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December 30, 2013

Lesser known greats that passed away in 2013

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The Daily Star

---- — The year 2013 is drawing to a close and as it does I would like to give a tip of the hat and a fond goodbye to a group of famous people who left the world stage. Their departures will be noted here in this column although they may have missed a final adios in the major media outlets. Let’s give them their moment in the sun.

Long before Billy Fuccillo was “huuuuge” in Central New York there was a guy named Cal Worthington on the West Coast. He was the most ubiquitous, well-known and obnoxious car advertiser of them all. In 1988, he grossed more than $300 million in his Southern California car dealership, more than anybody else in the U.S. “Go See Cal” and his little dog “Spot” spent a record $15 million on TV commercials annually, an unheard-of amount. He died on Sept. 8 at the age of 92.

Rex Scouten died in 2013 at the age of 88. He was the White House Chief Usher from Harry Truman to Bill Clinton. I don’t mean to denigrate this famous man, but whom did he usher? And to where? An aisle seat somewhere in the Oval Office? Is this job akin to the Queen having a footman? I mean an usher? In 2013? Really?

Michael Ansara was a favorite for all baby boomers. We loved him as Cochise in the TV show “Broken Arrow.” It was also nice that our kids would come to love him as Commander Kang 30 years later in a series of Star Trek episodes. Ansara made it to 91 years old.

Mavis Batey was a tiny Englishwoman who was pressed into military service during World War II. She went to work trying to decode Hitler’s most secret messages.

 Her work earned her the accolade of being “one of England’s greatest code breakers.”

 After the war she returned to her cottage and began planting flowers. She became one of England’s greatest garden historians. She died on Nov. 12 at the age of 92.

Deacon Jones gave sports fans the word “sack.” Noted for crushing quarterbacks with impunity, Jones has been called the greatest Los Angeles Ram of all time. His death on June 3 left Rosie Greer as the last surviving member of the Fearsome Foursome, considered to be the greatest defensive line in NFL history.

John Spence died in 2013. He was 95. Spence was the Navy’s first combat frogman. Think about that for a second. A Navy combat frogman. Talk about multi-tasking. I am still amazed at what these heroes did.

Joan Fontaine was the third oldest living Oscar-winning actress when she died at 96 on Dec. 15. She won her award for the 1941 film "Suspicion."  Her sister, Olivia de Havilland, 97, survives her. She won acting Oscars in 1946 and 1949. The two sisters hadn’t spoken in a half-century. Oh, by the way, another two-time Oscar winner, Luise Ranier, has them both beat. She is alive and well and living in Hollywood at the age of 103. She won her back-to-back awards for The Great Ziegfeld and The Good Earth.

Giant George died on Oct. 7. He was a Great Dane and was the tallest dog ever measured. The Guinness Book of World Records taped him at 43 inches tall. At the time of his death, Giant George was 7 years old. Or in dog years he was, oh, well, I’ll let you do the math.

Harold Camping, a Christian broadcaster, predicted that the world would come to an end several times during his career as an evangelist and author. Camping’s prophecy came true (for himself) on Dec. 15 when he died as a result of injuries he received from a fall at his home. He was 92.

Cal Smith was one of country music’s unheralded superstars of the 1970s. His biggest hit was “Country Bumpkin,” which sold a million copies in 1974. Another big hit was “It’s Time to Pay the Fiddler.” Smith paid up in full on Oct. 10 at the age of 81.

And finally, Edward Heffron, one of World War II’s “Band of Brothers,” died on Dec. 1. He was 90. The combat company, made famous by the 2001 TV mini-series of the same name, is now down to just 20 living members ranging in age from 87 to 95.

War heroes, TV actors, quarterback crushers, country crooners, ushers, car salesmen and more. All worthy of a final goodbye in 2013.

Oh, and don’t forget one great big, giant dog, too.

I’ll catch you in two….

“Big Chuck” D’IMPERIO can be heard on weekdays beginning at 6 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Oneonta, and also on Thursday nights from 7 to 9 p.m. on WSRK-FM 103.9 for his “Oldies Jukebox Show.” You can find him on Facebook by searching "Big Chuck." He invites you to contact him at wdosbigchuck@aol.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/bigchuck.