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NPR source and close friend Yuli Wexler dies at 74

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Yuli Wexler, a friend of NPR, has died at the age of 74. If you've heard us say in recent months, Russian media reports, there's a chance that's because Yuli Wexler had passed along something he read or heard in his daily news consumption. He was married for more than 40 years to Martha Wexler, an editor at NPR. And we remember meeting Yuli as a man who'd brim with good humor and bubble with a breathtaking assortment of facts he'd discovered while inhaling books.

Yuli had been a refusenik in the old Soviet Union, a Jew refused permission to emigrate, whose family used to have to buy holiday matzo on the black market. Yuli finally got permission to emigrate, became an economist. Martha remembers how he took particular pleasure going to work for an international communications company and sitting across a conference table from Soviet officials, a refusenik to whom they had to listen. He was an utterly devoted father who watched operas with their daughters, Judith and Rebecca, while Martha worked the overnight shift, and would hear the next day how whatever Yuli had cooked set off smoke detectors. Yuli loved Bach and Glenn Gould's renditions, which he called musical X-rays, and he lived to find freedom, family, fulfillment and happiness. Our friend Martha Wexler told us, so that's a full life, right? Right.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.