Final goodbye: Roll call of some who died in 2015
Sometimes the act of dying, in and of itself, can represent a type of victory.
Such was the case for Richard “Dick” Walters, who was a leader in the effort to get Vermont to pass aid-in-dying legislation. Diagnosed with lung cancer, Walters ultimately used the law to end his own life in October at age 90, becoming one of the many notables who died in 2015.
Among world leaders who died this year were Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, former West German chancellor Helmut Schmidt, and former presidents Arpad Goncz of Hungary and Kim Young-sam of South Korea.
Other political figures who died this year include Delaware Attorney General Joseph R. “Beau” Biden III, son of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi, and Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.
Among those in the arena of science and innovation who died this year was John Forbes Nash Jr., the mathematical genius whose struggle with schizophrenia was chronicled in the film “A Beautiful Mind.” Others included inventor Forrest Bird, nuclear physicist Ralph Nobles, engineer Oscar Carl Holderer, chemist Carl Djerassi and scientist Richard Post.
Among the entertainers who died in 2015 was an actor who helped take TV viewers to alien worlds while showing the common humanity that unites everyone: Leonard Nimoy, beloved by generations of “Star Trek” fans for his portrayal of the pointy-eared Mr. Spock.
For some, the end came far too soon. Bobbi Kristina Brown died in July at 22 in hospice care. Her death came six months after she was found face-down in a bathtub in her home, creating an eerie echo of the death of her mother, singer Whitney Houston.
Others in world of arts and entertainment who died this year include: actors Christopher Lee, Maureen O’Hara, Dick Van Patten, Yvonne Craig and Martin Milner; musicians B.B. King, Demis Roussos, Allen Toussaint, Lynn Anderson, Ben E. King and James Horner; filmmakers Wes Craven and Eldar Ryazanov; writers Terry Pratchett, Gamal el-Ghitani and Guenter Grass; cartoonist Tom Moore and ballerina Maya Plisetskaya.
Here is a roll call of some of the people who died in 2015. (Cause of death cited for younger people, if available.)
Mario Cuomo, 82. Son of Italian immigrants who became an eloquent spokesman for a generation of liberal Democrats during his three terms as governor of New York. Jan. 1.
Donna Douglas, 82. She played the buxom tomboy Elly May Clampett on the hit 1960s sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies.” Jan. 1. Pancreatic cancer.
Little Jimmy Dickens, 94. Diminutive singer-songwriter known for his sense of humor and as the oldest cast member of the Grand Ole Opry. Jan. 2.
Edward W. Brooke, 95. Former U.S. senator, a liberal Republican, who became the first black in U.S. history to win popular election to the Senate. Jan. 3.
Anita Ekberg, 83. Swedish-born actress and sex-symbol of the 1950s and ‘60s who was immortalized bathing in the Trevi fountain in “La Dolce Vita.” Jan. 11.
King Abdullah, 90. Saudi monarch was a powerful U.S. ally who fought against al-Qaida and sought to modernize the ultraconservative kingdom, including by nudging open greater opportunities for women. Jan. 23.
Bob Simon, 73. Longtime “60 Minutes” correspondent who covered riots, Academy Award-nominated movies and wars and was held captive for more than a month in Iraq two decades ago. Feb. 11. Car crash.
Gary Owens, 80. Droll, mellifluous-voiced announcer on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” and a familiar part of radio, TV and movies for more than six decades. Feb. 12.
Lesley Gore, 68. She topped the charts in 1963 at age 16 with her epic song of teenage angst, “It’s My Party,” and followed it up with the hits “Judy’s Turn to Cry,” and the feminist anthem “You Don’t Own Me.” Feb. 16. Lung cancer.
Ralph Nobles, 94. Nuclear physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project and later led efforts to save thousands of acres of San Francisco Bay wetlands from development. Feb. 20.
Leonard Nimoy, 83. Actor known and loved by generations of “Star Trek” fans as the purely logical science officer Mr. Spock. Feb. 27.
Boris Nemtsov, 55. Charismatic Russian opposition leader, former deputy prime minister and a sharp critic of President Vladimir Putin. Feb. 28. Fatally shot near the Kremlin.
Dean Hess, 97. Retired Air Force colonel who helped rescue hundreds of orphans in the Korean War and whose exploits prompted a Hollywood film starring Rock Hudson. March 2.
Jim Molyneaux, 94. Soft-spoken, cautious politician who led the Ulster Unionist Party through some of Northern Ireland’s bloodiest years and early efforts at peacemaking. March 9.
Malcolm Fraser, 84. Former Australian prime minister who was notoriously catapulted to power by a constitutional crisis that left the nation bitterly divided. March 20.
Lee Kuan Yew, 91. Founder of modern Singapore who was both feared for his authoritarian tactics and admired worldwide for turning the city-state into one of the world’s richest nations while in power for 31 years. March 23.
Yehuda Avner, 86. Former Israeli diplomat and aide to a string of prime ministers who turned his insider stories about the country’s leaders into a best-selling memoir. March 24.
Sarah Kemp Brady, 73. She became an activist for gun control after her husband was shot in the head in the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. April 3.
Robert Burns Jr., 64. Former drummer and a founding member of the Southern hard rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. April 3. Vehicle crash.
Percy Sledge, 74. He recorded the classic 1966 soul ballad “When a Man Loves a Woman.” April 14.
Mary Doyle Keefe, 92. Model for Norman Rockwell’s iconic 1943 Rosie the Riveter painting that symbolized the millions of American women who went to work on the home front during World War II. April 21.
Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, 93. Former Auschwitz prisoner and member of Poland’s underground World War II resistance who helped save Jews and later served twice as the country’s foreign minister. April 24.
Jean Nidetch, 91. New York housewife who tackled her own obesity, then shared her guiding principles with others in meetings that became known as Weight Watchers, the most widely known company of its kind. April 29.
Ben E. King, 76. Lead singer for the Drifters and solo star whose plaintive baritone graced such pop and rhythm ‘n’ blues classics as “Stand by Me,” ‘’There Goes My Baby” and “Spanish Harlem.” April 30.
Maya Plisetskaya, 89. She was regarded as one of the greatest ballerinas of the 20th century, her career at the Bolshoi Theater spanning more than 35 years. May 2. Heart attack.
Kenan Evren, 97. Turkish general who led a 1980 coup that ended years of violence but whose rule unleashed a wave of arrests, torture and extrajudicial killings. May 9.
B.B. King, 89. His scorching guitar licks and heartfelt vocals made him the idol of generations of musicians and fans while earning him the nickname King of the Blues. May 14.
Elisabeth Bing, 100. Lamaze International co-founder who popularized what was known as natural childbirth and helped change how women and doctors approached the delivery room. May 15.
John Forbes Nash Jr., 86. Mathematical genius whose struggle with schizophrenia was chronicled in the 2001 movie “A Beautiful Mind.” May 23. Killed along with his wife, Alicia Nash, in a car crash.
Doris Hart, 89. Tennis great who won each Grand Slam tournament at least once, and once won three Wimbledon titles in a single day. May 29.
Joseph R. “Beau” Biden III, 46. Son of Vice President Joe Biden and two-time attorney general for Delaware. May 30.
Jean Ritchie, 92. Kentucky-born folksinger who brought the centuries-old ballads she grew up with to a wide audience from the 1950s onward. June 1.
Tariq Aziz, 79. Debonair Iraqi diplomat who made his name by staunchly defending Saddam Hussein to the world during three wars and was later sentenced to death as part of the regime that killed hundreds of thousands of its own people. June 5.
Christopher Lee, 93. Actor who brought dramatic gravitas and aristocratic bearing to screen villains from Dracula to the wicked wizard Saruman in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. June 7.
Jim Ed Brown, 81. Longtime Grand Ole Opry member who had solo and group hits and was a prominent figure on country music TV shows. June 11.
Suleyman Demirel, 90. Former Turkish president who was a master pragmatist and survived two coups. June 17.
Dick Van Patten, 86. Genial, round-faced comic actor who premiered on Broadway as a child, starred on television in its infancy and then, in middle age, found lasting fame as the patriarch on TV’s “Eight is Enough.” June 23. Complications from diabetes.
Patrick Macnee, 93. British-born actor best known as dapper secret agent John Steed in the long-running 1960s TV series “The Avengers.” June 25.
Nicholas Winton, 106. Humanitarian who almost single-handedly saved more than 650 Jewish children from the Holocaust, earning himself the label “Britain’s Schindler.” July 1.
Burt Shavitz, 80. Reclusive beekeeper who co-founded Burt’s Bees, and whose face and wild beard appeared on labels for the natural cosmetics. July 5.
Saud al-Faisal, 75. Saudi prince who was the world’s longest-serving foreign minister with 40 years in the post until his retirement this year. July 9.
Omar Sharif, 83. Egyptian-born actor with soulful eyes who soared to international stardom in movie epics, “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Doctor Zhivago.” July 10. Heart attack.
Tom Moore, 86. “Archie” cartoonist who brought to life the escapades of a freckled-face, red-haired character. July 20.
Bobbi Kristina Brown, 22. Daughter of singers Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, she was raised in the shadow of fame and shattered by the loss of her mother. July 26. Died in hospice care six months after she was found face-down in bathtub.
Howard Jones, 104. He pioneered in vitro fertilization in the United States. July 31.
Les Munro, 96. New Zealander who was the last surviving pilot from the World War II “Dambuster” mission targeting German infrastructure. July 4.
Frederick R. “Fritz” Payne, 104. World War II fighter ace who left his mark on aviation and wartime history by shooting down six Japanese warplanes during the Battle of Guadalcanal. Aug. 6.
Frank Gifford, 84. Pro Football Hall of Famer who led the New York Giants to a league championship in 1956 and later teamed up with Howard Cosell and Don Meredith in the “Monday Night Football” booth. Aug. 9.
Julian Bond, 75. Civil rights activist and longtime board chairman of the NAACP. Aug. 15.
Yvonne Craig, 78. She played the sexy, crime-fighting Batgirl in the 1960s TV hit “Batman.” Aug. 17. Complications from breast cancer.
Paul Royle, 101. Australian pilot who took part in a mass breakout from a German prisoner of war camp during World War II that is remembered as The Great Escape. Aug. 23.
Wes Craven, 76. Prolific writer-director who startled audiences with iconic suburban slashers like “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Scream.” Aug. 30.
Ben Kuroki, 98. He overcame the American military’s discriminatory policies to become the only Japanese American to fly over Japan during World War II. Sept. 1.
Judy Carne, 76. A star of the U.S. comedy show “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” who popularized the “Sock it to Me” phrase on the hit TV show. Sept. 3.
Martin Milner, 83. His wholesome good looks helped make him the star of two hugely popular 1960s TV series, “Route 66” and “Adam-12.” Sept. 6.
Dick “Dickie” Moore, 89. Saucer-eyed 1930s child star who appeared in “Our Gang” comedies and gave Shirley Temple her first screen kiss. Sept. 7.
Sultan Esmail Kiram II, 76. Leader of a sultanate in the southern Philippines that staged a 2013 invasion of a bustling Malaysian state and sparked a deadly security crisis. Sept. 19. Kidney failure.
Yogi Berra, 90. Hall of Fame catcher renowned for his malapropisms and his record 10 World Series championships with the New York Yankees. Sept. 22.
Frankie Ford, 76. Rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues singer whose 1959 hit “Sea Cruise” brought him fame when he was 19. Sept. 28.
Paul Prudhomme, 75. Cajun who popularized spicy Louisiana cuisine and became one of the first American restaurant chefs to achieve worldwide fame. Oct. 8.
Geoffrey Howe, 88. Former British Treasury chief who was a prominent figure in Margaret Thatcher’s government but helped bring about her downfall after they parted ways over policy toward Europe. Oct. 9.
Jerry Parr, 85. Secret Service agent credited with saving President Ronald Reagan’s life on the day he was shot outside a Washington hotel. Oct. 9.
Ken Taylor, 81. Canada’s ambassador to Iran who sheltered Americans at his residence during the 1979 hostage crisis. Oct. 15.
Richard “Dick” Walters, 90. A leader in the effort to get the state of Vermont to pass aid-in-dying legislation and used the rules established under the law to end his own life. Oct. 16.
Cory Wells, 74. Founding member of the popular 1970s band Three Dog Night and lead singer on such hits as “Never Been to Spain” and “Mama Told Me (Not to Come).” Oct. 20.
Maureen O’Hara, 95. Flame-haired Irish movie star who appeared in classics ranging from “How Green Was My Valley” to “Miracle on 34th Street” and bantered unforgettably with John Wayne in several films. Oct. 24.
Al Molinaro, 96. Lovable character actor with the hangdog face who played Murray the cop on “The Odd Couple” and malt shop owner Al Delvecchio on “Happy Days.” Oct. 30.
Guenter Schabowski, 86. Senior East German official whose cryptic announcement that the communist country was opening its fortified border precipitated the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Nov. 1.
Fred Thompson, 73. Former U.S. senator was a folksy Tennessee lawyer whose career led him from politics to Hollywood and back again. Nov. 1.
Ahmad Chalabi, 71. Prominent Iraqi politician who helped convince the Bush administration to launch the 2003 invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein by providing false evidence of weapons of mass destruction. Nov. 3. Heart attack.
Allen Toussaint, 77. Legendary New Orleans musician and composer Allen Toussaint, who penned such classics as “Working in a Coal Mine” and “Lady Marmalade.” Nov. 10. Heart attack.
Michael C. Gross, 70. Artist, illustrator, film producer and designer who created pop culture images, including the “Ghostbusters” logo. Nov. 16.
Kim Young-sam, 87. Former South Korean president who formally ended decades of military rule in South Korea and accepted a massive international bailout during the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis. Nov. 22.
Sandy Berger, 70. Former national security adviser who helped craft President Bill Clinton’s foreign policy and got in trouble over destroying classified documents. Dec. 2.
Scott Weiland, 48. Former frontman for Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver. Dec. 3.
Tibor Rubin, 86. Hungarian-born concentration camp survivor who joined the U.S. Army out of gratitude for his liberators, fought heroically in Korea and received the Medal of Honor 55 years later. Dec. 5.
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