Lessons and Legacies From Some We Lost in 2022
As we say goodbye to 2022, we do so knowing that some of us have lost loved ones dear to us and all of us have lost public figures we admired — actors, politicians, musicians, writers — who made a difference with their talents and leave a legacy behind.
Madeleine Albright, 84
Albright served as the first female Secretary of State and later worked as a Georgetown professor and author of several memoirs. She did not learn until she was 59 that her parents had been raised in Jewish families (they converted to Catholicism). A product of her own family’s resilience, before her death, she wrote that resilience of spirit was more important than intellect.
“I really do think about the fact that every day counts. I believe that every individual counts, and so I believe that every day counts and I try not to waste it.” — Madeleine Albright
Queen Elizabeth II, 96
Of course, by far, the most notable of those in the spotlight who died in 2022 was Queen Elizabeth II.
Her longevity made her a witness of history and many praised her steady hand through decades of rule. But perhaps it was her sense of humor that is the enduring gift she left behind. But she also understood the weight of grief, losing her husband before her death.
“Grief is the price we pay for love.” — Queen Elizabeth II
Thich Nhat Hanh, 95
The “Father of Mindfulness” wrote more than 100 books during his lifetime. The Buddhist monk was a civil rights activist, successfully urging Martin Luther King, Jr. to condemn the war in Vietnam. His frequent tours and speeches brought more awareness of Buddhist practices, especially mindfulness, to the West.
“People sacrifice the present for the future. But life is available only in the present. That is why we should walk in such a way that every step can bring us to the here and the now.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
Leslie Jordan, 67
The “Will and Grace” actor found a new platform and audience on Instagram where he amassed 5 million followers. His viral videos brought him unexpected fame late in life and joy to those who needed them in the darkest days of the pandemic. His self-acceptance and kindness were lauded by fans and celebrities alike after his death.
“I honor the sanctity of all religions – I’m not here to put them down. But the only religion that I personally embrace is the religion of kindness.” — Leslie Jordan
Loretta Lynn, 90
The New York Times described the country icon as a symbol of rural resilience. Born in Kentucky, she was a wife at 15 and a mother at 16 and her life inspired the book and later the movie, “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Her marriage was both a heartbreaking struggle and an inspiration for her work. She was married almost 50 years. Her popularity came from her approachability, “I’ve often wondered why I became so popular, and maybe that’s the reason. I think I reach people because I’m with ’em, not apart from ’em,” she’s quoted as saying.
“You’ve got to continue to grow, or you’re just like last night’s corn bread-stale and dry.” — Loretta Lynn
Bob McGrath, 90
McGrath was a longtime member of the Sesame Street cast, playing friendly neighbor Bob Johnson. Starting as a member of the original cast in 1969, he worked on 47 seasons of the show. He was an accomplished tenor and musician as well as a role model to other cast members like Alan Muraoka who said, “ His kindness and wicked sense of humor were such a joy, and I loved him so much.” After his death, many remembered McGrath’s speech to Big Bird explaining the death of Mr. Hooper.
“We can all be very pleased that we had the prospect to be with him, and to know him, and to like him quite a bit when he was right here.” — Bob McGrath
Olivia Newton-John, 73
The singer and actress perhaps best known for her role in Grease and pop hits was also an activist for environmental and animal rights issues as well as an advocate for breast cancer research.
“I feel very passionately that we need to take care of the planet and everything on it. Whether it’s saving the Amazon or just being kind to those around you, we need to take care of each other and Mother Earth.” — Olivia Newton-John
Nichelle Nichols, 89
Playing a Black woman of authority as Lt. Uhura on Star Trek, Nichols was a pioneer. She also shared a kiss with William Shatner in what would be television’s first interracial kiss. Her leadership went beyond the show as she helped NASA recruit women and African Americans beginning in 1977. She was a champion for progress both on Earth and in the skies.
“Space travel benefits us here on Earth. And we ain’t stopped yet. There’s more exploration to come.” — Nichelle Nichols
Sidney Poitier, 94
Like Nichols, Poitier was a trailblazer, becoming the first Black man to win an Oscar in 1963. He was also a voice for civil rights and an ambassador for his home country of the Bahamas. President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. Poitier recognized and accepted the responsibility of being a role model.
“I recognized the responsibility that, whether I liked it or not, I had to accept whatever the obligation was. That was to behave in a manner, to carry myself in such a professional way, as if there ever is a reflection, it’s a positive one.” — Sidney Poitier
Julie Powell, 49
The food writer known for Julie and Julia, a blog which later inspired a movie, reached new audiences and established a “fresh, spirited and sometimes crude” style of writing that was less formal and approachable. As she worked to cook every meal in Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” she gained an audience that exploded as she neared the end. She’s credited with changing the food blogging landscape and influencing the popularity of the many culinary stars that followed in her path. Her documented battles in the kitchen – and in life – were a gift to her fans who could relate to her Generation X struggles. Her husband once said, “You hate everyone and you love everyone. That is your gift!”
“Sometimes you’ve got to dye your hair cobalt blue, or wander remote islands in Sicily, or cook your way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year, for no very good reason.” — Julie Powell