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Famous People We've Lost in 2015

Celebrities who’ve died this year, including Mario Cuomo, Dick Van Patten and Donna Douglas

  • Fred Thompson, 73, US Senator

    En español(Aug. 19, 1942–Nov. 1, 2015)

    Yes, he was a towering (6-foot-five) senator from Tennessee, but he was also (briefly) a GOP presidential candidate in 2008 and an actor — appearing on Law and Order and in movies such as In the Line of Fire and Die Hard 2. His family said in a statement upon his passing, "He enjoyed a hearty laugh, a strong handshake, a good cigar, and a healthy dose of humility."   

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  • Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

    Maureen O’Hara, 95, Actress

    (Aug. 17, 1920–Oct. 24, 2015)
    The green-eyed, red-headed Irish beauty was a product of Hollywood’s Golden Age, appearing in several films with John Wayne (The Quiet Man, for one), as well as the classic Miracle on 34th Street and the Oscar-winner How Green Was My Valley. She said in one recent interview that her success wasn’t just about her looks: "I gave bloody good performances."

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  • Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

    Jackie Collins, 77, Author

    (Oct. 4, 1937–Sept. 19, 2015) 
    The London-born author — the younger sister of actress Joan Collins — wrote wildly popular books, churning out 32 best-selling romance novels, including the scandalous Hollywood Wives (made into a miniseries with Candice Bergen) and her latest, The Santangelos.

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    Yogi Berra, 90, Baseball Player

    (May 12, 1925–Sept. 22, 2015)
    The beloved Yankees catcher was a powerhouse player in the 1950s, an 18-time All-Star, and later a successful manager. Yet he was almost as famous for his quirky wit, coining Yogi-isms such as “It's like déjà vu all over again.”

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  • Al Messerschmidt Archive/AP

    Moses Malone, 60, Basketball Star

    (March 23, 1955–Sept. 13, 2015)
    The 6-foot-10 NBA legend, nicknamed "Chairman of the Boards," set the single-game record for offensive rebounds (21). In a TV interview last year, Malone said "being humble" was the key to his success in the sport.

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    Wes Craven, 76, Filmmaker

    (Aug. 2, 1939–Aug. 30 2015)
    The director known for his kindness and humor was also, quite literally, horrifying: He's the guy who caused countless hearts to pound with giddy fear, thanks to his Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream movie franchises. More recently he co-created a comic book series, Coming of Rage.

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  • Chris McGrath/Getty Images

    Oliver Sacks, 82, Neurologist/Author

    (July 9, 1933–Aug. 30, 2015)
    An engaging and thoughtful storyteller in the field of brain science, he transfixed readers with patients’ case histories in books such as The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat. His bestselling memoir, On the Move: A Life, was released this year.

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  • Ray Mickshaw/Getty Images

    Julian Bond, 75, Civil Rights Leader

    (Jan. 14, 1940–Aug. 15, 2015)
    The legendary activist spent decades working for equal rights, including as leader of the NAACP and a Georgia state senator. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which Bond co-founded, declared on its website that our country had lost “one of its most passionate and eloquent voices for the cause of justice.”

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    Frank Gifford, 84, Football Player/Sports Commentator

    (Aug. 16, 1930–Aug. 9, 2015)
    The New York Giants Hall of Famer found a hugely successful second career on TV as a sports commentator. His wife Kathie Lee has said that because he hated funerals, his loved ones had a party and “played Frank Sinatra all day long.”

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    E.L. Doctorow, 84, Author

    (January 6, 1931–July 21, 2015)
    He was the award-winning writer of popular historical novels, including his 1975 hit, the epic Ragtime — which became a Broadway show — Billy Bathgate and others. The New York Times described him as a “literary time traveler,” skilled in “Illustrating how the past informs the present, and how the present has evolved from the past."

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    Omar Sharif, 83, Actor

    (April 10, 1932–July 10, 2015)
    The Egyptian-born star is known for his memorable, mustachioed roles in two classic films: the lead in Doctor Zhivago (1965) and tribal chief Sherif Ali, opposite Peter O'Toole, in 1962's Lawrence of Arabia. His later acting career was less stellar — though he became a champion bridge player.

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  • Courtesy Everett Collection

    Dick Van Patten, Actor, 86

    (Dec. 9, 1928–June 23, 2015)
    He was one of the memorable TV dads of the late 1970s on Eight Is Enough, playing Tom Bradford, a remarried widower with plenty of kids. Van Patten later took comic roles in films such as Spaceballs (1987), and wrote a 2009 memoir called Eighty Is Not Enough.

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    Ornette Coleman, 85, Musician

    (March 9, 1930–June 11, 2015)
    One of the most influential and mercurial figures in jazz, this alto saxophonist and composer wrote a bevy of compositions such as “Lonely Woman,” “Una Bonita,” and “Ramblin,” which are now jazz standards.

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    Christopher Lee, 93, Actor

    (May 27, 1922–June 7, 2015)
    The aristocratic British actor is known among modern moviegoers as Count Dooku and Saruman in the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings films, but he made his name playing a formidable Count Dracula in numerous productions. He aced that role, by all accounts — including Lee’s. He once said the character "had never been played properly” before he took it on.

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    Anne Meara, Comedian, 85

    (Sept. 20, 1929–May 23, 2015)
    Yes, she was Ben Stiller’s mother, but she was also a beloved comedian, often paired with her husband Jerry Stiller as Stiller & Meara — regulars on The Ed Sullivan Show in the 1960s. Later an actress on Archie Bunker’s Place and other shows, she and Stiller share a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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    B.B. King, 89, musician

    (Sept. 16, 1925–May 14, 2015)
    The poor boy who lived in a sharecropper’s shack grew up to become a legendary guitarist and the true king of American blues. “The Thrill Is Gone” said a note on his website after he passed away; his countless fans agree. 

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  • AP

    Ben E. King, 76, Singer

    (Sept. 28, 1938–April 30, 2015)
    The lead singer for the Drifters was most famous for his classic R&B song "Stand By Me." He also hit the charts in the 1960s with "Spanish Harlem," "This Magic Moment" and more.

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    Percy Sledge, 74, Singer

    (Nov. 25, 1940–April 14, 2015)
    The soulful singer will always be remembered for "When a Man Loves a Woman," his beloved 1966 ballad, which found a second round of fans after its inclusion in The Big Chill (1983) soundtrack. He was still performing as late as last year, and released his last album, The Gospel of Percy Sledge, in 2013.

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    Leonard Nimoy, 83, Actor

    (March 26, 1931–Feb. 27, 2015)
    He was Spock, the pointy eared human/Vulcan who was the voice of reason on the Starship Enterprise. Though in later years Nimoy hoped to be known for more than his 1960s Star Trek role — his first autobiography was called I Am Not Spock (1975) — the actor could hardly escape his iconic status. He titled his 1995 memoir I Am Spock.

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    Lesley Gore, 68, Singer

    (May 2, 1946–Feb. 16, 2015)
    Gore was still just a teenager when she recorded hits such as “It’s My Party” and the feminist anthem “You Don’t Own Me” (“Just let me be myself/That's all I ask of you"). She later became an award-winning songwriter and spent more than 30 years with partner Lois Sasson. 

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  • Kimberly White/Getty Images

    David Carr, 58, Journalist

    (Sept. 8, 1956–Feb. 12, 2015)
    Carr was an old-school (but Twitter-loving) reporter famous for surviving a grim battle with drug addiction to become a renowned media columnist at The New York Times. Upon his death, reverent praise for his insight and humanity flooded social media, including on Twitter: “Dark days for journos.”

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  • Jason Kempin/Getty Images

    Bob Simon, 73, TV Journalist

    (May 29, 1941–Feb. 11, 2015)
    The Emmy-winning CBS correspondent spent 40 days being beaten and tortured as a prisoner in Bagdad in 1991 — a nightmare he described in his memoir Forty Days. Simon was working on a report about Ebola when he was killed in a car accident.

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    Jerry Tarkanian, 84, Coach

    (Aug. 8, 1930–Feb. 11, 2015) Coach Tarkanian —Tark the Shark — known for his habit of nervously chewing towels during games, led the University of Nevada-Las Vegas basketball team to win after win from 1973 to 1992. The Las Vegas strip briefly dimmed its lights upon his death.

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    Colleen McCullough, 77, Novelist

    (June 1, 1937–Jan. 29, 2015)
    The Australian writer penned The Thorn Birds, a saga involving the hopeless love between a young woman and a priest in the Outback that became a wildly popular miniseries. McCullough’s last book was a romance called Bittersweet (2014).

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    Ernie Banks, 83, Baseball Player

    (Jan. 31, 1931–Jan. 23, 2015)
    The first African American to join the Chicago Cubs, Banks (“Mr. Cub”) was beloved in the city, where he reigned from 1953 to 1971. The Sun-Times wrote, “No other player in franchise history — or in the club’s future — will ever be adored in the same way.”

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    Anita Ekberg, 83, actress

    (Sept. 29, 1931–Jan. 11, 2015)
    The sexy Swedish model/actress starred in many films, most famously with Marcello Mastroianni in 1960’s La Dolce Vita. Never married, she told an Italian newspaper a few years ago that she had no regrets: “I have loved, cried, been mad with happiness. I have won and I have lost.”

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    Robert Stone, 77, Writer

    (Aug. 21, 1937–Jan. 10, 2015)
    Stone won the 1975 National Book Award for his second novel, Dog Soldiers, and was twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He said he channeled the depth of his emotions into his stories, and that “writing is how I justify my existence.”

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    Stuart Scott, 49, Sportscaster

    (July 19, 1965–Jan. 4, 2015)
    The longtime ESPN anchor was one of the most popular faces behind the sports desk, known for his humor and signature catchphrases (“Boo-yah!” was big). A fellow sports anchor called him “the man who made sportscasting cool.”

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    Edward Brooke, 95, Senator

    (Oct. 26, 1919–Jan. 3, 2015)
    Brooke broke a color barrier in American politics in 1966, when the Massachusetts Republican won in a landslide to become the first popularly elected African American U.S. senator. A World War II veteran, he served in the Senate for 12 years.

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    Donna Douglas, 82, Actress

    (Sept. 1932–Jan. 1, 2015)
    Douglas was the sweet blond Elly May Clampett of the 1960s hit show The Beverly Hillbillies. She later became a gospel singer and in 2013 released a cookbook, Southern Favorites With a Taste of Hollywood

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  • Rob Kim/Getty Images

    Mario Cuomo, 82, Politician

    (June 15, 1932–Jan. 1, 2015)
    The three-time governor of New York was famous for his eloquent oratory, frequent flirtations with a presidential candidacy and tireless work for liberal causes. The New York Times once asked him what he’d like in his obituary, and Cuomo said, “He tried.”

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