Death

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Ruth Robinson Duccini, Wizard of Oz Munchkin, Dies at 95

Published February 7, 2014 by gossipzoo

Ruth Robinson Duccini, the last of the original female Munchkins from the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, has died. She was 95.

With her death, only one actor who played one of the original 124 Munchkins in the movie remains alive.

Duccini died of natural causes in Solari Hospice Care Center in Las Vegas on Thursday.

Her death was confirmed by Stephen Cox, author of The Munchkins of Oz. He says he learned of it from Duccini’s son.

Duccini, born in Rush City, Minn., traveled to California with a troupe little people, and was cast in the MGM fantasy movie starring Judy Garland. Duccini was 4 feet tall.

Cox provided a recent statement made by Duccini about her time on the movie set.

“It was long hours and heavy costumes. We didn’t have much time for ourselves. It was all new to me then, and I loved being a part of what is now a classic,” she said.

Duccini met her husband while working at MGM, and the two had a son and daughter.

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She worked as a “Rosie the Riveter” in Santa Monica, Calif., during World War II, using her short stature to squeeze into hard-to-reach parts of planes. She also appeared in the spoof Under the Rainbow starring Chevy Chase and Carrie Fisher.

In her later years, Duccini appeared at festivals and screenings celebrating The Wizard of Oz.

The only surviving original Munchkin is Jerry Maren, 93, of Los Angeles, who portrayed a member of the Lollipop Guild.

Ruth Robinson Duccini, Wizard of Oz Munchkin, Dies at 95| Death, The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz

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Teen Wounded in Colorado School Shooting Has Died

Published January 12, 2014 by gossipzoo

A suburban Denver high school student who was shot in the head by a classmate died Saturday afternoon, hospital officials said in a statement.

Claire Davis, 17, was in critical condition after being shot at point-blank range at Arapahoe High School on Dec. 13. Friends and well-wishers had posted prayers online and raised money to help pay for her medical care.

“It is with heavy hearts that we share that at 4:29 p.m. this afternoon, Claire Davis passed away, with her family at her side,” the statement from Littleton Adventist Hospital.

“Despite the best efforts of our physicians and nursing staff, and Claire’s fighting spirit, her injuries were too severe and the most advanced medical treatments could not prevent this tragic loss of life. Claire’s death is immensely heartbreaking for our entire community, our staff and our families.”

Karl Pierson, 18, shot Davis, who just happened to be sitting nearby with a friend as Pierson, armed with a shotgun, ammunition strapped to his body, Molotov cocktails and a machete, entered the school and headed toward the library. Davis appeared to be a random target, Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson has said.

Pierson likely intended to track down a librarian who had disciplined him, but Robinson said Pierson’s arsenal suggested Pierson intended to hurt many others at the school just 8 miles from Columbine High School.

Pierson set off one of the incendiary devices and fired five shots before killing himself just one minute and 20 seconds after entering the building. He knew a sheriff’s deputy assigned to the school was closing in, Robinson said at a news conference.

Students held vigils for Davis after the shooting. Typical was a story told by classmate Maggie Hurlbut.

“One time I remember I was upset in the hallway, and she came up to me and she just – it was like, ‘Hey Maggie, I know we don’t know each other well but are you doing OK?’ And I told her yeah, and she was like, ‘Anything you need, I’m here for you,’ ” Hurlbut said.

“Again, that’s who she is, and she just wants to take care of others, and that was really just a good representation of her character and who she was.”

Nelson Mandela Dies

Published December 28, 2013 by gossipzoo

Nelson Mandela, who heroically symbolized the longstanding fight against South Africa’s white supremacist government – and rose from its victimized prisoner to his nation’s powerful and compassionate leader – has died, according to South African President Jacob Zuma.

He was 95.

“My Fellow South Africans, our beloved Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the founding President of our democratic nation has departed. He passed on peacefully in the company of his family around 20h50 on the 5th of December 2013,” Zuma said in a statement.

“He is now resting. He is now at peace. Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father. Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss.”

Having suffered from failing health over the past several months, Mandela was readmitted to a Pretoria hospital in early June for a recurring lung infection that at one point developed into pneumonia. His lungs had been weakened as a result of his contracting tuberculosis during the 27 years he spent behind bars. On Sept. 1, he was released from the hospital but remained “critical and is at times unstable,” according to a statement from the Office of the Presidency of the Republic of South Africa. His treatment continued at home.

During those years as political prisoner No. 0221141011, and later No. 46664, Mandela’s words and physical likeness were barred from public view in South Africa. Yet, his fame and reputation only grew, PEOPLE reported in 1990, propelled even further in the instant that Mandela was set free by the country’s then-president, F.W. de Klerk.

“Our struggle has reached a decisive moment,” Mandela, then 71, told thousands of cheering supporters hours after his release. “We have waited too long for our freedom. We can no longer wait. Now is the time to intensify the struggle.”

PHOTOS: Nelson Mandela: His Life in Pictures

Symbolic Tribal Name

Born in the rural village of Qunu, Mandela spent his early days tilling fields and herding cattle, and his nights listening to tribal elders talk of the time before the white man came to that part of South Africa. Even as a youth, Mandela showed signs of leadership. In 1930, after the death of his father, Henry Gadla Mandela – a farmer who was also the main adviser to the Paramount Chief of the Tembu tribe – 12-year-old Nelson was sent to live in the chief’s Great Place, where his intelligence quickly marked him as the heir apparent who would someday rule the tribe.

But Mandela – whose tribal name, Rolihlahla, meant “one who brings trouble upon himself” – instead chose the path of political activism. In 1940, he was expelled from Fort Hare College in the Eastern Cape for helping to organize a strike protesting efforts to limit the power of the student council. The next year he headed for Johannesburg, where he landed a job as a clerk in a white law office – and began studying for his correspondence law degree from the University of the Witwatersrand.

Along the way, Mandela married Evelyn Ntoko Mase, a nurse with whom he had four children: son Thembi (1946-69), son Makgatho (1950-2005), daughter Maki (born in 1953) and another daughter, who died when she was 9 months old. But the marriage was troubled. Evelyn wanted her husband to concentrate on his career and forget politics, while Nelson felt deep anger at the discrimination he witnessed daily. In 1944, Mandela and two close friends formed the Youth League of the African National Congress.

During that time in Johannesburg, Mandela began keeping company with a social worker named Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela, who was then 20 – 16 years his junior. Mandela separated from Evelyn in 1955, and they were divorced two years later. Daughter Maki contended that her mother learned of the divorce in a newspaper article, which left lingering bitterness.

Political Activism

The courtship between Nelson and Winnie was far from routine, PEOPLE noted. In December 1956, police arrested Mandela and 155 other activists, charging them with treason for staging strikes and protests in opposition to apartheid laws. Their marathon trial ended five years later in acquittal, but within months of the verdict, Mandela had gone underground to form the military wing of the ANC, which then launched a series of bombings on power plants, rail lines and other strategic targets.

Thus began a life of physical separation for Nelson and Winnie, who married in 1958 and had two children, daughters Zeni, born in 1958, and Zindzi, in 1960.

After more than a year on the run, Mandela was captured by police. He was convicted of sabotage and treason in June 1964 and sentenced to life in prison. Immediately sent to Robben Island, a craggy, windblown Alcatraz near Cape Town harbor, Mandela spent his first six months using a sledgehammer to break rocks into gravel for the roads around the prison. Later, he was sent to work in the island’s limestone quarry.

Mandela tried to make the best of the 18 years he spent on the island. Denied newspapers until 1980, he and his ANC comrades kept abreast of developments in South Africa through smuggled messages. In the evening they talked politics and proselytized new prisoners – so effectively that the place became known as Mandela University.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it,” he said. “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

PHOTOS: Nelson Mandela: In His Own Words

Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Following his release, Mandela worked tirelessly with de Klerk to avoid a civil war, and in 1993, the two leaders shared the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. In 1994, in an unprecedented move for South Africa, Mandela was voted the nation’s first black president, a job he served for five years.

By then, however, his marriage to Winnie had crumbled amid rumors of her infidelity. (She also was arrested and convicted in 1991 in connection with the kidnapping and assault of a 14-year-old informant. In 2003, she was found guilty of fraud and theft of money from a funeral fund.) They separated in 1992, though she was among the visitors to the hospital to see Mandela in his final days.

In 1998, on his 80th birthday, Mandela married his third wife, Graça Machel, widow of Mozambique president Samora Machel, an ANC ally who had died in a 1986 plane crash. The next day they had a star-studded party with 2,000 guests, PEOPLE reported, including Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Danny Glover and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who had gently chided the couple for living out of wedlock. “She’s made a decent man out of him,” Tutu said. “Now you won’t shout at me,” Mandela, with a laugh, told his old friend.

Following his retirement from office, Mandela helped bring attention to a number of social-justice causes through the Nelson Mandela Foundation, including Africa’s overwhelming AIDS epidemic, and for a long time he continued an exhausting schedule. In July 2010, his age finally catching up with him, he made a rare public appearance at soccer’s World Cup final, circling the field in a golf cart with his wife.

FROM ESSENCE.COM: President Obama on Mandela’s Passing

“I have walked that long road to freedom,” Mandela once said. “I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”

FROM TIME.COM: Mandela’s Extraordinary Life: An Interactive Timeline

Cory Monteith: An ‘Enduring Sweetness’ on Glee

Published July 23, 2013 by gossipzoo

Cory Monteith arrived in our homes in 2009 in a happy burst of music, color and youth called Glee.

The news of his death in a Vancouver hotel room comes with the shock of someone dying at only age 31 (he seemed more like 22) – and also with the realization that he takes with him that music, color and youth.

Monteith was Finn Hudson, tall, handsome in a clean, square way. He looked like an old-fashioned teenage dreamboat dropped down in a school so up-to-the-minute in its heterogeneous mix he might have seemed out of place – like Ronald Reagan turning up in his brown suit to audition for the annual musical (Rent, say).

PHOTOS: Cory Monteith’s Hollywood Life

But Monteith had an open-faced quality that revealed, or betrayed, whatever emotion he was feeling (or singing) at the moment. He had an earnestness, an awkwardness, a sincerity that gave him a certain rawness – and an enduring sweetness.

The other performers on Glee tend to have the shiny, expert confidence that we want (and need) of a show that expects its characters to burst into song. Monteith never had quite that same edge: His definition was softer. He moved through the corridors of McKinley High at a slightly different lope, and that all lingers in the mind.

At least that’s how Monteith strikes me now – perhaps I’d already begun to adjust my ideas about him after he entered rehab earlier this year for substance abuse. These shadows filter into your perceptions, especially your perceptions of an actor still so early in his career – and associated with a show as bright as Glee.

Miss him already.

PHOTOS: Cory & Lea: Their Love Story
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FLASHBACK: Watch His Glee Audition Tape

Cory Monteith’s 11 Best Glee Performances

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