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Deaths elsewhere

  • November 19, 2012 - 9:02 PM

Thomas W. Wolfe, 93, who as a Treasury Department official managed the United States' move off the gold standard and its economic consequences, died Nov. 5 at the Gardens at Fair Oaks assisted living facility in Fairfax, Va.

Wolfe worked at Treasury during the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations and he faced the difficult task of managing the technical details of the U.S. decision not to offer to exchange dollars for gold at a fixed exchange rate. By the time President Richard M. Nixon broke the gold pledge in 1971, it had become untenable as the United States faced potential demands for gold beyond its capacity to fulfill.

It fell to Wolfe, the deputy undersecretary at the Treasury who directed gold and silver operations, to figure out many of the details, carrying out the directions of Treasury Secretary John Connally and Paul Volcker, who was then the undersecretary for monetary affairs and who would later chair the Federal Reserve.

Wolfe led the government's efforts to sell off much of its gold and silver holdings in a manner that maximized the return on the sales. It was a particular challenge because the U.S. government was dumping such large supplies onto markets that could have collapsed prices to taxpayers' detriment, if not handled properly.

A New York Times article in 1970 described Wolfe as "particularly cheerful" as he pointed out that selling off government silver had actually earned a profit for taxpayers.

"To calculate what we earned since 1776 would take the world's best accountant and three computers the rest of the year," he told the Times.

Wolfe studied economics at Columbia University under the G.I. Bill and received joint bachelor's and master's degrees in 1949. He worked at the State Department before moving to the Treasury.

Martin Fay, 76, a classically trained violinist who helped revive traditional Irish music as a founding member of the Chieftains, died Nov. 14 in Dublin.

The Chieftains formed in 1962 as pacesetters of a new movement to reclaim the pure musical traditions of Ireland from the relatively slick commercial-sounding groups that had come to dominate the folk stage.

Fay played haunting fiddle lines and contributed popping rhythms by knocking together a pair of bones, a time-honored Celtic instrument. His fiddle is the first sound heard in the Chieftains' music for Stanley Kubrick's 1975 film, "Barry Lyndon," a performance that helped propel the group to world recognition.

In 1989, the Chieftains were appointed official musical ambassadors for the Republic of Ireland, a role they fulfilled by performing with the Rolling Stones, the Boston Pops, Willie Nelson and Luciano Pavarotti. They entertained Queen Elizabeth when she visited Ireland in 2011. They played before the pope and on the Great Wall of China. They have made more than 40 albums and won six Grammys.

Fay was born in Dublin on Sept. 19, 1936. Inspired to take up music after seeing a film about the violinist Niccolo Paganini, he studied the violin and won a scholarship to the Municipal School of Music in Dublin. He played in the orchestra of the Abbey Theater, Ireland's national theater.

Increasingly fascinated by Ireland's indigenous music, Fay was recruited by Sean O Riada, the leading figure in reviving the old music, to play in the ensemble he led, Ceoltoiri Cualann. Paddy Moloney, who played the traditional Uilleann pipes (the Irish bagpipes), started the Chieftains. The other original members, besides Fay, were Michael Tubridy on wooden flute, Sean Potts on tin whistle and David Fallon on the bodhran, a kind of drum.

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