We bid farewell to screen legends, music icons, and acclaimed figures in the world of art, journalism, and politics in 2018. From “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin to “Maverick” Senator John McCain, the list of famous faces is diverse and their contributions are immense.
Among the departed are Marvel comics legend Stan Lee, House of Cards Emmy-winner Reg E. Cathey, rapper Craig Mack, fashion designer Kate Spade, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, and many more.
Join us as we take a look at these artists’ early works — Did you know Chicago Fire star DuShon Monique Brown worked as a school counselor and actor John Gavin served in the Korean war? We’ll reflect on their history-making performances, discuss the circumstances surrounding their deaths, and hear what their colleagues had to say about their loss and about the legacies they’ve left behind.
The circumstances surrounding these stars’ deaths are diverse, and tragically, some took their own lives. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the nearest emergency service.
Here are the stars we’ve said goodbye to this year.
Sen. John McCain
Senator John McCain died Aug. 25, 2018, following a battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive type of brain cancer. He was 81 years old — and just days shy of his 82nd birthday.
Prior to his service in the U.S. Congress, McCain spent 22 years in the Navy, following the footsteps of his father and grandfather, who were both Navy admirals.
As an aviator, McCain spent five and a half years as a prisoner of war after being shot down while serving in Vietnam.
He continued to serve for eight years upon his release and return to the United States, despite never fully recovering from his injuries and the torture he endured as a POW.
McCain ran for president twice: In 2000, he lost the Republican primary to George W. Bush, who would go on to win the general election.
In 2008, McCain ran against Barack Obama — a man McCain famously defended from racist and Islamophobic conspiracy theorists, and whose healthcare bill he later voted against repealing.
In perhaps a final show of his famous resolve and loyalty, McCain personally asked Bush and Obama to speak at his funeral.
When asked how he’d like to be remembered, the ever-humble McCain replied, “He served his country.
And not always right, made a lot of mistakes, made a lot of errors. But served his country. And I hope, could add, honorably.”
Aretha Franklin died Aug. 16, 2018. She was 76 years old. The Queen of Soul’s rep confirmed her passing to the Associated Press. Franklin’s family issued a statement acknowledging that she passed away from pancreatic cancer, which she had previously denied battling in an interview with Jet (via People).
The severity of her then-undisclosed illness wasn’t revealed until just a week before she died. Franklin was a musical legend, honored as Rolling Stone’s greatest singer of all time. She had 18 Grammys (and 44 nominations) and was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
She was also a key figure in the Civil Rights Movement, with her songs “Think” and “Respect” becoming unofficial anthems for equality. Franklin even performed at Martin Luther King Jr.’s memorial service following his assassination.
“In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart. We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family. The love she had for her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins knew no bounds,” Franklin’s family said in a statement.
“We have been deeply touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received from close friends, supporters and fans all around the world. Thank you for your compassion and prayers. We have felt your love for Aretha and it brings us comfort to know that her legacy will live on.”
Marvel Comics co-creator Stan Lee died Nov. 12, 2018 at age 95, TMZ reported. Stanley Martin Lieber’s comics career began when he was just 16 years old and serving as an office assistant at Timely Comics in New York City.
He became an interim editor in the 1940s, and in May 1941, he used his iconic pseudonym for the first time in an issue of Captain America.
Lee went on to help create iconic characters such as Spider-Man, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Marvel’s Thor, The Fantastic Four, Black Panther, and others. Timely Comics became Marvel Comics, and Lee took over as publisher and editorial director in 1972.
In the 1980s, his role transitioned to that of a brand ambassador as Marvel Comics expanded into motion pictures.
Though Lee took Marvel Comics from a niche market to a major household name, he confessed to The Hollywood Reporter that the business side of things wasn’t his strength.
In 1998, he exchanged his percentage of Marvel films’ gross profits in exchange for a flat $10 million and $1 million per year for the rest of his life.
That doesn’t sound like a bad deal, until you consider that Avengers: Infinity War grossed $2 billion worldwide.
Rapper Mac Miller (real name Malcolm McCormick) died Sept. 7, 2018 at just 26 years old. TMZ reported that a friend called 911 from Miller’s home, but it was too late — the rapper apparently suffered a fatal overdose.
Miller had been open about his struggles with substance abuse, which reportedly contributed to the end of his relationship with pop star Ariana Grande in spring 2018.
After the split, she called the relationship “toxic” on Twitter. “I am not a babysitter or a mother … I have cared for him and tried to support his sobriety & prayed for his balance for years,” she said.
Miller’s family released a statement (via Rolling Stone) that said, in part: “He was a bright light in this world for his family, friends and fans.
Thank you for your prayers.”
Actor Burt Reynolds died Sept. 6, 2018, reportedly from a heart attack. The Hollywood icon was gearing up to film Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood shortly before his death.
His niece told Variety in a statement, “He has had health issues, however, this was totally unexpected. He was tough.
Anyone who breaks their tail bone on a river and finishes the movie is tough. And that’s who he was.
After starring in several Westerns and appearing on television shows, including The Twilight Zone, early in his career, Reynolds’ first big breakout role was in 1972’s Deliverance.
The same year, he was a centerfold in Playgirl magazine. He scored another cinematic hit with 1974’s The Longest Yard , but it was 1977’s Smokey and the Bandit that made Reynolds a household name.
Though Reynolds left us at age 82, his mustache and bravado will endure on-screen forever.
Jerry Van Dyke
Jerry Van Dyke, younger brother of TV legend Dick Van Dyke, died Jan. 5, 2018 at 86 years old from heart failure, according to The New York Times.
Jerry’s wife, Shirley Ann Jones, said Jerry’s health had begun to worsen following a car accident in 2015. Jerry got his start with guest appearances on The Dick Van Dyke Show and became a regular on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Judy Garland Show as a comedian.
Far from riding his big brother’s coattails, Jerry was an Emmy nominated actor in his own right, earning four nods for his role of assistant coach Luther Van Dam on Coach from 1989 to 1997.
After Coach ended, Jerry made regular guest appearances on television shows including My Name Is Earl, The Middle, Yes Dear, and Raising Hope.
Verne Troyer passed away April 21, 2018. He was just 49 years old. To date, his exact cause of death is unknown, but it’s suspected that his death may be connected to an alleged suicide attempt from earlier that month.
“It is with great sadness and incredibly heavy hearts to write that Verne passed away today,” stated an announcement on the actor’s Facebook page. “Verne was an extremely caring individual.
He wanted to make everyone smile, be happy, and laugh. Anybody in need, he would help to any extent possible. Verne hoped he made a positive change with the platform he had and worked towards spreading that message everyday.”
Troyer was best known for his role as Mini-Me in the Austin Powers franchise, though he has more than 50 acting credits from the silver and small screen.
Austin Powers star Mike Myers honored Troyer with a statement to The Hollywood Reporter: “Verne was the consummate professional and a beacon of positivity for those of us who had the honor of working with him. It is a sad day, but I hope he is in a better place. He will be greatly missed.”
World-famous theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking died March 14, 2018.
According to the BBC, Hawking — who’d been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease, when he was just 21 years old — died peacefully in his home in Cambridge.
He lived to be 76 years old, despite being given just two years to live at the time of his diagnosis. He is survived by his children: Lucy, Robert, and Tim. “We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today,” his kids said in a statement (via E! News). “He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years.”
The statement continued, “His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humor inspired people across the world. He once said, ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’ We will miss you forever.”
Dolores O’Riordan, frontwoman of The Cranberries, died Jan. 15, 2018 at age 46.
Her publicist said O’Riordan was in London for a short recording session, but released no further details, according to Ireland’s The Journal.
The U.K. coroner told The Associated Press she was found dead in her hotel room in London and that her passing was “unsuspicious,” meaning there was no foul play. O’Riordan was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after an altercation at an airport in 2014, reported The Telegraph.
She later told The Telegraph that her mental health issues (including depression, an eating disorder, and an attempted overdose in 2012) stemmed from sexual abuse she suffered as a child.
President George H.W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush, 41st President of the United States, passed away at his Houston, Texas, home on Nov. 30, 2018 at 94 years old, CNN reports.
Bush served his country in numerous capacities through his life: Born into a wealthy banking family, he was the Navy’s youngest combat pilot in World War II, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross for his 58 missions.
After the war, Bush married, his sweetheart Barbara Pierce, and they moved to Texas, where he began a career as an oil prospector.
Bush never lost his sense of adventure, even in retirement and with a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis: He celebrated his 75th, 80th, 85th, and 90th birthdays by skydiving and donating money to charitable causes.
He and Barbara earned more than $1 billion for various charities since leaving the Oval Office. In 2011, President Barack Obama awarded Bush the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The New York Times reports that Bush was surrounded by family at the time of his death.
Bush reportedly decided he did not want to go to the hospital in his final hours, saying he wanted to be with Barbara, who died April 17, 2018, and their daughter, Robin, who passed away as a child from leukemia.
His final words were to his son, 43rd President George W. Bush, who reportedly told H.W. that he was a good father — to which H.W. Bush replied, “I love you, too.”
XXXTentacion was shot and killed on June 18, 2018. Born Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy, the rapper was just 20 years old when he was targeted outside of a Florida motorcycle dealership, TMZ reported.
Two men are suspected in the killing, which police reportedly believe was a robbery, as a Louis Vuitton bag was stolen from the rapper’s vehicle at the time of the slaying.
The Broward County Sheriff’s Department offered a $3,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.
Anonymous tips can be made online at browardcrimestoppers.org or by phone at 954-493-8477.
Tentacion had several hit songs and a No. 1 album with 17, but he was perhaps best known for the harrowing domestic violence accusations against him from an ex-girlfriend, who alleged that he kidnapped and attacked her numerous times, including while she was pregnant with his child. He denied all of the claims.
The rapper seemed to eerily foreshadow his untimely passing, saying in an Instagram video (via The Independent), “If I’m going to die or ever be a sacrifice, I want to make sure that my life made at least five million kids happy or they found some sort of answers or resolve in my life regardless of the negative around my name, regardless of the bad things people say to me … Do not let your depression make you. Do not let your body define your soul, let your soul find your body. Your mind is limitless. You are worth more than you can believe.”