At 100 years old before she passed away this year, Frances Crowe was already a legend in activism not just in the Pioneer Valley, but the world. She’d been arrested numerous times over the decades, putting her body on the line for causes such as working to shut down Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant. She got her start in anti-nuclear activism after hearing about the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the 1970s, she went on to help young men escape the Vietnam War by becoming conscientious objectors. Frances Crowe is missed by many, but her legacy is assured by the generations of activists she’s helped to create. Rest in power, Frances. — Chris Goudreau
Michaelann Bewsee, longtime activist, former Valley Advocate staffer, and founder of Springfield-based Arise for Social Justice, was a true leader in promoting change in the Pioneer Valley up until she passed away at the age of 71 in August. Bewsee will be remembered for her activist work, whether that was working with women in the sex industry in Springfield to prevent HIV, stopping a women’s jail coming to Chicopee, or establishing a Springfield needle exchange program outside the law when the city wouldn’t allow it, during the course of more than two decades. Bewsee’s legacy continues with Arise for Social Justice, which is now led by Tanisha Arena, who continues Bewsee’s motto of “Nothing About Us Without Us,” by standing up for the rights of local area people. — Chris Goudreau
The man had the heart of a lion. In his closing remarks at the hearing of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen in front of the House Oversight Committee, Cummings brought Cohen — who referred to himself as a “pitbull” — to tears. Not through any form of aggression or humiliation, but through sheer compassion. “Let me tell you the picture that really, really pained me,” Cummings told Cohen. “You were leaving the courthouse, and I guess it’s your daughter … Man that thing hurt me. As a father of two daughters, that hurt me. And I imagine how it must feel for you … But this is part of your destiny. And hopefully this portion of your destiny will lead to … a better Michael Cohen, a better Donald Trump, a better United States of America, and a better world.” At this point, the man who spent more than a decade being Trump’s fixer and attack dog, broke down in tears. Cummings presence in Congress will long be missed after his death this past October. — Luis Fieldman
He was not a guy whose music made it onto the pop charts. But when songwriter and poet David Berman took his life in August at age 52, shock waves raced through the music and pop culture world, and any number of major publications — Spin, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, Pitchfork, Slate, The New York Times, The Washington Post — wrote obituaries and tributes to his work. Berman had been the voice and imagination behind Silver Jews, the roots/indie rock band he formed back in the 1990s, playing with a range of other musicians over the years. Some of those players came from the Valley, where Berman touched down in the 1990s when he was a graduate student in writing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. And like the national music critics who mourned his passing, Berman’s friends here remember him not just for his great talent with words but for his humor, generosity, and spirit. Guitarist and songwriter Peyton Pinkerton, who played on a number of Berman’s albums and on tour with him, called him “a wonderful friend and just a great songwriter, with an acute sense of observation.” And poet and UMass Amherst writing professor Dara Wier recalled that Berman “touched the lives of so many people … In words and in music, he brought new life to everything he touched.” — Steve Pfarrer
She wrote Beloved and Song of Solomon, and many looked up to the Pulitzer Prize winner, who said, “If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
Yes, 2019 saw the end of the mighty Chewbacca, or at least the guy who played him from 1977 to 2015. Mayhew was 7-foot-3, which was one thing he said helped him land the role he came to be known for.
One of the most successful third-party candidates ever, Perot got 19 percent of the vote for president in 1992. But he is likely remembered just as much from SNL cast member Dana Carvey’s impersonation of him.
He played Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street, which makes him one of the most famous and beloved puppeteers ever.
A generational meme icon is no more. At the age of seven, the beloved feline known to the internet as “Grumpy Cat” has been taken from us, but left us with her always grumpy face, which will surely delight generations of internet browsers in the years and decades to come.