Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 – Remembering Those Who Have Gone……

I am always amazed how quickly the year passes.  And at the end of each one, I’m surprised to discover who passed that I was unaware of. It is time again to remember those who left their mark on the world….

January ~
The first month of the year brought a loss to the Rhythm and Blues community, and music in general. Singer Etta James, born Jamesetta Hawkins on January 25, 1938 was the dynamic singer that bridged the gap between Rhythm & Blues and Rock & Roll.  She reversed her name from Jamesetta to Etta James when she was 14.

James’ music styles included blues, rhythm & blues, rock & roll, gospel, soul, and jazz. During her sixty-year career, she won six Grammy’s and 17 Blues Music Awards.  In 1993, Etta James was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  Then in 2001, James was installed in the Blues Hall of Fame. She was twice inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame – once in 1999 and again in 2008.

James was diagnosed with leukemia in 2011 and died of the disease on Jan 20th, just five days before her 74th birthday. Etta James was buried at Inglewood Park Cemetery in L.A. County, California.

February ~
On February 11th, Whitney Houston was found dead in her hotel room.
Houston was born in August 1963 and began singing as a church soloist at the age of 11.  Houston’s mother, Cissy Houston, her cousins Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick, and godmother, Aretha Franklin, were all well known singers of R & B, gospel and soul music.  By 1978, Whitney was singing back up for Chaka Khan’s hit “I’m Every Woman.”

Her debut album, Whitney Houston, was released in 1985.  Rolling Stones magazine called her “one of the most exciting new voices in years."  By 1986 her album had scored three number one positions; Greatest Love of All was a number 1 single, Houston was the number one artist of the year, and her album was number one on the Billboard year-end charts. Her career skyrocketed. 

In 1992, Whitney married R&B singer Bobby Brown.  They had one daughter together, Bobbi Kristina Brown in 1993. By the end of the nineties, rumors had spread that Houston was involved in drugs, along with her husband. By the start of 2000, she had a reputation of not showing up for interviews, photo shots and concerts. She and Brown divorced in 2007.

Although Houston tried to combat her drug problems, it appears the drugs were a factor in her death.  According to the L.A. County Corner’s office, Houston had accidentally drowned in a bathtub at the Beverly Hills Hotel due to the “effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use".   She was 48 years old.  Whitney Houston was buried in Fairview Cemetery in Westfield, New Jersey.

March ~
Earl Eugene Scruggs was born on January 6, 1924 in Flint Hill, North Carolina.  He went on to become one of the best known Blue Grass three-fingered style banjo players in the world.

Earl Scruggs & Lester Flatt
Scruggs became famous when he started playing with Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys in 1945.  It was here he made his syncopated three-finger picking style popular.  In 1948, he and guitarist Lester Flatt formed the Foggy Mountain Boys.  Known better as Flatt & Scruggs, they were members of the Grand Ole Opry and played there during the 1950’s. 

In 1962, Flatt, Scruggs and Jerry Scoggins recorded The Ballad of Jed Clampet, which became the theme song for the Beverly Hillbillies TV show.  Both men appeared in several shows as neighbors of the Clampet’s.  They won a Grammy in 1969 for Foggy Mountain Breakdown, the same year they broke up.   Flatt & Scruggs were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1985. 

Scruggs went on to win another Grammy in 2001.  He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2003, and was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 50th Grammy Awards in 2008.

Ryman Auditorium
Earl Scruggs died on March 28th from natural causes, at the age of 88.  His funeral was held in Ryman Auditorium, former home of the Grand Ole Opry, where he had spent years playing his banjo.  He was buried at Spring Hill Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee.

April ~

April saw the loss of one of the first mass merchandising artists, and a controversial journalist.

Thomas Kinkade was an American artist known for his realistic yet somewhat idealistic paintings of cottages, lighthouses, and Main Street.  Calling himself the “Painter of Light,” Kinkade formed the Thomas Kinkade Company and began mass marketing his paintings. He was one of the most popular and collected U.S. artists, and according to his company, one in every 20 American homes own one of his paintings.

At the height of his popularity, the Thomas Kinkade Signature Gallery franchises brought in millions of dollars. But in 2010, Kinkade’s manufacturing company, which reproduced his artwork, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from more than 6-million dollars in creditors claims.

Thomas Kinkade died on April 6 of acute intoxication from alcohol and Valium.  He was 54 years old.  Kinkade was buried at Madronia Cemetery in Saratoga, California.


On April 7, journalism lost one of its most notorious reporters.  Myron Leon (Mike) Wallace spent his life in the media. 

Mike Wallace was born May 9, 1918 to Russian immigrants in Brookline, Massachusetts.  He began his career as a radio newscaster in Michigan in 1939.  After serving two years in the U.S. Navy during WW II, Wallace became a staff announcer for the CBS radio network.

During the 1950’s, he hosted several game shows and two late night interview programs.  By the early 1960’s he was appearing in commercials for Parliament cigarettes.  From 1963 through ’66, he hosted the CBS Morning News.

In 1968, Wallace found his niche as one the original reporters for the CBS news program, 60 Minutes. It was here that Wallace developed his hard-nosed reporter style.  His on-air confrontational approach took 60 Minutes to the top, and helped keep it there for years.

Wallace spent 38 years on the program. In 2006, he announced his retirement, although he agreed to continue working for CBS News, doing special interviews.
During his 70 plus years in the media, Wallace received numerous awards, including 21 Emmys, 5 Peabody Awards, a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and a Lifetime Achievement Emmy.

Mike Wallace died on April 7th in New Canaan, Connecticut.  He was 93.  He was buried in the West Chop Cemetery in Tisbury, Massachusetts.

May ~
LaDonna Gaines (Donna Summer) was born on New Year’s Eve, 1948 in Boston, Massachusetts. She began singing at a young age and made the decision to become a singer while performing in the church choir.

Hair in Germany
In 1967, Summer auditioned for a role in the Broadway musical Hair.  She was given a part in the German show.  Donna moved to West Germany, learned the language and released two singles in German.

Godspell in Germany
She moved to Vienna, Austria in 1971 to appear in Godspell. During rehearsals she met Austrian actor, Helmuth Sommer.  They married in 1972 and had a daughter the same year.  She divorced him in 1975, but kept his name, spelling it with a “u” instead of the “o”.

In 1975, Summer released Love to Love You Baby in a short radio version and as a 17-minute club version for Casablanca records in the U.S. By 1976, it was number 2 on the Billboard charts.  In 1978, her version of MacArthur Park went to number one on the charts.  Suddenly Donna Summer had become Queen of Disco music.

The release of her Bad Girls album included two number one hits, the title track, and Hot Stuff, and a number two song – Dim All the Lights.  She then released a two record set in 1979, On the Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I & II.  The album went to number one in the U.S.  All told, Summer had 8 number one songs within two years.

Summer continued to write and releases music through the 80’s and 90’s. She released her first album of original material, Crayons, in 2008.

In 2004, Summer, along with other Disco legends the Bee Gees, was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame. And it was announced earlier this month that Summer will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.

Donna Summer died on May 17 in Florida of cancer.  She was 63 years old. She is survived by her husband, Bruce Sudano and three daughters. Summer was interred at Harpeth Hills Memorial Gardens in Nashville.

June ~
Author Ray Bradbury was born in 1920.  He began as his career as a newspaper boy during the day, and a writer by night. He sold his first story to the pulp magazine Science Stories in 1941.  He married Marguerite (Maggie) McClure in 1947 – She was the only woman he ever dated.  That same year, he released his first book, Dark Carnival, a collection of short stories.

The Martian Chronicles was released in 1950 and Bradbury became internationally famous.  In 1953, his best-known work, Fahrenheit 451 was published, and in 1966, it was made into a movie. 

Bradbury wrote over 600 stories, and published more than 30 books mainly in the genres of science fiction, fantasy and horror.  He received numerous awards including a World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement award, the Grand Master Award, and an Emmy.

Ray Bradbury died on June 5 in Los Angeles, California.  He was 91 years old.  He was buried at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in L.A.


In June, we also lost a woman with amazing talent as a screenwriter, producer, director, playwright, journalist, and novelist- Nora Ephron. 

She was born on May 19, 1941 into a family of screenwriters.  Nora began her career as a journalist at the New York Post in the 60’s.  She went on to write plays, books, and movies.  Her films always included strong female characters.  Her most popular films include Silkwood (1983,) When Harry Met Sally (1989,) Sleepless in Seattle (1993,) You’ve Got Mail (1998,) and Julie and Julia (2009.)

Ephron received many awards including Best Original Screenplay for When Harry Met Sally, a Women in Film Crystal Award, an Ian McLellan Hunter Award from the Writers Guild, and a Golden Apple Award for casting.

Nora Ephron died on June 26 from pneumonia, resulting from acute myeloid leukemia.  She had been diagnosed with the disease in 2006.  She was 71 years old.  Ephron had planned her own funeral and filed the information in a folder marked “Exit.”  She was cremated and her ashes scattered.

She became the first American woman in space. Even as a child in the fifties, Sally Ride had always dreamed of flying, not just through the sky, but higher, much higher - above the earth…
Ride made history on that June morning in 1983 as the first female astronaut on the space shuttle Challenger. She was one of five crew members on board, and served as a Mission Specialist for the six-day operation.

In 1984, Ride made a second shuttle flight, again on Challenger.  She was in training for a third mission when Challenger exploded, killing all on board.  Ride was the only person who served on both investigative commissions, one for the Challenger accident in 1986, and also for the Space Shuttle Columbia accident in 2003.

Sally left NASA in 1985, to become a physics professor at the University of California, San Diego, and director of the California Space Institute.  In 2001, she founded Sally Ride Science, which promotes math and science educations for girls.

Sally Ride died on July 23 in La Jolla, California of pancreatic cancer.  She was 61.  She is buried at Woodlawn cemetery in Santa Monica, California.

August ~
Phyllis Diller proved the old boys wrong – you could be a woman, do stand up comedy, and get the laughs. 

Born in Lima, Ohio in 1917, Diller followed the expected path of a girl in the 30’s and 40’s; get an education, get married, and have kids.  She attended the Sherwood Music Conservatory in Chicago, met and married Sherwood Diller, and had six children. But there the role of housewife ended.

By the time she was 35, Diller was working in radio and recording a 15-minute television show.  In 1955, she started doing stand up comedy at the Purple Onion in San Francisco.  She was so good; her two-week engagement lasted for more than a year and a half.  This led to appearances on the Red Skelton Show and the Jack Benny Show.

By the 1960’s, Diller was appearing with Bob Hope in his television specials, and in three of his films. In 1966, she made her first trip to Viet Nam with Hope’s USO troupe.  Audiences loved her wisecracking, self-deprecating housewife persona; she would joke about her husband Fang, her appearance, and her cooking.

Diller in Hello Dolly
Throughout her career, Diller also appeared in films, on TV series, including her own in 1968, and on Broadway in 1969, starring in Hello Dolly. She released five comedy albums, and performed as a piano soloist in over 100 symphony concerts across the country. (She had trained to be a pianist but didn’t feel she was good enough to make it her career.)

Phyllis Dilller died on August 20 in Los Angeles, California.  She was 95.  Diller was cremated and her ashes returned to the family.

When you mention Apollo 11 – you remember that boot print on the moon, and the man who made it - Neal Armstrong. 

Born in Wapakoneta, Ohio in 1930, Armstrong grew up wanting to fly. He served as a naval aviator in the Korean War, and then attended Purdue University. After graduation, he became a test pilot at NACA – later to become NASA – where he logged over 900 hours of flights.

Armstrong made his first space flight on the Gemini 8 in 1966.  It was three years later when Armstrong boarded the Apollo 11, as mission commander, heading for the moon.

On July 20, 1969, the Apollo Lunar Module landed on the moon.  Neal Armstrong was first out the door of the capsule.  He paused at the bottom of the module ladder, then placed his left boot on the moon’s surface and said, “That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."  Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin then spent over two hours exploring the lunar surface.

Shortly after the Apollo flight, Armstrong announced his retirement from NASA.  He accepted a teaching position at the University of Cincinnati in the Department of Aerospace Engineering in 1971.  He resigned in 1979.  Armstrong continued to live in Cincinnati until his death.

Neal Armstrong died on August 25 in Cincinnati, Ohio from complications due to coronary bypass surgery.  He was 82 years old.  Armstrong was cremated and his ashes scattered in the Atlantic Ocean.

September ~
September saw the death of South Korean religious leader, Sun Myung Moon, who founded the Unification Church in 1954 in Seoul, Korea.  Moon claimed he founded the church after he met Jesus Christ in 1936 in the Korean countryside. Moon said he was told that he was to be the second messiah.

Moon moved to the United States in 1971. He founded News World Communications (NWC) in 1976, and the company began newspapers around the world including the Washington Times.  NWC also owns United Press International (UPI) and Pyeonghwa Motors in South Korea.

Moon was charged and convicted with filing false federal income tax returns and conspiracy in 1982.  He was sentenced to serve 18 months but was let out after 13 months for good behavior.  He was fined $15,000.

The Unification Church is known for its large wedding ceremonies known as “The Blessing.”  The ceremony was first held in 1961 for 36 couples, all members of the Unification Church in South Korea.  Moon had matched all of the couples, except 12 who were already married and taking part in the ceremony as a rededication.  In 1982, the first Blessing ceremony took place outside of Korea at Madison Square Gardens in the U.S.  The Blessing ceremony is not a legal wedding ceremony but what the church calls “marriage affirmation ceremony", with legal weddings taking place later in separate ceremonies. In 1997, a ceremony took place in Washington D.C. for over 28,000 couples.

Sun Myung Moon died of complications from pneumonia on September 3rd.  He was 92.  Moon was buried at his home on a hillside near Gapyeong, South Korea.

October ~
U.S. politician and Democratic presidential nominee for the 1972 presidential election, George McGovern, died in October.

McGovern served in the Air Force during WW II, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross from saving his crew.  After the war, he attended Northwestern University where he received a PhD.

McGovern was known as a liberal Democrat. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1956 and re-elected in 1958.  During the 1960’s, he spoke out against the U.S. involvement in View Nam.  By 1970 he was attempting to end the war with an amendment, which was defeated.  In 1972, McGovern ran against Richard Nixon for the Office of President of the United States.  He lost to Nixon in what was one of the biggest landslide election wins in U.S. electoral history.  McGovern went on to be re-elected to the Senate in 1974.

McGovern became involved with programs that dealt with agriculture, nutrition, food and hunger.  He served as chair of the Senate Select committee of nutrition and Human Needs from 1968 to 1977.  He was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture from 1998 to 2001.  And, he was appointed as the first UN Global Ambassador on World Hunger in 2001.

George McGovern died on October 21st in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  He was 90 years old.  McGovern was buried at Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

November ~
A man that TV viewers loved to hate in the 1980’s died in November.  Larry Hagman kept viewers of the prime time television soap opera, Dallas, riveted to the screen each week as they waited for his next ruthless move as oil baron J.R. Ewing.

Hagman was born in 1931 to actress Mary Martin of Peter Pan fame. After a stint in the Air Force, Hagman performed in several Broadway and off-Broadway plays.  Then, in 1956 he landed a part on the soap opera, The Edge of Night. 

In 1965, Hagman went on to become one of the most loveable characters on television, starring as astronaut Anthony Nelson, with Barbara Eden as his magic genie, in the sitcom, I Dream of Jeannie.  The show ran until 1970 and afterwards Hagman made guest appearances on other programs.

It wasn’t until 1977 that Hagman found his ‘perfect’ role as J.R. Ewing on Dallas.  It was one of the most-watched shows of all time, lasting for 14 and ½ seasons.  The “Who Shot J.R.?” episode remains the second most watched program in TV history.  Hagman reprised his role as Ewing this year, for TNT’s continuation of Dallas.

Larry Hagman died from complications of throat cancer, appropriately enough in Dallas, Texas, on November 23rd.  He was 81 years old.  No official burial site has been given for Hagman.

December ~

The oldest person in the world died on December 4.  Besse Brown Cooper of Georgia was 116 years old.  Born on August 26, 1896 in Sullivan County, Tennessee, Cooper was the third of eight children.  She graduated from East Tennessee State Normal School (University) in 1916.  She taught school in Tennessee and Georgia until 1929.

Besse married Luther Cooper in 1924 and had four children.  Luther died in 1963.  Besse remained on their farm in Georgia until 2001 when she moved into a nursing home.  She was 105 at the time.

Cooper became the oldest resident in Georgia in 2009. In 2011, she was the last known surviving person born in 1896, and the oldest person in the world.  Besse Brown Cooper died on December 4 in Monroe, Georgia at the age of 116 years and 100 days. She was buried in New Hope Methodist Church Cemetery near Monroe, Georgia.

And so we begin another year….
Here's wishing a very Happy New Year to you and yours for 2013!!

~ Joy