Associated Press file photo
Neil Armstrong would always be taking that first step onto the moon, and Dick Clark was forever “the world’s oldest teenager.” Some of the notables who died in 2012 created images in our minds that remained unchanged over decades.
Sadly, for others, an established image was shattered by a fall from grace. Whitney Houston ruled as a queen of pop music, but years of hard living harmed her voice while erratic behavior and a troubled marriage took a toll on her image. And Joe Paterno, Penn State’s longtime coach, won more games than anyone in major college football, but was ultimately fired amid a molestation scandal involving an assistant coach that scarred his reputation.
Some whose deaths we noted weren’t known by image or even name but by contributions that changed our lives – such as Norman Joseph Woodland, co-inventor of the bar code that labels nearly every product in stores.
Among the political figures who died were George McGovern, Democrat presidential nominee who lost to Richard Nixon in a historic landslide, and ex-Sen. Arlen Specter, the outspoken Pennsylvania centrist.
The year saw the deaths of a number of TV stars including Larry Hagman, who played oil baron J.R. Ewing on “Dallas,” and Jack Klugman, often remembered as the messy one of the 1970s roommates in “The Odd Couple”
Here is a roll call of some of the notable people who died in 2012. (Causes of death given for younger people.)
Lowell Randall, 96: Pioneer rocket scientist who helped launch the U.S. space program and tested intercontinental ballistic missiles. Jan. 3.
Etta James, 73: Blues singer best known for her performance of the enduring classic “At Last.” Jan. 20. Complications from leukemia.
Roy J. Britten, 92: Pioneering molecular biologist who discovered the crucial fact that humans and animals have multiple copies of some DNA segments. Jan. 21.
Joe Paterno, 85: Longtime Penn State coach who won more games than anyone in major college football but was fired amid a child sex abuse scandal that scarred his reputation for winning with integrity. Jan. 22.
Don Cornelius, 75: As host of “Soul Train,” he helped break down racial barriers and broaden the reach of black culture with funky music, groovy dance steps and cutting edge style. Feb. 1. Self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Angelo Dundee, 90: Trainer who helped groom Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard into world champions. Feb. 1.
Florence Green, 110: Last-known veteran of World War I. Feb. 4.
Jan Berenstain, 88: With her husband, Stan, she wrote and illustrated the Berenstain Bears books that have charmed preschoolers for 50 years. Feb. 24.
Davy Jones, 66: Actor turned singer who helped propel the TV rock band The Monkees to the top of the pop charts. Feb. 29. Heart attack.
Andrew Breitbart, 43: Conservative media publisher and activist who was behind investigations that led to the resignation of former Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y. March 1.
Lincoln Hall, 56: Mountaineer who was rescued a day after being given up for dead near the summit of Everest in 2006. March 21. Cancer.
Bert Sugar, 75: Iconic boxing writer and sports historian who was known for his trademark fedora and ever-present cigar. March 25.
Earl Scruggs, 88: Bluegrass legend and banjo pioneer who profoundly influenced country music with Bill Monroe in the 1940s and later with guitarist Lester Flatt. March 28.
Thomas Kinkade, 54: Artist whose paintings of idyllic landscapes, cottages and churches have been big sellers for dealers across the U.S. April 6.
Levon Helm, 71: Key member of the rock group The Band who lent his voice to classics like “The Weight” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” April 19.
George Cowan, 92: Manhattan Project scientist who also helped found the Santa Fe Institute. April 20.
Charles “Chuck” Colson, 80: Special counsel to President Richard Nixon who went to prison for his role in a Watergate-related case and became a Christian evangelical helping inmates. April 21.
Adam Yauch, 47: Also known as MCA, the gravelly voiced rapper helped make the Beastie Boys one of the seminal groups in hip-hop. May 4. Cancer.
Maurice Sendak, 83: Children’s book author and illustrator who saw the sometimes-dark side of childhood in books like “Where the Wild Things Are.” May 8.
Vidal Sassoon, 84: Celebrity hairstylist whose 1960s wash-and-wear cuts freed women from endless teasing and hairspray. May 9.
Donna Summer, 63: Disco queen whose pulsing anthems such as “Last Dance,” ‘’Love to Love You Baby” and “Bad Girls” became the soundtrack for a glittery age of drugs, dance and flashy clothes. May 17.
Doc Watson, 89: Grammy-award winning folk musician whose lightning-fast style of flatpicking influenced guitarists around the world. May 29.
Ray Bradbury, 91: Science fiction-fantasy master who transformed his childhood dreams and Cold War fears into telepathic Martians, lovesick sea monsters, and the high-tech, book-burning future of Fahrenheit 451. May 5.
Rodney King, 47: Black motorist whose 1991 videotaped beating by Los Angeles police officers was the spark for one of the most destructive U.S. race riots. June 17. Accidentally drowned.
Andy Griffith, 86: He made homespun Southern wisdom his trademark as a wise sheriff in “The Andy Griffith Show” and a rumpled defense lawyer in “Matlock.” July 3.
Ernest Borgnine, 95: Beefy screen star known for blustery, often villainous roles, but who won the best-actor Oscar for playing against type as a lovesick butcher in “Marty” in 1955. July 8.
Stephen R. Covey, 79: Author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and three other books that have all sold more than a million copies. July 16. Complications from a bicycle accident.
Sally Ride, 61: She blazed trails into orbit as the first American woman in space. July 23. Pancreatic cancer.
Sherman Hemsley, 74: Actor who made the irascible, bigoted George Jefferson of “The Jeffersons” one of TV’s most memorable characters and a symbol for urban upward mobility. July 24.
Gore Vidal, 86: Author, playwright, politician and commentator whose novels, essays, plays and opinions were stamped by his immodest wit and unconventional wisdom. July 31.
Mark O’Donnell, 58: Tony Award-winning writer behind such quirky and clever Broadway shows as “Hairspray and “Cry-Baby.” Aug. 6.
Bernard Lovell, 98: Pioneering British physicist and astronomer who developed one of the world’s largest radio telescopes exploring particles in the universe. Aug. 6.
Tony Scott, 68: Director of such Hollywood blockbusters as “Top Gun,” ‘’Days of Thunder” and “Beverly Hills Cop II.” Aug. 19. Died after jumping from a bridge.
George Hickman, 88: One of the original Tuskegee airmen and a longtime usher at University of Washington and Seattle Seahawks games. Aug. 19.
Phyllis Diller, 95: Housewife-turned-humorist who aimed some of her sharpest barbs at herself, punctuating her jokes with her trademark cackle. Aug. 20.
Neil Armstrong, 82: He became a global hero when as a steely-nerved astronaut he made “one giant leap for mankind” with a small step onto the moon. Aug. 25.
Art Modell, 87: Former owner of the Baltimore Ravens and longtime NFL stalwart who incurred the wrath of Cleveland fans when he moved the team from Ohio. Sept. 6.
Edwin Wilson, 84: Former CIA operative who was branded a traitor and convicted of shipping arms to Libya but whose conviction was overturned after he served 22 years in prison. Sept. 10. Complications from a heart-valve replacement surgery.
Andy Williams, 84: Silky-voiced, clean-cut crooner whose hit recording “Moon River” and years of popular Christmas TV shows brought him fans the world over. Sept. 25.
Sam M. Gibbons, 92: Former U.S. congressman who served 17 terms in Congress and rose to head the powerful Ways and Means Committee. Oct. 9.
Arlen Specter, 82: Outspoken ex-U.S. senator from Pennsylvania whose switch from Republican to Democrat ended a 30-year career in which he played a pivotal role in several Supreme Court nominations. Oct. 14. Complications of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
George McGovern, 90: Former U.S. senator and a Democrat who lost to President Richard Nixon in 1972 in a landslide. Oct. 21.
Russell Means, 72: Former American Indian Movement activist who helped lead the 1973 uprising at Wounded Knee and also appeared in Hollywood films. Oct. 22.
Warren B. Rudman, 82: Former U.S. senator who co-authored a budget balancing law, championed ethics and led a commission that predicted the danger of terrorist attacks years before Sept. 11. Nov. 19. Complications of lymphoma.
Larry Hagman, 81: Actor whose predatory oil baron J.R. Ewing on television’s nighttime soap opera “Dallas” became a symbol for 1980s greed. Nov. 23.
Joseph E. Murray, 93: Doctor who performed the world’s first successful kidney transplant and won a Nobel Prize. Nov. 26.
Zig Ziglar, 86: Motivational speaker who wrote more than 30 books and focused on positivity and leading a balanced life. Nov. 28.
Dave Brubeck, 91: Jazz composer and pianist whose pioneering style in pieces such as “Take Five” caught listeners’ ears with exotic, challenging rhythms. Dec. 5.
Oscar Niemeyer, 104: Architect who recreated Brazil’s sensuous curves in concrete and built the capital of Brasilia as a symbol of the nation’s future. Dec. 5.
Norman Joseph Woodland, 91: He was the co-inventor of the bar code that labels nearly every product in stores and has boosted productivity in nearly every sector of commerce worldwide. Dec. 9.
Ravi Shankar, 92: The sitar virtuoso who became a hippie musical icon of the 1960s after hobnobbing with the Beatles and who introduced traditional Indian ragas to Western audiences over an eight-decade career. Dec. 11.
Jack Klugman, 90: Actor who made an art of gruffness in 1970s and 80s TV in “The Odd Couple” and “Quincy, M.E.” Dec. 24.
H. Norman Schwarzkopf, 78: General who commanded the U.S.-led international coalition that drove Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait in 1991. Dec. 27.