The People We Lost in 2016

Remembering the iconic artists, leaders, and visionaries who died this year.

Carrie Fisher

Writer, actress, and tour-de-force Carrie Fisher died on December 27 at age 60, following a heart attack. The daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, she first gained fame as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy. She was 19 when she filmed the first movie. She went on to star in movies such as Hannah and Her Sisters and When Harry Met Sally, wrote several books in which she discussed her struggles with addiction and bipolar disorder with humor, grace, and unflinching toughness. She starred last year in the seventh installment of the Star Wars franchise, this time as General Leia Organa.

David Bowie

Music icon David Bowie died at 69 after battling liver cancer for over a year. The singer burst onto the rock scene in the late 1960s with a dazzling sound and personal style that would forever change the relationship between music, fashion and art. Bowie was a creative force until the very end of his life, releasing his last album Blackstar, in January of this year, two days before he died.

Muhammad Ali

A legendary American boxer and prominent activist, Muhammad Ali died at the age of 74 this year. The World Heavyweight Champion, famously known as "the Greatest Of All Time," died in June after a 32-year battle with Parkinson's disease. He dominated his sport while teaching the world a lesson about courage and humor in the face of racism and repression.

Nancy Reagan

The former First Lady died at 94 in Los Angeles in March of this year. She was an actress when she first met Ronald Reagan, but gave that up to serve as his partner and biggest political and personal supporter. Her adoration of her beloved Ronnie—and her personal style—came to define her role as First Lady. Though she drew harsh criticism for her part in the White House's slow response to the AIDs epidemic, she was a beloved figure in the last decades of her life, nursing her husband through his long battle with Alzheimers—and championing stem cell research, which her husband's party opposed but which she believed passionately might hold promise of a cure for neurodegenerative diseases.

Bill Cunningham

Legendary street-style photographer Bill Cunningham died this year at age 87. He worked for the New York Times for 40 years, photographing countless celebrities, socialites, and ordinary New Yorkers for his "Out and About" page. Beloved in fashion circles, his popularity grew in 2010 when he was the subject of a documentary, Bill Cunningham New York. It was a fascinating window into his daily routine of riding his bike around New York City looking for trends and interesting people to shoot.

Zsa Zsa Gabor

The Hollywood beauty, originally from Budapest, Hungary, first gained fame after winning Miss Hungary in 1936. She later moved to the States where she was sought out as an exotic addition to the silver screen. The European actress-turned Hollywood socialite, was best known for her extravagant lifestyle, was remembered not only for her beauty, but her romantic conquests, which included hotel mogul Conrad Hilton. The actress died at 99 after suffering a litany of health problems. 


The singer-songwriter-guitar god first appeared on the scene in the 1970s, stunning the world with his talent, style, and hypnotic music. He died at Paisley Park, his Minnesota manor, in April of this year. The "Purple Rain" singer was honored this year at awards shows like the BET Awards and the VMAs, and even won one last America Music Award for Favorite Soundtrack this year. He was 57 years old. Red Corvettes will never be the same.

Alan Rickman

One of Britain's most beloved actors, Alan Rickman, was a star of films such as Die Hard, and became a household name with his role as Severus Snape in the critically acclaimed Harry Potter film series. He died at the age of 69, after a battle with cancer. Before his death, Rickman stared in one last film, Eye In the Sky, which hit theaters this past April. 

Fidel Castro

The Cuban dictator, who presided over his country until 2008, died at the age of 90. He was a hero of the Cuban revolution who became one of the United States most potent foes, and was said to have escaped over 600 assassination attempts. Castro's death came months after that of his brother, Ramon. Cuba publicly mourned the leader's death for nine days before he was buried in Santiago. 

John Glenn

Know as the first American to orbit the Earth three times, the astronaut and aerospace engineer died at the age of 95 this year. Though he was dedicated to the NASA program and most known for his out of orbit trip in 1962, Glenn later became a United States Senator for the state of  Ohio. The famous politician and astronaut died on December 8. 

Gwen Ifill

The pioneering African American journalist, who became an anchor for PBS News Hour, died after a battle with cancer at the age of 61. Ifill, who began as a reporter for publications such as the Washington Post and the New York Times, also served on boards such as the Harvard Institute of Politics and was named the 2015 Washingtonian Of The Year, by Washingtonian magazine. 

Florence Henderson

One of America's best-known and loved TV mothers, Florence Henderson passed away in Los Angeles at the age of 82. As Carol Brady Henderson welcomed viewers into the Brandy Bunch's iconic suburban split level from 1969 to 1974, and went on to be a spokeswoman for Wesson cooking oil in the 1990s and a guest on several sitcoms and reality shows in the early 2000s. Henderson died after complications from heart failure.  

China Machado

Model China Machado, who was born in Shanghai and became one of the first women of color to model widely in Europe and the United States, died at 86. In February 1959, she appeared on the cover of Harper's Bazaar, becoming the first non-white person to land the cover of a major American fashion magazine. She later served as Senior Fashion Editor and, eventually, Fashion Director for the magazine. She last appeared in the September 2013 issue of Bazaar alongside Soo Joo Park, styled by Carine Roitfeld.

Betsy Bloomingdale

Legendary Los Angeles socialite, hostess, and haute-couture customer Betsy Bloomingdale died at her home in July. She was 93. The daughter of a Beverly Hills doctor, she married Alfred S. Bloomingdale,  heir to the department store fortune, in 1946. She and her husband were close friends of Nancy and Ronald Reagan and members of the so-called "Kitchen Cabinet."

James Galanos

Designer James Galanos died on Halloween in West Hollywood; he was 92. Throughout a career that spanned 46 years, he was known for embracing a rarified approach to fashion. He wasn't interested in licensing deals or celebrities; instead, he described his business as "luxury niche" and focused on a core group of elegant and elite woman, including Jackie Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Grace KellyBetsy BloomingdaleAli MacGraw, Paloma Picasso—and most famously, First Lady Nancy Reagan, including four inaugural galas. For her first state dinner at the White House, Reagan wore a 14-year-old Galanos gown proving the designer's mastery for craftsmanship and timeless design.\

George Michael

The British pop musician, who first came to prominence in the 80s duo Wham!, passed away on Christmas Day at the age of 53. After four years in Wham! with Andrew Ridgely, Michael launched his solo career, which spanned nearly four decades. He sold more than 100 million albums throughout his career, including his 1987 hit single, "Faith." 

Janet Reno

Janet Reno, the first woman to serve as Attorney General of the United States, died this year at 78 after battling Parkinson's disease for nearly three decades. Reno was appointed by Bill Clinton in 1993 and served until 2001. Reno was a dedicated public servant who worked as an advocate for education and criminal justice reform. 

Morley Safer

The Canadian-American news anchor, who was best known for his role as host of 60 Minutes, passed away at the age of 84 this year. But before anchoring the iconic CBS news show, Safer was a war correspondent, covering the Vietnam War among other conflicts. In Safer's 60 years as a broadcast journalist he earned 12 Emmys, including a special Lifetime Achievement Award, and became the longest-serving reporter on 60 Minutes

Gene Wilder

Comedian, actor, director, and producer Gene Wilder passed away at the age of 83 after suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Wilder is perhaps best known for his iconic role as Willy Wonka in the the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factor; he also starred in several Mel Brooks's films, including Blazing Saddles and The Producers. In 2003, Wilder won his first Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for a role on Will & Grace

Zaha Hadid

Architect Zaha Hadid, the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize, died of a heart attack on March 31; she was 65. The Iraqi-born designer's buildings include the London Aquatics Centre (used in the 2012 Summer Olympics), the Vitra Fire Station in Weil am Rhein in Germany, China's Guangzhou Opera House, the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London, and the Riverside Museum in Glasgow. She was made a Dame in 2012 and is now known for buildings from New York to Azerbaijan; Hadid also had about a dozen projects in progress, including her first New York City residential building.

Harper Lee

Known by her pen name Harper Lee, the reclusive Nelle Harper Lee died in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama at the age of 89. In 1960, she published the classic novel To Kill A Mockingbird, which was inspired by her experience with racism in the deep south. The book gained instant popularity and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize; in 1962, the book was also turned into an iconic film starring Gregory Peck. Lee was awarded the Presidential Medial of Freedom for her influence on literature.

Sharon Jones

The soul singer and leader of the band Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings died on November 19 at the age of 60. Known for her powerhouse voice and for mixing the flavors of soul, R&B and gospel, Jones died after a fight with pancreatic cancer. A 2015 documentary dedicated to Jones' accomplishments, directed by Barbra Kopple, will be available to stream on Netflix in January of 2017. 

Antonin Scalia

A hugely influential force on the Supreme Court, Justice Antonin Scalia passed away on February 13 at 79. Scalia was appointed to the court by Ronald Reagan in 1986, serving two decades and articulating a controversial and influential conservative analysis of the constitution. He reportedly died in his sleep of natural causes.

Doris Roberts

Mostly known for her work on on the small screen, Doris Roberts died this year at the age of 90. The actress began working in television in the 1950s and her career as an actress spanned nearly six decades. Throughout her career, Roberts won five Emmy Awards and still remains iconic as the character of Raymond's mother on the hit CBS sitcom, Everybody Loves Raymond, which is still the longest running show on CBS. 

Natalie Cole

The Grammy award-winning singer and daughter of legendary crooner Nat King Cole died on New Year's Eve 2015 at the age of 65. In 1992, she won the Record of the Year Grammy for the song "Unforgettable," a soulful duet produced posthumously with her father. Cole was nominated for numerous Grammys across four decades, and won a total of nine awards. The cause of Cole's death was later determined to be heart failure brought on by lung disease.

Sir George Martin

The hit record producer, best known for his work with a little band called the Beatles, passed away this year at the age of 90. The British producer, who also dabbled in television and film, is most famous for helping create albums such as Help and Yellow Submarine. Martin was knighted in 1996 in honor of his legendary work in the music industry is and influence on pop culture.

Franca Sozzani

Franca Sozzani, editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia, passed away in Milan just before Christmas at age 66. Sozzani was appointed editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia in 1988 and has since led the publication through boundary-breaking editorials that used fashion to tackle cultural issues like racial inequality, domestic violence, and society's obsession with plastic surgery. 

Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel was a Romanian-born writer, professor, and political activist. The author of 57 books, he was perhaps best known for his book Night, in which he recounted his experiences as a survivor of both the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps. In 1986, Wiesel was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize; he was also a founding member of the Human Rights Foundation, based in New York City. 

Maurice White

A founding member of the renowned band Earth Wind & Fire—and a pioneer of funk and soul in the 1970s—Maurice White died on February 4. His death came several days before the 2016 Grammy Awards, where his fellow band members won a Lifetime Achievement Award and paid tribute to him. Though White stopped touring with the band in the 1990s after a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease, he still remained active with the band. 

Shimon Peres

The ninth Prime Minister of Israel, known as the "warrior for peace," died in Jerusalem after suffering from a stroke. In a political career that spanned 70 years, he held numerous cabinet positions and was president for seven years. Peres shares the Nobel Peace Prize for forging a peace treaty between the Israelis and the Palestinians in 1994. 

Leonard Cohen

The Canadian singer-songwriter, who had earned a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, died at the age of 82 in Los Angeles. The folk singer, who was known for his poetry as well as his music, is best known for his song "Hallelujah," which he wrote in 1984. From 2012 to 2013, Cohen went on an epic final world tour thorough Europe and the United States. Like Bowiehe released a tour-de-force album, aptly titled "You Want It Darker," shortly before he died.

Frank Sinatra Jr.

Frank Sinatra, Jr. shared his father's baritone and, though he never matched the elder's success, he dedicated himself to preserving the Sinatra legacy by performing his famous ballads. After being kidnapped and held for four days at 19, he went on to become his father's conductor, appeared as himself on the Sopranos and Family Guy, and paid homage to his dad's oeuvre with tribute concerts. Sinatra, Jr.  died last night while on tour in Florida; he was 72.

Garry Marshall

One of America's most beloved directors and producers, Garry Marshall died at the age of 82 in Burbank, California. Marshall was largely responsible for bringing together America's favorite 90s-movie couple, Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, in Pretty Woman and Runaway Bride, and was also the creator of some of television's most iconic shows, like Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley.

Alan Thicke

Television patriarch Alan Thicke died in Burbank, California at the age of 69 after a sudden heart attack. Though the actor was a native Canadian, he best known for his role as America's Dad in the sitcom Growing Pains. Prior to starting in the ABC sitcom, Thicke was the host of several talk shows in Canada and in the U.S. He is the father of singer Robin Thicke, and wrote several TV theme songs himself. 

Patty Duke

American actress Patty Duke died this year at the age of 69. Originally a Broadway actress, Duke took her role as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker from the stage to the big screen, winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress at the age of 16. In the early 1960s she played identical cousins on The Patty Duke Show and went on to star in films such as Valley of the Dolls, and to helm her own talk show. Later in life, she became a mental health advocate and was only the second woman to serve as president of the Screen Actors Guild. 

George Kennedy

An actor who appeared in more than 200 film projects in his career, George Kennedy passed away at the age of 91. His most notable performance was alongside Paul Newman in the film 1967 film Cool Hand Luke. The actor's role as Dragline earned him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Later, he earned a whole new generation of fans as Carter McKay in the hit 1980s series Dynasty

Anton Yelchin

Yelchin moved to the States from Russia as an infant, and began acting in the early 1990s. He is best known for his role as Pavel Chekov in the film reboot of Star Trek, but he tragically passed away in a freak accident before the 2016 sequel premiere. During the summer press tour for Star Trek Beyond, the 2016 film, cast members including Idris Elba, Chris Pine, and Zoe Saladana, all paid tribute to their late costar. 

Arnold Palmer

Before there was Tiger, there was Arnold. The famous golfer, who was known as "The King," died at the age of 87 this year. The legendary athlete began his career in the 1950s and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974; in 1998, he received the PGA Gold Tour Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Garry Shandling

The comedian, talk show host, and actor passed away at 66 in Los Angeles. Shandling started out as a stand-up, landing himself a recurring spot on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson. He later got his own talk show from 1986 to 1990 and created The Larry Sanders Show, a fictional look behind the scenes of late-night television. He was also known for his many award show and primetime special hosting gigs.

Rene Angelil

The Canadian music producer and talent manager passed away at the age of 73 after a long battle with cancer. The producer was best known for the relationship with his client and wife, famous singer, Celine Dion. The two were together for 21 years, and though he stepped down as Dion's manager in 2014 due to health problems, he always remained active in her career. 

Christina Grimmie

Christina Grimmie, a singer, songwriter, and You Tube personality, died at the age of 22 after she was shot following her performance at a show in Orlando. The young singer gained fame both on YouTube and on the hit reality competition series The Voice. Though she finished the competition in third place, Grimmie became one of the more popular contestants on the show. Her family has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the venue where Grimmie was killed. 

Joey Martin Feek

The American country singer, who was one half of the country duo Joey + Rory, died after a two year battle with cervical cancer. The duo, who were best known for the song, "Cheater, Cheater," were married for 14 years. After Joey's death, her husband Rory Feek released a documentary, To Joey, With Love, which featured home videos of their last 30 months together. Joey was 40 years old. 

Merle Haggard

The famous country musician, known for his guitar and fiddle playing, died at the age of 79 after battling lung cancer and pneumonia. Haggard's career spanned several decades. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1994 and was also given the Lifetime Achievement Award Grammy in 2006. One of his final appearances was at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2010.

Pat Summitt

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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