June 24, 2018
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Donald Hall, the poet laureate of the United States from 2006 to 2007, died Saturday at his home in New Hampshire. He was 89.

Hall began writing at age 12, and over his career wrote more than 40 books, with half of them poetry. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and received the National Medal of Arts in 2010 and the National Book Critics Circle prize. Hall wrote often about his childhood, baseball, and the loss of his second wife, poet Jane Kenyon, and lived at Eagle Pond Farm, property that his family has owned since the 1860s.

During a 2012 interview with NPR's Fresh Air, Hall said that his "body causes me trouble when I cross the room, but when I am sitting down writing, I am in my heaven — my old heaven." Catherine Garcia

June 23, 2018

Drummer Vinnie Paul, a founding member of the metal band Pantera, has died, the band's Facebook page announced late Friday. He was 54. "Paul is best known for his work as the drummer in the bands Pantera and Hellyeah," the brief statement said. "No further details are available at this time. The family requests you please respect their privacy during this time."

Paul cofounded Pantera with his brother, known as Dimebag Darrell, and vocalist Terry Glaze in 1981, and their work proved widely influential for heavy metal in the following decades. The Texas-based group split in 2003. Bonnie Kristian

June 21, 2018
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Conservative columnist and political commentator Charles Krauthammer died Thursday, just weeks after he revealed that he had an aggressive form of cancer. He was 68.

Krauthammer wrote a syndicated weekly column for The Washington Post, which garnered him a Pulitzer Prize in 1987, and earlier this month he announced in a letter published in the Post that doctors told him his cancer had returned and he only had a few weeks left to live. "This is the final verdict," he wrote. "My fight is over." Krauthammer regularly appeared on Fox News, and over his career he wrote for outlets across the political spectrum, including Time, The New Republic, and The Weekly Standard.

Krauthammer was born in New York in 1950, and grew up in Montreal. During his first year studying at Harvard Medical School, he had a diving accident that severed his spinal cord. He is survived by his wife, Robyn, and son, Daniel. Catherine Garcia

June 21, 2018

Koko, the western lowland gorilla who was taught sign language by Dr. Francine Patterson in the early 1970s, died this week in her sleep at the age of 46, the Gorilla Foundation said Thursday.

Koko famously appeared on the 1978 cover of National Geographic in a photo she took of herself in a mirror. Koko "revealed the depth and strength of a gorilla's emotional life," NPR writes, mourning her adopted kitten, Ball, when it was hit by a car in 1984. "Cat, cry, have-sorry, Koko-love," Koko had signed to Patterson in response to the question "What happened to Ball?" She reportedly knew some 1,000 signs, and 2,000 words of spoken English, the New York Post reports.

The Gorilla Foundation wrote that Koko's "impact has been profound and what she has taught us about the emotional capacity of gorillas and their cognitive abilities will continue to shape the world." Learn more about Koko in the documentary below. Jeva Lange

June 6, 2018
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Actor Jerry Maren, the last surviving munchkin from the 1939 classic Wizard of Oz, died last month in San Diego. He was 98.

Maren was one of the 124 munchkins who made up the Lollipop Guild in the Wizard of Oz, and was known for handing Judy Garland's Dorothy a lollipop during one scene. He told The Independent in 2009 that working on the movie was "the greatest fun I ever had in my life," and Garland was "an angel." In 2007, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in honor of all of the munchkins.

Maren appeared in several other movies and television shows, including Planet of the Apes and Seinfeld. TMZ reports that in his later years, he suffered from dementia. His wife, actress Elizabeth Barrington, died in 2011. Catherine Garcia

May 14, 2018
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Actress Margot Kidder, best known for starring as Lois Lane alongside Christopher Reeve in the Superman franchise, died Sunday, her representative told the Los Angeles Times on Monday. She was 69.

Kidder's representative said she died "peacefully" in her sleep at home in Montana. Born in Canada in 1948, Kidder got her start in acting on television, and in addition to four Superman movies, she starred in The Amityville Horror, Black Christmas, and The Great Waldo Pepper.

Kidder became a mental health advocate after she went through a public manic episode in 1996, which ended in her being discovered by a Los Angeles homeowner in his backyard. In 2001, Kidder was awarded the Courage in Mental Health Award from the California Women's Mental Health Policy Council. She is survived by daughter Maggie McGuane, granddaughter Maisie Kirn, and grandson Charlie Kirn. Catherine Garcia

May 1, 2018
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Renowned handbag designer Judith Leiber, known for her crystal-encrusted designs, died over the weekend in Springs, New York. She was 97.

Born in Budapest, Leiber studied chemistry at King's College London with the goal of working in the cosmetics field, but returned to Hungary and became the first female apprentice at the handbag maker Pessl. Leiber went on to also become the first woman master craftsman at the company and the first woman to join the craft's guild in Budapest. A Holocaust survivor, she married her husband, abstract painter Gerson Leiber, in 1946. He also died over the weekend, just hours before his wife.

Leiber started her own label in 1963, with celebrities often carrying her pieces on the red carpet. Her dazzling bags took weeks to make and thousands of crystals, which she arranged in such whimsical shapes as watermelon and asparagus and Hello Kitty. "I like to do things that look crazy yet are practical," Leiber told Vogue. "My mania is to do a bag that looks as good empty as it does stuffed." In 1993, Leiber received the CFDA's Lifetime Achievement Prize and was the first handbag designer to win a Coty Award. Catherine Garcia

April 28, 2018

Theologian and professor James Cone died Saturday, Union Theological Seminary reported. He was 81.

The founder of black liberation theology, Cone was a prolific author and influential thinker. He is best known for works including Black Theology & Black Power (1969) and The Cross and the Lynching Tree (2013), and was awarded 13 honorary degrees.

"Jesus Christ is not a proposition, not a theological concept which exists merely in our heads," Cone wrote of black liberation theology in 1975's God of the Oppressed. "He is an event of liberation, a happening in the lives of oppressed people struggling for political freedom. Therefore, to know him is to encounter him in the history of the weak and the helpless. That is why it can be rightly said that there can be no knowledge of Jesus independent of the history and culture of the oppressed."

"In so many ways, James Cone has been Union Theological Seminary for the past 50 years," said seminary president Serene Jones. "To say his death leaves a void is a staggering understatement." Bonnie Kristian

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