Sunday, January 3, 2021

Those We Lost In 2020

For my first blog of the year 2021, I'm taking a look back over 2020 at some of the people we lost. This list is chronological by date of death. I've tried to pick a cross section from different walks of life. This is definitely not a complete list of all those who died. The loss of life from the COVID-19 pandemic exceeded a third of a million people just in the United States with the world wide loss being much higher. Just the number of those infected in the United States exceeded 20 million.

Buck Henry

Date: Jan. 8

Cause of death: Heart attack

Age: 89

Co-wrote the iconic film The Graduate which launched Dustin Hoffman to stardom and also co-created the television sitcom Get Smart with Mel Brooks. Regularly hosted Saturday Night Live in its infancy.


Kobe Bryant

Date: Jan. 26

Cause of death: Blunt trauma

Age: 41

The NBA legend and eight others, including his 13-year-old daughter, died when his private helicopter crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, Calif.


Mary Higgins Clark

Date: Jan 31

Age: 92

The bestselling "Queen of Suspense" who wrote dozens of suspense novels sold worldwide. Clark's writing career spanned decades.


Kirk Douglas

Date: Feb. 5

Cause of death: Natural causes

Age: 103

The matinee idol of Hollywood’s Golden Age died at his Beverly Hills home, announced his son Michael Douglas. The star of Spartacus, Ace in the Hole, Champion and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, was a three-time Academy Award nominee and was awarded an honorary lifetime achievement Oscar in 1996. He also played an instrumental role in helping end the Hollywood blacklist against suspected communist sympathizers.


Max von Sydow

Date: March 8

Age: 90

Born Carl Adolf von Sydow, the Swedish actor and director enjoyed a 70-year career that spanned everything from The Exorcist (1973), to Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), to numerous international films including Ingmar Bergman’s critically acclaimed The Seventh Seal (1957). In more recent years, he reached a new audience with his Emmy-nominated performance as the Three-eyed Raven in Game of Thrones.


Kenny Rogers

Date: March 20

Cause of death: Natural causes

Age: 81

One of the most successful recording artists of all time, the country star recorded 65 albums, sold more than 165 million records, and racked up more than 120 Billboard hit singles across various genres — including his 1978 story song “The Gambler,” which was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress and inspired five television movies. A Country Music Hall of Fame inductee in 2013, Rogers also won three Grammys, 13 American Music Awards, six Country Music Association Awards, the CMA Lifetime Achievement Award and the CMT Artist of a Lifetime Award.


Roy Horn

Date: May 8

Cause of death: Coronavirus-related complications

Age: 75

Horn was half of the successful Las Vegas duo Siegfried and Roy, who entertained crowds with magic tricks and interaction with lions and tigers, for 35 years. He had miraculously survived after being mauled and dragged offstage by a 400-pound white tiger during a performance on Oct. 3, 2003, although he had a stroke and partial paralysis afterward. While the duo made an appearance for charity in 2009, they officially retired their act the following year. His death came one week after his diagnosis with the coronavirus.


Little Richard

Date: May 9

Cause of death: Bone cancer

Age: 87

Considered the founding father of rock ‘n’ roll whose combination of boogie, gospel and blues paved the way for every rocker that followed, the flamboyant “Tutti Frutti” showman’s death prompted a flood of tributes to his incredible legacy.


Jerry Stiller

Date: May 11

Cause of death: Natural causes

Age: 92

The comedian and his wife of 60 years, Anne Meara, were a very successful stand-up comedy duo. Their son, Ben Stiller, is a successful actor. Jerry had a late-career boost first on Seinfeld, playing George Costanza's father Frank (Festivus!). He followed that success by playing Leah Remini's dad on The King of Queens. He also appeared with Ben in numerous films.


Phyllis George

Date: May 14

Cause of death: Complications from a blood disorder

Age: 70

After winning the title of Miss America 1971, she became one of the first female sports broadcasters when she joined the NFL Today team four years later.


Carl Reiner

Date: June 29

Cause of death: Natural causes

Age: 98

Because he was a writer, producer, director and an actor, it’s easy to see why he was an important influence on comedy. He was the winner of multiple Emmys and the father of director Rob Reiner. Carl continued to act into his later years.


Kelly Preston

Date: July 12

Cause of death: Breast cancer

Age: 57

The Jerry Maguire and For Love of the Game actress privately battled breast cancer for two years before succumbing to the disease at her Florida home. She had been married to John Travolta since 1991.


John Lewis

Date: July 17

Cause of death: Pancreatic cancer

Age: 80

An icon of the civil rights movement, he was one of the activists who was by the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s side during the March on Washington in 1963 and during the Bloody Sunday March in 1965. He spent more than three decades as a congressman representing Atlanta. His death came six months after he revealed that he had Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.


Diana Rigg

Date: Sept. 10

Cause of death: Lung cancer

Age: 82

Long before her popular role as the wickedly witty Lady Olenna Tyrell on Game of Thrones, she was a ‘60s sex symbol playing crimefighting assistant Emma Peel to Patrick Macnee's John Steed on the British TV series The Avengers. A star on stage and screen, the British actress was made a “Dame” for her services to drama in 1994, the year she won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play after starring in the London and New York productions of Medea.


Regis Philbin

Date: July 24

Cause of death: Heart attack

Age: 88

The iconic TV personality set the Guinness World Record for "Most Hours on US Television" during his 60-year showbiz career. He was best known for the morning show Live!, which he co-hosted for 24 seasons, and the hit primetime game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?


Olivia de Havilland

Date: July 26

Cause of death: Natural causes

Age: 104

The two-time Oscar winner and last surviving star of Gone With the Wind died peacefully in her sleep at her home in Paris. The fiery actress made a splash off-screen, too, as she helped buck the old Hollywood studio system with what’s known in the industry as the de Havilland Law.


Chadwick Boseman

Date: Aug. 28

Cause of death: Cancer

Age: 43

The Black Panther star’s death sent a shockwave around the world when Boseman’s family announced he privately battled colon cancer for four years. The actor brought King T’Challa to life in the Marvel Universe between countless surgeries and chemotherapy.


Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Date: Sept. 18

Cause of death: Metastatic pancreatic cancer

Age: 87

The Supreme Court justice, nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1993, was beloved for the many advancements she made for women. Even before she became only the second woman (and the first Jewish woman) to sit on the nation’s highest court, Ginsburg had fought for women’s rights on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union and had persevered against sexism in her own life as one of the few women studying law. In her later years, Ginsburg became so famous for her dissents, that she was given the nickname of “the notorious RBG.” Her story inspired books and movies, a meme and even a regular sketch on Saturday Night Live.


Eddie Van Halen

Date: Oct 6

Cause of death: Cancer

Age: 65

The renowned lead guitarist of iconic rock group Van Halen died after a "long and arduous battle with cancer," his son wrote on social media.


Sean Connery

Date: Oct. 31

Cause of death: Respiratory failure due to pneumonia, old age and atrial fibrillation

Age: 90

He won an Oscar playing a tough-talking cop in The Untouchables and found success with a series of thrillers and action hits in the 1990s, but the suave Scotsman will forever be synonymous with three words: “Bond, James Bond.” Connery’s original 007 set the benchmark for debonair-but-deadly action heroes.


Alex Trebek

Date: Nov. 8

Cause of death: Cancer

Age: 80

Less than two years after announcing his stage 4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis, the beloved Jeopardy! host passed away at home surrounded by loved ones. Trebek filmed his final episodes just 10 days before his death. The pop culture icon hosted the game show since its revival in 1984. In 2014, he was awarded the Guinness World Record for most gameshow episodes hosted by the same presenter.


Chuck Yeager

Date: Dec. 7

Age: 97

The test pilot who broke the sound barrier in 1947, thus paving the way for future space travel.


Charley Pride

Date: Dec. 12

Cause of death: COVID-19-related complications

Age: 86

Pride was a legendary baritone singer who broke barriers as the first Black country superstar and first Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. During his peak recording years, he was RCA Records’ best-selling artist since Elvis Presley, earning 52 top 10 country hits (36 of which went to No. 1) and 12 gold albums. Pride was the winner of four Grammys and three Country Music Association Awards.


Anna Taylor Sweringen said...

What a list and so many from some kind of cancer. Thanks for sharing, Samantha. May they and the numerous others only their loved ones can name rest in peace.

Judith Sterling said...

A lovely post. So sad, though. We lost some great ones!

Samantha Gentry said...

Anna: Yes, that was a surprise to me, too--so many cancer deaths.

Thanks for your comment.

Samantha Gentry said...

Judith: This was just a partial list, a small partial list, of all those we lost during 2020. Some truly great people in their field.

Thanks for your comment.