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Among Those We Lost in 2019: 39 Less-Known Names

Including a socialite who was convicted but later acquitted of trying to kill his wealthy wife
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 28, 2019 6:01 AM CST
Among Those Who Died in 2019: 39 Less-Known Names
In this Jan. 27, 1998, file photo, Alicia Alonso, founder of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, listens during an interview in New York.   (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

(Newser) – Being reminded that Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Luke Perry, US Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, Karl Lagerfeld, Nipsey Hussle, Ross Perot, Toni Morrison, and Doris Day died in 2019 will likely come as no great shock. But the AP's roll call of some of the people who shuffled off this mortal coil in 2019 include figures who aren't necessarily household names but still have a unique place in history. Here are 39 such figures, with date of death cited:

  1. Jakiw Palij, 95. A former Nazi concentration camp guard who spent decades leading an unassuming life in New York City until his past was revealed. Jan. 9.
  2. John C. Bogle, 89. He simplified investing for the masses by launching the first index mutual fund and founded Vanguard Group. Jan. 16.
  3. Antonio Mendez, 78. A former CIA technical operations officer who helped rescue six US diplomats from Iran in 1980 and was portrayed by Ben Affleck in the film Argo. Jan. 19.
  4. Harris Wofford, 92. A former US senator from Pennsylvania and longtime civil rights activist who helped persuade John F. Kennedy to make a crucial phone call to the wife of Martin Luther King Jr. during the 1960 presidential campaign. Jan. 21.
  5. Frank Robinson, 83. The Hall of Famer was the first black manager in Major League Baseball and the only player to win the MVP award in both leagues. Feb. 7.
  6. Gordon Banks, 81. The World Cup-winning England goalkeeper who was also known for blocking a header from Pele that many consider the greatest save in soccer history. Feb. 12.
  7. Betty Ballantine, 99. She was half of a groundbreaking husband-and-wife publishing team that helped invent the modern paperback and vastly expand the market for science fiction and other genres through such blockbusters as The Hobbit and Fahrenheit 451. Feb. 12.

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  1. Lyndon LaRouche Jr., 96. The political extremist who ran for president in every election from 1976 to 2004, including a campaign waged from federal prison. Feb. 12.
  2. Lee Radziwill, 85. She was the stylish jet setter and socialite who found friends, lovers and other adventures worldwide while bonding and competing with her sister Jacqueline Kennedy. Feb. 15.
  3. Wallace Smith Broecker, 87. A scientist who raised early alarms about climate change and popularized the term "global warming." Feb. 18.
  4. Katherine Helmond, 89. An Emmy-nominated and Golden Globe-winning actress who played two very different matriarchs on the ABC sitcoms Who's the Boss? and Soap. Feb. 23.
  5. Charles McCarry, 88. An admired and prescient spy novelist who foresaw passenger jets as terrorist weapons in The Better Angels and devised a compelling theory for JFK's assassination in The Tears of Autumn. Feb. 26.
  6. Jerry Merryman, 86. He was one of the inventors of the handheld electronic calculator. Feb. 27. Complications of heart and kidney failure.
  7. Ralph Hall, 95. The former Texas congressman was the oldest-ever member of the US House and a man who claimed to have once sold cigarettes and Coca-Cola to the bank-robbing duo of Bonnie and Clyde in Dallas. March 7.
  8. Rafi Eitan, 92. A legendary Israeli Mossad spy who led the capture of Holocaust mastermind Adolf Eichmann. March 23.
  9. Richard "Dick" Cole, 103. The last of the 80 Doolittle Tokyo Raiders who carried out the daring US attack on Japan during World War II. April 9.
  10. Charles Van Doren, 93. The dashing young academic whose meteoric rise and fall as a corrupt game show contestant in the 1950s inspired the movie Quiz Show and served as a cautionary tale about the staged competitions of early television. April 9.
  11. Lorraine Warren, 92. A world-wide paranormal investigator and author whose decades of ghost-hunting cases with her late husband inspired such frightening films as The Conjuring series and The Amityville Horror. April 18.

  1. John Havlicek, 79. The Boston Celtics great whose steal of Hal Greer's inbounds pass in the final seconds of the 1965 Eastern Conference final against the Philadelphia 76ers remains one of the most famous plays in NBA history. April 25.
  2. Leonard Bailey, 76. The doctor who in 1984 transplanted a baboon heart into a tiny newborn dubbed "Baby Fae" in a pioneering operation that sparked both worldwide acclaim and condemnation. May 12.
  3. Claus von Bulow, 92. A Danish-born socialite who was convicted but later acquitted of trying to kill his wealthy wife in two trials that drew intense international attention in the 1980s. May 25.
  4. Richard Matsch, 88. A federal judge who ruled his courtroom with a firm gavel and a short temper and gained national respect in the 1990s for his handling of the Oklahoma City bombing trials. May 26.
  5. Patricia Bath, 76. A pioneering ophthalmologist who became the first African American female doctor to receive a medical patent after she invented a more precise treatment of cataracts. May 30. Complications of cancer.
  6. Leah Chase, 96. A New Orleans chef and civil rights icon who created the city's first white-tablecloth restaurant for black patrons, broke the city's segregation laws by seating white and black customers, and introduced countless tourists to Southern Louisiana Creole cooking. June 1.
  7. Rosie Ruiz, 66. The Boston Marathon course-cutter who was stripped of her victory in the 1980 race and went on to become an enduring symbol of cheating in sports. July 8. Cancer.
  8. L. Bruce Laingen, 96. The top American diplomat at the US Embassy in Tehran when it was overrun by Iranian protesters in 1979 and one of 52 Americans held hostage for more than a year. July 15.
  9. Edith Irby Jones, 91. The first black student to enroll at an all-white medical school in the South and later the first female president of the National Medical Association. July 15.
  10. Rutger Hauer, 75. A Dutch film actor who specialized in menacing roles, including a memorable turn as a murderous android in Blade Runner opposite Harrison Ford. July 19.
  11. Henri Belolo, 82. He co-founded the Village People and co-wrote their classic hits "YMCA," “Macho Man" and "In the Navy." Aug. 3.
  12. Jim Leavelle, 99. The longtime Dallas lawman who was captured in one of history's most iconic photographs escorting President John F. Kennedy's assassin as he was fatally shot. Aug. 29.
  13. David A. Jones Sr., 88. He invested $1,000 to start a nursing home company that eventually became the $37 billion health insurance giant Humana Inc. Sept. 18.
  14. John Keenan, 99. He was the police official who led New York City's manhunt for the "Son of Sam" killer and eventually took a case-solving confession from David Berkowitz. Sept. 19.
  15. Samuel Mayerson, 97. The prosecutor who took newspaper heiress Patty Hearst to court for shooting up a Southern California sporting goods store in 1974 and then successfully argued for probation, not prison, for the kidnapping victim-turned terrorist. Sept. 30.
  16. Alexei Leonov, 85. The legendary Soviet cosmonaut who became the first person to walk in space. Oct. 11.
  17. Scotty Bowers, 96. A self-described Hollywood "fixer" whose memoir offered sensational accounts of the sex lives of such celebrities as Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Oct. 13.
  18. Alicia Alonso, 98. The revered ballerina and choreographer whose nearly 75-year career made her an icon of artistic loyalty to Cuba's socialist system. Oct. 17.
  19. Gert Boyle, 95. The colorful chairwoman of Oregon-based Columbia Sportswear Co. who starred in ads proclaiming her "One Tough Mother." Nov. 3.
  20. Werner Gustav Doehner, 90. He was the last remaining survivor of the Hindenburg disaster, who suffered severe burns to his face, arms and legs before his mother managed to toss him and his brother from the burning airship. Nov. 8.
  21. Caroll Spinney, 85. He gave Big Bird his warmth and Oscar the Grouch his growl for nearly 50 years on Sesame Street. Dec. 8.
(Read more obituary stories.)

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