Cyndi's Two Cents

Celebrity deaths

Commentary.

As 2016 came to a close, social media was rife with posts mourning the loss of so many celebrities in a year’s time.  Celebrity deaths in 2016 included Pat Harrington Jr., who played Schneider on “One Day at a Time”, Dan Haggerty who we knew as Grizzly Adams on the television series, and Florence Henderson.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016 as did musicians David Bowie, Glen Frey (founder of The Eagles) and Prince.  Joey Martin Feek of the country due “Joey + Rory”, Merle Haggard and Leon Russell also died in 2016.

Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Harper Lee who wrote “To Kill a Mockingbird” which was required reading for many of us in the 1970’s died last year as did former First Lady Nancy Reagan, Comedian Garry Shandling, Morley Safer who reported for 60 Minutes for 46 years, and Professional Boxer Muhammad Ali.  In 2016 we said goodbye to Writer/Producer/Actor Garry Marshall, and to Actors Gene Wilder, Alan Thicke and Zsa Zsa Gabor.

Golfer Arnold Palmer died last year as did former President of Israel Shimon Peres and Astronaut John Glenn.  Janet Reno, who served as Attorney General of the United States from 1993 – 2001 and Journalist Gwen Ifill also died in 2016.

In the final days of the year, Singer Songwriter George Michael and Actress Carrie Fisher both died of heart-related complications.

Most of us identify these people by their work.  We feel a loss although we didn’t know them personally.  Some felt that reading a certain book or listening to a certain song had a lasting impact on their lives.  Some identified so closely with an actor or comedian that they felt a personal and devastating loss when one of those aforementioned died.  I didn’t know any of them, but I knew and appreciated – or at least respected – their work.

I didn’t know Donald Henderson, either, and I doubt that many of you recognize his name.  Donald Henderson also died in 2016.  In the late 1950’s Henderson began to develop surveillance programmes for endemic diseases as part of his work with the Communicable Disease Center (CDC), stationed in Atlanta, Georgia.  He was the American epidemiologist in charge of the decade-long campaign to eradicate smallpox worldwide; the most significant public health initiative of the twentieth century.  Smallpox killed 300 -500 million people in the 20th century alone.

I did know Don Schone.  He was an unassuming and kindly man who stayed true to his roots.  He was born on the family farm and came back to work that land after serving in the United States Army during the Korean War.  He married a local girl and they raised their family on that farm. He was active in the local community and in his church.  He was a lifetime supporter of FFA.  During the time I was student teaching in the high school ag program in Don’s community, his youngest son was elected to hold a state office in FFA.  Don also died in 2016.

He didn’t win a Pulitzer Prize, star in a movie or eradicate smallpox.  But Don did feed 155 people a year while remaining humble and kind. That’s a life to celebrate.

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