Maybe it is our own mortality that causes such a natural reflex, but who among us does not regularly check the local obituaries each day?
For the most part, the same holds true when we see that a famous celebrity has passed away. Many times, we cannot help but be drawn to that story. I know I often feel legitimate grief when one of my favorite actors or other celebrities of note dies. In many cases, they have seemed like family.
Most of us were probably aware when such stars as Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, comedian Mickey Rooney, actress Shirley Temple, game-show host Jim Lange and Hall of Fame baseball player Ralph Kiner passed away in recent weeks. They were in the headlines.
But how many of our favorites may have recently passed and did not merit the "headline" treatment by the major media outlets?
I know last year how stunned I was when I found out Rob Grill, the lead singer of the Grass Roots, had died. It was a couple of weeks after the fact, and I felt terrible. I'm not even sure how such a thing could happen in this age of the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle, but Grill's death was either under-reported or I had missed it completely. (Probably a little both.)
Back in the 1970s, when lead singer Jim Morrison of the Doors died in Paris and the passing was kept quiet for whatever reason, it was the better part of a month before most in the United States knew he was gone.
For the non-baby boomers reading this, a comparable event to the deaths of Grill and Morrison might be if fans of Fun had found out Nate Reuss had passed away and it was somehow kept quiet for a couple of weeks.
The rash of celebrity passings in the past few months made me wonder who else might have died recently and I either missed the information or it had been all but ignored by most of the media. Here are just a handful of celebrity or "interesting" deaths since the first of the year you may have missed -- just like me:
º Ruth Robinson Duccini: The name is not familiar? That's understandable. She was 95 at the time of her death and the last of the original female munchkins from the 1939 movie "The Wizard of Oz." There were 124 munchkins in the film. Now only one is still with us.
º Hal Douglas: Douglas, who died at age 89, was the man behind the famous voice of countless movie trailers. His famous catch phrase was, "In a world ..." We had listened to his voice for decades during all of those previews we would sit through waiting for the main event.
º Mary Grace Canfield: She was one of the most familiar faces on TV during the halcyon days of the 30-minute comedies in the 1960s, 1970s and beyond. Arguably her most famous role was as "Ralph Monroe" on "Green Acres." She teamed with actor Sid Melton, who played "Alf Monroe," to form the Monroe Brothers Plumbing Co. The running gag, of course, was that Ralph was obviously female, but that did not seem to bother most in the wacky day-to-day existence in Hooterville. Canfield, who died at age 89, also appeared on a wide range of shows from "Bewitched" to "General Hospital."
º Johnnie "Mae" Young: Fans of the squared circle will recognize this name. She was one of the influential women wrestlers in history and some of her battles with the Fabulous Moolah are the stuff of WWE legend. Young died at age 90 after wrestling in eight different decades, including the 2000s.
º John Pinette: A stand-up comedian who died at age 50, he may be best known for his role in the series finale of "Seinfeld" in 1998. His character, Howie, was a carjacking victim in that last episode. Yep, he was "that guy."
Those were just five passings that may not have received their due attention, and that's a shame. In this day and age of a never-ending supply of information, too much can still -- at times -- not be enough.