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The theater of the departed, 2013

In the great theater of life, to remember is to celebrate. And many are the names, their seats now vacant, to celebrate as 2013 closes.

Lovely Joan  Fontaine, who won the Best Actress Oscar in 1941 for her role in "Suspicion," died at age 96 this year.
Lovely Joan Fontaine, who won the Best Actress Oscar in 1941 for her role in "Suspicion," died at age 96 this year.Read more

In the great theater of life, to remember is to celebrate. And many are the names, their seats now vacant, to celebrate as 2013 closes.

Leaders. Two greats, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, 95, and Margaret Thatcher, 87, of the United Kingdom, lead the list. Joining them is Hugo Chávez, 58, mercurial president of Venezuela, and longtime U.S. House Speaker Thomas S. Foley, 84; New York mayor Ed Koch, who did just fine, 88; and U.S. Rep. Lindy Boggs, 97, a Democratic activist, and the wife and mother of politicians, as well as of journalist Cokie Roberts.

Newsmakers. Those thrust into the light now remain in light. Three were near the finish line of the Boston Marathon: Martin Richard, 8, Krystle Campbell, 29, and Lu Lingzi, 23.

Astronaut Scott Carpenter, 88, helped the United States forge into space. Mikhail Kalashnikov, 94, invented the AK-47 rifle that survives him. Bletchley Park codebreaker Mavis Batey, 92, now knows all keys to all codes. And Muriel Siebert, 84, was the first woman to hold a seat on the guy-centric New York Stock Exchange.

Film and TV. Joan Fontaine, 96, won an Oscar for the 1941 film Suspicion. Peter O'Toole, 81, was an acting prodigy and worst-ever continuing Oscar snub.

A generation of stars exited arm-in-arm, including original Munchkin Margaret Pellegrini, 89; pretty Deanna Durbin, 91; swimmer Esther Williams, 91; funny Jean Stapleton, 90; excellent Julie Harris, 87; sidesplitting Jonathan Winters, 87;  and Eleanor Parker, 91 .

Diane Disney Miller, 79, was a Disney daughter, a vintner, and a protector of the family name; Disney pretty Annette Funicello was 70. Karen Black, 74, finishes her easy pieces, and Dennis Farina, 69, was an actor of character. Harry Reems of Deep Throat notoriety was 65. Special-effects god Ray Harryhausen was 92.

    Three untimely passings traumatized the TV/film world. Paul Walker, 40, known for his role in the Fast and Furious franchise, died in a fiery car wreck; Cory Monteith, 31, of Glee died of heroin/alcohol poisoning. James Gandolfini, 51, accomplished film star, was Tony Soprano, antihero of the groundbreaking HBO show The Sopranos.

David Frost, 74, was a celebrity-interview TV pioneer, and Joyce Brothers, 85, parlayed brainpower and sense into a long career as columnist, TV host, and all-around celeb.

Sport. The velvet voice of Pat Summerall, 82, will always be in the air. Football remembered coach Bum Phillips, 90; running back Chuck Muncie, 60; defensive ends Deacon Jones, 74, and L.C. Greenwood, 67, and clutch receiver Todd Christensen, 57.

Baseball remembered, among others, Stan Musial, 92, quiet magician of the game; and slugger George Scott, 69.

Golf let Miller Barber, 82, and Ken Venturi, 82, play through. Boxing saluted champs Tommy Morrison, 44, and Ken Norton, 70. And basketball pondered the sweet shots of Walt Bellamy, 74, and Bill Sharman, 87.

Music. That heckuva heavenly band keeps growing. Four keyboard titans serenade the parade: jazz great Marian McPartland, 95; classical great Van Cliburn, 78; Cubano maravilloso Bebo Valdés, 95; and Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, 74.

Country gentleman Ray Price was 87, and Yusef Lateef, 93, inspired reed players everywhere. Trumpet great Donald Byrd was 80, and reggae sax man Cedric Brooks was 70.

Toshi Seeger, to whom Pete was husband for 70 years, was 91. Über-producer Phil Ramone was 79, and Robert Zildjian, 89, made the Zildjian cymbals. Songwriter George Jackson ("Old Time Rock and Roll") was 68.

It was a year of guitarists, including blues-rocker J.J. Cale, 74; Alvin Lee of Ten Years After, 68; country-bluesman Magic Slim, 75; and all-purpose session man Hugh McCracken, 70.

Of course, heaven must have bassists. And it now welcomes Edward Butch Warren, 74, Marshall Lytle, 79, and Cordell "Boogie" Mosson, 60.

What would heaven be without singers? Now it has even more celestial vocalists, including Cleotha Staples, 77; country star Mindy McCready, 37; and Patty Andrews, last surviving Andrews sister, 94.

Lou Reed, now a satellite of love, was 71. Richie Havens, 72, has freedom, freedom. Country star George Jones was 81, lovely Eydie Gorme was 84, and equally lovely Patti Page was 85.

The literary arts. Two Nobel prizewinners rounded their periods: Golden Notebook author Doris Lessing, 94, and fabulous Irish poet Seamus Heaney, 74.

Other poets taking song to a higher level include the Philly area's Daniel Hoffman, 89, and formal master John Hollander, 83.

Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe, 82, brought the African novel to the world. Tom Clancy, 66, mastered the spy/soldier thriller, and Elmore Leonard, 87, was a western and thriller writer with one of the best ears for dialogue of all time. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, screenwriter, novelist, was 85. Oscar Hijuelos, 62, won the Pulitzer for The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. Romance writer Janet Dailey was 69. Translator William Weaver, 90, helped bring Humberto Eco, Italo Calvino, and more into English. Carolyn Cassady, 90, was spouse of Neal Cassady, girlfriend of Jack Kerouac, and a writer and painter.

Roger Ebert, 70, stellar movie critic, became, late in life, a world-beating blogger. He joins his longtime co-critic, Gene Siskel, awaiting him in the upstairs office since 1999. Critics Albert Murray and Stanley Kauffmann were both 97. Outspoken White House correspondent Helen Thomas was 92. And Pauline Phillips, 94, was better known as "Dear Abby" Van Buren. She'll teach Elysium to behave.

Science and technology. Frederick Sanger, 95, was a biochemist and two-time Nobelist. Lawrence R. Klein, a University of Pennsylvania professor and economics Nobelist, was 93. Hiroshi Yamauchi, 85, for five decades was the godfather of Nintendo and the computer-games revolution. Masao Oshida, 58, was the chief of the troubled Fukushima nuclear reactors. Acoustics pioneers Amar Bose, 83, and Ray Dolby, 80, are now bathed in perfect sound.

Chemist Malcolm Renfrew, 103, did work that helped lead to the development of Teflon, and chemist Ruth Benerito, 97, helped invent permanent press. Willis Ware, 93, was a Princeton computer pioneer and campaigner for privacy rights, and ecology pioneer Ruth Patrick was 105.

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