DR. WILLIAM CLOSE, 84
Former physician of the president of Zaire
Dr. William Close, a self-proclaimed country doctor who became the personal physician of Mobutu Sese Seko, former president of Zaire, and who played a key role in halting the 1976 outbreak of the lethal Ebola virus that terrified Zaire and surrounding countries, died of a heart attack Jan. 15 at his home in Big Piney, Wyo., according to his daughter, actress Glenn Close.
During his 16 years in Zaire, now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dr. Close was for a time the only surgeon at the 1,500-bed Mama Yemo hospital in the capital, Kinshasa; he eventually became its administrator. After the unrest associated with the removal of Mobutu from power in 1997, Dr. Close went back to the city to help rebuild the hospital's eight operating suites.
His connections to the Zairian military, for which he was the surgeon general, and to Mobutu were crucial to halting the terrifying outbreak of disease caused by the newly identified Ebola virus.
Eventually, he grew disillusioned by the growing corruption and disintegration of Zaire and returned home to fulfill his original desire - to become a country doctor.
Eventually settling on the least-populated county in the least-populated state, the Closes went to Big Piney.
ESTELLE BENNETT, 67
Member of Ronettes singing trio
Estelle Bennett, one of the Ronettes, the singing trio whose 1963 hit "Be My Baby" epitomized the famed "wall of sound" technique of its producer, Phil Spector, died at her home in Englewood, N.J. Police found her body in her apartment Wednesday after relatives had been unable to contact her. The time and cause of death have not yet been determined.
The Ronettes were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007; the hall's Web site hails the group as "the premier act of the girl group era." Among their admirers were the Beatles and the Rolling Stones; their exotic hairstyles and makeup are aped by Amy Winehouse.
They sued Phil Spector in the late 1980s, saying he had cheated them out of royalties by using their music in ways not authorized by their recording contract. For example, "Be My Baby" was played in the opening credits of the smash 1987 movie Dirty Dancing.
A trial was held in 1998, and in 2000, the judge ordered Spector to pay $2.6 million in past royalties and interest for the use of Ronettes songs as background music in movies, videocassette recordings, and advertising.
New York's highest court threw out that ruling on appeal in 2002.