A Rememberance Of Those We Lost In 2018 Who Touched Our Lives During Years Past
Every death leaves an echo, a memory, a ledger of glories, regrets and sometimes, if the life is lived well enough, lessons for what is to come. The future, after all, has many architects, and they don’t always agree.
Especially when it comes to matters of faith.
Among the most prominent deaths of 2018 was evangelist Billy Graham, the pulpit-shaking preacher from North Carolina who died in February at the age of 99. Graham’s more than 400 Crusades carried his unshakable Gospel “to the ends of the earth,” reaching an estimated 2 billion people. “My home is in Heaven,” he said. “I’m just traveling through this world.”
Graham’s faith was unyielding. “The Bible is not a book of science. I accept the Creation story. I believe God did create the universe.”
The Rev. Billy Graham, on the porch of his mountaintop cabin in Montreat, N.C., on May 12, 2005.
But wheelchair-bound physicist Stephen Hawking, who succumbed to Lou Gehrig’s disease at the age of 76 in March, worshipped numbers instead. Paralyzed and speaking with a computer-assisted accent long before Siri or Alexa, Hawking insisted his calculations proved the universe might have simply appeared from nothingness, with no need for a god to balance the equation. “Science,’’ Hawking said, “has a more compelling explanation than a divine creator.”
Those confused could always turn to another architect, Detroit’s Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, who died in August from cancer at 76, to take them to a joyful church every time she took the stage. “You better think,’’ she sang, “think about what you’re trying to do to me. Yeah, think, think, think, let your mind go, let yourself be free.”
Whether in music, thoughts or prayer, many such world-builders left us in 2018, each carving new paths for their families, professions or the world. And because of extended lifespans, the deaths brought back histories well beyond the recall of the youngest today.
Just this month, five days of remembrances retold the story of George H.W. Bush, 94, the World War II hero and Cold War president who saw the Berlin Wall fall, stared down a Middle East dictator and spent his final decades jumping out of airplanes just for the thrill of it. His wife of 73 years, Barbara, 92, who died in Houston eight months earlier, spent a lifetime of summers presiding over a brood of Bush politicians on the chilly coast of Maine.
The funeral of another war hero and presidential hopeful, John McCain, 81, recalled his imprisonment in North Vietnam and a legacy of political courage that often defied party lines. Others on the world stage were former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan, 80, and South African activist Winnie Mandela, 81, their fights for tolerance still not done.
The entertainment world lost stars such as Penny Marshall, 75, co-star of “Laverne & Shirley” and one of the top-grossing female directors in Hollywood with such cherished hits as “Big” and “A League of Their Own.”
Also: the now politically incorrect macho man Burt Reynolds, 82; 1950s heartthrob Tab Hunter, 86; and a batch of familiar sitcom regulars such as Charlotte Rae, 92 (“Facts of Life”), Ken Berry, 85 (“F Troop”), Jerry Van Dyke, 86 (“Coach”), David Ogden Stiers, 75 (“M*A*S*H”) and Bill Daily, 91 (“I Dream of Jeannie and The Bob Newhart Show”).
When Superman made his leap to the big screen 40 years ago, Margot Kidder memorably introduced a wisecracking Lois Lane. Later hobbled by mental illness, her death in May at age 69 was ruled a suicide.
Character actor Scott Wilson, 76, went from playing criminals in 1967’s “In the Heat of the Night” and “In Cold Blood” to the beloved but doomed patriarch on “The Walking Dead;” wrestling superstar Bruno Sammartino, 82, at one point held the heavyweight championship for 11 years; the 2’8” Verne Troyer of “Mini-Me” fame, 49, is now a recurring meme; and Frank Sinatra’s first wife Nancy Sinatra Sr., mother of his three children, died at 101 (oh, what stories she could tell).
A pair of actor-magicians, Harry Anderson, 65, and Ricky Jay, 72, are gone, along with Reg ECathey, 59, of “The Wire” and “House of Cards”; Mark Salling, a suicide at 35, was a troubled star of “Glee”; musical-comedy star of the 1940s Nanette Fabray, 97; and for those old enough to remember, one of the original Mouseketeers from 1955, Doreen Tracey, 74, (or as she would proclaim, “Doreen!!”).
Also Sondra Locke, 74, who co-starred in six Clint Eastwood films; and TV kid show host Chuck McCann, 84, the “Hi guy” neighbor behind the bathroom mirror in Right Guard commercials.
Behind the cameras, producer Stephen Bochco, 74, brought gritty ensemble dramas “Hill Street Blues” and “L.A. Law” to TV, and Gary Kurtz, 78, produced the first two Star Wars films, sometimes battling director George Lucas along the way. Said Lucas: “Gary’s passing will be felt throughout the Star Wars family.”
A trio of iconoclastic directors Bernardo Bertolucci, 77 (“Last Tango in Paris”), Nicolas Roeg, 90 (“The Man Who Fell to Earth”), and Milos Forman, 86 (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Amadeus”), left techniques and approaches still emulated by filmmakers today.
Predictors of a scary digital future died as well: Douglas Rain, 90, who was the voice of the homicidal Hal the computer in 1968’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” (“I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that”); and John Perry Barlow, 70, a lyricist for the “Grateful Dead” who fought for an unfettered Internet with the Electronic Frontier Federation.
And the world of fantasy lost Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee, 95, whose creative achievement rivals Walt Disney in impact (just check out the images on kids’ T-shirts and backpacks these days). He worked with a bullpen of artists, including the late Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, 90.