In Memoriam – 9 icons the world lost in 2022


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Throughout 2022, the world lost superstar athletes, Hollywood icons, music geniuses, and respected world leaders.

At the beginning of the new year, actor Sidney Poitier passed away on January 6 at 94 years old. Poitier helped break boundaries as a Black actor as he starred in a plethora of movies from the 1950s-1990s. He was the first Black man to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role of Homer Smith in the 1963 film “Lilies of the Field”. 

Poitier’s humanitarian efforts also did not go unnoticed as well. His civil rights activism in the 1960s helped fund 770 scholarships for Black Americans after creating the African American Students Foundation with singer Harry Belafonte and baseball star Jackie Robinson. His activism led to him receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama in 2009.

Actor Bob Saget died just three days after Poitier’s death. Best known for his role as Danny Tanner in the ‘90s sitcom “Full House,” Saget had a celebrated career as comedian and actor. At only 65 years old, Saget died after suffering trauma from hitting his head on the floor of his Florida Hotel room.

Senior Kyla Williams enjoyed watching “Full House” as a kid. “When I heard he died, I was really surprised. He was one of my favorite characters on the show and it’s sad to think he’s gone,” Williams shared.

Nichelle Nichols, most famous for portraying Nyota Uhura in the 1960s television show “Star Trek: The Original Series”, passed away on July 30 at 89 years old. Nichols was one of the few Black women to star in mainstream television in the ‘60s. Her on screen kiss with William Shatner marked the first interracial kiss in television history. However, she didn’t just make history in movies, but in NASA too.

Nichols helped NASA recruit women and people of color into their programs. Her contributions to NASA helped bring the first African American, Guion Bluford, to space. She also encouraged Sally Ride, the first woman in space, to join NASA and inspired Mae Jemison to travel to space as the first African American woman to do so.

Just a day after Nichols’ death, basketball icon Bill Russell passed away at 88 years old. Russell was the center for the Boston Celtics in the 1950s-1960s and revolutionized the game itself. In his celebrated career, Russell won 11 championships in just 13 seasons along with winning MVP five times. Off the court, Russell fought for civil rights as he joined the 1963 March on Washington with Martin Luther King Jr.

On August 8, actress and singer Olivia Newton-John died at 73 after a long battle with breast cancer. Most famously, Newton-John starred in the 1978 musical classic “Grease” as Sandra Dean. Her music career cumulated with 5 number one hits, while her biggest hit “Physical” stayed number one for 10 weeks in 1981. She was also an advocate for breast cancer as she supported the research of the disease.

Senior Mary Ann Hoelzel admired Newton-John’s artistry. “Olivia Newton-John was an inspiration to young girls everywhere. Her voice was like an angel and I loved her in Grease,” Hoelzel described.

Arguably the most famous international figure passed away on September 8. Queen Elizabeth II, at 94 years old, died at Balmoral castle in Scotland. Queen Elizabeth reigned for over 70 years – the longest reigning monarch in Britain’s 1200-year-old history. 

Senior Ella Cimperman remembers the day the Queen passed as she received the news in the middle of lunch. “I felt really sad that she died, but at the same time, I don’t really care because I don’t know her. But it’s weird having her gone since she’s been queen for my whole life,” Cimperman said.

On November 1, Migos rapper TakeOff lost his life at just 28 years old. After attending an afterparty with his uncle and fellow bandmate Quavo, TakeOff died after suffering multiple gunshot wounds in an altercation over a dice game. The killer was arrested on December 1 but released on a $1 million bond. 

Takeoff was best known as the quiet member of the Migos trio as their most popular song, “Bad and Boujee”, reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts for 3 weeks. His 2018 solo album “The Last Rocket” was critically acclaimed for its smooth production and strong lyricism. 

On December 29, soccer star Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé, died at 82 years old after a long battle with colon cancer. He remains one of Brazil’s top scorers of all time with 77 goals in 92 games along with bringing the country three world cup wins. Soccer stars like Kylian Mbappé and Erling Haaland along with fans around the world celebrated his life for his contributions to the sport.

Just a day after Pelé’s death, trailblazing journalist Barbara Walters died at 93 years old. She was the first American female network news anchor in an evening news program. Throughout her 50 years as a journalist, she interviewed presidents, A-list celebrities, and world leaders. Her interview with Monica Lewinsky was watched by over 74 million viewers – the most watched interview of the last 25 years.

“I’m sad about all the people who died last year,” Cimperman shared. “But it’s nice to hear about what they accomplished.”