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PASSINGS: Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Jeno Paulucci, Walter Doniger, Lynn Margulis, Irving Elman

Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, ex-leader of Biafra, dies at 78; Jeno Paulucci, 93, a food entrepreneur; Walter Doniger, 94, a TV director; Lynn Margulis, 73, a biologist; Irving Elman, 96, a TV producer

November 27, 2011
  • Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, seen in 1966 when he was the military governor of east Nigeria, led the breakaway republic of Biafra during the country's civil war in the 1960s that left about one million people dead.
Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, seen in 1966 when he was the military governor… (Associated Press )

Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu

Nigerian secessionist leader in '60s

Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, 78, a millionaire's son who led Nigeria's breakaway republic of Biafra during the country's civil war that left 1 million dead, died Saturday in a London hospital after a long illness following a stroke, a Nigerian spokesman said.

When a 1966 coup failed, the country still fell under military control, and Ojukwu served as military governor for the southeast. In 1967, he declared the region — including part of the oil-rich Niger Delta — the Republic of Biafra. The announcement sparked fierce fighting as Nigerian forces slowly strangled Biafra into submission.

The Biafran war brought the first televised and haunting images of skeletal, starving African children to the Western world. Long reliant on other areas of Nigeria for food, the region experienced massive shortages. Despite the efforts of humanitarian groups, many died as hunger became a weapon wielded by both sides.

Shortly before Biafra collapsed, Ojukwu and his aides escaped Biafra by airplane in January 1970.

Ojukwu was born in 1933 in Nigeria to a businessman who made his money from the transport industry, according to media reports. Ojukwu attended military officer school in Britain, studied history at the University of Oxford and returned to Nigeria in 1956.

After fleeing in 1970, he spent a dozen years in exile and reentered politics after he came home. He lost a senate race and spent a year in prison when the country suffered yet another military coup.

Ojukwu later wrote his memoirs and lived the quiet life of an elder statesman until unsuccessfully challenging incumbent Coliseum Obasanjo for the presidency in 2003.

Jeno Paulucci

Food entrepreneur popularized pizza rolls

Jeno Paulucci, 93, a Minnesota business icon whose ventures included a company that popularized the finger food known as pizza rolls, died Thursday at his home in Duluth, Minn., just four days after his wife of nearly 65 years, Lois, died.

"Once my mother passed, my father was determined to be with her," their daughter Cindy Paulucci Selton told the Duluth News Tribune. "That was his wish, to be with Lois."

In 1944, Paulucci founded Duluth-based Chun King, which sold a line of canned Chinese food. He eventually sold that company to R.J. Reynolds Food Inc.

He would become the first chairman of R.J. Reynolds Food Co. before establishing Jeno's Inc., which specialized in the finger-food snacks called pizza rolls. It grew to be Duluth's largest employer and was sold to Pillsbury in 1985.

Paulucci was born July 7, 1918, in Aurora, Minn., to Italian immigrant parents. His father was an iron miner until an injury left him unable to work.

The family later moved to Hibbing, Minn., and at age 12 he began working at a food market. After high school, Paulucci became a traveling salesman for a wholesale grocer. He later began growing bean sprouts in Duluth, and then founded Chun King.

Walter Doniger

Prolific screenwriter and TV director

Walter Doniger, 94, a prolific screenwriter and TV director who directed dozens of episodes of the prime-time soap opera "Peyton Place" in the 1960s, died Thursday at his home in Los Angeles, said his wife, Susan Stafford Doniger. He had Parkinson's disease.

Walter Doniger: A brief obituary of screenwriter and director Walter Doniger in the Nov. 27 California section said that he wrote the screenplay for the 1949 movie "Rose of Sand." The correct title is "Rope of Sand." —

From 1964 through 1968, Doniger was one of the primary directors of "Peyton Place," the half-hour romantic drama serial that sometimes aired three times a week on ABC.

His many TV directing credits from the 1950s through the '70s included "Bat Masterson," "Ellery Queen," "Kung Fu," "Lucas Tanner," "Marcus Welby, M.D." and "Tombstone Territory."

Doniger also directed the 1962 baseball movie "Safe at Home!" featuring New York Yankee sluggers Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.

Doniger wrote TV scripts and screenplays, including the 1949 adventure drama "Rose of Sand" starring Burt Lancaster, Paul Henreid and Claude Rains; and "Stone Cold," a 1991 crime drama with former NFL player Brian Bosworth making his movie debut.

A New York native, Doniger made military training films during World War II.

Lynn Margulis

Evolutionary biologist and professor

Lynn Margulis, 73, an evolutionary biologist, author and National Medal of Science winner, died Tuesday at her home in Amherst, Mass. Her death was announced by the University of Massachusetts, where she was a professor of geosciences. The cause was not given.

Margulis was best known for her theory of symbiogenesis, which argues that inherited variation does not come from random mutations in genes but from long-lasting interaction between organisms. She also was a strong proponent of the hypothesis that the Earth acts as a living organism.

She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1983 and received the National Medal of Science in 1999.

Margulis was born in Chicago in 1938 and at age 14 enrolled at the University of Chicago, where she met her first husband, astronomer Carl Sagan.

After earning her bachelor's degree in Chicago, she earned a master's in genetics and zoology at the University of Wisconsin and a doctorate in genetics at UC Berkeley. She taught at Boston University before arriving at Massachusetts.

Her more recent books include "Symbiotic Planet" (1998) and "Acquiring Genomes" (2002).

Irving Elman, whose writing credits include the comic play "Uncle Willie," which ran on Broadway for four months in 1956-57, and who later worked as a producer on such TV dramas as "Matt Lincoln," "Slattery's People" and "The High Chaparral," died of cardiopulmonary arrest Tuesday at a retirement home in La Jolla, his family announced. He was 96.

—Los Angeles Times wire reports

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