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Notable deaths of 2012



Published: Mon, December 31, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

Associated Press

Neil Armstrong would always be taking that first step onto the moon, and Dick Clark was forever “the world’s oldest teenager.” Some of the notables who died in 2012 created images in our minds that remained unchanged over decades.

Sadly, for others an established image was shattered by a fall from grace. Whitney Houston ruled as a queen of pop music, but years of hard living harmed her voice while erratic behavior and a troubled marriage took a toll on her image. And Joe Paterno, Penn State’s longtime coach, won more games than anyone in major college football, but was ultimately fired amid a molestation scandal involving an assistant coach that scarred his reputation.

Here is a roll call of some of the people who died in 2012. (Cause of death cited for younger people if available.)

JANUARY

Lowell Randall, 96. Pioneer rocket scientist who helped launch the U.S. space program and tested intercontinental ballistic missiles. Jan. 3.

Don Carter, 85. Bowling great who flourished as a genuine sports celebrity during the game’s golden age on TV. Jan. 5.

of musical acts. Jan. 16.

Johnny Otis, 90. He wrote and recorded the R&B classic “Willie and the Hand Jive” and for decades evangelized black music to white audiences as a bandleader and radio host. Jan. 17.

Etta James, 73. Blues singer best known for her performance of the enduring classic “At Last.” Jan. 20. Complications from leukemia.

Joe Paterno, 85. Longtime Penn State coach who won more games than anyone in major college football but was fired amid a child sex abuse scandal that scarred his reputation for winning with integrity. Jan. 22.

Robert Hegyes, 60. Actor best known for playing Jewish Puerto Rican student Juan Epstein on the 1970s TV show “Welcome Back Kotter.” Jan. 26.

Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, 88. Retired head of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and an uncharged central figure in a child sex-abuse case that involves the alleged shuffling of predator priests to unwitting parishes. Jan. 31.

FEBRUARY

Don Cornelius, 75. As host of “Soul Train,” he helped break down racial barriers and broaden the reach of black culture with funky music, groovy dance steps and cutting edge style. Feb. 1. Self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Angelo Dundee, 90. Trainer who helped groom Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard into world champions. Feb. 1.

Ben Gazzara, 81. Actor who brought intensity to roles in such iconic productions as the original “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” on Broadway and the film “The Big Lebowski.” Feb. 3.

Florence Green, 110. Last known veteran of World War I. Feb. 4.

John Fairfax, 74. First known person to row alone across the Atlantic Ocean. Feb. 8.

Whitney Houston, 48. She ruled as pop music’s queen until her majestic voice was ravaged by drug use and her regal image ruined by erratic behavior and a tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown. Feb. 11. Accidentally drowned in a bathtub.

Gary Carter, 57. Star catcher whose single for the New York Mets in the 1986 World Series touched off one of the most improbable rallies in baseball. Feb. 16.

Jan Berenstain, 88. With her husband, Stan, she wrote and illustrated the Berenstain Bears books that have charmed preschoolers for 50 years. Feb. 24.

Edna Milton Chadwell, 84. Last madam of the Chicken Ranch brothel, which inspired the movie and Broadway show “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” Feb. 25.

Davy Jones, 66. Actor turned singer who helped propel the TV rock band The Monkees to the top of the pop charts. Feb. 29. Heart attack.

MARCH

Robert B. Sherman, 86. Songwriter who wrote “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” in “Mary Poppins” and other songs for Disney classics. March 5.

James T. “Jimmy” Ellis, 74. As frontman for The Trammps, he belted out the refrain “Burn, baby burn!” in the 1970s-era disco hit “Disco Inferno.” March 8.

Harry Wendelstedt, 73. Longtime umpire who worked five World Series and made a call involving Don Drysdale that became one of baseball’s most disputed plays in the late 1960s. March 9.

F. Sherwood Rowland, 84. Nobel prize-winning chemist who sounded the alarm on the thinning of the Earth’s ozone layer and crusaded against the use of chemicals that were harming earth’s atmospheric blanket. March 10.

Michael Hossack, 65. Longtime Doobie Brothers drummer whose work is heard on the hits “Listen To The Music” and “China Grove.” March 12. Cancer.

John Demjanjuk, 91. He was convicted of being a low-ranking guard at the Sobibor death camp, but his 35-year fight to clear his name made him one of the best-known faces of Nazi prosecutions. March 17.

Earl Scruggs, 88. Bluegrass legend and banjo pioneer who profoundly influenced country music with Bill Monroe in the 1940s and later with guitarist Lester Flatt. March 28.

APRIL

Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, 76. He designed Porsche’s classic 911 sports car, the sleek model that evokes power, wealth and envy among aficionados. April 5.

Thomas Kinkade, 54. Artist whose paintings of idyllic landscapes, cottages and churches have been big sellers for dealers across the U.S. April 6.

Mike Wallace, 93. Dogged CBS reporter who took on politicians and celebrities in a 60-year career highlighted by on-air confrontations that helped make “60 Minutes” the most successful prime-time television news program ever. April 7.

Dick Clark, 82. Ever-youthful television entrepreneur who helped bring rock ‘n’ roll into the mainstream on “American Bandstand,” and later produced and hosted game shows and the year-end countdown from Times Square. April 19.

Levon Helm, 71. Key member of the rock group The Band who lent his voice to classics like “The Weight” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” April 19.

George Vujnovich, 96. Intelligence agent who organized a World War II mission to rescue more than 500 U.S. bomber crew members shot down over Nazi-occupied Serbia. April 24.

Thomas Austin “Amarillo Slim” Preston Jr., 83. A poker champion whose brash style, fast talking and love of the spotlight helped broaden the professional game’s appeal. April 29.

MAY

Junior Seau, 43. Homegrown superstar who was the fist-pumping, emotional leader of the San Diego Chargers for 13 years. May 2. Apparent suicide.

Adam Yauch, 47. Also known as MCA, the gravelly voiced rapper helped make the Beastie Boys one of the seminal groups in hip-hop. May 4. Cancer.

George Lindsey, 83. He made a TV career as a grinning service station attendant named Goober on “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Hee Haw.” May 6.

Maurice Sendak, 83. Children’s book author and illustrator who saw the sometimes-dark side of childhood in books like “Where the Wild Things Are.” May 8.

Vidal Sassoon, 84. Celebrity hairstylist whose 1960s wash-and-wear cuts freed women from endless teasing and hairspray. May 9.

Carroll Shelby, 89. Legendary car designer and champion auto racer who built the Shelby Cobra sports car and injected testosterone into Ford’s Mustang and Chrysler’s Viper. May 10.

Donald “Duck” Dunn, 70. Bassist who helped create the gritty Memphis soul sound at Stax Records in the 1960s as part of the legendary group Booker T. and the MGs. May 13.

Mary Richardson Kennedy, 52. Estranged wife of Robert Kennedy Jr.; her life’s highlights and troubled moments played out publicly because of the famous political family she married into. May 16. Apparent suicide.

Donna Summer, 63. Disco queen whose pulsing anthems such as “Last Dance,” ‘’Love to Love You Baby” and “Bad Girls” became the soundtrack for a glittery age of drugs, dance and flashy clothes. May 17.

Robin Gibb, 62. One of the three Bee Gees whose falsetto harmonies powered such hits as “Stayin’ Alive” and “Night Fever” and defined the flashy disco era. May 20.

Eugene Polley, 96. Inventor of the first wireless TV remote control. May 20.

Eddie Blazonczyk, 70. Grammy Award-winning polka great who earned the nickname “Polka King” after starting his own band and label. May 21.

Wesley Brown, 85. First African-American to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy. May 22.

JUNE

Richard Dawson, 79. Wisecracking British entertainer who was among the schemers in the 1960s TV comedy “Hogan’s Heroes” and later the contestant-kissing host of the game show “Family Feud.” June 2.

Herb Reed, 83. Last surviving original member of 1950s vocal group the Platters who sang on hits like “Only You” and “The Great Pretender.” June 4.

Ray Bradbury, 91. Science fiction-fantasy master who transformed his childhood dreams and Cold War fears into telepathic Martians, lovesick sea monsters, and the high-tech, book-burning future of “Fahrenheit 451.” May 5.

Bob Welch, 65. Former member of Fleetwood Mac who went on to write songs and record several hits during a solo career. June 7. Self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Ann Rutherford, 94. Actress who played the sweetheart in the long-running Andy Hardy series and Scarlett O’Hara’s youngest sister in “Gone With the Wind.” June 11.

Henry Hill, 69. Associate in New York’s Lucchese crime family, a mobster and FBI informant whose life was the basis for the Martin Scorsese film “Goodfellas.” June 12.

Rodney King, 47. Black motorist whose 1991 videotaped beating by Los Angeles police officers was the spark for one of the most destructive U.S. race riots. June 17. Accidentally drowned.

Barry Becher, 71. Infomercial pioneer best known for introducing American TV viewers to Ginsu knives, the miracle kitchen tool that sliced through tin cans and chopped wood. June 22.

Nora Ephron, 71. Essayist, author and filmmaker who thrived in the male-dominated worlds of movies and journalism and was loved, respected and feared for her wit. June 26. Leukemia

Doris Singleton, 92. Actress who played Lucy and Ricky Ricardo’s neighbor on “I Love Lucy.” June 26.

Don Grady, 68. One of television’s most beloved big brothers as Robbie Douglas on the 1960s hit “My Three Sons.” June 27.

Norman Sas, 87. Mechanical engineer who created electric football, a tabletop game with a vibrating metal field and unpredictable plastic players that captivated children and grown-ups. June 28.

JULY

Andy Griffith, 86. He made homespun Southern wisdom his trademark as a wise sheriff in “The Andy Griffith Show” and a rumpled defense lawyer in “Matlock.” July 3.

Ernest Borgnine, 95. Beefy screen star known for blustery, often villainous roles, but who won the best-actor Oscar for playing against type as a lovesick butcher in “Marty” in 1955. July 8.

Stephen R. Covey, 79. Author of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” and three other books that have all sold more than a million copies. July 16. Complications from a bicycle accident.

Jon Lord, 71. British rocker and keyboardist whose driving tones helped turn Deep Purple and Whitesnake into two of the most popular hard rock acts in a generation. July 16.

Kitty Wells, 92. Singer whose hits such as “Making Believe” and “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” made her the first female superstar of country music. July 16.

William Raspberry, 76. He became the second black columnist to win a Pulitzer Prize for his widely read syndicated commentaries in The Washington Post. July 17.

Sally Ride, 61. She blazed trails into orbit as the first American woman in space. July 23. Pancreatic cancer.

Sherman Hemsley, 74. Actor who made the irascible, bigoted George Jefferson of “The Jeffersons” one of TV’s most memorable characters and a symbol for urban upward mobility. July 24.

Chad Everett, 75. Star of the 1970s TV series “Medical Center” who went on to appear in such films and TV shows as “Mulholland Drive” and “Melrose Place.” July 24.

Gore Vidal, 86. Author, playwright, politician and commentator whose novels, essays, plays and opinions were stamped by his immodest wit and unconventional wisdom. July 31.

AUGUST

Joe Kubert, 85. Groundbreaking comic artist and educator best known for co-creating DC Comics’ iconic Sgt. Rock character. Aug. 12.

Ron Palillo, 63. Actor best known as the nerdy high school student Arnold Horshack on the 1970s sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter.” Aug. 14.

Tony Scott, 68. Director of such Hollywood blockbusters as “Top Gun,” ‘’Days of Thunder” and “Beverly Hills Cop II.” Aug. 19. Died after jumping from a bridge.

George Hickman, 88. One of the original Tuskegee airmen and a longtime usher at University of Washington and Seattle Seahawks games. Aug. 19.

Phyllis Diller, 95. Housewife-turned-humorist who aimed some of her sharpest barbs at herself, punctuating her jokes with her trademark cackle. Aug. 20.

Jerry Nelson, 78. Puppeteer behind a delightful menagerie of characters including Count von Count on “Sesame Street” and Gobo Fraggle on “Fraggle Rock.” Aug. 23.

Neil Armstrong, 82. He became a global hero when as a steely-nerved astronaut he made “one giant leap for mankind” with a small step onto the moon. Aug. 25.

Juan Valdez, 74. Land grant activist who fired the first shot during a 1967 New Mexico courthouse raid that grabbed international attention and helped spark the Chicano Movement. Aug. 25.

SEPTEMbER

Rev. Sun Myung Moon, 92. Self-proclaimed messiah who turned his Unification Church into a worldwide religious movement and befriended North Korean leaders as well as U.S. presidents. Sept. 3.

Michael Clarke Duncan, 54. Hulking character actor whose dozens of films included an Oscar-nominated performance as a death row inmate in “The Green Mile.” Sept. 3. Heart attack.

Joe South, 72. Singer-songwriter who performed 1960s and ‘70s hits such as “Games People Play” and “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” and penned songs including “Down in the Boondocks” for other artists. Sept. 5.

Art Modell, 87. Former owner of the Baltimore Ravens and longtime NFL stalwart who incurred the wrath of Cleveland fans when he moved the team from Ohio. Sept. 6.

Andy Williams, 84. Silky-voiced, clean-cut crooner whose hit recording “Moon River” and years of popular Christmas TV shows brought him fans the world over. Sept. 25.

OCTOBER

Alex Karras, 77. Feared NFL defensive tackle who went into acting, playing the lovable dad in the 1980s sitcom “Webster” and the cowboy who punched out a horse in “Blazing Saddles.” Oct. 10.

Arlen Specter, 82. Outspoken ex-U.S. senator from Pennsylvania whose switch from Republican to Democrat ended a 30-year career in which he played a pivotal role in several Supreme Court nominations. Oct. 14. Complications of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

George McGovern, 90. Former U.S. senator and a Democrat who lost to President Richard Nixon in 1972 in a landslide. Oct. 21.

NOVEMBEr

Art Ginsburg, 81. Delightfully dorky television chef known as Mr. Food. Nov. 21.

Larry Hagman, 81. Actor whose predatory oil baron J.R. Ewing on television’s nighttime soap opera “Dallas” became a symbol for 1980s greed. Nov. 23.

Hector “Macho” Camacho, 50. Puerto Rican boxer known for skill and flamboyance in the ring as well as for a messy personal life and run-ins with the police. Nov. 24. Gunshot.

Joseph E. Murray, 93. Doctor who performed the world’s first successful kidney transplant and won a Nobel Prize. Nov. 26.

Marvin Miller, 95. Soft-spoken union head who led baseball players in strikes and legal battles that won free agency, revolutionized sports and turned athletes into multimillionaires. Nov. 27.

Zig Ziglar, 86. Motivational speaker who wrote more than 30 books and focused on positivity and leading a balanced life. Nov. 28.

DECEMBEr

Dave Brubeck, 91. Jazz composer and pianist whose pioneering style in pieces such as “Take Five” caught listeners’ ears with exotic, challenging rhythms. Dec. 5.

Norman Joseph Woodland, 91. He was the co-inventor of the bar code that labels nearly every product in stores and has boosted productivity in nearly every sector of commerce worldwide. Dec. 9.

Ravi Shankar, 92. The sitar virtuoso who became a hippie musical icon of the 1960s after hobnobbing with the Beatles. Dec. 11.

Daniel Inouye, 88. The Hawaii senator and influential Democrat who broke racial barriers on Capitol Hill. Dec. 17.

Robert H. Bork, 85. His failed 1980s nomination to the Supreme Court helped draw the modern boundaries of cultural fights over abortion, civil rights and other issues. Dec. 19.

Charles Durning, 89. Character actor best remembered for his role in “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” Dec. 24.

Jack Klugman, 90. Played Oscar Madison in “The Odd Couple.” Dec. 24.

Fontella Bass, 72. Soul singer who hit the top of the R&B charts with “Rescue Me” in 1965. Dec. 26.

Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, 78. Led the international military coalition that drove Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait in 1991. Dec. 27.


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