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By Jesse Utz 

Childhood greats who passed in 2016

 


The year 2016 saw many of my childhood heroes and icons pass away. As the year wound down, they seemed to come in waves and it got me thinking more and more about the celebrities who entertain us throughout the years, and in some cases become part of the family.

David Bowie passed on Jan. 10, and although he was not one of my favorite musicians, he was an icon in the music industry. He influenced many of the bands we currently listen to and broke the mold on showmanship and entertainment.

Alan Rickman passed four days later, and although you may not recognize the name, you would his face. He played a villain well, and in “Harry Potter,” “ Robin Hood” and “Die Hard” he scared, amused and gave us great tag lines we still use today, such as “Because it hurts more, you twit.”

A day later, one of my heroes died. “The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams’” was one of my all-time favorite shows growing up as a kid. He had a pet bear, a hawk and lived in a cabin in the woods. I loved that show and was sad to hear of Dan Haggerty’s passing.

Joe Alaskey passed Feb. 3. Who? Well, he was the voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and other cartoon characters. How many Saturday mornings did I find myself listening to his voice and did not even know it?

George Gaynes passed on Feb. 15, one more name you probably don’t recognize. But on the show “Punky Brewster,” he played her foster dad and was the chief of police on all the “Police Academy” movies. He was a likeable character, and I remember his laugh vividly.

Tony Burton died on Feb. 25. One role in a movie I will always remember him for: He was Apollo Creed’s trainer and then trained Rocky against the Russian in “Rocky 6.”

Nancy Reagan passed on March 6, and although she was not an entertainer, she did influence me. I will always remember her grace and charisma as a first lady, and I will always remember the “Presidential Challenge” that she brought to every school in the country.

Doris Roberts passed on April 17. The mother of Ray Romano on “Everyone Loves Raymond,” her quick wit and funny moments were scene stealers on the show.

Prince: April 21. I have always liked Prince, even when others made fun of me for it, but it was my Aunt Marcie and Uncle Wyatt whom I remember listening to singing the entire “Purple Rain” album many times. And I still say he was one of the best guitar players of all time, even though a guy named Joe disagrees with me.

Muhammad Ali, June 3. One of the all-time greatest boxers. Either you hated him or loved him, but he was still the greatest.

Buddy Ryan, Pat Summit, Gordie Howe and Arnold Palmer all passed this year also. Greats in their sporting fields, they brought passion and dominance in what they did.

Gene Wilder in August; Holly Dunn and Florence Henderson in November; John Glenn, Joseph Mascolo, Alan Thicke, Craig Sager, George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, all in December, each of whom all played important roles in my childhood and some in my adulthood.

It is hard to get older and see icons pass on around you. There were many others who passed also, but these were the ones who held a place in my heart and in many of yours, as well. The year 2016 was a rough year, and I am told it will get no easier as the years go by. We will see more and more of our beloved actors, actresses and icons jump in their Little Red Corvette and head out to Hotel California. Rest in peace, my friends, and may the force be with you.

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