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 Last Farewells 2015 infographic
Photomontage shows a selection of famous faces who died during 2015.


Last Farewells 2015

By Jordi Bou

December 31, 2015 - Last Farewells photomontage shows famous people that died in 2015 including, from the world of politics, Lee Kuan Yew, Helmut Schmidt, King Abdullah and Boris Nemtsov, from sport, Jonah Lomu, Yogi Berra, Richie Benaud and Jules Bianchi, and from the arts Omar Sharif, Cilla Black, Anita Ekberg, Demis Roussos, Leonard Nimoy, Christopher Lee, Maya Plisetskaya, BB King, Maureen O’Hara, and Guenter Grass.

1. New Zealand rugby star Jonah Lomu, who revolutionised his sport with a blistering combination of size and speed, died on November 18 at age 40. He burst onto the international rugby scene in 1994 and was the undoubted star at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa, even though New Zealand famously lost the final to the host nation. His career was cut short after he was diagnosed with a rare and serious kidney condition which forced him to retire in 2002. He had a kidney transplant in 2004, but the organ failed in 2011. At the time of his death he had just returned home after commentating on New Zealand's triumph at the World Cup in England.

2. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, ruler of the world's biggest oil-producing country, died on January 22. He was thought to be around 90 years of age. Despite being raised with traditional Islamic views he was seen as something of a reformer and became a vocal advocate of peace in the Middle East. Abdullah succeeded his half-brother, King Fahd, as king in 2005, but had ruled as de-facto leader for 10 years before that after Fahd was debilitated by a stroke. Abdullah himself was succeeded by another half-brother, 79-year-old Salman. All three were sons of Ibn Saud, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, who died in 1953.

3. Egyptian actor Omar Sharif, who brought a smouldering intensity to the classic films Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, died on July 10 at age 83. Sharif won two Golden Globe awards and was Oscar nominated for his role as Sherif Ali in David Lean's 1962 epic Lawrence of Arabia, making his first appearance in a now-legendary shot where he rides a camel out of a shimmering heat haze towards the camera. He won a further Golden Globe for Doctor Zhivago. In his later years Sharif was seen more frequently at the gaming tables than on the big screen. He was particularly successful at bridge and was ranked among the world's best players.

4. Baseball legend Yogi Berra, whose humorous quotes made him one of America's most beloved sports icons, died at age 90 on September 22. Berra, a 13-time World Series champion, spent almost all of his 19-year career with the New York Yankees, playing for the team from 1946-63. After he finished playing he coached or managed the Yankees and the New York Mets to three more titles. Famous ‚Yogi-isms‚included ‚It ain't over till it's over, and ‚It's like deja-vu all over again, Berra is said to have inspired the cartoon character Yogi Bear.

5. Richie Benaud, legendary broadcaster, cricket commentator and former Australian cricket captain, died on April 10 at age 84. A genuine all-rounder, Benaud was one of a select group of cricketers to have scored 10,000 runs and taken more than 500 wickets in first-class cricket. In an outstanding playing career he played in 63 Test matches for Australia, 28 as captain, before retiring in 1964 to pursue a career in journalism and broadcasting which saw him become one of the best-known voices in world sport.

6. British singer and TV star Cilla Black, who enjoyed a 50-year show business career, died at her holiday home in Spain on August 1, aged 72. Born Priscilla White in Liverpool, she shot to fame at the height of the Merseybeat era, signed by The Beatles' manager Brian Epstein after he saw her performing at Liverpool's famous Cavern Club. After a successful pop career she went on to dominate Saturday prime time TV in Britain, firstly with her own music show which ran from 1968-76, and then the hugely popular shows Surprise, Surprise and Blind Date, which she presented for 18 years from 1985 to 2003.

7. Swedish model and actress Anita Ekberg, best known for cavorting in Rome's Trevi Fountain alongside Marcello Mastroianni in Federico Fellini's 1960 film La Dolce Vita, died on January 11 at the age of 83. A former Miss Sweden, she won a contract with Universal Pictures who sent her to film in Italy, where she met Fellini. The moment where she wades through the Trevi Fountain in a strapless dress is considered one of the most iconic scenes in world cinema. The scene was shot on a chilly morning in March and Ekberg later revealed, ‚I was freezing. They had to lift me out of the water because I couldn't feel my legs anymore.

8. Boris Nemtsov, a leading Russian opposition politician, was shot dead in Moscow on February 27. An outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin and the war in Ukraine, Nemtsov was shot four times in the back by an unidentified attacker in a car as he crossed a bridge near Red Square, close to the Kremlin. The murder, the biggest assassination in Russia during Putin's presidency, sparked outrage and mass protests, with tens of thousands marching in Moscow to honour Nemtsov, who had been due to lead an opposition march that day. His allies accused the Kremlin of involvement but Putin condemned the murder and vowed to find the killers.

9. Greek singer Demis Roussos, who sold more than 60 million albums worldwide, died on January 25, aged 68. Renowned for his voluminous kaftans and soaring voice, he began his career with progressive rock group Aphrodite's Child but was best known for his solo hits in the 1970s, including Forever and Ever, and My Friend the Wind. In 1985 he was caught up in a plane hijacking when flight TWA 847 from Athens to Rome was hijacked by members of Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad. He and his third wife were held at gunpoint for five days before they were released. The experience changed his life and Roussos spent years promoting peace through music.

10. U.S. actor Leonard Nimoy, who played Mr Spock in the cult sci-fi series Star Trek, died in Los Angeles on February 27, aged 83. Nimoy had a long career as both an actor and director but was best known for his portrayal of the half-human, half-Vulcan Spock in both the TV show, which he played in all three original series and in several big-screen spin offs. Although the role defined his acting career Nimoy had an ambivalent relationship with his pointed-eared character. Two volumes of autobiography,I Am Not Spock, published in 1975, followed two decades later by ‚I Am Spock‚seemed to epitomise his mixed feelings.

11. Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore, died at age 91 on March 23. He governed the city-state for three decades and is recognised not only as the founding father of modern Singapore but as the only leader known to bring an entire country from third-world to first-world status in a single generation. After overseeing independence from Britain and separation from Malaysia Lee launched Singapore's drive towards prosperity but was also criticised for his iron grip on power, where freedom of speech was tightly restricted and political opponents were targeted by the courts.

12. Formula One driver Jules Bianchi died at age 25 on July 17, nine months after suffering severe head injuries in a crash at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix. He made his F1 debut with Marussia in 2013 and was also a member of the Ferrari young driver academy after previously working as a test driver for the team. Seen as a potential future driver for Ferrari, he was the first F1 driver to die from injuries sustained in a grand prix since Ayrton Senna was killed at the San Marino Grand Prix in Imola in 1994.

13. Christopher Lee, veteran British star best known for playing Count Dracula in the Hammer horror films, died on June 7, aged 93. He appeared in more than 250 movies, often playing villainous roles such as Scaramanga in James Bond and the evil wizard Saruman in The Lord of the Rings. Other notable credits included The Wicker Man, which he considered his best film and the biopic Jinnah, in which he played Pakistan's founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, which he thought was his best performance. Lee was knighted for services to drama and charity in 2009.

14. Russian ballet legend Maya Plisetskaya died in Germany on May 2, aged 89. Plisetskaya joined the Bolshoi Ballet in 1943, captivating audiences worldwide with the purity of her dancing in roles such as Odette-Odile in Swan Lake, Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty and Carmen. But she was considered a maverick by the Soviet Union and was constantly monitored by the KGB, who regarded her as a severe defection risk. Following her retirement from the stage at age 65, she turned to choreography and gave master classes around the world. She moved to the German city of Munich with her composer husband Rodion Shchedrin in 1991.

15. Blues legend B.B. King died on May 14 at the age of 89. Known for his hits My Lucille, Sweet Little Angel and Rock Me Baby, King, a former farmhand, began performing in the 1940s, initially playing exclusively to black audiences but his heartfelt vocals soon saw him reach a much broader fanbase and he went on to influence a generation of musicians including Eric Clapton and U2. Rolling Stone magazine placed him behind only Jimi Hendrix and Duane Allman in its list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. King performed in at least 100 concerts a year until shortly before his death.

16. Helmut Schmidt, Chancellor of West Germany from 1974 to 1982, died on November 10 at the age of 96. A Social Democrat, he proved to be one of the most popular German leaders since World War II, a skilled diplomat who eased Cold War tensions and laid the foundations for the European Union. He played a key role in designing the European Monetary System, which linked EU currencies and paved the way to the euro. Schmidt was also noted for his sharp wit, his proficiency on the piano, and his chain smoking, refusing to extinguish his beloved cigarettes even while appearing live on television.

17. Irish-American actress Maureen O'Hara died on October 25 at the age of 95. One of the last surviving stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood, the famously red-headed O'Hara often worked with director John Ford, playing passionate, strong heroines, frequently opposite John Wayne. Her best known films include The Quiet Man (1952), and the Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street (1947), in which she played the mother of child star Natalie Wood. In November 2014 she received an Honorary Academy Award.

18. Guenter Grass, Nobel prize-winning German author, died on April 13, aged 87. Born in what was then Danzig, Grass served in the German military in World War Two and published his breakthrough anti-Nazi novel, The Tin Drum, in 1959. Many of his writings focused on the horrors of the Nazi era, and the guilt that remained after Germany's defeat. So Germans were shocked when he revealed in a 2006 memoir, Skinning the Onion, that as a teenager he had served in the Waffen-SS, the combat arm of Hitler's dreaded SS paramilitary force.

PUBLISHED: 07/12/2015; STORY: Julie Mullins; PICTURES: AP / Getty Images / Newscom