Arts, Culture & Media

The Pathfinders: 12 notables who changed the way we think

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Actress Ruby Dee in 2008

Credit:

Mike Blake/Reuters

She left Auschwitz with a belief in music’s redemptive power. He changed our view of Latin American literature. She fought critics to become one of opera’s most enduring stars. He gave up medicine for surfing, using Hawaiian longboards as way to encourage piece worldwide.

Here are 12 notables, each of whom died this year, who broke barriers and changed the way we think. Many have been featured in the just-published e-book, "22 Lives of 2014."

1. DORIAN 'DOC' PASCOWITZ

The Stanford-educated physician abandoned medicine to surf — and to promote the euphoria of the eternal wave for peace. One such effort was in Gaza, where he brought scores of surfboards to the coast. “I went into the water. When I came back I was a better person,'' he once said. "Better than when I went in.” 

2. MAGNA OLIVERO 

The Italian opera star found back sobs, critics and time to more audiences deeply — for decades. "I never had a voice,'' she once said. "What I had was expression, a face, a body, the truth.'' 

 

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, at a conference in Mexico in 2007. 

Credit:

Thomas Bravo/Reuters 

3. GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ

The Nobel-winning novelist rocked Latin American literature with his dreamy, luscious and savage One Hundred Years of Solitude. His romance, Love in the Time of Cholera, found an audience decades later. The Colombian author once said all his works wove around this theme: "The appetite for power is the result of an incapacity for love.''

 

The crew of the Enola Gay 

Credit:

Reuters/US Air Force

4. THEODORE J. 'DUTCH' VanKIRK 

Aboard the navigator's B-29, the Enola Gay, was the weapon that would change the world forever. Neither he, the pilot or the bombardier could sleep the night before. When the bomb exploded, VanKirk recalled: "We turned to where we could look out and see the cloud, where the city of Hiroshima had been.''

5. ALICE HERZ-SOMMER 

The pianist survived the Holocaust with one thing intact: her belief in music's redemptive power: "I am Jewish, with Beethoven as religion ... He gives me the faith to live and to say to me: Life is wonderful and worthwhile, even when it is difficult.''

 

Actress Ruby Dee in 2008

Credit:

Mike Blake/Reuters

6. RUBY DEE

The pioneering actress on Broadway and film worked for decades. But was idolized by younger directors such as Spike Lee for her high-profile support of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X during the civil rights movement. In fact, she and husband Ossie Davis introduced King before hundreds of thousands of people before Washington's Lincoln Memorial for his "I Have a Dream'' speech. In thinking of a legacy, she and Davis once wrote: "Let's love each other right now. Let's make sense of things right now. Let's make it count somehow right now, because we are in this thing together.''

7. VIKTOR SUKODREV

The Kremlin translator was so good — and so respected — he bridged Cold War differences. But his translations were a timeline of US-Soviet tensions. As the Washington Post's Matt Schudel wrote: “Mr. Sukhodrev provided the on-the-spot English translation of what became perhaps the most memorable and most threatening statement of the Cold War: ‘Whether you like it or not, we are on the right side of history. We will bury you.'"

 

South African writer Nadine Gordimer, with Nelson Mandela in 2005

Credit:

Radu Sigheti/Reuters

8. NADINE GORDIMER

The Nobel-winning novelist exposed South Africa's apartheid to the world, which made her a lightning rod in her homeland. Of writing, she once said: "This aesthetic venture of ours becomes subversive when the shameful secrets of our times are explored deeply.'' 

 

Comedian Robin Williams in 2009

Credit:

Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

9. ROBIN WILLIAMS 

A beloved satirist, mimic, Oscar-winning dramatic actor, Robin Williams was unpredictable in whatever medium he was working — or whatever language he was pretending to speak. He brought humanity to an alien, alienated vet, professor, cross-dressing nanny and Theodore Roosevelt.

10. HASHIM KHAN 

To a colonial's sport, he brought verve. The shoeless champion was the Jackie Robinson of squash. "I know what I do,'' he once said, "and I give thanks for this gift, fast thinking.''

 

Win Tin with his prison-issued work shirts in 2013

Credit:

Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters

11. WIN TIN

The Burmese journalist and activist, part of a group that encouraged Aung Sang Suu Kyi to rise against the military government, spent 20 years in barbaric prisons. Upon his release, he said he would continue to wear his blue prison uniform until all political prisoners were released. 

 

Lauren Bacall, American actress 

Credit:

Danny Moloshok/Reuters

12. LAUREN BACALL 

The bewitching, husky-voiced actress defined on-screen chemistry with Humphrey Bogart in "The Maltese Falcon'' and "Key Largo.'' How did she keep her calm while filming. "One way to hold my trembling head still,'' she once said, "was to keep it down, chin low, almost to my chest, and eyes up to Bogart. It worked."

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