When a well-known celebrity dies, the entire world hears about it right away. An example of this is when comedian and actor Robin Williams took his own life this year; as soon as people heard the news, all of the major publications and networks were talking about it. Since he was one of the most talented and successful entertainers of our time, the media attention surrounding his death was no surprise. Just as his death was tragic and surprising, there have been a handful of other celebrities who passed away this year.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau over 55 million people die a year. Many of them aren’t known by the general public although there life had meaning. Let’s take a look at 13 celebrities you had no idea died this year.
13. Harold Ramis
Died: February 24, 2014
Harold Ramis died at the age of 69 early this year after contracting a disease that slowly broke down his immune system. He was an actor, director, and writer. He started out writing plays in college and then wrote for the Chicago Daily News. At around the same time he started to perform with the well-known Second City improvisational comedy troupe in Chicago. His talent as a writer lead him to Playboy magazine where he was a joke editor. Harold’s first big break was co-writing the film, National Lampoon’s Animal House, which broke box office records at the time by earning over $140 million.
He then went on to write another hit film entitled Meatballs with Bill Murray as the star who would go on to be in five more projects with Harold. The classic hit comedy Caddyshack was his directorial debut and also commercial success. Years later, he co-wrote Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day. By 2004, Harold’s directing fee was close to $5 million. The influential filmmaker worked in the entertainment industry for over 30 years, and he also had a hand in making numerous comedy classics.
12. Don Zimmer
Died: June 4, 2014
Donald Zimmer was a passionate infielder, manager, and coach in Major League Baseball. He first played with the Cambridge Dodgers in 1949 and moved on to play for more teams in the Class-D Eastern Shore League. Years later, Zimmer played for the Brooklyn Dodgers which was his major league debut. After playing for 12 seasons, he managed the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians in 1968. While his next jobs were also with the Minor Leagues, he eventually joined the Major Leagues as a manager for the San Diego Padres. In the span of the next 30 years, Donald worked for the Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers, Chicago Cubs, and the New York Yankees.
Donald died at the age of 83 from kidney and heart problems. He is survived by his wife, whom he started dating when he was a teenager in 10th grade. In total, he was involved in professional baseball for 65 years. When he managed the Cubs in 1989, he was named Manager of the Year after leading them to a division title.
11. Bob Hoskins
Died: April 29, 2014
Bob Hoskins‘ acting career started out in theater and moved into films. His first major television role was in the educational series, On the Move in the 1970s. What put him on the map was appearing in the original BBC drama Pennies from Heaven. He went on to star in a few British films such as Mona Lisa, which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. He dabbled in comedy by starring in the hit film Super Mario Bros. Bob received a Golden Globe nomination for his role in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. After doing years of movies, he returned back to television in Jimmy McGovern’s drama serial The Street and won his only Emmy. Two years later the accomplished actor was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. In 2012, he announced his retirement from acting due to the disease. Bob died from pneumonia in April of this year. His acting career spanned over 40 years.
10. Ruby Dee
Died: June 11, 2014
Ruby Dee was a playwright, screenwriter, actress, and much more. After joining the American Negro Theater as an apprentice, she eventually received national fame for her part in the film The Jackie Robinson Story in 1950. In the next decade, Ruby accepted roles in politically charged films while also performing on television shows such as the miniseries Roots: The Next Generations. She was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1995 for her massive body of work spanning all major forms of media. Ruby was also a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors, Screen Actors Guild Award, and a Grammy.
Ruby died at her home in New York from natural causes at the age of 91. A public memorial celebration was held in Manhattan in her honor a few months ago. She was also a civil rights activist and friends with Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as Malcolm X. Ruby was a member of the NAACP and Congress of Racial Equality. Her list of awards and accolades also include an Honorary Degree from Princeton University.
9. Mickey Rooney
Died: April 6, 2014
Mickey Rooney was an actor whose career lasted more than 80 years. He first started to perform in vaudeville as a kid and received critical acclaim for his role in the film A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He was also the first teenager at the time to be nominated for an Oscar in 1939 for movie Babes in Arms, alongside co-star Judy Garland. Within ten years, he became a top actor for MGM and made appearances in over 40 motion pictures. At that point, he was a box office attraction but that stopped after he was drafted in the Army during World War II. It wasn’t until the 1960s that he gained popularity again with several successful films, one earning him another Oscar nomination.
Mickey acted in more than 300 films, and was known as one of the last surviving stars of the silent film era. Just as anyone in the entertainment industry for that long, his career had many ups and downs. Overall, he received four Academy Award nominations and won an Emmy. He died in his sleep in a Los Angeles home at the age of 93.
8. Jan Hooks
Died: October 9, 2014
Jan Hooks is best known for her work on the skit television show Saturday Night Live, Designing Women, and 3rd Rock from the Sun. She got her start by becoming a member in The Groundlings, which is a comedy troupe based out of Los Angeles. What got her recognized was appearing on Not Necessarily the News in the 1980s. After getting turned down to join the SNL cast in 1985, she made it on when the show was on the brink of being canceled. She, along with others, helped to put the show back on the map. She left in 1991 to join Designing Women and then received an Emmy nomination for her work on 3rd Rock from the Son. She lost her long-time battle to cancer at the age of 57 this year. Her last role was in 2013 on the sitcom The Cleveland Show.
7. Richard Attenborough
Died: August 24, 2014
Richard Attenborough is a two-time Academy Award winner with numerous accolades to his name. His career started in theatre and his first film role was in 1942. He then worked successfully in British films for the next 30 years. He was also in his first Hollywood blockbuster called The Great Escape in 1963. After 1979, he didn’t accept anymore acting roles until Jurassic Park so he could focus more on directing and producing. That proved to be a smart decision after he directed the historical epic film Gandhi, which earned him two Oscars–one for producing and the other for directing. He also earned two Golden Globes for the same film. He eventually went back to acting and starred in the remake of Miracle on 34th Street in 1994 as well as The Lost World: Jurassic Park.
Since 2008, Richard suffered from heart problems and had a stroke. In 2011, his brother shocked the public by saying the prolific actor had been confined to a wheel chair after having the stroke. In 2013, he moved into a nursing home in London to be with his wife. This year he died a few days before his 91st birthday.
6. Shirley Temple
Died: February 10, 2014
Shirley Temple was most known as a child star in the 1930s. She was spotted by casting director Charles Lamont who eventually signed her to a contract in 1932. She went on to be in small productions until her first feature film in 1932 called The Red-Haired Alibi. The following year as a little girl, Shirley tried out for the movie Stand up and Cheer! She won the part and signed a contract to make $150 a week. This was her big break and she became a household name that families loved to watch. Her image then started to appear on commercial products as well as other films. The young talent’s pay was then increased to $1,000 a week. One of her signature songs “On the Good Ship Lollipop” sold 500,000 copies. She was also the youngest child star to receive a Juvenile Oscar in 1935 as a six year old. Her image as a little girl was sold on products at such a high rate that she earned 6 figures in royalties in the 1930s.
20th Century Fox had a team of writers who solely focused on writing stories for her since she was a superstar and brought in major dollars. From 1935-1939, Shirley starred in commercial hit films. Even President Roosevelt praised her work and acting abilities. However, her next handful of films were flops and she eventually decided to focus on school as a young woman. After appearing in more films, Shirley official retired from acting in 1950. Shirley died earlier this year, her family told the media that she passed from ‘natural causes.’
5. Meshach Taylor
Died: June 28, 2014
Meshach Taylor was an Emmy-nominated actor who you probably recognize from the 1987 cult classic film Mannequin. He was also known for his work in the hit television sitcom Designing Women, which aired in the 1980s and 1990s. His first professional acting job was working in a national tour of Hair. After perfecting his craft doing theater work in Chicago, he appeared alongside Toni Braxton on Broadway in Beauty and the Beast. He was nominated for an Emmy at the top of his career for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. He’s also had roles on television shows such as Criminal Minds and The Unit.
Meshach died this year in his home after a battle with colorectal cancer. He is survived by his wife, their four children, and his mother.
4. John Henson
Died: February 14, 2014
John Henson was a puppeteer who was only 48 years of age when he passed away. His father, Jim Henson, created the Muppets and his mother helped to launch the brand. John was the co-owner of The Jim Henson Company and often appeared in his father’s Numerosity films for Sesame Street. Years later John performed Sweetums, a Muppet character, in 1991 after puppeteer Richard Hunt died. He remained the primary performer for over ten years. John also performed in many film, live events, and television projects such as The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz.
John died of a heart attack earlier this year at his home in New York while working on a project with his daughter. Many people on social media commented on his loss, including The Walt Disney Company’s Muppets Studios, saying: “John Henson, son of Muppet creator Jim Henson, passed away this week. Many of us who work with the Muppets knew John as a friend and a performer…”
3. James Rebhorn
Died: March 21, 2014
James Rebhorn in an actor who had current roles in the television shows Homeland and White Collar when he died this year. He’s always been busy in his career, having made appearances in over 100 films, plays, and television shows. You’ve probably seen him in small parts where he has played a lawyer, doctor, or politician on shows such as Law & Order. Perhaps one of his most recognizable roles was in the 1996 hit film Independence Day where he played a powerful politician. After that he was in broadway productions, television miniseries, and comedic films such as The Perfect Wedding in 2013.
In 1992, he found out he had melanoma. At the age of 65 this year, he died in his home where he was receiving hospice care.
2. Oscar de la Renta
Died: October 20, 2014
Oscar de la Renta was a successful fashion designer from Santo Domingo. He became internationally recognized after dressing First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy. At the age of 19, he drew clothes for fashion houses and newspapers for extra money. The wife of John Davis Lodge, the U.S. Ambassador of Spain, commissioned Oscar to design a gown for her daughter. He then gained an interest in fashion design and went to Paris. By 1965 he was running Jane Derby’s fashion house after the designer passed away. He is the first Dominican to design for a French couture house, which he did for the house of Balmain from 1993-2002.
The Dominican designer has numerous awards to his name such as the Coty Award, which is like an Oscar for the fashion industry. He’s dressed numerous celebrities and you can find many of his ready-to-wear designs online and in retails stores. Earlier this year at the age of 82 he died from complications dealing with cancer, which he had been fighting since 2006.
1. Elizabeth Peña
Died: October 14, 2014
Elizabeth Peña was an actress and director who passed away recently at the age of 55 after going into cardiac arrest. She came from a family in entertainment; Mario Peña was her father who co-founded the Latin American Theatre Ensemble. He was also an actor, director, and writer. Elizabeth’s mother was a producer and arts administrator. In 1977, she graduated from the High School of Performing Arts in New York. Elizabeth’s first film was the comedy El Super about a Cuban family struggling to adjust to life in Spanish Harlem. She also acted in the movies La Bamba and Rush Hour. She also played the voice of a character in the animated film The Incredibles.
Elizabeth received a Bravo Award for Outstanding Actress as well as the 1996 Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actress. She appeared in numerous television shows such as Modern Family in which she played the mother of Gloria Pritchett, a character in the hit sitcom. More information was released about her death this year, which stated cirrhosis of the liver was the cause.