ENTHRONED. . NORODOM SIHAMONI, 51, former ballet dancer and prince; as King of Cambodia, three weeks after his father, Norodom Sihanouk, abruptly announced he would abdicate; in Phnom Penh. Sihamoni, who was educated in Prague and spent most of his adult life in Paris, participated in a spectacular ceremony involving 52 Buddhist monks and was crowned after eight silk-robed men carried him into the royal palace, where he and his father had been held for three years during the reign of the Khmer Rouge.
AILING. WILLIAM REHNQUIST, 80, Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court; with thyroid cancer; in Washington, D.C. The type and prognosis of his illness, which has prompted increased speculation on the future of the court, were not disclosed, although the additional announcement of a tracheotomy suggests an advanced or complicated case.
DIED. VAUGHN MEADER, 68, who satirized President John F. Kennedy in the best-selling album First Family; of emphysema; in Auburn, Maine. Meader was a stand-up comedian whose Kennedy satire, making fun of his “vigah” in an uncannily similar New England accent, caught on with a Kennedy-hungry American public and resulted in an album that quickly sold 7.5 million copies and won a 1962 Grammy for album of the year. Even the President thought it was funny; he bought 100 copies for Christmas gifts. When Kennedy was assassinated the following year, Meader’s career died with him.
DIED. LEWIS URRY, 77, whose invention of a long-life battery made possible a host of portable devices; after a brief illness; in Middleburg Heights, Ohio. In 1955, at Union Carbide’s Eveready lab, the chemical engineer was asked to make a battery that would last for more than a few minutes. He was quite successful: at a demonstration for company executives, one model car barely moved while another, powered with his now-ubiquitous alkaline battery, raced round and round the company cafeteria. Urry, according to his son Michael, was a modest man who “took special pride around Christmas, when there was a rush for batteries.”
DIED. ROBERT MERRILL, 87, powerful baritone who was a favorite at the Metropolitan Opera for three decades; in New York City. In his 30 years at the Met, he was regarded as one of the greatest Verdi baritones of his generation, singing the title role in Rigoletto many times. Unlike many opera singers of his age, Merrill never avoided the mainstream: he appeared occasionally in Las Vegas and his recording of the national anthem was used for many years to open games at Yankee Stadium.
DIED. GEORGE SILK, 87, a Life photographer for three decades; in Norwalk, Connecticut. A native of New Zealand, he joined Life during World War II; he was with American forces in the Battle of the Bulge and was the first to photograph the city of Nagasaki, Japan, when it was hit by an atom bomb. After the war, he adapted a photo-finish camera meant for horseracing into an instrument for capturing athletes in motion. In 1972, he was in Nepal on assignment when he got the news that Life had folded; he responded with “Your message ... badly garbled. Please send one-half million dollars additional expenses.”
DIED. LESTER LANIN, 97, society bandleader; in New York City. Known for a fast, two-beat tempo known as the businessman’s bounce, Lanin played at Grace Kelly’s engagement party, the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer, and almost every presidential inauguration since Eisenhower’s.
DIED. PRINCESS ALICE, DUCHESS OF GLOUCESTER, 102, aunt of Queen Elizabeth II; in London. Born Lady Alice Christabel Montagu Douglas Scott, daughter of the seventh Duke of Buccleuch, she married Prince Henry, brother of the Queen’s father King George VI, in 1935. Though her husband died in 1974, she kept up a busy schedule of official royal duties and charitable work into her 90s.