In the last week, many notable Americans passed away. This will cover a few of these amazing people from various walks of life that helped to shape American culture in some way.


Elena Verdungo (1925-2017) was an actress who appeared in many TV shows and movies from 1940 until 1985. She is best known in her movie career from "House of Frankenstein," co-starring in "Thief of Damascus," and starring in "Panama Sal." She also starred in the 1950s TV series "Meet Millie." However, Verdungo was best known for her role as Consuelo Lopez on the TV show "Marcus Welby, M.D." from 1969-76.

She was nominated for two Primetime Emmys and a Golden Globe for that role. Verdungo died on May 30 at age 92.


Frank Deford (1938-2017) was a sportswriter, commentator and novelist. Deford was well-known for being a regular sports commentator on NPR's Morning Edition Radio Program from 1980 until his death. He was also a regular writer for Sports Illustrated from 1962 until his death. He was also a correspondent on HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel," and was the author of 18 books.

Deford was also widely respected by his peers, as he won National Sportswriter of the Year six times and is in the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame. He has also been awarded the Red Smith Award, the National Humanities Medal, and was the first sports journalist to receive the W.M.

Kiplinger Award for Distinguished Contributions to Journalism. He also served as the chairman for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation from 1982-99 and was a longtime advocate for research and treatment against the disease. Deford died on May 28 at age 78.

Jack McCloskey (1925-2017) was a basketball player, coach and executive. He served in the Marines during WWII as a lieutenant, commanding a landing ship.

Following the war, he went to the University of Pennsylvania and later played one game in the NBA for the Philadelphia Warriors in 1953. From 1955-66 he was the head coach of his alma mater, leading them to a 146-105 record and an Ivy League Championship. He then coached Wake Forest from 1966-72, going 70-89.

From 1972-74, he was the head coach of the Portland Trailblazer, going 48-116.

Later, McCloskey would take the job he is best known for. From 1979-92, he was the general manager that would be known as "Trader Jack" and the man who assembled the "Bad Boy" Detroit Pistons teams. In his time as the GM, the team went 580-486, made the playoffs 9 times and won the NBA Finals twice. McCloskey died on June 1 at age 91 from complications due to Alzheimer's disease.

Jimmy Piersall (1929-2017) was a baseball center fielder and later an announcer. He played 17 seasons in the majors from 1950-67, with five different teams. Piersall was a two-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner but was best known for his on-field antics and public battle with bipolar disorder.

He detailed his battle with the disease in his 1955 book "Fear Strikes Out: The Jimmy Piersall Story," which was made in a movie in 1957 starting Anthony Hopkins.

After his playing career, Piersall was an announcer for the Texas Rangers from 1974-77 and the Chicago White Sox from 1977-81. In 2010, he was inducted in the Red Sox Hall of Fame. Piersall died on June 3 at age 87.


Ray Pfeifer (1958-2017) was a firefighter and activist. He was one of the first responders on the scene after the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Pfeifer would work at the Ground Zero site for eight months following the attack. Later, he would become an activist for all of those suffering from 9/11-related illnesses. He was one of the men who pushed Congress to pass the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which they finally did in 2010. Pfeifer died on May 28 at age 59 from cancer related to the smoke he inhaled at Ground Zero.