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January 14, 2013

Remembering lives of the not-so-famous

I write about 25 columns a year for this paper. And I must admit, this annual one is always my favorite. A lot of famous people left this world last year, including Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, singer Andy Williams and TV’s George Jefferson — actor Sherman Hemsley.

But as the calendar months flew by in 2012 we were also reminded of dearly departed souls who never made the front page of the celebrity obituary section of the New York Times. I’d like to remember some of them in this column.

January was the 10th frame for bowler Don Carter. Now, not a lot of bowlers’ deaths headline the news, but “Mr. Bowling” was different. A six-time Bowler of the Year, Carter’s best obituary factoid is that he was the first athlete of any sport ever to win a million-dollar endorsement. It was for bowling balls.

History was made in February with the departure of Florence Green. Her achievement is hard to wrap your head around. When she passed at the age of 111, Mrs. Green was the last surviving veteran anywhere to have served in World War I. She was a member of the Women’s Royal Air Force.

March brought us the shocking news that Steve Bridger had died. He was only 48. Bridger was considered to be the best of the many President George W. Bush impersonators. The real President Bush even joined the mimic President Bush two times onstage to roars of laughter.

The final curtain came down in April for singer Kenny Roberts. One of Nashville’s favorite entertainers, he was a yodeler of incomparable talents. He hit it big with such classics as “Hillbilly Yodel” and “She Taught Me How to Yodel.” When he started to add some jumping steps to his singing routine, his career skyrocketed. He jumped while he yodeled. It takes all kinds.

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