Notable deaths in 2018: Religion, music, sports

NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s Wednesday, the 26th of December, 2018. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. First up: Notable deaths in 2018.

Now, every single person is precious and notable in God’s eyes. And we don’t mean to imply otherwise. If you’ve lost a loved one this year, I imagine your heart is very heavy, especially this time of year.

EICHER: Indeed, our purpose here is to remember those who passed away who were notable in the sense that you probably knew of them or felt their influence in some way, for good or for ill.

On Monday we remembered those in politics, government, and business. Today, we turn to the fields of religion, music, and sports.

Some of the people who died this year are very well-known. People like Billy Graham, Aretha Franklin, and, just a couple of weeks ago, the young missionary, John Allen Chau.

REICHARD: WORLD Radio’s Sarah Schweinsberg picks up our coverage of other notable names in these fields. She begins with a pastor known for his popular Bible translation.

Eugene H. Peterson was a Presbyterian pastor and the author of The Message, a best-selling contemporary paraphrase of the Bible. He died in October at the age of 85.

Peterson wrote 35 books, but The Message was by far his best-known work. Some criticized Peterson’s method and choice of words in the 1993 paraphrase. But Peterson said in this 2010 interview that he saw The Message as giving the Bible back to God’s people.

PETERSON: What I was trying to do was from the very outset if Isaiah was saying this in America how would he say it? You know nobody in Isaiah’s time had to go to a dictionary or a handbook to find out what he was talking about.

Despite the popularity of his many books, Peterson asked to be remembered as a good husband, a good father, and a good pastor.

Next, the man responsible for getting millions of children to church on weeknights. Arthur Rorheim, co-founder of Awana Clubs International, died in January at the age of 99.

AWANA THEME SONG: Hail Awana, on the march for you! Hail, Awana, holding forth the truth.

Rorheim started Awana along with pastor Lance Latham in the 1940s as a way to reach Chicago-area youth. Rorheim had no formal education or training…just a love for children. He devised many of the programs Awana is best known for, including Bible-based handbooks, Scripture memorization, and games.

Today, Awana is in 120 countries ministering to 4 million children.

Finally, in our religion category, is Jim Downing. Downing was a Pearl Harbor survivor and helped found the parachurch ministry, The Navigators. He died in February at the age of 104, making him the second oldest survivor of the Pearl Harbor attacks.

Downing was on shore eating breakfast when Japanese planes struck. He ran to the USS West Virginia and began spraying water on stacked ammunition to keep it from exploding. In an interview with WORLD Radio, Downing remembered seeing the lifeless bodies of his comrades around him.

DOWNING: So while I was fighting fires, I said the parents will never know what happened to their sons. So I began to memorize these names.

Afterwards, Downing wrote letters to many of his fallen shipmates’ parents… telling them how their sons died as heroes.

Downing had become a Christian in 1935 after working alongside the man who founded the Navigators: Dawson Trotman.

DOWNING:  I became a Christian not because I was afraid of going to Hell, but I wanted the quality of life these guys had.

Downing worked with The Navigators in various capacities for more than 80 years.

In 2016, at the age of 102, Downing wrote a book titled The Other Side of Infamy. Guinness World Records recognizes him as the oldest male author in history.

Now we turn to notable deaths in music.

MUSIC: [Jackson 5]

We begin with Joe Jackson… father of the famous Jackson 5—and Janet Jackson. The family patriarch died in June at the age of 89. Jackson developed his children’s music and guided their careers—and became notorious for driving them.

In a 2013 interview with Piers Morgan, Joe Jackson defended his parenting, saying raising his family in Gary, Indiana, wasn’t easy.  

JACKSON: I’m glad I was tough. Because look at what I came out with. Kids that everybody loved all over the world, and they treated everybody right. 

In 2014, Joe Jackson received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy.

MUSIC: [Temptations] 

Dennis Edwards, lead singer of the Motown band the Temptations, died in February. He was 74.

Edwards was a member of the Contours before joining the Temptations in 1968. He stayed with the band until 1977.

During that period, the Temptations sang some of their greatest hits, including “Cloud Nine,” “Ball of Confusion,” and “Papa was a Rollin’ Stone.”

MUSIC: [Papa Was A Rollin Stone]

In 1989, Edwards was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 2013 received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy.

Singer and songwriter Denise LaSalle also died earlier this year, in January. LaSalle was 78. She is known for her biggest hit “Trapped by a Thing Called Love.” The song sailed to the top notch on the R&B charts in 1971.

MUSIC: [Trapped By A Thing Called Love]

LaSalle became known as the Queen of Blues and founded the National Association for the Preservation of the Blues in 1986.

Next, two notable composers. The first is the trailblazing George Walker. He died in August at the age of 94.

In 1945, Walker became the first African-American pianist to play a recital in New York’s Town Hall, the first black instrumentalist to play a solo with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the first black graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music.

But he topped those in 1996, becoming the first African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize for music. He won for a meditation on President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.

MUSIC: [Lilacs]

Walker told NPR in 2009 that his success was hard won.

WALKER: I had to find my own way. A way of doing something that was different; something that I would be satisfied with.

Our second composer is Patrick Kavanaugh. He died in April at the age of 63.

Kavanaugh was a devout Christian and advocated for Christian outreach in the classical arts. In 1980, he founded the Christian Performing Artists’ Fellowship along with his wife.

The group performed concerts in the U.S. and abroad—including Russia, China, and Israel.

MUSIC: [A Taste For The Classics]

In 1997, Kavanaugh launched the annual MasterWorks Festival, a four-week summer gathering where students learn from Christians working in classical arts.

Now, we turn to sports.

NBA Hall of Famer, Jo Jo White died in January. He was 71. White was a sharpshooting guard for the Boston Celtics, helping the team win two titles and taking MVP honors of the 1976 NBA Finals.

AUDIO: [Sound of White scoring a last second shot]

White still holds the Celtics record for the most consecutive games: 488. In May 2010, White was diagnosed with a brain tumor. At his 2015 Hall of Fame inductee ceremony, White said he was grateful for the honor.

WHITE: The doctor said I wasn’t supposed to be here, but God had other plans. And for this I am truly, truly grateful.

White died from dementia complications.

Next, Willie McCovey, a hall of fame baseball slugger, died in October at the age of 80.

McCovey was nicknamed “Stretch” for his lanky 6-foot-4 frame. He was named Rookie of the Year in 1960, led the league in home runs three time and was named the MLB’s most valuable player in 1969.

One of McCovey’s most famous moments came when he helped lead the San Francisco Giants to the 1962 World Series against the New York Yankees.

The series came down to Game 7. In one of the most most dramatic endings in World Series history, McCovey came up to bat at the bottom of the ninth, down one with two outs.

AUDIO: [Sound of game]

McCovey smashed a line drive directly at the chest of the Yankees’ second baseman, ending the game and the series.

AUDIO: Willie McCovey hit it like a bullet… A line drive!

McCovey would call it the hardest ball he ever hit.

McCovey played until 1980. He never made it to the World Series again, but he went on to hit 521 home runs—good for 20th place in baseball history.

The legendary college baseball coach Augie Garrido died in March at the age of 79.  

During his 48-year-long career, Garrido became the winningest college baseball coach of all time. From 1997 to 2016, Garrido led the University of Texas to 15 College World Series appearances.

AUDIO: [Sound of Longhorns winning World Series]

Garrido ended his career with nearly 2-thousand wins. He was named National Coach of the Year six times and won five College World Series titles. He joined the College Baseball Hall of Fame in July 2016.

AUDIO: Whoa Nellie!

Finally, college football fans will recognize that as the voice of the legendary announcer Keith Jackson. He died at 89 in January.

Jackson spent nearly 50 years calling games and became the voice of college football.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.

(Photo/Associated Press, Audrey McAvoy) Jim Downing in Honolulu in Dec. 2016 for the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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