10 Notable People Who Died in 2012

It is impossible to look back at this year and reflect on those who have passed without thinking of the 20 little children and the five staff members of Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14. They will be remembered.

With 2012 drawing to a close, we remember those who have passed.

Etta James (b. 1938)

Etta James at last!

Inducted into both the Blues Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Etta James sang blues, jazz vocals and pop in a powerful voice steeped in reserves of emotion. As she said in a 1992 interview, “When I’m singing blues, I’m singing life. People that can’t stand to listen to the blues, they’ve got to be phonies.”

Photo by comunicom.es/Flickr

Joe Paterno (b. 1926)

Joe Paterno - Penn State - Outback Bowl pep rally 12/31/10

The career of Penn State University’s “winningest coach” in college football history was shattered with the revelation that his longtime assistant, Jerry Sandusky, had sexually abused several children during the glory days of Joe Paterno’s tenure and often in in the Nittany Lions’s own athletic facilities. Paterno was fired shortly after the allegations surfaced and implicated in the scandal. An independent report found that he had advised that Sandusky’s crimes not be reported to authorities.

Photo by FSonne-pennstate73/Flickr

Carlos Fuentes (b. 1928)

Carlos Fuentes.

Mexican writer and public intellectual Carlos Fuentes was at the forefront of the rise of Latin American literature in the 1960s and 1970s. His expansive novels, as well as his plays, short stories and political nonfiction, explored the complicated history of his country. Fuentes also used his pen to champion human rights and leftist causes, leading to him to be denied visas to the U.S. in the early 1960s and to say that “The real bombs are my books, not me.”

Photo by Abderrahman Bouirabdane’s photostream/Flickr

Sally Ride (b. 1951)

Ride on the Middeck - GPN-2000-001081

The first American woman in space, Sally Ride, noted that “the woman’s movement had already paved the way, I think, for my coming.” After flying to missions on the space shuttle Challenger, she devoted herself to “make science and engineering cool again” through her Sally Ride Science company. Ride had become an astronaut, she said, because all she had ever wanted to do was to fly.

Photo by Great Images in NASA/Wikimedia Commons

Helen Gurley Brown (b. 1922)

Gurley at Town Hall

The author of the 1962 book “Sex and the Single Girl” and long-time editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, Helen Gurley Brown shocked early 1960s America by saying that unmarried women had sex and (gasp) enjoyed it. Though she described herself as a feminist, many have debated whether the views of the woman who also wrote the 1982 book “Having It All” were progressive or rather, retrogressive.

Photo by epiclectic/Flickr

Neil Armstrong (b. 1930)

Neil Armstrong con los ojos llorosos poco después de pisar la Luna (1969)

An engineer and test pilot who had flown combat missions in the Korean War, Neil Armstrong‘s name has become impossible to separate from the famous words he said as he the first human being ever to stand on the moon: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Photo by Recuerdos de Pandora/Flickr

George McGovern (b. 1922)

George McGovern

The self-described “good old South Dakota boy who grew up … on the prairie,” George McGovern, an opponent of the Vietnam War and proponent of liberal causes, won the Democratic nomination for president in 1972, only to be thoroughly trounced by Richard Nixon. The three-term Senator maintained his progressive and anti-war positions, writing in his final book “What It Means to Be a Democrat,” “We are the party that believes we can’t let the strong kick aside the weak.”

Photo by majunznk/Flickr

Russell Means (b. 1939)


For five decades, the controversial Russell Means alerted Americans to the U.S.’s long history of injustice towards Native Americans. He often used guerrilla tactics from seizing a replica of the Mayflower II in Plymouth, Massachusetts, on Thanksgiving in 1970 to occupying Wounded Knee, South Dakota, where 350 Lakota men, women and children were massacred in 1890.

Photo by Carolmooredc/Wikimedia Commons

N. Joseph Woodland (c. 1921)


After leaving mechanical engineering graduate school, Woodland invented the bar code, thanks to his knowledge of Morse Code (learned from being in the Boy Scouts) and chancing to draw four fingers through the sand and thinking what if they were “wide lines and narrow lines instead of dots and dashes.” These are the printed wide and narrow lines that can now be found on billions of items the world over.

Photo by Hey Paul Studios/Flickr

Ravi Shankar (b. 1920)

Womadelaide 10 Ravi Shankar and Anoushka Shankar (India)

To call Ravi Shankar a virtuoso is an understatement. Trained by an Indian court musician to play the flowing ragas of classical Indian music, Shankar introduced the sitar and Eastern music to the West, playing with the Beatles, violinist Yehudi Menuhin and many others, efforts that led to a lasting interest in world music from all corners of the world.

Photo by PeterTea/Flickr


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Photo by Wikimedia Commons


Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson4 years ago


Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill5 years ago

...and so many more

Arthur S.
Arthur S5 years ago

So much loss, they certainly left their HANDPRINT on the World. RIP

Jim Phillips
Jim Phillips5 years ago

Ernest Borgnine passed away at the age of 95. An actor whose career spanned 60 years. Ernest won an Oscar for his for embodying the gentlest of souls, a lonely Bronx butcher, in the 1955 film “Marty,“

Mr. Borgnine won even wider fame as the star of the ABC sitcom “McHale’s Navy” (1962-66), originating the role of an irreverent con man of a PT boat skipper.

In 1999 he began doing the voice of a recurring character, the elderly ex-superhero Mermaidman, in the animated series “SpongeBob SquarePants.” He continued to play that role until last year.

His last film, in which he plays the main character, The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez in 2012, is now being released.

There are many, many other people, here in USA and abroad, who passed away this year...

Alichia Rose
Alichia Rose5 years ago

Thanks for sharing. Some of these people I didn't even know. What a really neat list and yet sad to see so many greats go.

Dee D.
De D5 years ago

R.I.P. All were one of a kind.

Faye Swan
Faye Swan5 years ago

Sad to lose them but so grateful for what they gave to us all.

Allan Yorkowitz
.5 years ago

My personal goodbyes would be to Miss Houston. Robin Gibb, Jack Klugman, and Phyllis Diller.