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PASSINGS: Wilfried Martens

Wilfried Martens, 77, sought to bridge Belgium's linguistic divisions.

October 10, 2013

Wilfried Martens, 77, the resilient Belgian prime minister who led nine governments and deepened Belgium's integration in the European Union, died Wednesday at his home in Lokeren, in East Flanders.

A family statement confirming his death did not provide a cause, but Martens had a history of heart problems and had been in failing health in the last year.

From his campaign as a student activist for greater use of the Dutch language at the 1958 World's Fair in Brussels, Martens played a role in a series of constitutional reforms that handed powers from the central government to the linguistically divided regions of the country where Dutch is generally spoken in the north and French in the south.

"Belgium today has lost one of its most eminent politicians and a true statesman," Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, the first French speaker to run Belgium since the 1970s, said in a statement. "A convinced European, he pursued to the utmost his commitment to achieving the European ideal."

Leading members of the Christian Democratic party and opposition figures praised Martens as a tireless leader who kept his nation of Dutch and French speakers together while giving the two linguistic regions more autonomy.

Martens, who was prime minister between 1979 and 1992, led governments with Christian Democrats, socialists and liberals and proved capable of keeping the volatile factions in the nation together.

He also helped found the European People's Party and led the EU's Christian Democrat group for almost two decades before asking last week to be relieved of the job.

Born April 19, 1936 in Sleidinge in Dutch-speaking Flanders, Martens studied at Catholic University of Louvain, graduating in 1959 with a doctorate of law and a degree in Thomistic philosophy.

He was elected to Parliament in 1962 and the Chamber of Representatives in 1974.

After forming his first government in 1979, he spent much of the next decade grappling with economic stagnation, NATO obligations to deploy intermediate-range cruise missiles on Belgian soil and clashes over language that have plagued Belgium for decades. Martens resigned briefly in 1980 when his center-left government collapsed over a dispute between Dutch-speaking and French-speaking citizens.

Andy Pafko

Dodger outfielder for 'Shot

Heard 'Round the World'

Andy Pafko, 92, a former Brooklyn Dodger outfielder who famously watched Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World" sail over the left-field wall of the Polo Grounds during the 1951 National League playoffs, died Tuesday at a nursing home in Stevensville, Mich. He had Alzheimer's disease, his family said.

Pafko spent 17 seasons in the major leagues — with the Chicago Cubs, Dodgers and Milwaukee Braves — and was voted an All-Star five times. A fan favorite known for his dogged play and diving catches, he is perhaps best remembered as being part of one of the most famous games in baseball history, when Thomson's three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth gave the New York Giants the victory in the decisive Game 3 of their NL playoff against the Dodgers at the Polo Grounds.

Thomson later became Pafko's teammate and roommate with the Braves — and "Bobby never wanted to talk about that homer," Pafko said.

Pafko was born Feb. 25, 1921, in Boyceville, Wis., and started his baseball career in Chicago in 1943. He was voted to the All-Star team in 1945, when the game was not played because of wartime travel restrictions, and helped the Cubs to the NL pennant that season. They lost to the Detroit Tigers in the World Series, Chicago's last appearance in the postseason classic.

He was an All-Star from 1947 until 1950. He was traded to Brooklyn in 1951 and to Milwaukee in 1953, then retired in 1959.

Pafko's other three World Series appearances were all against the New York Yankees — 1952 with Brooklyn, and 1957 and 1958 with Milwaukee. The Braves won the series in 1957.

Pafko was a sought-after figure for baseball card collectors. One of them — a Topps card from 1952 in excellent condition — sold for nearly $84,000 in 1998.

Ernie Dunlevie

Developer helped found

Palm Springs Golf Classic

Ernie Dunlevie, 96, a Coachella Valley real estate developer who co-founded the original Palm Springs Golf Classic that came to be known for its celebrity participants and longtime host Bob Hope, died Sunday night at his home in Bermuda Dunes of complications from cancer.

His death was announced by the organizers of the current PGA Tour event, the Humana Challenge.

Dunlevie was born in New York City on Aug. 3, 1917, and came west with his mother after graduating from high school in 1936. Apart from his military service in World War II, he lived the rest of his life in the Coachella Valley.

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