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.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Those Who Died in 2016

By Joy Neighbors

Each year, we pause and remember those who died during the previous 12 months. Once again, a look back at those who left a lasting imprint on our world.

The first month of the year took a toll on the talented.

As Ziggy Stardust
David Bowie
David Robert Jones, better known as David Bowie, died on January 10, 2016, just two days after his 69th birthday. Bowie was a chameleon who continually reinvented himself during his early pop years. From Ziggy Stardust, his alien alter ego, to the funky soul artist, the Thin White Duke, he was a master of showmanship, and a talented musician. Bowie had just released Blackstar, his final album, two days earlier as a “parting gift” to his legions of fans. David Bowie died from liver cancer. He was cremated on January 12.

Alan Rickman
As Severus Snape
Alan Sidney Patrick Rickman died on January 14th. An English actor who played equally well on stage or screen, Rickman was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company where he learned to play a good guy, and a great villain. He appeared in over 60 movies during his career including Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Sense and Sensibility, Galaxy Quest, a series of Harry Potter movies, Love Actually, Bottle Shock, and Eye in the Sky. Rickman died of pancreatic cancer in London. He was 69.

Maurice White
With Earth, Wind & Fire
Maurice White died on February 3rd. Founder, singer, arranger and composer for the band, Earth, Wind and Fire, White was the leading force behind EWF’s sound; a mix of jazz, funk, pop and R&B.  White stopped touring with the band in 1994 after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The seven-time Grammy winner has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. Maurice White died at his home in Los Angeles, California from the effects of Parkinson’s. He was 74 years old.

 Justice Antonin Scalia
As a Young Man
Antonin Scalia died February 13th after having spent the previous day hunting and dining at a ranch in Shafter, Texas.  Scalia served as a D.C. Circuit Court Judge before being nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1986. Scalia was appointed as an Associate Justice, a position he held from 1986 until his death by President Ronald Reagan. He believed in the clear separation of the executive, legislative and judicial branches according to the Constitution, and was known to use emotional language in his findings. Antonin Scalia died in Texas. He is the fourth justice to die in office in the past 65 years. He was 79.

Nancy Regan
In the 1980s
Nancy Davis Regan died on March 6 of congestive heart failure. Regan was an actress, and the wife of the 40th president. She began acting in 1949, but gave up her career to marry Ronald Regan in 1952. Regan became the first lady of California in 1967, and became the U.S. first lady in 1981. She took an active interest in Alzheimer’s disease after her husband was diagnosed with it. Nancy Regan was 94 years old. She was buried next to her husband at the Ronald Regan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

Patty Duke
As a Young Star
Anna Marie “Patty” Duke died on March 29 of complications from a ruptured intestine. As a child star, she was best known for her role as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker in 1962. She also starred as identical cousins Patty and Cathy in The Patty Duke Show during the mid-sixties. Duke appeared in 19 films, and continued her television performances until last year. She recorded six albums and wrote two books; her autobiography, Call Me Anna, and Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic Depressive Illness, her personal look into bipolar disorder, which she was diagnosed with in 1982. Patty Duke was 69 years old.


The "cruelest month" lived up to its name, taking with it two music superstars. Country Music legend Merle Haggard died on April 6, his birthday, of complications from pneumonia. He was 79-years-old. Haggard's musical career spanned six decades. He recorded more than three dozen number one hits including "Oakie From Muskogee," "Mama Tried" and "Sing Me Back Home." Haggard did a short stint in San Quentin for petty crimes during his youth, but jail time allowed him to develop an outlaw persona, which helped sell his records. Haggard and his band, The Strangers created the Bakersfield sound. At the time of his death, Haggard was planning another studio album with his buddy, Willie Nelson. Merle Haggard died at his home in Northern California and was buried in a private ceremony on his ranch.

The Love Symbol
On April 21, an iconic musician died - Prince Rogers Nelson was found unresponsive in an elevator at his Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen, Minnesota. Less than a week before, he had been admitted to the hospital with health issues. Prince sold more than 100 million records worldwide, and is listed at number 27 on the Rolling Stones 100 Greatest Artist of All Time list. He became famous with the release of “Purple Rain” in 1984. In 1993, Prince announced that he would no longer go by his name but by an unpronounceable love symbol - a slap at his record contract with Warner Brothers. When that contract expired in 2000, he resumed using his name. Autopsy reports indicate that Prince died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl. He was cremated and his remains were placed in an urn on display at his Paisley Park Studio. Prince was 57.

Alan Young
With Mr. Ed
Alan Young, remembered best for playing the part of Wilbur Post, owner of a talking horse in the 1960’s TV sit-com Mr. Ed, died of natural causes on May 19 in California. He was 96 years old. Young was also a voice actor and had over 100 acting credits to his name. Program financier George Burns cast Young in the part of Wilbur because, as Burns said, “He looks like the kind of guy a horse would talk to.” Young was buried at sea.

Morley Safer
In the 1970s
He was the 60 Minutes correspondent that came across as laid back, someone you could talk with. Morley Safer died May 19th in Manhatten. Safer had been a CBS reporter for years; he was the first to break television taboos by showing American GIs burning the huts of Vietnamese villages during the Vietnam War. This incurred the long-standing wrath of President Lyndon Johnson, who demanded Safer be fired. CBS refused, and other reporters began speaking out on the really happenings in Vietnam. In 1970, Safer took on the role of investigative and cultural reporter on 60 Minutes a new “television news magazine.” That show gave Safer the longest run of anyone on a primetime network program - He was on 60 Minutes for 46 years. CBS aired a tribute to Safer at the same time he announced his retirement from 60 Minutes; one week before he died. Morley Safer was buried at Roselawn Avenue Cemetery in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He was 84 years old.


Muhammad Ali
Cassius Clay
Legendary boxer, Muhammad Ali died June 3rd. Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Ali changed his name when he converted to Islam in 1964. A three time World Heavyweight Boxer, Ali proclaimed himself “The Greatest” early in his career and went on to prove it. Over his 21-year career, Ali won 56 of the 61 fights he fought. Of those 56 -37 were knockouts. He also won an Olympic gold medal in 1960 for light heavyweight boxing, and had scored 31 straight wins before being beaten by Joe Frazier in 1975. He retired from the ring in 1981. Ali had battled Parkinson’s disease for 32 years; he died of septic shock at a hospital near Phoenix, Arizona. He was 74 years old. Muhammad Ali was buried at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky.

Alvin Toffler
In 1970
Author Alvin Toffler died June 27th at his home in Los Angles. He is best known for his 1970’s book that changed the way many Americans looked at technology and the future. Toffler’s prophetic book, Future Shock predicted how Americans would deal with the tremendous changes expected to occur in the latter part of the 20th century. He went on to write Third Wave in 1980 and Powershift in 1990. All three books explored society’s reaction to accelerating change, and many scholars say those predictions have already come true. Toffler was also credited with coining the term “information overload.” Alvin Toffler was buried in Westwood Memorial Cemetery in L.A. California. He was 87 years old.

Join me next week as we take a final look at those who died in 2016.