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Year in review: The flame went out

To look back on the year and consider all the well-known folk who have died is to say along with T.S. Eliot, "I had not thought death had undone so many". This year the world has lost many who through their lives brought great talent, inspiration and triumph, some who brought great terror and some who, well, just did a thing or two that made us sit up and take note. We remember them here.

MOVERS AND SHAKERS

Phil Warren rose to fame as king of the entertainers. All the stars of the 50s, 60s and 70s, from Kiri Te Kanawa to Ray Columbus, came to play at his court; that is, at his nightclubs and on his tours. He was also a well-known talkback host. Then he recreated himself as a colourful local body politician, becoming one of the most powerful voices in Auckland. As chairman of the Auckland Regional Council he was jolly and often jolly controversial, a champion of clean air and a master of consensus.

Sir Garfield Todd, the Invercargill-born Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia from 1953 to 1958 was known as "the Moses of our times" by some Africans, but hated by many whites. Moving to what is now Zimbabwe as a missionary, Todd became a charismatic, if autocratic, Prime Minister. He fought for African rights, to the point where, after losing office, he was twice jailed when he opposed independence and supported black rule. He was knighted in 1986 and served as a senator in Mugabe's Government, but spoke out against him and had his citizenship rescinded shortly before his death in October.

His wife, Lady Grace, a noted teacher, had died on New Year's Eve last year.

Maurice Paykel and Sir Woolf Fisher started a company importing fridges and washing machines in 1934 that grew into a New Zealand standard. By the time of the post-war whiteware revolution, Fisher & Paykel were the country's leading manufacturers. Paykel, while keeping a low profile, was described as a caring man of high standards and excellent business acumen. He was a generous benefactor to medical research.

Ne Win's death this month, aged 91, means a democratic Burma is at last possible. As one of the "Thirty Comrades" who led the war of independence against Britain, he overthrew the country's shaky democracy in 1962 and started a 28-year rule of tyranny that plunged Burma into poverty. He resigned in 1988 when Aung San Suu Kyi's return to Burma made her a flashpoint of protest. He returned to power soon after, opening the country to foreign investment, but when Suu Kyi won an 82 per cent majority in the 1990 election, he put her under house arrest. Old age forced him to withdraw from power, but last year he and his sons attempted one last coup. It failed and he died, ironically, while under house arrest.

Nan Withers' beating at the hands of an intruder prompted a petition signed by 307,832 New Zealanders demanding tougher penalties for violent crimes. It led to a referendum in the 1999 election and subsequent law changes. Withers died peacefully after an operation, aged 75.

Also: Cyrus Vance, Jimmy Carter's Secretary of State, who resigned in protest at the botched attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran; Walter H. Annenberg, the founder of American TV Guide and worth $4 billion this year, one of America's richest men.

THINKERS

Stephen Jay Gould's writings about the messy lottery of life unlocked the mysteries of evolution for his millions of readers. He was a hugely influential scientist and a Harvard professor from the age of 26. With colleague Nile Eldredge, he challenged Darwin's image of the "march of evolution" with a theory called "punctuated equilibria", arguing that evolution occurred in fits and starts and didn't always go forward.

Thor Heyerdahl sailed to fame by defying the scholars and proving Stone Age people could have crossed the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. He backed his theory by doing it, most famously on the Kon-Tiki raft in 1947, when he made an epic 101-day voyage from South American to Polynesia. In 1970 he crossed the Atlantic on a reed boat. Often scoffed at by academics, the Norwegian's books and documentaries captured the imaginations of millions.

Harold Turner was one of New Zealand's most influential theologians. Working mostly in West Africa and Britain, he was the world authority on new religious movements.

Alan Brash, moderator of the Presbyterian Church in 1978 and 1979, was known as one of New Zealand's most distinguished and forthright churchmen, and was the father of National MP, Don.

Max Perutz won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1962 for his work defining the structure of haemoglobin.

Also: Allen Johnston, Anglican Archbishop of New Zealand 1972 to 1980; Bill Pearson, influential essayist and activist; George Porter, co-winner of the 1967 Nobel Prize in Chemistry; and Alexander Prokhorov, co-winner of the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics.

ROYALS

The Queen Mother, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, never wanted to be queen. It was only the scandal of King Edward VII's abdication that forced her husband George VI unwillingly on to the throne and into a short, war-torn reign. She famously stayed in London during the Blitz, feuded with Wallis Simpson, loved gin and horse-racing and, as Queen Mum, breathed humanity and dignity into a faltering monarchy. When she died, British Prime Minister Tony Blair described her as a symbol of British decency and courage. She was 101.

Princess Margaret, her second daughter, had died just seven weeks earlier, aged 71. Regarded as the royal rebel, she was as devoted to fun as her sister Queen Elizabeth is devoted to duty. She carried out royal duties and worked hard for charities, but her potential went unfulfilled as she indulged her lust for life. She gave up marriage to divorcee Peter Townsend out of duty but, ironically, her more appropriate marriage to Anthony Armstrong-Jones ended in divorce.

Prince Claus of the Netherlands sparked violent protests when the former Hitler Youth member married Princess (later Queen) Beatrix in 1966, but came to be one of the most popular members of the Dutch "bicycling monarchy". Displays of public playfulness overturned his stern reputation and won public support, as did his long fight against Parkinson's disease, kidney damage and depression.

ENTERTAINMENT

Comedy: Spike Milligan "is the great god of us all", said John Cleese of the master comic. In creating The Goon Show, Milligan drew on old English stereotypes to create a new, zany, subversive form of humour that changed the way we laughed. Sadly, it also drove him to the mental brink and he struggled with manic-depression all his life. In a spoof obituary in 1991, he complained his epitaph would be nothing more than, "Wrote The Goon Show - died", but he is also fondly remembered for his more than 50 books, nonsense poems and the children's radio classic Badjelly the Witch.

Film: Dudley Moore's career defined "eclectic", from his famous comedy series with Peter Cook to his piano-playing and finally a period as a most unlikely Hollywood romantic lead. His Pete and Dud sketches with Cook became television classics and his roles in Arthur and 10 made him a star. But his greatest love was music. His personal life was not happy, however, with a series of failed relationships. What was assumed to be a drinking problem in the 90s turned out to be brain tumour, which he fought until the end.

Rod Steiger was Mussolini, Rasputin, Napoleon and Al Capone, but most famously he was Marlon Brando's mob-connected brother in On the Waterfront. The Hollywood actor won the 1967 Oscar for his portrayal of a Southern police chief in In the Heat of the Night.

Chuck Jones drew more than 300 films and won three Oscars, creating classic Disney characters such as Bugs Bunny and Road Runner in the process. Regarded as the great American animator, he was an intellectual satirist who added wackiness and sophistication to Disney cute.

Four influential Hollywood directors died this year, the best known being the great Billy Wilder, who directed films such as Sunset Boulevard, The Apartment and Some Like It Hot. John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate, Birdman of Alcatraz), J. Lee Thompson (Cape Fear, The Guns of Navarone) and Karel Reisz (The French Lieutenant's Woman, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning), also died.

Television: Angela D'Audney was a favourite of news-watchers and women's magazine readers. In her 40-year career as a broadcaster she was a pioneer for women newsreaders, known for her warmth on screen and her perfect enunciation. Dropped several times, she always fought her way back. She died of cancer, aged 57.

Kevin Smith's death when he fell from a set while filming in China shocked his fans and the local acting community. A prominent theatre and film actor often voted New Zealand's sexiest man, Smith had been about to start work on his first Hollywood film.

John Thaw became a household face as the grumpy, opera-loving Inspector Morse, but that role came near the end of a respected and determined 40-year career. He first made his name as another cop, Jack Regan, in The Sweeney and more recently starred as Kavanagh QC.

Leo McKern was another who had a distinguished career - in classical theatre - before he took a role that defined him. To millions of viewers the one-eyed Australian was Rumpole of the Bailey.

Also: Michael Elphick, who played Ken Boon in the eponymous television series; Milton Berle, known in the US as Mr Television for his light entertainment shows in the 40s and 50s; and Robert Urich, best know for his roles in Soap and Spenser: For Hire.

Music: Dalvanius Prime was a big man who put a small town on the map, and in doing so brought Maori music into the mainstream. An errant child in Patea, he later became a strong advocate for young people in trouble with the law. He toured Australasia with several groups in the 70s and 80s before his breakthrough hit with the Patea Maori Club Poi E became New Zealand's biggest-selling record of 1984. Prime was a tireless campaigner for Maori music and self-determination, but died aged just 54, from heart disease and cancer.

Lisa Lopes, known as Left Eye, was a member of TLC, one of the world's biggest-selling female groups. Often abrasive with boyfriends and the other members of the rhythm and blues trio, she was also regarded as intensely creative. TLC won four Grammys.

Rosemary Clooney was a singer and movie star in the 1950s hailed as one of America's finest pop vocalists. Feisty but undone in her prime by a tumultuous personal life, she returned to the limelight in the 80s. She was George Clooney's aunt.

Waylon Jennings was one of the founders of the outlaw movement in country music, who would have died in 1959 on the flight that killed Buddy Holly if he hadn't given up his seat to the Big Bopper, who was ill. Independent and ornery, the two-time Grammy winner and four-time husband kicked a 21-year cocaine habit in 1984 by going cold turkey.

Also: Peggy Lee, a singer recruited by Benny Goodman, best known for her version of Fever; John Entwhistle, the bassist for innovative rock band the Who; Joe Strummer of the punk band the Clash.

ARTS AND BOOKS

Harry Orsman, Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, was New Zealand's great collector of words. An English lecturer at Victoria University, he saw himself as a scholarly magpie, devoting his life to picking up and explaining unique New Zealandisms. The end result was the seminal Dictionary of New Zealand English (1997).

Charles McPhee the New Zealander known as the "Velvet Gauguin" for his paintings of Polynesian scenes and people on black velvet.

Davina Whitehouse one of the pillars of the New Zealand acting community.

Also: Two women who created two of 20th century literature's most famous girl characters: Astrid Lindgren (Pippi Longstocking) and Millie Benson (Nancy Drew); and Ann Landers, the world's most syndicated advice columnist, who gave the world the expression, 'Wake up and smell the coffee'.

SPORT

Disgraced former South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje went from hero to crook in his short life that ended when the cargo plane in which he was travelling crashed into a mountain range in Cape province. He was 32. Cronje became the youngest-ever Proteas captain when he was 25 and led the team to arguably South Africa's greatest test win, over Australia by five runs in 1994. But the middle-order batsman and medium-pacer's winning glow faded abruptly when Indian bookmakers, and later team-mates, revealed that he was involved in match-fixing. He was banned from all levels of cricket in 2000, but was winning praise for rebuilding his life.

Sam Snead used the sweetest swing in golf to win seven majors and a record 81 PGA tour events. Growing up during the Depression in backwoods Virginia, Snead learned to play in bare feet with clubs made from tree limbs, but his swing was a thing of grace and power. Famous for his straw hat, cocky grin and homespun humour, he was the only player to win tournaments in six decades, from the 30s to the 80s. In 1979 he also became the first player on the PGA to shoot his age - a 67 at age 67. Two days later, he shot a 66.

It's been a bad year for rugby coaches. First there was Gordon Hunter, the former Otago and Blues coach and All Black assistant coach and selector who attracted such loyalty from his players. Hunter gave his teams flair and coached Otago to famous wins over the Lions in 1993 and the Springboks in 1994.

J.J. Stewart was regarded as a great teacher and innovator in his time as All Black coach from 1973 to 1976. A successful coach of Taranaki and Wanganui before the All Blacks job, Stewart's black-and-yellows held the Ranfurly Shield for three years. Colin Meads said his innovations will be recalled as long as rugby is played.

Greg Smith coached the Wallabies through the early years of professional rugby in the early 90s. A passionate student of the game, he guided Australia unbeaten through a 12-game tour of Europe in 1996 and, as New South Wales coach, inflicted the heaviest-ever defeat on the All Blacks 40-17. However in five tests against New Zealand, he never won.

Ben Hollioake, the stylish but under-performing English cricketer, died in a car crash in Perth.

Johnny Unitas, voted the greatest quarterback ever by his Hall of Fame peers, completed at least one touchdown pass in 47 successive games from 1956 to 1960, a record that remains unbroken.

Andre Roch, the Swiss mountaineer, came within 200m of being the first person to climb Mt Everest in 1952, a year before Hillary and Tensing.

Also: Alister Atkinson, one of New Zealand's finest backrow forwards, played league for the Kiwis from 1951 to 1956.

ALSO DEPARTED

The last known veteran of the Gallipoli campaign in 1915, Alec Campbell, faded away in May aged 103. For six weeks he braved enemy fire before being medically discharged. His last known comments about war suggested he thought it was futile.

Fred Flutey began collecting and polishing paua shells 40 years ago. By the time he died on New Year's Eve, he and his wife Myrtle, who died in 2000, had turned their house into a world-famous tourist attraction - Bluff's Paua House. In their retirement, they welcomed more than a million visitors into their home, putting Bluff on the map.

"Steady" Ed Headrick took a flat throwing disc called the Pluto Platter and designed an improved toy that he called a frisbee. More than 200 million have been sold.

Ruth Handler believed girls wanted a doll they could aspire to be like, not aspire to look after. She called the doll she invented Barbie, after her daughter Barbara, and in its first year, 1959, 350,000 were sold. In the years since, she sold $1 billion worth of Barbies in 150 countries.

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