Pham Van Dong,94, who served as Vietnam's prime minister...

Deaths Elsewhere

May 02, 2000

Pham Van Dong,94, who served as Vietnam's prime minister through three decades of war and reunification, died Saturday, a day before the 25th anniversary of the communists' biggest victory, government officials said yesterday in Hanoi. Mr. Dong, an architect of the communist revolution who combined personal charm with political toughness, had been hospitalized on life support for months before his death, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity.

Mr. Dong was among a few revolutionaries who wrested Vietnam from the French, then defeated U.S.-backed South Vietnam to bring the entire country under Hanoi's rule on April 30, 1975. Official ceremonies to mark the anniversary were held Sunday in Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon.

While Ho Chi Minh was the visionary and father figure, and Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap was the battlefield hero, Dong was the diplomat and government organizer. He became prime minister of North Vietnam soon after independence in 1954 and headed reunified Vietnam from 1976 to 1987.

During the long war with the South, Mr. Dong was the North's main spokesman to the world.

Harold Patton,71, whose 20,000 books comprised one of the largest private collections of black literature in the nation, died of cancer April 19. His home in Studio City, Calif., contained works ranging from 17th-century poetry by former slave Phillis Wheatley to late 20th-century novels by Terry McMillan.

He had rare first editions by authors such as Zora Neale Hurston, Jean Toomer, James Baldwin and poet Langston Hughes. The oldest book in the collection was Miss Wheatley's "Poems on Various Subjects," published in 1773.

As one-time stage manager for singer Ray Charles, Mr. Patton traveled the globe collecting books.

Bill Woods,76, a band leader who helped Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and other country music stars launch their careers, died Sunday in Bakersfield, Calif. He underwent triple bypass heart surgery about a month ago.

In the 1950s, he ran The Blackboard country music club in Bakersfield, which attracted many country music stars and helped develop what became known as the Bakersfield Sound.

Mr. Owens and Mr. Haggard were regulars at the club early in their careers. Years later, in 1972, Mr. Haggard honored Mr. Woods by recording the song "Bill Woods from Bakersfield."

Helen Eileen Beardsley,70, a mother of 20 children whose story was made into a 1960s movie starring Lucille Ball, died Wednesday in Healds@@hyphen@@burg, Calif., after suffering from Parkinson's disease for 10 years. She wrote a book about her brood called "Who Gets the Drumsticks?" It was later made into the movie "Yours, Mine and Ours," which also starred Henry Fonda.

Born Helen Eileen Brandmeir in Seattle, she married Richard North in 1949 and the couple had eight children. Mr. North died in 1960.

She married Navy Chief Warrant Officer Francis Beardsley, a widower with 10 children, in 1961. In 1963, her husband adopted her eight children, the largest adoption to date in California. The Beardsleys also had two children of their own.

Antonio Buero Vallejo,83, the Spanish playwright known for his opposition to the country's fascist dictatorship, died Saturday of complications from a stroke in Madrid, Spain. He was the recipient of the Cervantes Award, Spain's most prestigious literary award, and Spain's National Theater Award.

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