MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Thursday, the 27th of December, 2018. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up: A final round of notable deaths from 2018.
REICHARD: Yeah, you know, it sneaks up on you just how many of these we have each year. We’ve covered figures in politics, government, and business, as well as religion, music, and sports.
Today we turn to print, film, science, and culture.
EICHER: And because there are so many names, we’re just going of mention some of the public figures you’ve probably already heard about—like American journalist and author Tom Wolfe, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, and physicist Stephen Hawking. And of course last month the world said goodbye to Stan Lee, the creator of many of Marvel Comics most beloved characters.
Today Sarah Schweinsberg picks up our coverage again with two other notable comic illustrators who also died this year.
SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: While Stan Lee created the majority of the Marvel Universe, he didn’t do it all alone. Steve Ditko is credited as the co-creator of Spider-Man, first published in 1961. Ditko was responsible for Spider-Man’s red and blue costume and his web-shooters. He also created Spider-Man’s enemies: Doctor Octopus, Sandman, the Lizard, and Green Goblin.
AUDIO: You know what it is I love about being Spiderman? Everything.
In 1963, Ditko also created the hero, Doctor Strange. After leaving Marvel for 13 years, Ditko returned in 1979 and continued to write and draw for the rest of his life.
Steve Ditko died in July at the age of 90.
Marie Severin, another prominent Marvel comic artist, also died this year. Women were rare in the field in the 60s, but that’s when Severin became Marvel’s premier artist. She drew covers for characters like Daredevil, Iron Man, and Captain America. She also designed the first Spider-Woman.
In a 1979 interview Severin discussed the challenges of good comic illustrating.
SEVERIN: You never know what you’re going to be drawing. Every comic should open to any page and say gee that looks interesting. I want to buy that book.
Marie Severin died in September at the age of 89.
MUSIC: [Yesterday, when I was young…]
We begin our notable deaths in TV and film with country music guitarist, singer, and TV- host Roy Clark. Clark died in November. He was 85-years-old.
Clark was 14 when he got his first guitar. He began playing in local bars and dropped out of high school at 15. Before long, he was traveling and playing alongside famous musicians like Hank Williams.
Clark went on to notch seven Grammy nominations. His recording of “Alabama Jubilee” won a Grammy Award in 1982.
MUSIC: [Alabama Jubilee]
But Clark was best known for his work on the TV variety show Hee Haw, where he played the comedic co-host for nearly 25 years.
AUDIO: Hee Haw, Hee Haw… welcome to Hee Haw!…. Starring Buck Owens and Roy Clark!
Despite predictions of failure, Roy Clark told NPR in 2016 that Hee Haw brought country music into the mainstream.
CLARK: I was just in New York City. I was walking down the street and the guy yells across and says, ‘Hey, Roy, I’m a-picking.’ Well, I’m obligated to say, ‘Well, I’m a-grinning.’ Hee hee hee, haw haw, Hee hee hee haw haw … and the whole Hee Haw gang!
Burt Reynolds was one of Hollywood’s most popular leading men in the 70s. He was 82-years-old when he died in September. Throughout his life Reynolds appeared in nearly 100 films and TV shows, including Gunsmoke, Deliverance, Smokey and the Bandit, and the Longest Yard.
AUDIO: [Gunsmoke clip]
As Reynolds’ popularity waned in the 1980s, he turned to television. Reynolds produced his own sitcom, Evening Shade, and earned an Emmy.
AUDIO: [Evening Shade clip]
Reynolds went on to earn a 1997 Oscar nomination as best supporting actor in Boogie Nights, and continued acting until his death.
MUSIC: [Little House theme music]
The actress who played the comical villain in the 1970s hit TV series Little House on the Prairie died in November. Katherine MacGregor was 93 years old.
MacGregor’s wealthy shop owner and mean character Harriet Olesen provided much of the conflict and entertainment in the long-running series.
NELS: Harriet, it says here you want to take 20% off of every item in the store!
HARRIET: Yes, that’s right!… We raise the prices 30%. Then we take 20% off and that makes us 10% more profit than if we didn’t have a sale at all! Haha!
When MacGregor first landed the role, she realized Harriet Oleson was barely mentioned in the popular children’s books series, so she created the character herself.
MACGREGOR: I sat down and I wrote 8 pages of where I came from. What kind of education I had. What kind of parents I had. What kind of home I had. Did I have any brothers or sisters? No. I was an only child.
Now to several prominent entertainers who worked off-screen. William Goldman died in November at the age of 87. Goldman was one of Hollywood’s most celebrated screenwriters. Some of his most popular movies include Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President’s Men and A Bridge Too Far.
But Goldman called himself a novelist who wrote screenplays. He wrote more than 20 novels. Two became movies.
MUSIC: [Princess Bride theme music]
And one of those is considered one of the best comedies of all time: The Princess Bride. Goldman wrote the novel in 1973, but it took almost 15 years before his screenplay adaptation became the iconic film.
CLIP: Marriage. Marriage is what brings us together today! Marriage, that blessed arrangement!
In a 2013 interview, Goldman said as a young man he didn’t show any signs of talent and that he was still surprised by his career.
GOLDMAN: And I still am staggered. No one remotely thought I could ever succeed as a writer.
Neil Simon was another writer who managed to master the screen as well as the stage. Simon died in August at the age of 91. Early in his career Simon wrote screenplays for TV and movies—but his lasting acclaim came from comedic broadway musicals that explored urban living and family life.
CLIP: The nation’s leading comedic playwright without a doubt… would you welcome Neil Simon!
Simon’s success began with his 1963 hit Barefoot in the Park followed by The Odd Couple. Other hits included the Plaza Suite and The Sunshine Boys.
CLIP: Going barefoot in the park where it says keep off the grass… Isn’t recommended for the very old.
In 1991, Neil Simon won a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize for his autobiographical comedy Lost in Yonkers.
Now to medicine… Lois Jovanovic is the doctor known as the “Godmother of Modern Diabetes Care.” She died in September at 71. Dr. Jovanovic, who had Type 1 diabetes herself, played a pivotal role in shaping treatment for pregnant women with the disease.
Before Jovanovic, doctors believed Type 1 women couldn’t have healthy babies. Jovanovic believed they could if their blood glucose levels remained normal. So she developed programs to constantly monitor a woman’s blood glucose levels. She also created meal plans and insulin infusion devices, plus prototypes for an artificial pancreas.
Because of Jovanovic’s research, diabetic women went from a 1 in 5 chance of having a healthy baby to nearly identical odds as non-diabetic women.
And lastly, we remember two prominent historical figures. Olivia Hooker was one of the last survivors of the 1921 Tulsa race riots. She died in November at 103 years old.
On May 31st, 1921, 6-year-old Hooker was at home with her family when one of the worst race riots in U.S. history broke out. A group of white men with torches came through her middle class neighborhood. Hooker told NPR earlier this year that her mother hid her under a table while a mob destroyed their home.
HOOKER: It was a horrifying thing for a little girl who is only 6 years old… trying to remember to keep quiet so they wouldn’t know we were there.
Hooker remembers hearing the mob take an axe to her sister’s piano. They also destroyed her father’s business.
HOOKER: To me the most shocking thing was seeing people to whom you’d never done anything to irritate, who just took it upon themselves to destroy your property…
The violence started after a black man allegedly assaulted a white woman in an elevator. Some estimate that as many as 300 African-Americans died in the riots.
Later, during World War II, Hooker became the first African-American woman to join the U.S. Coast Guard. In 1997, she helped create the Tulsa Race Riot Commission to investigate the violence and recommend reparations for victims.
And finally, the woman credited as inspiring the most famous drawing of Rosie the Riveter died in January. Naomi Parker Fraley was 96.
MUSIC: [All the day long, she’s a part of the assembly line. She’s making history, working for victory. Rosie the Riveter]
During World War II, Rosie the Riveter became the star of a campaign to recruit female factory workers. But historians debated for decades about who modeled for J. Howard Miller’s famous poster drawing.
In 2015, a professor’s search for the real Rosie led him to Fraley. During World War II, young Fraley worked at a Navy machine shop in Alameda, California.
In 2016, Fraley said she never publicized her claim as Rosie the Riveter because she didn’t want to overshadow another woman who, at the time, was thought to be Rosie’s inspiration.
But when asked what it meant to be fully known as Rosie the Riveter, she said, “Victory!”
Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.