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.