Deaths of the decade

1. Charles M. Schulz, 77

Died Feb. 12, 2000

After more than 50 years of comics, artist Charles M. Schulz wrote a goodbye message to fans before his death on Feb. 12, 2000 after complications from colon cancer.

By 1999, Schulz’s comic, “Peanuts,” had appeared in more than 2,600 newspapers, charming readers with famous characters like Charlie Brown and Snoopy, who was inspired by Schulz’s childhood dog, Spike. Beyond paper entertainment, Schulz also wrote  several “Peanuts” films and a TV show.

Fans can now visit the Charles M. Schulz Museum or buy tickets to “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” the most-produced musical in America, according to

2. Victims of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001

A series of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil claimed many lives on 9/11. After two airplanes crashed into the World Trade Centers in New York, more than 2,700 people died, including firefighters and rescuers.

There were other attacks on the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and the hijacking of Flight 93 that crashed in a field in Shanksville, Penn. Passengers on both planes died.

3. Ruth Handler, 85

Died April 27, 2002

Ruth Handler provided girls of the world an outlet for their imagination by creating an American icon, the Barbie doll. After battling cancer and suffering complications from colon surgery, Handler died in 2002.

During her life, Handler’s creation which was named after her daughter, brought controversy and femenist objections, but Handler was unaffected by negative comments, according to the New York Times.

Handler also founded the Mattel toy agency and worked to create prosthetic breasts for breast cancer survivors.

4. Bob Hope, 100

Died July 27, 2003

During the Vietnam War, Bob Hope brought laughter to a country that desperately needed it. For most of the ‘40s, during World War II, Hope performed hundreds of radio shows at military bases when other entertainers would not.

He was said to love applause, excitement and happiness and was always ready to laugh. Hope won five special Oscars, one for humanitarian services, 54 honorary degrees and 500 keys to various cities. He also received medals from President Dwight D. Eisenhower and President John F. Kennedy.

Hope died from pneumonia.

5. Ronald Reagan, 93

Died June 5, 2004

At 69 years old, the 40th president of the United States, Ronald Regan, was the oldest candidate to reach the White House, but he lived longer than any of his predecessors, dying on June 5 at 93 years old from severe Alzheimer’s disease.

Reagan served two terms as president.

After he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Reagan disappeared from the public eye, writing in a letter to the country: “I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead.”

6. Rosa Parks, 92

Died Oct. 24, 2005

Rosa Parks, the woman who refused to give up her seat on an Alabama bus in 1955 during the Civil Rights movement, died 50 years later at 92 years old from natural causes.

Parks was arrested for her actions on the bus, inspiring the black community of Montgomery, Ala. to boycott the city buses and challenge the Jim Crow laws. Her defiance also inspired civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr.

7. Steve Irwin, 44

Died Sept. 4, 2006

A champion of animals with sharp teeth and poisonous venom, Steve Irwin — better known as the “Crocodile Hunter” — was killed after a stingray pierced his chest while filming a segment for TV and the “Ocean’s Deadliest” documentary.

For fans, his death was a surprise — some fans even attempted to avenge his death by mutilating stingrays in Queensland, Irwin’s home state in Australia.

Irwin’s life, while dangerous, was dedicated to informing the public about the conservation of animals like the crocodile.

8. Kurt Vonnegut, 84

Died April 11, 2007

Tackling tough issues and deep questions with humor, Kurt Vonnegut established himself as a literary icon in the 1960s and 1970s. His most popular work, “Slaughterhouse-Five,” was  based on his experience of the bombing of Dresden, Germany during World War II. 

Vonnegut often used a pessimistic tone in his novels to create worlds of his own imagination. He used original methods to answer age-old philosophical questions about human existence.

Despite one suicide attempt, Vonnegut went on to marry, have children who survived him and write several more novels — including a set of essays in 2005 — before dying after a fall in 2007.

9. Randy Pausch, 47

Died July 25, 2008

Though his name alone may not ring any bells, Randy Pausch received short-lived fame before dying from pancreatic cancer in 2008. He became well known for his book and inspirational lecture series entitled, “The Last Lecture.”

The lecture was paired with a video — one he said was made mostly for his three children to watch when they were older. In 2007, TIME magazine declared him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
10. Walter Cronkite, 92

Died July 17, 2009

Walter Cronkite was always in media.

He grew up in media — working on a paper route — and ended in media, becoming “the most trusted man in America.” His news stories were full of truth.

When the Eagle landed on the moon, Cronkite showed genuine excitement. When Kennedy was shot, he held back tears on air.

He became famous for his phrase, “And that’s the way it is,”
bringing his influence to many American living rooms each night.