Each year takes with it some of our friends, relatives and those public figures we see as friends, or perhaps, something other than a friend, some heroes, some villains, and some a little of each. 2012 was no different.
I was 10 years old when awoken by my mother, to come see Neil Armstrong take his “one small step.” He was 82 when he passed away after heart surgery in December. He was the stuff of legends and will never be forgotten, but it was a bad year for legendary American astronauts, as Sally Ride, the first American woman in space also passed away at the young age of 61, the victim of pancreatic cancer.
In the wide world of sports, we said goodbye to Joe Paterno in January, just weeks after he was fired in the wake of the Sandusky child abuse nightmare at Penn State University. One wonders whether he lost his will to fight in the aftermath of those events. A hero to some, and yet the University removed his statue, in some way, a posthumous judgment, and a sad event in every way.
Another controversial figure from the world of football, Art Modell, passed away at the start of the NFL season. He was still a villain in Cleveland, having moved the old Browns franchise to Baltimore and renamed them the Ravens in 1996, but he became a hero to Baltimore when they won the Super Bowl in 2001. Perhaps saddest of all was the suicide of Junior Seau, who spent 19 years as a linebacker in the NFL. This deepened the concern of many regarding the effects of repeated head trauma on the brain, as he was by no means the first player to commit suicide after a long football career.
2012 was a bad year in the world of music, where Whitney Houston, Marvin Hamlisch, Dave Brubeck, and also Robin Gibb, of the Bee Gees, and Davy Jones, of the Monkees, all passed away. Some, like Hamlisch and Brubeck after long lives, but Whitney Houston’s passing, at 48, as a result of drowning was especially sad, and a waste of such talent. The autopsy showed evidence of cocaine abuse and consequent heart disease - which made the event all the more tragic.
We cannot leave out those whose lives were cut short in the service of their country; J. Christopher Stevens, US ambassador said that Libya was a place of promise, and also for him and for the staff members who died with him, an example of the dangers of serving the United States abroad. It would not be appropriate to mention service to the United States, and omit the passing of General ‘Stormin’ Norman’ Schwarzkopf on the last Thursday of the year. Finally, too many members of the military have passed in the line of duty to name them all, but we remember them, and we cannot overvalue their sacrifice.
Among the heroes and villains of the screen, Larry Hagman, as JR Ewing, was the most identifiable villains for many years, even reprising the role last year, despite fighting cancer at the same time. Those who are a little older will also remember that he portrayed Major Tony Nelson in ‘I Dream of Jeannie.’ Other instantly recognizable actors, Ernest Borgnine, Sherman Hemsley, and Michael Clarke Duncan, left us last year. The last of those, Michael Clarke Duncan, was just 54 years old when he succumbed to complications of heart disease.
Dick Clark was fittingly celebrated on New Year’s Eve, but Phyllis Diller and Alex Karras were barely mentioned as they left us. It also seemed somehow appropriate that both Andy Griffith and George Lindsey (a.k.a. ‘Goober’) should leave us in the same year, and although the former was the bigger star, perhaps we might do well to remember the good-natured, childlike character portrayed by Lindsay.
It would be impossible to mention all the heroes, villains, and those, like most of us, who fall somewhere in between, that passed away in 2012, and I apologize if I have left out one of your favorite people.
However, we should never forget the victims of Aurora, Colorado, or of Sandy Hook Elementary School, and if we can do anything to honor the memory of those victims, and of every other celebrity, friend or relative who passed in 2012, can we resolve to find a way to stop such senseless waste of life reoccurring in this nation? That could be a resolution for us all for this new year.
I wish each of you a happy and prosperous 2013.