Other Notable Deaths


March 15, 2006

Lennart Meri, 76, a former president of Estonia, writer and film director whose relentless struggle against communist oppression helped the Baltic nation break free from the Soviet Union in 1991, died overnight at a hospital in Tallinn after a long illness, the presidential office said yesterday.

Mr. Meri became Estonia's first president after the country regained independence, serving from 1992 to 2001. He was widely credited for remaining tough with Russian President Boris Yeltsin in negotiations on the withdrawal of Russian troops from Estonia in 1994.

Born in Tallinn, Mr. Meri and his family were deported to Siberia after the Soviet invasion of Estonia during World War II. The family survived and returned to Estonia, where Mr. Meri studied history at the University of Tartu, worked as a theater dramatist and, later, as a producer of radio plays and films.

Mr. Meri was for decades one of Estonia's most prominent public intellectuals, an authority on the history, languages and cultures of the Finno-Ugric people. From 1990 to 1992, he served as foreign minister, and for a brief period in 1992 was ambassador to Finland.

A leader of the Baltic country's independence movement, he was elected president in October 1992 and re-elected in 1996.

An ardent nationalist who advocated free-market policies, he was one of a small handful of leaders of newly independent former Soviet republics who had no serious Communist past. He forged close relations with several world leaders, among them President Bill Clinton and Pope John Paul II. His health had been deteriorating, and in August 2005 he had surgery to remove a brain tumor.

Andrall E. Pearson, 80, founding chairman of the parent company of Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell, died Saturday after a heart attack at his home in Palm Beach, Fla., the company said Monday.

Mr. Pearson was president of PepsiCo and became founding chairman of Tricon Global Restaurants Inc. when it spun off from PepsiCo Inc. in 1997. After the acquisition of Long John Silver's and A&W All-American Food Restaurants in 2002, Tricon changed its name to Yum Brands Inc.

He was chairman and chief executive officer of the company until 2000, when Vice Chairman and President David Novak became chairman and CEO. Mr. Pearson remained on Yum's board.

Peter Tomarken, 63, host of the hit 1980s TV game show Press Your Luck, was killed Monday along with his wife, Kathleen Abigail Tomarken, 41, when their small plane crashed in California's Santa Monica Bay shortly after takeoff on a charity flight, authorities said.

The plane was on its way to San Diego to ferry a medical patient to UCLA Medical Center, said Doug Griffith, a spokesman for Angel Flight West, a nonprofit which provides free air transport for needy patients. Mr. Tomarken, the pilot, was a volunteer for the group.

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