Friday, December 30, 2016

A Final Look at Those Who Died in 2016

By Joy Neighbors

If you thought the first six months of the year took a toll on our creative forces – consider just the last month of December. Closing out 2016 with a final look at those who passed …

Garry Marshall
Garry Marshall
He was a man with the comedic Midas touch. Garry Marshall was a writer, director and producer known for his 1970s-80s sit-coms Happy Days, Lavern and Shirley, Mork and Mindy, and The Odd Couple. His directing credits include Pretty Woman, Exit to Eden, The Princess Diaries and Georgia Rules. Marshall began his career as a joke writer for The Tonight Show with Jack Paar in 1961.Marshall teamed up with Jerry Belson and together they wrote episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Lucy Show and I Spy. Marshall set out on his own with Happy Days in 1974 which spawned a number of sitcom spinoffs. Garry Marshall died July 19 in Burbank California of pneumonia after suffering a stroke. He was 81 years old. Marshall was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills.

Anton Yelchin
As Pavel Chekov
Anton Yelchin was a Russian born actor known for playing Pavel Chekov in the successful 2009 Star Trek and its sequel Star Trek Into Darkness in 2013. Yelchin took acting classes in L.A. when he was a child and made his television debut as Robbie Edelstein on ER in 1994. During his short career, Yelchin had acted in over 20 feature films and television shows. Anton Yelchin died on July 22 of blunt traumatic asphyxia when his vehicle rolled and pinned him against a brick pillar outside his home. He was buried at Mount Sinai Memorial Park cemetery in Los Angles, California. He was 27.

Kenny Baker
R2D2 & Kenny Baker
Although you might not recognize his face, you will recognize the character he played. Kenneth Baker, an English actor of short stature, was best known as the robotic character, R2D2 of the Star War movies; Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977), Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983). And again in 1999 with Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. Baker was active in movies throughout his life. Kenneth Baker died on August 13 in Lancashire, England. He was 81 years old.

As Fredrick Frankenstein
Gene Wilder
Another comic genius was lost in August. Jerome Silberman, better known as Gene Wilder began his movie career in 1967 in Bonnie and Clyde. But Wilder soon became a favorite of director Mel Brooks when he proved he could hold his own with comedic timing. Wilder starred in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), Blazing Saddles (1974) and Young Frankenstein (1974), which he also co-wrote with Brooks. Wilder went on to star in Silver Streak (1976), Stir Crazy (1980) and Another You (1991) with his pal Richard Pryor. He married Saturday Night Live performer Gilda Radner in 1984 but lost her to cancer in 1989. Wilder retired from show biz in the late 1990s and became a writer, publishing several books. Gene Wilder died August 29 of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 83 years old.

Jose Fernandez
Baseball pitcher, Jose Fernandez died September 25 in a boat crash off Miami Beach. Fernandez, who was a star pitcher for the Miami Marlins, was born in Cuba and had played with the Marlin’s since 2013. Fernandez signed with the Miami team in 2011. During that time, he was named as the Marlin’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Fernandez’ last game was September 20 when he pitched eight shutout innings. Jose Fernandez was 24 years old.

Arnold Palmer in the 1960s
Arnold Palmer
Another sports figure also died on the 25th. Golf legend Arnold Palmer was nicknamed “The King” because he was the first television superstar of sports back in the 1950s. Palmer won 62 PGA Tour titles between 1955 – 1973. In 1974, Palmer was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. He also won the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998. In 2004, Palmer made his last appearance in the Master Tournament having appeared there 50 consecutive times. He retired from tournament golf in 2006. Arnold Palmer died September 25 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania while awaiting heart surgery. He was 87 years old. Palmer was cremated and his ashes scattered at Latrobe County Club in his hometown.

Tommy Ford
As Tommy on Martin
Thomas Mikal Ford was best known for his role of Tommy on the TV show Martin (1992), along with Harlem Nights (1989) and Uncle Buck (1990). During the 2000’s, Ford had starred in over 15 films and had been working behind the scenes as a producer/director. He had also done several theatre productions and was working on a documentary. Ford died October 12of an aneurysm in his abdomen ruptured. He was 52 years old.

Kevin Meany
On The Tonight Show
Veteran stand-up comedian, Kevin Meany died on October 21. Meany was a regular on late night talk shows and was famous for the line, “That’s not right.” Mean appeared on Saturday Night Live and the movie Big with Tom Hanks.  He also starred in the sit-com Uncle Buck for one season. He wrote for several television shows and performed in the Broadway musical Hairspray for seven years. Kevin Meany died on October 21 in New York. He was 60 years old. He is buried in Mounty Calvary Cemetery in White Plains, New York.

Janet Reno
Taking the Oath
The first woman to serve as U.S. Attorney General died on November 7. Janet Reno
held the position for eight years, appointed by President Clinton in the 1990s. Under her guidance, initial prosecution in the bombings of the World Trade Center in 1993 and the Oklahoma Federal Building in 1995 pieced together the groundwork for convicting terrorists in the 21st century. Reno was also the first female state attorney for Florida. Janet Reno died at her home in Miami-Dade County, Florida of complications from Parkinson’s disease. She was cremated and her ashes given to family. She was 78.

As a Young Reporter
Gwen Ifill
Gwen Ifill was one of the most prominent and respected news reporters in the country. She broke racial and gender barriers and was one of the most trusted reporters in journalism. Ifill was the first African American woman to host a major political talk show when she became moderator of Washington Week in Review in 1999. In 2013, she and Judy Woodruff broke the glass ceiling in the news business by becoming the first two women in the country to co-manage and co-anchor a nightly national news program, PBS’s NewsHour. Ifill moderated the 2004 and 2008 vice-presidential debates, and had just finished with the tumultuous 2016 Democratic primary debate. She was scheduled to receive the John Chancellor Award at Columbia University on November 16. Gwen Ifill died of endometrial cancer on November 14. She was 61 years old.

John Glenn
John Glenn in the 1950s
The first American to orbit the earth died on December 8. John Glenn, one of the most recognized faces of the American space program, was the last surviving member of the Mercury Seven astronauts. Glenn began flying during WWII. In 1962, he boarded the Friendship 7 capsule and made history. In 1998, he again made history as the oldest person to fly in space. Glenn left NASA in 1964, and spent several decades holding political office, retiring in 1999. Glenn was only the 9th person to lie in state in the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus on December 30th. John Glenn died in Columbus, Ohio at the age of 95.

George Michael
George Michael with WHAM!
One of the most iconic pop singers of the 1980s died on Christmas Day. George Michael, founding member of the group WHAM! was known for ‘80s hits Wake Me Up Before you Go-Go and Careless Whisper. In 1987, Michael went on to a solo career, earning numerous Grammy Awards and selling more than 100 million albums around the world. Michael released albums until 2014, when his final album, Symphonica was released. George Michal died of heart failure. He was 53 years old.

Carrie Fisher
As Princess Leia
Although she was best known for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars movies, Carrie Fisher was also an author and screenwriter. The daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actor Debbie Reynolds, Fisher did not take her celebrity too seriously. In fact, she was quite candid about her battle with bipolar disorder, depression and substance abuse. Fisher went on to act in several movies including The Blues Brothers and When Harry Met Sally. Then, last year, she reprised her role as Princess Leia for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Carrie Fisher died December 27 of a massive heart attack. She was 60 years old.

Debbie Reynolds
In the 1950s
And one day later, on December 29, Carrie Fisher’s mother, Debbie Reynolds died. Reynolds was well known for her role in Singin’ in the Rain with Gene Kelly. She married Fisher’s father, Eddie Fisher and had two children before divorcing him after discovering his affair with Elizabeth Taylor. Reynolds was known for her dancing and singing, which she continued through much of her life. Family members say Reynolds couldn't handle losing her daughter the day before and had simply let go. Debbie Reynolds died of a stroke. She was 84 years old.

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