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News / Life / Lifestyles

A look back at some notable figures who died in 2018

By BERNARD McGHEE, Associated Press
Published: January 6, 2019, 6:02am
9 Photos
Barbara Bush laughs alongside former President George H.W. Bush as they attend a baseball game April 18, 2009, in Houston. Both Bushes died in 2018; she on April 17, he on Nov. 30.
Barbara Bush laughs alongside former President George H.W. Bush as they attend a baseball game April 18, 2009, in Houston. Both Bushes died in 2018; she on April 17, he on Nov. 30. Associated Press files Photo Gallery

In a year filled with heightened political vitriol, two deaths brought the nation together to remember men who represented a seemingly bygone era of U.S. politics.

George H.W. Bush was a president, vice president, congressman, CIA director and Navy pilot during World War II, where he flew 58 missions and was shot down over the Pacific. As a politician, he had his fair share of critics and was voted out of office after one term as president. But the Republican reinvented himself in the years after his time in the White House, becoming a fundraiser for disaster relief and forming an unlikely friendship with the man who ousted him from office, former President Bill Clinton.

John McCain was a political giant in his own right. He served as a senator for more than 30 years, ran for president twice and spent five years as a prisoner of war after being shot down during the Vietnam War. In captivity, McCain endured torture and even turned down a chance to be released early, denying the North Vietnamese military a propaganda victory.

Bush died in November at age 94, just months after the death of his wife, former first lady Barbara Bush, who died in April. McCain died in August at the age of 81 after a battle with brain cancer.

Their deaths prompted an outpouring of public mourning from across the political spectrum that was at odds with a recent political climate that has been defined by intense partisanship, coarse insults and divisive rhetoric.

The year also saw the death of one of the world’s best-known singers, Aretha Franklin. The Queen of Soul’s death in August prompted a grand send-off during a week of mourning in her hometown of Detroit, including a funeral that featured a who’s who list of entertainers, former presidents and prominent preachers.

Others from the world of entertainment who died in 2018 included the two men who created one of the most popular and enduring superheroes of the modern day. Marvel Comics icon Stan Lee, who died in November, and artist Steve Ditko, who died in June, gave the world the web-swinging Spider-Man along with a host of other super-powered heroes. Author Tom Wolfe, playwright Neil Simon, actor Burt Reynolds and screenwriter William Goldman also died.

And one of the world’s most influential scientists died in 2018. Though his body was paralyzed by disease, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking explained the mysteries of space, time and black holes to a generation of enthusiasts.

Here is a roll call of some of the people who died in 2018. (Cause of death cited for younger people, if available.)

JANUARY

• Thomas S. Monson, 90. He was considered a prophet by 16 million Mormons worldwide and spent nearly a decade as church president. Jan. 2.

• John Young, 87. The legendary astronaut who walked on the moon and later commanded the first space shuttle flight. Jan. 5.

• Doreen Tracey, 74. A former child star who played one of the original cute-as-a-button Mouseketeers on “The Mickey Mouse Club” in the 1950s. Jan. 10.

• Dolores O’Riordan, 46. Her urgent, powerful voice helped make Irish rock band The Cranberries a global success in the 1990s. Jan. 15.

• John Coleman, 83. He co-founded The Weather Channel and was the original meteorologist on ABC’s “Good Morning America” during a six-decade broadcasting career but who later drew people’s anger for his open skepticism about climate change being man-made. Jan. 20.

• Ursula K. Le Guin, 88. The award-winning science fiction and fantasy writer who explored feminist themes and was best known for her Earthsea books. Jan. 22.

• Ingvar Kamprad, 91. As founder of IKEA, he turned a small-scale mail order business started on his family’s farm into a furniture empire by letting customers piece together his simple and inexpensive furniture themselves. Jan. 27.

• Mort Walker, 94. A comic strip artist and World War II veteran who satirized the Army and tickled millions of newspaper readers with the antics of the lazy private “Beetle Bailey.” Jan. 27.

FEBRUARY

• Dennis Edwards, 74. A Grammy-winning former member of the famed Motown group The Temptations. Feb. 1.

• John Gavin, 86. The tall, strikingly handsome actor who appeared in “Spartacus,” ”Psycho” and other hit films of the 1960s before forsaking acting to become President Ronald Reagan’s ambassador to Mexico. Feb. 9.

• Marty Allen, 95. The baby-faced, bug-eyed comedian with wild black hair who was a staple of TV variety shows, game shows and talk shows for decades. Feb. 12.

• Ruud Lubbers, 78. The Netherlands’ longest-serving prime minister who guided his country through economic turmoil to prosperity and helped shape the foundations of the European Union. Feb. 14.

• Jim Bridwell, 73. A hard-partying hippie and legendary climber who lived his life vertically on some of the toughest peaks in Yosemite National Park. Feb. 16.

• The Rev. Billy Graham, 99. He transformed American religious life through his preaching and activism, becoming a counselor to presidents and the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history. Feb. 21.

• William Henry Trotter Bush, 79. A wealthy investor and the brother and uncle of presidents. Feb. 28.

MARCH

• Roger Bannister, 88. He was the first runner to break the 4-minute barrier in the mile. March 3.

• Russell Solomon, 92. The founder of the Tower Records chain that became a global phenomenon and changed the way people consumed music. March 4.

• T. Berry Brazelton, 99. He was one of the most well-known pediatricians and child development experts whose work helped explain what makes kids tick. March 13.

• Stephen Hawking, 76. A theoretical physicist whose brilliant mind ranged across time and space though his body was paralyzed by disease. March 14.

• Dick Wilmarth, 75. A miner who won the first-ever Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and then walked away from the sport. March 21.

• Charles P. Lazarus, 94. The World War II veteran who founded Toys R Us six decades ago and transformed it into an iconic piece of Americana. March 22.

• Linda Brown, 75. As a Kansas girl, she was at the center of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down racial segregation in schools. March 25.

APRIL

• Winnie Madikizela-Man dela, 81. She was Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife and an anti-apartheid activist in her own right whose reputation was sullied by scandal. April 2.

• Isao Takahata, 82. He was the co-founder of the Japanese animator Studio Ghibli that stuck to a hand-drawn “manga” look in the face of digital filmmaking. April 5.

• Milos Forman, 86. A Czech filmmaker whose American movies “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Amadeus” won a deluge of Academy Awards, including best director Oscars. April 14.

• Barbara Bush, 92. The snowy-haired first lady whose plainspoken manner and utter lack of pretense made her more popular at times than her husband, President George H.W. Bush. April 17.

• Nerses “Krik” Krikorian, 97. A scientist who was born a refugee and later became a legend in the New Mexico city where the atomic bomb was developed. April 18.

• Verne Troyer, 49. He played Dr. Evil’s small, silent sidekick “Mini-Me” in the “Austin Powers” movie franchise. April 21.

• Larry Harvey, 70. His whimsical decision to erect a giant wooden figure and then burn it to the ground led to the popular, long-running counterculture celebration known as “Burning Man.” April 28.

MAY

• Anne V. Coates, 92. An Oscar-winning film editor considered one of the greatest in her field whose many credits include such disparate works as “Lawrence of Arabia,” ”The Elephant Man” and “Fifty Shades of Grey.” May 8.

• Tessa Jowell, 70. The former British culture secretary who played a key role in securing the 2012 London Olympics and used her own cancer diagnosis to campaign for better treatment. May 12.

• Margot Kidder, 69. She starred as Lois Lane opposite Christopher Reeve in the “Superman” film franchise of the 1970s and 1980s. May 13.

• Tom Wolfe, 88. The white-suited wizard of “New Journalism” who exuberantly chronicled American culture from the Merry Pranksters through the space race before turning his satiric wit to such novels as “The Bonfire of the Vanities” and “A Man in Full.” May 14. Infection.

• Clint Walker, 90. The towering, strapping actor who handed down justice as the title character in the early TV western “Cheyenne.” May 21.

• Jerry Maren, 99. He was the last surviving munchkin from the classic 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz” and the one who famously welcomed Dorothy to Munchkin Land. May 24.

• Alan Bean, 86. A former Apollo 12 astronaut who was the fourth man to walk on the moon and later turned to painting to chronicle the moon landings on canvas. May 26.

JUNE

• Kate Spade, 55. A fashion designer known for her sleek handbags. June 5. Apparent suicide.

• Gena Turgel, 95. A Holocaust survivor who comforted Anne Frank at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp before the young diarist’s death and the camp’s liberation a month later. June 7.

• Anthony Bourdain, 61. The celebrity chef and citizen of the world who inspired millions to share his delight in food and the bonds it created. June 8. Suicide.

• D.J. Fontana, 87. A rock ‘n’ roll pioneer who rose from strip joints in his native Shreveport, La., to the heights of musical history as Elvis Presley’s first and longtime drummer. June 13.

• Vinnie Paul, 54. A co-founder and drummer of heavy metal band Pantera. June 22. Heart disease.

• Joseph Jackson, 89. The fearsome stage dad of Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson and their talented siblings, who took his family from poverty and launched a musical dynasty. June 27.

• Steve Ditko, 90. The Marvel Comics artist who gave the world the woven webs and soaring red-and-blue shape of Spider-Man and the other-worldly shimmer of Doctor Strange. June 29.

JULY

• Tab Hunter, 86. The blond actor and singer who was a heartthrob for millions of teenagers in the 1950s with such films as “Battle Cry” and “Damn Yankees!” and received new attention decades later when he revealed he was gay. July 8.

• Nancy Sinatra Sr., 101. She was the childhood sweetheart of Frank Sinatra who became the first of his four wives and the mother of his three children. July 13.

• Alene Duerk, 98. She was the Navy’s first female admiral, who became a trailblazer as the Navy opened up opportunities for women. July 21.

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• Elbert “Big Man” Howard, 80. He was a co-founder of the Black Panther Party who served as newspaper editor, information officer and logistics genius behind the group’s social programs. July 23.

AUGUST

• Charlotte Rae, 92. She played a housemother to a brood of teenage girls on the long-running sitcom “The Facts of Life” during a career that encompassed many other TV roles as well as stage and film appearances. Aug. 5.

• Stan Mikita, 78. The hockey great who helped the Chicago Blackhawks to the 1961 Stanley Cup title while becoming one of the franchise’s most revered figures. Aug. 7.

• Aretha Franklin, 76. The undisputed “Queen of Soul” who sang with matchless style on such classics as “Think,” “I Say a Little Prayer” and her signature song, “Respect,” and stood as a cultural icon around the globe. Aug. 16. Pancreatic cancer.

• Ed King, 68. A former guitarist for Lynyrd Skynyrd who helped write several of their hits including “Sweet Home Alabama.” Aug. 22. Cancer.

• Robin Leach, 76. His voice crystallized the opulent 1980s on TV’s “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” Aug. 24.

• John McCain, 81. He faced down his captors in a Vietnam prisoner of war camp with defiance and later turned his rebellious streak into a 35-year political career that took him to Congress and the Republican presidential nomination. Aug. 25.

• Neil Simon, 91. A playwright who was a master of comedy whose laugh-filled hits such as “The Odd Couple,” “Barefoot in the Park” and his “Brighton Beach” trilogy dominated Broadway for decades. Aug. 26.

SEPTEMBER

• Bill Daily, 91. The sidekick to leading men on the sitcoms “I Dream of Jeannie” and “The Bob Newhart Show.” Sept. 4.

• Burt Reynolds, 82. The film and television star known for his acclaimed performances in “Deliverance” and “Boogie Nights,” commercial hits such as “Smokey and the Bandit” and for an active off-screen love life. Sept. 6.

• Mac Miller, 26. The platinum hip-hop star whose rhymes vacillated from party raps to lyrics about depression and drug use, and earned kudos from the likes of Jay-Z and Chance the Rapper. Sept. 7. Accidental overdose.

• Arthur Mitchell, 84. He broke barriers for African-Americans in the 1950s as a ballet dancer with the New York City Ballet and who would go on to become a force in the creation of the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Sept. 19.

• Marty Balin, 76. A patron of the 1960s “San Francisco Sound” both as founder and lead singer of the Jefferson Airplane and co-owner of the club where the Airplane and other bands performed. Sept. 27.

OCTOBER

• Juan Romero, 68. The hotel busboy who came to Robert F. Kennedy’s aid when the New York senator was fatally shot in Los Angeles. Oct. 1.

• Will Vinton, 70. An Oscar-winning animator who invented Claymation, a style of stop-motion animation, and brought the California Raisins to TV. Oct. 4.

• George Taliaferro, 91. The star Indiana running back who in 1949 became the first black player drafted in the NFL when George Halas and the Chicago Bears took him in the 13th round. Oct. 8.

• Paul G. Allen, 65. He co-founded Microsoft with his childhood friend Bill Gates before becoming a billionaire philanthropist who invested in conservation, space travel, arts and culture and professional sports. Oct. 15. Complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

• Earl Bakken, 94. An electronics repairman who created the first wearable external pacemaker and co-founded one of the world’s largest medical device companies, Medtronic. Oct. 21.

• Ruth Gates, 56. A pioneering coral reef scientist who dedicated much of her career to saving the world’s fragile and deteriorating underwater reef ecosystems. Oct. 25.

• James “Whitey” Bulger, 89. The murderous Boston gangster who benefited from a corrupt relationship with the FBI before spending 16 years as one of America’s most wanted men. Oct. 30. Killed in prison.

NOVEMBER

• Raymond Chow, 91. A legendary Hong Kong film producer who introduced the world to Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan and even brought the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to the big screen. Nov. 2.

• Mari Hulman George, 83. The “quiet pioneer” of auto racing who was instrumental in the expansion of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and became known to millions of fans over the years as the one who ordered countless drivers to start their engines before races. Nov. 3.

• Douglas Rain, 90. A Canadian actor who played some of Shakespeare’s most intriguing characters onstage but perhaps is best known for supplying the creepily calm voice of the rogue computer HAL in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Nov. 11.

• Stan Lee, 95. The creative dynamo who revolutionized comic books and helped make billions for Hollywood by introducing human frailties in superheroes such as Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and the Incredible Hulk. Nov. 12.

• Katherine MacGregor, 93. She played petty, gossiping mother Harriet Oleson on TV’s “Little House on the Prairie.” Nov. 13.

• Roy Clark, 85. The country star, guitar virtuoso who headlined the cornpone TV show “Hee Haw” for nearly a quarter century and was known for such hits as “Yesterday When I was Young” and “Honeymoon Feeling.” Nov. 15. Complications from pneumonia.

• Bernardo Bertolucci, 77. An Italian filmmaker who won Oscars with “The Last Emperor” and whose erotic drama “Last Tango in Paris” enthralled and shocked the world. Nov. 26.

• Stephen Hillenburg, 57. He created SpongeBob SquarePants and the absurd undersea world he inhabited. Nov. 26. Lou Gehrig’s disease.

• George H.W. Bush, 94. His presidency soared with the coalition victory over Iraq in Kuwait, but then plummeted in the throes of a weak economy that led voters to turn him out of office after a single term. Nov. 30.

DECEMBER

• Pete Shelley, 63. He was a singer-songwriter and co-founder of the punk band the Buzzcocks. Dec. 6.

• Nancy Wilson, 81. The Grammy-winning “song stylist” and torch singer whose polished pop-jazz vocals made her a platinum artist and top concert performer. Dec. 13.

• Penny Marshall, 75. She starred in the top-rated sitcom “Laverne & Shirley” before becoming the trailblazing director of smash-hit big-screen comedies such as “Big” and “A League of Their Own.” Dec. 17. Complications from diabetes.

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