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Deaths of Famous People

Wilt Chamberlain’s Heart Attack

Wilt Chamberlain was possibly the greatest basketball player and the greatest athlete ever. The 63-year-old Wilt Chamberlain was reported to have died of a heart attack.

Edith Piaf, Old Too Young

Edith Piaf was a French cabaret singer who became famous throughout the world during the Nazi occupation of France during World War II. She captivated listeners with her sad, seemingly autobiographical songs of lost love, sorrow and deprivation.

Johnny Miles Was My Hero

“Unknown Kid Wins the Greatest of All Marathons” -- That was the Boston Post headline in 1926. The most unbelievable upset ever in a major marathon was pulled off by Johnny Miles, a 20 year-old who had never entered a marathon.

Ray Charles, The Genius

Ray Charles was an incredibly talented singer and composer of jazz, blues, gospel, and country music.

Bob Hayes, World’s Fastest Human

For many years the world’s fastest human was Bob Hayes, the only man to win Olympic gold medals and a Super Bowl ring, and hold world records in the 60-, 100-, and 220-yard dashes and the Olympic 100-meter dash at the same time.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s Doctors Vindicated 40 Years after Her Death

Each year, more than 100,000 North Americans die from medical mistakes. In 1962, newspapers reported that Eleanor Roosevelt may have died because her doctors at one of the most respected medical schools in the world did not diagnose her infection with tuberculosis early enough.

Franco Columbu, Mr. Olympia

Franco Columbu was considered to be one of the strongest men in the world. He was a bodybuilder, powerlifter, actor, and author who won the Mr. Olympia contest twice and also Mr. Universe, Mr. World, Mr. International, Mr. Europe and Mr. Italy contests. He held several world powerlifting records, and his website states that he achieved a bench press of 525 pounds, a squat of 655 pounds, and dead lift of 750 pounds. These are incredible lifts for a man who was only 5'5" tall and weighed only 185 pounds.

Peggy Lipton and Colon Cancer

Peggy Lipton was an American television star, actress, model, and singer who played one of three undercover cops on the popular ABC series, The Mod Squad, from 1968 to 1973. She was nominated for four Emmy Awards and four Golden Globe Awards, and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Television Series Drama in 1971.

David Koch and Prostate Cancer

David Koch was incredibly gifted, both genetically and financially, and became a chemical engineer, businessman, political activist, and philanthropist. With one of his brothers, he grew a vast inheritance into joint ownership of Koch Industries, and at the time of his death he was the 11th richest person in the world, worth $48 billion.

Alma Mahler, Muse to Many

Alma Schindler Mahler is famous for marrying and having affairs with some of the most brilliant and accomplished men of the 20th century. She was a composer, sculptor and writer who wanted to be famous for her own intellectual creations, but she lived at a time when it was extremely difficult for women to be prominent in the arts. She took the next best approach by marrying and loving some of the leading musicians, composers, architects, painters and writers of the era.

President Van Buren and Late Onset Asthma

At age 51, Martin Van Buren became the first native-born president of the United States because he was born after the American Revolution. At age 40, he developed a cough and progressive shortness of breath that would be diagnosed today as "late-onset asthma," but in those days, his physician called it "malignant catarrh."

Did Chopin Have Cystic Fibrosis?

Frederic Chopin was one of the greatest composers of solo piano music and a gifted pianist whose incredible techniques are still copied by concert pianists. He had a disease that made him sick from early childhood, and he died at the tragically young age of 39. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis, but instead, he probably suffered from cystic fibrosis, a genetic condition that was not even described until 1938.

B.B. King: A Long Life that Should Have Been Longer

B.B. King was arguably the best-known blues singer and guitarist in the world. He recorded more than 50 albums, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, won a lifetime achievement award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in 1988, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1990 and a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1991.

Bart Starr, Legendary Quarterback

Bart Starr was a good, but not great, college quarterback who wasn't selected until the 17th round of the 1956 NFL draft after 199 other players were picked. In the next 15 years, he: • led the Green Bay Packers to five NFL titles including three consecutive league championships (1965–1967) • was the Most Valuable Player in winning the first two Super Bowl championships • won the league MVP award in 1966 • was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame • had the highest post-season passer rating (104.8) of any quarterback in NFL history • had an incredible career completion percentage of 57.4

Horace Fletcher, the Great Masticator

Horace Fletcher was known as "The Great Masticator," who said "Nature will castigate those who don't masticate." More than 100 years ago, in 1913, his book Fletcherism tried to convince people to chew their food to a liquid pulp. He claimed that this would help to control weight and prevent diabetes.

Ted Kennedy’s Brain Cancer

The recent college admission scandal in which rich parents pay to have their undeserving children accepted at major colleges is not new and has been going on for years. However, a college admissions officer can only look at an applicant's record up to the time he applies to school and really has no idea how successful he will be in the future.

John Singleton: High Blood Pressure and Strokes

John Singleton was a film and TV director, screenwriter, and producer who, in 1991 at age 24, became the first African American and the youngest person ever to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director, for his film Boyz n the Hood.

Ian Cognito: When Every Minute Counts

At age 60, British comedian Ian Cognito collapsed and died from a heart attack while performing on stage at a crowded comedy club on April 11, 2019. The audience thought that this was part of his act and did not realize that he was actually having a heart attack, when every minute counts for a rescue team to save his life.

Peter Sellers’s Many Heart Attacks

Peter Sellers was a very talented British film actor, comedian and singer who could create characters and copy accents so effectively that he often played several different roles in the same film. He was nominated three times for an Academy Award, and four times for Golden Globe’s best male actor award. His most famous role was that of Chief Inspector Clouseau in the five Pink Panther films.

Earl Thomas Conley and Cerebral Atrophy

Earl Thomas Conley was a country music singer-songwriter who during the 1980s and 1990s had 24 Top-10 country singles including 18 that were Number One. Only Alabama and Ronnie Milsap had more number one hits during the decade. This month, at age 77, Conley died after spending many months in hospice care for cerebral atrophy, a condition that had caused progressive loss of memory over several years.

Jack Lemmon, American Icon

Jack Lemmon was an actor who starred in more than 60 films, won two Academy Awards and was nominated eight times. He was born into a wealthy but abusive family and died at age 76 from complications of colon cancer that had spread to his bladder.

Barry Marshall, from Quack to Nobel Prize

In 1983, Barry Marshall and John Warren presented a paper to the Australian Gastroenterological Society claiming that stomach ulcers are caused by infection. They never finished their paper because they were laughed off the stage. Barry Marshall became so upset that he swallowed a vial of the bacteria taken from a patient who had stomach ulcers, went into shock and almost died.

Nelson Rockefeller’s Heart Attack

On January 26, 1979, Nelson Rockefeller, former Vice President of the United States, a four-term governor of New York and an heir to the Rockefeller family fortune, died at age 70 of a heart attack that was rumored to have occurred during extramarital sex. Rockefeller's family chose not to have an autopsy done; instead, he was cremated 18 hours after he was pronounced dead.

Kelly Catlin: Concussion, Depression and Suicide

Kelly Catlin was a world-class bicycle racer who won a silver medal in the 2016 Summer Olympics and gold medals in the 2016, 2017, and 2018 UCI Track Cycling World Championships. At the same time, she was a concert-quality classical violinist and an artist, was graduated summa cum laude from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor’s degree in mathematics, spoke fluent Chinese, and was in the exclusive graduate school in mathematics at Stanford University when she committed suicide at age 23, on March 7, 2019

Luke Perry: Young Strokes

Luke Perry was a television actor and movie star for more than 35 years, most famous as Dylan McKay, a brooding and alcoholic teenager who was the son of a millionaire on the TV series Beverly Hills, 90210 from 1990 to 1995, and again from 1998 to 2000. He was ranked #6 in the list of "TV's 25 Greatest Teen Idols" (TV Guide, January 23, 2005).

Typhoid Mary’s Gall Bladder

Do you know why a healthy person who makes other people sick may be called a "Typhoid Mary"? There really was a Typhoid Mary. She was an apparently healthy person who caused more than ten documented epidemics of typhoid fever, at least three documented deaths, and probably many more cases that could not be confirmed.

Peter Tork of The Monkees

Peter Tork sang and played bass and keyboard for The Monkees, a television show about a band spoofing the The Beatles. The show ran for two years from 1966 to 1968 and won an Emmy Award for outstanding comedy.

Albert Finney’s Kidney Cancer Treatments

Albert Finney was an English actor best remembered for his Academy-Award-nominated roles as the lawyer in Erin Brockovich, Geoffrey Firmin in Under the Volcano, Sir in The Dresser, Hercule Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express, and the title role in the 1963 classic, Tom Jones.

Scott Joplin, King of Ragtime

I cried when I heard the life story of Scott Joplin, and you will cry also. He was an African-American composer and pianist whose 44 original ragtime pieces, one ragtime ballet, and two operas paved the way for other black artists to develop ragtime music which would evolve into jazz. However, prejudice against blacks in late nineteenth century United States ran so deep that Joplin died penniless in a mental institution.

Lyndon Baines Johnson’s Heart Attacks

On January 22, 1973, Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, died at his ranch in Johnson City, Texas, at age 65 from what was probably his fifth heart attack. He was one of the hardest-working presidents ever and could have lived much longer if he had changed the lifestyle factors that caused his first heart attack at age 47.