11. In Memoriam
On January 2, Jay Weaver, the bassist of the contemporary Christian band Big Daddy Weave, died from complications due to COVID-19. He was 42.
According to a tribute posted by K-Love, the Weaver brother’s formed Big Daddy Weave in 1998 and released their first album, Neighborhoods, independently in 2001. In 2002, the band released its second album, One and Only, under the record label Fervent Records. The band has produced many hits, including “Without You,” “What Life Would Be Like,” “Overwhelmed,” “Audience of One,” “In Christ,” and their latest single, “Alive.”
Weaver is survived by his wife and their three children.
On January 9, Bob Saget, an American stand-up comedian and actor, was found dead in a Florida hotel room on Sunday. Saget, best known for his role as Danny Tanner in the 1990s sitcom Full House, was 65.
The beloved comedian was affectionately referred to as “America’s Dad” due to his role as a widowed father of three daughters in Full House. Saget was also the original host of America’s Funniest Home Videos, which he hosted from 1989 to 1997. Further, he was nominated for a Grammy for his 2014 comedy album, That’s What I’m Talking About.
Saget is survived by his wife, Kelly Rizzo, whom he married in 2018, his three adult daughters and their mother, his ex-wife, Sherri Kramer.
Jane Marczewski, known as Nightbirde, was a popular singer/songwriter who first came to prominence when she appeared on America’s Got Talent in 2021. At the time of her audition, Marczewski had already been diagnosed with cancer in her lungs, liver and spine and was given a two percent chance of living. Still, she did not let her diagnosis stop her from chasing her dreams. Her joy-filled optimism and strong Christian faith quickly began to inspire a nationwide television audience, but in August 2021, she had to withdraw from the singing competition show due to declining health. She later died on February 20 at the age of 31.
Representative Don Young
Alaska Representative Don Young, the longest-serving member of the United States House of Representatives, passed away on March 18. He was 88.
Young was first sworn as a member of the 93rd Congress on March 6, 1973, after winning a special election. According to the biography on Young’s website, the late congressman served as Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee twice from 1995 to 2001 and later as the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee from 2001 to 2007.
Young then served as the Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee again in the 110th Congress. In the 112th Congress, Young was selected to serve as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs (IIANA), which he did until 2017. After fulfilling his duty as Chairman of the IIANA, Young was named Chairman Emeritus of the full House Committee on Natural Resources.
Before his death, Young also served on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee as the most senior Republican. In 2020, he was elected to the 117th Congress to serve his 25th term as Alaska’s only Representative to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Ph.D., passed away from cancer on March 23. She was 84.
Albright had a long, influential and successful career beginning in 1972 when she began working on Democratic Senator Edmund Muskie’s presidential campaign.
She served as secretary of state from 1997 to 2001 under Clinton. As the head of the State Department, Albright urged the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to expand eastward into the former Soviet bloc. She also helped lead the 1999 NATO bombing campaign aimed at ending the ethnic cleansing of Albanians in Kosovo.
Further, in 2000, Albright became the first U.S. official to meet with Vladimir Putin after he became Russia’s president. That same year she also met with Kim Jong Il in North Korea, making her the first U.S. diplomat to travel to North Korea.
Albright was hugely influential in shaping Clinton’s foreign policy strategy and left behind a legacy of feminism and political strength.
She is survived by her daughters, Alice, Anne and Katie, her siblings, Kathy and John, her six grandchildren, her nephews and her grandniece.
Senator Orrin Hatch
Republican Senator for Utah Orrin G. Hatch passed away on April 23 at the age of 88.
Hatch, the longest-serving Republican senator in U.S. history and the longest-serving senator in Utah history, was a fierce defender of conservative values, championing limitations on abortions and defending Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas when he was accused of sexual harassment during his confirmation hearing.
He did, however, work with his colleagues across the aisle on some occasions.
Hatch is survived by his wife, Elaine, and their six kids, Scott, Alysa, Jesse, Marcia, Brent and Kimberly.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Terry Wyatt/Stringer
Five-time Grammy award-winning country star Naomi Judd died by suicide on April 30. She was 76.
Naomi and her daughter Wynonna formed the American country duo The Judds during the 1980s. Together, they released six albums and won five Grammy awards before splitting in 1991 after Naomi was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. Following the group’s split, Wynonna continued making music as a solo artist but occasionally reunited with her mother for shows over the years.
The Judds have had a total of 14 No. 1 hit songs, including “Love Can Build a Bridge,” “Mama He’s Crazy,” “Why Not Me,” “Turn it Loose,” “Girls Night Out,” “Rockin’ with the Rhythm of the Rain” and “Grandpa.” All of their singles were top 10 hits on Billboard’s country charts.
The country duo is also the first female-fronted group to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and has sold over 20 million albums. Their induction ceremony was supposed to take place on Sunday.
Bill Johnson, the senior pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California, announced that his wife, Beni Johnson, passed away on July 13 following a years-long battle with cancer. She was 67.
As reported by The Christian Post, Beni was first diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2018. At the time, doctors had discovered two lumps in her right breast, which were caught. Beni Johnson is survived by her husband, three children and 11 grandchildren.
Canadian theologian, author, and evangelical social activist Ron Sider passed away on July 27 from a heart attack. He was 82.
Sider, who became the first in his family to pursue higher education, holds degrees from the University of Waterloo and Yale University, where he earned a doctorate in history. After graduating from Yale, he began teaching at Messiah College in Philadelphia, PA and later at Eastern University’s Palmer Theological Seminary.
He is the author of the influential book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity, of which more than 400,000 copies were told. It was also translated into nine languages.
In 1978, he founded Evangelicals for Social Action, now known as Christians for Social Action.
Sider is survived by his wife of 59 years, Arbutus Lichti Sider, and their three children.
Nichelle Nichols, the actress known for her role as Lt. Nootka Uhura in Star Trek: The Original Series, died at the age of 89. Nichols was widely known as one of the first black female actresses to earn a major role in a film. Throughout her life, Nichols was also vocal about her faith.
Congresswoman Jackie Walorski
Republican Indiana Rep. Jackie Walorski, who represented Indiana’s 2nd Congressional district, was killed in a car crash on August 3. She was 58. According to Fox News, the fatal crash in Elkhart County, Indiana, involved two cars. Everyone involved was killed.
Walorski served three terms in the state’s legislature before being elected to represent Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District in 2012. She also served on the House Ways and Means Committee.
Author and megachurch pastor Stuart Briscoe passed away on August 3 from natural causes. He was 91.
Briscoe was born on November 11, 1930, in Millom, Cumbria, England. After leaving his career in banking, Briscoe decided to pursue international ministry through the Capernwray Missionary Fellowship of Torchbearers. By the 1960s, Briscoe was a youth minister and a popular conference speaker in the United States.
In 1971, he became the senior past of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin. According to Briscoe’s ministry, Telling the Truth, Elmbrook eventually grew to be the largest evangelical church in the state.
Briscoe’s sermons soon became so popular that he began recording them using a reel-to-reel tape recorder and selling them. With the money from the tape sales, Briscoe was able to purchase local radio time, allowing him to launch the Telling the Truth radio program.
In the 1990s, the ministry expanded its reach overseas, airing on London’s Premier Christian Radio station.
Today, Telling the Truth airs online and on SiriusXM in the United States.
Briscoe served as Elmbrooks senior pastor for 30 years before moving on to concentrate on reaching out to pastors, missionaries and church leaders as a Minister-at-Large, with his wife, Jill.
Briscoe also wrote over 40 books throughout his career, including Brave Enough to Follow, A Countercultural Life, and He’s Still on the Throne.
Briscoe is survived by his wife, their three adult children and their 13 grandchildren.
Singer, actress, and Christian celebrity Olivia Newton-John died peacefully on August 8, at age 73, following a 30-year battle with cancer.
Though born in England in 1948, Newton-John’s family moved to Australia when she was five.
As a teen, she won a singing contest and later enjoyed some musical success in England in 1966. But it wasn’t until the 70s that she became widely known in the United States.
Her song “Let Me Be There” landed as a top-10 hit in the U.S. in 1973. But for many, she sealed her icon status with her appearance in the 1978 film Grease. Newton-John played one of the film’s main characters, Sandy Olsson.
Frederick Buechner, a Presbyterian minister and influential Christian author, passed away in his sleep on August 15 at the age of 96. Buechner, who was described as a “writer’s writer” and “minister’s minister,” inspired Christians with his works throughout his career, which spanned over six decades. He has written nearly 40 books in various genres, including fiction, autobiography, theology, essays and sermons.
Buechner is survived by Judith, their three daughters, a son-in-law and 10 grandchildren.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Jason Kempin/Staff
Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II passed away on September 8, at the age of 96.
The Queen was born Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary on May 29, 1926. She was third in line for the crown behind her uncle, King Edward VII and her father, King George VI. She became the heir presumptive in 1936 after King Edward VIII abdicated from the throne.
On November 20, 1947, Queen Elizabeth – still a princess at this time – married His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburg.
Less than five years later, King George VI died of lung cancer, allowing Elizabeth to ascend to the throne.
Reigning for 70 years, Queen Elizabeth is the longest-sitting monarch in British history. According to the Royal Household website, the Queen also traveled more widely than any of her predecessors.
Known for her devotion to the crown and the people of England, her majesty famously said on her 21 birthday, “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service.”
The Queen’s husband, Prince Philip, passed away on April 17 of last year at the age of 99. Her only sibling, Princess Margaret, died in 2002.
Andrew van der Bijl, best known by Christians worldwide as Brother Andrew, passed away on Tuesday at 94.
Brother Andrew, the founder of the Christian persecution watchdog Open Doors, is best remembered for smuggling copies of the Bible into communist countries. His efforts earned him the moniker “God’s Smuggler.”
As reported by CBN News, Brother Andrew was born in the Netherlands in 1928 under the Dutch name Andrew van der Bijl. When he was 12, Germany invaded the country during World War II. At the time, he hid from the Germans, so he wouldn’t be forced to join the army.
He later rose to prominence with his book, God’s Smuggler, which was published in 1967. The book, written by evangelical journalists John and Elizabeth Sherrill, details how Brother Andrew smuggled Bibles into communist countries past unsuspecting border guards in his Volkswagen Beetle.
According to Christianity Today, Brother Andrew reportedly smuggled millions of Bibles into Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, East Germany, Bulgaria, and other Soviet-bloc countries.
EFCA President Dan Busby
Former Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability president Dan Busby passed away from cancer on Wednesday at the age of 81.
According to The Christian Post, Busby was born in Kansas in 1941. He attended Emporia State University, where he earned a Master of Business Administration degree and later became a Certified Public Accountant in 1964.
Busby then began working with the EFCA as a volunteer member of its Standards Committee in 1989. He would serve on that committee for ten years before moving up to become a senior leader in the organization. He served as a senior leader for ten years before being named EFCA president in 2008. Busby was the longest-serving EFCA president and played a vital role in growing the EFCA’s membership. He retired in 2020 and was named president emeritus, the EFCA website details.
Busby is survived by his wife, Claudette, their two children, Julie and Alan, and their four grandchildren.
Country music star Loretta Lynn passed away on October 4 at her Hurricane Mills, Tennessee home. She was 90.
According to the Associated Press, Lynn launched her singing career in the early 1960s.
While she often wrote about her love for her rural Kentucky upbringing, she also honestly discussed taboo topics such as divorce, cheating husbands, and birth control, among other things.
Her biggest hits, which include “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “You Ain’t Woman Enough,” “The Pill,” “You’re Looking at Country,” “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’,” and “X-Rated,” were all released in the 60s and 70s.
By the mid-70s, her talent and lyrical candor led her to become the first woman to ever receive the entertainer of the year award from both the Country Music Association (1972) and the Academy of Country Music (1975). Throughout her career, she would also win three Grammys and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (2010). She would further be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame (1988) and the Grammy Hall of Fame (1998). In 2013, President Barack Obama also awarded her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Angela Lansbury, who came to fame during Hollywood’s Golden Age and who was known for her work in family-friendly projects and a popular detective series, died on October 11. She was 96.
Lansbury starred in the detective series Murder, She Wrote (1984-1996) but was best known to multiple generations of children for her roles in Beauty and the Beast (1991), Anastasia(1997), The Grinch (2018), Bedknobs and Broomsticks(1971) Fantasia 2000 (1999) and Mary Poppins Returns (2018). Her final on-screen role as an actress was in a family musical, Buttons(2018).
Renowned Professor and New Testament scholar Gordon Fee passed away on October 25 in New York at the age of 88.
Fee, who was an ordained minister of the Assemblies of God (USA), taught at several Christian schools, including Wheaton College, Vanguard University of Southern California and Gordon-Conwell Seminary. He later moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, where he taught the New Testament at Regent college from 1986 to 2002. He was then appointed as Professor Emeritus and taught at Regent as a sessional instructor until 2009.
According to Christianity Today, Fee co-authored the best-selling book “How To Read The Bible For All His Worth” with Old Testament Professor Douglas Stuart of Gordon-Conwell Seminary. He also wrote “God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul.”
Fee further wrote New Testament commentaries on 1 and 2 Timothy, 1 Corinthians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians and Revelation.
In 1990, Fee succeeded the revered F. F. Bruce as the editor of the New International Commentaries series, a position he held until 2012 after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Fee is predeceased by his wife, Maudine, who died in 2014. He leaves behind three adult children, thirteen grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Steve Douglass, the former president of the Christian ministry campus organization Cru and Campus Crusade for Christ International, passed away on Saturday due to complications from cancer. He was 77.
Douglass spent 53 years with Cru in a variety of roles, including leading the organization as its president from 2001-2020 after succeeding founder Bill Bright. In 1969, he joined Cru after graduating from Harvard University with an MBA and from Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering.
He was also a member of the board of directors for the National Religious Broadcasters and hosted the national radio program “Making Your Life Count.”
Douglass authored and co-authored several books, including Managing Yourself, How to Achieve Your Potential and Enjoy Life, How to Get Better Grades and Have More Fun and Enjoying Your Walk with God.
He is survived by his wife, Judy, three adult children and ten grandchildren.
Jason David Frank
Jason David Frank, best known for his role as the Green Power Ranger in the hit 90s superhero television series Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, has died after committing suicide. He was 49.
Frank was first cast as Tommy Oliver, the original Green Power Ranger, in season 1 of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers in 1993. He later became a Red and a Black Ranger. He also led the superhero group as the White Power Ranger.
In addition to his acting career, Frank trained professionally as an MMA brawler who was well-versed in multiple fighting styles, including Taekwondo, Muay Thai, Judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and more.
Frank was also a Christian and founded the first Christian-based MMA apparel company, Jesus Didn’t Tap.
He is survived by his four children.
Representative Donald McEachin
U.S. Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D-VA) died on November 28, following a years-long battle with colorectal cancer. He was 61.
Aston Donald McEachin was born on Oct. 10, 1961, in Nuremberg, Germany. His father was a U.S. Army veteran, and his mother was a schoolteacher.
He attended St. Christopher’s School in Richmond, where he graduated in 1979. McEachin later earned a bachelor’s degree from American University in 1982 and a law degree at the University of Virginia in 1986. The late Virginia Democrat also holds a Masters of Divinity degree from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University, which he received in 2008.
McEachin leaves behind his wife, Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin, and their three children, Mac, Briana and Alexandra.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Stuart C. Wilson/Stringer
Clarence Gilyard Jr.
Longtime actor and academic Clarence Gilyard Jr., best known for his roles in television shows Walker Texas Ranger and Matlock and films Top Gun and Die Hard, passed away on Monday at age 66.
While Gilyard was raised Lutheran, he later converted to Catholicism after a years-long battle with drug and sex addictions.
“I hit bottom, I hit bottom … I was pretty much sex, drugs, and rock and roll, ya know what I mean?” he told the Catholic News Agency in a 2016 interview.
The actor shared that a friend had invited him to Mass while he was in a recovery program.
“Man, it rocked my world, it rocked me. So, I went to the priest on the way out, and I said hey, can I come see you this week? And the rest is history,” he said.
In 2018, Gilyard told CMGlobal.org that it had become his daily quest to make everything he does for God a prayer.
“I have come to realize that my approach to this life is necessarily evolving: evolving and maturing into a critical daily request to our good God to help me make mine, my life and my labors, my work, a prayer,” he said.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Michael Ochs Archives/Stringer