When death strikes two people in any kind of relationship in relatively short order, the combination of shock, grief and incredibly unfortunate circumstance can be overwhelming. Although we have no definitive scientific data on this, we at Martin Oaks Cemetery and Crematory suspect that this close sequential passing occurs more frequently than is suspected.
On a personal level, last year our family experienced such passing of a much beloved husband and wife within a week — we don’t want to dwell on the circumstances, but the events were truly beyond immediate comprehension.
As most will recall, star Debbie Reynolds passed away on December 28, 2016, exactly one day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher, expired.
Not so long ago, a local funeral director brought a couple who lived in the Plano, Texas area to us for cremations within six months of each other.
And it doesn’t have to be a couple — the coincidence of death can strike two who are related tangentially by work, by membership in the same group or by a common personal/professional relationship.
Our recent blog about the death of actor Jerry Van Dyke engendered several comments about the proximity of his passing with that of actress Rose Marie (Pictured above).
Van Dyke died at the age of 86 on January 5, while Rose Marie succumbed on December 28.
The connection between the two was personal and professional — Jerry was the brother of Dick Van Dyke and had appeared with him many times, including on the landmark Van Dyke television series. Marie, of course, played a major role on the television series and remained part of his extended family.
If you read Dick Van Dyke’s touching memoir, “Dick Van Dyke, My Lucky Life,” his affection for Rose Marie is most apparent. She had been in show business all her life (starting out as Baby Rose Marie, where one of her biggest fans was, of all people, Al Capone). She was a natural for the female writer on the show (her character was based on the actual television writer, Selma Diamond): funny, spontaneous, whip smart, not willing to cower to anyone. The character was named Sally Rogers, but it played so closely to Ms. Diamond that one critic said she could have been named Selma Rogers.
Off camera, she and Van Dyke had a wonderful rapport — she gave him the nickname, “the six foot tower of Jell-O” due to his unwillingness to be confrontational.
Rose Marie did carry a slight tinge of jealousy about Mary Tyler Moore because she, initially, thought Van Dyke’s home life to be secondary to the plotline. Once Marie saw the presence Moore brought to the proceedings, all went well. Well enough that she was nominated for three Emmy’s.
After the Van Dyke show ended, Rose continued her varied entertainment pursuits, including a long running role on the popular Hollywood Squares game show, as well as tour that featured Rosemary Clooney, Margaret Whiting and Helen O’Connell (called “4 Girls 4”).
Jerry Van Dyke had a recurring character role on series: he played Dick’s brother Stacey, who was afflicted by sleepwalking — while growing up, Jerry actually did sleepwalk, sometimes to great peril.
Side note on Selma Diamond: modern viewers may remember her on Night Court, where her career was unfortunately cut short by a fatal case of lung cancer at the age of 64. Her successor in the role, Florence Halop, lasted one season before the same disease felled her (more death coincidences).
One other side note on Selma Diamond: while she was an extremely talented writer for stars like Sid Caesar, her appearances on Jack Paar and Johnny Carson displayed her incredible sense of humor (a quality Rose Marie really captured as Sally Rogers).
In closing, let us mention one final death coincidence which just happened — late last week, the much admired sports announcer, Keith Jackson passed away at the age of 89. Although he was a multi-dimensional broadcaster, Jackson was primarily known for his work in college football.
Although announcer Dick Enberg was much more of a national talent, he consistently called the Rose Bowl on television. Since the game started being broadcast in 1948, there have only been seven play-by-play announcers — two of them (Enberg and Jackson) just passed away about a month apart.
The vagaries of death never cease to surprise us.