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Founder of "virtual pet' company

Naoharu Yamashina, the founder of Bandai Co., known for its Tamagotchi electronic pet video games, died Tuesday of respiratory failure. He was 79.

He died at a hospital after a long illness, said company spokeswoman Keiko Okumura. She said he died of respiratory failure but gave no details of his illness.

In 1950, Mr. Yamashina founded Bandaiya, the predecessor of toymaker Bandai, now Japan's largest toymaker with sales of $822-million in fiscal 1996.

Bandai has sold 21-million Tamagotchi toys since introducing the virtual pets in Japan last November. The toys, which sell for about $16 each, were introduced in the United States last spring.

Mr. Yamashina served as president of the company from 1953-80, was chairman from 1980-87 and was on its advisory board from 1987 until his death.

In 1987, he invested $3.3-million of his own money to set up the Japan Toy Library Foundation for the physically disabled.

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HELIO BELTRAO, 81, a popular cabinet minister who used common sense to simplify Brazil's Byzantine bureaucracy, died Sunday in Rio de Janeiro of brain cancer. As minister of debureaucratization, a post created by President Joao Figueiredo in 1982, Mr. Beltrao crusaded against an oppressive bureaucracy he said was rooted in "centralization, excessive formalism and mistrust." He created the first Small Claims Court and scrapped much of the paperwork required in official transactions, such as proof of residence, good conduct and even a "life certificate" _ proof that a person was alive.

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BEN REDDICK, 82, generally credited with coining the term "Okie," died Thursday in Templeton, Calif. While a freelance writer during the Depression, he used the term "Okies" in a piece on Dust Bowl refugees. The slang name was derived from "OK" on auto license tags issued at the Oklahoma border. The term stuck and was made famous by John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Although "Okie" was often used as a slur, a governor of Oklahoma made Mr. Reddick an "Honorary Okie" in 1968.

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DR. MINA REES, 95, a mathematician who broke new ground for women as a university administrator and a leader in the sciences, died Saturday in New York City. She was the founding president of the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York and the first woman elected president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the largest alliance of scientists in the world.

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DR. JAMES E. DAVIS, 79, a former president of the American Medical Association, died Monday in Durham, N.C. Dr. Davis, who headed the AMA in 1987-1988, was a past president of the American Society of General Surgeons.

_ Area obituaries and the Suncoast Deaths list appear in local sections.

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