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2011 Year in Review: Notable Deaths

Getty / Bob Riha Jr.

2011 Year in Review: Notable Deaths

2011 was a year of upheaval around the world. Regimes fell and natural disasters raged. Nations struggled with debt and protestors demanded better lives. In addition to the many who lost their lives fighting for freedom – or in the path of terrible tornado, tsunami or earthquake – several noted and beloved individuals died during the past year. Our 2011 Memorial Site includes 600 of them to date.

This week and next, we'll be looking back at some of the deaths we chronicled at over the course of 2011. We're starting today with an eclectic group of luminaries.

Steve Jobs (Associated Press Photo)One of the most talked about deaths of 2011 was that of Steve Jobs. His was one of our busiest Guest Books, as Mac and PC users alike shared their condolences and thanked him for his contributions to our technological world. Jobs wasn't the only notable entrepreneur or businessperson who passed away this year. We also noted the deaths of cosmetics heiress Evelyn Lauder, who helped create the pink ribbon symbol of breast cancer awareness; Ilya Zhitomirskiy, who created the Facebook challenger Diaspora; Frederick Meijer, who conceptualized the supercenter store model now embraced by Walmart and Target.

Wangari Maathai (Associated Press Photo)The world lost several noted civil rights leaders in 2011. In June, we were saddened to hear of the death of Clara Luper, who led sit-ins advocating integration of lunch counters in Oklahoma City. In August, Matthew Perry – the first black federal judge in South Carolina and a champion of civil rights cases – died at age 89. Less than two months later, the world mourned the death of Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. And in October, Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth,who had worked closely with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s, passed away after a life of leadership in the fight for racial equality.

Jack Kevorkian (Associated Press Photo)2011 saw many controversial figures pass away. Some were notorious, like North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il. But others were figures of great interest – beloved by some, mistrusted by others – like Jack Kevorkian, for example. When the assisted-suicide supporter died in June, the debate of his career choice was revived all over again. And outspoken atheist Christopher Hitchens was mourned after his recent death, leaving fans wondering who would argue so effectively with pundits now.

Geraldine Ferraro (Associated Press Photo)In politics, we mourned the deaths of some much-loved figures. Geraldine Ferraro inspired a nation of women and girls when she became the first woman to run for vice president. Sargent Shriver directed the Peace Corps and fought the War on Poverty while he dabbled in politics as a Kennedy in-law (and “Governator” father-in-law). And Betty Ford was a strong and influential first lady who fought for abortion rights and the Equal Rights Amendment – and established the Betty Ford clinic, bringing the fight against substance abuse out of the shadows.

Eleanor Mondale (Associated Press Photo)Many prominent individuals and famous families lost loved ones this year. Kara Kennedy was the daughter of Edward Kennedy and a beloved member of the political family. Eleanor Mondale campaigned for her father, Walter Mondale. Likewise, Dorothy Rodham was a beacon of support during the presidential campaign of her daughter, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Myra Kraft was a noted philanthropist and the wife of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Alireza Pahlavi, the son of the late shah of Iran, advocated freedom and democracy for the Iranian people. Gwen Yearwood wrote cookbooks with her daughter, country music star Trisha Yearwood. And renowned painter Lucian Freud, grandson of Sigmund Freud, was a towering figure in his own right.

DangerMouse (Associated Press Photo)We lost a few other artists this year, ones we’ll miss every Sunday when we read the newspaper. Cartoonist Bil Keane, patriarch of that beloved and heartwarming Family Circus, passed away in November, just a few weeks after fellow funnies artist Tom Wilson, creator of Ziggy. Meanwhile, DangerMouse fans mourned the death of animator Mark Hall.


Lilian Jackson Braun (Associated Press Photo)And illustrators, cartoonists and animators weren’t the only storytellers who died in 2011. While devotees of “The Cat Who…” mysteries mourn the loss of writer Lilian Jackson Braun, children – and people who once were children – have been saddened by the deaths of favorite authors from Florence Parry Heide (The Shrinking of Treehorn) to Brian Jacques (Redwall) to Dick King-Smith (who brought us that adorable pig Babe) to Russell Hoban (Bread and Jam for Frances and other badger books). And Kathryn Tucker Windham, whose ghost stories and NPR pieces delighted generations. Fortunately, they all leave literary legacies that will be enjoyed for generations to come.

Written by Linnea Crowther