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In Passing

Sun., March 16, 2008

Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

H. Metzenbaum, Ohio senator

Former Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, an Ohio Democrat who was a feisty, self-made millionaire before he began a long career fighting big business in the Senate, died Wednesday night. He was 90.

During 18 years on Capitol Hill, until his retirement in 1995, Metzenbaum came to be known as “Senator No” and “Headline Howard” for his abilities to block legislation and get publicity for himself.

He was a cantankerous firebrand who didn’t need a microphone to hold a full auditorium spellbound while dropping rhetorical bombs on big oil companies, the insurance industry, savings and loans or the National Rifle Association.

Unabashedly liberal, the former labor lawyer and union lobbyist considered himself a champion of workers and was a driving force behind the law requiring 60-day notice of plant closings.


Lazare Ponticelli, World War I vet

France’s last remaining veteran of World War I died Wednesday at age 110 after outliving 8.4 million Frenchmen who fought in what they called “la Grande Guerre.”

Lazare Ponticelli, who was born in Italy but chose to fight for France and was a French citizen for most of the past century, died at his home in the Paris suburb of Kremlin-Bicetre.

“It is to him and his generation that we owe in large part the peaceful and pacified Europe of today. It is up to us to be worthy of that,” said President Nicolas Sarkozy.

France planned a national funeral ceremony Monday honoring Ponticelli and all the “poilus,” an affectionate term meaning hairy or tough that the French use for their soldiers who fought in World War I.

After the war, Ponticelli and his brothers started a company in France that made factory smokestacks. The company, Ponticelli Freres, grew into a manufacturer of specialized industrial equipment and is still in business.

Turlock, Calif.

Dave Stevens, comic book artist

Dave Stevens, an artist best known for creating “The Rocketeer” comic book, which reflected a fascination with Bettie Page that brought the 1950s pin-up queen renewed attention, has died. He was 52.

Stevens, whose home was in suburban Los Angeles, died Monday at Emanuel Medical Center in Turlock, Calif., from complications related to treatment for leukemia.

In 1981, Stevens was working as a commercial illustrator when a friend asked him to contribute a story to another comic book. His “throwaway idea,” as he called it, was an ode to 1930s-style pulp-fiction adventures and movie serials.

The comic – in which a stunt pilot battles evil after finding a rocket-powered backpack – became a cult success. A decade later it was made into the live-action Disney movie “The Rocketeer,” with Billy Campbell as the title character.


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