Celebrity deaths dominate 2016 headlines

Published 10:43 am Friday, December 30, 2016

I’ve been saying for months, what is up with all the celebrity deaths in 2016?

And apparently I wasn’t the only one… every year, of course, sees a certain amount of famous people dying and it making the news, but this year for some reason deaths were more prevalent.

Music icons such as David Bowie, Prince and George Michael drew their last breaths from causes ranging from a secret battle with cancer to an accidental overdose.

The death of Carrie Fisher on Dec. 27 really saddened me, especially. Star Wars has always been one of my favorite movie series, and of course as a girl, Princess Leia was pretty much my heroine. More so than that, however, Carrie Fisher as a person was a truly amazing human being.  She struggled with mental illness and addiction yet overcame it to make the best of it and help others, writing bestselling humorous novels about her personal experiences in a lighthearted way.

Fisher wasn’t the only former Star Wars actor to pass away this year. The actor who played R2-D2 in six Star Wars films, 81-year-old Kenny Baker, also died after a long illness.

Many well-known political figures also passed away this year, mainly from complications of illness or just plain old age. Still, to have so many die in a single year seems like way too much.  Former Attorney General Janet Reno was the youngest of the bunch when she died in November at 78 years old.  Former First Lady Nancy Reagan died earlier this year at 94, and Fidel Castro was reported to have died in November at age 90.  American hero and former Senator John Glenn, the first astronaut to orbit the earth in 1962, passed away in early December at age 95.

Famed golfer and entrepreneur Arnold Palmer died in September at age 87 of cardiovascular disease. I remember meeting Mr. Palmer at the opening of his signature series golf course in Bertie County about eight or nine years ago while covering the event for this publication.

NHL all-star Gordie Howe, aka Mr. Hockey, died this summer of natural causes and like Mr. Palmer was also in his late 80s.

An athlete who died this year of not-so-natural causes was 24-year-old Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Hernandez. Cocaine and alcohol were found in Hernandez’ system after he was killed when he drove his speedboat at high speed into a Miami beach and crashed in September.

Heavyweight boxing champ Muhammad Ali passed away at 74 years old in June due to complications from a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease.

“America’s mom,” actress Florence Henderson who played TV mom Carol Brady in “The Brady Bunch” died in November at age 82 of heart failure.

Also dead from natural causes and perhaps whose death will have the most impact on America going forward is Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who was found dead at a Texas resort in February at age 79.

Other notable celebrity deaths in 2016:

Shimon Peres, 93 (former Israeli President and a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize);

Keith Emerson, 71, and Greg Lake, 69 (musicians and bandmates);

Alan Thicke, 69 (actor who played father in “Growing Pains”);

Gene Wilder, 83 (actor who played Willy in “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory”);

Harper Lee, 89 (author who wrote “To Kill a Mockingbird”);

George Kennedy, 91 (actor who co-starred in “Cool Hand Luke”);

Doris Roberts, 90 (actress who played grandmother on “Everybody Loves Raymond”);

Garry Marshall, 81 (created “Happy Days” and “The Odd Couple”);

Henry Heimlick, 96 (surgeon who invented the “Heimlick maneuver”);

Alan Rickman, 69 (British actor from “Die Hard” and “Harry Potter” movies);

Glenn Frey, 67 (co-founded the Eagles);

Anton Yelchin, 27 (actor in new “Star Trek” films); and

Zsa Zsa Gabor, 99 (model/socialite known for being married nine times).

Jennipher Dickens is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at jennipher.dickens@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7206.