By Jess Utz 

A look back at who we lost in 2019

Jess, shut up!


Last updated 1/8/2020 at 9:34am

Every year, as I look back at the lists of the famous people who passed away, there are always a few that shock me. I had not heard, or I just plain missed, that one, and I am flooded with memories of how we knew each other. In the sporting arena, on the big screen or on the radio, sometimes famous people become our friends, even though we never meet. Here are some that I will miss who died in 2019.

Beth Chapman. A lot of you just said who? She was the beloved and fierce wife of Dog the Bounty Hunter, and many of us watched week after week as she controlled her husband and family as they caught bad guys all over the world. She was a tough lady and was respected by many. On June 26th she lost her ultimate fight with cancer. She was 51.

There were some icons in sports who passed this year, as well: Junior Johnson from NASCAR; Pernell Whitaker, boxing; Bill Buckner and Frank Robinson from baseball. But there was one that you may all have missed whom I watched every week as a kid. Mean Gene Okerland, the beloved host for Professional Wrestling, died early last year from kidney failure at the age of 76. I watched every week as he interviewed the likes of Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, The Road Warriors and the Undertaker. He always had the perfect combination of classy, smart and quick wit. He was a good guy behind the mic all the time and called it like he saw it and never backed down from the heels. Wrestling will miss him greatly.

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In the music world, Larry Junstrom, a founding member of one of the most iconic bands ever, Lynyrd Skynyrd, died at age 70. He was also the bass player for .38 Special until 2014 when he was forced to retire due to a hand injury. He was known in the music world as a true bassist with excellent instincts for rhythm. The music of Skynard is considered an iconic sound that has rarely been duplicated.

A lot of actors and actresses passed this year, and I had a hard time deciding whom to write about. There was Doris Day, and Diahann Carol, two iconic actresses on opposite ends of the spectrum who set the bar for all other actresses to follow. There was also Rip Torn, Danny Aiello, Robert Forester and John Singleton.

But there were two who really hit close to home for me. Tim Conway was the first comedian I loved to watch. I would watch the “Carol Burnett Show” with my grandparents, and I loved to laugh at his silly faces and comedic nature. He was also in some Disney classics that I still love to this day. “The Apple Dumpling Gang” and the legendary “Dorf” are my favorites when I think back to Conway and his career. But I loved that he was not afraid to laugh at himself, either. I like to think some of my humor evolves from watching him and Rich Little, my two all-time-favorite comedians.

But with out a doubt, anyone my age who grew up watching the teenage soap opera “Beverly Hills 90210” knew who Luke Perry was. He played Dylan McKay on the show that ran from 1990 to 1995 and then again from 1998 to 2000. He was the boy every girl had a crush on and every guy wanted to be like. He recently had a role on “Riverdale,” but on March 4 he suffered a massive stroke at his home and never recovered. He was 52. One of my all-time favorite movies is “8 seconds,” the movie based on the life of Lane Frost. Luke Perry played Frost, and it is the first movie I will admit to getting misty eyed over. Luke is one of those actors who will ever be etched in my memory as growing up as a teenager in the 1990s.

There were others who passed this year that I just don’t have the time or space to write about. But what is for certain is that the older I get the more people I know pass on. I love to look back and remember the things from my past and sadly it takes the death of someone to actually look back and delve into things that are locked away in our memories. It also makes us cherish the time we do have together, even if it is on the screen of our TV or in the headphones on our ears.


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