"How are we to help those who die and those who have died?" --
Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

"By writing or reading obituaries,
we can discover ways to make our time on earth more worthwhile, more productive, more meaningful to others." -- Alana Baranick, "Life on the Death Beat"

"'I always read the obituaries in The Times,' I explained to her. 'They make me bloody glad to be alive.'" -- John Mortimer, "Rumpole's Return"

Alan Myers

Drummer; best known for his work with Devo -- via the Washington Post.

Lau Kar-leung aka Liu Chia-liang

Martial artist, fight choreographer, actor, screenwriter, and director -- via twitchfilm.com. One of the top figures in Chinese action cinema, Lau started his work in film as a performer in some of the 49 Wong Fei-hung movies that first popularized the genre. He moved on to stunt work and fight choreography in many of the genre's most significant works, including "Golden Swallow," "One-Armed Swordsman," "The Water Margin," "Master of the Flying Guillotine," "Pedicab Driver," "Seven Swords," and "Dirty Ho." He directed such classics as "The 36th Chamber of Shaolin," "My Young Auntie," "8 Diagram Pole Fighter," "Tiger on Beat," and "Drunken Master 2."

Over the course of 55 years and more than 150 film credits, Lau shaped the style and direction of action film as few others have.

Richard Matheson

Writer of novels, short stories, screenplays, and teleplays -- via the Hollywood Reporter. Quite simply, one of the best and most imaginative writers of the 20th century. A list of his work, primarily in the genres of horror, science fiction, and fantasy, is staggering. (He preferred "terror" to "horror," thinking of the latter as just "blood and guts.") It has influenced the popular imagination, including and especially mine, more than almost any other writer of recent times.

His first published short story, "Born of Man and Woman," is the most anthologized horror story of all time. He wrote "I Am Legend," filmed later as "The Last Man on Earth," "The Omega Man," and "I Am Legend"; "The Shrinking Man," filmed as "The Incredible Shrinking Man"; "A Stir of Echoes," filmed as "Stir of Echoes"; "Bid Time Return," filmed as "Somewhere in Tine"; "Hell House," filmed as "The Legend of Hell House"; as well as "What Dreams May Come."

He wrote the famous teleplay "Duel"; he wrote "The Enemy Within" episode of the original "Star Trek" series; he wrote 16 episodes of "The Twilight Zone," including the classic "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"; he created "The Night Stalker" concept, starring Darrin  McGavin as Kolchack, the investigative reporter who tangled with the unknown; he wrote the classic TV-movie "Trilogy of Terror"; he adapted four Poe stories brilliantly for Roger Corman ("House of Usher," "The Pit and the Pendulum," "Tales of Terror," and "The Raven"), as well as the darkly hilarious "Comedy of Terrors."

He was in touch with the zeitgeist; he could see our hopes and fears and tell them to us in story form. His intensely visual concepts lent themselves perfectly to the screen, making his impact even more pronounced. He opened up our skulls and peeked inside, and took notes. HE SCARED THE CRAP OUT OF US!

Bobby "Blue" Bland aka Robert Calvin "Bobby" Bland aka "The Lion of the Blues"

Blues genius -- via wreg.com. A contemporary of the late, great Johnny Ace, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Junior Parker, and others, he like them combined the fervent power of gospel with the heartsick longing of Delta blues, creating R & B, soul, and deeply influencing funk and rock. So cool he had one nickname within another. 'Nuff said.

Malcolm Harper

Human rights and peace campaigner -- via the Guardian.

Elias Querejeta

Screenwriter and film producer -- via the Hollywood Reporter.

Michael Hastings

Journalist -- via the New York Times.

Ottis Dewey "Slim" Whitman Jr.

Country/western singer-composer -- via the New York Times. A unique and sentimental cult singer whose fame rose on the strength of his relentlessly marketed "All My Best" album. His falsetto and yodeling skills, combined with his spectacular outfits and werewolfish appearance, made him an easy target for parody -- uniquely, his voice stopped a Martian invasion in Tim Burton's "Mars Attacks!" -- but, obviously, he reached a lot of people's hearts, and that's a good thing, don't you think?

James Gandolfini

Actor -- via the New York Times. Definitive as the introspective post-modern gangster Tony Soprano. He began to make an impact as Virgil in "True Romance" . . .

Harry Lewis

Actor and restaurateur -- via the L.A. Times. His most memorable role was as the gangster Toots in "Key Largo"; he and his wife later founded the famous Hamburger Hamlet in Los Angeles.

Harold J. "Stumpy" Cromer

Dancer and comedian -- via the New York Times.

Elaine Laron

Writer and lyricist -- via the Hollywood Reporter. Wrote extensively for TV shows such as "Captain Kangaroo" and "The Electric Company."

Arturo Vega

Spokesperson, designer, lighting director, and mother figure to The Ramones -- via the New York Times.

Bernard "Bernie" Sahlins

Co-founder of Second City improv/sketch comedy theater; comedy/theatrical writer/director/producer -- via the Chicago Tribune.

Johnny Smith

Jazz guitarist and composer -- via the Washington Post. His most famous composition was "Walk, Don't Run."

Bruno Barloletti

Conductor and artistic director: guiding light of the Lyric Opera of Chicago -- via the New York Times.

Jean Stapleton

Actress and singer -- via the New York Times. Her biggest impact was as the character of Edith Bunker on the long-running American sitcom "All in the Family"; she started on stage, appearing in many key musicals of the 1950s and early '60s.

Jack Vance

Writer -- via the New York Times. He hated to be pigeonholed as a genre writer, but his prolific efforts took into the categories of science fiction, fantasy,and mystery, among others.

Tom Sharpe

Writer -- via the Guardian. Best known for his comic novels --

Richard Ballantine

Cycling advocate -- via the Guardian. His eloquent fascination with the bicycle helped to trigger the acceptance and use of it by adults for commuting, pleasure, exercise, and adventure!

Vollis Simpson

Artist -- via the New York Times.

Bob Fletcher

A decent human being -- vi the New York Times. He was an agricultural inspector in California. When Japanese families were forced off their lad ad into internment camps during World War II, he quit his job and  worked the fruit firms of some of those imprisoned, splitting the profits and saving the owners' share for them. When they returned, he turned their properties back to them in good working condition, and the money as well.

Claramae Turner

Contralto -- via the L.A. Times. She is best known for her role as Nettie Fowler in the 1956 film of "Carousel." Interestingly, she originated the role of Madame Flora in Menotti's "The Medium"; the song "I Left my Heart in San Francisco" was written for her -- she sang it first, but Tony Bennett recorded it first, making it his signature song.

William T. Cartwright

Film producer and editor; the man who saved Watts Towers! -- via the L.A. Times.

Esther Williams

Competitive swimmer and film star -- via ABC News. As the beautiful heroine of "aquamusicals" that capitalized on her looks, charm, and talent, she was a huge box-office draw in the immediate post-World War II.