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PASSINGS: Van Vlahakis, Lou Hudson, Sue Townsend, Richard Hoggart, Jim Flaherty

Van Vlahakis

Ecology-minded entrepreneur founded Earth Friendly Products

Van Vlahakis, 79, an ecology-minded entrepreneur who manufactured and marketed environmentally safe cleaning products, including the best-selling ECOS laundry detergent, died Sunday at his home in Key Largo, Fla., his family said. The cause of death was a heart attack.

The Greek-born Vlahakis founded Venus Laboratories in the garage of his Chicago home in 1967. A decade later he changed the name to Earth Friendly Products and opened a headquarters and factory in Garden Grove.

With 300 employees and five manufacturing plants in the United States, the company topped $100 million in sales last year with biodegradable, chemical-free products sold online and in supermarkets and big-box stores such as Wal-Mart and Costco.

Born in Crete on Jan. 14, 1935, Vlahakis emigrated to the U.S. in 1953 when he was 18; he had $22 in his pocket. He lived in homeless shelters and supported himself with odd jobs at bars and restaurants while attending Roosevelt University in Chicago. After earning a bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1958, he found work in the cleaning products industry.

His first jobs exposed him to harsh chemicals that gave him headaches and caused co-workers to suffer from rashes and other irritations. Remembering that his mother used natural substances such as water, vinegar and olive oil for cleaning, Vlahakis decided to start his own business.

"I wanted to make something that was better for people, safer for the environment," he told The Times last year.

His company has won awards for progressive business practices, including its use of renewable energy and offering employees financial incentives for buying hybrid or other green vehicles. The former poor immigrant also believed in providing a livable wage, paying employees at least $15 an hour.

His life story was the basis for "A Green Story," a 2013 feature film with a cast that included Malcolm McDowell as a villain who tries to force Vlahakis to sell his company.

Lou Hudson

NBA All-Star played for Hawks, Lakers

Lou Hudson, 69, a smooth-shooting NBA All-Star who averaged more than 20 points per game over 13 seasons, died Friday in Atlanta, where he was hospitalized after suffering a stroke, the Hawks said.

Hudson, a six-time All-Star nicknamed "Sweet Lou," played for the Hawks in St. Louis and Atlanta. The guard-forward averaged 20.2 points per game for his career. He spent 11 seasons with the Hawks and finished with the Lakers in 1979.

Before he got to the pros, he was one of the first black players at the University of Minnesota.

Beginning with the 1969-70 season, Hudson averaged at least 24 points per game in five straight seasons. In his years with the Hawks, he averaged at least 20 points per game seven times. He set a career high with his average of 27.1 points per game in the 1972-73 season.

He scored 57 points against Chicago on Nov. 10, 1969, matching the franchise record also held by Bob Pettit and Dominique Wilkins.

Hudson was a first-round pick by St. Louis in 1966 and made the NBA all-rookie team. He missed part of his second season while serving in the Army.

Following the team's move from St. Louis, he scored the first points for the new Atlanta team in 1968. He helped lead the Hawks to the 1970 Western Division championship.

Hudson was born July 11, 1944, in Greensboro, N.C. He was drafted by the NFL's Dallas Cowboys in 1966 even though he didn't play college football.

Sue Townsend

British author wrote popular 'Adrian Mole' diaries

Sue Townsend, 68, the British comic author who created angst-ridden teenage diarist Adrian Mole, died Thursday in Leicester, central England, after suffering a stroke, according to her publisher, Penguin Books.

Townsend left school at 15, married at 18, and by 23 was a single mother of three. She worked in a factory, in shops and at other jobs — and wrote, honing her style for years before breaking through into publication.

Her first novel, "The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3 / 4," was published in 1982 and was hailed as a comic masterpiece. Written in the voice of a gauche but observant teenager, it fused the acute awkwardness of adolescence with the zeitgeist of Thatcher-era Britain.

The beleaguered teen bemoaning his dull suburban life and pining for unattainable classmate Pandora struck a chord with millions of readers. "I have never seen a dead body or a female nipple. This is what comes from living in a cul-de-sac," Adrian lamented early on.

The book was a huge success, selling more than 20 million copies around the world, and Townsend followed Adrian Mole into adulthood in a series of books, several of which were adapted for the stage, radio or television. The most recent, "Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years," was published in 2009.

Penguin said a 10th Adrian Mole book — with a working title of "Pandora's Box" — had been slated for publication later this year. It was unclear how much had been written before Townsend's death.

Townsend's work combined satire of social injustices and a strong sense of life's absurdity with warmth for her characters — a distinctive combination that won her millions of fans.

Another favorite with readers was "The Queen and I," which envisioned a future in which a republican British government banished the royal family to live among the common people — a situation they coped with surprisingly well.

Her final novel, "The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year," was published in 2012 and sold more than 500,000 copies in Britain.

Richard Hoggart

Historian played key role in ending censorship of 'Lady Chatterley's Lover'

Richard Hoggart, 95, a distinguished cultural historian and a significant witness in the court case that ended British censorship of "Lady Chatterley's Lover," died Thursday at a nursing home in London, his family announced.

The trial in 1960, which ended with the jury finding that D.H. Lawrence's novel was not obscene, was a landmark for free expression at the outset of London's "swinging '60s."

Hoggart, then a university lecturer, defended the work as "highly virtuous and, if anything, puritanical."

Challenged by a lawyer who read extracts from "Lady Chatterley" with one "f—" after another, Hoggart responded: "We have no word in English for this act which is not either a long abstraction or an evasive euphemism, and we are constantly running away from it, or dissolving into dots, at a passage like that. He (Lawrence) wanted to say, `This is what one does. In a simple, ordinary way, one "f—," with no sniggering or dirt."

Hoggart was born into a poor family in Leeds, northern England. His father died when he was 1, and his mother seven years later. Remembering his mother's struggles, he wrote: "When you have seen a woman standing frozen, while tears start slowly down her cheeks because a sixpence has been lost … you do not easily forget."

He won a hardship grant to go to a grammar school, then a scholarship to Leeds University. He taught at Leicester University and later at Birmingham. In 1969 he was appointed an assistant director-general of UNESCO.

His monumental work was "The Uses of Literacy," published in 1957. It portrayed urban working-class life in the 1920s and 1930s, and how it was affected by mass media and the influence of America.

His judgment was that "the new mass culture is in some important ways less healthy than the often crude culture it is replacing."

Jim Flaherty

Finance minister helped lead Canada's economic recovery

Jim Flaherty, 64, Former Canadian finance minister who had been a fixture on the world financial stage until he stepped down three weeks ago, died Thursday in Ottawa, his family said. Mike Harris, Ontario's former premier and a friend, said Flaherty suffered a heart attack.

Appointed in 2006, Flaherty had been the longest-serving finance minister among the Group of Seven leading industrial economies until resigning in March to return to the private sector. He battled a rare skin disease over the last year but had said his decision to leave politics was not related.

The only finance minister to serve Prime Minister Stephen Harper since Harper took power eight years ago, Flaherty is credited with helping get Canada back on track to a balanced budget after pumping stimulus money into the economy following the 2008 financial crisis.

Born Dec. 30, 1949 in Lachine, Quebec, Flaherty earned a bachelor's degree from Princeton University and a law degree from York University's Osgoode Hall Law School before entering politics. During his two-decade career he served stints as minister of finance, attorney general and deputy premier at the provincial level in Ontario.

Times staff and wire reports

news.obits@latimes.com

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