From Juice WRLD to Toni Morrison
We remember those who have sadly died this year and look back at their lives, careers and the legacies they left behind
Learning of the death of one of your childhood heroes is always a sad experience, and it seems 2019 was a year when we had to say goodbye to too many of them.
No matter your area of interest, we all would have keenly felt the loss of someone from the celebrity world this year. Funnily, a pet (cat) appear on this list.
Here’s a look at those we’ve lost in 2019, who have and will continue to inspire generations for years to come.
Actor Rene Auberjonois died on December 8 aged 79 after suffering from metastatic lung cancer. Aubjernonois appeared in a variety of well known roles during his career. He portrayed shape shifter Odo in Stark Trek: Deep Space Nine, Father Mulcahy in M.A.S.H., the Chef in Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Paul Lewiston in legal comedy drama Boston Legal & his role as Sebastian Baye in the Broadway musical Coco earned him a Tony Award in 1969.
The famed puppeteer who brought “Sesame Street” characters Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch to life for nearly five decades until 2018 — died at home in Connecticut on Dec. 8, “Sesame Street” announced. He was 85 and had been living with dystonia, an incurable neurological movement disorder, for some time, according to the show.
The 21-year-old rising music star known for hits including “Lucid Dreams” and “All Girls Are the Same” died on Dec. 8 shortly after suffering a medical emergency at Chicago’s Midway airport following a flight back to his hometown, it was reported the same day that the cause of his death is yet to be determined. The rapper “Jarad Anthony Higgins” popularly recognized as juice WRLD is also known for his feature on Travis Scott’s “AstroWorld” album.
The actress best known as Rosario Salazar, Karen Walker’s maid and confidante on “Will & Grace” died on Dec. 1 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles from heart failure following a brief illness at 83. “Shelley’s greatest pride as an actress was in playing the indomitable Rosario, in a comedy series that furthered the cause of social equity and fairness for LGBTQ people. She also took pride in portraying a strong, loving yet feisty Latina character,” her husband of 46 years, Walter Dominguez, said in a statement”. She believed that the best way to change hearts and minds was through comedy.
Died at her Los Angeles home on Oct. 4 following a long battle with cancer, her daughter, producer-journalist Suzanne Kay, told The Hollywood Reporter. When Diahann 84 , was cast in the NBC comedy “Julia” in 1968, she became the first African American actress to star on a primetime TV series. She won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Emmy for her performance as a widowed nurse raising her son. She also had memorable roles in the film “Claudine” and on TV’s “Dynasty.” Diahann made history on the Broadway stage too. In 1962, she became the first black woman to win the best actress in a musical Tony Award, for her performance in “No Strings”.
The four-time Emmy winner died on Aug. 30 at 80. Starred as Rhoda Morgenstern on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Rhoda,” battled a number of illnesses in recent years. She was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009 and in 2013, doctors discovered she’d developed a rare brain cancer. On July 8, her husband, Tony Cacciotti, launched a GoFundMe campaign, The Valerie Harper Cancer Support Fund, to raise money for her cancer treatments. In a July 23 Facebook post, he revealed that Valerie’s doctors had recommended that she enter hospice care but that they’d decided against following those recommendations.
The handsome acting veteran whose career was revived after Quentin Tarantino cast him as bail bondsman Max Cherry in 1997’s “Jackie Brown” — a performance that earned him an Oscar nomination, has died. He passed away at his home in Los Angeles from brain cancer on Oct. 11. Robert, 78, also appeared in notable projects including the big screen’s “Medium Cool” and “Mulholland Drive” and TV’s “Banyon,” the “Twin Peaks” revival and “Breaking Bad.”
Director, screenwriter and producer John Singleton, the filmmaker best known for movies including “Boyz N the Hood,” “Poetic Justice” and “Higher Learning,” died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on April 29 after his family made the heartbreaking decision to take him off life support. He’d suffered a stroke on April 17. The two-time Oscar nominee was 51.
Passed away in his sleep on June 6 at the age of 20. His family released a statement explaining that while he was sleeping, the actor suffered a seizure due to a medical condition for which he was being treated. Paramedics were unable to revive him. The former child star was also known for his work in “Grown Ups” and on the Disney Channel’s “Jessie.”
Bassist and keyboardist for 1960s band, the Monkees, died on Feb. 21 at 77. No cause of death has been revealed. The musician, songwriter and TV comedy star was diagnosed with the rare tongue cancer adenoid cystic carcinoma a decade ago, though he recovered and returned to life on the road with the Monkees in 2012.
Iconic American author Toni Morrison is the first black woman to win a Nobel Prize in literature, also won a Pulitzer Prize for her novel “Beloved” in 1988, died on Aug. 5 at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York, her publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, confirmed. She was 88. The consummate writer who treasured the written word, whether her own, her students or others, she read voraciously and was most at home when writing.
Men in Black” star Rip Torn who earned an Academy Award nomination in 1984 for his performance in “Cross Creek” and won an Emmy in 1996 for his work on “The Larry Sanders Show” died at his home in Lakeville, Connecticut, on July 9. He was 88. His representatives, who confirmed his death to multiple media outlets, did not reveal a cause of death.
Fasasi Olabankewin “Dagunro”
The veteran Yoruba actor famously known as ‘Dagunro,’ for playing traditional roles in several Yoruba epic movies died in Osogbo on Thursday, June 13, 2019 after a brief illness. The late actor, who celebrated his 50th year on stage on April 26, 2015 at the Blue Roof, LTV 8, Agindigbi, Ikeja, Lagos, had some movies to his name which include ‘Kakaki ‘Leku’, ‘Ikilo Agba’, and ‘Inubibi’, released in 2008, 2008 and 2007 respectively. He began acting in Primary 5 and two of his children, Kazeem Iyanda Olabankewin and Jamiu Olabankewin, are also theatre arts practitioners. He was 70.
The creative director for Chanel who also designed for LVMH’s Fendi as well as his own eponymous label, died in Paris on Feb. 19. He was 85. Reports reveal the design legend had quietly been battling pancreatic cancer.
Five-time Oscar nominee and three-time Golden Globe winner Albert Finney ,82, died on Feb. 7 in London’s Royal Marsden Hospital from a chest infection, though the star is known for his work in “Tom Jones,” “Murder on the Orient Express” and “Erin Brockovich” & was also battling cancer.
Grammy-nominated rapper Nipsey Hussle (real name: Ermias Davidson Asghedom) was shot and killed outside his store, Marathon Clothing, in Los Angeles on March 31, police confirmed. Stars including Kevin Hart, Drake, Rihanna and more took to social media to mourn the 33-year-old music star, who leaves behind two children including one with actress-model girlfriend Lauren London.
The actor, 59 was best known for playing Tommy in “The Karate Kid” and its sequel, died on Sept. 27 at a Pennsylvania medical center following a lengthy hospitalization for kidney and liver issues, his family told TMZ. He left acting for years but returned to Hollywood to reprise his role as Tommy on the 2019 YouTube TV series “Cobra Kai”.
On May 14, the internet-famous feline known as Grumpy Cat died in the arms of her human mother, Tabatha Bundesen, after suffering complications from a urinary tract infection. The cat, whose real name was Tardar Sauce, was 7.
On Sept. 23, poet, writer, musician and Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter died at 78 and his cause of death was not released.
The guitarist, 71, died on Oct. 26. Paul had been receiving treatment for liver issues following a 1994 hepatitis C diagnosis and a 2015 liver cancer diagnosis.
Race-car driver Jessi CombsCombs, 36 died attempting to beat her own land-speed record on Aug. 27. The “Mythbusters”, “Overhauling” and “Xtreme 4×4” star died in a jet-powered car accident in the Alvord Desert in southeast Oregon. She was a brilliant & top-notch builder, engineer, driver, fabricator, and science communicator.
LinChung Duke Oliver
The ‘Do Good’ actor died of a car crash on his way to Lagos from his mom’s burial on April 2. He was 45. Duke Oliver is widely referred to as LinChung and Sylvanus for his role in Basorge Tariah Jnr produced series, ‘Do Good’ and once worked at Star FM on a radio programme alongside a few other comedians.
The comedy star Arte Johnson, 90, who won an Emmy for his work on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” in the ’60s, died in Los Angeles on July 3 from heart failure.
Grammy-winning jazz drummer Lawrence Leathers, 37, was found dead in the stairwell of his Bronx apartment building on June 2. Police arrested a woman identified in media reports as the musician’s live-in girlfriend, Lisa Harris, as well as Sterling Aguilar, who’s been characterized as a romantic rival, and later charged them with first- and second-degree manslaughter and criminal negligent homicide, People magazine reported. The Medical Examiner’s Office later confirmed that Lawrence’s cause of death was homicidal asphyxia with compression of neck.
The retired actor joined the list of Nollywood stars who died in 2019 following injuries sustained during an accident that occurred on May 11. He was 36.
Popular YouTube star Grant Thompson who’s known for the videos he shared on his “King of Random” channel on the social media platform, died in a paragliding accident in Utah on July 29. He was 38.
British pro wrestler Adrian “Lionheart” McCallum, 36, who won the ICW World Heavyweight Championship title in December 2018, was found dead in his home in Ayr, Scotland, on June 18. Police said the wrestling star’s death is not being treated as suspicious
British child actress Mya-Lecia Naylor, who starred on U.K. comedies “Millie Inbetween” & “Almost Never” and got her start on “Absolutely Fabulous”. Died on April 7, the BBC confirmed days later. She was 16. Her cause of death was not revealed.
British reality star Mike Thalassitis of “Love Island” fame committed suicide on March 16, London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed. Mike,26, who’d recently lost his beloved grandmother hanged himself in a North London park. Toxicology results made public at a coroner’s inquest in June revealed that he had cocaine, alcohol and acetaminophen in his system at the time of his death.
Longtime “Wild Kingdom” host and naturalist Jim Fowler died at his home in Norwalk, Connecticut, on May 8, his family confirmed.
Nigeria’s first model, Yemi Fawaz, 64 was the pioneer of professional modeling in Nigeria. She died in the United States on Wednesday 20th of February from an unknown ailment. The 64-year-old was the first Nigerian supermodel. She left Nigeria in 1997 and returned in 2016.
Cha In Ha
The South Korean actor died at the age of 27 on December 3. “We are truly heartbroken to deliver sad news to everyone who has sent lots of love and support to Cha In Ha until now. We are filled with grief at this news that is still hard to believe,” his management agency, Fantagio, said in a statement.
The Taiwanese-Canadian actor and model died at age 35 on November 27 after suffering an apparent heart attack while filming the Chinese reality show “Chase Me” in Ningbo, China.
George Atkinson III
The former NFL running back died at the age of 27 on December 2, nearly one year after his twin brother Josh Atkinson’s suicide. George had reportedly been battling depression since Josh’s death & his cause of death was not immediately announced.
The K-Pop star was found dead at age 28 in her South Korea home on November 24, TMZ reported. Hara, who was a member of the group Kara, posted a photo of herself on her Instagram two days before her death with the caption: “Good night.” Her cause of death is under investigation.
The Minnesota Twins prospect was found dead at age 23 in his New Zealand hotel room on November 18, days after he joined the Australian Baseball League’s Auckland Tuatara. The Tuatara said in a press release that “preliminary indications suggest he died of natural causes.”
The Puerto Rican astrologer known for his over-the-top televised readings of horoscopes died in San Juan on November 2. Mercado, 89, whose readings were featured in the final segment of the Spanish news show Primer Impacto, always ended his appearances by blowing a kiss and saying, “Above all, much, much, much love.” According to an exhibition at the Historical Miami museum earlier this year, his appearances reached 120 million Latino viewers a day for more than 30 years.
The Paramount executive, known for producing “China town”, “Rosemary’s Baby”, “Urban Cowboy”, “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” and more, died on October 26. He was 89 years old.
The NFL Hall of Famer died at the age of 78, the Pro Football Hall of Fame revealed on October 22. The former Oakland Raiders defensive back played 16 seasons in the American Football League and the NFL. The Raiders said in a statement that “his legendary performance on the field changed the way the cornerback position was played and his valued guidance as a coach, mentor and administrator permeated the organization and touched countless individuals both on and off the pitch.
The South Korean pop star and actress died at the age of 25 on October 14. Sulli’s manager discovered her dead at home after being unable to reach her by phone for several hours. A police official told CNN that “it seems she killed herself,” though an official cause of death was not released.
The comedian known as the King of Camp and Confetti died on October 6 in Beverly Hills at the age of 84. His publicist, Harlan Boll, said that Taylor had been hospitalized in the intensive care unit at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after suffering a seizure days earlier. Taylor, who hosted “The $1.98 Beauty Show” appeared in films including “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York”, “Indecent Proposal” and “Wayne’s World 2”. According to his official website, he made more than 2,000 appearances on TV, on shows including The Tonight Show, The Gong Show, Hollywood Squares and Match Game.
The Belly actor and Grammy-winning reggae artist died in his mid-50s on September 30 after a car accident in Ontario, Canada. “There are no words!!!!!! Sleep with the angels my King!” his wife and executive assistant, Jewlz Sykes, with whom he shared children, wrote on Instagram.
The legendary horror actor, whose credits included House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects, died at age 80 on September 21. His wife, Susan L. Oberg, wrote on Instagram two weeks earlier that he had been involved in an unspecified accident, calling it a “nasty spill.”
Kylie Rae Harris
The 30-year-old “Twenty Years From Now” singer died in New Mexico in a three-vehicle crash on September 4. “Everyone that knew Kylie will be aware how much she loved her family and beyond that, how much she loved music. The best tribute to her unmatched enthusiasm for both is to spread as much love as you can today, and listen to music that fully inspires you.”
Joana Sainz Garcia
The Spanish singer died at age 30 in September while performing on stage in a music festival in Las Berlanas, Spain. Sainz Garcia was struck and killed after a pyrotechnics explosion hit her in the stomach while she was singing and dancing alongside the Super Hollywood Orchestra group.
Saoirse Kennedy Hill
The 22-year-old granddaughter of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was pronounced dead at Cape Cod Hospital in Massachusetts on August 1 after suffering an apparent overdose at her family’s compound. “Our hearts are shattered by the loss of our beloved Saoirse,” the Kennedy family said in a statement to The New York Times.
England lost a good one on Feb. 9, 2019. That morning, rapper Cadet, whose real name is Blaine Johnson, tragically died in a car crash. According to the Britain’s Press Association (via CNN), Cadet was en route to a performance at a Keele University in Staffordshire, when the taxi he was traveling in collided with a van while the drivers of the vehicles made it out (although they were taken to a hospital with serious injuries) , Cadet died immediately at the scene.
Compiled by Bello Sodeeq Adekunle