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R.I.P. 2018: Lives We’ll Remember

by Linnea Crowther

A look back at the year’s most famous goodbyes.

In 2018, we’ve said goodbye to a president and his beloved; a preacher who elevated us and a scientist who brought the cosmos down to Earth; a celebrity chef and a movie heartthrob; and the Queen of Soul herself. Join us as we look back at notable lives lost this year. 

Film & TV 

We lost a Hollywood icon when Burt Reynolds, star of “Smokey and the Bandit” and “Deliverance,” died, and he was one of many of our favorite actors who took their last bow this year. Memories of loveable sitcoms came flooding back after the deaths of “Laverne & Shirley’s” Penny Marshall, “Frasier’s” John Mahoney, “The Facts of Life’s” Charlotte Rae, “Coach’s” Jerry Van Dyke, and “M*A*S*H’s” David Ogden Stiers. We loved to hate Katherine MacGregor when she played Harriet Olesen on “Little House on the Prairie,” and we haggled alongside “Pawn Stars” patriarch Richard Harrison. Aficionados of modern serial drama remember Reg E. Cathey of “The Wire” and “House of Cards” and DuShon Monique Brown of “Chicago Fire.” Soap opera fans are missing Peggy McKay, who stepped away from a 33-year run on “Days of Our Lives” just two years before her death. And fans of Hollywood glamour remember Tab Hunter, a big screen heartthrob of the 1950s and ’60s, and Margot Kidder, who played the perfect Lois Lane alongside Christopher Reeve in the 1978 “Superman” and its sequels. 



Aretha Franklin‘s death rocked the music world as we mourned the Queen of Soul and replayed old hits like “Respect” and “Natural Woman.” She was joined by Roy Clark, the hit country singer who hosted “Hee Haw” for three decades, and Randy Scruggs, who was country music royalty as the son of Earl Scruggs. Otis Rush was a legendary guitarist in Chicago’s blues scene, while Dolores O’Riordan led the Cranberries and sang alternative hits including “Zombie” and “Linger.” 


When former First Lady Barbara Bush died in April, we mourned her loss and sent strength to her husband, former President George H.W. Bush. When the 41st president died just seven months later, we were comforted to think they were together again. Another pillar of U.S. politics lost this year was Senator John McCain, who represented Arizona for three decades and was a headline-maker throughout. On the international level, Kofi Annan served as Secretary-General of the United Nations and won a Nobel Peace Prize. 

Cultural Influencers 

People who shaped our culture in all kinds of ways died this year, from the Rev. Billy Graham, the prominent minister who counseled presidents, to Stephen Hawking, the brilliant theoretical physicist who brought us a better understanding of the universe even as he battled ALS. Two of NASA’s Apollo astronauts, John Young and Alan Bean, were among the only human beings ever to set foot on the Moon, while Paul Allen revolutionized home computing when he co-founded Microsoft. Winnie Mandela fought for freedom in South Africa as an anti-apartheid activist. Ingvar Kramprad created a new kind of shopping experience when he founded IKEA; Charles Lazarus brought joy to the masses as founder of Toys R Us; and Kate Spade influenced our personal style with her iconic handbags. 


Several iconic writers died this year, beginning with sci-fi legend Ursula K. Le Guin, known for groundbreaking books including “The Left Hand of Darkness.” Tom Wolfe brought us “The Right Stuff” and “Bonfire of the Vanities,” and Philip Roth wrote well-known novels including “Portnoy’s Complaint” and “The Human Stain.” Playwright and screenwriter Neil Simon created classics like “The Odd Couple” and “Biloxi Blues,” while columnist Charles Krauthammer was one of the country’s top conservative political pundits, thanks to his column in the Washington Post. Playwright Ntozake Shange wrote one of the most influential plays of a generation, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf.” And screenwriter/novelist William Goldman may be best remembered for his whimsical fairy tale, “The Princess Bride.” 


Marvel Comics’ fans were devastated when Stan Lee, who co-created many of the best known superheroes in comics, including Iron Man, Black Panther, and the Hulk, died. His death came just a few months after that of Steve Ditko, who worked alongside Lee to co-create Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. On the lighter side of the comic world, we lost Mort Walker, creator of newspaper strips “Beetle Bailey” and “Hi and Lois.” 

Media Personalities 

Anthony Bourdain‘s death came as a shock and a great loss to the culinary world, which adored his adventurous romps through international cuisines on several popular TV shows. Art Bell hosted the cult classic paranormal radio show “Coast to Coast,” while Carl Kasell was the unforgettable voice of NPR’s “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!” And Robin Leach sold us on champagne wishes and caviar dreams as host of “TV’s Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” 


Bruno Sammartino, known as “The Strongest Man in the World,” was one of the all-time greats of professional wrestling. Stan Mikita was named one of the 100 greatest NHL players after his 20-year career with the Chicago Black Hawks. And Rusty Staub was one of the original stars of the Montreal Expos.

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