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Remembering the Notable People We Lost in 2016

This will be remembered as a year we lost many icons who shaped our world

By Heidi Raschke

1 of 18

A Year of Loss

Notable People We Lost in 2016

Starting with the loss David Bowie and ending with the passing of Debbie Reynolds, perhaps from a broken heart, 2016 was a heartbreaker for many of us. It was a year riddled with sad — often shocking — news of celebrity deaths. We didn't know about Bowie's cancer, Patty Duke's sepsis, Prince's painkiller addiction, Gene Wilder's Alzheimer's or Carrie Fisher's heart disease until these icons were gone.

As we marked the passing of these and other notables — Alan Rickman, George Michael and Merle Haggard, to name a few — we at Next Avenue looked for ways to shed light on their lives and deaths that would inform our readers and help them lead healthier lives. Click through for a retrospective.

David Bowie with his wife Iman
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Jan. 11, 2016: David Bowie

Age: 69

Cause of death: Cancer

Known for: The flamboyant, groundbreaking British rock star’s commitment to exploring many styles of music and his unique sense of style have influenced several generations of musicians.

Read more:  A video look back at Bowie's greatest hits, plus little-known facts about the musician.

Glenn Frey
Courtesy of

Jan. 18, 2016: Glenn Frey

Age: 67

Cause of death: Complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia

Known for: Eagles guitarist and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer

Read more: Can rheumatoid arthritis kill you?

Antonin Scalia
Alex Wong/Getty Images

3. Feb. 13, 2016: Antonin Scalia

Age: 79

Cause of death: Natural causes

Known for: Long-time conservative Supreme Court Justice

Read more: What Justice Scalia’s told the actor who portrayed him onstage about work and retirement

Harper Lee and cover of To Kill A Mockingbird
Photo by Eric Draper/White House

4. Feb. 19, 2016: Harper Lee

Age: 89

Cause of death: Died peacefully in her sleep

Known for: Author of To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman

Read more: Lee leaves a publishing mystery in her wake amid speculation about elder abuse.

Nancy and Ronald Reagan dancing
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation

5. March 6, 2016: Nancy Reagan

Age: 94

Cause of death: Congestive heart failure

Known for: First Lady of the United States and Alzheimer's caregiver

Read more: On the personal and political level, Reagan stood up for those with Alzheimer's.

Getty Images

6. March 24, 2016: Garry Shandling

Age: 66

Cause of death: Blood clot in heart

Known for: Comedian and creator of The Larry Sanders Show

Read more: Mourning the man who went by the TV name Larry Sanders

Patty Duke in The Patty Duke Show (1963)
© Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved

7. March 29, 2016: Patty Duke

Age: 69

Cause of death: Sepsis

Known for: Child star, actor and mental health advocate

Read more: What you should know about the sepsis


8. April 21, Prince

Age: 57

Cause of death: Accidental fentanyl overdose

Known for: Flamboyant pop star who revolutionized music in the ’80s

Read more: Prince’s death comes amid overdose epidemic

9. May 19, 2016: Morley Safer

Age: 84

Cause of death: Pneumonia

Known for: 60 Minutes correspondent

Read more: Remembering Safer’s sparkle and humanity

Muhammad Ali

10. June 3, 2016 Muhammad Ali

Age: 74

Cause of death: Septic shock

Known for: Outspoken three-time world heavyweight boxing champion

Read more: Ali fought courageously against the establishment and Parkinson's

Head Coach Pat Summitt coaching Vols Player Chamique Holdsclaw
The Pat Summitt Foundation

11. June 28, 2016: Pat Summitt

Age: 59

Cause of death: Alzheimer’s disease

Known for: Longtime NCAA coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Vols

Read more: Summitt was a model for dealing with the disease in the workplace

12. July 19, 2016: Garry Marshall

Age: 81

Cause of death: Complications of pneumonia after suffering a stroke

Known for: Writer, director who created Happy Days and Pretty Woman

Read more: Five things we loved about Garry Marshall

Gene Wilder alzheimer's
Caroline Bonarde Ucci

13. Aug. 29, 2016: Gene Wilder

Age: 83

Cause of death: Complications of Alzheimer’s disease

Known for: Comic actor who played neurotic characters in movies such as Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Stir Crazy

Read more: Wilder isn’t the only one with Alzheimer’s secret

Gwen Ifill
Washington Post

14. Nov. 14, 2016: Gwen Ifill

Age: 61

Cause of death: Cancer

Known for: Political reporter and co-anchor of PBS Newshour

Read more: A tribute to the late PBS NewsHour co-anchor and managing editor

15. Nov. 24, 2016: Florence Henderson

Age: 82

Cause of death: Congestive heart failure

Known for: Portraying Carol Brady in TV’s The Brady Bunch

Read more: Why the beloved boomer icon kept working late in life

John Glenn

15. Dec. 8, 2016: John Glenn

Age: 95

Cause of death: Declining health after a stroke

Known for: The first American astronaut to orbit Earth

Read more: How Glenn changed the space race

17. Dec. 27, 2016: Carrie Fisher

Age: 60

Cause of death: Cardiac arrest

Known for: Portraying Princess Leia in Star Wars, and a bestselling author, script doctor and humorist

Read more: Why Fisher’s heart attack should be no surprise



Heidi Raschke is a longtime journalist and editor who previously was the Executive Editor of Mpls-St. Paul Magazine and Living and Learning Editor at Next Avenue. Currently, she runs her own content strategy and development consultancy. Read More
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