Sunday, January 3, 2016

Three deaths as the hours waned

Three notable deaths made New Year's Eve in 2015 feel very sad, considering the value of those we lost in just one 24-hour span.

Marvin Panch. The 1961 Daytona 500 champion, the oldest living Daytona 500 champion (born 1926), died Thursday.  Seventeen Sprint Cup Series wins, he won the race at just under 150 MPH, then a record.  Some of his wins, according to the family statement, included those with Ford's works team run by Peter DePaolo, the man who was an Indianapolis 500 record setter, as he won the first Brickyard classic to go under five hours in 1925.  He also won the second of NASCAR's then-three majors, the World 600, with Richard Petty (his boss) as relief driver.  Panch's 1961 Daytona victory was known for being in an older car when top driver Glenn (Fireball) Roberts had the engine expire on his new 1961 model Pontiac late in the race, allowing Panch to win.  Legend has it that Dewayne (Tiny) Lund (who was very big despite the nickname), who pulled Panch out of a Maserati that had caught fire after a nasty crash during a testing session for the Daytona Continental (now Rolex 24), was given Panch's Wood Brothers ride for the 1963 Daytona 500, and Lund, an Iowan who made his home in Berkeley County, won the race.

Natalie Cole  A pop singer who transitioned from R&B to jazz to match the standards of her late father Nat King Cole, her success came at a price.  She admitted in her early years to drug use and alcohol problems, and criticised NARAS for awarding their awards to a drug addict who later died at a fairly young age.  Her jazz standards will forever be remembered for the trickery used to make listeners think she was doing a duet with her father, who died when she was 15, but she had success on her own as well.  She also enjoyed modest success in television and film work. She was a legend in the jazz standards market, and most assuredly will be missed.

Wayne Rogers.  For younger people, he will be remembered as a financial analyst on Fox News, often appearing as one of the Cashin' In panelists in its original format.  However, another generation will always remember him as the one and only original Trapper John McIntyre on M*A*S*H (Pernell Roberts did the spinoff drama Trapper John, M.D.). After leaving the show in 1975, his career was fairly modest (as was the case with so many actors who leave successful programs, particularly M*A*S*H, as most of his shows that he starred in - City of Angels and House Calls - were either short-lived series or guest spots in TV movies. There was something inherently likable about him, though, with a friendly smile and ingratiating personality, that will ensure he, like Marvin Panch and Natalie Cole, will be remembered.

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