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Unlikely Parallels in a Yr of Momentous Deaths


When Buckingham Palace announced the death of Queen Elizabeth II on Sept. 8, the news, notwithstanding the worldwide outpouring of grief it set off, didn’t come as an entire surprise — to not anyone who had been following the reports of her end-of-days decline. She was 96, in any case.

The identical may be said of the death of Mikhail Gorbachev. He was 91 and had largely been out of circulation since his power slipped away after the heady Soviet years of glasnost and perestroika. It was, as we’re apt to say with a certain fatalism about those of advanced age, his time.

You may say it was Bill Russell’s, too. It had been 53 years since he hung up his Celtics uniform for the last time, having dominated, even transformed, basketball, first in college after which in the professional ranks. And though he had remained vital through the succeeding many years, he was, in the long run, 88.

Those deaths, like many others reported within the obituary pages this 12 months, couldn’t be said to have been wholly unexpected. But a curiously ample number were, by way of their timing and circumstances. Call them products of sad but odd coincidence, befalling individuals who had shared some kind of bond in life after which left the world in unlikely tandem.

There have been, for instance, the deaths of Lucy Simon and Joanna Simon, musical sisters of the singer-songwriter Carly Simon. They died a day apart in October, each from cancer, and their deaths, not less than in The Times, were reported side by side.

Earlier got here the deaths of the Bogdanoff brothers, Grichka and Igor, “French twins and tv hosts,” as Clay Risen wrote in a joint obituary, “whose noble lineage, questionable research in quantum physics and extreme adventures in cosmetic surgery captivated Parisian society and horrified the scientific community.” They died six days apart, Grichka on the tail end of 2021.

There was the story of the inseparable Scheuer sisters, who through their wits and sheer grit survived a series of Nazi death camps after which a death march, afterward married German refugees (in the identical 12 months) — becoming Ilse Nathan and Ruth Siegler — and lived out their long years together just miles apart in the identical city, Birmingham, Ala. Ilse was 98 and Ruth was 95 after they died inside 11 days of one another.

“Aunt Ilse’s passing made my mother able to go,” a son of Mrs. Siegler’s said.

Lauro Cavazos and Norman Mineta shared the excellence of being the primary members of their minority groups to ascend to a cabinet-level position in Washington. Mr. Cavazos, a sixth-generation Mexican American, was education secretary under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Mr. Mineta, who had been interned with fellow Japanese Americans during World War II, was commerce secretary under Bill Clinton and transportation secretary under George W. Bush. They died just weeks apart.

4 figures in Los Angeles Dodgers history departed inside a number of months: Roz Wyman, who as a member of the Los Angeles City Council was central to luring the team from Brooklyn to the West Coast within the late Fifties; Maury Wills, who stole bases with blazing regularity for the team within the ’60s; Tommy Davis, a batting star who led Los Angeles to 2 World Series titles before injuries derailed a possible Hall of Fame profession; and Vin Scully, who sat in the published booth marveling at their exploits as one in all the sport’s most venerated announcers.

Yuriko — the one name taken by Yuriko Amemiya, a daughter of Japanese immigrants — earned renown as a number one dancer for the choreographer Martha Graham’s celebrated company and later, through her stage revivals, a keeper of the Graham flame. She died in March at 102. Her daughter, Susan Kikuchi, won renown of her own as a Graham dancer and revivalist. She died in November at 74.

Two members of the Mighty Diamonds, an influential reggae trio within the Seventies, died inside three days of one another in Kingston, Jamaica. Tabby Diamond (born Donald Shaw), 66, was killed by gunfire in an apparent gang-related shooting. Bunny Diamond (Fitzroy Simpson), 70, died of an undisclosed illness in a hospital.

Sitcom stars also left in near unison, as if based on their vintage. Thousands and thousands of baby boomers grew up watching Tony Dow, the elder brother, Wally, on “Leave It to Beaver”; Tim Considine, the eldest brother, Mike, on “My Three Sons”; and Dwayne Hickman, the perpetually dejected protagonist of “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.” Thousands and thousands more TV watchers, of a later era, would have equally fond memories of Estelle Harris as George Costanza’s high-strung mother on “Seinfeld” and Liz Sheridan as Jerry’s more even-keeled one. The 2 were separated in death by 13 days.

And a virtual crew of actors who became indelibly related to mobster roles bowed out one after the opposite: Ray Liotta, remembered as Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas”: James Caan, Sonny Corleone in “The Godfather”; Tony Sirico, Paulie Walnuts in “The Sopranos” (who died two days after Mr. Caan); and Paul Sorvino, Paulie Cicero in “Goodfellas.” (And let’s not forget Paul Herman, who appeared to show up wherever gangsters were filling a screen, whether it was “Goodfellas,” “The Sopranos” or Mr. Scorsese’s “The Irishman.”)

There’s no particular lesson to be drawn from these clusters of contemporaneous deaths, in fact. Each had no direct relation to the opposite. Each, like all death, was experienced alone and mourned individually. It’s for those of us who record such deaths, and browse about them, to note the remarkable parallels. And there we now have to go away it, perhaps a bit mystified. Death, in its inscrutability, doesn’t explain itself.

All year long it united too many others as well, as casualties of war, mass shootings and a still-not-vanquished contagion. And it retained its capability to shock — because it did in Japan, with the assassination of the previous prime minister Shinzo Abe by a grudge-wielding gunman who had been raised in that practically gun-free country.

Perhaps as startling, but not unexpected, was the killing of the hunted Ayman al-Zawahri, the 9/11 mastermind who inherited the reins of Al Qaeda from Osama bin Laden and who ultimately shared his former boss’s fate; their deaths differed only within the technique of elimination — bin Laden by the hands of raiding Navy SEALs, al-Zawahri within the cross hairs of a bloodless drone.

An Egyptian by birth, he died essentially stateless. But leaders of a more legitimate sort succumbed as well: Jiang Zemin, who may need burst out singing an Elvis tune while pushing China further down a (state-controlled) capitalist road; Fidel V. Ramos, who redeemed his henchman’s image by leading the Philippines to peace and prosperity within the Nineteen Nineties; Luis Echeverría Alvarez, who drove Mexico leftward and himself right into a political gutter, vilified across the political spectrum for incompetence and worse; José Eduardo dos Santos, who led Angola for 38 years through war, peace and a tide of economic growth that mostly benefited him and his cronies; and Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who helped turn the United Arab Emirates, bubbling with oil, into an oasis of extravagant wealth.

Washington, in addition to Americans beyond the beltway, mourned the deaths of Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican senator who did as much as anyone within the capital to further the conservative project; Don Young, the Alaskan pork-barrel king whose grip on his seat made him the longest-serving Republican within the history of the House of Representatives (he died in his forty ninth 12 months on Capitol Hill); and Madeleine Albright, a toddler of refugees who in guiding American foreign policy within the State Department embodied a historic first, captured within the words “Madam Secretary.”

Sidney Poitier was one other groundbreaker, though in an utterly different realm. As a Black leading man — a phrase not heard much around Hollywood before he emerged in the warmth of the civil rights movement — he became a box-office star and the obligatory corrective to the years of demeaning roles given African Americans onscreen.

Mr. Poitier died on a Thursday night in January; the director (and sometime actor) Peter Bogdanovich (“The Last Picture Show,” “Paper Moon”) did the identical that very morning. Each died of their Los Angeles homes.

They were just two of the 12 months’s departed luminaries who had worked under the klieg lights, or behind them. The director Bob Rafelson was an exemplar of the iconoclastic Recent Hollywood of the ’70s (“Five Easy Pieces”), and Sally Kellerman became a well-known face of it as a favourite of Robert Altman’s at all times adventurous movies, including “MASH,” for which she won an Oscar nomination. William Hurt (“Body Heat,” “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” “Broadcast News”) gave the ’80s a special kind of matinee idol — more measured, more cerebral — attracting a string of Oscar nods and one golden statuette.

“Star Trek” fans mourned the lack of yet one more mainstay on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise: Nichelle Nichols, who spanned the franchise’s television and film eras as Lieutenant Uhura, and who was recalled as one in all the only a few Black women to garner a number one role on a network television series within the Sixties.

The French cinema lost an enormous, Jean-Luc Godard, a catalyst of the epochal Recent Wave of the Sixties and ’70s, together with a trio of its top stars, Jean-Louis Trintignant (“A Man and a Woman,” “My Night at Maud’s”), Jacques Perrin (“Z,” “Cinema Paradiso”) and Michel Bouquet (“The Bride Wore Black”).

And if Hardy Kruger personified “the great German” for postwar American filmgoers, Monica Vitti embodied another kind of Italian siren, cool and elusive. Her mystique endured beyond her death, knowingly evoked months afterward the HBO series “The White Lotus.”

The theater world, in all its capitals — London, Paris, Recent York — paid tribute to one in all the twentieth century’s best directors, Peter Brook. But Broadway specifically felt the lack of the musical performers Robert Morse (“Find out how to Reach Business Without Really Trying,” “Tru”) and the indomitable Angela Lansbury (“Mame,” “Sweeney Todd”) — though the stage alone could never confine them. Mr. Morse found a second act (or was it a 3rd?) succeeding in business because the Emmy-nominated promoting honcho on “Mad Men,” while Ms. Lansbury spent a dozen years as an unlikely but enormously popular serial crime solver on “Murder, She Wrote.”

We remembered, too, the performers who could stand alone on a stage (when not appearing in a sitcom) and make us laugh, perhaps at ourselves. Louie Anderson, Gilbert Gottfried, Bob Saget, Judy Tenuta and Gallagher can have no more latest material for us.

Olivia Newton-John was one other star who crossed genres, from pop music (“I Truthfully Love You”) to movies (“Grease”), producing hits in each.

Hits were, in fact, also the legacies of Jerry Lee Lewis, a piano-pounding father of rock ’n’ roll; Loretta Lynn, the queen of country to a miner born; Coolio, the rapper who began climbing the charts straight out of Compton; and Christine McVie, the singing and songwriting heartbeat of Fleetwood Mac.

Régine, then again, was remembered not a lot for music as for the strobe-lighted floors on which it might be danced to. She was credited with opening the primary disco, in Paris, after which virtually encircled the world with 23 more, including a famous one in Manhattan “catering to the stretch-limousine crowd of arts and entertainment stars, society celebs, princes, playboys and Beautiful People,” as Robert D. McFadden wrote in his obituary. Among the many regulars there was Ivana Trump, the gilded businesswoman and tabloid fixture who died in July.

Jazz was hardly played under sparkling, spinning disco balls. But individuals who got here out to listen to the daring improvisations of Pharoah Sanders or Ramsey Lewis (perhaps partially for his pop hits) were never searching for glitter.

The classical music world was bereft with the passings of the difficult modernist composers George Crumb and Harrison Birtwistle; the fantastic Spanish mezzo-soprano and contralto Teresa Berganza, who would have thrilled Mozart, Rossini and Bizet themselves had they lived long enough; and no fewer than 4 virtuoso pianists: Joseph Kalichstein, Radu Lupu, Alexander Toradze and Nicholas Angelich.

The book-loving public lost a number of men and ladies of letters, none more celebrated — or more widely read — than the favored historian (and companionable voice of documentaries) David McCullough; the novelist Hillary Mantel, who lifted Thomas Cromwell out of the sixteenth century and made him something of a Twenty first-century household name (aided by London’s West End, Broadway and a PBS mini-series) while elevating the genre of historical fiction; and Barbara Ehrenreich, who went undercover among the many working class to reveal the underside of American prosperity.

Visionaries in all modes of art passed into art history. William Klein had felt the energy buzzing on city streets and froze it along with his camera. Claes Oldenburg had transformed on a regular basis objects — a clothespin, a shoe, a hamburger — into monumental commentaries on the society that manufactures them. Sam Gilliam had turned colourful drapes into lush abstract works undulating in three dimensions. Carmen Herrera, against this, had been content with a flat canvas to work out her striking geometric configurations, and did so for many years in obscurity before fame tardily arrived when she was 89.

The subset art of the cartoon suffered a rash of losses in 2022. Three of its practitioners were, in additional ways than one, signature contributors to The Recent Yorker: Jean-Jacques Sempe, George Booth and Lee Lorenz. Two others — Diane Noomin and Aline Kominsky Crumb — took an underground route in breaking into the male bastion of comics, each with an often outrageously satirical or self-deprecating female eye.

Speaking of eyes, André Leon Talley had one of the vital discerning in the style world as a top editor (notably a Black one in a largely white industry), curator, creator and tv celebrity. He had not only presence — as a flamboyant 6-foot-6 caped crusader for cutting-edge style — but prescience, championing, amongst others, the revolutionary Japanese designer Issey Miyake, dead at 84, before most others did.

Within the pantheon of truly transformative sports stars, Bill Russell was not the just one to die in 2022; the opposite, just days before the 12 months was out, was Pelé, the magnetic Brazilian whose wondrous play with a soccer ball had a good greater globe in his thrall.

All year long that they had worthy company, even when on some scale these were lesser mortals. Hockey specifically lost a bunch of stars: Guy Lafleur, who held aloft five Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens; Clark Gilles, Mike Bossy and Jean Potvin, who together captured 4 of those trophies, all in a row, with the Recent York Islanders; and Emile Francis, who as a head coach and general manager built the Recent York Rangers right into a Stanley Cup winner. All but Potvin are in hockey’s Hall of Fame.

Women’s basketball lost Lusia Harris, the primary ​​Black woman inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, and a quartet of ladies’s sports could claim Joan Joyce as one in all their very own: golf, volleyball, basketball and, most of all, softball, where she carved out a heroic profession as, without much dispute, the sport’s best pitcher, solidifying her stature as perhaps the best underrecognized athlete of her generation.

Recognizability was never a difficulty for a clutch of business leaders who died this 12 months, not less than by way of the products they purveyed. Bruce Katz’s name may not ring a bell with most consumers, but his Rockport shoes would. Dietrich Mateschitz gave us a caffeinated jolt with Red Bull. With others, the tipoff was indeed within the name: Herb Kohler (bathtubs and toilets), John Koss (headphones), Charles Entenmann (cakes and cookies) and Roger Vlasic (pickles).

Research scientists, meanwhile, bequeathed us nothing lower than a more hopeful world on the medical front. Luc Montagnier isolated H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. Samuel Katz was on a team that gave us the measles vaccine. Deborah Nickerson found hidden in our genes clues to heart problems, autism and a rare syndrome that causes malformations. Martin Mower and a colleague got here up with an implantable defibrillator, saving the lives of countless heart patients. Donald Pinkel almost single-handedly vanquished childhood leukemia. Beatrice Mintz unraveled a number of the mysteries of cancer. And Ronald Weinstein, prefiguring the world we live in now, showed that amongst the various things that will be done remotely, one was to diagnose cancer.

Finally, there have been those that fought the great fight for a number of causes. Lois Curtis was a catalyst behind a Supreme Court ruling that said no to warehousing the developmentally disabled in mental institutions after they were fully able to living in their very own communities. The lawyer Lisa Brodyaga arrange shop, and a refugee camp, within the Rio Grande Valley to champion asylum seekers fleeing violence of their Central American countries.

Paul Farmer was indefatigable in bringing high-quality medical care to a number of the world’s poorest people. Ella Bhat was credited with bringing a measure of economic and social justice to thousands and thousands of low-wage working women in India. Rusty Mae Moore sought protected havens for transgender people. Urvashi Vaid, one other lawyer, campaigned for the rights of gay men and her sister lesbians. Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, spread a message of nonviolence globally, influencing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And Clyde Bellecourt moved from violent resistance on behalf of beleaguered fellow Native Americans to founding a raft of educational and assistance programs to support them, including a Peacemaker Center for the young.

All made a difference, but all died knowing that their work was unfinished, that because the world spun on without them others would should pick up their banners and carry them into the following 12 months, and the following.

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