"By writing or reading obituaries, we can discover ways to make our time on earth more worthwhile, more productive, more meaningful to others."
Alana Baranick, "Life on the Death Beat"

"'I always read the obituaries in The Times,' I explained to her. 'They make me bloody glad to be alive.'"
John Mortimer, "Rumpole's Return"

Sylvia E. Davis

Actress -- via voy.com.

Martin Baum

Agent and producer -- via The Wrap.

Emilio Franco

Actor -- via the Daily Mail.

Geoffrey Crawley

Photographic scientist -- via the New York Times. He was also a skilled pianist, linguist, editor, chemist and inventor. His claim to fame was debunking the "Cottingley fairies mystery" of 1917-1920, in which faked photographs purported to show fairy creatures. Crawley almost hated to tell the world his findings; he understood the human need to believe in the mythic.

Shirley Verrett

Amazing mezzo and soprano of the opera and concert hall -- via the New York Times. Another glorious singer who could actually ACT! Her Lady Macbeth is justly renowned, as was her Norma, Aida, Tosca and Dido. One of my touchstone recordings, and one I play when I am trying to convince others how exciting and beautiful opera is, is her 1975 live concert recording of "La Favorita" with Alfredo Kraus, Pablo Elvira, Barabara Hendricks and James Morris, under the baton of Eve Queler. I urge all to learn more about her work: below is her exquisite rendition of Mozart's "Exultate Julbilate."

Jill Clayburgh

Actress on stage, film and television -- via the New York Times. Intelligent, funny, beautiful, vivacious, compelling -- I loved her! "Silver Streak," "An Unmarried Woman," "Starting Over," "Running with Scissors" -- on Broadway in "Pippin," "Jumpers," "The Rothschilds." A consummate performer; what a wonderful voice.

Ronny Scaife

Award-winning country songwriter -- via the boot.com.

Charles "Charley" McDowell, Jr.

Reporter and columnist -- via the Washington Post. He was seen frequently as a commentator on "Washington Week in Review" on PBS; his rich and expressive voice was heard on the Ken Burns' documentaries "The Civil War" and "Baseball."

Michelle Nicastro

Actress and singer -- via Broadway World.

Hotep Idris Galeta

Jazz pianist and educator -- via www.channel24.co.za. In addition to his massive talents, he had the most beautiful name I have ever heard!

Eddie Hazell

Jazz guitarist -- via www.meaningfulfunerals.net.

Mervyn Haisman

Writer for film and TV, most notably "Doctor Who" -- via tardis.wikia.com.

Barbel Mohr

Self-help and children's writer -- via spirii.de.

Jim Clench

Bassist, singer and songwriter for April Wine and Bachman Turner Overdrive -- via the CBC.

Jeremiah Valdez

Drummer for stoner-metal band Orthodox Fuzz -- via voy.com.

James Freud

Vocalist and bassist for the Australian band Models -- via Gibson.com. He wrote extensively about his struggle for sobriety.

Olga Nardone

Olga Nardone is the middle of the three Lullabye League dancers.
One of the last surviving Munchkin portrayers from "The Wizard of Oz" -- via Tributes.com.

Ophelia Alcantara Dimalanta

Editor, poet, author and teacher -- via ABS-CBN News.

Kenneth Brown

Peace studies professor -- via the Chicago Tribune.

Alexander "Pinky" Pedemonte

Pioneer surfer, lineman -- via MercuryNews.com

Dennis Oliver

Reporter -- via MercuryNews.com.

Georg Straka

Double bassist with the Vienna Philharmonic -- via ABC News. He died while climbing Mount Fuji in Japan -- he was 41.

Jule M. Sugarman

Public administrator who founded the Head Start program, which helped impoverished children to get a decent education -- via the Washington Post.

Glen Little aka Frosty the Clown

Expert circus clown; teacher and mentor to many more -- via the New York Times.

Rudolph Barshai

Conductor and violist -- via the Telegraph. He was a supreme interpreter of Shostakovich; Soviet oppression caused him to seek asylum in the West in 1977.

Connie English

Consumer advocate -- via the Denver Post.

George Lee "Sparky" Anderson

Hall of Fame baseball manager -- via the Associated Press. What can I say? I cried a little when I heard this. He was a genius:
Here's his bio from the Baseball Hall of Fame website: "Known for his jovial disposition, George 'Sparky' Anderson was the first manager in history to win World Series championships in both the American and National Leagues. His career totals include 2,194 victories, the third most in Major League history, two Manager of the Year Awards, five league pennants and three World Series crowns. His heavy use of the bullpen staff earned him the nickname 'Captain Hook,' but this practice has now become the standard for Major League Baseball."
He was not only a brilliant leader, he had a great attitude about people and life, and taught me much about the game I love and inspired me when things got me down. Here's a link to his Hall of Fame induction speech -- read it, it says it all. If you don't have time to read the whole thing, here's a very important quote from it for you:

" . . . what my father said, when I was 11 years old. My father never got past the third grade, but there ain’t a guy that ever went to Harvard smart as my Daddy. My Daddy said this. He said, 'I’m gonna give you a gift, it’s the greatest gift to take all the way through your life. And if you live with this gift, everything will work perfect,' and he said, 'Son, I’m gonna give you a gift that will never cost a dime, and that gift is this, if every day of your life, and every person you meet, you will just be nice to that person, and treat that person like they are someone.'”

God bless you, Sparky.

Bernard Musson

Actor - via next.liberation.fr. He was ever-present in so many significant French and Hollywood films: "Gigi," "Lola Montes," "Forbidden Games," and several works with Bunuel -- "Diary of a Chambermaid," "Belle de Jour," "The Phantom of Liberty," "That Obscure Object of Desire."

David/Sonia Burgess

Immigration lawyer who specialized in assisting asylum seekers -- via the Guardian. He was also transgendered; this may have motivated his murderer. UPDATE: A special Jan. 9 report from the Guardian on this person's extraordinary life --

Dec. 12, 2011 -- Sad update. It turns out that Sonia was killed by a mentally ill client she was trying to help. Here are details from the Telegraph -- 

John E. Sekula aka JJ Righteous

Metal guitarist -- via Gun Shy Assassin.

Arthur Bernard Lewis

TV writer and producer -- via ultimatedallas.com.

Robert Ellenstein

Actor in film and television, and prominent regional theatre director -- via the L.A. Times.

John Waterlow

Professor of pathophysiology and nutrition -- via the Telegraph. His efforts helped to save thousands of children's lives.

Clyde King

Pitcher for the Dodgers and Reds, manager for the Braves and the Giants, and long-time exec with the Yankees -- via Yahoo News.

Jerry (Jerrold) Bock

Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer for musicals -- via Broadway World. He will be best remembered for writing the music for "Fiddler on the Roof," but "Fiorello!," "The Apple Tree" and "Mr. Wonderful" were hits as well. His collaboration with Sheldon Harnick was prolific, and to date has not been examined and celebrated as it should. Plus, he wrote one of my favorite up-tempo ballads, "Too Close for Comfort."

For some reason, I performed in more Bock and Harnick shows than any others. I certainly enjoyed singing his great songs. Thank you, Mr. Bock!

Nance Movsesian

Theatre publicist -- via boston.com.

Nick Bell

College football player -- via al.com.

Andy Irons

Professional, world-champion surfer -- via ESPN. Update, 11/30: a controversial story in Outside magazine suggests that his death was drug-related. Like many of us, he may have had his problems with addiction; however, there are a few too many "maybe"s in this article to satisfy me. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on this.

Monica Johnson

Comic writer for film and TV, and novelist -- via Deadline.com. She will be best remembered for her numerous brilliant collaborations with Albert Brooks -- "Real Life," "Lost in America," "Modern Romance" and more.

Shannon Tavarez

Actress -- via Broadway World. She was appearing as Young Nala in "The Lion King" when she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. She was 11 years old.

Harry "PopPop" Cooper

Internet celebrity and relationship adviser -- via the L.A. Times. He is survived by his wife of 73 years, Barbara.

Joe Puryear

Alpinist, writer and photographer -- via CBS News. He died from a 1,500-foot fall on Tibetan mountain Labuche Kang.

Takargo - Summit from Joe Puryear on Vimeo.

G. William Oakley

Theatrical impresario -- via the Denver Post. He founded the Heritage Square Opera House in Golden, known for its comedic "mellerdrammers."

Charlie O'Donnell

Announcer -- via the Orange County Register.

Anne McDonald

Author and disability-rights activist -- via The Age.com. Her story is amazing. Born with cerebral palsy, she was diagnosed with retardation, confined to an institution, and starved and abused. She established communication with therapist Rosemary Crossley, then had to sue her family and the state to escape her confines. Her book about her struggle, "Annie's Coming Out," is very difficult to find, unfortunately.

Michael F. "Mick" Galloway

Actor on stage and in film and TV -- via Legacy.com.

Chris Gulker

Gifted photographer, electronic publishing expert and pioneer blogger -- via InMenlo.com.

Jack Brokensha

Vibraphonist -- via the Detroit Free Press.

Ina Clare

British actress -- via Digital Spy. Best known for her role as flower vendor Ina Foot in "EastEnders." (Not to be confused with American stage and early Sound Era film actress Ina Claire.)

Artie Wilson

Baseball player for the Negro Leagues, Pacific Coast League and the majors (New York Giants) -- via MinorLeagueBaseball.com. He was the last player to hit .400 or over in a season for a professional team (the Birmingham Black Barons, in 1948). He mentored a promising young player named -- Willie Mays!