2016 exodus: From Starman to Marlins star to Star Wars princess, sad departures tainted year

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Jose Fernandez shows the sports bag that inspired him to be an All-Star in 2016 return to San Diego. Craig Davis/Craigslegz.com

Comprehensive list of 2016 celebrity deaths below story

By Craig Davis, Craigslegz.com

Dec. 31, 2016

It was before dawn, early January in sub-zero Edmonton, Alberta. Toasting the end of a three-city tour reporting on the Florida Panthers amid a rare streak as the hottest team in the National Hockey League, I took the first sip of a Bloody Mary and glanced up at the TV in the airport lounge.

News is ubiquitous now. There are few places to dodge it or delay it, even in remote outposts like western Canada. Particularly sad news, and this went right to the heart of a rock and roll soul.

The face on the screen was David Bowie, dead at the age of 69.

The first reactions are: That’s way too young; didn’t even know he was ill. Then the reality sets in, his was the fresh face and the voice of your own generation. Ziggy Stardust was my anthem through one year of college.

The year 2016 will be chronicled foremost for political discord and a U.S. presidential election like no other. All of that, though, is just preamble for an uncertain 2017 and beyond for the country and the world.

I will remember it for the extraordinary exodus of prominent figures, particularly in various fields of entertainment. Too many of the faces and voices that made culture vibrant departed way too soon during an unsettling and tumultuous year.

Remember when celebrity deaths tended to come in clusters of three, and after the first two you’d speculate whose demise would complete the sorrowful trilogy?

In 2016, the obits came like a tsunami, the tributes for one fallen star washing over those for another still being circulated.

As the trend rolled past Christmas toward year’s end, with actress Debbie Reynolds following a day after daughter Carrie Fisher, someone on social media speculated that Bowie had spent the year recruiting the brightest luminaries for his superior alternative universe.

Dr. Laz & the Cure, above, expressed a fitting sentiment for 2016 at a Chanakuh celebration in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea.

The most notable 2016 deaths: David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Glen Frey, Abe Vigoda, Paul Kantner, Bob Elliot, Antonin Scalia, Harper Lee, George Kennedy, Nancy Reagan, Sir George Martin, Keith Emerson, Frank Sinatra Jr., Joe Garagiola, Garry Shandling, Patty Duke, Merle Haggard, Prince, Morley Safer, Muhammad Ali, Gordie Howe, Buddy Ryan, Pat Summitt, Garry Marshall, Gene Wilder, Hugh O’Brian, Jose Fernandez, Arnold Palmer, Janet Reno, Leonard Cohen, Robert Vaughn, Leon Russell, Florence Henderson, Fidel Castro, Grant Tinker, Greg Lake, John Glenn, Alan Thicke, Zsa Zsa Gabor, George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.

But there were many more. See a more comprehensive list below.

News about Prince found me on a plane bound for San Francisco while covering a Miami Marlins trip to the West Coast in April.

On another Marlins tour in June, I watched in a Phoenix hotel room as Muhammad Ali’s funeral procession wound through Louisville on its way to an inspiring memorial service.

Ali’s departure was another that stirred memories from early in my own life, including listening on my transistor radio when the soon to be self-proclaimed Greatest shocked the world by “whupping” the supposedly invincible Sonny Liston, and later of writing about an appearance he made in Miami Beach in the early ’90s.

In December, we sent a final godspeed to John Glenn, whose 1962 orbital flight will be forever etched in my childhood memories.

But the one that was most difficult to grasp, because it struck closest and was the most senseless, was the death of the Marlins’ talented young pitcher Jose Fernandez in a boating accident in September.

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Miami fans pay tribute to Jose Fernandez outside Marlins Park in September 2016. Craig Davis/Craigslegz.com

I had covered the charismatic Cuban defector since his remarkable emergence in the major leagues in 2013 as a 20-year-old wunderkind. The tale of his dramatic escape by boat at night from his native country was fun to tell and captivated Latin-dominated South Florida along with his brilliance on the mound.

A vibrant story just unfolding ended inexplicably in an irresponsible night of partying with two others during a joy ride near South Beach when the fishing boat Fernandez owned struck the rock jetty at high speed in the dark outside the Port of Miami.

The sudden death of the young athlete whose future prospects seemed unlimited, along with two other men also in their 20s, cast a pall over the region. His sendoff, which began at Marlins Park surrounded by mourning teammates, and other tributes were heart-wrenching for the whole community.

Jose Fernandez distinguished himself in quest for freedom, baseball stardom

I had just sent off a story to a baseball magazine that intended to honor Fernandez as the Comeback Player of the Year for his recovery from elbow surgery to regaining prominence as one of the best pitchers in the game. The award was one of several he would receive posthumously, and the story was published with revisions.

Months later, I still think of Jose every day. His death still seems surreal and difficult to accept.

My thoughts drift to a memorable interaction with him before a game in San Diego in mid-June. It was his first time back to Petco Park, where his right elbow had given out in May 2014.

Asked if it was difficult to revisit the site of that setback, Fernandez said, no, what stuck in his mind was a mundane memory from his first visit to the home of the Padres when the Marlins played there during his rookie year in May 2013.

Before one game he had sought a quiet spot to make a phone call in a storage room adjacent to the visitors’ clubhouse. While talking on the phone he happened to notice a sports bag on a shelf commemorating the 1992 MLB All-Star Game the Padres hosted at their previous home, Jack Murphy Stadium.

“It spoke to me because it was the year that I was born,” Fernandez said. “So I took a picture of it and I put it on my phone.

“I said, every day I wake up I want to see this. It made me want to be an All-Star more and more and more.”

Fernandez then led me to the storage room and found the same sports bag in the same place on a shelf. It belongs to David Bacharach, the Padres’ visitors’ clubhouse manager, who received it for working at that game.

Jose obliged my request to pose for a picture with the bag. A month later he returned to Petco Park and pitched in the 2016 All-Star Game. One week before the end of the baseball season he was gone.

Every year has many layers, a mix of good with the bad.

On a personal level, there were the weddings of both of our children. Travel for work took me crisscrossing the continent, including a unique opportunity to cover the first major league baseball game on a prominent military base at Fort Bragg, N.C. There was also a pleasure trip to New England in the fall.

There were many laughs, much to be thankful for. But much was lost. And much to be concerned about entering 2017.

Fran and I have made a practice of observing the turn of the calendar amid the holiday lights and music at our favorite beach enclave at Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. This time we decided to usher out the year two days early.

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Enter a caption

The holidays are always festive there, and on this occasion we came upon a local Chabad group celebrating Chanukah by the sea. The band playing at the seaside pavilion, Dr. Laz & the Cure, was outstanding, so we stayed for the show.

Thus, my parting image of 2016 was of joyous Orthodox Jews dancing with someone in a dreidel costume to the band’s energetic rendition of “Back in the USSR.”

We lingered until the group signed off with the classic doo-wop tune “Stay.”

It was a sentiment I wished to convey to too many who left us too soon this year … Oh won’t you stay, just a little bit longer

As for the year, please go.

Notable deaths in 2016

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Many prominent stars departed in 2016. Craig Davis/Craigslegz.com

JANUARY

04 – Robert Stigwood, Entertainment Manager – managed the Bee Gees and Cream – age 81

06 – Pat Harrington Jr., Actor – Schneider on “One Day at a Time” – age 86

07 – Troy Shondell, Singer – only big hit was “This Time (We’re Really Breaking Up)” – age 76

07 – Kitty Kallen, Singer – Big Band Era, biggest hit was ‘”Little Things Mean a Lot” – age 94

09 – Angus Scrimm, Actor – the Tall Man in “Phantasm” (1979) and four sequels – age 89

10 – David Bowie, Musician – (2) time Grammy winner influenced music and culture for four generations – age 69

11 – David Margulies, Actor – the Mayor in Ghost Busters I and II (1984 & 1989)- age – 78

14 – Alan Rickman, Actor – Hans Gruber in ‘Die Hard’ and Severus Snape in ‘Harry Potter’ – age 69

14 – René Angélil, Singer / Manager – husband and manager of Celine Dion – age 73

15 – Dan Haggerty, Actor – The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams – age 74

15 – Noreen Corcoran, Actress – Kelly Gregg in Bachelor Father (1957-59) – age 72

18 – Glen Frey, Singer / Songwriter – founded The Eagles “Take It Easy”, “Peaceful Easy Feeling” – age 67

26 – Abe Vigoda, Actor – Detective Fish on Barney Miller (1975-’77) – age 94

28 – Paul Kantner, Singer / Songwriter – co-founder of The Jefferson Airplane – age 74

28 – Mike Minor, Actor – Steve Eliot on “Petticoat Junction” – age 75

FEBRUARY

02 – Bob Elliot, Comedian – one-half of the comedy duo of Bob and Ray – age 92

03 – Maurice White, Musician / songwriter – founding member of Earth, Wind & Fire – age 74

03 – Joe Alaskey, Voice Actor – Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester, Tweety – age 63

04 – Joe Dowell, Pop Singer – #1 hit song “Wooden Heart” (1961) – age 76

13 – Antonin Scalia, Supreme Court Justice – appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1986 – age 79

15 – George Gaynes, Actor – Commandant Eric Lassard on the Police Academy series – age 98

15 – Vanity, Actress/Singer – lead for girl group Vanity 6; girlfriend and muse of Prince – age 57

19 – Harper Lee, Novelist – Pulitzer Prize for fiction (1961) for novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” – age 89

22 – Yolande Fox, Singer – Miss America 1951 and sang opera – age 87

22 – Sonny James, Country Music Singer/Songwriter – the first teenage country crossover #1 single “Young Love” – age 87

24 – Lennie Baker, Musician – 1950s music tribute group and TV show Sha-Na-Na (1969-2000) – age 69

25 – Tony Burton, Actor – boxing trainer to Apollo Creed and later Rocky in six “Rocky” movies – age 78

28 – George Kennedy, Actor – Academy Award for “Cool Hand Luke” also in all the “Airport” movies – age 91

29 – Gil Hill, Police Commander/Actor – Inspector Todd in three “Beverly Hills Cop” movies – age 84

MARCH

04 – Joey Martin Feek, C&W Muscian – husband and wife country duo “Joey + Rory” – age 40

06 – Nancy Reagan, First Lady of the U.S.(1981-1989) Husband, 40th President Ronald Reagan – age 94

08 – Sir George Martin, Producer for the “Beatles” albums, known as “The Fifth Beatle” – age 90

09 – Robert Horton, Actor – Flint McCullough in “Wagon Train” (1957-1962) – age 91

10 – Keith Emerson, Musician / keyboardist – created Emerson, Lake & Palmer rock group – age 71

13 – Adrienne Corri, Actress – Mrs. Alexander in A Clockwork Orange (1971) – age 85

16 – Frank Sinatra Jr., Singer – son of Frank Sinatra and a talented singer – age 72

17 – Larry Drake, Actor – Benny Stulwicz on L.A. Law (1987-1994) – age 66

18 – Joe Santos, Actor – Lieutenant Dennis Becker on The Rockford Files (1974-1980) – age 84

21 – Peter Brown, Actor – Deputy Johnny McKay in “Lawman” (1958-62) and Chad Cooper in “Laredo” (1965-67) – age 80

22 – Rob Ford, Politician – crack smoking Mayor of Toronto, Canada – age 46

22 – Richard Bradford, Actor – “Man in a Suitcase” on British ITC (1967) – age 81

22 – Phife Dawg, Singer – Rapper with the group A Tribe Called Quest, also known as “Five Foot Assassin” – age 45

23 – Joe Garagiola, Baseball Player – MLB catcher and announcer and television host – age 90

23 – Ken Howard, Actor – Coach Reeves on TV show “White Shadow” & President of SAG-AFTRA – age 71

24 – Earl Hamner, Jr., Writer/Producer – created “The Waltons” TV show – age 92

24 – Garry Shandling, Comedian – “Garry Shandling Show” and “The Larry Sanders” Show – age 66

27 – Mother Angelica, Franciscan Nun – founder of Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) – age 92

28 – James Noble, Actor – Governor Gatling on “Benson” (1979-1986) – age 94

29 – Patty Duke, Actress – played identical cousins in “The Patty Duke Show” (1963-1966) – age 69

APRIL

06 – Merle Haggard, C&W singer/songwriter – “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive”, “Okie From Muskogee” – age 79

12 – Anne Jackson, Actress – married to Eli Wallach who died in 2014 – age 90

17 – Doris Roberts, Actress – Marie Barone on “Everybody Loves Raymond” (1996–2005) – age 90

20 – Victoria Wood, English Comedienne/Actress – Britain’s most popular stand-up comic – age 62

21 – Prince, Musician – flamboyant on stage, seven Grammy Awards, “Purple Rain” – age 57

21 – Lonnie (Mack) McIntosh, Guitarist – pioneered the ‘lead guitar solo’, “Wham!” & “Memphis” – age 74

23 – Madeleine Sherwood, Actress – Reverend Mother Placido in “The Flying Nun” (1967-70) – age 94

24 – Billy Paul, Singer – Grammy Award for “Me and Mrs. Jones” (1972) – age 81

MAY

08 – William Schallert, Actor – Martin Lane (Patty’s Father) on The Patty Duke Show – age 93

12 – Julius La Rosa, Singer – “Anywhere I Wander” fired by Arthur Godfrey on the air – age 86

19 – Morley Safer, Journalist – CBS News for 52 years (1964-2016), 60 Minutes for 46 years (1970-2016) won 12 Emmy Awards – age 84

19 – Alan Young, Actor – Wilbur Post on “Mr. Ed” (1961-66) – age 96

24 – Burt Kwouk, Actor – Cato in the “Pink Panther” films – age 85

27 – Mike Barnett, Singer – co-founder of the singing group “The Lettermen” – age 89

JUNE

03 – Muhammad Ali, Professional Boxer – (formerly Cassius Clay) three time heavyweight champion (1964, 1974, and 1978), proclaimed “The Greatest” – age 74

10 – Gordie Howe, Hockey player – Detroit Red Wings for 25 seasons, 23-time NHL All-Star – age 88

13 – Michu Meszaros, Actor / Circus Performer – was the man in the ALF costume (ALF TV Show 1986-1990) – age 76

14 – Ann Guilbert, Actress – Millie Helper in The Dick Van Dyke Show and Yetta Rosenberg in The Nanny – age 87

14 – Ronnie Claire Edwards, Actress – Corabeth Walton Godsey on The Waltons (1972-81) – age 83

16 – Jo Cox, British Labour Party Member of Parliament – murdered (shot and stabbed multiple times) in an act of terror – age 41

17 – Ron Lester, Actor – Billy Bob in movie “Varsity Blues” – age 45

19 – Anton Yelchin, Actor – Pavel Chekov in three Star Trek movies (2009-16) – age 27

27 – Bud Spencer, Italian Actor – God Forgives… I Don’t! (1967) – age 86

27 – Mack Rice, Song writer – “Mustang Sally” & “Respect Yourself” – age 82

28 – Scotty Moore, Guitarist – backed Elvis in early recordings and pioneered new styles – age 84

28 – Buddy Ryan, NFL Football Coach – while defensive coordinator for Chicago Bears invented the 46 defense – age 85

28 – Pat Summitt, NCAA Basketball Coach – University of Tennessee Woman’s team (1974 – 2012) the winningest NCAA coach ever – age 64

JULY

02 – Michael Cimino, Writer/Director – “Deer Hunter”, “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot” – age 77

02 – Elie Wiesel, Jewish Writer/political activist – Holocaust survivor, and Nobel Laureate – age 87

02 – Teddy Rooney, Actor/Musician – son of Mickey Rooney and Martha Vickers – age 66

02 – Caroline Aherne, Comedienne/Actress – lead role and co-producer of “The Royle Family” – age 52

03 – Noel Neill, Actress – Lois Lane in “Adventures of Superman” (1952-58) – age 95

06 – Danny Smythe, Musician – founding member of the Box Tops (Devilles) “The Letter” (1967) – age 67

16 – Bonnie Brown, C&W Muscian – family musical group The Browns “The Three Bells” – age 77

19 – Garry Marshall, Writer/Producer/Actor – created “Happy Days”, “Mork & Mindy”, “Laverne & Shirley” – age 81

27 – Jerry Doyle, Actor – Michael Garibaldi in “Babylon 5” (1994–98) – age 60

30 – Gloria DeHaven, Actress/Singer – “So This Is Paris”, “The Girl Rush” – age 91

AUGUST

02 – David Huddleston, Actor – Character actor “Santa Claus: The Movie” – age 85

03 – Ricci Martin, Entertainer – son of Dean Martin – age 62

06 – Pete Fountain, Jazz Musician – played with both Al Hirt and Lawrence Welk – age 86

11 – Glenn Yarbrough, Singer – The Limeliters (1959-63) “Baby the Rain Must Fall” – age 86

13 – Michel Richard, Chef/Restaurateur – restaurant Citrus in L.A. and 5 other cities – age 68

13 – Kenny Baker, Actor – played R2-D2 in the Star Wars franchise also played Paploo, the Ewok – age 81

14 – Fyvush Finkel, Actor – lawyer Douglas Wambaugh on “Picket Fences” – age 93

19 –Jack Riley, Actor – Elliot Carlin on “The Bob Newhart Show” – age 80

23 – Steven Hill, Actor – District Attorney Adam Schiff on “Law & Order” (1990-2000) – age 94

25 – Jeanne Martin, Model – Orange Bowl Queen (1947) & Dean Martin’s wife – age 89

25 – Marvin Kaplan, Actor – telephone worker Henry on the TV show “Alice” – age 89

29 – Gene Wilder, Actor – Blazing Saddles (1974), Young Frankenstein, Willy Wonka – age 83

SEPTEMBER

01 – Jon Polito, Actor – Steve Crosetti on “Homicide: Life on the Street” – age 65

06 – Hugh O’Brian, Actor – starred in TV series “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp” (1955–1961) – age 91

09 – James Stacy, Actor – Johnny Madrid Lancer on “Lancer” (1968-’70) – age 79

16 Edward Albee, Playwright – The Sandbox (1959), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962) – age 88

17 – Charmian Carr, Actress – Liesl Von Trapp (eldest daughter) in The Sound of Music – age 73

24 – Bill Nunn, Actor – Robbie Robertson in Spider-Man film trilogy – age 63

25 – Jean Shepard, C&W Singer/Songwriter – Pioneered C&W for women, “A Dear John Letter” – 82

25 – José Fernández, Baseball player – starting pitcher for the Miami Marlins and Cuban refugee – age 24

25 – Arnold Palmer, Golfer – One of the greatest golfers ever, did more to popularize the sport than any other golfer – age 87

28 – Shimon Peres, Statesman – President of Israel (2007-’14), Prime Minister twice, held various offices from 1959-2007 – age 93

OCTOBER

12 – Tommy Ford, Actor – Tommy Strawn in the sitcom Martin – age 52

21 – Kevin Meaney, Comedian – “Uncle Buck” in the TV series by the same name – age 60

23 – Pete Burns, Singer/Songwriter – founded the band Dead or Alive, “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” – age 57

24 – Bobby Vee, Singer – “Take Good Care of My Baby”, “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes” – age 73

30 – Tammy Grimes, Stage Actress – Molly in “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” – age 82

NOVEMBER

03 – Kay Starr, Singer – “Wheel of Fortune” and “The Rock And Roll Waltz” – age 94

07 – Janet Reno, Attorney General of the United States 1993-2001 nominated by President Bill Clinton – age 78

07 – Leonard Cohen, Poet / Songwriter – “Suzanne”, “Hallelujah” and “Bird on the Wire” – age 82

11 – Robert Vaughn, Actor – Napoleon Solo in “The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964-’68) – age 83

13 – Leon Russell, Musician / Songwriter – “A Song for You”, “Tight Rope” and “This Masquerade” – age 74

14 – Gwen Ifill, Journalist – “Washington Week” and “PBS NewsHour” on PBS – age 61

15 – Holly Dunn, C&W Singer / Songwriter – “Are You Ever Gonna Love Me” and “You Really Had Me Going” – age 59

24 – Florence Henderson, Actress / Singer – Carol Brady on “The Brady Bunch” (1969 to 1974) – age 82

25 – Fidel Castro, Dictator – Prime Minister then President of Cuba from 1959-2008 then gave same powers to his brother – age 90

25 – Ron Glass, Actor – Det. Ron Harris on “Barney Miller” (1975-1982) – age 71

26 – Fritz Weaver, Actor – Dr. Josef Weiss in the mini series “Holocaust” – age 90

28 – Van Williams, Actor – Kenny Madison in “Bourbon Street Beat” (1959) & “Surfside 6” (1960) – age 82

28 – Jim Delligatti, McDonald’s franchisee – created The Big Mac – age 98

30 – Keo Woolford, Actor – Det. Chang on Hawaii Five-0 (2010 version) – age 49

30 – Grant Tinker, Television executive – Chairman and CEO of NBC (1981-’86) married to Mary Tyler Moore (1962-’81) – age 90

DECEMBER

03 – Don Calfa, Actor – Paulie the hitman in “Weekend at Bernie’s” (1989) – age 76

03 – Billy Chapin, Actor – Little John Harper in “The Night of the Hunter” (1955) – age 72

07 – Greg Lake, Musician – founding member of Emerson, Lake & Palmer “Lucky Man” – age 69

08 – Joseph Mascolo, Actor – Stefano DiMera on “The Days of Our Lives” (1982-’85) & (1993-2001) – age 87

08 – John Glenn, WWII & Korean War Fighter Pilot. Marine Colonel. NASA Astronaut. Senator from Ohio (1974-99). Married for 73 yrs – first American to orbit the Earth (1962) – age 95

12 – Jim Lowe, Singer – biggest hit “The Green Door” (1956) – age 93

13 – Alan Thicke, Actor – Jason Seaver, the father on “Growing Pains” (1985-’92) – age 69

14 – Bernard Fox, Actor – Dr. Bombay in “Bewitched” and Colonel Crittendon in “Hogan’s Heroes” – age 89

15 – Craig Sager, Sports Reporter – best known for covering the NBA and for his loud suits – age 65

18 – Zsa Zsa Gabor, Hungarian Actress and Socialite – Moulin Rouge (1952), married nine times to mostly wealthy men – age 99

18 – Gordie Tapp, Entertainer – wrote and acted on “Hee Haw” – age 94

20 – Michèle Morgan, French Actress – Joan of Paris (1942), Higher and Higher (1943) – age 96

24 – Richard Adams, Author – Watership Down, The Plague Dogs – age 96

24 – Rick Parfitt, Musician/Songwriter – rock band Status Quo; “Pictures of Matchstick Men” – age 68

24 – Liz Smith, Actress – Nana in “The Royle Family”, Annie Brandon in I Didn’t Know You Cared – age 96

25 – George Michael, Singer/Songwriter – #1 hits; “Faith”, “I Want Your Sex”, “Careless Whisper” – age 53

26 – Ricky Harris, Actor/Comedian – Ray in “Hard Rain” – age 54

26 – George S. Irving, Stage Actor – Oklahoma! (1943), Me and Juliet (1953) – age 94

27 – Carrie Fisher, Actress – Princess Leia in “Star Wars” (1977) and four sequels – age 60

27 – Barbara Tarbuck, Actress – appeared on soap operas “General Hospital” and “Santa Barbara” – age 74

28 – Debbie Reynolds, Actress – Kathy Selden in “Singin’ in the Rain”, Mother of Carrie Fisher – age 84

30 – Allan Williams, Promoter – first manager of the Beatles – age 86

30 – Tyrus Wong, Artist – animated Walt Disney feature “Bambi” – age 106

31 – William Christopher, actor – Father Mulcahy on M*A*S*H – age 84

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