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; Legacy.com’s slideshow includes 93; CBS News’ slideshow has 151 as of December 28; and, one of my favorite genealogical resources findagrave.com 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 findagrave.com’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!

Coincidence, Perfect Timing, or Premonition?


Coincidence, Perfect Timing, or Premonition

I was pleasantly surprised today when visiting Facebook to see a 1970 TV clipping–in full color–through my computer screen of a portion of a Bob Hope TV Special celebrating the 4th of July.  (Note that my computer screen is bigger than our first few black and white TV’s–which by the way, were first manufactured the year I was born!)   And, I just wonder whether its posting was a coincidence, perfect timing, or a premonition on my part.  I guess we’ll never really know. But, what makes this video so very special to me is that many of the movie and TV stars appearing in it were my favorites when I was a child.  In fact, two nights ago while lying in bed during one of my sleepless modes I happened to think about the great old western movies, television series, and even the many games of cowboys and indians that so many of us baby boomers enjoyed playing with our friends and cousins. Of course in our later years we learned that historians, educators, and the media skewed the real stories to always make native americans the villains.  (Personally, I always chose to be an indian vs. the cowboy.)

Our Young Years and Times Were Simpler

But truth is, in our youth, many of us for special occasions received toy six shooters, cowboy hats, boots, and chaps; and, we also got ritualistic indian head dresses, bows, and arrows–and I especially loved wearing indian moccasins.

If you lived on a farm or had one nearby like I did, you could pull a feather from a chicken or a turkey and tuck it under a leather belt wrapped around your head to be a more authentic native.  And even get into mama’s make up and apply some war paint.

Yes, our times were much simpler and we kids knew only of the fun we had playing those games outside.  Or how we loved watching television–even shows in black and white and displayed on small fuzzy screens (reception depended on how good our rooftop antenna was).  Some of my favorite shows were:  Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, Bonanza, Rawhide, The Virginian, Little House on the Prairie, and the Big Valley–these are the ones I can remember today off the top of my head.

The Cowboys

John Wayne

The Man’s Man: John Wayne

gregory peck 1945 - by madison lacy

Gregory Peck

James Garner

James Garner

And, some of our best saturday evenings were spent at local drive-in movies watching big screen stars in full color through a speaker hanging from a window and receiving scratchy monophonic audio.  Let’s see, there was superstar-cowboy John Wayne; tall, elegant, and dignified Gregory Peck; the handsome James Garner;

Roy Rogers

Roy Rogers

James Arness

James Arness

Ward Bond

Ward Bond

Gene Autry

Gene Autry

singing cowboys Roy Rogers and Gene Autry; Marshal Matt Dillon, none other than James Arness; and I can’t forget rugged appearing Ward Bond, or funny sidekick cowboy and toothless old man, Gabby Hayes; or the rounded-belly, raspy-voiced Andy Devine.

Gabby Hayes

Gabby Hayes

Guy Madison and Andy Devine

Guy Madison and Andy Devine

The Indians

As the pictures depict below, some of my favorite indian characters were played by white men.  Further evidence that our society had not yet embraced multiculturalism and  television or movie producers hadn’t yet opened many of their doors to nonwhites.

Jeff Chandler as Cochise

Jeff Chandler as Cochise

Michael Ansara

Michael Ansara

John Todd as Tonto

John Todd as Tonto

The video brought back so many fond memories–yes, of simpler times.  Times when Americans were united and had a sense of pride about God and Country, regardless of their race or creed.  And, I just loved it when my role models and heroes were dressed in period clothing and gathered to sing God Bless America–which is another tradition dating back to our  forefathers that is “under the gun” to be discontinued in our courtrooms, in our pledges of allegiance, on our money, and in our classrooms. hope you enjoy.  (And yes, I recognized all their faces and recalled all but one’s name.)