Lasting Legacies: Media Influencers


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Actress Carrie Fisher died in the final days of 2016

Caroline Boda, Sentry Staff Reporter

2016 was a year of significant discoveries, peaceful activism and technological advances, but, like every year, the world had its share of tragic events. Along with violent uprisings and numerous heartbreaking shootings, the world of sports and media suffered many iconic losses.

In early January, English singer-songwriter David Bowie passed following the release of his 25th studio album, Blackstar. After suffering from liver cancer for nearly 18 months, he released his final album on the day of his 69th birthday. Just two short days later, fans were saddened by the news of his death in his New York City apartment. Bowie’s music left a substantial impact on the music industry and a legacy that will be remembered for decades.

Similarly, media released the tragic passing of the actor of Harry Potter’s “Professor Snape,” Alan Rickman, only four days later. After concealing his diagnosis of terminal cancer for almost six months, Rickman’s death naturally came as a shock to many. Fans created a memorial under Platform 9 3/4 in Kings Cross Station to honor Rickman’s memory after he passed peacefully in London, England.

At age 74, legendary boxer and civil rights champion, Muhammad Ali, was hospitalized in Arizona and later passed away due to respiratory complications. Following a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, the three-time World Heavyweight Champion died on the evening of June 3. A funeral service was held in Ali’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky only a few short days later to remember the boxer’s substantial positive impact on both the worlds of sports and civil rights.

Among the many talented personalities creating content online, singer-songwriter Christina Grimmie became one of the largest stars to influence millions of young teenagers on YouTube. Following a performance at The Plaza Live in Orlando, Florida, Grimmie was shot by gunman Kevin James Loibl as she signed autographs for fans. At the young age of 22, the cherished musician passed away later that evening at the Orlando Regional Medical Center. Grimmie’s tragic death has become a reminder to our broken society of the constant need for peace and unity among our differences.

After a three-year battle against Alzheimer’s, the beloved film director, actor and author, Gene Wilder, passed peacefully at his home in Stamford, Connecticut. Years after his significant role as “Willy Wonka” in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Wilder began to lead a modest lifestyle, spending his elderly days often painting or playing tennis in his California and Connecticut residences. He passed away at age 83 after living a humble but fulfilling life.

On the morning of September 25, the tragic news of the death of Miami Marlins pitcher, José Fernádez, was announced. Earlier that morning, the US Coast Guard found three victims next to the overturned boat Fernádez and two others were occupying off the coast of Miami Beach, Florida. In the following weeks, the esteemed pitcher’s uniform, No. 16, was retired after the city of Miami held a public memorial and funeral procession to remember Fernádez’s legacy in Major League Baseball.

Known for his extravagant fashion and wide vocal range, the legendary musician known as Prince passed away at the age of 57 due to an opioid overdose. After a career of selling more than 100 million records worldwide, fans across the globe were devastated by the shocking news of the musician’s death. Follow his passing, admirer’s of Prince left flowers and purple balloons beneath his star painted on the wall of the First Avenue nightclub.

In the final days of 2016, actress and humorist, Carrie Fisher, was taken to the hospital after suffering a medical emergency on a flight following the European leg of her book tour. After spending four days in intensive care at the UCLA Medical Center, the beloved actress of Star Wars’ “Princess Leia” passed away on December 27. The news of Fisher’s death spread rapidly online where Star Wars co-stars and fans shared their memories of the cherished actress.

Less than 24 hours later, media released the news that Debbie Reynolds, actress and mother of Carrie Fisher, had been hospitalized following a severe stroke. Later that afternoon, Reynolds was pronounced dead at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California.  Following the tragic passing of both mother and daughter, a private memorial service was held for Fisher and Reynolds on January 5, 2017 to honor these two women who left a legacy that is known across the globe.

Although millions are saddened by these tragic losses, remembering the talented lives of those who passed this year is a reminder to us of how increasingly better our society has become because of them. Their humorous personalities and radiant positivity have undoubtedly made our world a more beautiful place to live in.