The Who2 Blog

Wrapping Up 2012: Five People We’re Really Going to Miss

We counted 42 major deaths in 2012, from the sacred (Sun Myung Moon) to the profane (also Sun Myung Moon, actually). While people like Sally Ride and Ray Bradbury will be deeply missed, here are five people who had special meaning here at Who2 HQ.

A photo of George McGovern with wavy hair and sideburns in a checked suit

George McGovern. What do you want out of a candidate if you’re a progressive?  Someone who is brave, kind, firm, thoughtful, and who can rock significant sideburns after age 50. George McGovern was all these. 35 bomber missions over Europe in World War II!  He lost in a landslide to Richard Nixon in 1972, but the loss was really the country’s.

Ernest Borgnine in 'Marty'

Ernest Borgnine. Yes, yes, he was great in Marty, but he was really great as the sadistic baddie, Sgt. ‘Fatso’ Judson, in From Here to Eternity.  He scares the dickens out of me in that film every time. And this after he spent 10 years in the Navy in real life!  Borgnine really seemed to enjoy the movie star life, smiling and working right up to the end, and that’s what we’ll miss.

Phyllis Diller in 1964. Photo supplied by

Phyllis Diller. When you’re a kid, you just accept that whoever is on TV is supposed to be on TV.  I understood that Phyllis Diller was wacky, and funny, but there was no way for a kid to see how unlikely her presence on TV really was in that era.  She was somehow both a pioneer and “the last of the women comedians who had to make themselves ugly to be laughed at,” as Joan Rivers put it.  

I love Diller’s blunt comment on the honesty of comedy: “You’re going to learn everything you need to know from an audience. When they laugh, you’re a winner.  When they don’t laugh, you’re a loser.”

Mother Bear and Little Bear; illustration by Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak. The illustrator is best known for his brilliant Where the Wild Things Are. But as noted after his death May, his artwork for Little Bear was tops for me:

“My own mother read Little Bear to me many times when I was a child, and it was deeply touching and reassuring to me.  I felt a lot of Mother Bear in her, and a lot of Little Bear in me.  I tear up a little thinking of her line, ‘I never did forget your birthday, and I never will.'”

A rare talent.

Neil Armstrong poses for a formal photo in his spacesuit

Neil Armstrong. Like McGovern, he was a wartime pilot (78 missions over Korea) but unlike so many jet jockeys of his generation, he was in control:

The first man on the Moon would be remembered as the Charles Lindbergh of his generation, “a hero…beyond any soldier or politician or inventor,” and it was Armstrong’s lack of ego, his calmness under duress, his quietness, his confidence and his desire not to put himself in the spotlight of fame and attention made him the perfect choice. 

NASA never had cause to regret that choice. To quote JFK, Armstrong made “full use of his powers along the lines of excellence.” What a man.

So long, old friends!  So long, 2012!

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