Names We Lost in 2011
Call me morbidly curious but I always look for those year-end stories about people who have died during the year. Usually I read them to see if someone passed away who I didn’t know about. 2011 was no different. From former First Ladies to the Angel of Death in “Touched by an Angel” many famous and not so famous made their last mark in 2011. Indy Car driver Dan Wheldon is the featured picture on this post. I knew him personally. Such a tragic loss. Here is just a sampling.
James Arness, the 6-foot-6 actor who towered over the television landscape for two decades as righteous Dodge City lawman Matt Dillon in “Gunsmoke,” died June 3. He was 88. The actor died in his sleep at his home in Brentwood, Calif., according to his business manager, Ginny Fazer.
Nick Ashford, one-half of the legendary Motown songwriting duo Ashford & Simpson that penned elegant, soulful classics for the likes of Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye and funk hits for Chaka Khan and others, died August 22 at age 70, his former publicist said.
Derek Boogaard 28, was found dead May 13 in his Minneapolis apartment. He played for the New York Rangers. Few details were available, but the news rippled across the NHL, where the 6-foot-7 Boogaard was a fan favorite and one of the game’s most feared fighters. He missed most of last season because of a concussion and shoulder injury from a fight.
Orlando “Zeus” Brown, the 360-pound tackle who in 1999 was accidentally hit in the eye with a penalty flag and missed three seasons because of the damage it caused, was found dead September 23 at his Baltimore home. He was 40.
Charlie Callas, a versatile comedian whose zany faces and antics made him a regular for more than four decades on television, in films and on casino stages, has died in Las Vegas January 27. He was 83.
John Chervokas, an advertising man and wordsmith who was credited with introducing a toilet paper slogan into popular culture with his “Please Don’t Squeeze the Charmin” campaign, died July 23 at age 74.
Linda Christian, the Hollywood starlet of the 1940s who married heartthrob Tyrone Power and went on to become the first Bond girl, has died. Her daughter, Romina Power, says Christian died July 22 in Palm Desert after battling colon cancer. She was 87.
When he took over as secretary of state in the Clinton administration at age 68, Warren M. Christopher said he didn’t expect to travel much. He went on to set a four-year mark for miles traveled by America’s top diplomat. He died March 18.
Jackie Cooper, the former child movie star who won a best actor Oscar nomination at the age of 9 for “Skippy” and grew up to play The Daily Planet editor in Christopher Reeves’ four “Superman” movies, died May 3. He was 88.
Al Davis, the Hall of Fame owner of the Oakland Raiders known for his rebellious spirit, died October 8. It was Davis’ willingness to buck the establishment that helped turn the NFL into THE establishment in sports — the most successful sports league in American history.
Comedian Mike DeStefano, who finished among the top five finalists last season in NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” died March 6. His representative at 3 Arts Entertainment confirmed DeStefano died in New York City.
“Make Me Laugh” comic Vic Dunlop has died in California of diabetes complications at 62. His wife, Linda Dunlop, tells the Los Angeles Times that the comedian died August 13 at Glendale Adventist Medical Center near Los Angeles.
Former WNBA star Margo Dydek died Friday at age 37, a week after suffering a heart attack. The Poland-born Dydek, who was pregnant with her third child, suffered the heart attack on May 19. She collapsed at her home in Brisbane and was put in a medically induced coma.
Actor John Dye, whose career included the role of Andrew, the angel of death, in the long-running television series “Touched by an Angel,” was found dead at his San Francisco home, January 10. He was 47. His family said he died of heart related problems.
Former Miss Venezuela Eva Ekvall, whose struggle with breast cancer was closely followed by Venezuelans, died December 17 at age 28. Her family said Ekvall died at a hospital in Houston.
Peter Falk died June 23 at age 83 in his Beverly Hills, Calif., home, according to a statement released by family friend Larry Larson. But Columbo lives on as the shining ideal of anyone with a smudge on his tie, whose car isn’t the sportiest, who often seems clueless, who gets dissed by fancy people.
Betty Ford, the former first lady whose triumph over drug and alcohol addiction became a beacon of hope for addicts and the inspiration for her Betty Ford Center, has died, a family friend said July 8. She was 93.
Joe Frazier, who died November 7 after a brief battle with liver cancer at 67, will forever be associated with Ali. No one in boxing would ever dream of anointing Ali as The Greatest unless he, too, was linked to Smokin’ Joe.
Betty Garrett, the vivacious Broadway star who played Frank Sinatra’s sweetheart in two MGM musicals before her career was hampered by the Hollywood blacklist, has died in Los Angeles, her son said February 12. She was 91.
Great wealth became J. Paul Getty III’s great curse. At age 16, he was held for ransom for five months by captors who cut off his ear when his oil-rich grandfather balked at paying. After his 1973 release, he became addicted to drugs and alcohol, diving deeper into a hippie counterculture that seemed the opposite of his family’s capitalistic roots. He was only in his 20s when he suffered a devastating stroke that left him severely impaired and in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He died February 5 at age 54.
Greg Goossen, a former major leagues catcher who was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers at 18 and led a colorful life after his baseball career by working as a private detective, boxing trainer and character actor, died February 26. He was 65.
Christina Taylor Green’s patriotism was inspired by a tragedy on her birth date — Sept. 11, 2001. Another national tragedy took the third-grader’s life. Christina was shot and killed January 8, along with five other people killed outside a supermarket where a neighbor had taken her to meet Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Rob Grill, the lead singer of 1960s rock band The Grass Roots, has died near Orlando, an official with the medical examiner’s office said July 11. He was 67. Grill sang on such hits as “Midnight Confessions,” ”Temptation Eyes,” and “Let’s Live for Today.” He died Monday at a hospice facility in Lake County, Fla., a suburb of Orlando, said Michael Hensley, director of the medical examiner’s office.
Heavy D, the self-proclaimed “overweight lover” of hip-hop who became one of rap’s top hit-makers with wit, humor and a positive vibe, has died. He was 44. Lt. Mark Rosen of the Beverly Hills police said Heavy D died in a Los Angeles hospital November 8 after collapsing outside his home.
“I sometimes wish I were suffering in a good cause, or risking my life for the good of others, instead of just being a gravely endangered patient.” Hitchens, the author, essayist and polemicist who waged verbal and occasional physical battle on behalf of causes left and right, died December 15 at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston of pneumonia, a complication of his esophageal cancer, according to a statement from Vanity Fair magazine. He was 62.
Disco singer Loleatta Holloway, known for the 1980 hit “Love Sensation,” has died. Her manager, Ron Richardson, says Holloway died of heart failure March 21 at a suburban Chicago hospital. She was 64.
Steve Jobs saw the future and led the world to it. He moved technology from garages to pockets, took entertainment from discs to bytes and turned gadgets into extensions of the people who use them. Apple announced his death without giving a specific cause. He died peacefully on October 5, according to a statement from family members who were present. He was 56.
Jack Kevorkian, the retired pathologist who captured the world’s attention as he helped dozens of ailing people commit suicide, igniting intense debate and ending up in prison for murder, died June 3 in a Detroit area hospital after a short illness. He was 83.
In real life he was Erik Martin, a boy with a constellation of severe health problems and a rare form of cancer. But in his imagination he was Electron Boy, a superhero who saved Seattle from the forces of darkness and evil one spring day last year. Erik died September 16 at home. He was 14.
Young Canadian singer Megan McNeil, who took her battle with cancer into the public spotlight, died January 28, according to a statement released Saturday by her spokespeople.
Eleanor Mondale, the vivacious daughter of former Vice President Walter Mondale who carved out her own reputation as an entertainment reporter, radio show host and gossip magnet, has died at her home in Minnesota September 17. She was 51.
Emmy-winning character actor Harry Morgan, whose portrayal of the fatherly Col. Potter on television’s “M-A-S-H” highlighted a show business career that included nine other TV series, 50 films and the Broadway stage, died Wednesday. He was 96.
Veteran stand-up comic Patrice O’Neal, who gained a wider following through TV and radio and helped roast Charlie Sheen, died November 28 from complications of a stroke he suffered last month. He was 41.
Dan Peek, a founding member of the popular 1970s band America and singer of high harmonies on hits that included “A Horse With No Name” and “Ventura Highway,” has died, his father said July 24. He was 60.
Sal Picinich, a veteran baker who appeared on the reality TV series “Cake Boss,” has died in New Jersey. He was 63.
Actress Peggy Rea, whose notable TV roles included Lulu Hogg on “The Dukes of Hazzard” and Rose Burton on “The Waltons,” died February 5. She was 89.
Cliff Robertson, the handsome movie actor who played John F. Kennedy in “PT-109,” won an Oscar for “Charly” and was famously victimized in a 1977 Hollywood forgery scandal, died September 10. He was 88.
Andy Rooney so dreaded the day he had to end his signature “60 Minutes” commentaries about life’s large and small absurdities that he kept going until he was 92 years old. Even then, he said he wasn’t retiring. Writers never retire. But his life after the end of “A Few Minutes With Andy Rooney” was short: He died November 4, according to CBS, only a month after delivering his 1,097th and final televised commentary.
Randy “Macho Man” Savage, the professional wrestler known for his raspy voice, the sunglasses and bandanas he wore in the ring and the young woman named Miss Elizabeth who often accompanied him, died in a car crash May 20 in Florida. He was 58.
Maria Schneider, the French actress who was Marlon Brando’s young co-star in the steamy 1972 film “Last Tango in Paris,” has died at age 58. Schneider died in Paris on February 3 “following a long illness.”
Retired Army Gen. John Shalikashvili, the first foreign-born chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who counseled President Bill Clinton on the use of troops in Bosnia and other trouble spots, died July 23, the Army said in a statement. He was 75.
Former NFL star Bubba Smith, who went from feared defensive end on the field to endearing giant in his successful second career as an actor, died August 3. He was 66.
Phoebe Snow, a bluesy singer, guitarist and songwriter whose “Poetry Man” was a defining hit of the 1970s but who then largely dropped out of the spotlight to care for her disabled daughter, died April 26.
Elizabeth Taylor, the violet-eyed film goddess whose sultry screen persona, stormy personal life and enduring fame and glamour made her one of the last of the old-fashioned movie stars and a template for the modern celebrity, died March 23 at age 79.
Dan Wheldon, who moved to the United States from his native England with hopes of winning the Indianapolis 500 and went on to prevail at his sport’s most famed race twice, died October 16 after a massive, fiery wreck at the Las Vegas Indy 300. He was 33. I knew Dan personally. He was the nicest, most humble guy you could come across. I will miss seeing him at the track.
Few artists summed up their own career in a single song — a single line — as well as Amy Winehouse. “They tried to make me go to rehab,” she sang on her world-conquering 2006 single, “Rehab.” ”I said ‘No, no no.'” The singer was found dead July 23 by ambulance crews called to her home in north London’s Camden area, a youth-culture mecca known for its music scene, its pubs — and the availability of illegal drugs.
Edward Zigo, the New York City detective who cracked the notorious Son of Sam case in the 1970s by acting on a hunch about a parking ticket and arrested killer David Berkowitz, died January 19. He was 84.