50 just after conducting a two-week summer tour of the Rockies. And dependable TV newsman Hal Wanzer, a just-the-facts journalist from the days when a smooth hairdo and a happy smile weren't the main things we expected from a reporter, died this fall.

In February, Republican political boss Loy Smith died, leaving behind a whole county full of people with Loy Smith stories. Smith, a longtime state legislator who'd retired from public office to become an entrepreneur, had helped launch more careers—political and otherwise—than we can count.

© 1997 MetroPulse. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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