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Passenger: Kristin Gould White

Sunday, October 28, 2001

Sins are sins, Kristin Gould White believed, but ignorance and boredom were two of the most egregious.

Kristin Gould White
dot.gif Freelance medical writer, 65, New York City
Daughter, Allison Vadhan
She was on her way to visit friends in California

Fluent in several languages, conversant in music ranging from Mozart to Michael Jackson, an author and inveterate traveler, White made a point of keeping both at bay through her capacious knowledge and a worldwide circle of friends.

White's passion was people -- whether they were the ancient Greeks, neighbors near her brownstone on New York's Upper West Side or the medical pioneers she depicted during her more than 30 years as a freelance writer.

Born Olga Kristin Osterholm to wealthy parents in Long Island, she was a high school valedictorian before graduating from Cornell University in 1957. She was married three times and divorced twice.

As a single mother of a 3-year-old daughter, White embarked on a career as a freelance writer, specializing in medical issues for such publications as Medical World News, Environmental Health Perspectives and the Journal of Women's Health. An equal opportunity freelancer, she even penned stories under a pseudonym for the National Enquirer tabloid.

Five feet 8 inches tall, she favored big sweaters and the low-keyed couture of Ann Taylor. Zipping around New York in her Saab convertible, she attended plays, concerts and the ballet, rarely going more than a week without listening to live music. Her retention of information was staggering, from the finer points of a biography of Samuel Taylor Coleridge to the German lyrics of an obscure song from the Three Penny Opera.

While proud of her Scandinavian heritage, White trumpeted the bit of Irish blood in her genes, and read everything she could about Ireland, from Yeats to anonymous playwrights.

One of the latter was a New York acquaintance of White's, a struggling author who in 1996 published a memoir about growing up in poverty-stricken Ireland during the 1930s and 1940s. White's friends say she loved the book but thought its style might keep it from reaching a broader audience. She bought 100 copies of the book, titled "Angela's Ashes," and handed them out to friends. The book and its author, Frank McCourt, won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for biography.

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