There aren’t many celebrity deaths in Iowa, which is probably a good thing, but I did manage to find 7 very notable famous people who died here in Iowa – some in a tragic way, before their time, and others in a peaceful way, after a long and happy life. These celebrities made their marks on our lives, and we will remember them in our hearts.
1. Buddy Holly, 1936 - 1959
Buddy Holly, a famous rock and roll artist of the 1950's, had just gotten done with a concert at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake on the night of February 3, 1959, when his plane crashed into a nearby field. It killed him and everyone on board. That day would forever be remembered as the "Day the Music Died," and there is now a memorial set up in the field where Holly died. Holly, who was 23 at the time of his death, was best known for his iconic glasses, and for his songs "Peggy Sue," and "That'll Be The Day." Holly was inducted with the inaugural class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, and was later ranked at number thirteen on Rolling Stone's list of "100 Greatest Artists."
2. J.P. Richardson, 1930 - 1959
J.P. Richardson, better known as "The Big Bopper," was another rock and roll star who died in the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly. He was best known for his Rockabilly look, and his song "Chantilly Lace."
3. Ritchie Valens, 1941 - 1959
Ritchie Valens, another rock and roller, was the third singer killed in the plane crash alongside Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper. Ritchie (bottom right of the photo) was just 17 years old at the time of his death, and only experienced a short musical career. He is best known for his song "La Bamba."
4. Grant Wood, 1891 - 1942
Grant Wood, a famous artist best known for his "American Gothic" painting, died of pancreatic cancer in Iowa City on February 12, 1942. Wood was born in Anamosa and lived in Cedar Rapids most of his life. He is one of the most famous artists in the state, and his art is recognized across the globe.
5. Paul Gray, 1972 - 2010
Paul Gray was a guitarist for the popular metal band, "Slipknot." He was born in California, but raised in Des Moines, and had been a member in several different bands throughout his youth. On May 24, 2010, Gray was found dead in his room at the TownePlace Suites Hotel in Johnston, Iowa. A hypodermic needle and pills were apparently scattered across the room. The autopsy results stated that Gray had died of an overdose of morphine, and had also shown signs of significant heart disease.
6. Cary Grant, 1904 - 1986
Cary Grant (the handsome fella on the left) was a famous English actor and Hollywood film star known for his dreamy accent, and equally dreamy good looks. In 1999, the American Film Institute named Grant the second greatest male star of all time. He is best known for his roles in "Bringing Up Baby," and "His Girl Friday." At the age of 82, Grant died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the Hotel Blackhawk while he was preparing for a performance in Davenport.
7. Rocky Marciano, 1923 – 1969
Rocky Marciano was the inspiration for the iconic movie series, "Rocky Balboa," which featured Sylvester Stallone as Rocky. In life, Rocky was an undefeated professional boxer and World Heavyweight Champion from 1952 to 1956. He is the only person to hold the heavyweight title without a bout tie or defeat during his entire career. Rocky retired with a record of 49 - 0, which remains unbeaten to this day. On August 31, 1969, the eve of his 46th birthday, Rocky was flying in a private plane outside of Newton. There was some bad weather, and the pilot tried to set the plane down in a field, but hit a tree, killing everyone on board.
Rest in peace to these seven celebrities who died in Iowa. You may be gone, but you’ll never be forgotten.