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2004 Saw Loss of Many Notable Personalities

Every year at this time we take a moment to remember the men and women whose lives have touched us in some way, but whose days among us have ended. 2004 saw the passing of many memorable figures: controversial world leaders, charismatic innovators and inventors, actors, artists, and musicians.

2004 saw the passing of Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the first elected president of the Palestinian Authority. He died in November at the age of 75 at a hospital in France.

Although the precise cause of Mr. Arafat's death has yet to be officially explained, his body was quickly returned to Ramallah in the West Bank for a burial service attended by thousands.

Yasser Arafat devoted his life to establishing a Palestinian homeland, and traveled the world promoting that cause.

Palestinians viewed Mr. Arafat as the father of their struggle for statehood, but most Israelis will remember him primarily as a terrorist.

In the U.S., millions of Americans mourned the death of Ronald Reagan, the nation's 40th president. He died in June at the age of 93. Mr. Reagan had been out of the public eye for most of the past decade, suffering from the progressive, and ultimately fatal Alzheimer's disease.

Dignitaries attended a funeral service in Washington, where the former President was remembered as an optimist, a realist, and a tough-minded advocate for the idea the government's role in people's lives should be strictly limited.

Other notables who died in 2004:

Nobel Prize winning biologist Francis Crick, co-discover of the DNA double helix; Cosmetics queen, Estee Lauder; Fashion photographer Richard Avedon; and Julia Child, the plainspoken author who advocated the art of cooking and eating well.

The entertainment business also lost a number of legendary figures in 2004:

Marlon Brando, the actor whose on-screen intensity revolutionized his profession, died in July at the age of 80; Fay Wray died at age 96. She was best known for her co-staring role in King Kong.; and Christopher Reeve died in October at the age of 52. He became famous for his role as Superman, then remained in the public eye as a filmmaker and an activist after a sports injury left him paralyzed.

Finally, Ray Charles died in June at the age of 73. His musical innovations won him the title of "The Genius." As the year ended, Ray Charles was remembered in a popular Hollywood film.