09 October 2011

Deaths in 2011: September

As usual, this is not an all-encompassing list of notable people who died in the month in question. (See Wikipedia for that.) Rather, it's just a summary of the ones who struck me as particularly consequential or who meant something to me personally.

  • Michael S. Hart (8 March 1947 - 6 Sept. 2011) invented the e-book and founded the Project Gutenberg endeavor, which made its offerings available for free.
  • Actor Cliff Robertson (9 Sept. 1923 - 10 Sept. 2011) was one of the last of the square-jawed movie stars, with roles ranging from a young John F. Kennedy in the war movie PT 109 to playing Peter Parker's beloved Uncle Ben in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy.
  • Welsh-born Australian actor Andy Whitfield (17 July 1972 - 11 Sept. 2011) was best known for playing the title role in Starz's drama Spartacus: Blood and Sand, which had to be detoured (into a prequel miniseries and re-casting of the lead role) after he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • Character actress Frances Bay (23 Jan. 1919 - 15 Sept. 2011) started her career in her 50s and made her mark playing quirky characters in projects such as Happy Gilmore and Blue Velvet and, more recently, as a patient who seemed unable to die on Grey's Anatomy and a silent aunt on the TV comedy The Middle.
  • Cartoonist Tom Wilson, Sr. (1 Aug. 1931 - 16 Sept. 2011) was creator of the long-running comic strip Ziggy and drew the feature until 1987, when art duties passed along to his son.
  • Jack Adler (1 July 1917 - 18 Sept. 2011) was a longtime DC Comics cover artist and colorist who retired as production manager and vice president of production. He was also a cousin of radio shock jock Howard Stern.
  • Leroy Schweitzer (who died 20 Sept. 2011 at age 73) was a member of the "Christian Patriot" (which is, actually, neither) secessionist cult the Montana Freemen and died in prison due to his and the group's criminal activities leading up to and during a 1996 standoff with federal authorities.
  • Rock 'n' roll photographer Robert Whitaker (13 Nov. 1939 - 20 Sept. 2011) helped create album covers including those for Disreali Gears by Cream and the infamous "butcher shop" image for The Beatles' compilation album Yesterday and Today.
  • Sept. 21 brought about two instances of state-sanctioned murder in the United States. Lawrence Russell Brewer (age 44) was an unrepentant killer who participated in the dragging death of James Byrd Jr. in Texas back in 1998. Troy Davis (born 9 Oct. 1968) was probably wrongly convicted of killing a Georgia police officer in 1989 -- he might not have even been present at the time -- but matters like that don't deter the American system. Your Humble Blogger opposes the death penalty in all cases; life without parole is a real punishment for the guilty, not an early exit, and it can be reversed in cases of wrongful conviction. (Shockingly, neither of the persons whose deaths prompted these capital sentences returned from the dead after the executions. All either action accomplished was bloodying the hands of every Texas and Georgia resident who didn't actively oppose the executions.)
  • Sergio Bonelli (2 Dec. 1932 - 26 Sept. 2011) was an Italian comics writer and later publisher whose works included the long-running adventure titles Mister No and Zagor.
  • India-born Canadian actress Maple Batalia (who died 28 Sept. 2011 at age 19) was a rising actress who had a small role in the comedy Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (her sole credit at IMDB.com). She was fatally shot on the campus of Simon Fraser University in Surrey, B.C., with her family blaming her death on a male classmate with an unrequited crush.
  • Remember the cross-eyed opossum that became an Internet sensation about a year ago, even inspiring a viral video? Her name was Heidi, and she was born in America but lived in the Leipzig Zoo in Germany. The opossum was euthanized 28 Sept. 2011 at age three after suffering undisclosed medical problems.
  • Music executive Sylvia Robinson (6 March 1936 - 29 Sept. 2011) was founder and CEO of the pioneering hip-hop label Sugar Hill Records; this after a singing career that included perhaps the most annoying single ever recorded, "Love Is Strange" by Mickey and Sylvia (and, improbably enough, co-written by the usually quite cool Bo Diddley).
  • Marv Tarplin (13 June 1941 - 30 Sept. 2011) played guitar in Smokey Robinson's Motown band The Miracles and helped co-write many of the band's hits between its founding in the 1950s and his exit in the 1970s. (Among his other co-writing credits: "One More Heartache," covered in a rockin' fashion by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.)
  • And Ralph M. Steinman (14 Jan. 1943 - 30 Sept. 2011) was a Canadian immunologist and cell biologist who was announced as a Nobel Prize winner three days after his death.


  1. Andy Whitfield was an actress? Wow. :P

  2. Good catch; thank you. Writing is best a solitary activity, and that proves it. (That entry was written last night in a common room, with a dorm neighbor who kept passing through and wanting to converse.)