In Memoriam: Stars We Lost In 2021Published on December 2, 2021. Updated January 3, 2022
It may be hard to believe that another year has come and gone once again. 2021 was full of highs and lows in Hollywood including the tragic and sometimes unexpected passings of well-know stars. From royalty to singers, and actors and actresses many of these losses were from illness and natural causes and some that were lost much too soon. In honor of their memory and a life well-lived, follow along as we remember all the celebrities we sadly lost in 2021.
Actress Marion Ramsey, well known for her role as Laverne Hooks in the Police Academy film franchise passed away on January 7, 2021 at the age of 73. “Marion carried with her a kindness and permeating light that instantly filled a room upon her arrival,” her agency Roger Paul Inc. wrote in a statement obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. “The dimming of her light is already felt by those who knew her well.” Aside from her film career, Ramsey was also known as a Broadway actress in shows like Hello, Dolly and the Los Angeles production of Little Shop of Horrors. She appeared in the production of Miss Moffatt with Bette Davis, as well as Harold Prince’s Grind and Eubiel.
Iconic actress Cloris Leachman who was best known for her role as Phyllis Lindstrom on The Mary Tyler Moore Show passed away on January 27, 2021 due to natural causes at the age of 94. “It’s been my privilege to work with Cloris Leachman, one of the most fearless actresses of our time. There was no one like Cloris. With a single look she had the ability to break your heart or make you laugh till the tears ran down your face. You never knew what Cloris was going to say or do and that unpredictable quality was part of her unparalleled magic,” said her manager Juliet Green. “She loved her children and her grandchildren ferociously. A lifelong vegetarian, she was a passionate advocate for animal rights. The family requests that any donations in her name be made to PETA or Last Chance for Animals,” Green added.
Actress Cicely Tyson passed away on January 28, 2021 at the age of 96. The pioneering star had an incredible career including three Emmy Awards, a Tony and an honorary Oscar. She was also known as the first black woman in a recurring role in a TV drama. Tyson passed away just two days after the release of her memoir Just As I Am.
Tanya Roberts was only 65 years old when she passed away on January 4, 2021 from a UTI that developed into sepsis. Roberts biggest breakout was as a Bond girl in 1985’s A View to Kill opposite Roger Moore as James Bond. In recent years she was best known for her role as Midge on That ’70s Show. Her last role was playing Elle in the series Barbershop in 2005.
Actor Deezer D, who was best known for his role as nurse Malik McGrath on ER from 1994 until 2009, including the pilot and series finale passed away on January 7, 2021 at the age of 55 after he was found unresponsive at his Los Angeles home. “My Big Brother! God is with you. I will miss you. #deezerd,” his brother Emmery captioned a series of photos, which featured family snaps and pictures of the late actor and musical performer’s career highlights. While a cause of death has not been determined, his brother Marshawn told TMZ that it is suspected he had a heart attack.
Siegfried Fishbacher, known as one half of the iconic magician duo Siegfried & Roy passed away on January 13, 2021 at the age of 81 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He passed away less than a year after the passing of his longtime partner Roy Horn who passed in May 2020. There could be no Siegfried without Roy, and no Roy without Siegfried,” Fischbacher said at the time of Roy’s passing.
Well-known journalist and radio host Larry King passed away on January 23, 2021 at the age of 87 after complications with sepsis. The Larry King Live host also had two underlying conditions that led to sepsis, including acute hypoxic respiratory failure and end stage renal disease also known as kidney failure. For 63 years and across the platforms of radio, television and digital media, Larry’s many thousands of interviews, awards, and global acclaim stand as a testament to his unique and lasting talent as a broadcaster. Additionally, while it was his name appearing in the shows’ titles, Larry always viewed his interview subjects as the true stars of his programs, and himself as merely an unbiased conduit between the guest and audience,” the statement from Ora Media said in part. “Whether he was interviewing a U.S. president, foreign leader, celebrity, scandal-ridden personage, or an everyman, Larry liked to ask short, direct, and uncomplicated questions. He believed considered questions usually provided the best answers and he was not wrong in that belief.”
Beloved Saved by the Bell actor Dustin Diamond passed away on February 1, 2021 at only 44 years old after a battle with cancer. Only a short time before his passing it was confirmed that Diamond had been diagnosed with stage 4 small cell carcinoma. “We are saddened to confirm of Dustin Diamond’s passing on Monday, February 1st, 2021 due to carcinoma,” Diamond’s rep said in a statement. “He was diagnosed with this brutal, relentless form of malignant cancer only three weeks ago. In that time, it managed to spread rapidly throughout his system; the only mercy it exhibited was its sharp and swift execution. Dustin did not suffer. He did not have to lie submerged in pain. For that, we are grateful.”
Oscar-winning actor Christopher Plummer passed away on February 5, 2021 at his home in Connecticut with his wife Elaine Taylor by his side. He was 91. Plummer’s incredible career in film, on television, and in the theater spanned more than half a century and earned him an Academy Award, two Emmys, and two Tonys, After starting out as a Shakespearean actor, his big film break came in 1965 with the lead role of Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music. “He was a national treasure who deeply relished his Canadian roots,” Plummer’s manager of 46 years stated. “Through his art and humanity, he touched all of our hearts and his legendary life will endure for all generations to come”
Actor George Segal passed away on March 23, 2021 at the age of 87 after suffering from complications of bypass surgery. “The family is devastated to announce that this morning George Segal passed away due to complications from bypass surgery,” his wife Sonia said. Segal earned an Oscar nomination for his performance in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and became a household name for his television roles in Just Shoot Me! and later ABC’s The Goldbergs.
Award-winning Arrested Development star Jessica Walter died in her sleep on March 24 at her New York City home. She was 80. Her daughter, Brooke Bowman, confirmed the news. “It is with a heavy heart that I confirm the passing of my beloved mom Jessica. A working actor for over six decades, her greatest pleasure was bringing joy to others through her storytelling both on screen and off,” Bowman said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. “While her legacy will live on through her body of work, she will also be remembered by many for her wit, class and overall joie de vivre.”
Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, died April 9, 2021 at the age of 99. “It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,” a Buckingham Palace statement read. “His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.” Prince Philip retired from his public duties in 2017 and prior to his passing had been hospitalized in March to undergo surgery for a heart condition.
Hip-hop superstar DMX passed away at just 50 on April 9, 2021 after he was hospitalized following a drug overdose and heart attack the previous week. “We are deeply saddened to announce today that our loved one, DMX, birth name of Earl Simmons, passed away at 50 years old at White Plains Hospital with his family by his side after being placed on life support for the past few days,” his family wrote in a statement. “Earl was a warrior who fought till the very end. He loved his family with all of his heart and we cherish the times we spent with him. Earl’s music inspired countless fans across the world and his iconic legacy will live on forever. We appreciate all of the love and support during this incredibly difficult time. Please respect our privacy as we grieve the loss of our brother, father, uncle and the man the world knew as DMX. We will share information about his memorial service once details are finalized.”
Actress Helen McCrory, well known for her role of Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter films passed away on April 16, 2021 at the age of 52 after a long battle with cancer. Her husband, actor Damian Lewis, confirmed the news in an emotional statement. “I’m heartbroken to announce that after an heroic battle with cancer, the beautiful and mighty woman that is Helen McCrory has died peacefully at home, surrounded by a wave of love from friends and family,” Lewis, 50, said. “She died as she lived. Fearlessly. God we love her and know how lucky we are to have had her in our lives,” he continued. “She blazed so brightly. Go now, Little One, into the air, and thank you.”
Original Mousketeer and actor Johnny Crawford who was well-known for his role as ark McCain in the television series The Rifleman, died at 75 from COVID-19 and pneumonia on April 29, 2021. “It is with great sadness that we share the news of Johnny Crawford’s passing,” the family’s statement said. “He slipped away peacefully on Thursday, April 29, 2021, with Charlotte, his wife, by his side.” Crawford, whose acting career kicked off on The Mickey Mouse Club, was nominated for an Emmy at age 13 for his role in The Rifleman. He most recently appeared in 2019’s The Marshal.
Actor Charles Grodin, best known for his roles in Midnight Run and Beethoven passed away on May 18, 2021 at the age of 86 after a battle with bone marrow cancer. Throughout his career, the Emmy Award winner also appeared in The Virginian, Louie, and the 2016 miniseries Madoff. Grodin won several awards, including the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special in 1978 for the Paul Simon Special alongside Chevy Chase, Lorne Michaels, Paul Simon, and Lily Tomlin. He was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for The Heartbreak Kid in 1972. He won Best Actor at the 1988 Valladolid International Film Festival for Midnight Run, and the American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture for his performance in Dave in 1993.
Samuel E. Wright
Many may not have recognized Samuel E. Wright’s face, but his voice was unmistakable. The two-time Tony Award nominee who was known for voicing Sebastian in Disney’s The Little Mermaid passed away on May 25, 2021. He was 74. The news of Wright’s passing was announced by the town of Montgomery, New York, where he resided with his family. “Today, the Town of Montgomery mourns the loss of Sam Wright,” a post on the town’s Facebook page read. The post referred to Wright as “a pillar in our community” and noted that he and his family founded the Hudson Valley Conservatory.
Former child star Kevin Clark, best known for his role as Freddy the drummer in 2003’s School of Rock passed away on May 26, 2021 at the age of 32. Clark’s passing came after he was struck by a car while out riding his bicycle. Former costar Jack Black paid tribute to Clark on social media, posting two photos of them and writing, “Devastating news. Kevin is gone. Way too soon. Beautiful soul. So many great memories. Heartbroken. Sending love to his family and the whole School of Rock community.”
Prolific actor Norman Lloyd passed away on May 10, 2021 at the age of 106. Lloyd’s career spanned several decades starting in the 1930s when he made his feature film debut in Alfred Hitchcock’s Saboteur. Other memorable roles include turns in St. Elsewhere, Dead Poets Society, and Trainwreck. He also made a name for himself as a director and producer in the industry.
Beloved The Love Boat actor Gavin MacLeod who portrayed Captain Merrill Stubing on the shoe passed away on May 29, 2021 at the age of 90. Aside from his starring role on the classic show, MacLeod was also known for his role as Murray Slaughter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the ’70s.
Longtime character actor and father of actress Blake Lively, Ernie Lively passed away on June 3, 2021 at the age of 74. The star, who was born on Jan. 29, 1947, died of cardiac complications in Los Angeles, his rep confirmed. Lively began his career in the ’70s on The Waltons and went on to appear in many shows including The Dukes of Hazzard, The X-Files, The West Wing, That ’70s Show and more. He also played Blake’s character’s father in he Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and its sequel.
Hollywood actor Ned Beatty was 83 when he passed away on June 13, 2021 at the age of 83 from natural causes. Best known for his work in films like Deliverance, Superman, All the President’s Men, Rudy, and Toy Story 3, he earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Academy Awards for his performance in Sidney Lumet’s 1976 film Network as well as a Golden Globe nomination for his role in Hear My Song.
Actress Markie Post, best known for her roles in Night Court and The Fall Guy passed away on August 17, 2021 at the age of 70 after a four year battle with cancer. Post’s family shared a statement and tribute to her spunky personality both on and off set. “With great sadness, the family of actress Markie Post tonight shares her passing after a three year, ten month battle with cancer,” the statement began. The family continued to explain that Post chose to keep working despite battling cancer and going through chemo treatments and was “determined to make it her ‘side job.” “But for us, our pride is in who she was in addition to acting; a person who made elaborate cakes for friends, sewed curtains for first apartments and showed us how to be kind, loving and forgiving in an often harsh world,” the statement continued.
Hollywood legend Ed Asner, passed away “peacefully” on August 29, 2021 at the age of 91. Asner’s many iconic roles of course included newsman Lou Grant whom he portrayed for seven seasons on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and again for five seasons in the spin-off Lou Grant. While the character earned him five Emmy wins, the beloved actor was nominated five other times for Emmys, and took home trophies twice, once for his much-lauded work in legendary mini-series Roots, where he played slave trader Captain Davies; and on another mini, Rich Man, Poor Man, in the dark role of Axel Jordache. He is also well known for voicing Carl Fredricksen in 2009’s Up.
Iconic Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts passed away on August 24, 2021 at the age of 80. A spokesperson said at the time that Watts “passed away peacefully in a London hospital,” and was “surrounded by his family.”
Actor Michael Constantine, best known for his role as patriarch Kostas “Gus” Portokalos in My Big Fat Greek Wedding passed away on August 31, 2021 at his home. He was 94. Aside from his big screen credits, he is also known for his Emmy-winning role as high school principal Seymour Kaufman on the ABC series Room 222.
Reality TV star Gregg Leakes, the husband of Real Housewives of Atlanta alum NeNe Leakes passed away on September 1, 2021 at the age of 66 following a long battle with cancer. Gregg was well known to Real Housewives viewers, having appeared on 12 seasons of the Atlanta franchise alongside his wife. NeNe and Gregg separated in 2010, and divorced in 2013. But, the pair reconciled later that year.
Michael K. Williams
Actor Michael K. Williams who was well known for his roles in The Wire, Boardwalk Empire and Lovecraft Country, passed away in early September after being found unresponsive in his apartment on September 6, 2021. He was 54. It is with deep sorrow that the family announces the passing of Emmy nominated actor Michael Kenneth Williams,” a rep for Williams told PEOPLE. “They ask for your privacy while grieving this unsurmountable loss.”
Beloved comedian Norm Macdonald, known for his work on Saturday Night Live passed away on September 14, 2021 after a private battle with cancer. He was 61. Macdonald had a five-year stint as an SNL cast member, and served as as Weekend Update anchor from 1994 to 1997.
Sex and the City and White Collar star Willie Garson’s death shocked many when it was confirmed he passed away on September 21, 2021 at just 57. His family later revealed that Garson passed after a battle with pancreatic cancer. “William Garson. William Garson Paszamant, better known as Willie Garson to his many fans and throughout the entertainment industry, noted actor of stage, film, and television, has died at age 57 at his home in Los Angeles. The cause was pancreatic cancer,” the obituary stated. They go on to talk about the term “working actor” and how nothing could better describe Garson: “”A working actor has been defined as ‘an actor who while never achieving stardom, has a long and productive career and earns a better than decent living and has the admiration of his peers,’ ” the obituary reads. “Nothing could better describe Garson. For the last four decades, he appeared in over 300 television shows and over 70 films.”
Comedian and actor Art Metrano who was well known for his role as Mauser in the Police Academy films passed away on September 8, 2021 at the age of 84. Metrano’s television career began in the 1960s, and across the decades he appeared on shows including All in the Family, Wonder Woman, The Ted Knight Show, The Incredible Hulk, WKRP in Cincinnati, Fantasy Island, Hill Street Blues, Cagney & Lacey, and Joanie Loves Chachi, which saw him playing Chachi’s Uncle Rick Mastorelli. Unfortunately his career came to a halt after he fell of a ladder during home renovations in 1989 and broke his neck in four places.
Old Hollywood star Jane Powell passed away on September 16, 2021 from natural causes at the age of 92. Powell was best best known for her roles opposite Fred Astaire and Howard Keel in the musical classics Royal Wedding and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
James Michael Tyler
Beloved Friends actor James Michael Tyler passed away on October 24, 2021 at only 59 after a battle with prostate cancer. Tyler only made his diagnosis public in mid-June following the much anticipated Friends reunion special in which he made an appearance. I”f you met him once you made a friend for life,” a statement from his manager read. “[He] is survived by his wife, Jennifer Carno, the love of his life.”
Sons of Anarchy actor William Lucking passed away on October 18, 2021 at 80 years old. His passing was announced by his longtime friend Stephen Macht on Facebook. The two had been friends for 46 years and Macht called Lucking a “lion, and his memory will always be a blessing.” Over the years he starred in many notable films including Erin Brockovich, The Crazy World of Julius Vrooder, The Return of a Man Called Horse, The River Wild, The Rundown, and Contraband. He also has multiple TV credits including The A-Team, CBS’s Outlaws and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Most recently, he played the role of Piermont “Piney” Winston on Sons of Anarchy. His character was one of the founders of the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club and the father of Ryan Hurst’s Harry “Opie” Winston.
Actress Cynthia Harris, best known for her role as Sylvia Buchman in Mad About You passed away on October 3, 2021. She was 87. “She was an actor well known for her many roles on stage, screen and television. In addition to having devoted her life to the theater she was active in many philanthropic causes. Most recently she was an artistic director of the Actors Company Theater (TACT). Cynthia is survived by her loving partner Nathan Silverstein, her devoted assistant Terrence Mintern, her brother Dr. Matthew Harris (Frances), her sister-in-law Maryjane Harris (brother David predeceased her) and many nieces and nephews. Cynthia’s passing is a great loss for the dramatic arts and for all of us,” her obituary reads.
Bosom Buddies, Newhart and Girls actor Peter Scolari passed away on October 22, 2021 at 66 following a battle with cancer. Scolari earned three Emmy nominations during his run as Michael Harris on Newhart and spent some time appearing in Broadway hits including Hairspray.
Prolific character actor Art LaFleur passed away on November 17, 2021 at the age of 78 following a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. His wife, Shelley, announced his death in a Facebook post on Nov. 18, writing, “He was a generous and selfless man which carried over to his acting but more importantly it was who he was for his family and friends. I was so very lucky to have had a 43-year relationship with a man who cherished me and who I adored. Art was larger than life and meant the world to us.” Among his many roles, LaFleur was best known as Babe Ruth in The Sandlot, Chich Gandil in Field of Dreams and the Tooth Fairy in The Santa Clause 2 and 3.
Award-winning actor Dean Stockwell, who was best know for his role as Admiral “Al” Calavicci on the popular sci-fi series Quantum Leap, died on Nov. 7 from natural causes. He was 85. The show ran for five seasons, earning Stockwell multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominations as well as a Golden Globe win in 1990. In 1992, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his achievements.
2021 ended on a terribly sad note when it was announced that Hollywood icon and acting treasure Betty White had passed away on December 31, 2021. She was 99 years old. White “died peacefully in her sleep at her home early this morning,” her agent and close friend Jeff Witjas revealed. White’s passing came just days before she was set to celebrate her 100th birthday on January 17, 2021.