Thomas Durden


Thomas Durden, 79, who wrote the lyrics to Elvis Presley's hit "Heartbreak Hotel," died of cancer Oct. 17 at his home in Houghton Lake, Mich.

He co-wrote "Heartbreak Hotel" with Mae Boren Axton of Nashville, and for reasons never explained, Presley also was given writing credit.

In 1956, Mr. Durden was performing with a band in Jacksonville, Fla., when he came across a newspaper account of a man who had committed suicide. The man left a note that said, "I walk a lonely street," and Mr. Durden said he used that as the basis for "Heartbreak Hotel." He continued to write and perform music and played with Nashville legends including Johnny Cash.

Stanley L. Dritz

Zipper Pioneer

Stanley L. Dritz, 88, who popularized the zipper and other sewing products as part of his family's business, died Oct. 16 in White Plains, N.Y. The cause of death was not reported.

As president of John Dritz & Sons, he raised the consumer appeal of a hookless fastener he had first seen in England. He made the fastener, commonly known as the zipper, out of plastic and rustproof metals.

Mr. Dritz, who was born in New York, joined his father's business after graduating from college. He was president in the 1950s and 1960s, and the company was sold upon his retirement.

Jack Lynch

Irish Prime Minister

Jack Lynch, 82, the former Irish prime minister best known for his unfulfilled promise not to "stand by" as violence wracked Northern Ireland, died Oct. 20 at a Dublin hospital. The cause of death was not reported.

He served as prime minister from 1966 to 1973 and again in 1977, when his Fianna Fail party won its biggest majority ever in parliament. When violence spilled into the streets of British-ruled Northern Ireland in 1969, Mr. Lynch moved some army units to the border to open field hospitals for refugee rioters. But the Catholic militants waited in vain for the tiny Irish army to come to their rescue. Instead, scores of homes were torched in Belfast and the British army was deployed as peacekeepers.

Overspending in Mr. Lynch's 1978 budget produced soaring deficits and inflation and fueled a voter backlash. He resigned later that year.

Zeng Liansong

Flag Designer

Zeng Liansong, 62, who designed the national flag of the People's Republic of China, which was first raised on Oct. 1, 1949, over Beijing's Tiananmen Square by revolutionary leader Mao Tse-tung when he declared the founding of the new state, died Oct. 19 in Shanghai, China. The cause of death was not reported.

Zeng submitted his design of five gold stars on a red background in 1949 after seeing a notice in a newspaper calling for recommendations for a flag for the new communist nation. The stars represent the Communist Party, industry and commerce, farmers, students and the military.

He later became a company manager and a member of the Shanghai Municipal Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

James C. Murray

Member of Congress

James C. Murray, 82, an Illinois Democrat who served in the House of Representatives from 1955 to 1957, died Oct. 19 in Chicago. The cause of death was not reported.

He also had been an Illinois appeals court judge and the sponsor of Chicago's first fair housing ordinance. His public service career spanned half a century. He was an assistant Illinois attorney general from 1945 to 1951. He became a member of the Illinois Appellate Court in 1985 and retired in 1994.

Nathalie Sarraute


Nathalie Sarraute, 99, a fiction writer who helped develop France's "new novel" movement, died Oct. 19 at her home in Paris. The cause of death was not reported.

Ms. Sarraute was best known for writing about imperceptible movements. It was a distinctive style that helped pave the way for the "new novel" movement in post-World War II France.

She turned out her first book, "Tropismes," in 1939 and wrote more than 20 works, from novels to plays. She had said that it was in her third novel, "L'ere du Soupcon" (Era of Suspicion), published in 1956, that a new form of writing began to emerge that reached for the "interior drama" of people's lives.

George Benton

Oceanic Administration Officer

George Benton, 84, associate administrator and lead scientist at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration from 1978 to 1981 and a longtime professor of atmospheric science at Johns Hopkins University, died of cancer Oct. 16 at home in Baltimore.

During the 1970s, Dr. Benton was dean of the faculty of arts and sciences and then vice president of Johns Hopkins. In these roles, his duties included direction of the School of Arts and Sciences in Baltimore and the School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.

From 1966 to 1969, he was director of the environmental research laboratories in the Department of Commerce. He was a former president of the American Meteorological Association.