by Brett Leveridge
As 2017 comes to a close, we pause to remember some of the inspiring individuals who left us over the past 12 months. There are those whose work made the world a better place, such as actor-humanitarian Jerry Lewis; others who inspired us with their heroic accomplishments (astronaut Eugene Cernan, pioneering woman pilot Dawn Seymour), and those, such as Della Reese, Mel Tillis, Fats Domino, Mary Tyler Moore, Rose Marie and others, who entertained us and made us smile.
Actor, singer and ordained minister Della Reese enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a singer, actress and ordained minister. She began as a gospel singer and would go on to record many popular hits as a pop and jazz performer before turning to acting later in life, with her greatest success coming on the inspirational program Touched by an Angel. Reese was the first African-American woman to host her own talk show (Della, 1969-70) and the first Black woman to fill in as guest host for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show.
At their peak, Jerry Lewis and his former partner Dean Martin were one of the most popular comedy acts of all time, and when the pair parted ways, Lewis continued to enjoy great success as a solo.
But it was his tireless efforts on behalf of children with muscular dystrophy for which Lewis will be best remembered. Over the course of nearly five decades, Lewis raised more than $2 billion for that worthy cause, keeping the search for a cure in the spotlight with his annual telethon.
One of 12 children born to a sharecroppers in Arkansas, Campbell began playing guitar as a child and kicked his career into gear in Los Angeles as a member of the famed Wrecking Crew, a group of accomplished, versatile and in-demand studio musicians. Campbell played on recordings by Frank Sinatra, the Monkees and the Beach Boys, among many others. In the late '60s, Campbell began a string of solo hits that made him a household name; he even had his own television show on CBS for four years.
Campbell inspired the world in a different way beginning in 2011, when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He dealt with the disease with dignity and courage, continuing to record and perform as long as he was able. When he was finally forced to withdraw from the spotlight, his fans around the world gave thanks for those last few performances and recordings he had worked so hard to share with them.
During World War II, Seymour, a Cornell University graduate, volunteered for a civilian pilot training program but was warned she wouldn't be allowed to fly. Undeterred, she completed the training and was later one of 1,100 women in the Women's Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs), the first American women to fly military aircraft. Because the WASPs were considered civilian pilots—they flew military planes in the U.S. on transport and training missions—they were denied official recognition, including death benefits, even though 38 of them lost their lives.
Finally, in 2010, Seymour and her fellow WASP pilots received the Congressional Gold Medal for their achievements and service.
A jovial and witty presence on television, Hall is best remembered for his lengthy stint as co-creator and host of the popular game show Let's Make a Deal, but he was also an active humanitarian, raising nearly $1 billion over his lifetime for such organizations as the Muscular Dystrophy Association and Variety Clubs International.
Cernan was the last Apollo astronaut to walk on the moon, as part of the Apollo 17 mission. Apollo 17 was Cernan's space flight--he performed a spacewalk as part of the Gemini 9 mission in 1966 and was a member of the crew for Apollo 10, what has been called a "dry run" for Apollo 11's first moon landing.
Cernan, who wrote his only child's initials in the dust on the moon, said of his moonwalk, "It was perhaps the brightest moment of my life, and I can't go back. Enriched by a singular event that is larger than life, I no longer have the luxury of being ordinary."
Guillaume experienced a difficult childhood—he didn't know his father, and his mother was a prostitute—but his grandmother saw to it that he received a good education. Guillaume, who attended St. Louis University and Washington University on his way to long and successful career in theatre, movies and television, was nominated six times for a prime-time Emmy, winning twice, and for a Golden Globe three times.
Guillaume was among the first celebrities to become active in the fight against AIDS—he lost his son Jacques to that disease in 1990—and after suffering a stroke while starring in the television series Sports Night, Guillaume became a spokesman for the American Stroke Association.
Clark was a Steward First Class in May 1945 when Japanese Kamikaze pilots attacked the U.S.S. Aaron Ward, the destroyer on which Clark was serving. Clark was on the eight-man fire-fighting team that day, and as he put it, "First plane hit, wiped out all of these guys, all of the seven men. I was the only one left." Clark was blown across the ship and suffered a broken collarbone, but nonetheless he dragged several men to safety and put out every fire, one of which was in the ammunition locker. That could have blown the ship in two.
Clark's name was kept out of the battle report.. “It wouldn’t look good to say one black man saved the ship,” Clark said in 2011. The ship's captain gave Clark extra leave and gave him duty that kept him out of harm's way, but he was not given his due credit for his heroics. Finally, in 2012, thanks to the efforts of documentary filmmaker Sheila Dunec and Clark’s representative in Congress, Anna G. Eshoo, Clark, was honored. Clark, who was 95 at the time, was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal by then-Navy Secretary Ray Mabus; it was, said Secretary Mabus, a "long, long overdue recognition" of Mr. Clark's heroism.
Over the course of his 65-year association with Guideposts, Sherrill contributed to Daily Guideposts and was the author and editor behind hundreds of Guideposts stories, but his work was not limited to Guideposts. He and his wife, Elizabeth Sherrill, also wrote, with Pastor David Wilkerson, the huge bestseller The Cross and the Switchblade and produced Corrie ten Boom’s spiritual classic The Hiding Place.
John was also an active participant over the past 50 years in Guideposts' Writers Workshops, sharing his insights, faith and passion for writing with those who hoped to follow in his footsteps.
Doyle was a Daily Guideposts contributor of long standing and greatly admired by his colleagues and his readers, many of whom came to think of him as a friend. Doyle, who was born in New York and attended from Notre Dame, edited Portland Magazine at the University of Portland in Oregon for more than 25 years and also was a prolific author of novels, short stories, poems and essays. He was also a proud husband to his wife, Mary Miller Doyle, and father to their beloved children, Liam, Joseph, and Lily.
As his his fellow Daily Guideposts contributor Mark Collins wrote after Doyle's passing, "Reading Brian Doyle was like watching a bizarre carnival: his style was singular—long strings of endless adjectives, like circus clowns emerging from a VW—then suddenly he seemed to be writing to you. About you. For you. For us all."
Moore, an Oscar-nominated actress and a six-time Emmy winner, is best remembered for her portrayals of Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show and Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, not to mention her much-acclaimed work in films and on the stage. Moore was also an author, penning two memoirs. In the first, After All, published in 1995, she revealed that she was a recovering alcoholic; in the second, Growing Up Again: Life, Loves, and Oh Yeah, Diabetes, published in 2009, she discussed the difficulties of living with Type 1 diabetes.
A humanitarian and philanthropist, Moore served as the International Chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and supported animal-rights charities such as the ASPCA and Broadway Barks, an animal adoption event held annually in New York City.
Domino, one of the first inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a recipient of the National Medal of Arts, charted more than 35 Top 40 singles during his long and storied career. In 2006, Domino released an album of unreleased recordings from the 1990s entitled Alive and Kickin', with proceeds from sales of the album going to benefit Tipitina's Foundation, which works to support indigent New Orleans musicians and to preserve and promote the Crescent City's signature sound.
Bond, the author of the beloved Paddington Bear books, was inspired to create the character by a teddy bear he spotted in a store near London's Paddington Station. He bought the bear as a gift for his wife and 10 days later had completed his first book in the series, A Bear Called Paddington, which was published in 1958. Bond went on to write dozens of stories about Paddington, which were collected in more than 25 books.
Bond's Paddington Bear stories were translated into 30 languages and sold more than 30 million copies worldwide.
Tillis, 1976 CMA Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year and 2011 recipient of the National Medal of Arts, had three dozen top 10 hits and delighted and inspired millions with his self-deprecating humor and humble manner. Tillis refused to let the fact that he stuttered hold him back. Tillis began his career by writing songs for other artists, among them Webb Pierce, Ray Price and Brenda Lee, but in 1958, he notched his first Top 40 hit as a performer with The Violet and a Rose; he followed that with a Top 25 hit, Sawmill.
Tillis fully came into his own as a recording artist in the 1970s, when he saw his records consistently reach the Top 10, even as other artists also continued to have hits with his songs. In 2007, Tillis was indcuted into both the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Nabors took the entertainment world by storm in the 1960s in the role of Gomer Pyle, first on The Andy Griffith Show and then on Nabors' spinoff series, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. Gomer's sunny disposition and positive outlook made him a beloved character, and Nabors was so closely associated with Gomer that in 2013 he was made an Honorary Sergeant during the 238th Marine Corps birthday ball celebration. Nabors was also blessed with a decidedly un-Gomer-like beautiful baritone singing voice and recorded many albums.
Osborne began his career as an actor, but because of his deep knowledge and fervent interest in cinema history, his friend Lucille Ball encouraged him to become a writer instead. Osborne heeded her advice and became a columnist for The Hollywood Reporter and the author of several books on Hollywood history.
Osborne is best remembered for his role as the on-air host of Turner Classic Movies, a role he filled from the network's inception in 1994. In introducing classic motion pictures, he shared insights, trivia and history with his viewers, and for many, he served as a guide to the pleasures to be found in Hollywood's Golden Age.
Rose Marie is best remembered for playing comedy writer Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke Show and for her long stint as a panelist on Hollywood Squares, but over the course of her 90-year career, she enjoyed success in vaudeville, radio, movies and on the Broadway stage and television.
She began performing professionally at age 4. Billed then as Baby Rose Marie, she had a popular national radio program and appeared in a 1927 musical short, Baby Rose Marie the Child Wonder, that was on the same bill as the first talking feature picture, The Jazz Singer.
One has to admire someone who spends nine decades doing what she loves. Rose Marie was promoting Wait for Your Laugh, a delightful new documentary about her amazing life and career, right up until the end.
In 1944, Recy Taylor, a 24-year-old wife and mother living in Abbeville, Alabama, was on her way home from church when she was abducted and sexually assaulted by a group of white men and left by the side of the road. No arrests were made and two grand juries, both composed entirely of white men, refused to bring indictments in the case, despite the fact that one of the men in the group admitted they had raped her.
Recy's struggle for justice inspired many civil rights leaders, including Rosa Parks, who, 10 years before she became a nationally known activist, was sent by the NAACP to investigate why there had been no arrests in Taylor's case. Though the perpetrators were never prosecuted, Alabama lawmakers passed a resolution in 2011 that apologized for the injustices Taylor had endured.
That resolution read, in part: “That we acknowledge the lack of prosecution for crimes committed against Recy Taylor by the government of the State of Alabama. That we declare such failure to act was, and is, morally abhorrent and repugnant, and that we do hereby express profound regret for the role played by the government of the State of Alabama in failing to prosecute the crimes.”
Recy Taylor died just three days short of her 98th birthday.
Grafton enthralled millions with her long-running series of "alphabet mysteries," which launched in 1982 with A Is for Alibi and featured private detective Kinsey Millhone. Grafton wrote seven novels, two of which were published, before beginning the alphabet series, and she also wrote for television and the movies for some years, creating a series called Nurse that ran on CBS for two seasons in the early 1980s.
Grafton achieved success in a field that had long been male-dominated, and she came within a single letter of completing her series. Y Is for Yesterday was published in August, but sadly, Z Is for Zero, a title Grafton had already decided upon, won't be written.
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