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Remembering those we lost during 2019

It’s likely that you lost a cultural icon who meant something to you during 2019, whether from the world of politics, art or sports.

We were reminded this past year of the importance a single person can make through the loses of a couple of giants from the world of politics in U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings in October and Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens in July. Cummings, the son of a sharecropper, was told by a school counselor that he was too slow to learn and spoke poorly, yet he went on to become an influential member of the House of Representatives. Stevens, who served on the court from 1975 though 2010, was appointed by Republican Gerald Ford but emerged as a liberal voice who backed abortion rights.

The year that marked the 50th anniversary of man’s first steps on the moon also saw the deaths of two people who helped make the late Neil Armstrong’s accomplishment possible — Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, who was the first person to walk in space, died in October, and Chris Kraft, the founder of NASA’s mission control, died in July.

Many entertainers left us during the past year, and a few really stand out, including Doris Day, who we remember not only as an actress and singer but as an animal rights activist. She died in May at the age of 97.

We lost Daryl Dragon, who teamed with his then-wife Tony Tennille in the pop duo Captain and Tennille; Carol Channing, the ebullient star of musical comedy who performed as Dolly Levi in almost 5,000 performances of “Hello Dolly!”; Peter Tork, the bass player of “The Monkees;” and Katherine Helmond, who starred in the ABC sitcoms “Who’s the Boss” and “Soap.”

Also leaving us in 2019 were Luke Perry, who is best known as Dylan McKay from “Beverly Hills, 90210;” Peggy Lipton, who starred in “The Mod Squad” and “Twin Peaks;” Tim Conway, who made us laugh on “McHale’s Navy” and “The Carol Burnett Show;” a couple of Rips — Torn and Taylor; as well as Peter Fonda, the son of a Hollywood legend; and Diahann Carroll, who as TV’s “Julia” was the first black woman to star in a non-servant role. Those who follow the world of music lost Ric Ocasek of the Cars, Ginger Baker of Cream and Andre Previn, a renowned conductor, pianist and musician who was the music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony from 1976 through 1984.

Sports fans mourned the loss of Frank Robinson, the first black manager in Major League Baseball; Niki Lauda, a Formula 1 great; and John Havlicek, who was born in Martins Ferry and became a legendary basketball player at Ohio State and in the NBA with the Boston Celtics.

Gone from the news business were Cokie Roberts, known for her work at ABC and NPR; and Sander Vanocur, the last surviving journalist who questioned Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in the first televised presidential debate. From the world of business, we lost H. Ross Perot and David Koch, as well as Lee Iacocca, the auto executive and master pitchman who brought the Mustang to Ford and later cemented his spot as a titan of the car world when he resurrected Chrysler.

While all of those deaths had an impact on us, it’s important to keep in mind that we’ve all been touched by personal losses during the past year, having mourned the deaths of friends and relatives. Those are the people we must remember to keep in mind as we move forward, because they are the ones who helped to shape our lives.

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