In Memorium: The Lives That Touched Us In 2016

Clockwise from top left: David Bowie; Florence Henderson; Muhammad Ali; Leonard Cohen; Gordie Howe; Harper Lee; Prince; Elie Wiesel

To borrow a term from Seinfeld, in many ways 2016 proved something of a “bizzaro” year: The Chicago Cubs won the World Series for the first time in more than a century, while the improbable rise of Donald Trump from unfit American presidential candidate to unfit American President-Elect left virtually everyone except some Russian computer hackers in shock.

And then there were the notable deaths, from beloved entertainers to sports greats to world figures. What made the passing of so many public figures so jarring wasn’t simply the sheer number of them, but the statuses they carried as legends in their respective fields. In 2016, we lost some of the most influential musical artists, some of the most impactful writers, some of the greatest athletes, some of the most beloved actors and some of the most recognizable statesmen/women of the 20th century.

This list, however, isn’t about marking the deaths of this past year, but rather the lives that we remember as the year closes. In that vein, we offer a month-by-month breakdown of the most notable lives we reflected on in 2016.

JANUARY 2016

The first month of the year set the tone for the rest of 2016. Within an eight-day span we lost David Bowie (Jan. 10) at age 69, then both Celine Dion’s husband and manager René Angélil at 73 and actor Alan Rickman at 69 on Jan. 14. Dan Haggerty, of Grizzly Adams fame, passed away the following day while Eagles co-founder, frontman and singer Glenn Frey died at age 67 on Jan. 18. Then, on Jan. 26, the beloved Godfather and Barney Miller star Abe Vigoda died at 94.

Other notable deaths in January 2016:

JAN 2: Marcel Barbeau, Order of Canada and Governor General Award-honoured Canadian painter and sculptor, 90.
JAN 3: Paul Bley, innovative Montreal-born jazz pianist, 83.
JAN. 17: “Iron” Mike Sharpe, famed member of Canadian’s Sharpe professional wrestling family, 64.
JAN. 18: Pierre DesRuisseaux, former Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate, 70.
JAN. 23: Archie “The Stomper” Gouldie, Calgary-area professional wrestling legend, 79.

ZOOMER REMEMBERS…

* DAVID BOWIE AND THE SOUNDTRACK OF A GENERATION
* ALAN RICKMAN, BRITISH STAR OF STAGE AND SCREEN, DIES AT 69
* SECRET SICKNESS: WHY DAVID BOWIE’S AND ALAN RICKMAN’S DEATHS SHOCKED US
* RENE ANGELIL, HUSBAND OF CELINE DION, DIES AT 73
* REMEMBERING ABE VIGODA—FIVE OF HIS MOST FAMOUS ROLES
* GRIZZLY ADAMS ACTOR DAN HAGGERTY DIES AT 74

FEBRUARY 2016

Literary lovers mourned the passing of one of the great American scribes of the 20th century when To Kill A Mockingbird author Harper Lee passed away at age 89 on Feb. 19. As well, famed Italian novelist Umberto Eco, whose works include The Name of the Rose, died on the same day at age 84. Meanwhile, a few weeks earlier, music fans marked the loss of Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White at age 74 on Feb. 4.

Other notable deaths in February 2016:

FEB. 13: Antonin Scalia, controversial conservative Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1986-2016, 79.
FEB. 15: Vanity, Canadian lead singer of group Vanity 6, protégé/partner of Prince and actress and evangelist, 57.
FEB. 16: Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Egyptian born Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1992-1996, 93.
FEB. 18: Jo-Ann Episkenew, award-winning Canadian indigenous rights activist, author and educator, 63.
FEB. 28: George Kennedy, Oscar-winning Cool Hand Luke, Airplane! and Naked Gun actor, 91.

ZOOMER REMEMBERS…

* HARPER LEE: FASCINATING FACTS ABOUT “THE JANE AUSTEN OF SOUTH ALABAMA”
* REMEMBERING EARTH, WIND & FIRE’S MAURICE WHITE THROUGH HIS MUSIC

MARCH 2016

March proved another heavy month, with the passing of former American first lady Nancy Reagan (Mar. 6) at age 94 and legendary Beatles producer Sir George Martin (Mar. 8) at age 90. On March 22, embattled former Toronto mayor Rob Ford passed away at age 46 while groundbreaking comedian Garry Shandling died suddenly on March 24 at age 66.

Other notable deaths in March 2016:

MARCH 11: Keith Emerson, keyboardist, composer and founding member of famed supergroup Emerson, Lake and Palmer, 71.
MARCH 16: Frank Sinatra, Jr., American singer, actor and son of Frank Sinatra, 72.
MARCH 28: Wally Crouter, beloved Canadian radio host dubbed “Mr. Toronto,” 92.

ZOOMER REMEMBERS…

* NANCY REAGAN: FIRST LADY OF STYLE
* THE FIFTH BEATLE: 10 FASCINATING FACTS ABOUT GEORGE MARTIN
* ROB FORD, FORMER MAYOR OF TORONTO, DIES AT 46

APRIL 2016
The death of legendary Grammy and Oscar-winning singer/songwriter Prince on April 21 at age 57 dominated celebrity news cycles for the latter half of April, both due to the shock of his sudden passing and questions over the cause of death—later determined to be an accidental overdose of the opioid painkiller fentanyl. Prince’s passing resulted in an outpouring of emotion and tributes worldwide on par with the reaction David Bowie’s passing elicited a few months earlier.

Other notable deaths in April 2016:

APRIL 6:  Merle Haggard, award-winning singer/songwriter and country music pioneer, 79.
APRIL 17:  Doris Roberts, actress, author and animal rights activist and Emmy-winning star of Everybody Loves Raymond, 90.

ZOOMER REMEMBERS…

* RIP: 5 WAYS PRINCE CHANGED MUSIC
* PURPLE REIGN
* 6 FASHION STATEMENTS FROM PRINCE
* PRINCE LIVE: 8 OF OUR FAVOURITE CONCERT PERFORMANCES

 MAY 2016

Canadian-born journalist, broadcaster, and 60 Minutes mainstay Morley Safer passed away on May 19, about a week after announcing his retirement. The 84-year-old was the longest serving reporter on the famed CBS news show, beginning in 1970 and only retiring due to ill health. His work not only remained engaging, but also relevant, into his final years on the show, as CBS.com noted, “Safer enjoyed the longest run anyone ever had on primetime network television. Though he cut back a decade ago, he still appeared regularly until recently, captivating audiences with his signature stories on art, science and culture … [Safer] was in his true element playing pool with Jackie Gleason, delivering one of his elegant essays aboard the Orient Express or riffing on Anna Wintour, but he also asked the tough questions and did the big stories. In 2011, over 18.5 million people watched him ask Ruth Madoff how she could not have known her husband Bernard was running a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme. The interview was headline news and water cooler talk for days.”

Safer once summed up his role, and that of many a journalist, succinctly: “Some people, you have to grit your teeth in order to stay in the same room as them, but you get on and ask the questions you assume most of the people watching want to ask.”

Other notable deaths in May 2016:

MAY 3: Frank Levingston, both America’s oldest man and the nation’s oldest living Second World War veteran, 110

ZOOMER REMEMBERS…

* MORLEY SAFER, FORMER 60 MINUTES HOST, DIES AT 84

JUNE 2016

They were two of the greatest athletes in their respective sports, both electrifying fans with their unparalleled skill and dominant performances and they passed away within a week of each other in June. On June 3, world champion, Olympic gold medalist and the greatest boxer who ever lived, Muhammad Ali, died at age 74. Then, on June 10, hockey hall of famer and one of the best to ever lace up the skates, Gordie Howe, passed away at the age of 88. As the sports world reeled from the loss of two of the most legendary athletes of a generation, two weeks later famed American fashion photographer Bill Cunningham, an institution at the New York Times, died at age 87.

Other notable deaths in June 2016:

JUNE 4: Bobby Curtola, “Fortune Teller” singer, 1960s teen idol and Order of Canada recipient, 73.
JUNE 19: Anton Yelchin, Star Trek film actor, 27.

ZOOMER REMEMBERS…

* RIP: 15 OF MUHAMMAD ALI’S MOST MEMORABLE QUOTES
* GORDIE HOWE PASSES AWAY: WE REMEMBER THE GREAT MR. HOCKEY
* LEGENDARY NYT FASHION PHOTOGRAPHER BILL CUNNINGHAM DIES

JULY 2016

It’s difficult to imagine the horrors Elie Wiesel experienced in his life—a prisoner of Nazi concentration camps in his teens, he suffered the indignities and torture of the Holocaust firsthand, including laying on the top bunk of his bed as his father, whose health had deteriorated dramatically, was beaten to death on the bunk below. But Wiesel turned that horrific chapter of his life into a mission to educate others both about what happened inside those Nazi death camps, as well as how to heal and to ensure it never happens again. For his lifetime of work Wiesel earned everything from the Nobel Peace Prize to the Presidential Medal of Freedom to a Knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II. Wiesel died on July 2, age 87.

A little over two weeks later, one of the great American TV and filmmakers, Garry Marshall, the man behind classic sitcoms like Happy Days, Mork and Mindy, and Laverne and Shirley and films like Pretty Woman, passed awayat age 81.

Other notable deaths in July 2016:

JULY 9: Gladys Hooper, the oldest person in the United Kingdom, 113.
JULY 26: Miss Cleo (real name Youree Dell Harris), popular American TV medium, 53.
JULY 29: Lucille Dumont, Quebecois music legend, Canadian Songwriter’s Hall of Fame member and Order of Canada recipient, 97.
JULY 31: Penny Lang, influential Montreal-born folk singer, 74.

ZOOMER REMEMBERS…

* RIP: ELIE WIESEL BROKE SILENCE ON HOLOCAUST
* 5 LITTLE KNOWN FACTS ABOUT GARRY MARSHALL’S BIGGEST HITS
* A LOOK BACK: Q&A WITH GARRY MARSHALL

AUGUST 2016

One of the great comedic minds in American film, Gene Wilder, most famous for his performance in the titular role in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, the 1968 film The Producers and for co-writing and starring in Young Frankenstein—the latter two projects earning him a Best Support Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nominations respectively—died on August 29. Wilder, who’d secretly battled Alzheimer’s disease for three years prior to his passing, reportedly died while listening to a recording of one of his favourite songs, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and holding hands with family. Following his passing, frequent collaborator Mel Brooks called Wilder, “One of the truly great talents of our time. He blessed every film we did with his magic & he blessed me with his friendship.”

Other notable deaths in August 2016:

AUG. 3: Ricci Martin, entertainer and son of Dean Martin, 62.
AUG. 15: Dick Assman, Saskatchewan gas station manager who gained international fame due to talk show host David Letterman spotlighting his name for a few months in 1995, 82.
AUG. 27: Cookie, the world’s oldest parrot, 83.
AUG. 28: Mr. Fuji, famed pro wrestler and manager, WWE Hall of Famer, 82.

ZOOMER REMEMBERS…

* GENE WILDER REMEMBERED: HIS 5 GREATEST PERFORMANCES

 SEPTEMBER 2016

“I’m a storyteller and my greatest satisfaction comes from making people laugh and also leaving them with a tear in the corner of their eye,” Canadian author W.P. Kinsella, who wrote the beloved novel Shoeless Joe Jackson, later adapted into the classic film Field of Dreams, told his biographer Willie Steele in the days leading up to his doctor-assisted suicide on Sept. 16 at age 81. For fans of the B.C.-based writer the news was heartbreaking, though the fact that his last work of fiction, Russian Dolls, will hit bookstores in 2017 offers some consolation that a piece of Kinsella’s life and work is still to come.

Just nine days later, the sports world once again mourned one of its legends after the passing of golf great Arnold Palmer on Sept. 25 at age 87. And on Sept. 28, former Israeli President, Prime Minister and Nobel Laureate Shimon Peres died at age 93.

Other notable deaths in September 2016:

SEPT. 9: Lord Littlebrook, world-famous midget wrestler and manager, 87.
SEPT. 26: Toughie, last known surviving Rabbs fringe-limbed treefrog in the world, 12 (approx.)

ZOOMER REMEMBERS…

* RIP: REMEMBERING GOLF LEGEND ARNOLD PALMER
* RIP: WORLD LEADERS MOURN SHIMON PERES DURING TRIBUTE

OCTOBER 2016

Canadians across the country were shocked to hear of the passing of Jim Prentice, 60, long-time Conservative politician and the former Premier of Alberta, in a plane crash that took the lives of three others on board in British Columbia on Oct. 13. Reflecting on his passing, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “Jim was a man who brought his deep convictions to everything he turned his hand to, whether it was law, business or politics. At each step of his career, Jim was a strong voice for the people of Alberta and for the people of Canada. He was highly respected and well-liked in the House of Commons across all party lines, because he brought an intelligent, honest and straightforward approach to everything he did.”

Other notable deaths in October 2016:

OCT. 13: Dario Fo, Nobel Prize-winning Italian playwright, 90.

NOVEMBER 2016

“Don’t dwell on what has passed away/Or what is yet to be”— easy for Leonard Cohen to say. He wasn’t the one shaken by the news that the beloved Canadian poet and singer had passed away. Tributes poured in for the troubadour who, at age 74 in 2008, after his semi-retirement, was interrupted by the theft of most of his earnings by an unscrupulous former manager. Cohen then embarked on a multi-year sold out world tour while continuing to write and record some of the best and most celebrated albums of his entire career. Just weeks before his passing, Cohen’s final album, You Want It Darker, continued to climb the charts and earn vaunted laurels from critics and fans alike. And then, he was gone, slipping quietly away at age 82, the death not just of a ladies man, but a poet for all seasons.

Later in the month, two more legendary figures—though for very different reasons—passed away within a day of each other. Florence Henderson, the legendary American actress and singer best known for her portrayal of mom Carol Brady on The Brady Bunch, died at age 82 on Nov. 24. The next day ailing and controversial former Cuban Prime Minister and President Fidel Castro passed away at age 90.

Other notable deaths in November 2016:

NOV. 7: Janet Reno, first ever female United states Attorney General, 78.
NOV. 12: Dawn Coe-Jones, legendary Canadian golfer, 56.
NOV. 13: Leon Russell, best-selling musician and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, 74.
NOV. 14: Gwen Ifill, first African-American journalist to host a nationwide public affairs program and Peabody Award-winner, 61.
NOV. 14: Janet Wright, award-winning Canadian actress best known as Emma Leroy on the sitcom Corner Gas, 71, Canadian actress.

ZOOMER REMEMBERS…

* HE’S OUR MAN: REMEMBERING LEONARD COHEN
* 8 OF THE GREATEST LEONARD COHEN LYRICS
* 5 REASONS FLORENCE HENDERSON WAS A BOOMER INSPIRATION

DECEMBER 2016

Canuck entertainer Alan Thicke did virtually everything one performer can do on television, hosting both daytime and late night talk shows, game shows, starring as TV dad Jason Seaver in his own classic sitcom, Growing Pains, performing guest roles on many notable series’ and, at the end of his life, starring in his own reality show, Unusually Thicke, documenting his home life with his wife Tanya and youngest son Carter. At only 69, his sudden passing on Dec. 13 came as a shock to family, friends and fans alike and he was remembered as a television legend and proud Canadian who in his later years used his platform to advocate for less stereotypical depictions and better roles for older actors.

Former American astronaut, politician and distinguished war hero John Glenn, the first person to orbit the Earth, passed away on Dec. 8 at age 95. Ten days later, socialite and actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, best known for her nine marriages and trademark “Dahling” drawl, passed away just short of the century mark at age 99. And just as 2016 started with the passing of David Bowie, it ended with the passing of two more hugely beloved performers — singer George Michael, who passed away from heart failure on Dec. 25. Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher,  died on Dec. 27 following a massive heart attack a few days earlier, and her mother and award-winning actress and singer Debbie Reynolds, 84, died the very next day on Dec. 28 after suffering a stroke.

Other notable deaths in December 2016:

DEC. 5: Charles H. Belzile, former Commander of the Canadian Army from 1992-1996, and Honorary Grand President of The Royal Canadian Legion, recipient of the Order of Canada, Vimy Award and French Légion d’Honneur, 83.
DEC. 7: Greg Lake, singer, songwriter and musician and founding member of bands Emerson, Lake and Palmer and King Crimson, 69.

ZOOMER REMEMBERS…

* ‘GROWING PAINS’ STAR ALAN THICKE PASSES AWAY AT 69
* ZSA ZSA GABOR: 7 MEMORABLE QUIPS, DAHLING
* JOHN GLENN’S LEGACY: WHAT REAL AMERICAN LEADERSHIP LOOKS LIKE
* RIP GEORGE MICHAEL: FRIENDS AND FANS MOURN PASSING OF POP ICON
‘STAR WARS’ ACTRESS CARRIE FISHER DIES AT 60