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posted: 3/9/2013 5:37 PM

Notable deaths last week

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  • British rock guitarist Alvin Lee

    British rock guitarist Alvin Lee

  • Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, left, talks to actor Sean Penn.

    Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, left, talks to actor Sean Penn.

  • Dawn Clark Netsch

    Dawn Clark Netsch

From wire reports

Dawn Clark Netsch, a pioneer of Illinois politics who helped rewrite the state's constitution and broke ground as the first woman to run for governor on a major ticket, died Tuesday, just weeks after revealing publicly that she had Lou Gehrig's disease. She was 86.

Netsch, a former state comptroller and longtime state senator, was the first woman to get the Democratic nomination for governor in Illinois. She died early in the morning at home, said her nephew, Andy Kerr.

She announced in January that she had ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a degenerative disorder that weakens the nerves and makes it difficult to walk, swallow and speak, eventually leading to paralysis and death. Near the end of her life Netsch needed assistance to walk.

During her 18 years in the Illinois Senate, she was known as an expert in state finances, argued against the death penalty and sponsored the Equal Rights Amendment.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the fiery populist who declared a socialist revolution in Venezuela, crusaded against U.S. influence and championed a leftist revival across Latin America, has died at age 58 after a nearly two-year bout with cancer.

During more than 14 years in office, Chavez routinely challenged the status quo at home and internationally. He polarized Venezuelans with his confrontational and domineering style, yet was also a masterful communicator and strategist who tapped into Venezuelan nationalism to win broad support, particularly among the poor.

Chavez repeatedly proved himself a political survivor. As an army paratroop commander, he led a failed coup in 1992, then was pardoned and elected president in 1998. He survived a coup against his own presidency in 2002 and won re-election two more times.

George Saimes, regarded as one of the American Football League's best safeties and a member of the Buffalo Bills' Wall of Fame, has died after a lengthy battle with leukemia. He was 71.

Crompton "Tommy" Smith Jr. , a brazen jockey who guided Jay Trump to victory in the British Grand National in 1965, becoming the first American horse and rider to win the prestigious steeplechase, has died at 75.

Alvin Lee, the guitarist with the English blues-rock band Ten Years After whose pyrotechnic skill pushed the band to stardom at the Woodstock music festival, died March 6 in Spain. He was 68 and lived in Spain.

Although Lee lacked the commercial longevity of fellow British guitar stars Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck, he was well known for his flashy fretwork. A 1968 reviewer in the U.K. music publication Record Mirror dubbed Lee "the fastest guitarist alive." The label stuck and often frustrated the guitarist as audiences ignored his more lyrical work.

As a kid rooting around in the attic of his Chicago boyhood home, Allan Calhamer stumbled across an old book of maps and became entranced by faraway places that no longer existed, such as the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires.

That discovery and a brewing fascination with world politics and international affairs were the genesis of "Diplomacy," the board game he would create years later as a history student at Harvard University in the 1950s. After its commercial release in 1959, the game earned a loyal legion of fans in the U.S. and elsewhere that reportedly included President John F. Kennedy, Henry Kissinger and Walter Cronkite, among others.

Calhamer has died at 81.

Country singer-songwriter Claude King, an original member of the Louisiana Hayride who was best known for the 1962 hit "Wolverton Mountain," has died. He was 90.

Dirk Coetzee, a former commander of a covert police unit in apartheid-era South Africa who confessed to involvement in the extra-judicial killings of black activists, has died of kidney failure, a hospital said Thursday. He was 57.

Canadian country-folk singer Stompin' Tom Connors, whose toe-tapping musical spirit and fierce patriotism established him as one of Canada's biggest cultural icons, has died, his promoter said Wednesday night. He was 77.

William Moody, better known to pro wrestling fans as Paul Bearer, the pasty-faced, urn-carrying manager for performers The Undertaker and Kane, has died, the WWE said. He was 58.

Tom Borland, the MVP of the 1955 College World Series who later briefly pitched for the Boston Red Sox, has died. He was 80.

Joseph Frank, a longtime professor of literature whose five-volume biography of the 19th-century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky is considered a landmark of historical and literary scholarship, has at his home in Palo Alto, Calif. He was 94.

An Associated Press reporter who covered California's Central Valley for more than a quarter of a century has died. Joe Bigham was 76.

Jewel Akens, a pop singer who had a 1960s hit with "The Birds and the Bees," has died in Southern California at age 79.

Jerome Savary, a director who broadened the appeal of theater to French audiences and helped popularize musicals, has died at age 70.

Roy Brown Jr., the defiantly proud designer of the Ford Edsel, the chrome-encrusted, big-grilled set of wheels that went down as one of the worst flops in automotive history, HAS died at a hospice in Ann Arbor, Mich. He was 96.

Ford had invested $250 million in the venture, according to Automotive News. After the Edsel debacle, Ford transferred Brown to the company's office in England.

Pioneering meditation teacher Nancy Cooke de Herrera has died. She was 90.

Madonna, Sheryl Crow, Judd Apatow and Paula Abdul were among the students who learned Transcendental Meditation techniques at de Herrera's home in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Rabbi Menachem Froman, an Israeli settler known for his efforts to promote coexistence between Arabs and Jews, has died. He was 68.

John J. Wilpers Jr., the last surviving member of the U.S. Army intelligence unit that captured former Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo after World War II, has died at 93.

Bobby Rogers, a founding member of Motown group The Miracles and a songwriting collaborator with Smokey Robinson, has died at 73.

Rogers formed the group in 1956 with cousin Claudette Rogers, Pete Moore, Ronnie White and Robinson. Their hits included "Shop Around," "You've Really Got a Hold on Me," "The Tracks of My Tears," "Going to a Go-Go," "I Second That Emotion" and "The Tears of a Clown."

The popular Turkish singer Muslum Gurses, adored by many for his melancholic, Arabic-inspired songs, has died. He was 59.

Donald Glaser, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who invented the bubble chamber, a much-used device for making visible the invisible world of subatomic particles, has died at his home in Berkeley, Calif. He was 86.

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