- Associated Press - Thursday, October 1, 2015
Relative: Leon Varjian, known UW prankster, dies at 64

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Leon Varjian, who came to the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the 1970s to study in “the graduate school of fun” and ended up masterminding such famous pranks as the 1,000 plastic pink flamingoes on Bascom Hill and the Statue of Liberty head on frozen Lake Mendota, has died at age 64, a relative said.

A longtime mathematics teacher at Midland Park High School in New Jersey, Varjian was found dead at his home in Wood-Ridge, New Jersey, on Tuesday, his cousin, Barbara Sabonjian, told the Wisconsin State Journal. She said a heart attack was suspected.

Wood-Ridge police Det. Joseph Biamonte confirmed the death Wednesday to the newspaper but released no details.

Varjian was a noted prankster in Madison and at UW-Madison for several years in the late 1970s and early ‘80s. He took one-credit classes to remain eligible for the Wisconsin Student Association, the UW student government. He never graduated from the school.

Varjian was a student senator when he and sidekick Jim Mallon hit on the idea of making up a Pail & Shovel political party and running a mock campaign later described as “one continuing performance-art piece on the corruption of government,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

In a 2007 profile, Varjian told the Wisconsin State Journal that he came to Madison in the fall of 1977 with the goal of studying in “the graduate school of fun.”

That first semester he set up a table on the university’s Library Mall and persuaded more than 100 students to sign a petition calling for the UW to be renamed the “University of New Jersey” so “students could go to a fancy East Coast school without moving.”


Bear injures hiker in Glacier National Park

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Glacier National Park officials say a grizzly bear injured a Wisconsin man after the hiker surprised the sow and two cubs.

Park officials said in a statement Wednesday the 65-year-old man was hiking off-trail Tuesday in the Many Glacier Valley when he encountered the bears.

The sow grabbed and shook the man until he was able to deploy his bear spray. The encounter left the hiker with puncture wounds to his leg and injuries to his hand.

Officials say the man hiked back to his vehicle and drove to a hospital emergency room, where he was treated and released.

Park rangers say the bear’s response was defensive.

Park officials did not release the man’s name or hometown.


Woman sentenced for Waupaca County crash that killed teen

WAUPACA, Wis. (AP) - A 40-year-old woman accused of driving drunk in a crash that killed a teen in Waupaca County has been sentenced to a year in jail.

Heather Schmidt of New London was also sentenced Wednesday to 10 years of probation for the 2012 crash that killed 18-year-old Dylan Thorne. She had pleaded no contest in August to a count of homicide by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle.

A criminal complaint says an SUV driven by Schmidt crossed the centerline and hit Thorne’s vehicle head-on in the town of St. Lawrence. The complaint says a blood sample taken from Schmidt after the crash showed her blood alcohol content was 0.174 percent.

The last five weeks of Schmidt’s sentence will be served on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Thorne’s birthday and the crash’s anniversary for the next several years.


Police identify woman killed crossing Mount Pleasant street

MOUNT PLEASANT, Wis. (AP) - Police have identified a woman who was fatally struck by a car as she and her husband tried to cross a street in Mount Pleasant.

Mount Pleasant police say 71-year-old Ulla Theuer died at the scene Tuesday where her husband, 74-year-old Otto Theuer, was also struck. According to police, he was in critical condition Wednesday morning in the intensive care unit of a hospital.

Sgt. Paul Maccari tells The Journal Times of Racine (https://bit.ly/1N3C09Khttps://bit.ly/1N3C09K ) that a car dealership employee told an officer at the scene the Theuers might be the same couple who dropped off a car there before the crash.

Police have said the 44-year-old driver of the car was “very cooperative and very distraught.” Authorities are not considering alcohol and drugs to be factors.


Information from: The Journal Times, https://www.journaltimes.comhttps://www.journaltimes.com

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