Final goodbye: Recalling influential people who died in first half of 2020


By Bernard McGhee - Associated Press



Kobe Bryant, the 18-time NBA All-Star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died in a helicopter crash Jan. 26.

Kobe Bryant, the 18-time NBA All-Star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died in a helicopter crash Jan. 26.


Mark J. Terrill | AP

In a year defined by a devastating pandemic, the world lost iconic defenders of civil rights, great athletes and entertainers who helped define their genres.

Many of their names hold a prominent place in the collective consciousness — Kobe, Little Richard, Christo — but pandemic restrictions often limited the public’s ability to mourn their loss in a year that saw more than a million people die from the coronavirus.

Other former political figures who died this year include Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, Arizona Gov. Jane Hull, U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, U.N. Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar and FBI Director William S. Sessions.

Some of the year’s deaths struck down relatively young people, leaving mourners with the heartbreak of a life gone too soon.

Basketball great Kobe Bryant died along with several others in a January helicopter crash at age 41.

Others in the world of arts and entertainment who died in 2020 include actors Kirk Douglas, Irrfan Khan, Max von Sydow, Ian Holm and Rishi Kapoor; musicians Ellis Marsalis Jr., John Prine, Bonnie Pointer, Kenny Rogers and Juliette Greco; filmmakers Nobuhiko Obayashi, Joel Schumacher and Ivan Passer; authors Mary Higgins Clark and Clive Cussler; TV hosts Regis Philbin and Jim Lehrer; and magician Roy Horn.

Find a complete list on LimaOhio.com Here is a roll call of some influential figures who died in the first half of 2020 (cause of death cited for younger people, if available):

JANUARY

David Stern, 77. The basketball-loving lawyer who took the NBA around the world during 30 years as its longest-serving commissioner and oversaw its growth into a global powerhouse. Jan. 1.

Nick Gordon, 30. He was found liable in the death of his ex-partner, Bobbi Kristina Brown, the daughter of singers Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown. Jan. 1. Heroin overdose.

Don Larsen, 90. The journeyman pitcher who reached the heights of baseball glory when he threw a perfect game in 1956 with the New York Yankees for the only no-hitter in World Series history. Jan. 1. Esophageal cancer.

Neil Peart, 67. The renowned drummer and lyricist from the influential Canadian band Rush. Jan. 7.

Elizabeth Wurtzel, 52. Her blunt and painful confessions of her struggles with addiction and depression in the bestselling “Prozac Nation” made her a voice and a target for an anxious generation. Jan. 7. Cancer.

Buck Henry, 89. “The Graduate” co-writer who as screenwriter, character actor, “Saturday Night Live” host and cherished talk-show and party guest became an all-around cultural superstar of the 1960s and 70s. Jan. 8.

Ivan Passer, 86. A leading filmmaker of the Czech New Wave who with Milos Forman fled Soviet-controlled Prague and forged a celebrated career in Hollywood. Jan. 9.

Sultan Qaboos bin Said, 79. He was the Mideast’s longest-ruling monarch who seized power in Oman in a 1970 palace coup and pulled his Arabian sultanate into modernity while carefully balancing diplomatic ties between adversaries Iran and the U.S. Jan. 11.

Jimmy Heath, 93. A Grammy-nominated jazz saxophonist and composer who performed with such greats as Miles Davis and John Coltrane before forming the popular family group the Heath Brothers in middle age. Jan. 19.

Thomas Railsback, 87. An Illinois Republican congressman who helped draw up articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon in 1974. Jan. 20.

Terry Jones, 77. A founding member of the anarchic Monty Python troupe who was hailed by colleagues as “the complete Renaissance comedian” and “a man of endless enthusiasms.” Jan. 21.

Jim Lehrer, 85. The longtime host of the nightly PBS “NewsHour” whose serious, sober demeanor made him the choice to moderate 11 presidential debates between 1988 and 2012. Jan. 23.

Kobe Bryant, 41. The 18-time NBA All-Star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career spent entirely with the Los Angeles Lakers. Jan. 26. Helicopter crash.

John Andretti, 56. Carved out his own niche in one of the world’s most successful racing families and became the first driver to attempt the Memorial Day double. Jan. 30.

Mary Higgins Clark, 92. She was the tireless and long-reigning “Queen of Suspense” whose tales of women beating the odds made her one of the world’s most popular writers. Jan. 31.

Anne Cox Chambers, 100. A newspaper heiress, diplomat and philanthropist who was one of America’s richest women. Jan. 31.

FEBRUARY

Andy Gill, 64. The guitarist who supplied the scratching, seething sound that fueled the highly influential British punk band Gang of Four. Feb. 1.

Bernard Ebbers, 78. The former chief of WorldCom who was convicted in one of the largest corporate accounting scandals in U.S. history. Feb. 2.

George Steiner, 90. He became one of the world’s leading public intellectuals through his uncommon erudition, multilingual perspective and the provocative lessons he drew from his Jewish roots and escape from the Holocaust. Feb. 3.

Daniel arap Moi, 95. A former schoolteacher who became Kenya’s longest-serving president and presided over years of repression and economic turmoil fueled by runaway corruption. Feb. 4.

Kirk Douglas, 103. The intense, muscular actor with the dimpled chin who starred in “Spartacus,” “Lust for Life” and dozens of other films, helped fatally weaken the blacklist against suspected communists and reigned for decades as a Hollywood maverick and patriarch. Feb. 5.

Beverly Pepper, 97. A fixture of the Roman “Dolce Vita” and renowned American sculptor who made Italy her home and backdrop to many of her monumental steel creations. Feb. 5.

Roger Kahn, 92. The writer who wove memoir and baseball and touched millions of readers through his romantic account of the Brooklyn Dodgers in “The Boys of Summer.” Feb. 6.

Orson Bean, 91. The witty actor and comedian who enlivened the game show “To Tell the Truth” and played a crotchety merchant on “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.” Feb. 7. Hit by a car.

Robert Conrad, 84. The rugged, contentious actor who starred in the hugely popular 1960s television series “Hawaiian Eye” and “The Wild Wild West.” Feb. 8.

Mirella Freni, 84. An Italian soprano whose uncommon elegance and intensity combined with a sumptuous voice and intelligence to enthrall audiences for a half-century. Feb. 9.

Joseph Shabalala, 78. The founder of the South African multi-Grammy-Award-winning music group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Feb. 11.

Charles “Chuckie” O’Brien, 86. A longtime associate of Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa who became a leading suspect in the labor leader’s disappearance and later was portrayed in the Martin Scorsese film, “The Irishman.” Feb. 13.

Zoe Caldwell, 86. A four-time Tony Award winner who brought humanity to larger-than-life characters, whether it be the dotty schoolteacher Miss Jean Brodie, an aging opera star Maria Callas or the betrayed, murderous Medea. Feb. 16.

Charles Portis, 86. The novelist was a favorite among critics and writers for such shaggy dog stories as “Norwood” and “Gringos” and a bounty for Hollywood whose droll, bloody Western “True Grit” was a bestseller twice adapted into Oscar-nominated films. Feb. 17.

Mickey Wright, 85. The golf great with a magnificent swing who won 13 majors among her 82 victories and gave the fledgling LPGA a crucial lift. Feb. 17.

Sy Sperling, 78. The Hair Club for Men founder who was famous for the TV commercials where he proclaimed “I’m not only the Hair Club president but I’m also a client.” Feb. 19.

Barbara “B.” Smith, 70. She was one of the nation’s top Black models who went on to open restaurants, launch a successful home products line and write cookbooks. Feb. 22.

Thich Quang Do, 91. A Buddhist monk who became the public face of religious dissent in Vietnam while the Communist government kept him in prison or under house arrest for more than 20 years. Feb. 22.

Katherine Johnson, 101. A mathematician who calculated rocket trajectories and Earth orbits for NASA’s early space missions and was later portrayed in the 2016 hit film “Hidden Figures,” about pioneering Black female aerospace workers. Feb. 24.

Clive Cussler, 88. The million-selling adventure writer and real-life thrill-seeker who wove personal details and spectacular fantasies into his page-turning novels about underwater explorer Dirk Pitt. Feb. 24.

Hosni Mubarak, 91. The Egyptian leader who was the autocratic face of stability in the Middle East for nearly 30 years before being forced from power in an Arab Spring uprising. Feb. 25.

MARCH

Jack Welch, 84. He transformed General Electric Co. into a highly profitable multinational conglomerate and parlayed his legendary business acumen into a retirement career as a corporate leadership guru. March 1. Renal failure.

Ernesto Cardenal, 95. The renowned poet and Roman Catholic cleric who became a symbol of revolutionary verse in Nicaragua and across Latin America, and whose suspension from the priesthood by St. John Paul II lasted over three decades. March 1.

James Lipton, 93. The longtime host of “Inside the Actors Studio.” March 2. Cancer.

Bobbie Battista, 67. She was among the original anchors for CNN Headline News and hosted CNN’s “TalkBack Live.” March 3. Cancer.

Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, 100. The two-term United Nations secretary-general who brokered a historic cease-fire between Iran and Iraq in 1988 and who in later life came out of retirement to help reestablish democracy in his Peruvian homeland. March 4.

Amory Houghton Jr., 93. He led his family’s glass company in upstate New York and later spent nearly two decades in Congress as a Republican with a reputation for breaking with his party. March 4.

Max von Sydow, 90. The actor known to art house audiences through his work with Swedish director Ingmar Bergman and later to moviegoers everywhere when he played the priest in the horror classic “The Exorcist.” March 8.

Rev. Darius L. Swann, 95. His challenge to the notion of segregated public schools helped spark the use of busing to integrate schools across the country. March 8.

Charles Wuorinen, 81. A winner of the 1970 Pulitzer Prize in Music and composer of the operas “Brokeback Mountain” and “Haroun and the Sea of Stories.” March 11. Injuries suffered in a fall.

Lyle Waggoner, 84. He used his good looks to comic effect on “The Carol Burnett Show,” partnered with a superhero on “Wonder Woman” and was the first centerfold for Playgirl magazine. March 17.

Kenny Rogers, 81. The Grammy-winning balladeer who spanned jazz, folk, country and pop with such hits as “Lucille,” “Lady” and “Islands in the Stream” and embraced his persona as “The Gambler” on records and TV. March 20.

Terrence McNally, 81. He was one of America’s great playwrights whose prolific career included winning Tony Awards for the plays “Love! Valour! Compassion!” and “Master Class” and the musicals “Ragtime” and “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” March 24. Coronavirus.

Manu Dibango, 86. He fused African rhythms with funk to become one of the most influential musicians in world dance music. March 24. Coronavirus.

Floyd Cardoz, 59. He competed on “Top Chef,” won “Top Chef Masters” and operated successful restaurants in both India and New York. March 25. Coronavirus.

Fred “Curly” Neal, 77. The dribbling wizard who entertained millions with the Harlem Globetrotters for parts of three decades. March 26.

Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, 98. A veteran civil rights leader who helped the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and fought against racial discrimination. March 27.

Tom Coburn, 72. A former U.S. senator from Oklahoma who earned a reputation as a conservative political maverick when he railed against federal earmarks and subsidies for the rich. March 28.

Krzysztof Penderecki, 86. An award-winning conductor and one of the world’s most popular contemporary classical music composers whose works have featured in Hollywood films like “The Shining” and “Shutter Island.” March 29.

Joe Diffie, 61. A country singer who had a string of hits in the 1990s with chart-topping ballads and honky-tonk singles like “Home” and “Pickup Man.” March 29. Coronavirus.

Bill Withers, 81. He wrote and sang a string of soulful songs in the 1970s that have stood the test of time, including “Lean on Me,” “Lovely Day” and “Ain’t No Sunshine.” March 30.

APRIL

Ellis Marsalis Jr., 85. The jazz pianist, teacher and patriarch of a New Orleans musical clan. April 1. Coronavirus.

Adam Schlesinger, 52. An Emmy and Grammy-winning musician and songwriter known for his work with his band Fountains of Wayne and on the TV show “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” April 1. Coronavirus.

Tom Dempsey, 73. The NFL kicker born without toes on his kicking foot who made a then-record 63-yard field goal. April 4. Coronavirus.

Honor Blackman, 94. The potent British actress who took James Bond’s breath away in “Goldfinger” and who starred as the leather-clad, judo-flipping Cathy Gale in “The Avengers.” April 5.

Earl Graves Sr., 85. He championed Black businesses as the founder of the first African American-owned magazine focusing on black entrepreneurs. April 6.

John Prine, 73. The singer-songwriter who explored the heartbreaks, indignities and absurdities of everyday life in “Angel from Montgomery,” “Sam Stone,” “Hello in There” and scores of other songs. April 7. Coronavirus.

Herbert Stempel, 93. A fall guy and whistleblower of early television whose confession to deliberately losing on a 1950s quiz show helped drive a national scandal and join his name in history to winning contestant Charles Van Doren. April 7.

Linda Tripp, 70. Her secretly taped conversations with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky provided evidence of an affair with President Bill Clinton that led to his impeachment. April 8.

Mort Drucker, 91. The Mad magazine cartoonist who for decades lovingly spoofed politicians, celebrities and popular culture. April 9.

Phyllis Lyon, 95. A gay rights pioneer who, with her longtime partner, was among the first same-sex couples to marry in California when it became legal to do so in 2008. April 9.

Nobuhiko Obayashi, 82. He was one of Japan’s most prolific filmmakers who devoted his works to depicting war’s horrors and singing the eternal power of movies. April 10.

Stirling Moss, 90. A daring, speed-loving Englishman regarded as the greatest Formula One driver never to win the world championship. April 12.

Brian Dennehy, 81. The burly actor who started in films as a macho heavy and later in his career won plaudits for his stage work in plays by William Shakespeare, Anton Chekhov, Eugene O’Neill and Arthur Miller. April 15.

Jane Hull, 84. She was Arizona’s first woman elected governor and part of the “Fab Five” celebrated as the nation’s first all-female elected state executive branch leadership group. April 17.

Paul O’Neill, 84. A former Treasury secretary who broke with George W. Bush over tax policy and then produced a book critical of the administration. April 18.

Irrfan Khan, 54. A veteran character actor in Bollywood movies and one of India’s best-known exports to Hollywood. April 29.

Denis Goldberg, 87. A South African anti-apartheid activist. April 29.

Rishi Kapoor, 67. A top Indian actor who was a scion of Bollywood’s most famous Kapoor family. April 30.

MAY

Bobby Lee Verdugo, 69. One of the leaders of the 1968 East Los Angeles high school walkout to protest discrimination and dropout rates among Mexican American students, which triggered a movement across the American Southwest. May 1.

Shady Habash, 22. An Egyptian filmmaker detained without trial for over two years for making a music video that mocked President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi. May 2. Died in prison.

Rosalind Elias, 90. An American mezzo-soprano who created roles in a pair of Samuel Barber world premieres and made her Broadway debut at 81. May 3.

Don Shula, 90. He won the most games of any NFL coach and led the Miami Dolphins to the only perfect season in league history. May 4.

Roy Horn, 75. He was half of Siegfried & Roy, the duo whose extraordinary magic tricks astonished millions until Horn was critically injured in 2003 by one of the act’s famed white tigers. May 8. Coronavirus.

Little Richard, 87. He was one of the chief architects of rock ‘n’ roll whose piercing wail, pounding piano and towering pompadour irrevocably altered popular music while introducing Black R&B to white America. May 9. Bone cancer.

Betty Wright, 66. The Grammy-winning soul singer and songwriter whose influential 1970s hits included “Clean Up Woman” and “Where is the Love.” May 10.

Jerry Stiller, 92. For decades, he teamed with wife Anne Meara in a beloved comedy duo and then reached new heights in his senior years as the high-strung Frank Costanza on the classic sitcom “Seinfeld” and the basement-dwelling father-in-law on “The King of Queens.” May 11.

Astrid Kirchherr, 81. She was the German photographer who shot some of the earliest and most striking images of the Beatles and helped shape their trend-setting visual style. May 12.

Phyllis George, 70. The former Miss America who became a female sportscasting pioneer on CBS’ “The NFL Today” and served as the first lady of Kentucky. May 14.

Fred Willard, 86. The comedic actor whose improv style kept him relevant for more than 50 years in films like “This Is Spinal Tap,” “Best In Show” and “Anchorman.” May 15.

Ken Osmond, 76. On TV’s “Leave It to Beaver,” he played two-faced teenage scoundrel Eddie Haskell, a role so memorable it left him typecast and led to a second career as a police officer. May 18.

Saleh Abdullah Kamel, 79. The billionaire Saudi businessman who founded the banking and real estate conglomerate Dallah Albaraka Group. May 19.

Jerry Sloan, 78. The Hall of Fame coach who was a fixture for decades in Utah and took the Jazz to the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998. May 22.

Eddie Sutton, 84. The Hall of Fame basketball coach who led three teams to the Final Four and was the first coach to take four schools to the NCAA Tournament. May 23.

Stanley Ho, 98. A casino tycoon whose business empire dominated the Portuguese gambling enclave of Macao for decades. May 26.

Larry Kramer, 84. The playwright whose angry voice and pen raised theatergoers’ consciousness about AIDS and roused thousands to militant protests in the early years of the epidemic. May 27. Pneumonia.

Christo, 84. He was known for massive, ephemeral public arts projects that often involved wrapping large structures in fabric. May 31.

JUNE

Wes Unseld, 74. The workmanlike Hall of Fame center who led Washington to its only NBA championship and was chosen one of the 50 greatest players in league history. June 2.

Shigeru Yokota, 87. A Japanese campaigner for the return of his daughter and more than a dozen others who were abducted to North Korea in the 1970s. June 5.

Bonnie Pointer, 69. She convinced three of her church-singing siblings to form the Pointer Sisters, which would become one of the biggest acts of the 1970s and ’80s. June 8. Cardiac arrest.

Pierre Nkurunziza, 56. As president of Burundi, his 15-year-rule was marked by deadly political violence and a historic withdrawal from the International Criminal Court. June 8.

William S. Sessions, 90. A former federal judge appointed by President Ronald Reagan to head the FBI and fired years later by President Bill Clinton. June 12.

Charles Webb, 81. A lifelong nonconformist whose debut novel “The Graduate” was a deadpan satire of his college education and wealthy background adapted into the classic film of the same name. June 16.

Edén Pastora, 83. Better known as “Commander Zero,” he was one of the most mercurial and charismatic figures of Central America’s revolutionary upheavals. June 16.

Jean Kennedy Smith, 92. She was the last surviving sibling of President John F. Kennedy and who as a U.S. ambassador played a key role in the peace process in Northern Ireland. June 17.

Vera Lynn, 103. The endearingly popular “Forces’ Sweetheart” who serenaded British troops during World War II. June 18.

Ian Holm, 88. An acclaimed British actor whose long career included roles in “Chariots of Fire” and “The Lord of the Rings.” June 19.

Joel Schumacher, 80. The eclectic and brazen filmmaker who shepherded the Brat Pack to the big screen in “St. Elmo’s Fire” and steering the Batman franchise into its most baroque territory in “Batman Forever” and “Batman & Robin.” June 22.

Milton Glaser, 91. The groundbreaking graphic designer who adorned Bob Dylan’s silhouette with psychedelic hair and summed up the feelings for his home state with “I (HEART) NY.” June 26.

Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr., 82. He was the last of three one-time Ku Klux Klansmen convicted in a 1963 Alabama church bombing that killed four Black girls and was the deadliest single attack of the civil rights movement. June 26.

Rudolfo Anaya, 82. A writer who helped launch the 1970s Chicano Literature Movement with his novel “Bless Me, Ultima,” a book celebrated by Latinos. June 28.

Carl Reiner, 98. The ingenious and versatile writer, actor and director who broke through as a “second banana” to Sid Caesar and rose to comedy’s front ranks as creator of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and straight man to Mel Brooks’ “2000 Year Old Man.” June 29.

Johnny Mandel, 94. The Oscar- and Grammy-winning composer, arranger and musician who worked on albums by Frank Sinatra, Natalie Cole and many others and whose songwriting credits included “The Shadow of Your Smile” and the theme from the film and TV show “M(asterisk)A(asterisk)S(asterisk)H.” June 29.

Kobe Bryant, the 18-time NBA All-Star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died in a helicopter crash Jan. 26.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2020/12/web1_Bryant-Kobe.jpgKobe Bryant, the 18-time NBA All-Star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died in a helicopter crash Jan. 26. Mark J. Terrill | AP

By Bernard McGhee

Associated Press

Post navigation