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PASSINGS: Doris Betts, Norman Fruman, Stanley R. Resor, Greg Ham, Maersk Mc-Kinney Moeller

Doris Betts, novelist, dies at 79; Norman Fruman, expert on Coleridge, dies at 88; Stanley R. Resor, ex-secretary of Army, dies at 94; Greg Ham, member of Men at Work, dies at 58; Maersk Mc-Kinney Moeller, creator of Danish shipping giant, dies at 98

April 25, 2012
  • Doris Betts was best known for her novel “Souls Raised From the Dead,” which won the Southern Book Award in 1995.
Doris Betts was best known for her novel “Souls Raised From the Dead,”… (Jerry Bauer )

Doris Betts

Southern author of short stories, novels

Doris Betts, 79, a novelist and writing teacher best known for short stories and novels that evoke the geography and mores of the South, died of lung cancer Saturday at her home in Pittsboro, N.C., her son Erskine said.

Betts was best known for her novel "Souls Raised From the Dead," which won the Southern Book Award in 1995. It concerns a dysfunctional family grappling with fate, faith and the limits of love. "Betts skillfully crosses generations with impressive knowledge of idioms, vocabulary and cultural tastes," Los Angeles Times reviewer Valerie Miner wrote.

The author ranged out of her native region for her last novel, "The Sharp Teeth of Love" (1998), which explores the unlikely fellowship of three damaged people whose troubles lead them to the Nevada wilderness.

Born in Statesville in western North Carolina on June 4, 1932, Betts was the only child of sharecroppers who later became mill hands. She learned to read before first grade and wrote poetry until she went to Women's College in Greensboro — now the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. She switched to prose and immediately won recognition for her short stories.

"Gentle Insurrection," her first collection of short stories, was published in 1954, and her first novel, "Tall Houses in Winter," followed in 1957.

Betts was a contemporary of such honored North Carolina authors as Lee Smith, Reynolds Price, Allan Gurganus, Tim McLaurin and Clyde Edgerton. With Max Steele and Louis Rubin Jr., she helped build a nationally recognized creative writing program at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, where she taught for three decades and was the first woman to serve as faculty chair. She retired in 2001.

Norman Fruman

Scholar wrote of Coleridge's plagiarism

Norman Fruman, 88, a scholar and educator whose controversial work on Samuel Taylor Coleridge showed the revered English poet and critic to be a plagiarist, died Thursday at his home in Laguna Beach. The cause was cancer, according to his family.

Fruman, who taught at Cal State L.A. before moving to the University of Minnesota, was best known as the author of "Coleridge, the Damaged Archangel" (1971).

A massive, scholarly investigation of Coleridge's life and work, the book "demonstrates the pathological split-personality origins of his innumerable literary misrepresentations, concealments, dissimulations and unacknowledged borrowings from Schiller, Schlegel, Lessing, Kant, et al.," the Kirkus Review said. Although other scholars had written about Coleridge's misrepresentations and borrowings, "No book I think will do more to indicate the dimensions of the 'problem of Coleridge' than Mr. Fruman's," critic Thomas Lask said.

Fruman was born in New York City on Dec. 2, 1923. In 1943, before his senior year at City College of New York, he was drafted into the Army, was commissioned as a second lieutenant and led a combat platoon in the Battle of the Bulge.

After completing his military duty, he returned to City College, earning a bachelor's degree in 1946. He earned a master's in education from Columbia Teachers College in 1948 and a doctorate in English from New York University in 1960. The Coleridge book grew out of his doctoral dissertation.

He taught at Cal State L.A. from 1959 to 1978 and at the University of Minnesota from 1978 to 1994. He was also a Fulbright professor at the University of Tel Aviv and helped organize the Assn. of Literary Scholars, Critics and Writers.

Stanley R. Resor

Secretary of Army at Vietnam War's peak

Stanley R. Resor, 94, who served as secretary of the Army for six years during a troubled period in its history that included the height of the Vietnam War, died April 17 at his home in Washington, D.C., said Ed Resor, a son.

When President Johnson, a Democrat, named the moderate Republican Resor to the position in 1965, the Army was in the midst of a rapid escalation of forces in Vietnam. After Richard M. Nixon was elected president in 1968, Resor held the post for three more years.

He introduced women into the service's top ranks in 1970 and helped bring about an all-volunteer Army, which began in 1973. But Resor also dealt with "the problems of society," which included drugs and race, Resor said in 1971, as well as low morale.

One of his final actions as secretary was to order the demotion of a two-star general who commanded the Army unit responsible for the My Lai massacre of civilians in 1968 in Vietnam.

Resor was born Dec. 5, 1917, in New York City. His father was president of the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency.

After graduating from Yale University in 1939, Resor served in the Army during World War II and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

He earned a law degree from Yale in 1946 and practiced corporate law before briefly serving as undersecretary of the Army in 1965.

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