The Best Obituaries Of 2016

The year that we said goodbye too many times

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There is no doubt that 2016 will go down in history.

It was the year that saw the Brexit vote, Donald Trump reaching victory in the U.S. election and a refugee crisis that continues to spiral out of control.

(To name but a few of the bigger events.)

As if saying goodbye to the EU wasn't hard enough, we also had to say our final farewells to a number of famous faces.

From Bowie to Jo Cox, Prince to Carrie Fisher, the cruel domino effect of death has taken the lives of too many, but it certainly hasn't touched their legacy.

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Happily(ish) some amazing writers stepped up to create the final epitaphs for some of these luminaries. And we've collated a few of the most fitting goodbyes, for your tearful reading pleasure...


Bill Cunningham

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At the age of 87, fashion's legendary street style photographer, Bill Cunningham, passed away.

Robin Givhan - Fashion Editor at the Washington Post - had known Bill for many years, seeing him cycling from show to show in his signature blue French workman's jacket.

"Cunningham was admired and beloved within the fashion world and beyond not merely because of his skill at transforming style photography into cultural anthropology, but because of the integrity, precision and journalistic fervor with which he did it."

Read the full obituary here.


David Bowie

Early in 2016, we lost one of the most influential people on the planet. David Bowie was the misfits' champion, existing in a solar system of creativity that was all his own.

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Many people wrote about how much he had influenced them. Carlos Alomar, a collaborator of Bowie's and guitarist in his band for more than 40 years, remembered the enigmatic genius.

"He fooled us in the end, didn't he? Therein lies that mystery that is David Bowie. We're left to negotiate his death. Are Blackstar's lyrics encrypted? Well, dammit, every Bowie song is encrypted. It's a weird place that we find ourselves which is exactly the legacy of David Bowie. We have lost one of our princes -- it might be that he was just lost from space, but wherever he came from, he's gone back, and it's all our losses."

Read contributions from some of the people who knew him here.


Jo Cox

The murder of Labour MP Jo Cox, who was such a powerful force for inclusivity and good, rocked The UK in June 2016.

Her friend, campaigner and former PM's wife Sarah Brown wrote,

"I was recently asked to sum up Jo Cox in just one word and what instantly came to mind is a word that doesn't properly exist. Unstoppability. It seems to perfectly describe the utterly irrepressible nature of Jo as a mighty force for good. Once she had engaged first gear, she accelerated to fifth and stayed there – always in a straight line but with room for manoeuvre and usually making lots of noise – until that particular journey was over. Reverse was never an option and the next journey was always in planning. Jo was relentless and got things done, almost always with a genuine smile on her face."

Read the full obituary here.


Sonia Rykiel

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French designer and all round women's champion, Sonia Rykiel, sadly died in August this year after suffering with Parkinson's.

News of her death shocked the fashion world as tributes flooded in across the industry.

International Vogue Editor, Suzy Menkes, praised Rykiel for never bowing to convention, describing her as:

'Who was the first to show fashion in the raw? Sonia, with her inside-outside seams. Who foreshadowed the slogan T-shirt? Sonia, with her "statement" sweaters. And it was Sonia who helped found the Paris "Left Bank" ideology, by opening a store in Saint Germain-des-Prés, which then had an artsy underground scene. I will never forget sitting squashed up in the small store that seemed more like a salon, as the designer recited her own poetry to create the background to the fashion show.'

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Read the full obituary here.


Gene Wilder

Gene Wilder

A wonderful mixture of heartbreaking and hilarious, the loss of actor Gene Wilder was felt by many. Kelly Le Brock, his co-star in The Woman In Red, wrote about her personal memories with Wilder.

"I have a lovely memory of us all being out at dinner in France during the promo tour, with my mother telling a filthy joke at the table, her laughing harder as she told it, and Gene laughing harder as she laughed. He was a very private, introverted individual in many ways, but if he was telling a story, he'd get loud and colourful. And God, he loved humour."

Read the full obituary here.


Terry Wogan

Terry Wogan
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The legendary broadcaster died early in the year from cancer. Friend and fellow radio presenter Simon Mayo remembered him:

"There was a world he spun, a club you were invited to be a part of – it was not a difficult club to join, everyone was welcome – and if you tuned in to Terry in the morning you were part of his irreverent, warm, giving world. It wasn't denying there was really bad stuff happening, it's just we were choosing to do other things and still poke fun at people and still read out funny emails."

Read the full obituary here.


Prince

Prince

2016 was also the year that The Purple One, The High Priest of Pop, The Artist Formerly Known As Prince passed away. Another individual whose genius will be sorely missed, film director Amma Asante wrote about the man she got to know towards the end of his life.

"What I'll remember of him, apart from the great music, is how much of a gentleman he was, how kind he was, what a good human being. I was one of many artists that he reached out to, who he knew he could have an impact on. And he was a real feminist – he worked with so many amazing women. I felt really grateful to be one of those who he reached out to, knowing he really didn't have to. I feel like we use that word genius sometimes all too often, although for Prince it was undeniable."

Read the full obituary here.


Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel obituary
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The man Barack Obama called 'the conscience of the world', Elie Wiesel was one of the last great voices of The Holocaust. He used his position to ensure the horrors were never forgotten and to act against any new signs of terror.

Here the Nobel Peace Prize winner is remembered by friend and law professor Menachem Rosensaft.

"Elie was both a writer rooted in the memory of the Holocaust and the leading voice for taking that memory and having it address contemporary instances of genocide. He once said if you wallow in suffering it wins, if you turn it to a force to alleviate suffering, then humanity wins."

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Read the full obituary here.


Caroline Aherne

Caroline Aherne

Comedian, actress and writer Caroline Aherne died at just 52, with many praising her talent and her kindness.

Ricky Tomlinson played Jim in the landmark series Aherne co-wrote, The Royle Family. He remembered:

"Caroline was tremendous at studying people and she could make a laugh out of everything. She had this incredible, incredible sense of humour. Caroline was generous, and she was generous all the time. The Royle Family was one of those shows where you couldn't wait to get up in the morning to go to work. And you'd work all week, and every Friday, as you knocked off, everyone got a Lottery ticket."

Read the full obituary here.


Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen
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The visionary songwriter with the huskiest bass voice died in November after releasing his critically acclaimed fourteenth album months before. Singer-songwriter Beth Orton reflected on his passing.

"His leaving makes perfect sense when so little else does. One last poetic statement. A full stop. He is our spiritual leader and one I can follow. In his death, he feels closer than ever. He embodies love and kindness, peace and power. His voice has always been the salve for my broken spirit. His final act of kindness was to be present by his passing this week when we need a voice of reason in the face of mounting insanity and confusion. To remind us of the beauty that exists alongside the imperfection in this world."

Read a roundup of tributes here.


Muhammad Ali

Controversial but legendary boxer Muhammad Ali died this year after a long and fraught battle with Parkinson's Disease. Davis Miller, who wrote two books on Ali and became a friend of his, wrote:

"Every time I was in public with him, it was the same. He would get out of the car and stand on the street, and in two minutes there would be 500 people, all wanting to make contact with him. He would look deeply at them in return and let them know that connection meant something to him. There must be tens of thousands of people all over the world who will never forget that look."

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Read the full obituary here.


Alan Rickman

Alan Rickman remembered by Daniel Radcliffe
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One of our best-loved actors, Alan Rickman, passed away in January. Tributes flooded in to celebrate him as an actor and as a wonderful man.

One of the most quietly touching obituaries came from long term co-star Daniel Radcliffe.

"I know other people who've been friends with him for much much longer than I have and they all say 'if you call Alan, it doesn't matter where in the world he is or how busy he is with what he's doing, he'll get back to you within a day'."

Read the full obituary here.


Victoria Wood

Victoria Wood

Victoria Wood was a pioneering female comic. Her shows and characters resonated with so many, and her death struck a real blow to the nation. Her biographer, Neil Brandon, wrote:

"She played on the obscurities of everyday life and held a torch on those funny moments people could relate to. Victoria's sense of humour was so northern, so dour and ironic. She held a spotlight on that northern way of life for the rest of the country to see; the mundanity and humour in life. Victoria was a pioneer. Without her, the explosion of female comedians we have now wouldn't have happened. She was the first one, a gem."

Read the full obituary here.


AA Gill

AA Gill

Writer, restaurant critic and emblem of the nobler aspects of journalism, AA Gill died in December. It would seem silly to quote anyone other than the wordsmith himself. Rather than focusing on his last discussion of his cancer treatment, here are his thoughts on turning sixty and the sense of mortality that follows.

"This is one of the biggest changes in ageing. The continuous heartbeat rhythm that tells you your experiences are now rationed. How many more Ring cycles will I get to? How many more times will I see Venice emerging out of the lagoon? How many cassoulets, English cherries? How many summits in the Highlands? How many long lunches with old friends? How many old friends are left to me? That sounds maudlin, but it doesn't feel like that. It adds to the pleasure, a sentiment to everything, an extra gypsy violin to life. I linger over things now: flowers, moonlight, Schubert, lunch, bookshops. Also I mind less about standing in queues, sitting in traffic, waiting for a bus or my call to be answered. Everything has a pinch of piquancy, a smudge of melodrama, and I like that."

Read the full article here.

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