It has been a great honor to cover some of the most influential figures America has fostered in its growth. It is also to my disappointment that I am not able to cover every loss we have suffered this past year, and that is to no disrespect to them as people or one as an admirer. Our generation has embraced the talents of musicians, fighters, authors, actors, actresses and more, serving as icons of inspiration and change to people around the world. Although they have become a memory to us now, we may still aspire to fulfill a sense of greatness they have achieved. We must not mourn over the many greats who walked this earth, but merely pay our due respects by continuing the change they had strived to accomplish in each of their areas of expertise.
Joseph Francis, Joe, Alaskey III, 63, died of cancer in Green Island, New York. Being Mel Blanc’s successor at Warner Bros. Animation Studio, Alaskey was best known for his impressions and voice artistry. Voicing cartoon characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester, Tweety, Marvin the Martian and more, he was also an actor in various television shows, as well as a stand-up comedian.
David Michael, Dave, Mirra, 41, was an extreme sports athlete who competed in the X Games from their start in 1995 until 2009. Representing the United States, Mirra swept the X Games from 1997 to 2005, taking gold in both the BMX vert ramp and park rider almost every year. From 2008 to 2013, Mirra competed in rallying and rallycross as a member of the Subaru Rally Team U.S.A. Mirra died on Feb. 4, in Greenville, North Carolina.
Nelle Harper Lee, 89, was an American novelist most famously known for her novel “To Kill A Mockingbird,” published in 1960. After publishing the work, Lee won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was eventually awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work in 2007. Lee passed away in her sleep on Feb. 19, in Monroeville, Ala.
Nancy Reagan, 94, was an actress and former first lady of the United States. As Nancy Davis, she was an actress in the ‘40s and ‘50s before marrying into the Reagan family. Being the wife of the fortieth president, Ronald Reagan, she served as first lady from 1981 to 1989. As the first lady, she coined the phrase “Just Say No” in regards to a recreational drug prevention campaign. Reagan died of congestive heart failure on March 6 in California
Malik Izaak Taylor, 45, famously known as Phife Dawg, Taylor died on March 22 due to complications relating to his diabetes. Taylor was an American rapper and member of A Tribe Called Quest, which was a group he helped form with some of his high school friends in the ‘80s. Taylor’s contributions to the group became apparent on its second album, “The Low End Theory,” where he began to discuss political and social issues in his lyrics.
Doris Roberts, 90, was an American actress who died of a stroke on April 17 in California. Roberts’ acting career lasted for nearly six decades, starting in 1951 with the television series “Studio One.” She also appeared on many different talk shows as a guest or panelist. Roberts was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2003 and later the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2011. She also did various work with the United Activists for Animal Rights.
Prince Rogers Nelson, 57, was a musical artist, song-writer and record producer. Signing with Warner Bros. at the age of 18, Prince swept the nation with his versatile music ranging from funk, pop, r&b, soul and more. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, awarded a Golden Globe, won seven Grammy Awards and also won an Academy Award for his film “Purple Rain.” Nelson died of an accidental overdose on April 21.
Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., 74, famously known as Muhammad Ali, Clay was a professional American boxer. Starting from a young age, Clay was a prominent and inspirational figure inside and outside the boxing ring, winning his first Olympic gold medal in the Rome Summer Olympics at the age of 18. After his conversion to Islam in the ‘60s, Clay changed his name to Ali and set an example for racial pride during the Civil Rights movement. He is known as one of the most prominent athletes of the twentieth century and died of septic shock on June 3 in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Patricia Sue, Pat, Summitt, 64, was a women’s college basketball coach who took eight NCAA Division I Championships, 16 SEC Tournament Championships and seven NCAA Coach of the Year Awards. Serving solely as the head coach for the Tennessee Lady Vols from 1974 to 2012, Summitt retired with 1,098 career wins. She also wrote three books and was known as one of the most successful women’s basketball coaches in NCAA history. She died at a senior living facility in Knoxville, Tennessee on June 28.
Jerome Silberman, 83, professionally known as Gene Wilder, Silberman was a comic actor, director and author. Silberman debuted with a television show in 1961, and eventually made his way to major motion pictures by the end of the ‘60s, starring in his first film, “Bonnie and Clyde.” Most famously known for his role as Willy Wonka in the 1971 production “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” Silberman won a Golden Globe, as well as multiple Academy Awards and an Emmy. Silberman died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease on Aug. 29 in Connecticut.
Arnold Palmer, 87, also known as “The King,” was a professional golfer and became a superstar of the television age in sports, starting in the 50s. Palmer won a total of 62 PGA Tour Titles and seven major championship titles, including the U.S. Open and the Master’s Tournament. In 1974, Palmer was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame due to his ability to popularize the sport of golf to a wider audience and change the perception of the sport from a past-time game to a modern and elite sport. Palmer died while awaiting heart surgery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Sept. 25.
Craig Sager, 65, an American sports reporter, died on Dec. 15 of leukemia. Sager is most famously known for his work in the NBA and his sideline report, as well as his prominent collection of snazzy suits and sports coats. He worked mainly for TNT and TBS during his active years, and received a Sports Emmy Award in 2012. Sager was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2016.
Carrie Fisher, 60, was known for her acting and writing, and was most famously known as Princess Leia from the film series, “Star Wars.” Fisher wrote multiple semi-autobiographical novels as well as a few screen plays. She performed on television from 1969 until her final film, “Star Wars: Rogue One,” in 2016. Fisher died of cardiac arrest just before the New Year on Dec. 27.