Celebs You May Not Know Died In 2021

Every year, fans are shaken by the deaths of some of their favorite celebrities, and some years, the number of losses can seem staggering. When they happen during a year when there's a global pandemic going on, some deaths may go unnoticed or forgotten, leaving many fans to believe their favorite artists, musicians, actors, writers, and other celebrities are alive and well, when they, sadly, are not.

There's so much news about the spread of COVID-19 that it can be overwhelming, and the passing of a celebrity may not always dominate the headlines. Another side effect of the pandemic is that 2021 seemed to creep by — a death that occurred in February seemed like it had happened ages ago by the end of the year. As a result, more and more celebrity deaths were either missed or soon forgotten. 

2021 was a costly year in terms of celebrity deaths. Most people likely recall hearing about the passing of Cloris Leachman, Jackie Mason, Christopher Plummer, Tanya Roberts, James Michael Tyler, Melvin Van Peebles, and many more. Sometimes, when a "big" star dies, news of their death eclipses that of a celebrity who wasn't as well known. Regardless, plenty of incredibly talented yet less recognizable people have entertained the world before passing on. These celebrities all died in 2021, and, sadly, many of their deaths went unnoticed by the public. 

Hank Aaron

Hank Aaron was 86 years old when he died on January 22, 2021. 

In its obituary, The New York Times noted that Henry Louis "Hank" Aaron was regarded as one of the greatest baseball players of all time. Throughout his 23 seasons playing with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers, Aaron hit 755 home runs, breaking the record set decades earlier by Babe Ruth. His record remained on the books for 33 years before it was finally broken, though he still holds several that are yet to be broken.

Per ESPN, Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia said of Aaron's death, "Hank Aaron was an American icon and one of Georgia's greatest legends. His life and career made history, and his influence was felt not only in the world of sports but far beyond — through his important work to advance civil rights and create a more equal, just society. We ask all Georgians to join us in praying for his fans, family, and loved ones as we remember Hammerin' Hank's incredible legacy."

Aaron "died peacefully in his sleep," according to a statement from the Atlanta Braves. However, per NBC News, several prominent anti-vaxxers — including Robert F. Kennedy Jr. – suggested that he died as a result of the COVID-19 vaccine, which Aaron received on January 5. According to the Fulton County medical examiner, there was no evidence to support that claim. Aaron was laid to rest at South-View Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia.

Greg 'Shock G' Jacobs

Gregory Edward Jacobs, best known to his fans as Shock G or "Humpty Hump," died on April 22, 2021, at age 57.

Shock G's road to fame began in 1987 when he co-founded the rap group Digital Underground. They gained popularity in 1990 with the release of "The Humpty Dance," which is when Shock G created his "Humpty Hump" persona. He also helped boost 2Pac's career, co-writing the future superstar's 1993 single "I Get Around," per Vulture.

Shock G found additional success as a producer, working with talented artists including 2Pac, Bobby Brown, Dr. Dre, and Prince, per NBC News. In response to his passing, celebrities from all over the industry posted tributes, including Digital Underground co-founder Chopmaster J, who honored his fallen friend on Instagram. "34 years ago almost to the day we had a wild idea we can be a hip hop band and take on the world," he wrote. "Through it all the dream became a reality and the reality became a nightmare for some. And now he's awaken from the fame long live shock G Aka Humpty Hump and Rest In Peace my Brotha Greg Jacobs!!!"

News of Shock G's death was shared by his father, who announced that his son was found dead in a Tampa, Florida hotel room, per TMZ. Deadline later reported that his cause of death was "an accidental drug overdose of fentanyl, ethanol, and methamphetamine." He was laid to rest in Parklawn Memorial Cemetery in Tampa.

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Joseph Siravo

Joseph Siravo died on April 11, 2021, at the age of 66. Siravo wore many professional hats during his career, though he is probably best known for his work on "The Sopranos."

Per The Hollywood Reporter, Siravo's career spanned decades of work in theater, television, and film. On Broadway, he starred in "The Light in the Piazza" and a Tony Award-winning production of "Oslo." He got his big-screen break in the 1993 film "Carlito's Way," and he continued working in front of the camera throughout his career.

In 1999, he gained small-screen fame as Johnny Boy Soprano, Tony Soprano's father on "The Sopranos." He was cast as Fred Goldman in the FX anthology series "American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson" in 2015, and he had notable roles in "Dirty Sexy Money" and "The Blacklist." He also played multiple characters in "Law & Order" and its spinoffs. 

His death came at the end of a "long, courageous" cancer battle, per Variety. In 2017, Siravo "was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer," according to NJ.com. A colon cancer diagnosis came later, and during his treatment, a portion of his colon was removed. Many of the actor's "Sopranos" co-stars posted moving tributes online, including Michael Imperioli, who wrote in part, "Joe was an excellent actor and a wonderful guy, and he will be missed dearly." Siravo's daughter, Allegra Okarmus, posted on Instagram that she was with her father when he died "peacefully, in his beloved Treehouse" (via NJ.com).

Sonny Chiba

Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba, best known for his work on Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" films, died on August 19, 2021. He was 82 years old.

Many western moviegoers were first introduced to the inimitable Chiba via his performance as Hattori Hanzō in both "Kill Bill" films. But before filming those tributes to cult classics, he was already a famous movie star in his native Japan with hundreds of film and television credits to his name, per Variety. Chiba was one of the rare martial artists who made a successful leap into making movies, and his example helped inspire generations of martial artists and filmmakers.

Chiba's work elevated him to international superstardom relatively early in his career. He starred in more than 200 movies and television series, but the role that helped him find international fame came when he was cast as Takuma "Terry" Tsurugi in the 1974 film "The Street Fighter," which was so violent that it earned an X rating in the United States, per The New York Times. Even Chiba thought the violence went too far, but that didn't stop him from appearing in two sequels and a spinoff

In early August 2021, Chiba was admitted to a hospital in Kimitsu City, Japan, with COVID-19, per Anime News Network. He remained in the hospital for 11 days and died from pneumonia brought on by COVID-19. His body was cremated, and his ashes were distributed to those closest to him in life.

Tommy Kirk

Tommy Kirk's work with Disney Studios entertained millions of people for decades. He played leading roles in "The Shaggy Dog," Swiss Family Robinson," and many more. On September 28, 2021, Kirk died at the age of 79, as reported by NPR. He was found deceased in his home in Las Vegas, according to his friend Paul Petersen, another former child actor.

He began acting at a young age, and it didn't take him long to land a breakout movie role. In 1957, he was cast as Travis Coates in the Walt Disney classic "Old Yeller." His performance solidified him as a Disney leading man, and he spent the next couple of decades starring in various Disney projects.

In 2008, he was honored as a Disney Legend, despite having had a falling out with the company in the 1960s. Kirk was gay, and in 1993, he told Filmfax magazine (via NPR) that Disney had severed its relationship with him when he started seeing someone. His acting career was sidelined in the mid-1970s due to a substance abuse problem, but he ultimately overcame it. He continued to work in the industry into the early 2000s with a smattering of small parts.

When news of Kirk's passing came, Disney shared a remembrance on Twitter that read, "We are saddened by the passing of Tommy Kirk, the beloved and iconic scar of such Disney family favorites from the 1950s and 1960s as 'Old Yeller,' 'The Shaggy Dog,' 'Swiss Family Robinson,' and 'The Misadventures of Merlin Jones.'" 

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Ruthie Thompson

On October 10, 2021, Ruthie Thompson died. For years, her animation work delighted audiences, and she was declared a Disney Legend in 2000, per Variety.

Ruthie Thompson is a name few people know, but she's definitely someone who touched the lives of people all over the world. She was one of Walt Disney's earliest animators, having worked on the studio's very first animated feature film, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." When she began working for the company, she was placed in the Ink and Paint Department, but before long, she became the final checker of animation cels.

After some time in that position, she advanced onto scene planning, which she did alongside her work as an animation checker, per The New York Times. Throughout the course of her long career with Disney, she helped create some of the studio's most prominent feature films. Her résumé includes work on "Fantasia," "Dumbo," "Pinocchio," "Robin Hood," and many others. 

Thompson lived to the impressive age of 111. She worked for Disney for over four decades, and as of this writing, no other employee's tenure has been longer. News of her death brought forth numerous tributes, including one from Disney's co-executive chairman, Bob Iger. "Ruthie was a legend among animators ... While we will miss her smile and wonderful sense of humor, her exceptional work, and pioneering spirit will forever be an inspiration to us all," he wrote on The Walt Disney Company website. 

Granville Adams

Granville Adams is best known for playing Zahir Arif on "Oz." On October 10, 2021, he died of cancer-related complications, his family announced on Instagram. He was 58 years old

Adams' acting career was sadly short, though his time in the spotlight brought him a great deal of success. Before beginning his six-year run on HBO's "Oz" in 1997, he landed a recurring role on "Homicide: Life on the Street." Per The Hollywood Reporter, he ran into some problems in early 2007 when he was arrested "and charged with criminally negligent homicide" over the death of a man he had an altercation with at a nightclub in Manhattan.

Per 1010 Wins, the charges were dropped, but Adams' career seemed to stall after the incident. Despite this, he had a large fanbase who supported him. In December 2020, their well-wishes poured in after he shared a photo of himself in a hospital bed on his Instagram page. The post's caption read, "F*** CANCER!" This was the first public acknowledgment of his cancer diagnosis.

More love and support came Adams' way via his "Oz" co-star Dean Winters and the show's executive producer, Tom Fontana. They set up a Go Fund Me campaign to help pay for Adams' healthcare expenses. Fans donated nearly $113,000, well over the $69,550 goal. "Gran spent his last days surrounded by his loved ones, family, and close friends," his family wrote on Instagram. "His wife Christina was by his side the entire time and was alone with him when he passed."

Betty Lynn

Elizabeth Ann Theresa Lynn, known professionally as Betty Lynn, died on October 16, 2021, at the age of 95, The Andy Griffith Museum announced. She is best known for playing Thelma Lou, Barney Fife's girlfriend on "The Andy Griffith Show."

Lynn's acting career spanned 40 years, and she's remembered for a great deal of it. As noted by The Hollywood Reporter, she also appeared alongside Andy Griffith in the television series "Matlock." She found further success on the silver screen, with her roles in such films as the original "Cheaper by the Dozen" and "June Bride" helping her stand out among her peers. Her entertainment career began when she was in her teens, and, as was common at the time, she also worked in radio. She was a U.S.O. performer and found success on the Broadway stage before signing with 20th Century Fox to make the leap to television and film. From there, she worked consistently for decades, entertaining the world with her comedic timing and impressive stage presence.

Per The Andy Griffith Museum, Lynn succumbed to a "brief illness." Before she died, she was writing her autobiography, which will be released posthumously, according to the Associated Press. Regarding her legacy, Lynn told WYMT, "People don't have to remember me. I don't think it's necessary that I be remembered." She went on to say that she hoped people would pray for her. Lynn's body was cremated, and a surviving relative took possession of her remains.

Christopher Ayres

Famous voice actor Christopher Ayres died on October 18, 2021, Entertainment Weekly reported. He was 56 years old.

Ayres was one of those celebrities you might not recognize on the street unless you heard him speak, and, odds are, you've heard him in something. Much of the voiceover artist's work consisted of English dubs of Japanese Anime. His most popular and well-known character is easily Frieza from the "Dragon Ball" franchise. Some of his other noteworthy characters included Prince Soma from "Black Butler," Kei Kurono from "Gantz," and Takeda Shingen in the "Sengoku Basara" series.

Still, it was his work as Frieza that he became best known for, as he played him for nearly a decade. Doing voiceover work was something Ayres absolutely loved, as he explained to Ohio Guys at Ohio Comic Con in 2014, saying, "I love it. ... I've enjoyed everything I've worked on."

According to Entertainment Weekly, Ayres had been undergoing treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) since November 2017. In December 2020, he tweeted that he was recovering from a double-lung transplant. His girlfriend, fellow voice actor Krystal LaPorte, shared news of his death in a touching tribute on Twitter. In part, she wrote that Chris "passed away peacefully, held close by his mother, brother, and girlfriend ... His hands were held. His face was kissed. ... His mother and brother told stories of his childhood as he left."

Jo-Carroll Dennison

Before her death on October 18, 2021, Jo-Carroll Dennison was the oldest living winner of the Miss America pageant, taking home the crown in 1942, per The New York Times. She was 97 when she died, leaving behind her two sons, Peter and John, and three grandchildren.

Dennison began her modeling career at age 18 after being discovered in the street in Tyler, Texas, per Miss America. She initially declined an opportunity to be "Miss Citizen's National Bank," but went on to compete in and win the Miss Tyler Pageant. She scored another title at the Miss East Texas Pageant in Dallas, Texas, and after she was crowned Miss Texas, she advanced on to the Miss America pageant.

Dennison won her title on September 12, 1942, making her a wartime winner, a position she took seriously. She helped sell war bonds throughout her reign and toured "defense plants, hospitals and service camps." When her time as Miss America ended, she signed a contract with 20th Century Fox, which led to several roles in feature films and television series. According to the magazine Stars and Stripes (via The New York Times), she also became a beloved pinup girl, surpassed in popularity only by Betty Grable.  

The events of her life can be found in her book, "Finding My Little Red Hat," which details her pageant experience and so much more. Per CNN, she expresses support for the Me Too movement and shares her own story as a survivor of sexual assault.

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Leslie Bricusse

British lyricist, composer, and playwright Leslie Bricusse died on October 19, 2021, at the age of 90.

Bricusse composed some of the most memorable film scores ever put to celluloid throughout his long, impressive career. His work touched the lives of millions of people, as his lyrics and music have been heard by generations of viewers worldwide for more than 60 years. Per Variety, Some of his most significant work includes writing the music and lyrics on numerous films, including "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory," "Home Alone," "Doctor Dolittle," "Superman," "You Only Live Twice," and many more.

He wrote the intro music for "Goldfinger" alongside John Barry and Anthony Newley, and his work in "Willy Wonka" includes two of the film's most popular songs, "Candy Man" and "Pure Imagination." In addition to his work on films, Bricusse was also instrumental in delivering the music and lyrics in various musicals. 

Bricusse was critically-acclaimed for his work, having won two Academy Awards and a Grammy Award. He was also nominated for five Tony Awards. Additionally, Bricusse was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1989. After his death, his son, Adam, revealed on Instagram that Bricusse had "passed away peacefully," adding, "Please raise a glass for him." Bricusse died in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France, where he owned a home. 

Halyna Hutchins

Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was tragically killed while filming a movie on October 21, 2021.

According to American Cinematographer, Hutchins got her start shooting fashion photography and working "whatever production-assistant jobs she could." After completing her education at the University of California at Los Angeles, per Variety, she studied at the American Film Institute Conservatory. From there, she found work as a cinematographer, which opened doors to a number of high-profile productions. She also found work as a director of photography on the 2020 film "Archenemy." 

Hutchins' career was just getting going when she was shot and killed while working on the production of "Rust," a Western movie starring and co-produced by Alec Baldwin. According to a search warrant (via Today), while Baldwin was rehearsing, he was handed a prop gun. Unbeknownst to him at the time, the weapon held a live round, so when he practiced "drawing his weapon and pointing the revolver towards the camera lens," he inadvertently fired a bullet. Hutchins and the film's director, Joel Souza, were injured.

Hutchins later died from her injuries sustained in the on-set accident. Following her death, the American Film Institute established the Halyna Hutchins Memorial Scholarship Fund in her honor. The impact of her death also sparked a movement in the industry to remove "functional firearms" from film and television production sets, according to The Wrap. The investigation into her death and the circumstances surrounding it was still ongoing as of mid-November 2021. 

Huey Haha

TikTok comedian Huey Haha, whose real name was Huey Ha, died at age 22 on October 25, 2021. He left behind his 2-year-old daughter, Princess.

Ha was a rising star on both YouTube and TikTok, where he shared funny videos with his large group of followers. His YouTube channel boasted more than 520,000 followers, while his Instagram account had over 333,000, so he made a significant impact in a short amount of time. More proof of his success can be found in his YouTube stats, which show that his videos have been viewed more than 150 million times.

According to The U.S. Sun, Ha was found unresponsive in his home after first responders arrived following an emergency call. He was pronounced dead a short time later. As of this writing, his cause of death has not been revealed, but police said that it "was not considered to be suspicious."

News of Ha's death shocked many in the online community, who posted touching tributes to the young comedian. A statement posted on his Instagram account read, "He loved and appreciated every single one of his supporters." His friends established a Go Fund Me campaign with the intent of raising $50,000 to provide financial support and assistance to his daughter. As of mid-November 2021, it had grossed $44,000 via more than 1,400 donations.

Dean Stockwell

Dean Stockwell died of "natural causes" on November 7, 2021, per TMZ. He was 85 years old.

While Stockwell's best-known role was playing Admiral Al Calavicci on "Quantum Leap," that was only one gig in a very long career. During his 70 years in the entertainment business, he played over 200 different characters. He was born to a family of entertainers, including a father who voiced Prince Charming in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Stockwell followed in his dad's footsteps, beginning his own career on Broadway when he was just a child before making the leap to television and film. In 1995, he told Turner Classic Movies that he was unhappy working as a child actor, but he opted to pursue the profession into adulthood.

Stockwell's vast list of film and television roles includes critically-acclaimed performances, such as Anthony "Tony the Tiger" Russo in "Married to the Mob" opposite Michelle Pfeiffer and Matthew Modine. That part landed him a nomination for an Academy Award in the best supporting actor category. Outside of film, he's remembered for his work in television, playing characters in popular series that include "Murder, She Wrote," "The A-Team," "Miami Vice," "Mission: Impossible," and "Battlestar Galactica."

In 2017, Stockwell's wife, Joy, told 50+ World that he had suffered a stroke and was retired from acting. In retirement, he focused on visual art mediums and even exhibited his work, per Deadline. He died at his home in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, leaving behind his wife and two kids.