After courageously battling pancreatic cancer, the dancer, actor and devoted husband of 34 years died Sept. 14 at age 57. “Patrick was a really good man, a funny man and one to whom I owe much that I can’t ever repay,” said Whoopi Goldberg, who starred with Swayze in his most memorable film, Ghost, a role she says he lobbied for her to win. “I believe in Ghost‘s message, so he’ll always be near.”
With her famous hair gone, a visibly frail Farrah Fawcett didn’t flinch at publicly documenting her brave battle with anal cancer in Farrah’s Story. But the Charlie’s Angels star, who died at age 62 on June 25, will forever be remembered as a ’70s golden girl, full of light and laughter. “When I think of Farrah I will remember her kindness, her cutting dry wit and, of course, her beautiful smile.” said her Angels costar and friend Kate Jackson.
Her starmaking turn was as the charmingly goofy Tai in the 1995 comedy Clueless – but Murphy had a striking talent for drama, churning out jaw-dropping performances in Girl, Interrupted (as a suicidal mental patient) and Don’t Say a Word. But after reportedly battling the flu, the 32-year-old actress died of cardiac arrest after collapsing on Dec. 20 at her home in Los Angeles. Although Murphy was rumored to have battled anorexia and drugs, her husband Simon Monjack dismissed the talk, telling PEOPLE, “We want to know why we lost our baby.”
It was a scene no one expected: The celebrated deejay – who had survived a fatal plane crash a year ago – was discovered dead of an overdose in his New York City apartment on Aug. 28. Before his death, the 36-year-old (real name: Adam Goldstein) had filmed the MTV addiction series Gone Too Far, which his later ran with his family’s blessing. “It is our hope through airing this show that people will get to see the side of Adam that we knew and loved, not just the celebrity DJ, but the honest and caring person who gave so much of himself to help others,” they said in a statement.
The TV personality, who emceed Star Search and famously introduced Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show for 30 years with his signature opening cry “Heeeeeere’s Johnny!” died of cancer on June 23 at age 86. Britney Spears – who appeared on Star Search as a young girl – Tweeted about the loss, saying, “He is responsible for giving so many artists their first shot including myself. He was a wonderful man and will be greatly missed.”
She first shot to fame as a hard-drinking contestant on the U.K. version of Big Brother. But it was Goody’s very public battle with cervical cancer – which she learned about while appearing on the Indian version of the reality show – that captivated the British public. After discovering that her illness was terminal, Goody wed longtime boyfriend Jack Tweed in a televised event (proceeds went to a fund for her two children). A month later, the 27-year-old died in her sleep on March 22 in her Upshire, Essex, home.
Products like Oxi Clean and Kaboom became household must-haves thanks to infomercial pitchman Billy Mays, who always prided himself on the fact that he never endorsed a product he didn’t believe in. That voice was silenced when Mays, 50, died in his sleep June 28 due to a pulmonary embolism. “The news of Billy’s death came as a total shock to me,” Anthony Sullivan, Mays’s costar on Discovery Channel series Pitchmen told PEOPLE. “I’m devastated.”
The iconic Democratic senator from Massachusetts – and the last brother from the Kennedy political dynasty – died Aug. 25 at age 77 after battling a malignant brain tumor. “For his family, he was a guardian,” said President Obama, who was among four Presidents who came out to commemorate the statesman for his life and public service at his burial at Arlington Cemetery. “For America, he was the defender of a dream.”
Following a long battle with leukemia, the Peter, Paul and Mary singer died Sept. 16 at age 72. The singer had won five Grammys with the trio, whose folk songs include “Puff, the Magic Dragon” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.” “Mary helped awaken mainstream America to the humanizing message of folk music. She reached millions of people in the struggle to guarantee social justice for all and has left a profound and lasting impact on all of us,” her bandmates and friends said in a statement.
Oscar winner Malden – who won Best Supporting Actor in the 1951 classic A Streetcar Named Desire – died of natural causes July 1, at age 91, in his Brentwood, Calif., home. Michael Douglas, who costarred with Malden in 1972’s The Streets of San Francisco, told PEOPLE, “[Karl] was my surrogate father. I love this man with all of my heart.”
The adorable Chihuahua, best known from her Taco Bell campaign where she appeared to utter the ubiquitous phrase “Yo quiero Taco Bell?” died July 21 after a stroke. “She made so many people happy,” Gidget’s trainer, Sue Chipperton, said.
The beloved television icon, who starred in the groundbreaking ’70s series Maude and the much-beloved ’80s sitcom The Golden Girls, died April 25 at age 86 after a long battle with cancer. “Bea was such an important part of a very happy time in my life and I have dearly loved her for a very long time,” Golden Girls costar Betty White said in a statement. “How lucky I was to know her.”
While taking a private ski lesson at the Mont Tremblant resort in Québec, the actress, 45, fell down in what appeared to be a minor incident. Two days later, on March 18, she died from what was later ruled “blunt trauma” to her head, leaving behind her husband of 14 years, actor Liam Neeson, and two sons. “She was an adoring and loving wife and mother,” family friend Ralph Fiennes said. “I cannot imagine a world without her wit, her love, her mischief, her great, great talent and her gift for living.”
CAPTAIN LOU ALBANO
The beloved pro-wrestling figure – who appeared as Cyndi Lauper’s father in the video for “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” – was 75 when he died on Oct. 14. The star, who helped launch pro wrestling into national prominence, had suffered heart attacks previously.
The filmmaker behind such ’80s classics as The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and the ’90s blockbuster Home Alone was visiting family in Manhattan when he suffered a fatal heart attack during a morning walk on Aug. 6. From Molly Ringwald to Matthew Broderick and Macauley Culkin, the director and screenwriter, who was 59, was remembered for giving iconic young actors their big break. “The world has lost not only a quintessential filmmaker whose influence will be felt for generations, but a great and decent man,” Culkin said.
The comedian, who made his mark with goofy roles in Mel Brooks’s History of the World Part 1 and alongside Burt Reynolds in The Cannonball Run died in his sleep on May 4 after a long illness. He was 75. “Dom always made you feel better when he was around, and there will never be another like him,” Reynolds told PEOPLE. “I will miss him very much.”
The movie and TV star, 72, was shooting a new film in Bangkok when he was discovered in his hotel room on June 3 with a rope around his neck and body. While circumstances surrounding his death – ruled as accidental asphyxiation – remain unclear, what isn’t in doubt is the outpouring of love and respect the actor received from hundreds of friends, family and stars (Tom Selleck to Lucy Liu) who came out to say goodbye to the Kung Fu master.
The Fantasy Island star – who battled Captain Kirk as his nemesis Khan in the 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – died Jan. 14 from “complications of advancing age,” his son-in-law Gilbert Smith told PEOPLE. Montalban was 88 when he passed away at his Beverly Hills home, surrounded by his children and grandchildren. “He was in peace,” Smith said.
During a family vacation in the Bahamas, John Travolta and Kelly Preston’s 16-year-old son Jett suffered a seizure on Jan. 2, and fatally struck his head. “I remember Jett when he was born,” family friend Tom Cruise said. “I saw him when he was just a few months old and John just adored him, and both of his children, and Kelly.” The family held a memorial for their son in their Ocala, Fla., hometown, where the locals remembered sharing a special bond with the boy. Said nearby resident Barbara Weiland, “We felt it was important to come out and let them know that every day people loved Jett too.”
Dubbed “the most trusted man in America,” the TV news legend – who anchored the CBS Evening News and reported on President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the moon landing and the Vietnam War – died at age 92 on July 17. His distinguished voice still can be heard introducing the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, per his family’s wishes. As he said on his last Evening News broadcast, “Old anchormen, you see, don’t fade away – they just keep coming back for more.”
Just weeks before he was to kick off his London comeback concerts, the 50-year-old was rushed to UCLA Medical Center on June 25 after he was found unresponsive in his Hombly Hills, Calif., home. While the coroner and LAPD worked to uncover a cause of death (it was ruled a homicide), Jackson’s family, friends and millions of fans were left to mourn the passing of an icon. But it was Jackson’s daughter Paris, taking hold of the mic at his public memorial, who reminded the world that the King of Pop was more than a larger-than-life figure: “Daddy has been the best father you can ever imagine. And I just want to say I love him so much.”