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Remembering earthly celebrities now celestial stars

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Not a single year has ever passed without grief, sorrow and often disbelief that individuals departed.

From the beginning of time, individuals have succumbed from life’s woes — some with reason, others with reasonable doubt and still others due to unfortunate circumstances resulting from accidents, war, crime or illness.

When celebrities die, those who admired their life’s contribution seem personally shocked and wounded.

Twenty seventeen had its share of expected and unexpected tragedies.

Throughout the years, the month of December seems to arrive with more than its share death notices.

A popular saying is that they arrive in threes, in 2008 Jamaican musician Byron Lee, South Africa’s Miriam Makeba AKA Mama Africa and folk singer Odetta stirred the senses when the triumvirate died in rapid succession.

Often the most hammering blow seems to hit hardest on the day the birth of Christ is celebrated.

Last year it was British Wham! solo singer George Michael who departed on Dec. 25.

Prior to that, it was soul singer James Brown, British actor Charlie Chaplain, funnyman, singer, and actor Dean Martin, actress Eartha Kitt and a long list of celebrated stars.

This year, loss of life sent hosannas to Dick Gregory, an alleged first Black comedian, poet, satirist, civil rights activist and political commentarian.

Stand-up comic Don Rickles departed with a legacy that will live for a very long time.

The Village Voice lost three outstanding contributors when Wayne Barrett, Nat Hentoff and Martha Swope died. Swope was a photographer while Barrett penned the most insightful and revealing exposes. Hentoff was a historian as well as a jazz and country music critic.

The Daily News lost veteran columnist Jimmy Breslin and celebrity reporter Liz Smith. Walter Smith, publisher of the New York Beacon, died after a brief illness.

NBC-TV reporter Gabe Pressman and CBS-TV newscaster Michelle Marsh also succumbed after dedicated service to viewers of the New York television media.

And the nation paused to honor Mary Tyler Moore, a Queens-born actress and feminist who made a breakthrough on television for women. She wore pants which was a no-no back in the ’60s and ’70s when she featured as Dick Van Dyke’s wife on his show and broke the glass ceiling demanding equal pay as a news editor in the fictitious television newsroom which billed her as the star.

The world grieved again when the suave and distinguished British Sir Roger Moore passed. Best known as the star of “The Saint” on television, he even became more revered for his elegant portrayal of James Bond. The British knight was beloved to the end.

Another UK name that will no longer make the front pages is Anthony Armstrong Jones. To many he was a photographer. To Queen Elizabeth II he was her brother-in-law and Lord Snowdon, the commoner who won the heart of her sister Princess Margaret.

Celebrated funnyman Jerry Lewis, Playboy Magazine founder Hugh Hefner, actress and singer Della Reese, singer musician Fats Domino, jazz drummer Grady Tate are also in memorium.

Jamaican Olympian Mal Spence, businessman Lowell Hawthorne, Jamaican singer Ronnie Davis, Jamaican sportscaster Lindy Delapenha, Jamaican veteran journalist Ian Boyne and Ronald Blackwood also died this year. Blackwood was a Jamaican and mayor of Mount Vernon. He won acclaim as the first elected Black mayor in all of New York State. He was mayor from 1985 to 1996. On Feb. 22 he died at age 91.

Singing legends Al Jarreau, Cuba Gooding, Chuck Berry, Backup singer Warren “Pete” Moore, of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Maxx Kidd (“Doing The Butt”) country singer Glen Campbell, jazz and blues singer Keely Smith, pop singer David Cassidy, cabaret and Broadway specialist Novella Nelson will forever be regaled for the fine work they completed in music throughout their lifetime.

Beloved philanthropist David Rockefeller, television actress Chelsea Brown (of “Laugh In”) stand-up comedian Charlie Murphy, world boxing champion Jake LaMotta aka “The Raging Bull,” actor and football player Bernie Casey, film director Jonathan Demme; Adam West, the original “Batman,” and “Mission Impossible” star Martin Landau along with game show host Monty Hall (“Let’s Make a Deal”) sadly departed this earth this year.

Former Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) leader Roy Inniss, actor Robert Guillaume, and my personal favorite comedic actor Jim Nabors commanded notice when he died. Nabors was born in Alabama but warmed the hearts of television audiences when he portrayed Gomer Pyle on the “Andy Griffith Show,” a show based in North Carolina. Contrasted with that country-bumpkin act he was also a classic opera singer.

Actor Earle Hayman, who portrayed Russell Huxtable, father of Dr. Cliff Huxtable on the Bill Cosby Show along with rapper Prodigy, Judge Joseph Wapner (“The People’s Court”), Howard Beach former resident and convicted criminal Jon Lester were all mourned by loved ones this year.

Saint Lucia lost one of its most prominent citizens when poet laureate Derek Walcott died at age 87. He won a Nobel Prize in literature and was last in Brooklyn in 2008.

Although there was less than media murmur with the passing of former Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega his troubled relationship with the United States will probably remain a resounding reminder of a union that soured, caused his ouster and imprisonment.

Darcus Howe, a civil rights activist from Trinidad and Tobago, was laid to rest earlier this year.

And while celebrated names are often recalled in memorial tributes, the untimely deaths of many homeless persons, disfranchised and unsung heroes must always be considered.

Likewise deaths caused by terrorists and insane individuals created heartfelt sympathy and are among those we cherish and will be among the galaxy shining hope and optimism for generations to come.

Undoubtedly though, names such as Charles Manson, a mass murderer, Irma and Maria, two hurricanes that wreaked havoc on nations are dead to this world and will not be missed in 2017 or beyond.

Hopefully, 2018 will be fraught with life, peace and happiness. To all, my wish is a Happy New Year.

Catch You On The Inside!

Updated 11:39 am, January 12, 2018
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