- Associated Press - Friday, November 5, 2010

BUCHAREST, ROMANIA (AP) - Adrian Paunescu, Romania’s most famous poet _ a man who praised the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu yet remained popular among Romanians _ has died at the age of 67.

The Floreasca Emergency Hospital in Bucharest said Paunescu died Friday morning from multiple organ failure. His last poem was written Oct. 31 from his hospital bed.

Paunescu, physically huge and a prolific writer, was larger-than-life character who appeared on television several times a week.

During the communist era, he wrote flattering poems about Ceausescu. Critics said the poems contributed to the dictator’s personality cult.

Still, Paunescu’s sentimental verse struck a chord with many Romanians. Dozens of mourners began gathering at his house in Bucharest as news of his death spread. They lit candles and left flowers and Romanian flags. Paunescu will lie in state later Friday for mourners to pay their respects.

Romanian President Traian Basescu sent condolences, thanking Paunescu for helping a generation of young artists but not mentioning his involvement in politics. There was an outpouring of sorrow from cultural and political figures, as well.

During the anti-communist revolt in 1989, in which more than 1,000 people were killed, it was reported that Paunescu tried to seek refuge at the U.S. Embassy to escape angry protesters. It was not clear whether he was unable to get in or decided to abandon his efforts.

He was best known for his poetry about love and death _ and even football. His verse could be at time mawkish and melancholy, which suited the Romanian psyche.

Paunescu was born in 1943 in the Soviet Union, in what is now Moldova, and moved to Romania as a child. His father was a political prisoner under communism in Romania , which initially led to Paunescu having problems getting into university.

Paunescu is survived by his wife and three children. He will be buried Sunday in Bucharest.