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updated: 2/8/2014 6:19 PM

Notable deaths last week

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  • Phillip Seymour Hoffman posing for a portrait at The Collective and Gibson Lounge Powered by CEG, during the Sundance Film Festival, in Park City, Utah, last Jan. 19.

    Phillip Seymour Hoffman posing for a portrait at The Collective and Gibson Lounge Powered by CEG, during the Sundance Film Festival, in Park City, Utah, last Jan. 19.

  • Poet Maxine Kumin

    Poet Maxine Kumin

  • Willie Mays tries to get Ralph Kiner's hat as the two Hall of Famers pose for pictures before the start of Old Timers Day game at Shea Stadium in New York.

    Willie Mays tries to get Ralph Kiner's hat as the two Hall of Famers pose for pictures before the start of Old Timers Day game at Shea Stadium in New York.
    Associated Press/Aug. 14, 1982

  • Joan Mondale poses for a photo at her home in Minneapolis in 2002.

    Joan Mondale poses for a photo at her home in Minneapolis in 2002.

Associated Press and wire reports

He was only 46, busy as ever and secure in his standing as one of the world's greatest actors.

There were no dissenters about the gifts and achievements of Philip Seymour Hoffman, whose death in New York brought a stunning halt to his extraordinary and unpredictable career.

An Oscar winner and multiple nominee, Hoffman could take on any character with almost unnerving authority, whether the religious leader in command of his every word in "The Master," a trembling mess in "Boogie Nights," or the witty, theatrical Truman Capote in "Capote."

Fearless in his choices, encyclopedic in his preparation, he was a Shakespearean performer in modern dress, bringing depth and variety to charlatans, slackers, curmudgeons and loners.

Friends, peers, family members and his countless fans were in grief after Hoffman was found in his Greenwich Village apartment with what law enforcement officials said was a syringe in his arm.

The two officials told The Associated Press that glassine envelopes containing what was believed to be heroin were also found with Hoffman. Those items are being tested.

Hoffman spoke candidly over the years about past struggles with drug addiction. After 23 years sober, he admitted in interviews last year to falling off the wagon and developing a heroin problem that led to a stint in rehab.

In one of his earliest movie roles, he played a spoiled prep school student in "Scent of a Woman" in 1992. A breakthrough came for him as a gay member of a porno film crew in "Boogie Nights," one of several movies directed by Paul Thomas Anderson that Hoffman would eventually appear in. He played comic, off-kilter characters in "Along Came Polly" and "The Big Lebowski." He bantered unforgettably with Laura Linney as squabbling siblings in "The Savages." He was grumpy and idealistic as rock critic Lester Bangs in "Almost Famous." He was grumpy and cynical as baseball manager Art Howe in "Moneyball."

In his Oscar acceptance speech for "Capote," he thanked his mother for raising him and his three siblings alone, and for taking him to his first play. Hoffman's parents divorced when he was 9.

Betty Moffitt, the mother of tennis great Billie Jean King and former major league pitcher Randy Moffitt, has died at 91. King announced Wednesday that she would not attend the opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics with the U.S. delegation because of her mother's failing health.

Marty Plissner, the longtime political director of CBS News, has died of lung cancer. He was 87.

Maxine Kumin, a prolific New England poet and U.S. poet laureate who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for her work "Up Country," has died. She was 88.

Kumin wrote more than three dozen books of poetry, fiction, nonfiction and children's literature.

Kumin was an advocate for women writers, social justice and animal rights. Her final work, "And Short the Season," is scheduled to be released later this year.

Robert A. Dahl, an esteemed and influential political scientist who in such books as "Who Governs?" championed democracy in theory and critiqued it in practice, has died. He was 98.

Ralph Kiner, a Hall of Fame baseball player who was one of the most prolific home run sluggers in the 1940s and 1950s and who later became a popular broadcaster for the New York Mets, died Feb. 6 at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. He was 91.

During a short but spectacular 10-year career, primarily with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Kiner hit 369 home runs and was named to six All-Star teams.

He topped the National League in home runs every year from 1946 through 1952, becoming the only player in history to lead his league for seven consecutive seasons.

Kiner twice belted more than 50 home runs in a season, and his total of 54 in 1949 was not surpassed by another National League hitter until Mark McGwire hit 70 for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998.

Kiner was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1975, and the Pirates retired his No. 4 jersey in 1987. A statue of him stands outside PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

Louise Brough Clapp, a tennis player who began competing on public courts in California and became one of the most celebrated athletes in the sport in the 1940s and '50s, a heyday for women's tennis around the world, died at her home in Vista, Calif. She was 90.

Brough -- fans from the era knew her by her maiden name, pronounced "Bruff" --was one of the most successful women's tennis players of her generation. She was ranked the No. 1 player in the country in 1947 and No. 1 in the world in 1955, according to the Hall of Fame, and amassed a total of 35 titles at the Grand Slam tournaments.

A dynamo in both singles and doubles, she played with or against Margaret Osborne duPont, Doris Hart, Pauline Betz, Althea Gibson and other leading athletes of the day.

Joe Finnigan, a veteran Hollywood reporter who chronicled the comings and goings of stars such as John Wayne, Frank Sinatra and even Lassie during a decades-long career, has died at age 88.

In the early days of his career, Joe Finnigan worked for United Press International in San Francisco, Phoenix and Seattle. He arrived at UPI's Los Angeles bureau in 1958 and became an entertainment reporter.

Among the stories he covered was the release of Frank Sinatra's son Frank Jr. by kidnappers in 1963.

He said he also witnessed a near fistfight between the volatile Frank Sinatra and Wayne when the two got into a dispute at a Hollywood party. It ended, Finnigan's son said his father told him, when Sinatra yelled, "'Are you getting this, Joe?"' after the much bigger Wayne grabbed him.

Vasil Bilak, a former hard-line communist leader who paved the way for Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, has died. He was 96.

Richard Bull, who played shopkeeper and put-upon spouse Nels Oleson on TV's "Little House on the Prairie," has died. He was 89.

"Everyone loved him so much," said Bull's "Little House" co-star Alison Arngrim, who played his daughter, Nellie, and remained close to him. "People are posting (condolences) in six different languages on my Facebook page."

Bull "was as Nels Oleson as you'd possibly want someone to be. He was calm, rational, sensible," Arngrim said.

The Illinois-born character actor appeared in a wide range of TV shows, from "Perry Mason" in the 1950s to "Mannix" in the 1960s to Kelsey Grammer's "Boss" in 2011. Bull played opposite his wife of 65 years, actress Barbara Collentine, in several projects.

Among the movies he appeared in were "High Plains Drifter" and "Executive Action," both in 1973.

Keith Allen, the first coach of the Philadelphia Flyers who became the general manager that built the organization's Stanley Cup championship teams of 1974 and 1975, has died at 90.

John J. Cali, co-founder of the family real estate business that today is Mack-Cali Realty Corp., a real estate investment trust, has died. He was 95.

Joan Mondale was given a grand platform when her husband was elected Jimmy Carter's vice president in 1976. And she used it.

The avid arts advocate lobbied Congress and the states for more spending on arts programs, and she traveled frequently to museums, theaters and artists' studios on the administration's behalf. She was so passionate that she earned the nickname "Joan of Art" and, in the process of pushing her cause, transformed the role of the second lady.

Beurt SerVaas, a businessman and Republican leader who played a key role in the revitalization of Indianapolis beginning in the 1970s, has died. He was 94.

William "Bunny Rugs" Clarke, the husky-voiced lead singer of internationally popular reggae band Third World, died of leukemia at his home in Florida, longtime friends and colleagues said. He was 65.

Clarke and Third World were known for seamlessly fusing reggae with soul and pop music, something they were occasionally criticized for by reggae purists. In a 1992 interview with Billboard magazine, he described the band's identity this way: "Strictly a reggae band, no. Definitely a reggae band, yes."

German conductor Gerd Albrecht, who led orchestras in the Czech Republic, Japan and Denmark and worked to bring music to children, has died. He was 78.

Puerto Rican comedian and actor Luis Raul Martinez has died at age 51 in his Caribbean homeland.

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