Through the Cracks: Other Notable Passings You Just May Have Missed this Past Year

by M.C. Antil on January 24, 2013

In advance of the final part of my four-part list of some of the most overlooked or under-reported deaths of 2012, please enjoy some more of the varied and often esoteric names, faces and characters who left us in 2012, any number of whom may have touched your life and somehow escaped your notice.

Widow of the disgraced former Vice President and a former first lady of the State of Maryland, Judy Agnew

Film critics Judith Crist, the country’s first full-time female critic for a major daily (New York Herald Tribune), who also worked regularly for both Today and New York magazine, and Andrew Sarris, whose insightful and wildly influential reviews appeared for years, first in the Village Voice and later in the New York Observer

Broadway’s Richard Adler, who co-wrote both The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees and Larry L. King, who wrote the book and had the original idea for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

Former professional racing driver and legendary performance car designer, Carroll Shelby

The guy who some 60 years ago invented the filling that is still being used in the Oreo cookie, Sam Porcello

Dick Beals, the voice of Davey on the classic 60s-era Christian stop-action series, Davey and Goliath, and the long-running commercial icon, Speedy Alka Seltzer

Star forward, Bob Boozer, whose NBA title with the Milwaukee Bucks takes a back seat, at least historically, to the gold medal he won in 1960 as part of the original “Dream Team,” the Hall of Fame-bound powerhouse squad that represented the U.S. in the ’60 Olympic Games; a team comprised solely of collegians, coached by Hank Iba, and led by the likes of Jerry West, Jerry Lucas, Walt Bellamy and Oscar Robertson

Canadian artist and author of the longtime syndicated comic strip Herman, Jim Unger, and Jeff Miller, the man behind the popular daily jock strip, Tank McNamara

Joe Scarpa, an Italian-American whose pro wrestling career was going nowhere until one day he donned a headdress, threw on some war paint, and re-christened himself, Chief Jay Strongbow

Journalist, 60 Minutes pioneer and hardball interview legend, Mike Wallace, who along with Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite made up the holy trinity of the “Tiffany” years at CBS’ news division

Former Atlanta Falcon, Ray Easterling, and former USC Trojan and San Diego Charger great, Junior Seau, whose suicides this year lent further credence to the theory that extedned pro football careers and brain injuries remain inexorably linked

Centenarians, ground-breaking aviatrixes, and contemporaries of aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart; Evelyn Bryson Johnson, who in her long, fabled career logged more hours behind the wheel than any flyer ever, except one; and Pearl Laska Chamberlain, who held her pilot’s license and was still flying solo at the age of 97

British humorist and comedy writer Digby Wolfe, who co-created one of the most American of shows; the landmark TV series, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In

Bob Anderson, a former Olympian and highly trained swordsman who choreographed the fight scenes in such swashbuckling films as Highlander, The Princess Bride and Lord of the Rings, and who played Darth Vader for the fight sequences in a number of the later Star Wars movies

Legendary Hollywood publicist Dale Olsen, who engendered the “Oscar buzz” behind such one-time longshots as Terms of Endearment, American Beauty and Gladiator, which in turn made it possible for each to win Best Picture, and who was also instrumental in convincing client Rock Hudson that he would be doing a public service to come out of the closet and admit to the world he had AIDS

Longtime Pennsylvania senator, fiercely independent thinker, and steady voice of reason, Arlen Specter

Tony Scott, a director whose many hit films include Top Gun, Crimson Tide and Enemy of the State

Lifelong criminal and druggie, James Fogle, who penned the gritty, best-selling novel, Drugstore Cowboy, which was based on his own life and experiences

Herbert Carter and Eugene Smith, two of the famed, heroic Tuskegee Airmen, an all-black squadron of crack fighter pilots during World War II

Crusty old journalists and self-made historians of their respective sports (boxing and college football), Bert Sugar and Beano Cook

Hard-boiled crime fiction writer Bob Wade, who co-wrote the book on which Orson Welles’ noir classic, A Touch of Evil, was based

Writer Donald Sobol, who thrilled and challenged mystery-loving kids for years with his young, crime-solving sleuth protagonist, Encyclopedia Brown

Science fiction legend Ray Bradbury, whose most famous sci-fi novel, Fahrenheit 451, was turned into a critically acclaimed 1966 movie starring Julie Christie and Oskar Werner

Market reporter and, in time, comentator, Dan Dorfman, who gained pop fame in the 80s and 90s as a regular on both CNN and CNBC

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist William Raspberry of the Washington Post, an African American who wrote boldly on all subjects, but who was particularly pointed when it came to matters of race and gay rights

Former Minnesota Vikings’ general manager, Mike Lynn, who pulled the trigger on a 1989 trade for All Pro Hershel Walker that netted the Dallas Cowboys five players and six draft picks; a trade that is now regarded as the seminal moment in the Cowboys’ dynasty of the 90s

Producer and screen writer, William Asher, whose 60s-era hit show, Bewitched, proved to be a star-making vehicle for his then actress-wife, Elizabeth Montgomery

Astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, and Sally Ride, the first woman to set foot in space

ABA scoring whiz Warren Jabali, who as a rookie and playing under the last name, Armstrong, scored 33.2 points per game in the ABA finals against the defending champion Indiana Pacers, leading his team to a title, and prompting teammate, future Hall of Famer, and NBA legend, Rick Barry, to declare him one of the greatest players he’d ever played with – or against

Beat poet and playwright, Dick McBride, who as the manager of the famed City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, turned his shop into both a haven and a hangout for fellow beats, including Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg

Rodney King, the young black man whose beating at the hands of a bunch of club-wielding white L.A. cops following a high-speed chase triggered the bloodiest and deadliest race riots the city had known since 1965, and who at the height of them went on TV and asked famously, “Can’t we all get along?”

Celebrated essayist, author, journalist and playwright, Gore Vidal

Founder Dan Evans, whose Cracker Barrel restaurants harkened back to simpler time full of wood crates, pot-bellied stoves and breakfasts teeming with enough fat and calories to fuel a person about to spend the day in the north forty, working the fields

70s-era adult film star and porn Hall of Famer Kandi Barbour, who died, penniless, homeless and alone, and whose body remains, even now, unclaimed

Director John Rich, one of the behind-the-scenes architects of the ground-breaking Normal Lear sitcom, All in the Family

Longtime radio voice of the Green Bay Packers, Jim Irwin

Emile Allais, who served as both mentor and role model to Olympic legend Jean Claude-Killy, who was the first skier in history to run a race with his skis parallel to one another, and because of which is now widely regarded as the “Father of Modern Skiing”

Bowling legend and Hall of Famer Don Carter, his sport’s first undisputed superstar, and a man whose both wives ended up as Hall of Fame bowlers as well

LaVerne Carter, the first of Carter’s two wives, and a woman whose combination of skill and showmanship on the lanes earned her the nickname, “Blonde Bombshell” and the title, “First Lady of the PBA”

Convicted felon Charles Colson who became infamous as one of the “Watergate Seven;” who was widely regarded as “Nixon’s hatchet man;” who illegally attempted to discredit Pentagon Papers whistle blower Daniel Ellsberg; and who in later years became an Evangelical Christian and conservative radio commentator

A&M Records staff photographer, Jim McCrary, whose many photos for the company included one of Carole King and her pet cat which A&M decided to use as the cover of King’s landmark 1971 album, Tapestry

Lone Star football coaching legend and wishbone pioneer, Darrell Royal, the man at the helm of the nationally known and perennially powerful Texas Longhorns during a time in and around the late 60s when “Hook ‘em Horns” became, at least for a few short years, something more than just a local Austin rallying cry

Peter Bergman, theater-of-the-mind comic trailblazer and founder of Firesign Theatre, whose off-the-wall albums became a late-night staple for joint-passing, bong-toking and munchies-addled stoners in the late 60s and early 70s

Venerable Atlanta Journal-Constitution sports columnist, Furman Bisher

Longtime Muhammad Ali trainer and corner man, Angelo Dundee

One of the first boxers Dundee took to a world title, former welterweight and middleweight champion, Carmen Basilio

Jill Kinmont, the one-time Olympic hopeful whose courageous battle against a life-threatening ski injury, which left her paralyzed from the neck down, was made into the 1975 movie, The Other Side of the Mountain

Freddie Solomon, the wide receiver Joe Montana was originally looking to hit as time was running out in the 1982 NFC Playoffs, and not finding him was then forced to scramble and throw to his second option, Dwight Clark, whom he found in the corner of the end zone for “The Catch”

Children’s book author, Jan Berenstain, who with her husband, Stan, wrote and illustrated a hugely successful series of books targeting kids that featured a family of bears bearing the Berenstain name

John Demjanjuk, the retired Cleveland autoworker who was charged, tried and convicted of being a Nazi war criminal and death camp guard; a sadist known to many Jews as “Ivan the Terrible”

Longtime St. Louis Blues general manager, Ron Caron

Margie Stewart, the World War II girl-next-door and pinup queen whose smiling face was found in shop windows and on billboards throughout Europe, as well as inserted into every fighting man’s paycheck, and a young lady who singlehandedly became such a point of inspiration to so many soldiers, sailors and flyboys that her smile may well have been as critical to the war effort as rationing, war bonds and Hollywood canteen shows

One of the founders and original cartoonists at Mad magazine, John Severin

Steve Kordek, a Chicago businessman and inveterate tinkerer who in his day designed countless pinball machines for legendary manufacturers like Bally’s and Williams, and who in the ‘30s revolutionized the pinball machine by developing the very first game featuring two inward-facing levers and two buttons at the bottom

Lynn “Buck” Compton, the World War II infantryman and member of Easy Company who was portrayed onscreen by Neil McDonough in HBO’s Band of Brothers; a guy who earlier had been Jackie Robinson’s teammate and catcher at UCLA; and a guy who would go on to serve as chief prosecutor in the appeals trial of Sirhan Sirhan, the man convicted in the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy

The man who covered Bobby Kennedy’s assassination for CBS, Richard Threlkeld, along with slowly unfolding stories like the Viet Nam War and the abduction and dramatic saga of newspaper heiress, Stockholm Syndrome victim, and, in time, domestic terrorist, Patty Hearst

Chaleo Yoovidhya, the self-made Thai billionaire who invented the now-ubiquitous energy drink, Red Bull

The first coach of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets, Dick Harter, and the man who replaced legendary John Wooden as head coach at UCLA; Gene Bartow, a quietly effective bench presence and astute basketball mind who would eventually take two different schools to the NCAA Final Four and three different schools to the Elite Eight

Screenwriter Nora Ephron, who wrote When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, as well as a dozen or so other films, including two vastly different but greatly underrated ones, Silkwood and My Blue Heaven

Longtime public radio announcer, Jim Packard, who for years served as the voice of Michael Feldman’s popular weekly quiz show, Whad’Ya Know?

Earl Rose, the Dallas medical examiner who performed autopsies on Lee Harvey Oswald and fallen officer J.D. Tippit, but who at the insistence of his widow and key officials – and despite his extreme displeasure and full-on physical confrontation with a few of them as they began wheeling the body out of the hospital – was not permitted to perform an autopsy on President John F. Kennedy

Former high-scoring NBA forwards, Orlando Woolridge and Dan Roundfield, former original Portland Trailblazer, LeRoy Ellis, and former 50s-era NBA legends and, later, Hall of Famers, Slater Martin and Arnie Risen

Antoni Dobrowolski, the oldest living survivor of the Nazi holocaust, who was imprisoned at Auschwitz not because he was Jewish, but because he was a young Pole school teacher who rejected Hitler’s orders to stop teaching young Polish boys and girls

Business consultant, Stephen R. Covey, who became both a best-selling author and rich beyond his wildest dreams when his add-water-and-stir self-help manual, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, somehow managed to sell over 25 million copies

Retailer extraordinaire, Marvin Traub, who helped transform Upper East Side icon Bloomingdales from just another department store into a destination shopping experience attracting high-end, status-conscious shoppers the world over

Former AFL All Star and notorious handlebar mustache-wearer, Ben Davidson, who on the field wasn’t so much good, or even intimidating, as he was dirty; a guy who later appeared in some small roles in a few movies and TV shows; a guy who did a memorable turn opposite Bubba Smith in a few 70s-era Miller Lite ads; and a guy who eventually stooped to doing a fully clothed cameo in one of the first porn films to cross over into pop consciousness, Behind the Green Door

Distance-running star and former Olympian, Pat Porter, who won eight consecutive USA Cross Country Championships and who, in the 1998 Billy Crudup film, Without Limits, played Lasse Viren, the Finnish runner who in the ‘72 Olympics went head-to-head with American cult hero and ill-fated, running legend, Steve Prefontaine

Houston McCoy, the Austin cop who likewise achieved cult status when he snuck up on the roof of the bell tower on the campus of the University of Texas in the fall of 1966 and shot-gunned to death Charles Whitman, the crackpot sniper who from that vantage point was in the process of systematically killing 14 people and wounding 32 others with his combination high-powered rifle and scope

Jean Harris, the jilted mistress and convicted murderer of former lover, Dr. Herman Tarnower, a well-known cardiologist and author of The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet, and a well-heeled school matron who became, in her own way, a kitschy sort of cult figure too

Television producer and comedy writer Reinhold Weege, who did his best work on the ab/fab 70s-era sitcom Barney Miller, before going on to create a pale imitation of that show a few years later, Night Court; a show not set in a beat up old New York precinct house full of colorful misfits, but set in a beat up old New York courtroom full of colorful misfits

Former Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, whose Senate confirmation hearings in 1987 became one of the first televised examples of the polarizing and divisive power of partisan politics, and who as the acting Attorney General under Richard Nixon – after his bosses, Eliot Richardson and William Ruckelhaus, both resigned their posts rather than execute what they considered an illegal directive by him – fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox at the very height of the Watergate investigation

Former Oral Roberts University coach Ken Trickey who, long before Paul Westhead, the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, and the 3-point line made the “run-and-gun” offense popular in college, briefly led upstart and high-scoring Oral Roberts to basketball prominence in the early 70s, including one run that led to the NCAA Elite Eight

Teofilo Stevenson, the massive and powerful Cuban heavyweight who won three consecutive Olympic gold medals, and who turned down a series of million dollar purses to remain in his homeland and loyal to Castro, denying fans the world over the chance to confirm what they believed to be true; that in his prime he was the single greatest heavyweight boxer of his time

A fringy actress and socialite, and the mother of child model and budding sex symbol, Brooke Shields, who in her time became one of the most infamous stage mothers the industry has ever seen, Teri Shields

Former Democratic presidential nominee, George McGovern, who, following the then-unknown shenanigans of the Watergate conspirators, was utterly crushed by Nixon in the 1972 general election

Rollin Sullivan, who played Oscar in the corny, homespun, 1940s standup comedy act at the Grand Ole Opry, Lonzo and Oscar

The guy for years known as the “Truckin’ Bozo,” Dale Sommers, who on his overnight classic country show on 50,000 watt, clear-channel superpower, WLW AM in Cincinnati, became a long-haul trucker’s best friend

Puppeteer Jerry Nelson, whose characters on Sesame Street and the Muppet Show were featured in small but juicy roles like Floyd Pepper, the laid-back, Duane Allman-looking bassist for Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem

Mel Stuart, who directed the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

One of the most beloved athletes in Canadian history, figure skater Barbara Ann Scott, who in 1948 won the Olympic gold medal, and in the process earned herself the nickname “Canada’s Sweetheart”

Fellow Canadian, Sarah Burke, a young, daring, on-the-edge freestyle skier whose lobbying efforts with the IOC were crucial in getting her signature event, the halfpipe, accepted as an Olympic event for 2014, but who in January of this past year died doing what she loved best

Zalman King, purveyor of softcore porn and stylized erotica, who produced and/or directed such (at the time) controversial and wildly titillating eye candy as 9½ Weeks, Wild Orchid and The Red Shoes Diaries

Former NFL stars, R.C. Owens, Lonnie Wright, Steve Van Buren and Alex Webster, the latter of whom also served as head coach of the New York Giants

Longtime and highly successful college basketball coaches Charlie Spoonhour and Rick Majerus, the latter of whom, under Al McGuire at Marquette, won an NCAA title, and as a head coach nearly won another, taking Utah to the final game before falling to Kentucky

Super Heavyweight Greco-Roman wrestler, Jeff Blatnick, who courageously battled back from cancer to win two NCAA Championships and, in 1984, inspired the nation by earning an Olympic gold medal

Longtime ESPN play-by-play man, Jim Durham, who was also the play-by-play man for the Chicago Bulls in 1991 when Michael Jordan and company won the first of their six NBA titles

A marginally talented but hard-working NBA big man, rebounder and sometime defensive stopper who achieved a level of infamy for the somewhat cruel but indelible nickname bestowed upon him by Peter Vescey of the New York Post; Pat “Short” Cummings

Larry Sloan, creator of “Mad Libs”

Former boxing champion and showman, Hector “Macho” Camacho

Americana expert Wendell Garrett, one of the original appraisers on the long-running PBS series, Antique Roadshow

And finally, one of the most unique, colorful, combative and often prickly basketball stars of all time, Art Heyman; a Long Island schoolboy legend who signed a letter of intent to play for the University of North Carolina, but who then at the last minute changed his mind and went to Duke, then a non-factor in college hoops; a guy who quickly elevated the Blue Devils to national prominence, in part because he utterly dominated the Tar Heels and the coach he snubbed; and, much later, a tavern owner in Manhattan who once told me over a cold beer, laughing all the while: “They hated me in Chapel Hill.  Not only did I turn ‘em down, but I went down there and kicked their ass. But that’s not what bothered ’em most. You know what really got ’em? I was kicking their ass….and I was a Jew.”

  • Andy

    Nice work, M. Can not believe Encyclopedia Brown is dead!

    • Thnx, Andy. One of our all-time great mystery solvers, huh?

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