Current Events, News

Famous people who died in 2011

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An annual TevyTown tradition (mostly because these posts bring me the most hits), we now bring to you a list of famous people who died in 2011. There were an insane amount of people who left us this year, and who knows – I may even have to update this list once more before the year ends (thanks Kim Jong-Il).

Nevertheless, here’s the list – which includes the name, age of death and a little ditty about who they were/what they’re most known for. The list begins with with the most recent passings:
When you see this * it means I put in my own little commentary.

And of course ‘famous’ is a subjective term. There are many well-known people who left us this year, and this list is my own subjective opinion who I wanted to include on this post. The ones left out are neither greater, nor lesser than those I’ve decided to include on this list.


19 – Václav Havel, 75, Czech playwright and politician, President of Czechoslovakia (1989–1992) and the Czech Republic (1993–2003)

17 – Kim Jong-Il, 70, North Korean Supreme Leader (since 1994), heart attack.

15 – Christopher Hitchens, 62, British writer (God Is Not Great) and commentator (Vanity Fair), esophageal cancer. *Albeit a hate-mongering atheist, this was one man you did not want to debate with.

7 – Harry Morgan, 96, American actor (M*A*S*H, Dragnet), pneumonia.

6 – Dobie Gray, 71, American singer (“Drift Away” – See below).

2 – Bruno Bianchi, 56, French cartoonist and animator. He created Inspector Gadget.


22 – Svetlana Alliluyeva, 85, Soviet-born American defector and author, daughter of Joseph Stalin, colon cancer. *It’s a good thing she was a girl,or else she’d probably have to live with the Stalin name for the rest of her life (barring she didn’t change her name).

8 – Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, 68, American-born Israeli Haredi rabbi and rosh yeshiva of the Mir Yeshiva – the biggest yeshiva in the world. *I got the chance to meet him when I was living in Israel for a year. A very special person of the type that only comes around once a generation

Bil Keane, 89, American cartoonist (The Family Circus), heart failure. *Not gonna lie, but I absolutely hated this cartoon. With a passion.

Heavy D, 44, Jamaican-born American rapper (“Now That We Found Love“) and actor (The Cider House Rules, Life).

7 – Joe Frazier, 67, American boxer, World Heavyweight Champion (1970–1973), liver cancer. *One of the Top 10 greatest boxers of all time. The first fighter to ever defeat Muhammad Ali, in the first of three legendary fights between the two – culminating with the Thrilla in Manila.

6 – Hickstead, 15, Dutch-born Canadian show jumping horse, Olympic champion (2008), ruptured aorta. *One of the greatest show jumping horses in Canadian history.

4 – Andy Rooney, 92, American journalist, 60 Minutes correspondent (1978–2011), surgical complications. *Journalism at it’s finest 🙂


31 – Ali Saibou, 71, Nigerien politician, President (1987–1993).

22 – Sultan, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, 83, Saudi royal, Minister of Defense and Aviation (since 1962) and Crown Prince (since 2005).

20 – Muammar Gaddafi, 69, Libyan leader (1969–2011), shot.

16 – Dan Wheldon, 33, British IndyCar driver, racing accident. *You never wanna see an athlete during his prime as well as the best in his sport meet his untimely death

10 – Mikey Welsh, 40, American artist and musician (Weezer).

8 – Al Davis, 82, American football coach and team owner (Oakland Raiders), heart failure.

5 – Steve Jobs, 56, American computer entrepreneur and inventor, co-founder of Apple Inc., pancreatic cancer. *Hope that iCloud of yours in comfy… Thanks for all your contributions 🙂


16 – Frances Bay, 92, Canadian character actress (Happy Gilmore – Happy’s Grandmother:().

13 – Cliff Robertson, 88, American actor (Charly, Spider-Man, PT 109), natural causes. * “With great power, comes great responsibility”

11 – Andy Whitfield, 39, Welsh-born Australian actor (Spartacus: Blood and Sand), non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

7 – The 44 members of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash including coaches Brad McCrimmon (52) , Igor Korolev (41), Alexander Karpovtsev (41), and players Pavol Demitra(36), Ruslan Salei (36), Karlis Skrastins (37), Josef Vasicek, Karel Rachunek (32), Jan Marek (31), Stefan Liv (30)
* Igor Korolev and Alexander Karpovtsev were members of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the late 90s/early 2000s including one of my favourite teams of all-time, ’98-’99 when the Leafs made it to the Conference Finals. On my birthday and my first ever hockey game (Dec 16, ’98), Korolev scored two goals in a 5-2 victory against the Phoenix Coyotes. Thanks for the memories, Igor.


31 – Wade Belak, 35, Canadian ice hockey player (Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators), suicide.

*Hearing the news of Belak’s death really really stung. He was a fan favourite here in Toronto, and just a good, happy and a great person to be around. And to hear that he was suffering from depression, just ate at me. On the outside he seemed like the happiest guy who had so much going for him – a wife and two beautiful kids, a broadcasting position in Nashville after retiring earlier in the year and the adoration of all those who watched him play hockey and pretty much all people associated with him in any way. And yet deep down inside, he was hurting. It’s scary… When the fear of living outweighs the fear of death… I’ve personally felt that way at times, and although I believe I can relate to him, it’s not my responsibility (nor is it anyone else’s) to judge and speculate why Wade did what he did.

And of course this came after the deaths of Derek Boogaard and Rick Rypien, two other NHL hockey players who played similar roles with Belak on the ice and perhaps similar reasons why they’re all not with us anymore. You can make all connections you want, but the fact of the matter is that three great and respected gentlemen are dead. And that’s sad.

26 – Aloysius Ambrozic, 81, Slovenian-born Canadian Roman Catholic cardinal, Archbishop of Toronto (1990–2006).

24 – Mike Flanagan, 59, American baseball player (Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays), suicide by gunshot.

23 – Frank Potenza, 77, American police officer and actor (Jimmy Kimmel Live!), cancer.

22 – Jack Layton, 61, Canadian politician, Leader of the Official Opposition (2011) and New Democratic Party (2003–2011), cancer.

*What a freaking bummer this was here in Canada. Regardless of whether or not you agreed with his political policies, this was a very charming and likeable man. And after achieving what was probably he biggest accomplishment of his political career, he tragically succumbs to cancer. I wrote a piece about him shortly after he died.

Nickolas Ashford, 70, American R&B singer (Ashford & Simpson) and songwriter (“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough“), throat cancer.

Jerry Leiber, 78, American songwriter (“Stand By Me“, “Hound Dog“, “Jailhouse Rock“, “Kansas City“), cardiopulmonary failure.

15 – Rick Rypien, 27, Canadian ice hockey player (Vancouver Canucks), suicide.

11 – Jani Lane, 47, American musician (Warrant).

*The man behind the song Cherry Pie, a song he wished he never wrote.

3 – Bubba Smith, 66, American football player (Baltimore Colts) and actor (Police Academy).


29 – Rabbi Elazar Abuhatzeira, 70, Moroccan-born Israeli rabbi & kabbalist, grandson of the renowned rabbi Baba Sali, stabbed.

*I wanted to vomit after hearing about this one. The murderer was in a private meeting with Rabbi Abuhatzeira when he killed him. Now that is the definition of a cold blooded murder. In the Orthodox Jewish community, it is a great honour to receive a private meeting with one of the leading rabbis of the generation. The visitors often ask for advice, or ask permission to pray for them or whomever the ask the rabbi to pay for. That the rabbi was killed in this manner – where he gave his time to the murderer – is downright disgusting.

27 – Hideki Irabu, 42, Japanese baseball player (Chiba Lotte Marines, New York Yankees, Montreal Expos), suicide by hanging.

Not the greatest pitcher… a fact that was immortalized in this clip from the final episode of Seinfeld.

21 – Amy Winehouse, 27, British singer-songwriter (“Rehab”), accidental alcohol poisoning.

Elliot Handler, 95, American businessman, co-founder of Mattel, namer of the Barbie doll, creator of Hot Wheels, heart failure.

20 – Myra Kraft, 68, American philanthropist, wife of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, cancer.

*She and her husband donated millions of dollars to the Kraft Stadium to promote American football in Jerusalem. I got to play baseball and football on that very field when I was in yeshiva. Great times 🙂

15 – Ed Flesh, 79, American art director, inventor of the Wheel of Fortune wheel, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

12 – Sherwood Schwartz, 94, American television producer, creator of The Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island.

Leiby Kletzky, 8, a Hasidic Jewish boy who was kidnapped on as he walked home from his school day camp in the Hasidic neighborhood of Boro Park, Brooklyn. His dismembered body was found the following morning in the Kensington apartment of confessed suspect Levi Aron, aged 35, and in a dumpster in another Brooklyn neighborhood.

This one just rocked the Orthodox Jewish community to its core. Not only did it have “all the earmarks of a classic tabloid story: A missing child, a search, clues, a surveillance video, dashed hopes, blood and dismemberment. But it had more than that. It also parted the curtains on a private and insular community that the public rarely gets to see. And then it had the ultimate surprise: the suspected killer was not from the outside, but one of its own – a Jew.”

8 – Betty Ford, 93, American First Lady (1974–1977) and co-founder of Betty Ford Center.

7 – Dick Williams, 82, American baseball player and manager (Oakland Athletics), Hall of Famer, ruptured aortic aneurysm.


25 – Nick Charles, 64, American sportscaster (CNN Sports Tonight), bladder cancer.

23 – Peter Falk, 83, American actor (Columbo, Murder, Inc., Pocketful of Miracles, The Princess Bride).

22 – Harley Hotchkiss, 83, Canadian businessman, member of Hockey Hall of Fame, prostate cancer. A member of the Order of Canada, Hotchkiss helped bring NHL hockey to Calgary after buying the Atlanta Flames and subsequently moving them to Calgary.

20 – Ryan Dunn, 34, American reality television star (Jackass, Viva La Bam), car accident.

18 – Clarence Clemons, 69, American saxophonist (E Street Band) and singer (“You’re a Friend Of Mine”), complications following a stroke.

17 – Betty Fox, 73, Canadian cancer research activist, founder of the Terry Fox Foundation.

16 – Wild Man Fischer, 66, American street musician, heart failure. Very funny dude.

12 – Carl Gardner, 83, American singer (The Coasters).

7 – Mietek Pemper, 91, Polish-born German Holocaust survivor, compiled and typed Oskar Schindler’s list.

3 – Dr. Jack Kevorkian, 83, American physician and right to die activist, pulmonary thrombosis. Dr. Death.

Andrew Gold, 59, American singer-songwriter (“Lonely Boy”, “Thank You for Being a Friend” – Golden Girls Theme), heart attack.


27 – Jeff Conaway, 60, American actor (Grease, Taxi, Babylon 5).

20 – “Macho Man” Randy Savage, 58, American professional wrestler.

17 – Harmon Killebrew, 74, American Hall of Fame baseball player (Minnesota Twins, Kansas City Royals), esophageal cancer.

573 home runs is a lot of dingers.

13 – Derek Boogaard, 28, Canadian hockey player (Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers), accidental overdose of alcohol and oxycodone.

Mel Queen, 69, American baseball player (Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) and pitching coach (Blue Jays).

Wallace McCain, 81, Canadian businessman, co-founder of McCain Foods, pancreatic cancer.

11 – Robert “Tractor” Traylor, 34, American basketball player (Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers, New Orleans Hornets), suspected heart attack. We’re talking about a large man… He had a lot of potential and promise, which was probably to overwhelming and to much to handle.

Leo Kahn, 94, American entrepreneur, co-founder of Staples, complications from a series of strokes.

7 – Seve Ballesteros, 54, Spanish golfer, brain cancer. Between 1975 and 1988, he won five major championships.

Robert Stempel, 77, American automobile executive, Chairman and CEO of General Motors (1990–1992). Stempel helped develop technologies including front-wheel-drive cars, the catalytic converter and battery-powered cars.

2 – Osama bin Laden, 54, Saudi founder of Al-Qaeda, planned September 11 attacks, shot.

You know… That guy.


25 – Joe Perry, 84, American football player (San Francisco 49ers), member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

9 – Sidney Lumet, 86, American film director (12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network), lymphoma.

3 – Mandi Schwartz, 23, Canadian college ice hockey player, acute myeloid leukemia. *This one will make you cry.


26 – Roger Abbott, 64, Canadian actor and comedian (Royal Canadian Air Farce), chronic lymphocytic leukemia. *Awesome show.

23 – Dame Elizabeth Taylor, 79, British-American actress (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Cleopatra, Butterfield 8), heart failure. * One of the greatest actresses of all time.

17 – Michael Gough, 94, British actor (Sleepy Hollow, Alfred from Batman 😦), after short illness.

15 – Nate Dogg, 41, American musician, heart failure. * The man who gave us these memorable lyrics: “Hold up…. eh! Hope you’re ready for the next episode, hey hey hey hey…. smoke weed everyday.”

13 – Rick Martin, 59, Canadian ice hockey player (Buffalo Sabres, Los Angeles Kings), heart attack. *One of members of the Sabres’ famed “French Connection” line along with Gilbert Perreault and Rene Robert.

12 – Fogel Family from Itamar, Israel – (Uri-36, Ruth-35, Yoav-11, Elad-4, Hadas-3 months). The family was massacred while asleep in their house by two masked terrorists who “cut through the protective fence around the Itamar settlement in the West Bank and snuck into the Fogel home.” The terrorists killed three of the six children in the house. Tamar, 12, Ro’i, 8, and Yishai, 2 are now left without their immediate family.

*I’m gonna make this very clear: You will never hear a story about this where Jews are killing Arabs/Palestinians. When will the world wake up and realize that these are the types of people that it wants to grant a state? Cold-blooded killers… And yet, it always seems to be Israel’s fault… Why is the world so stupid?

8 – Mike Starr, 44, American bassist (Alice in Chains, Sun Red Sun).

4 – Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, 86, Nepali Prime Minister (1990–1991, 1999–2000), multiple organ failure.

2 – Sir Allan Louisy, 94, Saint Lucian politician and judge, Prime Minister (1979–1981).


28 – Jane Russell, 89, American actress (The Outlaw, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes), respiratory illness.

27 – Duke Snider, 84, American Baseball Hall of Famer (Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, San Francisco Giants).

16 – Len Lesser, 88, American actor ( Uncle Leo from Seinfeld, Everybody Loves Raymond), cancer-related pneumonia.


23 – Jack LaLanne, 96, American fitness and nutritional expert, pneumonia.

15 – Roy Hartsfield, 85, American baseball player (Boston Braves) and first manager of Toronto Blue Jays, complications of liver cancer.

13 – Tuviah Friedman, 88, Israeli Nazi hunter.

8 – John Roll, 63, American jurist, shot. * A District Court Chief, Roll was one eighteen people who were shot at the Tucson Shooting at a supermarket, including U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

4 – Gerry Rafferty, 63, Scottish singer-songwriter (Stealers Wheel), liver failure. He wrote the songs ‘Stuck In The Middle With You‘ and ‘Baker Street‘ (one awesome song, one annoying song).

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