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PASSINGS: Doris Betts, Norman Fruman, Stanley R. Resor, Greg Ham, Maersk Mc-Kinney Moeller

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Doris Betts

Southern author of short stories, novels

Doris Betts, 79, a novelist and writing teacher best known for short stories and novels that evoke the geography and mores of the South, died of lung cancer Saturday at her home in Pittsboro, N.C., her son Erskine said.

Betts was best known for her novel "Souls Raised From the Dead," which won the Southern Book Award in 1995. It concerns a dysfunctional family grappling with fate, faith and the limits of love. "Betts skillfully crosses generations with impressive knowledge of idioms, vocabulary and cultural tastes," Los Angeles Times reviewer Valerie Miner wrote.

The author ranged out of her native region for her last novel, "The Sharp Teeth of Love" (1998), which explores the unlikely fellowship of three damaged people whose troubles lead them to the Nevada wilderness.

Born in Statesville in western North Carolina on June 4, 1932, Betts was the only child of sharecroppers who later became mill hands. She learned to read before first grade and wrote poetry until she went to Women's College in Greensboro — now the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. She switched to prose and immediately won recognition for her short stories.

"Gentle Insurrection," her first collection of short stories, was published in 1954, and her first novel, "Tall Houses in Winter," followed in 1957.

Betts was a contemporary of such honored North Carolina authors as Lee Smith, Reynolds Price, Allan Gurganus, Tim McLaurin and Clyde Edgerton. With Max Steele and Louis Rubin Jr., she helped build a nationally recognized creative writing program at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, where she taught for three decades and was the first woman to serve as faculty chair. She retired in 2001.

Norman Fruman

Scholar wrote of Coleridge's plagiarism

Norman Fruman, 88, a scholar and educator whose controversial work on Samuel Taylor Coleridge showed the revered English poet and critic to be a plagiarist, died Thursday at his home in Laguna Beach. The cause was cancer, according to his family.

Fruman, who taught at Cal State L.A. before moving to the University of Minnesota, was best known as the author of "Coleridge, the Damaged Archangel" (1971).

A massive, scholarly investigation of Coleridge's life and work, the book "demonstrates the pathological split-personality origins of his innumerable literary misrepresentations, concealments, dissimulations and unacknowledged borrowings from Schiller, Schlegel, Lessing, Kant, et al.," the Kirkus Review said. Although other scholars had written about Coleridge's misrepresentations and borrowings, "No book I think will do more to indicate the dimensions of the 'problem of Coleridge' than Mr. Fruman's," critic Thomas Lask said.

Fruman was born in New York City on Dec. 2, 1923. In 1943, before his senior year at City College of New York, he was drafted into the Army, was commissioned as a second lieutenant and led a combat platoon in the Battle of the Bulge.

After completing his military duty, he returned to City College, earning a bachelor's degree in 1946. He earned a master's in education from Columbia Teachers College in 1948 and a doctorate in English from New York University in 1960. The Coleridge book grew out of his doctoral dissertation.

He taught at Cal State L.A. from 1959 to 1978 and at the University of Minnesota from 1978 to 1994. He was also a Fulbright professor at the University of Tel Aviv and helped organize the Assn. of Literary Scholars, Critics and Writers.

Stanley R. Resor

Secretary of Army at Vietnam War's peak

Stanley R. Resor, 94, who served as secretary of the Army for six years during a troubled period in its history that included the height of the Vietnam War, died April 17 at his home in Washington, D.C., said Ed Resor, a son.

When President Johnson, a Democrat, named the moderate Republican Resor to the position in 1965, the Army was in the midst of a rapid escalation of forces in Vietnam. After Richard M. Nixon was elected president in 1968, Resor held the post for three more years.

He introduced women into the service's top ranks in 1970 and helped bring about an all-volunteer Army, which began in 1973. But Resor also dealt with "the problems of society," which included drugs and race, Resor said in 1971, as well as low morale.

One of his final actions as secretary was to order the demotion of a two-star general who commanded the Army unit responsible for the My Lai massacre of civilians in 1968 in Vietnam.

Resor was born Dec. 5, 1917, in New York City. His father was president of the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency.

After graduating from Yale University in 1939, Resor served in the Army during World War II and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

He earned a law degree from Yale in 1946 and practiced corporate law before briefly serving as undersecretary of the Army in 1965.

From 1973 to 1978, Resor was as an ambassador in charge of negotiating troop reductions in Europe. He was named undersecretary of defense during the Carter administration but resigned after less than a year.

The father of seven sons returned to private practice in 1979 and retired in 1991.

Greg Ham

Saxophonist, flutist in band Men at Work

Greg Ham, 58, a member of the Australian band Men at Work whose saxophone and flute punctuated its smash 1980s hits, was found dead Thursday in his Melbourne home. Police said that his death did not appear to be suspicious but that the cause was under investigation.

Men at Work topped charts around the world in 1983 with the songs "Down Under" and a single that featured Ham on saxophone, "Who Can It Be Now?" The band won a Grammy Award as best new artist in 1982.

Born in 1953 in Australia, Ham met future Men at Work frontman Colin Hay in 1972 when they were high school seniors. The group started as a duo in 1979 but soon expanded to include Ham and two others.

"We played in a band and conquered the world together," Hay said in a statement. "The saxophone solo on 'Who Can It Be Now?' was the rehearsal take. We kept it, that was the one. He's here forever."

Ham, who also played keyboards, was known for the catchy flute riff on "Down Under." But the tune came under intense scrutiny after the band was accused of stealing the flute line from the classic campfire song with the line "kookaburra sits in the old gum tree."

The publisher of "Kookaburra" sued Men at Work, and in 2010 a judge ruled that the band had copied the melody. The group was ordered to hand over a portion of its royalties, and lost its last appeal in October. Ham later said the controversy had devastated him.

"I'm terribly disappointed that that's the way I'm going to be remembered — for copying something," he told Melbourne's the Age newspaper after the court ruling.

The band broke up in the mid-1980s but Hay and Ham re-formed the group in 1996 and continued to make occasional live appearances.

Maersk Mc-Kinney Moeller

Creator of Danish shipping, oil conglomerate

Maersk Mc-Kinney Moeller, 98, Denmark's richest man who created the country's largest enterprise, the shipping and oil conglomerate A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S, died April 16 in Copenhagen, his family announced.

The shy Mc-Kinney Moeller, who was listed on Forbes magazine's annual billionaire's list, turned two small shipping companies created by his father into a global giant with 108,000 workers across 130 countries. The Moller-Maersk group owns the world's biggest publicly held container shipping group, Maersk Sealand.

Mc-Kinney Moeller stepped down as board chairman in 2003, at 90. Five months earlier, the business titan had merged the two companies that formed the nucleus of the A.P. Moeller group, creating the current A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S.

He took over the closely held company in 1965 after the death of his father, Arnold Peter Moeller, who founded the business with one second-hand steamship in 1904.

Mc-Kinney Moeller's personal fortune was estimated at $1.5 billion, while assets under his family's control were worth about $22 billion.

His mother was American, and he was a staunch supporter of the United States.

During World War II, the group's ships were engaged in Allied service under British or U.S. flags. In addition, the A.P. Moller-owned Maersk Line Limited, based in Norfolk, Va., transported American troops and military equipment for the 1991 Gulf War and U.S.-led offensives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mc-Kinney Moeller was also known for philanthropy that included paying $440 million to construct Copenhagen's waterfront opera house, which opened in 2005.

-- Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports

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