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2016 News of the Year: Deaths

Golfer Arnold Palmer was one of many memorable deaths of the past year.

2016 News of the Year: Deaths

Andy Lyons/Getty Images for Golfweek

Arnold Palmer

87, Sept. 25 • Widely acclaimed “king of golf” who won seven major championships and 62 PGA Tour titles beginning in 1955, including the British Open, the U.S. Open, and the Masters.

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Joe Alaskey

63, Feb. 3 • Voice actor who succeeded Mel Blanc as the TV and film voices of Looney Tunes characters Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and others.

Edward Albee

88, Sept. 16 • Innovative playwright who won three Pulitzer Prizes for the plays A Delicate Balance, Seascape, and Three Tall Women, but is best remembered for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Muhammad Ali ▼

74, June 3 • Controversial boxer who won the world heavyweight title three times, the first with a win over Sonny Liston in 1964. At that bout, he announced he had joined the Nation of Islam sect, accepted its teachings, and had given up his Louisville, Ky., birth name, Cassius Clay, in favor of the new name given him by sect leader Elijah Muhammad.

Stanley Weston/Getty Images

Peter Allen

96, Oct. 8 • Successor to Milton Cross (d. 1975) as the authoritative announcer’s voice of the Metropolitan Opera’s Saturday matinee radio broadcasts for the next 29 seasons and 500 broadcasts.

Eddie Applegate

81, Oct. 17 • Actor known for playing Patty Lane’s high-school sweetheart on the 1960s The Patty Duke Show

William L. Armstrong

79, July 5 • Colorado media executive and conservative Republican who served in Congress (1972-1990, including two terms in the Senate, where he was a strong ally to Ronald Reagan). He became a “committed Christian” in the 1970s, was a longtime board member of Campus Crusade for Christ (since renamed Cru), and president of Colorado Christian University from 2006 until cancer felled him this year.

Natalie Babbitt

84, Oct. 31 • Noted children’s author and illustrator, whose 1975 novel Tuck Everlasting led young readers to explore what it might mean to live forever.

Kenneth E. Bailey

85, May 23 • Evangelical scholar, author, and professor who spent 40 years (1955-1995) in the Middle East, learning its history, cultures, and languages, and teaching in -seminaries and institutes in Egypt, Lebanon, Jerusalem, and Cyprus. A Presbyterian, he was known for books like Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes.

David Bald Eagle

97, July 22 • Native American whose varied career included appearances in 40 films, including the 1990 Oscar-award-winning Dances with Wolves. His was tourism’s face of the Lakota people of South Dakota.

Cliff Barrows

93, Nov. 15 • Song leader, music director, and emcee for evangelist Billy Graham’s crusades, from the first one in 1947 in Michigan to the last in 2005 in New York City. Barrows, an ordained Baptist, was a skilled preacher himself and sometimes substituted when Graham fell ill. Graham often told others, “Cliff could just step up and preach a lot better sermon than me because God gave him the gift—not only of organization and music, but also of preaching and teaching.”

Daniel J. Berrigan

94, April 30 • Jesuit priest, roving academic, author, poet, hero of the Catholic left, and militant anti-war activist who with eight fellow Catholics in 1968 seized draft records from a Selective Service office in Maryland and burned them publicly. He eventually served two years in federal prison for the crime.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali

93, Feb. 16 • Egyptian Copt and professor-turned-diplomat who served a five-year term as secretary--general of the United Nations during a period of genocides and political friction in the early 1990s. The Clinton administration blocked his bid for a second term.

David Bowie ▼

69, Jan. 10 • Popular British rock star and songwriter, ever epitomizing moderns’ search for spiritual meaning in life and the universe, a quest seemingly left unfinished when he died.

Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images

John Bradshaw

82, May 8 • Self-help adviser known for books that sold millions of copies, appearances on public television and TV talk shows, and sold-out workshops, mostly about harking back to childhood and “reclaiming … your inner self.”

Ralph Branca

90, Nov. 23 • Brooklyn Dodgers relief pitcher who, ahead 4-2 in the ninth inning of the final game of the 1951 National League championship series with the New York Giants, served up baseball lore’s “shot heard around the world” pitch, a high fastball to Bobby Thomson, with two runners on base. Thomson sent the ball rocketing into the left field stands at the old Polo Grounds, a three-run walk-off homer. Bedlam ensued.

Jerry Bridges

86, March 6 • Administrator, Bible teacher, speaker, and author (The Pursuit of Holiness and others) with Colorado-based The Navigators discipleship ministry for nearly 60 years.

Harry Briggs Jr.

75, Aug. 9 • As a young boy he became a catalyst of the Supreme Court case desegregating public schools. In 1949 he and other African-American children in his South Carolina community had to walk up to 9 miles to a segregated school while buses took white children to their own segregated school. That led to a lawsuit that folded into the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision ending school segregation.

Charles (C.D.) Brooks

85, June 5 • Prominent Seventh-day Adventist evangelist who preached on six continents and for 23 years was the speaker on Breath of Life, a weekly Adventist television outreach to African-American viewers.

Joy Browne

71, Aug. 27 • Psychologist and radio and television personality who dispensed self-help advice and therapeutic encouragement to thousands of call-ins and millions of listeners for nearly four decades.

Howard E. Butt Jr.

89, Sept. 11 • Nationally known Southern Baptist business and lay leader, an heir apparent to his family’s Texas-based H-E-B supermarket chain. A catalyst for workplace ministry, he also was known for his one-minute positive-thought broadcasts aired daily on 3,000 radio outlets.

Charmian Carr 

73, Sept. 17 • Amateur church singer who portrayed Liesl, the teenage oldest (and best-remembered) von Trapp daughter in the 1965 Rodgers and Hammerstein Oscar-winning classic, The Sound of Music.

Fidel Castro ▼

90, Nov. 25 • Former Cuban president who led a rebel army to an improbable victory in Cuba in 1959 and then instituted Soviet-style communism. He presided over the murder and imprisonment of his opponents and reduced Cuba to grinding poverty during his dictatorial half-century rule.

Francoise De Mulder/Roger Viollet/Getty Images

Jack Chick

92, Oct. 23 • Former technical illustrator for an aerospace company, advocate of fundamentalist Christianity, and cartoonist--publisher of gospel tracts in mini-comic book format.

Guy Clark

74, May 17 • Texas-born Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer known for hits like “L.A. Freeway” and “Desperados Waiting for a Train.”

Leonard Cohen

82, Nov. 7 • Celebrated Canada-born poet, novelist, gifted singer-songwriter. “Hallelujah” was his best-known song, but regardless of their subject, most of his songs conveyed a religious mysticism. A Sabbath-keeping Jew who dabbled in Buddhism and claimed “no religious aptitude,” his songs frequently referenced or alluded to Christ or the cross.

Pat Conroy

70, March 4 • Victim of abuse growing up in South Carolina who drew on that experience in his best-selling novels The Lords of Discipline and The Prince of Tides.

Denton Cooley

96, Nov. 18 • Heart surgeon at the Texas Heart Institute in Houston who in 1968 performed the first successful heart transplant in the United States and in 1969 the first implant of a fully artificial heart. 

Jan Crouch

78, May 31 • Colorful Christian TV co-host and pink-wig enthusiast who, with her late husband Paul, co-founded Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). She appeared regularly on the broadcasts and managed TBN’s Holy Land Experience, a religious theme park in Orlando, Fla.

Jack Davis

91, July 27 • Versatile artist and satirical cartoonist who in 1952 became one of the founding members of the “usual gang of idiots” who put out Mad Magazine

Gloria DeHaven

91, July 30 • Singer and actress who started out as a child actor in a 1936 Charlie Chaplin movie but went on to appear in several MGM musicals. Daytime TV audiences later knew her in As the World Turns, Ryan’s Hope, and All My Children.

Jim Delligatti

98, Nov. 28 • Pittsburgh-area McDonald’s franchise owner in Uniontown, Pa., who in 1967 test-marketed a new double-decker hamburger sandwich he had created. It rolled out a year later and became the single-greatest-selling sandwich in world history—the Big Mac.

Patty Duke

69, March 29 • Actress who as a child star won renown for stage, film, and television performances. At age 12, she starred as Helen Keller in Broadway’s The Miracle Worker, at age 16 won an Oscar in the Hollywood version of the story, and the following year debuted in the ABC sitcom, The Patty Duke Show, which ran through 1966.

Bob Elliott

92, Feb. 2 • Half of the Bob and Ray comedy team. He and his gruffer-voiced partner, Ray Goulding, kept radio, Broadway, film, and television audiences amused for decades with their zany satire of pop culture.

Jane Fawcett

95, May 21 • Sharp-eyed young woman who worked at the British code-breaking center during World War II, where she spotted and reported a German message that enabled the Royal Navy to locate and sink Germany’s important battleship, the Bismarck, in May 1941.

Joey Feek

40, March 4 • Country/bluegrass/gospel duo singer with her husband Rory. Their albums made Top 10 country lists, but she didn’t live to see the success of 2016’s Hymns That Are Important to Us, which reached nearly 500,000 in U.S. sales as of November. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2014, shortly after giving birth to a baby daughter with Down syndrome. 

Carrie Fisher

60, Dec. 27 • The daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds who achieved fame as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy. Reynolds died the next day. 

Glenn Frey

67, Jan. 18 • Founding member, singer, guitarist, and driving force of the 1970s Californian country-rock band the Eagles, co-writing most of their biggest hits, including “Tequila Sunrise,” “Lyin’ Eyes,” and “Hotel California.”

Greta Zimmer Friedman

92, Sept. 8 • 21-year-old dental assistant in a nurse’s uniform shown in a famous photo being kissed by a random sailor in Times Square celebrating the end of World War II on V-J Day, Aug. 14, 1945.

Zsa Zsa Gabor

99, Dec. 18 • Early example of a star who became “famous for being famous,” Gabor turned her flamboyant lifestyle, her 1936 Miss Hungary title, and her nine marriages (including one annulled after one day) into Hollywood celebrity.

Joe Garagiola

90, March 23 • Baseball catcher who spent nine seasons in the major leagues with unremarkable stats, then scored big in the broadcasting booths and on television for NBC for three decades with his play-by-play calls, colorful commentary, and self-effacing humor. 

Jean Garton

87, Dec. 23 • Founder of Lutherans for Life, host of the daily radio program Speaking of Life, and author of Who Broke the Baby?, Garton spent 47 years in pro-life advocacy. 

Ron Glass 

71, Nov. 25 • Emmy-winning TV actor best known for his role as Ron Harris in the 1970s police sitcom Barney Miller

John Glenn ▼

95, Dec. 8 • Highly decorated fighter pilot and Mercury Seven astronaut who on Feb. 20, 1962, became the first American to orbit the earth. He later served four terms in the U.S. Senate.

Jay LaPrete/AP

Andy Grove

79, March 21 • Longtime head of Intel Corporation who helped turn the company into the leading maker of microprocessors for most computers, starting with IBM’s first PC in 1981. 

Ann Morgan Guilbert

87, June 14 • Actress best known for her role on The Dick Van Dyke Show in the 1960s; she was Millie Helper, the vibrant friend of Laura Petrie.

Merle Haggard

79, April 6 • Legendary country music songwriter and performer with a troubled past and with more than 100 songs that made the Billboard charts, 38 of them at No. 1. Perhaps best known for “Okie from Muskogee,” an anti-hippie anthem from the height of the Vietnam War. 

Earl Hamner Jr.

92, March 24 • Novelist and television writer who drew on his warm family memories of growing up in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Charlottesville, Va., during the Depression to -create the hugely successful CBS series The Waltons (1972-1981). 

Pat Harrington Jr.

86, Jan. 6 • Character actor and comedian remembered best as the laughable macho building superintendent Dwayne Schneider in the CBS sitcom One Day at a Time (1975-1984).

Lou Harris

95, Dec. 17 • Pollster and political consultant who helped to steer John F. Kennedy to the White House. 

Tom Hayden

76, Oct. 23 • 1960s student radical who led protests against the Vietnam War, married actress Jane Fonda and toured postwar Vietnam with her, but finally settled into what he called a more “commonsense” life as a writer and state legislator.

Henry Heimlich

96, Dec. 16 • Cincinnati surgeon credited with inventing a maneuver in 1974 that has saved countless thousands of choking victims.

Fred Hellerman

89, Sept. 1 • Baritone singer, guitarist, songwriter, and last surviving member of The Weavers—the quartet at the heart of the folk music revival in the 1950s.

Donald “D.A.” Henderson

87, Aug. 19 • Ohio-born epidemiologist who led the successful global war against smallpox in the 1960s and ’70s.

Florence Henderson ▼

82, Nov. 24 • Actress remembered best for her role as Carol Brady, mom of The Brady Bunch (1969-1974), a sitcom about a suburban blended family.

Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Steven Hill

94, Aug. 23 • Versatile stage, film, and television actor known best for his role as grumpy New York district attorney Adam Schiff in TV’s Law & Order

Gordie Howe

88, June 10 • Nicknamed “Mr. Hockey,” considered one of the greatest and most durable players in the history of the NHL, who powered his Detroit Red Wings teams to four Stanley Cup championships and was 52 years old when he finally hung up his skates. He scored 801 goals in the NHL, second only to Wayne Gretzky’s 894.

Gwen Ifill

61, Nov. 14 • Veteran print and broadcast journalist who in 1999 became moderator and managing editor of the public-affairs program Washington Week on PBS and co-anchor and co-managing editor, with Judy Woodruff, of PBS NewsHour.

Monte Irvin ▼

96, Jan. 11 • Baseball Hall of Fame outfielder who played seven seasons for the New York Giants (1949-1955) and one season for the Chicago Cubs. He missed becoming the first black player in major league history when he turned down an offer from Branch Rickey to join the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945. Already a five-time All Star in the Negro National League, and just back from WWII, Irvin felt he needed to stay in the Negro leagues. 

Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Esther Jungreis

80, Aug. 23 • Dubbed the “Jewish Billy Graham” by The New York Times, she was an Orthodox Jewish revivalist who in 1973 founded Hineni. Its mission was to summon “fallen Jews back to a fundamental faith,” to reject secularism and live a life dedicated to God’s commandments. She spent nearly two decades delivering that message in rallies worldwide.

Kitty Kallen

94, Jan. 7 • Popular singer during the swing era, known best for 1954’s “Little Things Mean a Lot,” No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. She started out as “a gifted child” at age 11 with her own radio show in Philadelphia and went on to sing for bandleaders Artie Shaw, Harry James, and Jimmy Dorsey.

Paul Kantner

74, Jan. 28 • Founding member, guitarist, harmony singer, and songwriter of the late-1960s psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane and its successor, Jefferson Starship.

Marvin Kaplan

89, Aug. 25 • Longtime film and TV actor, beginning with a 1949 uncredited role in Adam’s Rib. That performance led to a seven-decade-long career as a comedy actor in film and television. His most memorable role was as Henry Beesmeyer, the telephone repairman in the recurring sitcom Alice.

Alfred G. Knudson Jr.

93, July 10 • Medical scientist and oncologist renowned for his groundbreaking genetics-related “two-hit” theory of how cancer develops: the first hit could be an inherited or mutated gene, but it takes a second hit (radiation, for example) to activate the cancer. His published findings in 1971 ushered in a new era of cancer research.

Burt Kwouk

85, May 24 • British character actor who unforgettably played the martial arts expert Cato, servant to bumbling Inspector Jacques Clouseau in the hugely successful Pink Panther film series. 

Tim LaHaye

90, July 25 • Former evangelical pastor in San Diego, leader and benefactor of conservative causes and institutions nationally, and author of more than 50 books, including with co-author Jerry B. Jenkins the best-selling prophecy-themed Left Behind fiction series (with sales of more than 65 million since 1995). 

Melvin R. Laird

94, Nov. 16 • U.S. Navy veteran and Purple Heart recipient who served in the Pacific during WWII, and longtime Wisconsin congressman chosen by Richard Nixon in 1969 to be his secretary of defense and manage American withdrawal from Vietnam. At the Pentagon, he suspended the military draft in 1973 in favor of an all-volunteer force. 

Harper Lee

89, Feb. 19 • Alabama author of the 1960 bestseller To Kill a Mockingbird. The story about small-town racial injustice won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, was made into a popular film version starring Gregory Peck in 1962, went on to sell 40 million copies, and became required reading for millions of American schoolchildren.

Neville Marriner

92, Oct. 2 • Violinist and one of the founders of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. He led the chamber group to become one of the world’s most-recorded classical music groups, making more than 500 recordings and performing in venues across the world. The group’s soundtrack for the 1984 Oscar-winning Amadeus sold in the millions and became one of the best-selling classical recordings ever.

Garry Marshall

81, July 19 • Influential television writer and film director who created sitcoms Happy Days, The Odd Couple, and Laverne & Shirley and directed hit movies including Pretty Woman and The Princess Diaries.

George Martin

90, March 9 • Record producer whose greatest success came during the seven years he spent with The Beatles, the most successful group in music history. His career spanned six decades; in that time he produced more than 700 records, wrote film scores, and worked with music’s greatest talents.

Don McClanen

91, Feb. 16 • High-school and college basketball coach who founded the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) in 1954, with a major assist from Brooklyn Dodgers executive Branch Rickey. 

John McLaughlin

89, Aug. 16 • Former Jesuit priest, speechwriter for President Richard Nixon, and provocative conservative who went on to create and host the Sunday public-affairs panel and punditry show that aired mainly on PBS TV stations and bore his name, The McLaughlin Group (1982-2016).

Robertson McQuilkin

88, June 2 • Christian educator, former missionary and church planter in Japan, and president of Columbia Bible College and Seminary (now Columbia Interna-tional University). He resigned early in order to care for his Alzheimer’s-stricken wife, Muriel, who died in 2003. 

George Michael

53, Dec. 25 • Singer-songwriter who first gained fame as half of the pop duo Wham! in the 1980s before going solo and achieving superstardom. He became a gay icon after announcing he was homosexual.

Marvin Minsky

88, Jan. 24 • MIT scientist and inventor who studied how computers “think” and became the pioneering force in the field of artificial intelligence.

Gilbert Morris

86, Feb. 18 • Former pastor, English professor, and author of some 230 novels. The best-known of his works is the 40-volume House of Winslow series, covering the centuries of America’s roots and growth.

Noel Neill

95, July 3 • Petite red-haired actress who portrayed Lois Lane in 1940s Superman movie serials and on television in the 1950s.

Prince Rogers Nelson

57, April 21 • Flamboyant pop singer, guitarist, and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer with many No. 1 hits in the 1980s and ’90s and a 1984 album, Purple Rain, that was No. 1 for 24 weeks. No lyrics seemed too salacious—or too spiritual—for the Seventh-day Adventist-turned- Jehovah’s Witness to sing.

Todd Williamson/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Hugh O’Brian

91, Sept. 5 • Actor who starred as a Wild West peace officer in TV’s The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, which ran on ABC from 1955 to 1961. He also was founder in 1958 of an international youth leadership training program known as HOBY, which nearly 500,000 people have completed so far.

Gary S. Paxton

77, July 17 • Songwriter, producer, and singer who wrote more than 2,000 songs, produced the pop hits “Alley-Oop” and “Monster Mash,” faded out on drugs and alcohol, visited a church in Nashville and professed faith in 1971, switched to working with Christian artists, and was inducted into the Country Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1998.

Shimon Peres

93, Sept. 28 • Polish-born, twice-serving Israeli prime minister and longtime notable member of the Knesset, known for strengthening Israel’s defense forces and attempting to negotiate peace with West Bank Palestinians, for which he won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize. 

Nancy Reagan

94, March 6 • Starting out as stage and screen actress Nancy Davis, she went on to marry Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan and become his first lady in the California Statehouse and the White House. In retirement, she cared faithfully for him throughout his struggle with Alzheimer’s.

Harry Langdon/Getty Images

Janet Reno

78, Nov. 7 • Nation’s first female attorney general, serving eight years during the Clinton administration. She ordered the controversial attack on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, in 1993.

Debbie Reynolds

84, Dec. 28 • Singer and actress whose prolific movie career included the 1952 classic Singin’ in the Rain, in which she starred opposite Gene Kelly, and the title role in 1964’s The Unsinkable Molly Brown, for which she received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Reynolds died one day after the death of her daughter, actress Carrie Fisher.

Lawrence O. Richards

85, Oct. 16 • Prominent and prolific Christian education researcher and writer, he was author of more than 250 books, including popular Bibles for children and teens.

Alan Rickman

69, Jan. 14 • Emmy- and Golden Globe–winning actor with an unforgettable voice who became one of Britain’s best-loved stars thanks to roles including Professor Snape in the Harry Potter films and Hans Gruber in Die Hard.

Rita “Mother Angelica” Rizzo

92, March 27 • Born Rita Rizzo in Canton, Ohio, she became a Catholic nun at age 21 and took the name by which the world would come to know her: Sister Mary Angelica. In 1981 she founded the Eternal Word Television Network.

Doris Roberts

90, April 17 • Five-time Emmy winner best known for her work as Marie Barone, Raymond’s mother, on TV’s Everybody Loves Raymond. A veteran character actress, Roberts appeared in more than three dozen movies and guest-starred on some of the most popular TV shows from the 1970s to the 1990s.

Vera Rubin

88, Dec. 25 • Pioneering astrophysicist whose studies in the 1970s confirmed the existence of a “halo” of heavy opaque “dark matter” holding together spiral galaxies.

Leon Russell

74, Nov. 13 • Influential long-haired, scratchy-voiced pianist, guitarist, songwriter, and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. His most famous songs include “Delta Lady” and “Roll Away the Stone.”

Charles C. Ryrie

90, Feb. 16 • Retired professor of systematic theology and director of doctoral studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and author of more than 50 books. He edited The Ryrie Study Bible, containing 10,000 of his explanatory notes in four Bible versions (KJV, NASB, ESV, and a Spanish translation), with sales of more than 2.6 million copies.

Morley Safer

84, May 19 • Toronto-born veteran CBS newsman who went on to become a respected, commanding presence on 60 Minutes for 46 years, winning dozens of awards for stories ranging from light-touch cultural fare to sensitive investigative pieces.

Theresa Saldana

61, June 6 • Actress known especially for her role as Joe Pesci’s wife in the Martin Scorsese film Raging Bull and for her work on TV’s The Commish.

Joe Santos

84, March 18 • Husky character actor who played Lt. Dennis Becker, the grudgingly helpful pal to private eye Jim Rockford (James Garner) on NBC’s The Rockford Files

Antonin Scalia ▼

79, Feb. 13 • Appointed by Ronald Reagan to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1986, he became the leader of its conservative wing and by his wit, clarity, and intellect also became a widely acknowledged defining figure in American constitutional law. He was a devout Catholic.

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Time

William Schallert

93, May 8 • Actor known for his roles in two classic sitcoms—as the frustrated English teacher to Dwayne Hickman and his pals in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959-1963) and as Patty’s stressed father in The Patty Duke Show (1963-1966). 

Sydney Schanberg

82, July 9New York Times foreign correspondent who won a Pulitzer Prize for covering Cambodia’s fall to the Khmer Rouge in 1975 and who inspired the film The Killing Fields.

Phyllis Schlafly

92, Sept. 5 • One of the most energetic and influential advocates of conservatism in recent U.S. history. A faithful Catholic focused on protection of the family, busy mother of six, late-blooming lawyer, skilled debater, broadcaster, and author of the best-selling 1964 book, A Choice Not an Echo, that helped define the conservative revolution.

Russell Shedd

87, Nov. 26 • Teacher, linguist, pastor, writer, publisher, translator, missionary, theologian—his was a household name among evangelicals in Brazil, where he put down roots in 1962 and taught for 30 years at a Baptist seminary.

Jean Shepard

82, Sept. 25 • Country music singer, feisty traditionalist in the genre, and women’s advocate who spent 60 years with the Grand Ole Opry cast, with hits like “A Satisfied Mind” (1955) and “Second Fiddle (to an Old Guitar)” (1964).

Gary Smalley

75, March 6 • Popular speaker, broadcaster, and author of dozens of best-selling books, all part of a ministry focused on healing and restoring marriage and family relationships.

Jane Stuart Smith

90, Jan. 14 • Opera singer from Virginia whose successful career on the Italian stage ended when in 1960 she professed faith in Christ, renounced the “temptations” of the opera world, and dedicated herself to Christian ministry at the scholarly L’Abri Christian community in Switzerland headed by Francis and Edith Schaeffer. She helped to form an ensemble that sang in concerts internationally.

Pat Summitt

64, June 28 • Former Tennessee women’s basketball coach who won more Division I college basketball games than any other coach—male or female.

Mark Humphrey/AP

Alan Thicke

69, Dec. 13 • Actor and songwriter best known for playing the patriarch of the Seaver family in the 1980s sitcom Growing Pains. The Ontario native also wrote the theme music for the shows Diff’rent Strokes, The Facts of Life, and Wheel of Fortune.  

Raymond Tomlinson

74, March 5 • Computer programmer responsible for the @ in email addresses. He chose the little-used symbol to separate the user’s name from the computer’s location. 

Peter Vaughan

93, Dec. 6 • Best known to American audiences for playing blind Maester Aemon for five seasons on Game of Thrones, but he had been well-known to British audiences for decades, first appearing on TV in the 1950s.

Robert Vaughn

83, Nov. 11 • Stage, screen, and television actor best known for his role as the suave spy Napoleon Solo in the 1960s TV series The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Bobby Vee

73, Oct. 24 • Clean-cut teen singer and bandleader known for early 1960s hits like “Take Good Care of My Baby,” “Rubber Ball,” and “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes.”

Abe Vigoda

94, Jan. 26 • Actor known best for roles he played on both sides of the law—as the sunken-eyed, raspy-voiced, death-bound mafia captain Salvatore Tessio in The Godfather (1972) and as cranky New York veteran detective Phil Fish in the ABC sitcom Barney Miller (1975-1982).

C. Peter Wagner

86, Oct. 21 • Academic, a missionary in Bolivia for 16 years, a professor in evangelism and church growth at Fuller Seminary, founder of Global Harvest Ministries, and author of more than 70 books. 

Maurice White

74, Feb. 4 • Percussionist, singer, and co-founder and leader of Earth, Wind & Fire, a nine-piece band that sold more than 90 million albums in the 1970s and early ’80s, including hits like “September” and “Shining Star.” 

Elie Wiesel

87, July 2 • Romania-born Holocaust survivor who was a teenager when the Nazis sent him to Auschwitz-Birkenau and Buchenwald until liberated by U.S. forces in 1945. He went on to work for French, Israeli, and U.S. newspapers and write 57 books. 

Gene Wilder ▼

83, Aug. 29 • Comic actor known for playing the charming candy man in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and hilariously neurotic characters in several Mel Brooks comedies, including Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles.

Gary Null/NBC via Getty Images

Anton Yelchin

27, June 19 • Actor who played Chekov in recent Star Trek movies; killed in a freak accident when his SUV slid backward and pinned him against a brick pillar outside his home.

Alan Young

96, May 19 • Easygoing comedic actor who achieved TV stardom in the 1960s playing opposite a talking horse in Mister Ed. Young also provided the voice for Disney’s Scrooge McDuck and played kindhearted Jack Allen on radio’s long-running Adventures in Odyssey

This article has been edited to include prominent deaths that occurred after this issue of WORLD Magazine went to press on Dec. 14.

The Editors

The Editors


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  • Steve Shive
    Posted: Tue, 01/03/2017 05:04 pm

    Worth reflecting on this.

  • DE
    Posted: Wed, 01/18/2017 08:30 pm

    Re: '2016 News of the Year DEATHS'. I am very disappointed with your omission of the death of Keith Emerson, considered to be "perhaps the greatest, most technically accomplished keyboardist in rock history"1. Keith, with his Moog synthesizer, single-handedly changed the role of keyboards in rock music forever. Or as Ultimate Classic Rock puts it, "...he did more than anyone else in the rock realm to push keyboards to the forefront as a lead instrument capable of challenging the hegemony of the guitar."2.  He and his band, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, were among the pioneers of progressive rock, having sold somewhere between 30 and 48 million records.

    1. AllMusic


  • Web Editor
    Posted: Thu, 01/19/2017 05:29 pm

    WORLD did report on Keith Emerson’s death in March. Please see “Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake and Palmer dies of apparent suicide.”