Maria Franziska von Trapp, 99, the last surviving sibling of seven brothers and sisters portrayed in the Broadway musical and film The Sound of Music, died Feb. 18. Portrayed as Louisa in the hit film, von Trapp with her family fled Nazi Austria and settled in Stowe, Vt., where she died. She also worked as a missionary in Papua New Guinea.
Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., who’s served in Congress longer than anyone else in history, announced Feb. 24 he will retire at the end of this year’s term. Dingell, who will turn 88 in July, said he now finds serving in the Republican-led House “obnoxious,” with its prevalent acrimony and bitterness. Dingell championed the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and says he believes it will be his lasting legacy of nearly 60 years on Capitol Hill.
The board of directors of the Institute for Basic Life Principles placed its longtime leader Bill Gothard, 79, on “administrative leave” while the board investigates claims of sexual harassment and other misconduct. Gothard, who drew tens of thousands to auditoriums for week-long seminars on biblical principles and practical applications, faces accusations of sexual misconduct, including statements from 34 women going back to the 1970s.
North Korean officials freed John Short, 75, a Christian missionary from Australia arrested for handing out Bibles in Pyongyang. In a videotaped confession Short appeared to read before a roomful of spectators, he said, “I now realize the seriousness of my insult to the Korean people.” At least two foreign missionaries, including American Kenneth Bae and a South Korean Baptist, remain in custody. Bae was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor after his 2012 arrest.
A convicted Cuban spy freed by U.S. authorities returned to Havana on Feb. 28 to a hero’s welcome. Fernando Gonzalez, 50, a Cuban intelligence officer who was part of a ring known as the Miami Five, was greeted by Cuban President Raul Castro at the airport and feted on state television. He served 15 years in a federal prison for spying on Cuban exiles and U.S. military installations. Three members of the spy ring remain in U.S. prison; one was released in 2011.
Dayuma, the first convert of Jim Elliot and Nate Saint among the Auca tribe in Ecuador, died March 1. Born in the 1930s, Dayuma as a young girl fled tribal violence and was befriended by Saint’s sister Rachel, later converting to Christianity. When Elliot, Saint, and three others were speared to death by Aucas in 1956, Dayuma (or Dayumae) taught Rachel Saint and Elisabeth Elliot the tribal language and helped her own family to become Christians—a story chronicled in the 1957 best seller by Elisabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendor, and in Dayuma’s own speaking in the United States.