It’s That Time of Year To Take Inventory . . .

In the Headlines

Not ready yet to leave the Christmas celebrations that honored the birth of Christ?  Me, too!  Yet, I am being rudely pushed to look back on the major stories and the deaths around the world in the headlines of 2016 before bidding it farewell–as if living through them wasn’t enough already!  This isn’t to say that I won’t welcome 2017 with open arms, because I will.  But, we can’t possibly know (or choose not to foretell) what is in store next for humankind.  And this is where I choose prayer over worry or anticipation, and to poke fun when and where I can.

Acknowledging Deaths of Notables

So let’s just chat a little about the counts and categorizations of these notable deaths of those humans who were better known than most of us because of their occupations and their lives in the limelight.  Yet for them, like many of our family, friends and neighbors, they were chosen–regardless of their age, gender, race or ethnicity, DNA heritage, wealth, or reason for notability to end their journey and stay here on planet earth.  Now this is what I call an equalizer!   Most of these notables were widely known in Hollywood and were comfortable in the various social circles in which these people congregate to celebrate life and their successes, and various media worldwide annually count and pay homage to them.

Interestingly enough though, these counts and categorizations vary depending upon the source who provides them.    For example, TV Guide’s web article sites 60;’s slideshow includes 93; CBS News’ slideshow has 151 as of December 28; and, one of my favorite genealogical resources has a comprehensive “Necrology” Page that lists people and links to individual biographies and memorial pages for those who have died during a specific time period.  Findagrave states that it lists only 75 of the most famous people who died during the year–it starts in the year 1900 and maintains famous deaths by year and occupation through the present day.  And my count of the photos totals 75.  In contrast, however, Findagrave’s comprehensive list classifies notables and spans them across a variety of 31 categories.  One would quite naturally think then that one wouldn’t find counts of as many as 76 names within a single category. Yet six of the 31 categories have 70+  deaths listed. In fact, Findagrave’s sum of their categorized listings for 2016 totaled  566 !!!  I guess I’m just being picky, or maybe Findagrave chose not to rank individual notables or their talents and skills for which they might be best known so they cross-classified them.

Below is my raw table of the 31 categories and counts of deceased with links to Findagrave’s categorized lists and associated pictures and biographies–followed by my admittedly quirky comments.

Click on any category within this table to go directly to’s page. choose thumbnails or list view, then click on any individual to see their full biography and memorial page.

Actors 76
Actresses 73
Animals 1
Artists & Architects 7
Authors and Writers 54
Business Magnates 3
Crime Fighters & Lawyers 1
Criminals, Eccentrics, & Oddities 1
Educators 1
Entertainers 75
Explorers & Adventurers 4
Magicians 0
Medal of Honor Recipients 3
Military Figures 5
Miscellaneous 9
Musicians & Composers 75
Native Americans 1
Organized Crime Figures 0
Philanthropists 0
Politicians 75
Relatives of Notables 0
Religious Figures 10
Royalty 6
Scientists & Inventors 9
Social Reformers 0
Sports Figures 75
Suffragists 0
U.S. First Ladies 1
U.S. Presidents & Vice Presidents 0
U.S. Supreme Court Justices 1
Victims of Crime & Disaster 0

Quirky Commentary

Let’s start with the obvious:

  • Take a look first at those table categories that were empty. These would be: Magicians–maybe there is more to this thing they call “magic,” than I realized; Organized Crime Figures–Ah ha–does crime really pay?; Philanthropists–did their gifts to charities and helping the needy buy them more time?; In the Relatives of Notables category, did Notables save their relatives just because they could?; Has society just given up and there are no more Social Reformers or Suffragists?; U.S. Presidents and Vice Presidents–now there are a few who are getting up there and we all know the tolls of  being Commander In Chief;  Victims of Crime and Disasters–were there none this year, well that would be a wonder, if it were true.
  • Separate categories for Actors and Actresses?  After 1660 in England, women first started to appear on stage, the terms actor or actress was initially used interchangeably for female performers; in the 1950’s and 1960’s post-World War II period, contributions of women to cultural life in general were being reviewed and occupational titles were being updated to become unisex and universally applied to men and women.  With all the attention recently to transgenders–doesn’t a single category just make more sense?
  • Well, here’s a category that is seldom seen or heard about within notable deaths: Animals.  Let’s see, that reduces my 566 total down to 565.  In this instance, the inclusion was the 18-year-old 2001 Kentucky Derby Winner “Monarchos.”
  • Nancy Reagan’s fame became more universal when she was wife of our 40th President, Ronald Reagan and this country’s First Lady.  (But she was First Lady #39 because President James Buchanan never married!)  Nancy  Reagan was a professional actress from 1949-1956 and appeared in 11 movies and a music video.  She was also a social reformer for her “Just Say No” anti-drug abuse message.  So, Nancy’s fame was cross-classified among 3 categories:  Actress, Authors and Writers, and First Lady–But shouldn’t she also have been included within  the categories “relative of a notable,”  and “Politician?” After all, most of us know she was the woman behind the man–especially in the latter years of Reagan’s administration, during his catnaps.  So, I’ll subtract another 2 from my running count of 565 to make it 563 notable deaths of humans!
  • Now, what comes to your minds when you think “Artists and Architects?”I’m open to suggestions for one or more categories to improve upon Findagrave’s overarching category; but among the 7 notables listed, only 1 was a fine arts and sculpture artist–Marcel Barbeau; two were architects–Gertrude Kerbis and  Zaha Hadid; the remaining four notables:  1 was a cartoon films animator, another was a cartoonist and illustrator, and finally the last two included an entertainer’s costume designer, and a Paris-born fashion designer!
  • But wait, what about the 75 entertainers and 75 musicians and composers? Were the actors and actresses not entertainers, or were the entertainers who among them were Screen, TV, and music producers or directors, comedians, singers, not entertaining?
  • And finally, there also were 75 politicians listed–well, we all have heard far too much about politics and politicians this year–I will just leave this one alone.

Truly, 2016 was a year among years to be remembered–not because it was great in so many ways.  But rather, because it was so painfully hurtful and outright unbelievable in far too many categories–You know, all lives matter! We all should conduct ourselves mannerly and respectfully.  We also should ask ourselves today what legacies do we think we will leave behind, and what will we be remembered for by others when its time for our names to be listed?

Happy 2017 Everyone!

Ob La Di, Ob La Da . . . Life Goes On!

It’s been over a month since I last posted–an unusually long time for me to step away from family history and happenings. If you read my September 19th post, you will recall that I wrote about recent “Tumultuous, Terrific, Tragic, and Treasured Times . . .” Life still is going on, often out of my control, but God still is in charge, and in Him I trust.

Roy, Joanne, and Mam-ma's Boston Bull - About 1949

Roy, Joanne, an Mam-ma’s Boston Bull – About 1949

Today brings back a couple memories–a dichotomy of memories if you will. You see, 61 years ago today, October 24, 1955, my maternal grandfather Robert Gideon Ford, “Roy,” as most called him passed away in our living room while we weren’t at home. I was just about 60 days shy of my ninth birthday and in third grade. Roy called us at my aunt’s where we were visiting, just about half an hour away from our home. He and his son, Johnny, had traveled from upstate New York to pick up the remaining items following their move from Glenndale, MD, to Beaver’s Dam, Elmira, New York–just a few short weeks before. He told dad he had indigestion and was thinking about “stealing” one of his last beer’s from the refrigerator. Only minutes later my uncle called us back to say that Roy had taken a swallow of beer and then fell off of our couch. Turns out his indigestion was a heart attack and he passed on, on our living room floor. Roy and I were very close. I’m told as an infant, that Roy called me “pudd’n” and “pumpkin head.” I was born six weeks premature and I had no hair on my head, eyebrows, or eyelashes on my eyelids. I spent most weekends with my grandparents on their farm and enjoyed every minute of time together with them and my uncle Johnny and his house filled with five other children. We helped plant vegetables, climbed and pulled fruit from the trees, dug up potatoes, pulled vegetables from the garden just before meals, walked around barefoot, including into the chicken coop, to get eggs that the hens had laid, got chased by a bull while we were bent over picking strawberries, played hide ‘n’ seek in the dark, and sat outside on the screened-in porch and counted the number of cars on the trains as they passed by just outside the yard. Yes, it was difficult for me to understand and to cope with Roy’s absence, but he and my grandmother enter my thoughts nearly every day. They suffered and survived many difficulties and hardships together–about 30 years, I’d say. Roy was only 57 years old at the time of his death. I still love and miss him, and hold onto to so many fine memories of this man who didn’t attend church, but paraphrased 1 Peter 3:10 “If you can’t say anything nice about people, don’t say anything at all.”

Now, let’s fast forward about nine years and a happier time in my life. It’s October 24, 1964, and I’m approaching my 18th birthday in early January. I started working part-time in my senior year of high school and I’m dating a 20-year-old marine who I met at work. When we were first introduced I could feel my skin melting, my knees shaking, and my stomach quivering. I just knew my parents wouldn’t approve and the chances would be slim that we would ever date. I was wrong, but they weren’t all that eager about it either. It was a whirlwind love affair that began at first sight. With me still attending school and him stationed at Quantico, our dating was confined to weekends–mostly with friends after the store closed on Friday nights at the home of the more mature workers. And, it was in North Forestville, among our friends, when we sat off to the sideline and became engaged. I was so stunned by the proposal, that nothing could bring me down off of “cloud nine.” Not even my mom. In 1964, October 24th was the night the clocks were turned back from daylight savings time to eastern standard time. My curfew was set at 1:00 a.m. Well, we pulled up to the curb outside my home and we were talking about this being the anniversary of my grandfather’s death and our plans for our future, and when and how we would break the news to my family.

March 27, 1965

March 27, 1965

Suddenly, my petite mom comes out from inside our house to the car and yanks the door open, grabs me out, and says in a very angry and stern voice, “Good Night, Mr. Dickinson!” As she’s pulling me by my arm into the house, I’m being asked if I knew what time it was, and what do I think the neighbors will be talking about tomorrow. Turns out, we had been outside my home in the car at the curb for an hour–but the clocks had been turned back, so it was still 1 o’clock. She wasn’t buying it, thought I was being smart, and she wanted to do battle. She went so far as to tell me that “You think you’re being smart not talking to me when I’m talking to you. Well, young lady, you haven’t heard the last of this!” Unlike other boyfriends Bob wasn’t scared off by my parents. I’m not sure why, but he returned the next day and he talked (hiding behind a newspaper) about marrying me. All my dad had to say was “Well, Good Luck, cause you’re going to need it!” My mom said, “Frank! Is that all you have to say!” And, that was it. Of course, mom interrogated me after every date, and if the facts be known, we married sooner than we had planned because the tension was just too much for me to deal with. And, here we are 52 years later, loving each other and life more than ever, and still chuckling over our engagement night. Our eldest son will celebrate his 50th birthday in December and his eldest son, just shy of 30, is a first-time father of a newborn son and posting about “cleaning up puke, poopy bottoms, and getting peed on,” by both his infant and his 8-week-old shepherd pup! Ob la di, ob la da, and life goes on . . .


Several members of my family, friends, neighborhood, and biblical communities have recently lost or are in the midst of fighting to save someone or something we love or care deeply about. Our feelings can be very painful and difficult.  And, initially we feel like our extreme sadness will never let up.  Since I never seem to find just the right words to help me or others endure these times, I searched for others words that might comfort us.  I share these words below and pray that in some small way they may help give us hope to Hold on until the pain ends.

Safely Home

I am home in Heaven, dear ones;
Oh, so happy and so bright!
There is perfect joy and beauty
In this everlasting light.

All the pain and grief is over,
Every restless tossing passed;
I am now at peace forever,
Safely home in Heaven at last.

Did you wonder I so calmly
Trod the valley of the shade?
Oh! but Jesus’ arm to lean on,
Could I have one doubt or dread?

Then you must not grieve so sorely,
For I love you dearly still;
Try to look beyond earth’s shadows,
Pray to trust our Father’s Will.

There is work still waiting for you,
So you must not idly stand;
Do it now, while life remaineth–
You shall rest in Jesus’ land.

When that work is all completed,
He will gently call you Home;
Oh, the rapture of that meeting,
Oh, the joy to see you come!

–By:  Unknown


The Robin Williams – A Fellow Baby Boomer

faces of robin williams

Timeline provided by “Business Insider”

Like so many others my emotions flew from disbelief, to sadness, to a true sense of personal loss–almost as though he were a greatly loved family member.  We were fellow baby boomers who experienced some of the most incredible and incredulous moments in life on this planet.  No disrespect intended, Robin had been a part of my life for so many occasions–most of them happy ones–and at times when the world needed someone to take our hearts and minds off of our enormous global and personal problems. And for me, Mr. William’s role as “Patch Adams”–the American physician who founded Gesundheit! Institute in 1971, a social activist, clown, and author who didn’t fit into conventional society– was one of my favorites.

So, when I read and related to the following blog this morning about Robin Williams, but more importantly about the people we love and this life-ripping medical illness known as depression, I felt compelled to share it with my readers, too, and re-emphasize a key-note: we need to celebrate our lives and the lives of those we love on a regular basis.

Bucket List Publications
Author:  Lesley Carter
Posted on August 11, 2014

The Worst Thing In Life – You’ll Be Missed Robin Williams

Robin WilliamsWe live in a sad world surrounded by people who are questioning themselves and the importance of their lives, gripped by depression. We need to reach out and provide positive encouragement, support, and love before it’s too late, and even then it may not be enough.

I am not immune to the stresses of life. I struggle with decisions that I’ve made, the direction that I’m taking, if I’m a good mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend…. I don’t suffer from depression, yet these stresses affect me greatly. Readers often comment on my posts and say things like “It must be nice”, “I wish it was me”, or “You are so lucky”, but this is not encouragement. Rather than making me feel good about accomplishing my dreams, most times I’m left feeling discouraged and dis-heartened, like I’m doing something wrong because I’m following my passion. How is it that the more successful I am in accomplishing my goals, the more disconnected I feel from others? Why do I feel like I have to hide my happiness to connect with people? Why is it that my posts about failure are the most popular?

Robin Williams has died. I didn’t know him personally, but he brought joy into my life. I loved his movies and his positive attitude. I assumed he was a happy man with so much to be proud of in his life. I would have loved to shake his hand and thank him for his contribution to entertainment. His smiling face and comedy brought light into the lives of others. The same can be said for a fellow bucket list blogger, Anita Mac. I read her posts with vigor and often wished for similar blogging success. She was my friend in the blogging world and I admired her adventurous spirit. Yet both of these people took their own lives because of depression. And the worse thing about depression is it’s ignorant. It’s ignorant to age, race, religion, culture, gender, and finance. Regardless of who you are, depression accepts you. It turns sunshine into rain and light into dark. It’s a mask to the world. I wish I could have done something to help them. I wish I could take away their pain. I wish people didn’t need to suffer because they feel alone. I am deeply saddened by this loss.

We can fill darkness with light. We can be a positive force in each other’s lives. I spend most of my days thinking about bucket lists and accomplishing my dreams before it’s too late. My bucket list isn’t about dying; it’s about celebrating life. We need to celebrate our lives and the lives of others on a regular basis.

Have you been a positive influence on someone’s life today?

Robin Williams said,

“I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is ending up with people who make you feel all alone.” – Robin Williams as Lance Clayton in World’s Greatest Dad (2009)

If you accomplish one thing today, please let it be making yourself and others feel happy and loved. No one should feel alone. Go and hug your family and tell them you love them. Encourage them. Support them. Show them love. It’s the best thing we can do all day.

OBITUARY: Ruth May Owens Pyles


Ruth May (Owens) Pyles: 10 Jul 1943 – 4 Apr 2013–69, of Capitol Heights, MD on Thursday, April 4, 2013 at Georgetown University Hospital.

Beloved mother of Robert (Melissa), William (Linda), Samuel (Doris), Charles (Elaine), Matthew (Jackie), and Christine (Carlton). Also two brothers, Leslie and Robert; 13 grandchildren; 14 great grandchildren; and a companion of 30 years, Jake Rhiel. Preceded in death by her parents, Robert and Rosa (Beagle) Owens.

Friends received from 9 a.m. until services at 11 a.m. on Thursday, April 11 at Cedar Hill Funeral Home, Suitland, MD ( Entombment in Resurrection Cemetery, Clinton, MD.


My family (Dickinson’s and McDaniel’s) first met Ruth Pyles when our daughter and son-in-law (Jennifer and Brian McDaniel) sought out a babysitter to watch their soon-to-be-born daughter, Kylie Brianne McDaniel.  It turns out in reaching out for recommendations from family and friends that Brian had first met Ruth as a boy when he and her son Bill went to school together.  Brian recalls that Ruth was strict with Bill and nothing got past her.  Next friends whose children had just graduated Ruth’s caregiving created the perfect placement opportunity for Brian and Jenny’s impending millennial baby.  Kylie was born August 10, 2000, and when Jen returned to work Ruth started her caregiving.  And another plus in this arrangement is that Jenny and Brian and Ruth lived in the same neighborhood.

And, two years after Kylie arrived came Aaron Christopher McDaniel–and then there were two!  By then, the McDaniels had moved to Calvert County.  But, Ruth was a loving, christian woman who devoted herself to the care of our family’s children.  She was known to attend church daily and she often took one or both of them with her.

After moving to Calvert County, Jenny and Brian continued to have Ruth as the children’s caregiver.  The kids became so attached to her that she quickly became their adopted “Grandma Ruth.”  Kylie and Aaron loved her so much that often they wanted to stay with her on Ruth’s days off.  And, the were several overnight stays that I recall.  On one such stay, Aaron took ill and his temperature soared and Ruth took Aaron to the hospital and had the parents meet up with her there.

One of the biggest concerns of our family was how to best transition the kids from Ruth’s special care to pre kindergarten day care in Calvert County.  So, Kylie one year and Aaron the year after.  And the telephone calls, visits, and family invites to holdiays and special events continued to include Ruth, who now was part of our family.

As the kids grew and their outside activities increased the special times with Ruth got fewer.  The calls continued though, and when Ruth was in the hospital for her first knee surgery the family visited her.  Between the families schedules, Ruth’s surgery and complications, and Jake’s caregiving, Ruth’s trips to Calvert County and McDaniel trips to Capitol Heights became more infrequent.

Yet, when the kids received the news of Ruth’s passing, they remembered her in their hearts.  And when asked to write out a few of their memories of their days with Grandma Ruth they did so immediately.  Obviously, Kylie, two years older than Aaron, remembers more about their early times together than Aaron.  But, Aaron still remembers the feeling of those special moments when Grandma Ruth would cuddle him–which was rare indeed–when Aaron would let people snuggle and cuddle him as a baby.

Our family only has the fondest memories and huge thank you’s to Grandma Ruth for giving her all and going above and beyond with our little ones.  We will truly miss her.

Guest Blogger:  Kylie Brianne McDaniel, Age 12–our granddaughter:

Kylie Brianne McDaniel and Ruth May Owens Pyles – July 2004

Kylie & G'ma Heart When I was an infant, long before I could remember, my adopted grandmother babysat me and my little brother Aaron. I don’t have very many memories of Grandma Ruth, but from what I do remember, she was a pretty great woman. We didn’t spend that much time together, but when we did, we had as much fun as possible. I have one memory of when I was about 5 or 6, and Aaron and I were sitting at her kitchen table, and she asked me if I liked chicken pot pie. Now I had never tried it, but of course me not knowing any better, I said, “Yes! I eat it all the time!” So Grandma Ruth made Aaron and I a chicken pot pie. I stuck my spoon into the steaming tin of chicken pot pie, and stuck it in my mouth and said, “Yum! This is SO good!” and after that, I needed ice-water because I had realized how EXTREMELY hot the pie was.

I have another memory of when I was 9 or so and Grandma Ruth came down to our house for the day. When she came she always had a little something for Aaron and I. This time she brought 2 giant-sized floor puzzles. Of course I got the first pick. I didn’t know how big it was until after I had dumped the whole puzzle out on the couch and the floor. One of the pieces got lost somewhere and I never found it and I never told her because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

The last memory of her, was when she would take Aaron and I to the dollar store down the street from where she lived. She said we could each get 1 thing but I always found a way to finagle getting 2. I remember her saying to me, “No more, or I’ll beat ya with a bag of oranges.”That was her mantra. She would always tell my dad, “I’ll beat ya with a bag of oranges!”

I still hear the sound of her voice in my head saying, “I love you,” and “I’ll beat ya with a bag of oranges!”

Grandma Ruth was supposed to come down to see me for my 13th birthday, a big birthday in her eyes. Now, she won’t get to be there in flesh and blood but I know she’ll be there in spirit. She’ll always be with me in my heart and I just have to remember that. The very last thing that I said to her was, “I love You,” and the last thing that she said to me was, “Love you too, honey.” Losing someone is tough, but losing someone like her is WAY tougher.

By Kylie Brianne McDaniel; Age 12 1/2

Guest Blogger:  Aaron Christopher McDaniel, Age 10


I’ve been feeling so sad ever since Thursday night, April 4. My old baby-sitter (Ruth M. Pyles, A.K.A. Grandma Ruth) died in the morning. When I heard the news I cried my eyeballs out. I was so sad and so was my sister (Kylie McDaniel), and my mom and dad.

Grandma Ruth repeated one thing when she would get frustrated with us that soon became her Mantra: “I’ll hit ya with a bag o’ oranges.” You see, Grandma Ruth had sort of a southern drawl when she spoke. She would also ask us if we wanted to eat some “bisketti,” which was her word for spaghetti.

But Grandma Ruth was not lonely. Her man was Jake who became “Paw Paw Jake” to us. When she babysat me Paw Paw Jake was always watching a war movie. Some of the time I watched them with him.
I also remember that their house was lovely and smelled really good, especially when Grandma Ruth cooked for us.

I just wish I could have seen grandma Ruth one more time to tell her I love her and to say goodbye until I see her again in heaven.