Notable Deaths of 5771

Each year, before we recite the Yizkor Service on Yom Kippur, I read a list of people who passed away during the previous year.  The list is not exhaustive.  It is simply one more way to mark the passage of time.  By taking note of some memorable people who are no longer with us, it makes us realize how quickly time goes by.  Here is this year’s list:

  1. Eddie Fisher (singer) —   Singer, movie star, married at various times, to Debbie Reynolds, Liz Taylor and Connie Stevens, father of Carrie and Joely Fisher.
  1. Tony Curtis (actor/painter) —  Oscar-nominated for The Defiant Ones, starred in The Boston Strangler, Spartacus, Some Like It Hot (later played the aging playboy in the theatrical version), once married to Janet Leigh, father of Jamie Lee Curtis.
  1. Belva Plain (writer) — Author of “Evergreen” and “Circle of Friends.”
  1. Barbara Billingsley (June Cleaver) — December 22, 1915 . An early TV icon (Leave It to Beaver), and a great bit part in Airplane!.
  1. Tom Bosley (actor) — Best-known as Mr. C in Happy Days.
  1. Joseph Stein (playwright) —   Won a Tony for Fiddler on the Roof, also wrote Zorba and Enter Laughing.
  1. Jerry Bock (Broadway composer) — Wrote the score for Fiddler on the Roof.
  1. Leslie Nielsen (actor) — Formerly a somewhat serious actor (Forbidden Planet) until he exclaimed “And don’t call me Shirley!” in Airplane, made silly comedies (like Naked Gun) for most of the second half of his career.
  1. Don “Dandy Don” Meredith (football player/football broadcaster/pitchman) —  A Dallas Cowboy for years, part of the first Monday Night Football broadcast team, died same year as Merlin Olsen.
  1. Elizabeth Edwards (writer/advisor/activist) —   Wrote a number of books after her cancer diagnosis and husband’s famous infidelity, including Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life’s Adversities, an inspiration for many for her straight-talking attitude.
  1. Debbie Friedman** (singer/songwriter/liturgist) – Composed many songs and prayers that have become a part of the Jewish American worship experience such as Mi-Shebeirach (prayer for healing).
  1. Sargent Shriver (public servant) —  First director of the Peace Corps, startedVISTA and Head Start.
  1. Jack LaLanne (fitness guru) —   Had an exercise TV show from the ’50s until the ’80s, exercised for hours a day until shortly before his death, famously said “I can’t die. It would ruin my image.”
  1. Gladys Horton (singer) — Lead singer for the hit song “Please Mr. Postman” by the Marvelettes, the first major girl group for Motown.
  1. Jane Russell (actress, bra pitchwoman) — The Outlaw, famous protege of Howard Hughes, later sold Playtex products on TV.
  1. Warren Christopher (politician) — Secretary of State under Bill Clinton.
  1. Elizabeth Taylor (actress/philanthropist) — Beautiful, usually soft-voiced actress who married Richard Burton twice and Eddie Fisher once, among others.  Starred in “Cleopatra” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (among many others).
  1. Rep. Geraldine A. Ferraro (politician) — First female vice presidential candidate for a major party (1984).
  1. Osama bin Laden (terrorist).
  1. Jeff Conaway (actor) —   May be currently best-known for Celebrity Rehab, he initially became famous from Grease, Taxi and was later onBabylon 5.
  1. Rosalyn Yalow (medical physicist) —  Only the 2nd woman to be winner of a Nobel Prize for medicine in 1977.
  1. Lawrence Eagleberger (diplomat) — Secretary of State for first President Bush.
  1. Jack Kevorkian (physician) —   Pathologist who helped bring assisted suicide out of the closet, served time in prison for helping with one of them, wrote “Prescription Medicide.”
  1. Clarence Clemons (musician) — Played saxophone for Bruce Springsteen’s  E Street Band.
  1. Peter Falk (actor) — Played Columbo in the TV series of that name.
  1. Betty Ford (former first lady) — Refreshingly outspoken First Lady, founded substance abuse clinics.
  1. Sherwood Schwartz (producer/composer) —  Producer of Gilligan’sIsland and The Brady Bunch and also wrote their memorable theme songs.
  1. Amy Winehouse (performer) —  Grammy-award-winning singer.
  1. Max Henry Weil (physician) —  One of the initial developers of intensive care units, Weil was also the inventor of CPR.
  1. Bubba Smith  (Football player/TV personality) – Lite Beer commercials.
  1. Nickolas Ashford (singer/songwriter) —  With professional and life partner Valerie Simpson, Ashford & Simpson wrote for Ray Charles and Diana Ross (“Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand”), and performed their own music as Ashford and Simpson: “Solid.”
  1. Jerry Leiber (lyricist) —  With professional partner Mike Stoller, Leiber wrote the lyrics for songs like “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Stand by Me” (with Ben E. King) and the Peggy Lee standard “Is That All There Is?.”
  1. Arch West (Frito Lay executive) – creator of “Doritos.”
  1. Wilson Greatbatch (inventor) – developed the first implantable pacemaker.
  1. Peter Gent (football player / author) —  wrote “North Dallas Forty” based on his experiences as a Dallas Cowboy.
  1. Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth – civil rights activist,Alabama.  One of the co-founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
  1. Steve Jobs – co-founder Apple computers. Responsible for the development of the Mac, the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad.

** I somehow managed to leave Debbie Friedman off the list which I read on Yom Kippur.  But, thanks to Ross Mehlman for setting me straight.  She absolutely belongs on any such list.  RAF.



About Rabbi Avi Friedman

I am the rabbi of Congregation Ohr Shalom - SJCC, a progressive Conservative and traditional congregation. I am also husband to Jodi as well as father to Gabi, Jonah, Jessica and Ilana. I have been a part of the Summit community since 2005.
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