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Inspiring Celebrities Who've
Passed in 2009
This year marks the passing of a number of movie and TV stars,
literary giants, and influential celebrities. Many of them inspired and
encouraged us with their accomplishments. And while we mourn
their loss, we know their impact on our lives will not be forgotten.
Patrick Swayze (August 18, 1952 - September 14,
His roles in "Ghost" and "Dirty Dancing" still make young women swoon.
Young men around the world will forever regard his character Dalton in
"Roadhouse" as one of the toughest guys in film. So when Swayze was
diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer in 2008, it seemed anyone who had
ever seen his work was saddened.
For a man with such a strong physique, photos quickly emerged of him
appearing thin and gaunt, and tabloids claimed he had but a short time to live.
But through it all, Swayze remained optimistic, even continuing to work on the
A&E TV series, "The Beast," in which he had a starring role.
Farrah Fawcett (February 2, 1947 – June 25,
This "Angel" was one of the biggest stars of the '70s and '80s, known primarily
for her luscious locks and, of course, her role on the hit TV series "Charlie's
Angels." When the star was diagnosed with anal cancer in 2006, she refused to
let cancer beat her and began documenting her journey for a cure. With the
help of friend Alana Stewart, she created the documentary "Farrah's Story."
And while painful to watch, the film showed Fawcett's courage and strength,
undoubtedly giving many who are battling cancer the resolve to continue
In April it was discovered that the cancer had spread to her liver. The 62-year-
old actress passed away in June.
Bea Arthur (May 13, 1922 - April 25, 2009)
This Emmy-winning "Golden Girl" has made us laugh for years, with her deep
voice and dry-as-a-bone humor. Although she's a screen and Broadway
legend, many of us know her best for her starring roles on the TV shows
"Maude" and "The Golden Girls." Her role as Maude Findlay became an icon
for the feminist movement, and the show tackled subjects like civil rights and
racial and gender equality.
In April the larger than life comedian passed away from cancer. She was 86.
Frank McCourt (August 19, 1930 - July 19, 2009)
In his Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir "Angela's Ashes," the writer Frank
McCourt gave us all an inside look at what it was like growing up in poverty,
first in Brooklyn, N.Y., and then Limerick, Ireland, where his family returned
in hope of a better life—but didn't get one. McCourt's "Cinderella" story--
he spent many years as a high school English teacher before publishing the
best-selling "Angela's Ashes"--inspired many. In his subsequent memoirs,
"'Tis" and "Teacher Man," McCourt encouraged his readers to pick themselves
up by their bootstraps and go after their dreams.
The 78-year-old literary giant passed away in July from cancer after meningeal
Michael Jackson (August 29, 1958 - June 25, 2009)
King of Pop Michael Jackson led an eccentric life for many years—with his
numerous plastic surgeries, possible Peter Pan syndrome, and fascination with
and befriending of children. And though his life was certainly not without
controversy—he was accused of child sexual abuse twice and tried but
acquitted once--the impact he made on music (he is the most commercially
successful artist of all time) and on his millions of fans is undeniable.
The singer passed away at age 50 in June due to cardiac arrest, after
reportedly being administered intravenous drugs. His death has been ruled a
homicide, and an investigation is still pending.
Naomi Sims (March 30, 1948 - August 1, 2009)
Widely credited as the first African-American supermodel, Naomi Sims helped
break down color barriers in the modeling and fashion industry and paved the
way for models such as Naomi Campbell, Beverly Johnson, and Tyra Banks.
Campbell told Essence.com, "[Sims] broke through the glass ceiling to lead the
way for those models and business women of color, who followed in her
Sims was also a successful businesswoman, designing wigs and cosmetics for
women of color. She passed away from breast cancer in August at the age of
Walter Cronkite (November 4, 1916 – July 17,
"With all respect to John Chancellor, Peter Jenkins, Roger Mudd, David
Brinkley, Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, Katie Couric, Charlie Gibson, and others,
it's been a long time since our culture trusted anyone as much as Walter
Cronkite," wrote blogger Doug Howe upon the news of Cronkite's death.
The journalist called "The Most Trusted Man in America" had a long and
distinguished career, including most notably a 19-year stretch as the anchor
for the CBS Evening News, where Americans saw him cover Watergate, the
Vietnam War, the Nuremberg trials, and countless other historic events.
Cronkite passed away in July from cerebrovascular disease. He was 92.
Jim Carroll (August 1, 1949 – September 11,
Author, poet, and punk rocker Jim Carroll was best known for his
autobiography-turned-film, "The Basketball Diaries," which documented his
teen years as a heroin addict and prostitute (all the while leading a double life
as an all-star high school basketball player). Leonardo DiCaprio played his
character in the film.
And though he certainly didn't sugarcoat his dark life—his big hit with "The
Jim Carroll Band" was the song "People Who Died," a list of some of his
friends who (you guess it) died—he gave hope to many angst-ridden teens who
read his work and learned his story.
On Idol Chatter, blogger Paul O'Donnell's post on Carroll soon after he died,
one commenter wrote of Carroll, "Your work got me through some of the
darkest years of my life."
Carroll died of a heart attack in September. He was 60 years old.
John Hughes (February 18, 1950 – August 6,
Director John Hughes was the king of 1980s teen films—"Pretty in Pink," "The
Breakfast Club," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" just to name a few. Not only was his
work fun and entertaining (who wouldn't want to skip school with Bueller?)
but there was something about his work that almost all young people could
relate to. There was also something very comforting in knowing that his teen
characters—especially those "Breakfast Club" kids—were going through the
same things the rest of us were. He gave us hope that things would be better
and that even if no one (read: adults) understood us, eventually there would
be a time where they would have to take us seriously. Because we'd make
Hughes died of a heart attack in August. He was 59.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver (July 10, 1921 –
August 11, 2009)
As part of the famous and powerful Kennedy family, Eunice Kennedy Shriver
used her influence to advocate for those who could not do so for themselves,
specifically those who were mentally and physically disabled. She helped
found what would become the Special Olympics, whose tagline is "Change
attitudes, change the world."
Shriver inspired us all to stand up and fight for those who need our help--and
encouraged and empowered disabled athletes to excel at their sport.
Shriver died in August from an undisclosed condition. She was 88.
Les Paul (June 9, 1915 – August 12, 2009)
Where did rock 'n roll come from? Campfire hootenannies down south in the
1940s, sure. From Elvis's hips. From the Beatles' insanely inventive recording
sessions. But most of all, it came from a guitar player and electronic tinkerer
named Les Paul.
In the late 1940s and early '50s, Paul laid the foundation for the modern music
industry by reinventing the electric guitar and inventing the multi-track
Paul's method of taping music quite simply changed everything about how
music was made. His system allowed singers for the first time to mix several
performances together, combining the best vocal and instrumental takes. It is
unimaginable to think of making an album today without Paul's technological
Les Paul died in August of complications from pneumonia. He was 94.
Natasha Richardson (May 11, 1963 –
March 18, 2009)
Natasha Richardson and Liam Neeson, January 2007.
Natasha Richardson made her feature film debut as Mary Shelley in Ken
Russell's Gothic (1986). Her performance caught the attention of director Paul
Schrader, who cast her in the title role in Patty Hearst (1988). Since then, Ms.
Richardson achieved notable success in such films as Pat O'Connor's A Month
in the Country (1987), Roland Joffé's Fat Man and Little Boy (1989) and The
Favour, the Watch and the Very Big Fish (1991), featuring Bob
Hoskins and Jeff Goldblum. For her performance in Volker Schlöndorff's The
Handmaid's Tale (1990) and Schrader'sThe Comfort of Strangers (1990),
Richardson earned The London Evening Standard Award for Best Actress of
1990; and for Widows' Peak(1994), also starring Mia Farrow and Joan
Plowright, she received the Best Actress Award at the 1994 Karlovy Vary
In March 2009, she died suddenly, after falling and receiving a head injury
whilst skiing in Mont Tremblant, Quebec, Canada. Richardson's husband,
actor Liam Neeson, and family members were by her side when she died.
Velupillai Prabhakar (November 26, 1954
– May 19, 2009)
Velupillai Prabhakaran was the founder and leader of the Liberation Tigers
of Tamil Eelam (the LTTE or the Tamil Tigers), a militant organization that
sought to create an independent Tamil state in the north and east of Sri Lanka.
For over 25 years, the LTTE waged a violent secessionist campaign in Sri Lanka
that led to it being designated a terrorist organization by 32 countries.
Prabhakaran was wanted by Interpol for terrorism, murder, organized crime and
terrorism conspiracy. He also had arrest warrants against him in Sri Lanka
On May 18, 2009, the Sri Lankan Government announced that Prabhakaran had
been killed while trying to escape advancing Sri Lanka Army troops in the north
of the country.
Robert Enke (August 24, 1977 –
November 10, 2009)
Robert Enke was a German football goalkeeper.
Enke played at leading clubs in several European countries,
namely Barcelona, Benfica and Fenerbahçe, but made the majority of his
appearances for Bundesliga side Hannover 96 in his homeland.
He won eight full international caps for the German national team between 2007
and his death in 2009, and was part of the squad which finished as runners-up
in Euro 2008. At the time of his death, he was widely considered to be a leading
contender for the German number one spot at the 2010 World Cup.
On 10 November 2009, Enke committed suicide.
Ted Kennedy (February 22, 1932 –
August 25, 2009)
Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy was a United States
Senator from Massachusetts and a member of the Democratic Party. First elected
in November 1962, he was elected nine times and served for 46 years in the U.S.
Senate. At the time of his death, he was the second most senior member of the
Senate, and is the fourth-longest-serving senator in U.S. history.
For many years the most prominent living member of the Kennedy family, he was
the last surviving son of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., the youngest brother of
President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, both victims of
assassinations, and Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., killed in action in World War II; and
the father of Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy.
In May 2008, Kennedy was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor which
limited his appearances in the Senate. He died on August 25, 2009, at his home
in Hyannisport, Massachusetts
Bobby Robson (February 18, 1933
– July 31, 2009)
Sir Robert William "Bobby" Robson was an English footballer and, after
retirement, manager of seven European clubs and the England national team.
His professional playing career as an inside-forward spanned nearly 20 years,
during which he played for three clubs: Fulham, West Bromwich Albion, and,
briefly, Vancouver. He also made 20 appearances for England, scoring four goals.
After his playing career he found success as both a club and international
manager, winning league championships in both theNetherlands and Portugal,
earning trophies in England and Spain, and taking England to the semi-final of
the 1990 World Cup. His last management role was as a mentor to the manager
of the Irish national football team.
Robson was created a Knight Bachelor in 2002, was inducted as a member of
the English Football Hall of Fame in 2003, and was the honorary president
of Ipswich Town. From 1991 onwards he suffered recurrent medical problems
with cancer, and in March 2008, put his name and efforts into the Sir Bobby
Robson Foundation, a cancer research charity.
In August 2008, his lung cancer was confirmed to be terminal; he said: "My
condition is described as static and has not altered since my last bout
of chemotherapy...I am going to die sooner rather than later. But then everyone
has to go sometime and I have enjoyed every minute". He died just under a year