Every year the world loses big names in sports, politics and entertainment. That was no different in 2013.
© Courtesy Tom Eytan/Flickr
A statue of Nelson Mandela stands outside the South African Embassy in Washington, DC.
While they have all passed on and greatly contributed to their respective professions, there are certain people I wish were still alive to watch or listen to on my television.
Undoubtedly, the most recognizable person that left us this past year was former South African President Nelson Mandela.
A man respected across the world for a great many things, including sticking out his unjustified stay in prison and dismantling the legacy of apartheid in his native country, Mandela might go down as the most revered African in history.
A social activist, he demonstrated the qualities of compassion and kindness today’s world leaders rarely exemplify. That is especially true considering the situation he walked into when he was elected as president — the first black man to have that role in the country’s history.
Even after his time in office (1994-99), Mandela continued his good deeds when he turned to philanthropy. His greatest post-election creation was that of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
While Mandela is gone, his legacy and spirit live on through his foundation and the people he impacted. If only I would have had the opportunity to meet the great man.
Another man whose life ended this past year was the great sports broadcaster Pat Summerall.
A former collegiate and National Football League (NFL) kicker, Summerall turned to the broadcast booth in the early 1960s.
Across various television networks, he’s renowned for a storied career that included announcing 16 Super Bowls, 26 Masters Tournaments and 21 U.S. Opens (tennis).
Although I didn’t have the chance to hear many of Summerall’s broadcasts, I remember his legendary voice through the TV as I watched NFL games early in my childhood.
He retired from the broadcast booth in 2002, but I can still hear his deep, penetrating voice do play-by-play on a Barry Sanders touchdown run for the Detroit Lions one U.S. Thanksgiving Day game years ago.
Whether he was the first professional athlete to turn around and have a storied broadcasting career I don’t know. Many other athletes have followed in his footsteps, but very few have had the lasting affect on sports fans like Summerall.
Paul Walker was not as old, or lived as established a life as Mandela or Summerall, but his death was one of the most shocking of 2013.
Just days before Mandela’s death would be mourned, Walker’s final breath came in a vehicle of which he was the passenger.
It smoked a tree, burst into flames and The Fast and the Furious star was pronounced dead on scene.
He wasn’t the most revered name in Hollywood, but Walker’s roles showed the edginess and swagger he carried with him into his acting career.
That was especially true in his most recent film, which embodied the evolution of The Fast and the Furious films.
Unfortunately, 2013 was the year these three men bid the world adieu.
In 2014, more loving, respected and influential people will also pass away, but like Summerall, Walker and Mandela, they too will live in our memories.
Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks