2021 In Memoriam: Remembering those we lost this year

Betty White

New broke that Betty White died on the last day of 2021, at the age of 99, a few weeks ahead of a milestone 100th birthday.

White was a true Hollywood icon and legend, so the entire world is mourning her loss. She was best known for playing Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1973-1977) and Rose Nylund on the still hugely famous show The Golden Girls (1985-1992).

She was also a dedicated animal rights activitst and an all-around sweetheart.

The tributes have been pouring in across social media platforms. Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds said, "she was great at defying expectation" and "she managed to grow very old and somehow, not old enough."

"Betty White. Where do I begin?" actor and comedian Kathy Griffin wrote on Twitter. "She was as sharp and funny as she was soft and wise…and no matter how long this world continues to spin, there will be only one Betty White."

Larry King

Legendary CNN talk show host Larry King died in 2021 at the age of 87.

He hosted Larry King Live on CNN for 25 years and interviewed everyone, from U.S. presidential candidates to TV stars. In fact, he is known as one of the few talk show hosts to have interviewed every sitting U.S. President from Gerald Ford to Barack Obama.

CNN reported his retirement after taping his 6,000th episode.

King had been hospitalized due to COVID-19 in December of 2020. While he recovered from the illness, he also battled a number of health conditions over the years. King was diagnosed with cancer and suffered several heart attacks.

Despite his health conditions, he continued to make guest appearances on various TV shows and kept up a cheery demeanour.

"The one thing he loved was being in front of that camera," Wendy Walker, the executive producer of his show said. "He was a very interesting man but that one hour a day, when those lights came on, he was just perfect. He treated every guest the same. It didn't matter if it was a president or somebody just off the street."

Christopher Plummer

The Sound of Music will never be the same.

Renowned Canadian actor Christopher Plummer died in February 2021 at the age of 91.

Best known for portraying Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music, Plummer's death was a huge blow for all Canadians this year.

Not only did he win an Oscar for the film Beginners in 2012, he was also awarded two Emmys and two Tonys. The New York Times referred to him as one of the "pre-eminent Shakespeareans of the past century" for his memorable performance as King Lear on Broadway.

Later in his life he developed a one-man show of readings from the works that shaped his career and life.

"A life spent mostly in the theatre, taught me above all that there is no such thing as perfection — that in the arts there are no rules, no restrictions, no limits — only infinity," he wrote.

Norm Macdonald

Another Canadian legend, Norm Macdonald, left us too soon this year at the age of 61.

Known for his acerbic wit, he was considered to be one of most influential and beloved cast members of Saturday Night Live. He died after a decade-long battle with cancer, but kept his health struggles private the entire time.

“He was most proud of his comedy,” Macdonald's friend Lori Jo Hoekstra said. “He never wanted the diagnosis to affect the way the audience or any of his loved ones saw him. Norm was a pure comic. He once wrote that ‘a joke should catch someone by surprise, it should never pander.’ He certainly never pandered. Norm will be missed terribly.”

Prince Philip

Prince Philip, Duke Of Edinburgh and late husband of Queen Elizabeth, died earlier this year at the age of 99.

His age, cause of death, funeral, memorial services, reactions of the Royal family and speeches from the Queen dominated the news cycle in 2021.


Famed American rapper Earl Simmons, also known as DMX, died in April at the age of 50.

He made a name in the world of rap in 1998 after his studio album "It’s Dark and Hell is Hot," debuted No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.

DMX delivered iconic songs like “Party Up (Up in Here)” and “X Gon’ Give It to Ya” and also tried his hand at acting in Exit Wounds, Cradle 2 the Grave and Romeo Must Die.

He struggled with drug addiction throughout his career, which ultimately led to his death.

“Earl was a warrior who fought till the very end,” his family said. “He loved his family with all of his heart, and we cherish the times we spent with him.”

Markie Post

Actress Markie Post died in August 2021 at the age of 70, following a long battle with cancer.

She was best known for her roles in Night Court and The Fall Guy.

Post continued working while battling cancer and chemotherapy treatments, determined to make it her "side job."

"Our pride is in who she was in addition to acting; a person who made elaborate cakes for friends, sewed curtains for first apartments and showed us how to be kind, loving and forgiving in an often harsh world," her family said.

Ed Asner

Beloved and iconic actor Ed Asner died in August at the age of 91.

The Washington Post described him as an "actor and liberal activist who twice had the role of a lifetime" in the character of Lou Grant on the 1970s hit sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show and then on its acclaimed spinoff series, Lou Grant.

The Hollywood Reporter referred to the three-time Emmy winner as a "tough guy with a soft side."

Asner also served two terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1981 to 1985 and sparred often with Charlton Heston, a noted conservative who preceded him as head of the guild.

When asked how old he felt, Asner replied: “If it weren’t for my bad left leg, I would feel younger. I’ve got many parts that need to be bolstered and refurbished. And I haven’t got time to undergo all those changes.”

Charlie Watts

August 2021 also claimed the life of the famous Rolling Stones drummer Charles Robert “Charlie” Watts.

Called "the band's irreplaceable heartbeat" by Rolling Stone magazine, he took his last breath at the age of 80.

While not as flamboyant as his bandmates, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Watts was known as the "bedrock" of the famous band.

Stones guitarist Keith Richards said in his 2010 autobiography, "Charlie Watts has always been the bed that I lie on musically.”

“As much as Mick’s voice and Keith’s guitar, Charlie Watts’s snare sound is the Rolling Stones,” Bruce Springsteen said. “When Mick sings, ‘It’s only rock ’n’ roll but I like it,’ Charlie’s in back showing you why!”

Dustin Diamond

If you watched TV in the late 1980s, into the 1990s, you will probably be very familiar with Dustin Diamond, who portrayed the iconic role of Screech in the sitcom Saved By The Bell.

Diamond died in February 2021 at the age of 44 and left a Screech-shaped hole in hearts of many millennials.

He died of lung cancer after completing just one round of chemotherapy.

"Dustin did not suffer. He did not have to lie submerged in pain. For that, we are grateful," his agent Roger Paul said.

Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who played Zack Morris on the show, tweeted that Diamond was "a true comedic genius" and said he will miss those "raw, brilliant sparks that only he was able to produce."

Rush Limbaugh

Conservative American radio host Rush Limbaugh died in February 2021 at the age of 80. He suffered from lung cancer.

"Before Fox News, there was Limbaugh," NPR said.

Limbaugh was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by former President Donald Trump in February 2020.

"I always say my real purpose is to attract the largest audience I can, and hold it for as long as I can, so I can charge confiscatory advertising rates," Limbaugh told NPR. "Every time I've said that, it's, 'Oh, he's just saying that! He doesn't care what he says! He's just trying to generate a big audience!' And that's not true. The benefit here is, I have the freedom to be entirely honest about my passions."

Helen McCrory

English actress Helen McCrory died "peacefully at home" in April this year at the age of 52.

Best known in North American cirlces for playing Narcissa Malfoy in Harry Potter and appearing in Peaky Blinders and Penny Dreadful, she was also an acclaimed stage actress.

"She died as she lived. Fearlessly. God we love her and know how lucky we are to have had her in our lives. She blazed so brightly. Go now, Little One, into the air, and thank you," her husband Damian Lewis said.

Cloris Leachman

Oscar-winning actress Cloris Leachman died in January 2021 at the age of 94.

Leachman won a record nine Emmys in her lifetime, two of them for playing the role of Phyllis Lindstrom on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Leachman's character was described as “neurotic,” but she “didn’t find any fun in that word,” the actor said. “I decided to be perfect. And there’s nothing more boring than somebody that’s perfect. She was insufferable.”

Leachman also appeared as the hilarious Ida Welker on the Fox show Malcolm in the Middle.

“Courage is something not generally associated with acting,” Leachman wrote in her memoir. “For me, it’s a crucial element.”

Tanya Roberts

Victoria Leigh Roberts, who was professionally known as Tanya Roberts, died at the age of 65 this year.

Roberts was an American actress best known for her roles as a Bond Girl, a Charlie's Angel and for playing Midge Pinciotti on That ’70s Show.

Her publicist, Mike Pingel, said that she died due to a urinary tract infection that was unrelated to COVID-19. Roberts's death was in the news after a few media outlets mistakenly reported her death a day early and published premature obituaries.

While Roberts died in Los Angeles, she maintained that she was a New Yorker at heart.

“L.A. drives you crazy,” she said in an 1981 People magazine article. “I’m used to weather and walking and people who say what they mean.”

Tawny Kitaen

American actress and singer Tawny Kitaen died from dilated cardiomyopathy in May 2021 at the of 59.

She is remembered for her roles on Bachelor Party and After Midnight.

“We are heartbroken and saddened to announce the death of our mom,” her daughters wrote. “We just want to say thank you for all of you, her fans and her friends, for always showing her such support and love. You gave her life everyday. We miss her and love her and we know her legacy will live forever.”

Colin Powell

The first Black U.S. secretary of state, Colin Powell died in October 2021 at the age of 84.

He died from complications from COVID-19, his family said when reporting his death.

"We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American," they said.

Powell started his career as a combat soldier in Vietnam and went on to become the first Black national security adviser during the end of Ronald Reagan's presidency. He was the youngest and first African American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under U.S. President George H. W. Bush.

Bush said Powell was "a great public servant" who was "such a favorite of Presidents' that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom -- twice."

Similar to the previous year, 2021 has been largely shaped by loss.

The year started on a hopeful note, with Canadians expecting to put the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic behind us. But as 2021 comes to a close, the country is grappling with another massive COVID-19 surge fuelled by the Omicron variant.

This year has tested Canadians' resilience as we've dealt with wildfires, heatwaves, rainstorms, blizzards, winter storms, a federal election and public health restrictions and limitations.

Amid the chaos, many notable people died this year and we're taking a look at the people we lost in 2021, including politicians, royals, celebrities and other pioneers.

You can also take a look at more 2021 Year in Review content:

2021 Year in Review: Most-searched topics on Yahoo Canada

2021 Year in Review: Looking back at the 10 most-searched news storylines on Yahoo Canada

2021 Year in Review: Top-searched celebrities on Yahoo Canada

2021 Year in Review: Most searched people on Yahoo Canada