A COMMON THREAD OF HUMANITY IN THOSE WE LOST IN 2016 and will be sorely missed facing 2017
December 31, 2016
In surveying a list of those celebrities we lost this past year, it struck me many of these were true icons in their respective careers or fields of expertise. What stood out, which may not be unlike any prior year, is that a large number who emerged from humble beginnings and went on to lead exemplary lives. Their impact on culture was in large part in serving the greatest good for all of us. And it is our good fortune many lived into their 80’s and 90’s.
One can say, well yes they were old, thus they eventually faced inevitable mortality. They are after all human. Certainly we have lost other greats in previous years, but what I found among them is something unique. There is a common thread in that many faced great adversity in pursuing their careers, their causes and over many years succeeded.
These are the innovators, exclusively creative, geniuses among us who broke down barriers, advocated for the most worthy causes that were unpopular at the time. These were actors, writers, singers, scientists, athletes and politicians who used their celebrity and status not for personal gain, to speak out or take action to further the most difficult or controversial causes. They were true Statesmen, not politicians. They were the greatest athletes who transcended their sport to advance causes bringing attention to little known or unrecognized diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Cancer and HIV-AIDS.
Among this group there is a common thread they all shared. They were persistent, patient and genuine in their fight. The commonality they all possessed is durability and longevity in an unrelenting drive toward their cause that they carried each morning up until their last. What is noteworthy is today, the first of 2017 we will take pause to remember them for good reason. However, History will secure their true legacy as they succeeded where others failed and they have left their individual imprint on the world.
There is a group of septuagenarians whether working for the overall good as they believed.
Boutros Boutros-Ghali, 93 Egyptian Diplomat, Peacemaker
Nancy Reagan, 94 First Lady, whisperer cause of AIDS to a President
Abe Vigoda, 94 Character Actor Extraordinaire
Doris Roberts, 90 Character Actress Extraordinaire
Shimon Peres, 93 Israeli Prime Minister, Peacemaker
Fidel Castro, 90 Revolutionist, Communist, Dictator
John Glenn, 95 First Astronaut to circle the Globe
Henry Heimlich, 96 Surgeon, Lifesaver
Zsa Zsa Gabor, 99 Life, Love, Marriage and Divorce
The octogenarians include by consensus are nearly a “Holy Trinity” at the pinnacle of their success.This is a threesome without equal. They became the greatest ambassadors of their sport inspiring gentleness, dignity and enlightenment.ammad Ali, 74 “The Greatest”
Gordie Howe, 88 “Mr. Hockey”
Arnold Palmer, 87 The Gentleman of Golf
These are faces universally recognized across the globe. There cannot exist a tiny crag hole or deepest ravine where the face of Muhammad Ali is not recognized and revered. Here is a man once scorned, persecuted, jailed who became a World Champion not only in the ring of boxing, but that of human rights, freedom of religion and universal spokesman for the disenfranchised across the world.
Here is a man from little means who rose to be champion in his sport. Once stripped of his belt he fought to regain it. Here is a man who became the epitome of strength but “floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee.” However, it is when he became a victim of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, he quietly and humbly suffered without complaint. He became the advocate and regained forever the title of “World’s Greatest Champion.”
Here are the other notables in their eighties, but with one exception, mother and daughter.
Morley Safer, 84, "60 Minutes" correspondent on social injustice
Harper Lee, 89 Author of Great American Novel “To Kill A Mockingbird” - a Standard
Elie Wiesel, 87 Humanitarian, Nazi hunter
Sydney H. Schanberg, 82
Edward Albee, 88 Playwright for the Absurd
Leonard Cohen, 82 Singer, songwriter with most recognized Voice
Debbie Reynolds, 84 Actress, Singing “Good Morning, Good Morning” & Mother
Carrie Fisher, 60 Actress, Comedian, Advocate Mental Health & Unheralded Script Writer
William Christopher, 84 Actor, Father Mulcahy on the hit sitcom M*A*S*H
A CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF THE FAMOUS WHO DIED IN 2016- as compiled by Michael Champagne, to whom I am grateful for his contribution
David Bowie, 69. Other-worldly musician who broke pop and rock boundaries with his creative musicianship, striking visuals and a genre-spanning persona he christened Ziggy Stardust. Jan. 10.
Alan Rickman, 69. Classically-trained British stage star and sensual screen villain in the "Harry Potter" saga and other films. Jan. 14.
Glenn Frey, 67. Rock 'n' roll rebel who co-founded the Eagles and with Don Henley formed one of history's most successful songwriting teams with such hits as "Hotel California" and "Life in the Fast Lane." Jan. 18.
Abe Vigoda, 94. Character actor whose leathery, sad-eyed face made him ideal for playing the over-the-hill detective Phil Fish in the 1970s TV series "Barney Miller" and the doomed Mafia soldier in "The Godfather." Jan. 26.
Paul Kantner, 74. Founding member of the Jefferson Airplane who stayed with the seminal band through its transformation from 1960s hippies to 1970s hit makers as the eventual leader of successor group Jefferson Starship. Jan. 28.
Maurice "Moe" White, 74. American singer-songwriter, musician, record producer, arranger and bandleader. He was the founder of the band Earth, Wind & Fire. Feb 4.
Antonin Scalia, 79. Influential conservative and most provocative member of the U.S. Supreme Court. Feb. 13.
Boutros Boutros-Ghali, 93. Veteran Egyptian diplomat who helped negotiate his country's landmark peace deal with Israel but clashed with the United States when he served a single term as U.N. secretary-general. Feb. 16.
Harper Lee, 89. Elusive novelist whose child's-eye view of racial injustice in a small Southern town, with her Pulitzer winning "To Kill a Mockingbird," became standard reading for millions of young people and an Oscar-winning film. Feb. 19.
Umberto Eco, 84. Italian author who intrigued, puzzled and delighted readers worldwide with his best-selling historical novel "The Name of the Rose." Feb. 19.
Nancy Reagan, 94. First Lady and adviser credited with bringing first the crisis of AIDS to the fore and late in life when faced with Alzheimer’s. She was a fierce protector of Ronald Reagan in his journey from actor to president — and finally during his battle with Alzheimer's disease. March 6.
George Martin, 90. The Beatles' urbane producer who quietly guided the band's swift, historic transformation from rowdy club act to musical and cultural revolutionaries. March 8.
Phife Dawg, 45. Lyricist whose witty wordplay was a linchpin of the groundbreaking hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest. March 22. Complications from diabetes.
Garry Shandling, 66. Actor and comedian who masterminded a brand of phony docudrama with "The Larry Sanders Show." March 24.
Patty Duke, 69. As a teen, she won an Oscar for playing Helen Keller in "The Miracle Worker," then maintained a long career while battling personal demons. March 29.
Merle Haggard, 79. Country giant who rose from poverty and prison to international fame through his songs about outlaws, underdogs and an abiding sense of national pride in such hits as "Okie From Muskogee" and "Sing Me Back Home." April 6.
Doris Roberts, 90. She played the tart-tongued, endlessly meddling mother on "Everybody Loves Raymond." April 17.
Chyna, 46. Tall, muscle-bound, raven-haired pro-wrestler who rocketed to popularity in the 1990s and later made the rounds on reality TV. April 20.
Dwayne "Pearl" Washington, 52. Basketball player who went from New York City playground wonder to Big East star for Jim Boeheim at Syracuse. April 20.
Prince, 57. One of the most inventive and influential musicians of modern times with hits including "Little Red Corvette," ''Let's Go Crazy" and "When Doves Cry." April 21.
Morley Safer, 84. Veteran "60 Minutes" correspondent who was equally at home reporting on social injustices, the Orient Express and abstract art, and who exposed a military atrocity in Vietnam that played an early role in changing Americans' view of the war. May 19.
Muhammad Ali, 74. Heavyweight champion whose fast fists, irrepressible personality and determined spirit transcended sports and captivated the world. June 3.
Peter Shaffer, 90. British playwright whose durable, award-winning hits included "Equus" and "Amadeus." June 6.
Kimbo Slice, 42. Bearded street fighter who parlayed his Internet popularity into a mixed martial arts career. June 6.
Gordie Howe, 88. Known as "Mr. Hockey," the rough-and-tumble Canadian farm boy whose blend of talent and toughness made him the NHL's quintessential star. June 10.
Christina Grimmie, 22. American singer, songwriter, and YouTuber known for her participation in the NBC singing competition The Voice and for her covers of hit songs by contemporary pop musicians. June 10.
Anton Yelchin, 27. Known for his role as Pavel Chekov in the Star Trek reboot series and Jacob Helm in Like Crazy. Born to a Russian Jewish family in Leningrad. Appearing in series Taken and Huff as well as films Alpha Dog, Terminator Salvation, Charlie Bartlett, Fright Night, The Smurfs, Only Lovers Left Alive and Green Room. June 19.
Pat Summitt, 64. Winningest coach in Division I college basketball history who uplifted the women's game from obscurity to national prominence during her 38-year career at Tennessee. June 28.
Elie Wiesel, 87. Romanian-born Holocaust survivor whose classic "Night" became a landmark testament to the Nazis' crimes and launched his career as one of the world's foremost witnesses and humanitarians. July 2.
Michael Cimino, 77. Oscar-winning director whose film "The Deer Hunter" became one of the great triumphs of Hollywood's 1970s heyday and whose disastrous "Heaven's Gate" helped bring that era to a close. July 2.
Sydney H. Schanberg, 82. Former New York Times correspondent awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the genocide in Cambodia in 1975 and whose story of the survival of his assistant inspired the film "The Killing Fields." July 9.
Nate Thurmond, 74. Tenacious NBA defensive center who played with Wilt Chamberlain. July 16.
Marni Nixon, 86. Hollywood voice double whose singing was heard in place of the leading actresses' in such movie musicals as "West Side Story," ''The King and I" and "My Fair Lady." July 24.
John Saunders, 61. Sports journalist, television personality, commentator, announcer. Worked for ESPN and ABC for Sportscenter, NFL Primetime, Baseball Night in America, and
NBA Shoot Around. Aug. 10
Kenneth George "Kenny" Baker, 81. English actor and musician. He is best known for portraying the character R2-D2 in the Star Wars science fiction movie franchise. Aug. 13.
Philip "Fyvush" Finkel, 93. American actor known as a star of Yiddish theater and for his role as lawyer Douglas Wambaugh on the television series Picket Fences,and Harvey Lipschultz on the television series Boston Public. Aug. 14.
John McLaughlin, 89. Conservative commentator and host of a long-running television show that pioneered hollering-heads discussions of Washington politics. Aug. 16.
Gene Wilder, 83. Frizzy-haired actor who brought his deft comedic touch to such unforgettable roles as the neurotic accountant in "The Producers," the mad scientist of "Young Frankenstein," and Willy Wonka of "Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory." Aug. 28.
Phyllis Schlafly, 92. Outspoken conservative activist who helped defeat the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and founded the Eagle Forum political group. Sept. 5.
Edward Albee, 88. Three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who challenged theatrical convention in masterworks such as "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and "A Delicate Balance." Sept. 16.
W.P. Kinsella, 81. Canadian novelist who blended magical realism and baseball in the book that became the smash hit film "Field of Dreams." Sept. 16.
William Goldwyn "Bill" Nunn III, 62. American actor known for his roles as Radio Raheem in Spike Lee's film Do the Right Thing and Robbie Robertson in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man film trilogy. Sept. 24.
Arnold Palmer, 87. Golfing great who brought a country-club sport to the masses with a hard-charging style, charisma and a commoner's touch. Sept. 25.
Shimon Peres, 93. Former Israeli president and prime minister, whose life story mirrored that of the Jewish state and who was celebrated around the world as a Nobel prize-winning visionary who pushed his country toward peace. Sept. 28.
Rodney Lynn "Rod" Temperton, 61. English songwriter, record producer and musician. He initially made his mark as the keyboardist and main songwriter for the 1970s R&B, funk and disco band Heatwave. Oct. 1.
Dario Fo, 90. Italian playwright whose energetic mocking of Italian political life, social mores and religion won him praise, scorn and the Nobel Prize for Literature. Oct. 13.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 88. World's longest reigning monarch, he was revered in Thailand as a demigod, a humble father figure and an anchor of stability through decades of upheaval at home and abroad. Oct. 13.
Dennis Byrd, 51. Former NFL defensive lineman whose career was ended by neck injury. Died in a car accident. Oct. 15.
Janet Reno, 78. First woman to serve as U.S. attorney general and the epicenter of several political storms during the Clinton administration, including the seizure of Elian Gonzalez. Nov. 7.
Leonard Cohen, 82. Baritone-voiced Canadian singer-songwriter who blended spirituality and sexuality in songs like "Hallelujah," ''Suzanne" and "Bird on a Wire." Nov. 7.
Robert Vaughn, 83. Debonair, Oscar-nominated actor whose many film roles were eclipsed by his hugely popular turn in television's "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." Nov. 11.
Leon Russell, 74. American musician and songwriter who was involved with numerous bestselling pop music records over the course of his 60-year career. His genres include pop, rock, blues, country, bluegrass, standards, gospel and surf records, with six gold records to his credit. Nov. 14.
Gwen Ifill, 61. Co-anchor of PBS' "NewsHour" with Judy Woodruff and a veteran journalist who moderated two vice presidential debates. Nov. 14.
Ralph Branca, 90. Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher who gave up the "Shot Heard 'Round the World" that still echoes six decades later as one of the most famous home runs in baseball history. Nov. 23.
Florence Henderson, 82. Broadway star who became one of America's most beloved television moms in "The Brady Bunch." Nov. 24.
Fidel Castro, 90. He led his bearded rebels to victorious revolution in 1959, embraced Soviet-style communism and defied the power of U.S. presidents during his half-century of rule in Cuba. Nov. 25.
Ronald Earle "Ron" Glass, 71. American actor. He was known for his roles as literary Det. Ron Harris in the television sitcom Barney Miller. Nov. 25.
Joseph Mascolo, 87. American Actor. He played the popular character, Stefano Dimera, on Days of Our Lives for decades and starred in Jaws 2.
John Glenn, 95. His 1962 flight as the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth made him an all-American hero and propelled him to a long career in the U.S. Senate. Dec. 8.
Alan Thicke, 69. Versatile performer who gained his greatest renown as the beloved dad on the sitcom "Growing Pains." Dec. 13.
Craig Sager, 65. Longtime NBA sideline reporter famous for his flashy suits and probing questions. Dec. 15.
Henry Heimlich, 96. Surgeon who created the lifesaving Heimlich maneuver for choking victims. Dec. 17.
Zsa Zsa Gabor, 99. Jet-setting Hungarian actress and socialite who helped invent a new kind of fame out of multiple marriages, conspicuous wealth and jaded wisdom about the glamorous life. Dec. 18.
Richard George Adams, 96. English novelist who is best known as the author of Watership Down, Shardik and The Plague Dogs. Dec. 24.
George Michael, 53. Rose to fame as a member of the 1980s pop duo Wham and went on to sell more than 100 million albums in a music career spanning four decades, died at his home. Dec. 25.
Ricky Harris, 54. American comedian, actor, and producer best known for "Everybody Hates Chris". Died from a heart attack. Dec. 26.
Carrie Fisher, 60. Actress, Author. Best known for her role as Princess Leia Organa in the Star Wars series the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds, landed her first role in 1975’s Shampoo. Dec. 27.
Debbie Reynolds, 84 Actress, Singer and mother of Carrie Fisher who died one day prior. As an unknown 19 year old achieved fame and began her career in joining icons Donald O’Connor and Gene Kelly. Her trademark song is “Good Morning, Good Morning” from “Singing In The Rain.”
William Christopher, 84 Actor best known for playing Father Mulcahy on the hit sitcom M*A*S*H, died early New Year’s Eve of lung cancer, as appears in The Hollywood Reporter.
References: Fox News Entertainment, Wikipedia
Compiled by: Michael Champagne
The bold print are my own for emphasis of a lifetime contribution