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Obituaries in the News

March 21, 2004

Thelma Becker

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Thelma Becker, who checked into downtown’s Biltmore Hotel in 1940 and didn’t check out for 53 years, died March 8. He was 90.

Becker died at a Los Angeles hospital, said Holly Barnhill, her longtime friend and the hotel’s former publicist.

Becker was an assistant sales manager for a lingerie company when she checked into the hotel now called the Millennium Biltmore in 1940. Finding it close to work and convenient for someone who traveled frequently, she never left.

At first she was one of several full-time residents who stayed in small rooms, but as that changed after the 1950s her long stay became the subject of numerous news stories.

Hotel staffers became her friends and invited her to their annual Christmas party.

When she retired in 1975, the hotel management fixed her nightly room rate at $33. Rooms like hers now rent for $179.

On her 80th birthday, the hotel honored her by naming one of its luxury rooms ``The Thelma Becker Suite.″

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Edward P. Dombrowski

JEMISON, Ala. (AP) _ Edward P. Dombrowski, a former longtime sergeant-at-arms and doorman of the Alabama House of Representatives, died Wednesday at his home in Jemison, the Martin Funeral Home said. He was 88.

A New Jersey native raised in Erie, Pa., Dombrowski served in the U.S. Air Force and retired as a colonel.

During World War II, he was shot down and held as a prisoner of war for a few days before he escaped, walking 57 days to reach Allied troops in Italy.

Dombrowski received many awards and medals during his 30-year Air Force career, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

He managed a shopping center in Montgomery and served as a senior officer in the Alabama National Guard before going to work for the Alabama House as its sergeant-at-arms in the early 1980s. He retired from the House 11 years ago.

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Charles H. Haden II

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) _ U.S. District Judge Charles H. Haden II, who shocked the coal industry by siding with environmentalists challenging mountaintop removal mining, died Saturday, said longtime friend Thomas McHugh. He was 66.

In October 1999, Haden ruled the mining practice _ which involves blasting off mountaintops to expose coal seams _ violated the federal Clean Water Act because excess rock and dirt from the mine was dumped in valleys and buried streams.

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., later overturned Haden’s decision, saying since the case involved state permitting practices he didn’t have jurisdiction.

Haden was appointed to the federal bench in November 1975 by then-President Ford and served as chief judge of the state’s southern district from 1982 to 2002.

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Brian Maxwell

SAN ANSELMO, Calif. (AP) _ Brian Maxwell, founder of the multimillion-dollar PowerBar empire and a former world-class marathon runner, died of a heart attack, friends said. He was 51.

Maxwell collapsed Friday at a post office, and emergency personnel were unable to resuscitate him after workers called 911. He was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Maxwell and his wife, Jennifer, a nutritionist, co-founded the popular energy bar company in 1986 and began selling PowerBars out of their kitchen.

Over the next decade, the Berkeley, Calif.-based firm grew to $150 million in sales and 300 employees. In March 2000, the couple sold the company to Nestle SA for a reported $375 million.

Maxwell, who was born in London but grew up in Toronto, represented Canada in many international competitions as a long-distance runner. He was part of the 1980 Olympic team that boycotted the games in Moscow.

In 1977 Maxwell was ranked the No. 3 marathon runner in the world by Track and Field News.

Maxwell came up with the idea of an energy bar after he had to drop out of a 26.2-mile marathon race at the 21-mile mark _ about the point where experts say the body ceases burning carbohydrates and begins burning muscle tissue.

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Verbie Gene ``Flash″ Terry

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Longtime Tulsa musician and singer Verbie Gene ``Flash″ Terry died Thursday after being hospitalized for a series of strokes, according to Jack’s Memorial Chapel Funeral Home. He was 69.

Terry died at a Tulsa hospital.

Terry, a native of the northeast Oklahoma town of Inola, got his start in the Tulsa blues and jazz club scene in the late 1940s.

He first sat in on guitar with the Ernie Fields Orchestra before landing his first regular job with Jimmy ``Cry Cry″ Hawkins.

He played with Hawkins at the legendary Flamingo Club, later headlining there himself. It became a place where both black and white music lovers came to enjoy jazz and blues.

He also made a number of tours, beginning with a 1953 trip in the band of bluesman Floyd Dixon. In the late ’50s, Terry signed with Kent Records, which also had B.B. King on its roster. At one time, Terry’s band included future R&B superstar Curtis Mayfield.

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