Notable Deaths of 2018
by Jess Sides | published Apr. 8th, 2019
Notable deaths of public figures and celebrities in 2018 left many people devastated and in mourning. Today we acknowledge those that we lost, their accomplishments and their legacies.
Stephen Hawking — theoretical physicist — died at age 76 on March 14, 2018 in Cambridge, UK
At 22 years old, Hawking was diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease and given only a few years to live. This left him in a wheelchair and largely unable to speak except through a voice synthesizer. But he miraculously lived for more than 50 years after the diagnosis and has made numerous discoveries in the field of science.
Hawking is known for his work with black holes and relativity, as well as several books such as "A Brief History of Time," which sold more than 10 million copies. He discovered that black holes leak energy and fade to nothing — a phenomenon that would later become known as Hawking radiation.
He died due to complications with the neurodegenerative disease in March 2018. Shortly after his passing, the Motor Neurone Disease Association (of which Hawking had been a patron) had such an influx in donations that the website crashed.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the website, said, "We have lost a colossal mind and a wonderful spirit. Rest in peace, Stephen Hawking.”
Theoretical physicist, Professor Jim Al-Khalili from Surrey University, told BBC Radio Surrey, "He was a fun loving guy. Inside that shell, inside that body that was paralysed, was someone who was full of vigour, full of passion for life."
Luke Laffey, fourth year B.S./M.S. Physics and Material Science student at RIT, spoke about Hawking.
“[Hawking] had some really great contributions to physics, and his personal story is very impressive,” Laffey said.
Congresswoman Louise Slaughter — advocate for NTID — died at age 88 on March 26, 2018 in Washington D.C.
Slaughter represented the 25th Congressional District of New York for over 20 years and was the first woman to chair the House Rules Committee. She had a reputation as someone who was not afraid to fight with Republicans over policy, yet was also known for her kindness and humor.
Gerard Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean, said that Slaughter represented all of Rochester.
“What’s amazing is how inclusive she was of the African American, Deaf, gay and lesbian communities,” he said.
Buckley added that 73 percent of NTID’s budget comes from the government because Slaughter persuaded Congress to continue to invest in NTID for years.
“Many of our projects require federal funding. She helped us so we could get in and make our case to get it. She said that our programs are making a difference, so they were going to invest in them,” he said.
Buckley also claimed that Slaughter truly cared for the students and would ask them about their education and how she could help.
“She wanted to know how the students were. She was concerned about the Pell Grant and fought for it. She even helped with student loans and helped raise money for student scholarships,” he said.
Buckley said that Slaughter was a strong believer in the arts, and visited RIT quite regularly. She fought hard for equal opportunity and equal access to health care. He also added that Louise Slaughter Hall was named after her.
Others also spoke about their admiration for her.
“To have met Louise Slaughter is to have known a force of nature,” Liam Fitzsimmons, Slaughter’s chief of staff, said.
"With her passing, the congressional community has lost a beloved leader and a cherished friend," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said. "Her strong example inspired countless young women to know their power and seek their rightful place at the head of the decision-making table."
Avicii AKA Tim Bergling — singer and songwriter — died at age 28 on April 20, 2018 in Muscat, Oman
Bergling was a prominent electronic dance musician. He performed many upbeat tunes with positive messages.
Bergling had a history of pancreatitis which was partially due to his drinking habits. Eventually, he struggled so much that he could no longer tour. He cut himself with a broken wine bottle and committed suicide while on vacation in Oman.
“He really struggled with thoughts about meaning, life [and] happiness,” his parents said. “He could not go on any longer. He wanted to find peace.”
Stefan Karl Stefansson — actor — died at age 43 on August 21, 2018 in Los Angeles, Calif.
Stefansson was best known for his role as Robbie Rotten on the show ''LazyTown." The show ended years ago, but Stefansson’s character remained popular and was often used in memes.
Stefansson was also an anti-bullying advocate, and he founded a charity called Rainbow Children to help bullied children.
In March 2018, Stefansson announced that he had bile duct cancer and that it was inoperable. Last June, he had surgery to remove his metastases.
"It's not until they tell you you're going to die soon that you realise how short life is. Time is the most valuable thing in life because it never comes back. And whether you spend it in the arms of a loved one or alone in a prison cell, life is what you make of it. Dream big," he posted to Twitter.
He died a few months later due to this disease.
Mac Miller — singer, rapper and songwriter — died at age 26 on September 7, 2018 in Studio City, Calif.
Miller had five studio albums and was argued to be reaching his prime by the summer of 2018 with his most recent album "Swimming."
Miller struggled with substance abuse for many years and was very open about these struggles. He had bouts of sobriety but ended up with a DUI arrest in May. This eventually led to his passing from an accidental fentanyl/cocaine overdose.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 30 times more powerful than heroin. It’s one of the deadliest drugs associated with the ongoing opioid crisis as well as the leading cause of accidental overdose deaths, surpassing heroin.
Maria Lelie, third year Management major, is despondent over Miller’s death. She was a huge, longtime fan of Miller, and his music got her through some of the tougher times in her life.
“[His death] was so hard ... I went through [a] grieving period. I would cry every time I heard his music. I couldn’t [listen to his music] for the first few weeks. It felt like I had honestly lost a friend,” she said.
Lelie said that she had a rough patch in the summer of 2018 and that Miller’s song "Self Care" kept her going.
“I felt like I was looking at a sunset, and I was running to my future, and my future was bright. I talk about him like I know him. He was such a good guy, such a good spirit,” she said.
Stan Lee — Marvel Comics creator — died at age 95 on November 12, 2018 in Los Angeles, Calif.
Lee, who died of congestive heart failure, was a major factor in shaping Marvel's comics. Johnny Puskar, first year Computing Exploration major, is a huge Marvel fan and explained Lee's impact on others.
“He was the original creator of these characters and stories that have now become a permanent part of pop culture and have had such a lasting impact on so many people,” he said.
Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger's statements align with Puskar's.
"Stan Lee was as extraordinary as the characters he created," Iger said. "A superhero in his own right to Marvel fans around the world, Stan had the power to inspire, to entertain and to connect. The scale of his imagination was only exceeded by the size of his heart."
Lee, on the other hand, was humble. He believed that what he did for a living wasn’t all that important.
"People are building bridges and engaging in medical research, and here I was doing stories about fictional people who do extraordinary, crazy things and wear costumes. But I suppose I have come to realize that entertainment is not easily dismissed,” Lee told the Chicago Tribune in April 2014.
Meanwhile, fans such as Puskar are baffled by Lee’s accomplishments.
“It must be such a crazy thing to have come up with a story that countless people know about, go to midnight releases for, talk about and go to conventions and gatherings for,” he said.
Puskar continued, “Stan Lee was one of those people you just expect to always be there, but now that he’s gone, I just feel sad that he isn’t going to be here to see the story end.”
Stephen Hillenburg — creator of Spongebob Squarepants — died at age 57 on November 26, 2018 in Marino, Calif.
Hillenburg was originally a marine biology teacher in Dana Point, Calif.
"Obviously Spongebob is comedy, but it really was inspired by me liking marine science," he told Nick Animation. "I focused on that and I never thought the two would come together."
Spongebob Squarepants airs in more than 200 countries and has been translated into over 50 languages. It has earned numerous awards during its run, including four Emmy Awards.
Hillenburg was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 2017. He decided to continue working on the show until he couldn’t anymore. He died battling this disease.
“His utterly original characters and the world of Bikini Bottom will long stand as a reminder of the value of optimism, friendship and the limitless power of imagination,” said Nickelodeon.
George H. W. Bush — 41st president of the United States — died at age 94 on November 30, 2018 in Houston, Texas
Bush was the first of a political dynasty. He had one son who served as president, another as a governor and a grandson who currently holds statewide office in Texas.
Bush suffered multiple health scares later in his life. Eventually, several years ago, he revealed he suffered from a form of Parkinson's disease which left him unable to walk. He used a wheelchair or a scooter to get around.
On his final day, Bush was asked whether he wanted to go to the hospital. The former president said no, and that he was ready to go and be with Barbara, his wife, and Robin, his daughter who died of leukemia as a child.
His final words were “I love you too” to his son George W. Bush.
Bush lived to be the first former president to reach the age of 94. He died from his disease.