10 Notable Figures Who Died in 2011 (slideshow)

Writer and pundit Christopher Hitchens. Soul singer Amy Winehouse. Boxer Joe Frazier. Musician Gil Scott-Heron. Musician Clarence Clemons. Laotian general Vang Pao. Director Sidney Lumet. Painter Helen Frankenthaler. Painter Lucian Freud. “60 Minutes” commentator Andy Rooney. First Lady Betty Ford. Actress Elizabeth Taylor. Canadian politician Jack Layton.

Osama bin Laden. Muammar el-Gaddafi. Kim Jong-il.

Time magazine lists many who passed on in 2011 as does the New York Times magazine, the Los Angeles Times and many other sources. Here are ten figures (some admittedly idiosyncratic choices on my part — this is by no means a comprehensive list and I apologize if I’ve not mentioned someone who you think should be noted) who have made a difference in how we live, in what kind of place the world is, in what we dream of being, in what we imagine could possibly be.

Who has passed on in 2011 who will you miss; who has affected your thinking, your life?

Steve Jobs on BoingBoing

Steve Jobs (b. 1955)

Co-founder and CEO of Apple; innovator, visionary, pioneer in the personal computing revolution.


“[Y]ou can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” (Stanford University commencement address, June 2005)


Photo by Terry Madeley

Sargent Shriver 1961

Sargent Shriver (b. 1915)

Politician and diplomat; Vice Presidential nominee in 1972; architect of the Great Society; founder of the Peace Corps.


“It is well to be prepared for life as it is, but it is better to be prepared to make life better than it is.”

“The Peace Corps is guilty of enthusiasm and a crusading spirit. But we’re not apologetic about it.”

Photo by Rowland Scherman, Peace Corps via Wikimedia Commons

Geraldine Ferraro

Geraldine Ferraro (b. 1935)

US Representative from New York; Vice Presidential nominee in 1984.



“If we can do this, we can do anything.” (Democratic National Convention, San Francisco, 1984).

“Modern life is confusing – no “Ms. take” about it.”

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Wangari Maathai

Wangari Maathai (b. 1940)

2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner; founder of the Kenyan-based NGO, the Green Belt Movement.


“It is evident that many wars are fought over resources which are now becoming increasingly scarce. If we conserved our resources better, fighting over them would not then occur…so, protecting the global environment is directly related to securing peace…those of us who understand the complex concept of the environment have the burden to act. We must not tire, we must not give up, we must persist.” (Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, 2004)


Photo by Center for Neighborhood Technology


Elena Bonner (b. 1923)

Human rights activist and dissident; wife of Novel Peace Prize winner Andrew Sakharov, dissident nuclear physicist.


“The most deplorable teaching is the superiority of any nation over another.”

“Sovereignty of the individual, sovereignty of the family and home, sovereignty of every ethnic group and every state.”

Photo by M.A. Kallistratova via Wikimedia Commons

Sam Rivers 02232008

Sam Rivers (b. 1923)

Jazz multi-instrumentalist; one of the last jazz musicians with links to the 1940s bebop era and the classic decades of jazz.


Photo of Sam Rivers by RobertAuclair via Wikimedia Commons

Grete Waitz

Grete Waitz (b. 1953)

Norwegian marathon runner; won nine New York City marathons (1978 and 1988), more than any other runner so far.


“I’ll never do that again!” — after winning the first of nine New York City marathons.

“For every finish-line tape a runner breaks — complete with the cheers of the crowd and the clicking of hundreds of cameras — there are the hours of hard and often lonely work that rarely gets talked about.”


Photo by omoo

Dennis Ritchie on the left in this photograph died last week.

Dennis Ritchie (b. 1941)

Computer scientist; created the C programming language and (with long-time colleague Ken Thompson) the Unix operating system.


“The only way to learn a new programming language is by writing programs in it.”

“I’m not a person who particularly had heros when growing up.”

Photo (Ritchie on the left, Thompson on the right) by ak5x


Anne McCaffrey (b. 1926)

Science fiction writer; author of the Dragonriders of Pern series and many other works including The Ship Who Sang.


“Drummer, beat, and piper, blow

Harper, strike, and soldier, go

Free the flame and sear the grasses

Til the dawning Red Star passes” (Dragonsong)


“That’s what writing is all about, after all. Making others see what you have put down on the page and believing that it does, or could, exist and you want to go there.”


Photo by Tero

Vaclav Havel, President of the Czech Republic / Vaclav Havel, President de la République tchèque

Vaclav Havel

Playwright; dissident; president of the Czech Republic.


“The tragedy of modern man is not that he knows less and less about the meaning of his own life, but that it bothers him less and less.” (Letters to Olga [1988], p. 237)”

“The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility.” (International Herald Tribune, February 21, 1990)

“Those that say that individuals are not capable of changing anything are only looking for excuses.”

“Truth and love must prevail over lies and hatred.”

Photo by Council of Europe


Photo by Neon Tommy


Jeanne R
Jeanne Rabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jeanne R
Jeanne Rabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jeanne R
Jeanne Rabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jeanne R
Jeanne Rabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jeanne R
Jeanne Rabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Olga L.
Olga L5 years ago

I totally missed the sad news of passing Elena Bonner. She, as her late husband, was deeply respected for her exceptional honesty and standing up for what she believed it, afainst Soviet States.

David N.
David N6 years ago

Thanks fo rthe article.

Elizabeth O.
.6 years ago

Thanks for posting.

Nikijs K.
Past Member 6 years ago

Signed and shared. :)

mary a.
mary a6 years ago

Steve Jobs had so much to give us beyond his technology. His thoughts on his approach to life are life changing.