In Memoriam

Goodbye To The Greats: Notable Deaths in 2014

From Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman to Maya Angelou, we remember those we lost in 2014.

The Daily Beast

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Eusébio

January 5
A soccer great, considered to be one of the sport's all-time best players, Eusébio da Silva Ferreira passed away at age 71 from a heart attack. Born in Mozambique when it was still a colony of Portugal, he went on to become the top scorer in the 1966 World Cup with nine goals—helping Portugal clinch third place in the championship.

 

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Amiri Baraka

January 9
Born Everett LeRoi Jones, the American poet and Newark native spent three years in the Air Force before moving to New York's Lower East Side and founding the avant-garde Totem Press, which first published works by Beats like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. After the assassination of Malcolm X, Jones assumed a new name, moved to Harlem to launch the Black Arts Repertory, and dabbled in Islam, Leninism and Marxism. Baraka was an accomplished poet and playwright in his own right, winning a Guggenheim fellowship and a PEN/Faulkner award for his works, which included plays on police brutality. His apocryphal test of a good poem was to approach a group of construction workers and recite it; if he didn't get hit on the head, it passed. He died at the age of 79 after a protracted illness.

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Ariel Sharon

January 11
Former Israeli prime minister, formidable general, Ariel Sharon died at the age of 85 in January. Eight years earlier, he had suffered a stroke while in office and fallen into a coma, from which he never awoke. Before being elected in 2001, Sharon fought in three wars, including as a young commander in the 1948 War of Independence. In 2006, he stirred controversy by expelling Jewish settlers from Gaza, and resigning as the head of Likud to form the centrist Kadima party.

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Russell Johnson

January 16
Best known for his role as the handsome Professor on Gilligan's Island, Johnson also appeared in Westerns and several episodes of The Twilight Zone during his Hollywood career. But even as he played a castaway lost at sea somewhere off the coast of Hawaii, Johnson had his own storied history with the Pacific theater: In WWII, he flew 44 combat missions with the Air Force, receiving a Purple Heart for injuries sustained when Japanese forces shot down his B-52 over the Philippines. He passed away at his home on Bainbridge Island, Washington, at the age of 89.

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Pete Seeger

January 27
Folk singer, legendary activist, "Stalin's songbird": Pete Seeger passed away at the age of 94, but not before he managed to Occupy Wall Street with Arlo Guthrie to protest the greed of the one percenters. With his group The Weavers, his adaptations of classic songs, from "If I Had a Hammer" and the South African "Wimoweh" (so titled because Seeger misheard the word "Mbube") to "Where Have All The Flowers Gone," inspired the likes of Dylan and Baez. Meanwhile, Seeger's support of Communist Russia got him in trouble with the House Un-American Activities Committee (he was convicted of contempt of Congress) and prompted later critics to slam his uncritical support of Stalinism.

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Philip Seymour Hoffman

February 2
The Oscar-winning actor's death at the age of 46, from an apparent heroin overdose, shocked and saddened colleagues and fans alike. Widely admired for his subtle technique and his ability to disappear into a role—whether it was the obsequious Brandt in The Big Lebowski, guru Lester Bangs in Almost Famous, the L. Ron Hubbard-ish Lancaster Dodd in The Master, or Truman Capote incarnate—Hoffman was one of those rare birds, an actor's actor loved by the masses, as comfortable on stage (who can forget his Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, so heartbreaking, so eerily prescient?) as in a blockbuster like The Hunger Games, his last film.

 

 

 

 

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Shirley Temple

February 10

A child actress who cheered Americans throughout the Depression, and went on to be the U.S. ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia, the indomitable Shirley Temple passed away at the age of 85 at her home in California. From her early film stardom as the Curly Top, the Littlest Rebel, the Poor Little Rich Girl, (by 1935 she was earning a whopping $2500 a week), she managed to avoid the curse of young fame and went on to a succesful diplomatic career in her adult years under her adult name, Shirley Temple Black. As The Daily Beast's Malcolm Jones noted in his obit, "The line between cynical and savvy is a fine one, but she walked it like a Wallenda. This was, after, a little girl who stopped believing in Santa Claus when she was six. 'Mother took me to see him in a department store,' she said years later, 'and he asked for my autograph.'"

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Sid Caesar

February 12
Actor and comic legend—depending on your age, you might remember him from the 1950's TV favorite Your Show of Shows or as Coach Calhoun in Grease—Sid Caesar died at 91. Among the luminaries who wrote for Caesar early in their careers were Mel Brooks, Woody Allen and Carl Reiner. He was nominated for 11 Emmys, winning twice, and never ceased to inspire those notorious curmudgeons, his fellow comedians.

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Harold Ramis

February 24
Actor, writer, director, Ghostbuster, Harold Ramis died at the age of 69 from complications related to a rare autoimmune disease. He was a comedic legend, cutting his chops at Second City in the 1970's, and lives on in his onscreen performances in Ghostbusters and Stripes, as well as his behind-the-camera work on Caddyshack, Animal House, National Lampoon's Vacation, and Groundhog Day. Every time you drunkenly quote Carl Spackler or Blutarsky, you have Ramis to thank.

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Maria von Trapp

February 24
The last surviving sibling of the singing family, immortalized in The Sound of Music, Maria von Trapp died at the age of 99 at her home in Stowe, Vermont. The Austrian native was the third-oldest child of Captain von Trapp, whose second wife (also named Maria, famously played by Julie Andrews on Broadway and on film) tutuored the children after their birth mother died of scarlet fever. The Trapp family fled Nazi-occupied Austria in 1938 and moved to the United States.

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L’Wren Scott

March 17
Fashion designer L'Wren Scott, known for her sheer and sexy silhouettes, was found dead of an apparent suicide at her home in New York. She was 49. Her designs had a rock-star edge—fittingly, she was the longtime companion of Mick Jagger—and they graced starlets on the Oscar red carpet as well as models on the New York runway. Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni were fans and fashion's elite mourned Scott's passing as a bright light lost too soon.

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Peter Matthiessen

April 5
Author, co-founder of The Paris Review, Peter Matthiessen died at the age of 86 at his home in Sagaponak, New York. One of the greatest writers of the post-World-War-II generation—no small feat in a class of talents like Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, and William Styron—he was an early naturalist and an elegant novelist. Like so many of his generation, Mattheissen was a military man (Navy, in his case); unlike the others, he was also clandestinely working for the CIA during the early TPR years. The only writer to ever win the National Book Award for both fiction and nonfiction, he was a Zen master, a spiritual seeker. In a profile printed just days before Matthiessen's death, The New York Times noted, "As early as 1978, he was already being referred to ...  as a 'throwback,' because he has always seemed to be of a different, earlier era, with universal, spiritual and essentially timeless concerns."

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Mickey Rooney

April 6
Actor and film legend Mickey Rooney passed away at the age of 93 in April, after 87 years in American cinema. Born Joe Yule Jr. in Brooklyn, New York, he made his stage debut at 18 months old in his parents' vaudeville act and later rocketed to fame with his roles in movies like Boys Town, Babes in Arms, and National Velvet. Known as a playboy and prankster, he married eight times—Ava Gardner was number 1—and was that rare triple threat in Hollywood, a showman who could act, sing and dance. He called himself a "gnomish prodigy." One thing's for sure—they don't make 'em like Rooney any more.

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Peaches Geldof

April 7
British TV personality and model, young mother, daughter of rock star and Live Aid founder Bob Geldof, the 25-year-old Peaches Geldof was found dead in her home of an apparent heroin overdose on April 7. As the daughter of rock royalty, she grew up in the public eye, penning an Elle column at age 16 and struggling with addiction in her early twenties. Her final message on Twitter and Instagram was a photograph of her own mother, who died suddenly (also of an overdose) when Peaches was 11 years old. Bob Geldof announced his daughter's death with a heartbreaking statement: “Peaches has died. We are beyond pain. She was the wildest, funniest, cleverest, wittiest and the most bonkers of all of us. Writing ‘was’ destroys me afresh. What a beautiful child. How is this possible that we will not see her again? How is that bearable? We loved her and will cherish her forever. How sad that sentence is."

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Gabriel Garcia Marquez

April 17
Colombian novelist, Nobel laureate, master of magical realism, Gabriel Garcia Marquez passed away at the age of 87 in Mexico City. How can one possibly capture his grandeur in a few scant lines? We don't have to get into his famous feud with Vargas Llosa here (he was punched in the face; naturally, a woman was involved). We won't dwell on his journalistic beginnings. We shall not try, and will only say: get thee to a library and read One Hundred Years of Solitude. And then read Love in the Time of Cholera and, if you're feeling ambitious, Autumn of the Patriarch. Get lost in his generations. Feel the power of his nostalgia, his playful pathos. Let his lines wash over you.

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Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter

April 20

"All of Rubin's cards were marked in advance/The trial was a pig-circus, he never had a chance." So ran Bob Dylan's lyrics to "Hurricane," his protest song over Rubin Carter's murder conviction. At the time of the gruesome triple murder of three bar patrons in Paterson, New Jersey, Carter was a middleweight boxer with a promising career ahead. Eyewitnesses fingered two black males as the shooters, though they never named Carter, and the trial was riddled with problems. Nevertheless, Carter and another man got life sentences for the crime, and his issue became a cause celebre among the left. He was freed after 20 years via a petition of habeas corpus and spent his remaining days advocating for prisoner's rights. He passed away at the age of 76 from prostate cancer.

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Bob Hoskins

April 29
The 71-year-old British actor, best known for his roles in Mona Lisa and as detective Eddie Valiant in the noirish toon extravaganza Who Framed Roger Rabbit, died from complications related to pneumonia. Nominated multiple times for Golden Globes, the burly Hoskins personified the tough guy with a heart of gold.

 

 

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Maya Angelou

May 28
Award-winning author, poet, and civil-rights icon, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Maya Angelou died at the age of 86. She came to writing after a series of jobs as a fry cook, a nighclub dancer, and a journalist in Egypt and Ghana, and it was through the pen that she found her true voice—rich, powerful, authoritative, inspiring. Her novel about growing up in the Jim Crow South, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, has been both praised and censored in equal measure for its truth-telling. As a young woman, she palled around with Malcolm X and James Baldwin, and later became a critical mentor to Oprah Winfrey. Nominated for a Tony for for Look Away in 1973 and a Pulitzer for her poetry collection Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie, she also memorably played Kunta Kinte’s grandmother in the TV epic Roots and read her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" for former president Bill Clinton's inauguration in 1993.

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Ruby Dee

June 11
Playwright, actress, and trailblazer, whose career flourished even during segregation, Ruby Dee died at the age of 91. She emceed the 1963 March of Washington and was an outspoken advocate for equality in the arts for African-Americans. “I’m sick of being offered scripts about hookers or goody-good nurses!” she told a reporter in 1970. “Black women fall in love and have adventures and secrets and are just as driven and gutsy as a lot of white ladies in middle America.” With her husband, the actor and playwright Ossie Davis, she co-starred in Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing and Jungle Fever; their partnership lasted 56 years, until his death in 2005.  A year earlier, Dee and Davis had received Kennedy Center Honors as “one of the most revered couples of the American stage." Upon Dee's passing, Lee wrote, "Ruby And Ossie Served As A Living Example That One Could Be An Artist And A Activist Too, That One Could Be An Artist And Still Deal With What It Means To Be A Black Woman And A Black Man In These United States."

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Casey Kasem

June 15
Radio personality and rock-and-roll DJ Casey Kasem died at the age of 82 after a sensational court battle between his daughter and wife over his care. The son of Lebanese immigrants, the Detroit native became one of America's most recognizable voices when he started hosting American Top 40 in 1970 (he also voiced the role of Shaggy in the Scooby-Doo series). A month after Kasem's death (and a few months after he originally went missing), a judge ordered an autopsy on Kasem's body as police investigated his widow, Jean, on allegations of elder abuse. Kasem was buried in Oslo but the family war over his final weeks rages on.

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Louis Zamperini

July 2
Olympic distance runner, World War II prisoner of war, Louis Zamperini's incredible life story enjoyed a renaissance as the subject of Lauren Hillenbrand's best-selling book Unbroken. (The movie adaptation, directed by Angelina Jolie, hit theaters on Christmas day.) While Zamperini died a few months before the film's premiere, the 97-year-old never lost his fighting spirit, honed during his Olympic trials—he was the youngest-ever American qualifier for the 1936 games in Berlin—and during his 74 days adrift at sea after his Army plane crashed, an ordeal that led to two-and-a-half years as an unofficial POW at the mercy of Japanese forces.

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Tommy Ramone

July 11
Punk icon Tommy Ramone, the last surviving member of the Ramones, passed away at the age of 65 from complications related to cancer. Born Erdelyi Tamas in Hungary, he grew up in Queens—New York, he once noted, was the "perfect place to grow up neurotic"—and his raucous drumming powered the group's unique sound as the played at CBGB's and Max's Kansas City. Tommy played on the Ramones’ first three albums, Ramones (1976), Leave Home (1977), and Rocket to Russia (1977), and was eventually replaced by Marc Bell (Marky Ramone). In 1984, he returned to co-produce the band’s album Too Tough to Die.

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Nadine Gordimer

July 13
South African author Nadine Gordimer, one of the strongest anti-apartheid literary activists, died Sunday at age 90. Gordimer won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991 for her writings that captured life under white rule in the country. She was active in the African National Congress, and three of her books were banned by the apartheid regime. When Nelson Mandela was released from prison, Gordimer was one of the first people he asked to see.

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Eric Garner, Michael Brown, & Tamir Rice

July 17, August 9, & November 22

Three unarmed boys and men. Three deaths at the hands of police officers. Three names that became cultural flashpoints in 2014, cases that pointed to endemic racism in some police departments and lax standards or over-aggressive protocols in others, deaths that prompted massive protests from Ferguson to New York to Berkeley. "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" and "I Can't Breathe" are now part of the American lexicon and the names Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice will surely reverberate far beyond 2014.

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Elaine Stritch

July 23
Elaine Stritch, the acerbic star of Broadway shows like Elaine Stritch at Liberty, passed away at the age of 89. Stritch was well-known for playing Jack’s mother on 30 Rock, a role that nabbed her five Emmy nominations (she won in 2007). Born in Detroit, she worked with Stephen Sondheim for decades and later famously lived at Manhattan's Carlyle Hotel. Her one-woman show At Liberty tackled the thorniest issues—alcohol addiction and troubles with love. Like any great lady, The New York Times described her as, “plainspoken, egalitarian, impatient with fools and foolishness, and admittedly fond of cigarettes, alcohol, and late nights.” Upon Stritch's passing, Lena Dunham tweeted a tribute: "Here's to the lady who lunched: Elaine Stritch, we love you. May your heaven be a booze-soaked, no-pants solo show at the Carlyle."

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James Brady

August 4
James Brady had been Ronald Reagan's press secretary for a mere two months when he took a bullet to the head outside the Hilton Hotel on March 30, 1981, during an attack on the president. Brady survived the rampage, an improbable miracle, and although he never conducted another press briefing after the shooting, he retained the title of press secretary during Reagan's presidency and the White House briefing room now bears his name. Though the bullet left Brady with partial paralysis, which required the use of a wheelchair, he and his wife tirelessly advocated for gun control and stricter measures on assault weapons. In 1993, Bill Clinton signed the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act into law; that same year, the president gave Brady the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award given to civilians. His death was ruled a homicide, 33 years after the shooting, due to health issues related to the gunshot wound.

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Robin Williams

August 11
The Oscar-winning actor and trailblazing comedian was found dead at his California home of an apparent suicide. Williams, 63, had recently been diagnosed with early-stage Parkinson's and was reportedly battling severe depression. The beloved actor's passing prompted an outpouring of grief and love on social media, and President Obama even weighed in on the death:  “He was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien—but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit,” he said. “He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most—from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets.”

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Lauren Bacall

August 12
Legendary actress, known for Key Largo, To Have and Have Not, and her smouldering stare, Lauren Bacall died of a stroke, according to the Humphrey Bogart Estate. Bacall was signed by Warner Bros. in 1943 and went on to become a scene-stealing star in movies alongside the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Rock Hudson, and Bogart, whom she later married. In 2010, Bacall received a lifetime achievement award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

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James Foley, Alan Henning, David Haines, Peter Kassig, Steven Sotloff

August 19, Sept. 2, Sept. 13, Oct. 3, & Nov. 17

James Foley, Alan Henning, David Haines, Peter Kassig and Steven Sotloff—five American and British journalists and aid workers who bravely covered the conflict in Syria and ministered to its victims even as it threatened to engulf them. They died as hostages of the jihadist group ISIS, but their legacies reach far beyond that common thread; they were universally respected and beloved by their Western and Syrian colleagues, and they sacrificed themselves to help those caught in the crossfire of one of the ugliest wars in modern history.

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Richard Attenborough

August 24
British actor and Oscar-winning director, known for The Great Escape, Gandhi, and Jurassic Park, Sir Richard Attenborough died at the age of 90. Familiar to generations of British filmgoers and enjoying a career that spanned more than 60 years, he won an Oscar for Best Director for the 1982 film Gandhi, starring Ben Kingsley, and also played the avunular theme-park developer in Jurassic Park and Kris Kringle in a remake of Miracle on 34th Street.

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Joan Rivers

September 4
Pioneering female comedian and TV host, Joan Rivers died as she lived: with an over-the-top funeral extravaganza attended by Hollywood's elite. No small obituary can do her credit, so we direct you to The Daily Beast's original write-up of her irreverant, incredible life.

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Gaby Aghion

September 27
The French designer who founded the fashion house Chloé, Gaby Aghion—who died at the age of 93—embodied the free-spirited Left Bank style of post-World War II Paris. She befriended Picasso and the surrealist poet Éluard, and she mentored a young Karl Lagerfeld. Even after she sold the company, her advice on the choice of designers—from Stella McCartney to Phoebe Philo—was always on the mark, and she rarely missed a show.

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Jean-Claude Duvalier

October 4
Known as “Baby Doc," the notorious former "president for life" of Haiti died at the age of 63 from a heart attack. Duvalier’s corrupt and brutal regime began in 1971 when he was only 19, after his father Francois Duvalier died suddenly of an illness. He ruled for 15 years, living in excess with his wife, Michele, even televising their $5 million wedding to the impoverished nation. The New York-based Human Rights Watch estimates that some 30,000 Haitians were killed under the reign of both Duvaliers. In 2011, the younger Duvalier, known as “Baby Doc,” returned to Haiti and spent the rest of his days in the hills above the Haitian capital.

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Ben Bradlee

October 21
Legendary editor of The Washington Post, the "last of the newspaper giants," Ben Bradlee—who passed away at the age of 93—transfomred the paper into one of the world's top publications.  Throughout his 26-year career at The Post, Bradlee mixed hard-hitting reporting with in-depth features and helmed the paper's coverage of the Watergate scandal, which prompted Richard Nixon's resignation (the only presidential resignation in American history). “Ben Bradlee was the best American newspaper editor of his time,” said Donald E. Graham, The Post’s publisher, “and had the greatest impact on his newspaper of any modern editor.”

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Jack Bruce

October 25
The bass guitarist for Cream, Jack Bruce passed away at the age of 71 from liver disease. In addition to playing bass, Bruce also sang lead vocals on classic Cream songs like “Sunshine of Your Love” and “White Room.”

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Mike Nichols

November 19
Director of silver-screen classics like The Graduate, The Bird Cage, Silkwood, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Mike Nichols died at the age of 83. The husband of Diane Sawyer (his fourth wife), he was one of only 12 people to have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. He won his Oscar for The Graduate, and was also nominated for Working Girl, The Remains of the Day, Silkwood, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? His final film was 2007’s Charlie Wilson’s War.

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Marion Barry

November 23
Mayor for Life” of Washington, D.C., Marion Barry Jr. died at the age of 78. Barry was elected to the post four times, and also served on the D.C. Council for 15 years. He was married four times, and his troubles with drug addiction would make him famous as the mayor who smoked crack long before Rob Ford. In 1990 he was caught on FBI tape smoking crack, and was later convicted on cocaine possession. Upon being released, Barry was elected as mayor for one more term. While a cause of death has not been released, in his later years Barry struggled with health issues, and in 2014 he released a memoir.

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Mark Strand

November 29
Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mark Strand died at age 80 at his daughter’s home in Brooklyn, New York. Strand’s daughter, Jessica, said the cause of death was liposarcoma, a cancer of the fat cells. Strand was known for his meditative, spare poems on alienation and was named Poet Laureate of the United States in 1990. He won a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1999 for his collection Blizzard of One.

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Rafael Ramos & Wenjian Liu

December 21
New York Police Department officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were shot and killed in broad daylight as they sat in their vehicle during a routine shift the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn on December 21. The shooter, a man from Maryland named Ismaaiyl Brinsley who had shot his ex-girlfriend just hours before, fled into the subway before a shoot-out with police prompted him to turn the gun on himself. Brinsley, who had a history of criminal behavior and mental illness, had posted messages on social media before the murders, citing the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown and vowing to take out police officers as vengeance.

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Joe Cocker

December 22

British singer Joe Cocker, best known for his cover of the Beatles' "With a Little Help from My Friends" and his performance at Woodstock died of lung cnacer at age 70.  Cocker began his career in the 1960s in the city of Sheffield and became a household name when his Beatles cover hit No. 1 on the charts.