My annual list of notable deaths for 2012 came to a whopping 65. That compares to 45 in 2010 and 36 in 2011. I’m unsure why the jump in numbers occurred. Perhaps it was because as I get older I’m recognizing more and more of my contemporaries. But more than likely the cause was simply randomness.
The average age was 79.17 years, or just above the U.S. average lifespan. That’s considerably higher than the previous year’s 73.02, which saw an unusally large number of early deaths, like those of Apple pioneer Steve Jobs (56) and golfer Seve Ballesteros (54). But 2012 lifespans were at the same time significantly lower than the 83.84 years posted in 2010.
But 2012 did have the oldest death in the three years I’ve kept track. Jacques Barzun, the writer and culture critic, died at 104.
The five oldest besides Barzun over those years actually came to nine counting ties. John Wooden (’10) died at 99, musician Mitch Miller (’10) and physical trainer Jack La Lanne (’11) died at 96. Tied for fifth at 95: Sargent Shriver (’11), actor Ernest Borgnine, comedienne Phyllis Diller, baseball executive Lee MacPhail and baseball union leader Marvin Miller all died last year.
THE 2012 DEATH LIST
Etta James, singer, age 73, of complications of leukemia, on January 20, at hospital in Riverside, CA.
Philip Vannatter, lead investigator in the O.J. Simpson murder case, age 70, on January 21, of cancer at Santa Clarita, CA.
Joe Paterno, legendary football coach at Penn State, age 85, of lung cancer, on January 22, at hospital in State College, PA.
Robert Heyges, actor, played Epstein in “Welcome Back Kotter” TV series, age 60, of heart attack, on January 26, at Edison, NJ, hospital.
Don Cornelius, creator of “The Soul Train” TV music show, age 75, suicide (gunshot to the head), on February 1, at his Sherman Oaks, CA, home.
Angelo Dundee, boxing trainer of Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard, age 90, of unspecified causes, February 1, in Tampa, FL.
Ben Gazzara, film and stage actor, age 81, on February 3, of pancreatic cancer, in Manhattan.
Whitney Houston, singer, age 48, found dead on February 11 at Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles, likely complications of drug abuse.
Carter, Gary: Baseball Hall of Fame catcher for Expos and Mets, age 57, of brain cancer, on February 17, in West Palm Beach, FL.
Davy Jones: Actor-singer in popular TV show, The Monkees, age 66, on February 29, of heart attack in Marin County, FL.
Alex Webster: NFL player, coach w/NY Giants, age 80, on March 3, of lung cancer and emphysema, in Port St. Lucie, FL.
Mel Parnell: Major League pitcher with Boston Red Sox, on March 20, age 89, in New Orleans, of pneumonia possibly a result of his lymphoma.
Mike Wallace: Investigative reporter on “60 Minutes,” on April 7, age 93, in care facility in New Canaan, CT, of undisclosed causes probably heart condition.
Dick Clark: TV personality incl “American Bandstand,” on April 18, age 82, in a Santa Monica, CA, hospital, of a heart attack [had stroke in 2004].
Charles Colson: Watergate figure, aka The Evil Genius, on April 21, age 80, at Inova Fairfax Hospital in northern Virginia, complications from brain surgery.
Bill Skowron: aka Moose. Yankees first baseman, April 27, age 81, in Arlington Heights, IL, of congestive heart failure but also had lung cancer.
Junior Seau: Retired NFL star linebacker, on May 2, age 43, in Oceanside, CA, of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot to the chest.
Nicholas Katzenbach: Prominent government figure in JFK, LBJ administrations, on May 8, age 90, at his home in Skillman, NJ, cause not known.
Carlos Fuentes: Celebrated Mexican author, on May 15, age 83, of an internal hemorrhage, in Mexico City.
Donna Summer: Singer and “disco queen,” on May 17, age 63, in Englewood, FL, of cancer.
Robin Gibb: Singer with Bee Gees, on May 20, age 62, in London, of complications that stemmed from colon cancer.
Orlando Woolridge: NBA star and WNBA coach, on May 31, age 52, in Mansfield, LA, of chronic heart condition.
Richard Dawson: TV host of ‘Family Feud,’ on June 2, age 79, Los Angeles, of complications from esophageal cancer.
Ray Bradbury: Science-fiction writer, on June 5, at age 91, in Los Angeles of unspecified cause.
Rodney King: Key figure in LA riots of 1991, on June 17, age 47, in Rialto, CA, found in his swimming pool about 5 a.m.
Norah Ephron: Author, screenwriter (Sleepless in Seattle et al), on June 26, age 71, in Manhattan, of complications from myeloid leukemia.
Andy Griffith: Comedian, TV star, on July 3, age 86, at his home on Roanoke Island, Dare Co., NC, of unspecified causes.
Ernest Borgnine: Film actor, on July 8, at age 95, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, of renal failure.
Richard Zanuck: film producer, on July 13, at age 77, at his home in Beverly Hills, CA, of a heart attack.
Kitty Wells: Country singer, on July 16, at age 92, at her home in Madison, TN, complications after a stroke.
Sally Ride: Astronaut, first American woman in space flight, on July 23, age 61, at her home in La Jolla CA, of pancreatic cancer.
Sherman Hemsley: Actor of “The Jeffersons,” on July 24, age 74, found dead at his home in El Paso, TX, of undisclosed cause.
Chad Everett: TV actor, “Medical Center,” on July 24, age 75, at his home in Los Angeles, of lung cancer.
Gore Vidal, gadfly writer-commentator, on July 31, age 86, at his home in Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles, complications of pneumonia.
Marvin Hamlisch, music composer, on August 6, age 68, in Los Angeles, collapsed after a short illness.
Johnny Pesky, baseball player with Red Sox, on August 13, age 92, at a hospice in Danvers, MA, of undisclosed cause.
Phyllis Diller, comedienne, on August 20, age 95, at her home in Brentwood, CA, of undisclosed causes.
Neil Armstrong, astronaut and first man to walk on the moon, at age 82, on August 25, (dateline Cincinnati) following “cardiovascular procedures.”
Hal David, lyricist, age 91, on September 1, in Los Angeles Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, of a stroke.
Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of Unification Church, at age 92, on September 2, Gapyening, South Korea, of complications of pneumonia.
Art Modell, owner of NFL Baltimore Ravens, at age 87, on September 6, in Baltimore, of “natural causes” but had history of heart problems.
Dorothy McGuire, of the singing McGuire Sisters, at age 84, on September 7, in Paradise Valley, AZ, of Parkinson’s Disease and dementia.
Andy Williams, singer, at age 84, on September 25, at his home in Branson, MO, from complications of bladder cancer.
Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, publisher of NY Times, on September 29, at age 86, at his home in Southampton, NY, after a long, undisclosed illness.
Alex Karras, All-NFL lineman and actor, on October 10, at age 77, at his home in Los Angeles, of stomach cancer and kidney failure. Also had dementia.
Beano Cook, TV sports personality, on October 11, at age 81, at his home near Pittsburgh, of unknown cause but was diabetic and in failing health.
Arlen Specter, ex-Senator from Pennsylvania, on Oct 14, at age 82, at his home in Philadelphia, of complications of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
George McGovern, 1972 presidential candidate, on Oct 21 , at age 90, in Sioux Falls, SD, hospice, of numerous medical problems.
Russell Means, Sioux activist, on Oct 22, age 72, at his ranch in Porcupine, SD, of cancer of esophagus.
Jacques Barzun, writer and culture critic, Oct 25, age 104, in San Antonio, TX, of undisclosed causes.
Emanuel Steward, boxing trainer, on Oct 25, age 68, in a Chicago hospital, of undisclosed causes.
Darrell Royal: Former Texas football coach, on Nov 7, age 88, at an assisted living home in Austin, TX, of Alzhimer’s after a recent fall.
Lee MacPhail, former president of American League and a ex-GM of the Yankees, on Nov 8, age 95, at his home in Delray Beach, FL, of undisclosed causes.
Larry Hagman, actor and star of Dallas TV series, on Nov 23, age 81, at a hospital in Dallas, of throat cancer.
Hector (Macho) Camacho, former champion boxer, on Nov 24, age 50, at a hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico, of gunshot to the head.
Marvin Miller, headed baseball players union, on Nov 27, age 95, at his home in Manhattan, of liver cancer.
Rick Majerus, longtime college basketball coach, on Dec 1, age 64, at a hospital in Los Angeles, of heart failure.
Dave Brubeck, jazz pianist and composer, Dec 5, age 91 (one day before 92), in Norwalk, CT, on his way to cardiologist.
Daniel K. Inouye, longtime Hawaii senator, Dec 17, age 88, Walter Reed National in Bethesda, MD, of respiratory complications.
Robert H. Bork, controversial Supreme Ct nominee in 1987, on Dec 19, age 85, at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, of heart disease.
Jean Harris, famed murderess, on Dec 23, age 89, at assisted living center in New Haven, CT, of undisclosed causes.
Jack Klugman, actor who played Oscar in the “Odd Couple,” on Dec 24, age 90, in Woodland Hills section of LA, of undisclosed causes.
Charles Durning, character actor, on Dec 24, age 89, at his home in Manhattan, of undisclosed causes.
Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, led Gulf War forces, on Dec 27, age 78, in Tampa, FL, of complications of pneumonia.
Harry Carey Jr., character actor, on Dec 27, age 21, at a hospice in Santa Barbara, CA, on “natural causes.”