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Luminaries we lost this year

Our loss is heaven's gain. In 2015, that place welcomed a lot of great people. Here are a few of the prominent newcomers to the next world.

Baseball great Yogi Berra died at age 90.
Baseball great Yogi Berra died at age 90.Read moreAP, File

Our loss is heaven's gain. In 2015, that place welcomed a lot of great people. Here are a few of the prominent newcomers to the next world:


The civil rights movement graduated three of its great emeriti: Julian Bond, 75; Grace Lee Boggs, 100; and Amelia Boynton Robinson, 104.

Helmut Schmidt, 96, was a crucial cold war leader for then-West Germany. Former U.S. House Speaker Jim Wright was 92. Richard S. Schweiker, 89, was a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania and a member of President Ronald Reagan's cabinet. West Windsor, N.J., Nobel Prize mathematician John Forbes Nash, heroic subject of the book and film A Beautiful Mind, was 86. Mario Cuomo, 82, was governor of New York and one of the great rhetors of the 20th century.

Vincent Bugliosi, 80, was prosecutor in the Charles Manson trial and an outspoken author. Chef Paul Prudhomme was 75. Andrew Kohut, 73, was the nation's most prominent pollster, president of Gallup, and founding director of the Pew Research Center. Fred Thompson, 73, was a U.S. senator from Tennessee and an accomplished actor on TV (Law & Order) and in films (Die Hard 2). And Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi, 71, helped persuade U.S. officials there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Beau Biden, 46, was attorney general of Delaware and son of Vice President Biden. Sarah Kemp Brady, 73, wife of Reagan press secretary Jim Brady, was a prominent gun-control advocate.

Many who originated familiar movements or brands got a big promotion. Elisabeth Bing, 100, was cofounder of Lamaze International. Chuck Williams, 100, founded Williams-Sonoma, and Ed Sabol, 98, founded NFL Films in Mount Laurel. Jean Nidetch, 91, began Weight Watchers. Tony Verna, originator of TV instant replay, was 81. Burt Shavitz, 80, cofounded Burt's Bees. Don Featherstone, creator of the plastic pink lawn flamingo, was 79, and Gary Dahl, inventor of the Pet Rock, was 78. Wayne Dyer, 75, was a self-help guru nonpareil. Dave Goldberg, CEO of SurveyMonkey and spouse of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, was 47.

The Rev. Robert H. Schuller, 88, helped invent retail televangelism. Humanitarian Sir Nicholas Winton was 106. And Cynthia Lennon, 75, preceded Yoko Ono in John Lennon's life.

The Arts

Ballerina Maya Plisetskaya, 89, now dances forever on the greatest stage ever. Princeton architect Michael Graves, 80, joins the great design. Tom Moore, 86, drew Archie, Veronica, Betty, Jughead, Reggie, and the gang. Painter and sculptor Ellsworth Kelly, 92, created The Barnes Totem, which greets visitors to the Barnes since the museum opened at its new location in 2012. Film composer James Horner was 61, artist Chris Burden was 69, and sculptor and animator Blaine Gibson was 97. Fashion designer Christian Audigier, 57, will now see all ideas realized.

Blaze Starr, 83, "The Hottest Blaze in Burlesque," was known far and wide for her vivaciousness - and for an affair with then-Louisiana Gov. Earl Kemp Long. Dancer Carol Doda, 78, was the memorable San Francisco stripper who all but invented topless bar dancing.


Easily the greatest band of all time is playing . . . beyond time itself. Cilla Black, 72, is now among the lead singers, as are "Stand By Me" and Drifters lead man Ben E. King, 89; Grand Ole Opry favorite Jim Ed Brown, 81; Errol Brown, 71, of Hot Chocolate; and "When a Man Loves a Woman" soul singer Percy Sledge, 74. As for Lesley Gore, 68, now it's really her party. Bassist Andy Fraser, 62, of the band Free, is all right now.

The band will swell with blues guitar god B.B. King, 89, and Yes bassist Chris Squire, 67. Fabulous alto sax man Phil Woods, 83, lived in Delaware Gap and was cofounder of the Delaware Water Gap Celebration of the Arts. He'll join jazz trumpeters Clark Terry, 94, and Marcus Belgrave, 78, and wild and free sax genius Ornette Coleman, 85. Cynthia Robinson, 71, of Sly and the Family Stone, will sing and play her horn. Dallas Taylor, 66, drummer for Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, will bash the skins. Little Jimmy Dickens ("May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose") was 94. Three Dog Night generously gave keyboard man Jimmy Greenspoon, 67, and vocalist Cory Wells, 74. Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts sent their guitarist, Jeremy Brown, 34, and vocalist Weiland himself, 48. Mötörhead sent drummer Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor, 61, and bassist/vocalist Ian Fraser "Lemmy" Kilmister, 70.

Allen Toussaint, 77, will make everyone else sound heavenly just by sitting down at the keys. Rapper Sean Price, 43, will word up. The whole celestial kaboodle will ramp up big-time for a glorious, truly stellar rendition of "Louie Louie," sung by Kingsmen singer Jack Ely, 71.

And Bobbi Kristina Brown, 22, joins her mother, Whitney Houston, in perfection.

Film and TV

This year, the image factories donated a huge number of souls to Elysium. Ellen Albertini Dow, the rapping grandma of The Wedding Singer, was 101. Beautiful Irish-born Maureen O'Hara, 95, could be both tough and tender. Christopher Lee, 93, starred in more than 200 films. Noir actress Lizabeth Scott, 92, combined black brows with scalding blond hair. Diana Douglas, 92, was wife of Kirk and mother of Michael. Theo Bikel, actor and folk singer, was 91. Tough guys Rod Taylor and Robert Loggia were 85. Dean Jones, 84, was a Disney comic hero. Handsome, suave Omar Sharif, 83, is undoubtedly charming the heck out of Anita Ekberg, also 83, right now. And Alex Rocco, 79, took a bullet in the specs in The Godfather.

Director Wes Craven (the Scream movies), 76, made terror an art form. Producer and filmmaker Samuel Goldwyn Jr. (Mystic Pizza) was 88. Cinematographer and documentarian Haskell Wexler (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) was 93. Jayne Meadows, 95, did well in movies (Song of the Thin Man), TV (I've Got a Secret), and marriage (to Steve Allen).

As for TV, Al Molinaro, the beloved Al of Happy Days, was 96. Patrick Macnee, 93, rocked that bowler hat in The Avengers. Dick Van Patten, 86, was the character actor's character actor. Leonard Nimoy, 83, the original Mr. Spock of Star Trek, is now beyond logic - along with Star Trek castmate Grace Lee Whitney, 85. Babyface tough guy Martin Milner, 83, was on the road a lot in Route 66 and Adam-12. Jack Larson, 87, who played Jimmy Olsen in the original TV Adventures of Superman, got his best scoop. And David Canary, 77, played the good 'n' evil Chandler twins for a long time on All My Children.

There'll be a lot of laughter up there, what with comic talents Marty Ingels, 79; Donna Douglas, 82 (Elly May Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies); DJ Gary Owens, 80, and Judy Carne, 76, both of Laugh-In; Melody Patterson (F Troop), 66; and Vincent "Don Vito" Margera, 59, who lived in West Chester and pranked on Jackass. And, of course, the splendid, original Anne Meara, 85.

Uggie the dog, star of The Artist, went to Dog Heaven at 13. He should have won an Oscar.

Sciences, technology, inventions. What an arc: Dieter Grau, 101, went from being a rocket scientist for Hitler to helping establish the U.S. space program. Charles Hard Townes, 99, cocreator of the laser, will now shine where all light shines. Videogame pioneer Ralph Baer, 92, invented the precursor to Pong. Carl Djerassi, 91, synthesized progesterone, leading to the development of the birth-control pill and the sexual revolution. And Claudia Alexander, 56, helped head NASA's Galileo mission to Jupiter.

Writers' Corner

Two Nobelists now join the universal writers' union: German fiction master Günter Grass, 87 (The Tin Drum) and Swedish postmodern poet Tomas Tranströmer, 83. Princeton professor and wonderful Pulitzer-winning poet C.K. Williams was 78. U.S. Poet Laureate Philip Levine ("What Work Is") was 87. And Rod McKuen, 81, is beyond Stanyan Street and all other sorrows.

Prose put prominent stars in the firmament, including Jackie Collins (Hollywood Wives), 77; Robert Stone (Dog Soldiers), 77; E.L. Doctorow (Ragtime), 84; Colleen McCullough (The Thorn Birds), 77; Nordic noir master Henning Mankell (the Kurt Wallander novels), 67; and fantasy genius Terry Pratchett, 65. Neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks, 82, now knows why music transfixes us, and why that man turned his wife into a hat.

Among journalists who met the deadline are Vietnam correspondent and female TV pioneer Marlene Sanders, 84; Bob Simon of 60 Minutes, 73; Philadelphia-born Time magazine film critic Richard Corliss, 71; and New York Times media critic David Carr, 58.


In one of the most unforgettable hits in football history, Philadelphia Eagles two-way man Chuck Bednarik, 89, leveled receiver Frank Gifford, 84, in 1960. The Eagles went on to win the NFL championship. Both men are now immortals.

Yogi Berra, 90, took the fork in the road when he came to it. Wrestling graduated Dusty Rhodes, 69, and Roddy Piper, 61. BMX riding donated pioneer Scot Breithaupt, 57. Snaky quarterback Ken Stabler was 69, tennis pioneer Doris Hart was 89, and golfer Calvin Peete was 71.

Moses Malone, 60, helped guide the Philadelphia 76ers to their most recent NBA title, in 1983. Backboard-shattering Sixer Darryl Dawkins was 58. And Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon, 83, can now keep a rotating ball on his finger perpetually. B-baller John "Hot Rod" Williams was 53.

Minnie Minoso, 89, was among the first wave of pro U.S. baseball players of color. Ernie Banks, 83, happy Chicago Cubs slugger, now will have endless sunny days for playing as many doubleheaders as he wants. And Dave Henderson, 53, went to four World Series and won one.

Let us join Stuart Scott, 49, heroic ESPN newscaster, in honoring this year's cavalcade with a big, welcoming "Booyah!!"