LLANO – Marge Crumbaker, who covered Houston’s jet set for two decades as a gossip columnist for the Houston Post, died July 31 at her home in Llano. She was 93.
Crumbaker, who had worked at the original Houston Press before it closed in 1964, began her column at the Post in 1970, and her competition with the late Maxine Mesinger of the Houston Chronicle recalled the Hedda Hopper-Louella Parsons rivalry of Hollywood’s heyday. While Mesinger was more focused on glamorous Hollywood celebrities, Crumbaker preferred to focus on what was happening in Houston. Friends and colleagues remembered her support for the city and involvement in philanthropic and support groups.
She was also successful in real estate and other ventures. In 1977, she became a co-owner of the Prince Solms Inn in New Braunfels and supervised an extensive renovation of the hotel.
Crumbaker left the Post in 1989. The newspaper ceased publication in 1995.
Crumbaker was originally from Oklahoma and traced her roots to the Cherokee Nation there. She was a professional jazz musician before she entered the field of journalism. For five years, she had a position as musical director for Channel 11 and wrote a song for country singer Eddy Arnold. She also wrote a biography of the king of rock ‘n’ roll called “Up and Down With Elvis Presley.”
No services were held and burial was Aug. 3 at the city cemetery in Llano.
AUSTIN – Austin American-Statesman columnist John Kelso, known as “the bard of South Austin,” died July 28. He was 73.
In addition to writing his popular column for four decades, Kelso was the author of three books. Twice a cancer survivor, he retired from the Statesman in 2011 but continued to write a weekly column for the Sunday edition. His last column was published July 2.
A native of Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Kelso was raised in Maine. He attended the University of Missouri in the 1960s when he landed his first journalism job, a summer internship, at the Manchester Union-Leader in New Hampshire. He later worked at the Portsmouth Herald before serving in the U.S. Army.
After his military service, he went to work as a hunting and fishing writer for the Statesman’s sister newspaper in West Palm Beach, Florida.
He moved to Austin and the American-Statesman in 1976, and by 1977 had begun writing his column several times a week. For more than 15 years, he and Mike Kelley constituted a rarity among American newspapers: dual humor writers, with one or the other in the paper nearly every day. Kelso’s column continued after Kelley turned to writing news in 1996. Kelley retired from the Statesman in 2000.
Kelso’s column was named best in Texas multiple times by the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors. His work was also honored by the Headliners Foundation of Texas and the Society for Features Journalism. In 2005, he won the National Press Club’s Angele Gingras Humor Award for his body of work.
His books included “Bubba (he’s the one with his tongue hanging out)” in 1984; “Texas Curiosities” in 2000; and the autobiographical “Confessions of a Professional Smart Ass” in 2014.
He specialized in telling tales of the little-known and the truly odd, often spending much of the day bouncing prospective jokes off nearby reporters and editors — and shamelessly stealing their ripostes. He also was witheringly funny about politics — from City Hall to the White House.
Kelso is survived by his wife, Kay, and two stepdaughters, Lauren Williams and Rachel Cavin.
Memorial donations go to People’s Community Clinic in North Austin or Spinone Rescue of America, a New Hampshire organization that specializes in a dog breed that the Kelsos were fond of.
SPRINGTOWN – Jim Marrs, the author whose book helped inspire the Oliver Stone movie JFK, died of a heart attack Aug. 2 at his Wise County home.
Marrs, 73, who worked as a Star-Telegram reporter between 1968 and 1980, also authored books about everything from UFOs to population control. Additionally, he taught courses on the JFK assassination and UFOs at the University of Texas at Arlington before retiring in 2007.
In a 2003 Star-Telegram article, Marrs said lawyers, teachers, even an official with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had taken his classes.
Marrs was born Dec. 5, 1943, in Fort Worth. He earned a degree in journalism from North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas) and attended graduate school at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. In recent years, he had been a fixture on the overnight talk show Coast to Coast, and he also appeared on Alex Jones’ Infowars. Marrs was also an avid Civil War re-enactor and a World War II history buff.
Among his books were “Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy,” which reached The New York Times paperback nonfiction bestseller list. Other titles include: “Alien Agenda” (1997); “Rule by Secrecy” (2000); “The Terror Conspiracy Revisited” (2007); “The Rise of the Fourth Reich” (2008); “The Trillion-Dollar Conspiracy” (2010); “Our Occulted History” (2013); “Population Control” (2015); and his last book, “The Illuminati” (2017).
Survivors include his wife, Carol, and two daughters and three grandchildren.
Funeral services were private.
BEIJING – Mike Peters, 62, a writer and editor for publications ranging from The Dallas Morning News to the China Daily, died Aug. 16 at a Beijing hospital.
A native of Los Angeles, Peters grew up in Houston, where he was an Eagle Scout and graduated from St. Pius X High School. In 1978, he received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Houston, where he was editor of the student newspaper, The Daily Cougar.
Before joining to The Dallas Morning News, Peters worked for magazines and newspapers in Houston, and was editor and publisher of his own publications, including Texas Gulf Coast Gardening, as well as some newsletters and an almanac.
Peters started at The News as a copy editor for the paper’s weekly Guide section. He was assistant international editor when he left the newspaper in 2006. He was an editor at the Anchorage Daily News for two years until the paper cut his and dozens of other jobs in 2008. His next stop was First Alaskans magazine, where he assigned two-thirds of the stories, wrote the others himself, and was the designer and editor. He applied at the China Daily in 2009.
Colleagues and friends said Peters enjoyed travel and made friends around the world. He traveled to Taiwan when he was still in college and in later years, he traveled to Mexico and Canada. He first went to the Czech Republic and Germany in 2005 and visited Turkey and Iran in 2006. He made a more extensive trip to the Czech Republic, Turkey and Iran in 2008.
A China Daily assignment sent Peters to Turkey to cover a treaty signing, where he befriended the Turkish ambassador. On a later trip to China, the same ambassador invited Peters to join his group as a tourist to Iran.
As an editor, he was praised for his attention to detail and his knack for writing headlines. He also enjoying writing about food and culture in the countries he visited, including restaurant reviews.
Services were held at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing. Another memorial service was held in Houston after Peters’ ashes were returned to Texas.
Peters is survived by his parents, Agnes and Dennis Peters of Houston, and two brothers.
SAN ANTONIO – Longtime San Antonio film critic Bob Polunsky, famous for his colorful celebrity encounters and movie reviews on local TV, radio and in newspapers, died Aug. 20. He was 85.
Polunsky is credited as being the first professional movie critic in San Antonio. In addition to writing for the Express News, he worked with local radio station WOAI and served as general manager of KENS Television for many years.
A native of San Antonio, he attended college at Northwestern University, eventually transferring to University of Texas, where he earned a bachelor degree in journalism. At UT he was a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity, was active in theater and was a member of the Longhorn band.
He served in the US Army Reserve.
Polunsky was a staple of local newspapers, TV and radio for several decades during his 50-plus years as a critic. His signature feature, which appeared in the old San Antonio Light and later in the San Antonio Express-News from the early ’80s to the mid-’90s, was “Flicker Footnotes.” The report consisted of tidbits about actors and producers he met during his many movie trips.
Those remembrances and insights eventually were compiled into a book entitled “Bob Polunsky’s Flicker Footnotes” and published in 2003. Among the celebrities he wrote about were John Wayne, Barbra Streisand, Dolly Parton, Clint Eastwood and Michael Keaton.
Colleagues, both with newspapers and broadcast, and competitors, remembered him as friendly, cooperative and helpful, as well as a professional.
He was preceded in death by his wife Paulina and a daughter.
Survivors include a daughter, sister, granddaughter and other relatives.
Graveside services were held Aug 22 at Beth El Memorial Park in San Antonio. Memorials may be made to Temple Beth-El or a charity of choice.
FALFURRIAS – Marcelo Silva, owner and publisher of the Falfurrias Facts, died Aug. 2 in Kingsville. He was 69.
Silva had owned and published the Facts since 1981. He was an award-winning member of the Texas Press Association and also received the Governor’s Award for community service from former Gov. George W. Bush.
He was a veteran of the U.S. Army, serving during the Vietnam era.
Survivors include his wife of 47 years, Yvonne H. Silva, two daughters and three grandchildren.
A private family graveside service was held at Coastal Bend State Veterans Cemetery with visitation at Sacred Heart Parish Hall in Falfurrias.
Memorials may be made to any military charity.
GARLAND – Susan Verhault, a former Dallas Morning News copy editor for more than 20 years, died July 4 at her Garland home. She was 63.
Fond of horses since childhood, she volunteered for Equest Therapeutic Horsemanship, primarily with that group’s veterans program, Hooves for Heroes. She also was active in greyhound rescue efforts.
Verhault was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts and grew up in Lanham, Md. In 1972, she moved with her family to Dallas, where she was a dental assistant and attended Richland College. She also had training in dispute mediation and conflict resolution.
Verhault joined The Dallas Morning News in 1982. She was an editor for the newspaper’s TV magazine and wrote reviews and day-trip articles. She left the newspaper in 2006 but continued to contribute articles as a freelance writer.
Services were held July 8 at Sunnyvale Town Hall, 127 N. Collins Road in Sunnyvale. Survivors include her sister and brother, Kathy Cook of Lewes, Delaware, and Steve Verhault of Pahoa, Hawaii.
Memorials may be made to Equest or the Greyhound Adoption League of Texas.