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Big Chuck

January 18, 2010

I Was Just Thinking: 'Final exits' of other celebrities also of note

While the headlines last year certainly belonged to the marquee obituaries of Ted Kennedy, Michael Jackson, Patrick Swayze, Walter Cronkite and others, I'd like to give a final month-by-month tip of the hat to a dozen who left the national scene in 2009, but maybe, somehow, we missed their final exits.

On Jan. 22, we said goodbye to Vivian Illing. She was 108 and was the oldest living survivor of the San Francisco Earthquake. Since she was almost 7 years old when the devastating event happened, she remembered it with great vividness and told stories about it for a century.

On Feb. 3, Millard Fuller died at the age of 74. In 1976, with an army of volunteers and President Jimmy Carter as "chief hammer and nail man," Fuller's organization, dubbed Habitat For Humanity, began coordinating the construction of low-income housing for the needy across the South, and later the entire country. Since 1976, more than 300,000 homes sheltering nearly 2 million people have been built in the international Habitat community.

Jimmy Boyd died on March 7, at age 70. He recorded "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" when he was just 12 years old. It has sold 60 million copies. In 1960, he married Yvonne Craig, TV's first "Batgirl." When Boyd's novelty song came out, it was banned by the Catholic Diocese in Boston for "mixing sex with religion." Huh?

Jane Bryan died on April 8, at the age of 90. She was groomed to be a leading lady by Warner Brothers in the late 1930s. She eventually appeared in films with Bette Davis, Edward G. Robinson, Humphrey Bogart and other stars before catching the eye of money-bags Justin Dart in 1939. He proposed, she said yes, she quit the movies and life was good (very good) for the now-billionaire Mrs. Dart. Oh, and where did his dough come from? A little company called Rexall Drug Stores.

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