Entertainment Celebrity In memoriam: Saying goodbye to the stars we lost in 2020
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In memoriam: Saying goodbye to the stars we lost in 2020

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Between bushfires, lockdowns, job losses and social isolation, there is no denying that this year has been especially horrific for many of us.

Sadly, we also mourned the loss of a number of our favourite entertainers and athletes – many of whom were taken too soon.

As we prepare to ring in the new year, we also reflect on the loss of some of the world’s greatest talents.

Kobe Bryant

The year started on a tragic note when basketball icon Kobe Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, along with seven others died in a helicopter crash on January 26. 

Stars from around the world paid tribute to ‘The Black Mamba’, who was widely regarded as one of the best NBA players of his generation.

In his 20-year career, Bryant won five NBA championships and was an 18-time All-Star player for the Los Angeles Lakers.

He is survived by his wife Vanessa, 38, and their three daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 4 and Capri,1.

Some used Bryant’s unexpected death as an opportunity to shed light on his problematic past. 

Kobe Bryant: August 23, 1978 – January 26, 2020. Gianna Bryant: May 1, 2006 – January 26, 2020. Photo: Getty 

Kirk Douglas

Kirk Douglas, who starred in some of the industry’s greatest films, passed away on February 5.

Known for Spartacus, Gunfight at the OK Corral, The Bad and the Beautiful and Lust for Life, the long-time actor lived to the ripe old age of 103.

Douglas was the head of a family of Hollywood heavyweights, including producer sons Joel and Peter, Oscar-winning actor Michael Douglas and Oscar-winning daughter-in-law, Catherine Zeta-Jones.

“To the world, he was a legend, an actor from the Golden Age of movies who lived well into his golden years, a humanitarian whose commitment to justice and the causes he believed in set a standard for all of us to aspire to,” son Michael wrote on Instagram at the time.

Kirk Douglas
Kirk Douglas: December 9, 1916 – February 5, 2020. Photo: Getty

Jerry Stiller

Celebrated comedic actor Jerry Stiller died of natural causes on May 11, aged 92.

Starring in a number of sitcoms including The King of Queens and films such as ZoolanderStiller became an enduring face of comedy known for portraying a hilariously explosive temper.

He is best known for his role in Seinfeld, where he played George Costanza’s father Frank and coined the phrase, “Serenity Now!”

News of the star’s passing was announced by his son, actor Ben Stiller.

Jerry Stiller
Jerry Stiller: June 8, 1927 – May 11, 2020. Photo: Getty 

Fred Willard

This year, comedy great Fred Willard, whose career spanned more than 50 years, passed away on May 15, aged 86.

Tributes poured in for Willard, who was known for his roles in Anchorman, This Is Spinal Tap, A Mighty Wind and sitcom Modern Family. 

His daughter Hope Mulbarger said he passed away peacefully in his sleep but did not elaborate on the cause of death.

“He kept moving, working and making us happy until the very end,” Mulbarger said.

“We loved him so very much! We will miss him forever.”

Fred Willard
Fred Willard: September 18, 1933 – May 15, 2020. Photo: Getty 

Naya Rivera

The Glee community was rocked when Naya Rivera’s four-year-old son, Josey, was found alone on a boat the actor had hired for them on July 8.

Five days later, Rivera’s body was pulled from the southern Californian lake and an autopsy confirmed she had drowned saving her son.

The 33-year-old was known for playing fan favourite Santana Lopez for six seasons.

Following her death, rumours swirled of a Glee curse given that Rivera was the third star to die tragically in her 30s.

Naya Rivera
Naya Rivera: January 12, 1987 – July 8, 2020. Photo: Getty

Kelly Preston

Jerry Maguire star Kelly Preston sadly lost her battle with breast cancer this year, aged 57. 

Preston, who was married to John Travolta, died on July 12 and had been battling the disease for two years.

“It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you that my beautiful wife Kelly has lost her two-year battle with breast cancer,” Travolta wrote on Instagram.

“She fought a courageous fight with the love and support of so many. Kelly’s love and life will always be remembered.

“I will be taking some time to be there for my children who have lost their mother, so forgive me in advance if you don’t hear from us for a while. But please know that I will feel your outpouring of love in the weeks and months ahead as we heal.”

Kelly Preston
Kelly Preston: October 13, 1962 – July 12, 2020. Photo: Getty 

Chadwick Boseman

This year also stole Black Panther lead Chadwick Boseman, who died aged 43 on August 28.

Fans were shocked to learn the star had secretly battled colon cancer for four years before eventually succumbing to the disease.

A statement posted to Boseman’s Twitter amount said his role in the live-action Marvel film was a highlight.

It is with immeasurable grief that we confirm the passing of Chadwick Boseman,” the statement said.

“It was the honour of his life to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther.”

Chadwick Boseman
Chadwick Boseman: November 29, 1976 – August 28, 2020. Photo: Getty 

Helen Reddy

Legendary Australian singer and actor Helen Reddy died on September 29 at the age of 78. 

The singer, who is best known for her feminist anthem I Am Woman, had suffered from dementia before her death.

Reddy is survived by her children, Traci and Jordan, and her grandchildren.

In a statement posted to her Facebook page, Reddy’s children described her as “a truly formidable woman”.

“Our hearts are broken,” they wrote.

“But take comfort in the knowledge that her voice will live forever”.

Helen Reddy
Helen Reddy: October 25, 1941 – September 29, 2020. Photo: Getty 

Eddie Van Halen

Music fans were gutted to learn of the death of rock royalty, Eddie Van Halen, on October 6. 

He was aged 65 and had been battling throat cancer for a number of years.

The guitarist and songwriter rose to prominence in the 1970s and ’80s  in the band that bore his name.

In their prime, Van Halen dominated charts with memorable songs such as Hot For Teacher, Jump and You Really Got Me. 

Eddie Van Halen
Eddie Van Halen: January 26, 1955 – October 6, 2020. Photo: Getty 

Sean Connery

Famed Scottish actor Sir Sean Connery died peacefully in his sleep on October 31 after being “unwell for some time”, according to his son Jason.

The Oscar winner was aged 90.

Connery left behind a long legacy as one of the world’s best James Bond stars, and won the 1988 best supporting actor Academy Award for his role in The Untouchables.  

Following his death, unsettling comments Connery had made advocating for violence against women re-emerged from his 1987 interview with Barbara Walters.

Sean Connery
Sean Connery: August 25, 1930 – October 31, 2020. Photo: Getty