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Famous people who died in 2018: Aretha Franklin, Anthony Bourdain, Tommy McDonald, Kate Spade, George and Barbara Bush, and more

Their loss is balanced by the wonder of what they were and accomplished.

Aretha Franklin sings at the Mann Center in 2010
Aretha Franklin sings at the Mann Center in 2010Read moreAPRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer

When we count our blessings for 2018, a big one, surely, is that we have shared this planet with amazing people of all walks of life. When they leave us, the loss is tempered by gratitude to have been in the same big family with them.

Many amazing stars went out this year. Here we share in their light and warmth:

On television

TV is a world of churn and turnover, yet many of its greats inspire love and loyalty. Thus the smile at the memory of Penny Marshall, 75, one of the most recognizable faces in TV lore as Laverne of Laverne & Shirley.

Another familiar face, Anthony Bourdain, headed to parts unknown at 61.

Stephen Hillenberg, 57, was the guy behind irrepressible SpongeBob SquarePants. And terrific Reg E. Cathey of The Wire was 59.

John Mahoney (Frasier and much else), exited stage up at 77, only three years older than original Mouseketeer Doreen Tracy, 74.

Jackson O’Dell of The Goldbergs was 20, Joe Campanella of Guiding Light was 93, Olivia Cole of Roots was 75, and Mark Salling of Glee was 35. Dushon Monique Brown of Chicago Fire was 49, Richard Benjamin Harrison of Pawn Stars was 77, Joel Taylor of Storm Chasers was 38, and two men who had long careers as Bozo the Clown went to the really Big Top: Frank Avruch, 89, and Don Sandburg, 87.

Nanette Fabray, 97, was a vivacious chanteuse with a comic flair. Charlotte Rae (Diff’rent Strokes, Facts of Life) was 92 and Clint Walker (Cheyenne) was 90. Jerry Van Dyke, banjo-playing bro of Dick, strummed off at 86. Night Court’s Harry Anderson, who was also a gifted magician, disappeared at 65.

Babyface Ken Berry, hapless Captain Parmenter of F Troop, was 85, Deanna Lund (Land of the Giants) 81, and Robin Leach, high-living lover of conspicuous consumption on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, rises up like a sparkle in champagne at 76. David Ogden Stiers, 75, was Major Charles Emerson Winchester III in M*A*S*H*, one of many starry TV and film roles. Besides his lengthy TV career, Ricky Jay, 72, was a gifted magician, writer, and film actor.

And one of the unlikeliest of TV stars, Roman Catholic nun Sister Wendy Beckett, 88, rose to fame late in life as a BBC guide to the world of great art. Sister Wendy’s grand tour has just begun.

In the movies

That’s a wrap for a trio of great directors. Nicolas Roeg, 90 (Don’t Look Now; The Man Who Fell to Earth), invented new ways to put films together. Director Miloš Forman, 86, opened new territories for film in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Amadeus. So did Bernardo Bertolucci, 77, in Last Tango in Paris and The Last Emperor.

Ah, handsome Burt Reynolds, 82, vulnerable troublemaker, onetime Cosmopolitan centerfold, comic handyman! Deliverance indeed. You will have a blast where you’re going. You can hang out with troublemaker Verne Troyer, 49, Mini-Me in the Austin Powers series.

Perhaps Douglas Rain, 90, can do his Hal 9000 voice, as he did in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Margot Kidder, 69, can reminisce about Superman, as can Philip Bosco, 88, on a great stage, TV, and film career. Actors such as Barbara Harris, 83, Sondra Locke, 74, and Elizabeth Sung, 63, can keep an eye on you.

Does movie-acting help you live longer? No idea, but how great it is to remember Connie Sawyer, 105 (When Harry Met Sally), Mary Carlisle, 104 (Sweetheart of Sigma Chi), or Patricia Morison, 103 (Song of Bernadette)! Jerry Maren, 98, is the last Wizard of Oz Munchkin representative to the beyond, as Lassie Lou Ahern, 97, is for the old Our Gang gang.

Louise Latham, 95, had her big moment in Hitchcock’s Marnie. Lovely Dorothy Malone, 93, joins matronly Naomi Stevens, 92. Canada-born Peter Donat was 90, and handsome Bradford Dillman 87. John Gavin, 86, was both an actor and, thanks to his Mexican-Chilean roots, later U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. Also 86 was professional hunk Tab Hunter.


Kate Spade, 55, made the handbag you had to have. Hubert de Givenchy, 91, designed clothing that spanned haute couture and ready-to-wear. Carlo Benetton of the colorful sweaters was 74.


They’ll be making a joyous noise at the upstairs club when Aretha Franklin, 76, a voice that could fill the heavens, starts her run.

At her side will be beautiful-sounding and just plain beautiful Nancy Wilson, 81; jazz great Charles Neville, of the Neville Brothers, 79; gospel-funk star Yvonne Staples, 80; Dolores O’Riordan, 46, of the Cranberries; and Bernadette Carroll, 74, of the Angels (“My Boyfriend’s Back”). Dennis Edwards, 74, was lead man for the Temptations, and Vic Damone, 89, looked good whatever he sang.

Jabo Starks, 80, drummer for James Brown, will share duties on the stand with D.J. Fontana, 87, drummer for Elvis, and Vinnie Paul, 54, drummer for Pantera. Edwin Hawkins (“Oh Happy Day”), 74, can take piano. There will be a mondo guitar section, what with country icon Roy Clark, 85; Nokie Edwards, 82, of the Ventures; Marty Balin, 76, of Jefferson Airplane; Tony Joe White, 75; and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Ed King, 68, now on hand.

Ray Thomas, 76, can take flute, as he did for the Moody Blues, and Roy Hargrove, 49, can take trumpet.

George Walker, 96, was the first African American composer to win a Pulitzer Prize. Joe Jackson, paterfamilias of the Jacksons, was 89. Rapper Craig Mack (“Flava in Your Ear”) was 47, his rap genre-mate Mac Miller was 26, and XXXTentacion was 20. And Tim Bergling, the brilliant Swedish producer, composer, and DJ known as Avicii, was 28.

Comic pages

Stan Lee, 95, wrote comic books, helped create everything from Spider-Man to the Fantastic Four, and lived to see his Marvel empire rise to filmic and pop-culture preeminence.

If you recognize the name of Mort Walker, 94, you’re a fan of his comic strip Beetle Bailey.

The Arts

Philadelphia architect Robert Venturi, 93, was one of the 20th century’s leaders in his field, and the father of postmodernism. He gave Philly the Guild House on Spring Garden Street and the late, great Best Products Showroom in Langhorne.

Robert Indiana, 89, created the LOVE statue. Whether in LOVE Park, at the University of Pennsylvania, Ursinus College, or around the world, it reminds us that love is love is love is love is love.

Robert M. Engman, 91, of Haverford created sculptures great and small, including his best-known work, Triune, which faces City Hall.

Dancing greats Paul Taylor, Arthur Mitchell, and Donald McKayle were 88, 84, and 87, respectively.

Men of the stars, men of God

Three U.S. astronauts stepped into a new dimension. John Young, 87, was a Gemini and Apollo flier who went twice to the moon. Alan Bean, 86, moonwalked during Apollo 12. And Donald H. Peterson, 84, took a stroll in space from the shuttle. They’ll have excellent guides in Billy Graham, 99, tireless globe-trotting preacher and friend of presidents; and James H. Cone, 81, civil-rights activist and theologian.


The Bush family lost its elders this year, both George Herbert Walker Bush, 94, a president and father to a president; and his wife, Barbara Bush, 92.

Similarly beloved Sen. John McCain, 81, was a fighter pilot, war hero, longtime U.S. senator from Arizona, and self-professed “maverick.”

Philadelphia’s David Fattah Sr., 75,was a community activist who with his wife, Falaka, created the House of Umoja Inc. Former U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah is his son, Chaka Fattah his grandson.

Kofi Annan, 80, was the Secretary-General for the United Nations and won the Nobel Peace Prize. And Winnie Mandikizela-Mandela, 81, was an anti-apartheid activist and political lightning rod in her country.

Paul Laxalt, 96, was a Nevada governor and U.S. Senator. Ron Dellums, 27-year House member and tireless anti-militarist, was 82.


As a third-grader, Linda Brown, 75, tried to attend a school in Topeka, Kan., and was rejected because she was black. Her name is forever memorialized in Brown v. Board of Education.

Johan van Hulst, 107, eldest of this graduating class, helped save 600 Jewish schoolchildren from Nazi concentration camps.

Carl Kasell, 84, was the trusted voice of public radio’s “All Things Considered” and “Morning Edition" — and after that the beloved straight man of “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!" Haddonfield’s own Dorcas Bates Reilly invented the green-bean casserole when she worked at the Campbell Soup Co. test kitchen in Camden.

Vernita Lee, mother of Oprah Winfrey, passed away on Thanksgiving at age 83.

Nancy Sinatra Sr., first spouse of Ol' Blue Eyes, was 101. Naomi Parker Fraley, 96, is said to be the living model for Rosie the Riveter. respectively. And good morning, Vietnam!: Adrian Cronauer, the airman and radio DJ on Armed Forces Radio Networks played so memorably by Robin Williams, makes a heck of a segue at 79.

Science, technology, and business

Steven Hawking, 76, who pondered the secrets of the universe for so long, is now at one with them. Paul G. Allen, 65, cofounded Microsoft; owned sports clubs; was an enormous philanthropist; bankrolled SpaceShipOne, the first privately-funded civilian suborbital space launch … and had an amazing collection of electric guitars.

H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, 88, left a stellar legacy of philanthropy around the city and beyond. That included a $40 million challenge grant for the Museum of the American Revolution. He also donated The Philadelphia Media Network – which includes the Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, and – to the Philadelphia Foundation, to keep local journalism vital.

Wharton grad Jon Huntsman Sr., 80 (father of Jon Jr., former Utah governor and current ambassador to Russia), parlayed a fortune from his chemicals and packaging businesses into $1.5 billion of philanthropic giving.

Philly’s Richard Rothman, 81, was a great pioneer in orthopedic surgery and founded the Rothman Institute.

Earl E. Bakken, 94, pioneered the cardiac pacemaker. Constance Adams, 53, was a social-scientist-turned-architect who helped design aspects of the International Space Station. Ever seen one of those windup radios? They were developed by Trevor Baylis, 80, for use in disadvantaged countries. Raye Jean Montague, 83, was a U.S. Navy engineer who made the first computer design of a ship.

Ingvar Kamprad, 91, did a pretty great thing in founding IKEA. The dear, departed Toys R Us was founded by Charles Lazarus, 94. And Wayne Huizenga, 80, did everything from starting Blockbuster to owning sports teams.


They run, they jump, they hit, they jam — and give us a glimpse of humanity at its best.

Hall of Fame Eagles receiver Tommy McDonald, hero to Ray Didinger and inspiration for Tommy & Me, was 84. Glass-eating Eagles linebacker Tim Rossovich was 72. Birds safety Wes Hopkins, who hit like a freight train, was 57.

Sharpshooting Hal Greer, 81, won an NBA championship with Wilt Chamberlain and the Philadelphia 76ers. Sharped-eyed Oscar Gamble, 68, played for the Phillies from 1970-72. Hockey player and hero Ray Emery, a Flyer for three seasons, was 35.

Roger Bannister, 88, was first to break four minutes in the mile. Sweet-swinging golfer Peter Thomson, 88, won the British Open five times. Tito Francona, 84, had a cup of coffee with the Phillies during his 15-year career.

Baseball’s Willie McCovey, was 80, and hockey great Stan Mikita was 78. Rusty Staub, Le Grande Orange, was 73.

Rene Portland, 65, was a Mighty Macs star and Penn State coach. Tom Heckert, 51, was Eagles general manager and executive during the Andy Reid years. Roman Catholic High and La Salle star Rasual Butler, 38, played in the NBA from 2002-16.

Basketball standout Mik Kilgore, out of West Philadelphia High and Temple University, was 48. Imhotep High’s Kristian Marche, 18, had been bound for Penn State on full scholarship.

Red Schoendienst, 95, made the Hall of Fame as both player and World Series-winning manager. Keith Jackson, 89, called college football games for more than half a century in a burry Georgian baritone.

Boston Celtics b-baller Jo-Jo White was 71, and Dwight Clark, 61, went up for the ball and came down with an epic catch for the San Francisco 49ers.

Two other basketball champs also passed. Chameka Scott, 33, won a national title in 2005 for the Baylor Bears. Anne Donovan, 56, was a national champ with Old Dominion, won two Olympic gold medals, and coached the Seattle Storm to a WNBA title in 2004.

Authors, playwrights, poets

The world of American letters thanks two of its greats, Tom Wolfe, 88, and Philip Roth, 85 – and also one of its funniest playwrights, Neil Simon, 91. Philadelphia lost cop-turned-Inquirer crime writer Thomas J. Gibbons Jr., 73, and longtime Inquirer art critic — and Narberth historian — Victoria Donohoe, 89.

Middle East expert Bernard Lewis was 101. Stanley Cavell, 91, may have been his generation’s most versatile thinker, whether the topic was philosophy, ethics, or literature.

Speculative fiction added several major stars to the cosmos. Ursula K. Le Guin, 88, wrapped parables of contemporary life in sci-fi or spec-fiction raiments.

Harlan Ellison, 84, was a prolific spec-fiction pioneer, bad boy, and TV (Star Trek; Outer Limits) and screenwriter. Jack Ketchum, 72, was a master of the horror novel, and spec-fiction writer Julius Lester was 78.

V.S. Naipaul, 85, won the Nobel Prize for fiction and nonfiction on empire, colonial repression, and the conflicts of cultures. Amos Oz, Israeli novelist, journalist, and voice of conscience, was 79. Peter Mayle, who fell in love with Provence and made the world follow suit, was 78. Alphabetical mystery master Sue Grafton was 77. In developing shows such as Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue, Steven Bochco, 74, was instrumental in the transformation of TV storytelling in the 1980s and 1990s. Charles Krauthammer, 68, wrote brave, finely turned columns on politics and world affairs for the Washington Post.

Like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, or The Princess Bride, or All the President’s Men? Then you’ll celebrate William Goldman, 87, the writer behind these well-loved films.

Speaking of beloved, poet Donald Hall, 89, certainly was and is, like fellow poet Tony Hoagland, 64. J.D. McClatchy, 72, was a respected poet and critic, while 103-year-old Nicanor Parra of Peru was both poet and physicist. Lucie Brock-Broido, 61, left us stunning, emotional poetry.

And Trenton-born, Morristown High grad Ntozake Shange, 70, wrote for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf, a theater and poetry work credited with helping spark a new era in spoken-word performance art. Her words and life, like all those here, exert light and warmth throughout our world.