The Land of Oz lost one of its beloved Munchkins when it was reported that Ruth Duccini, the last surviving female little person to play a Munchkin in the 1939 MGM film, The Wizard of Oz passed away today at the age of 95.
The following excerpt from an online news report gives us the best insight into Ms. Duccini's life.
LAS VEGAS | Ruth Robinson Duccini, 95, one of the two surviving Munchkins from the legendary 1939 MGM film "The Wizard of Oz," died early Thursday in Las Vegas.
Author of the book "The Munchkins of Oz," Stephen Cox, of Los Angeles, a longtime friend of Duccini, confirmed her death and said she died of natural causes at the Solari Hospice Care Center in Las Vegas, Nev. following a brief illness.
Born Ruth Robinson July 23, 1918 in Rush City, Minn., Cox said she stood 4-feet tall in adulthood, and In 1938, at age 20, traveled to Culver City, Calif. with a troupe of performing midgets to appear in film classic "The Wizard of Oz" as a Munchkin townswoman.
"Ruth was a sweetheart of a lady, feisty, independent, and a loving mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother," Cox said Thursday.
"She'll be missed greatly."
Duccini was the last surviving female little person from "The Wizard of Oz." Of the original 124 "little people" cast as Munchkins, the final surviving little person from the movie about Dorothy's trip "over the rainbow" is now Jerry Maren, who played a Lollipop Guild Munchkin. He is 93, and lives in a retirement home in Los Angeles.
Duccini was also a favorite guest each year at the annual Wizard of Oz Festival in Chesterton.
Last September, Duccini was a special guest of honor at Warner Bros. Sept. 15, 2013 world premiere screening of "The Wizard of Oz" in IMAX 3D and the grand opening of the newly converted TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX in Hollywood, the very site of the film's 1939 Hollywood premiere when it was originally Grauman's Chinese Theater.
While I never had the honor of meeting her, I had heard wonderful things about her and I'm certain she will be greatly missed by all who knew her. Like those who preceded her, she has crossed the Shifting Sands of Oz and joined her fellow Munchkins in Munchkin City.
Since this kind of news seems to come in threes, it was only a matter of minutes before more sad news of a passing crossed the computer screens of everyone online today.
Russell David Johnson (November 10, 1924 – January 16, 2014) was an American television and film actor best known as "The Professor" on the CBS television sitcom Gilligan's Island.
I loved this show as a kid and would watch it every week, wondering what the Professor would come up this time. He could make a radio out of coconuts, but he couldn't fix a hole in the S.S. Minnow. Go figure?
The third death notice came a few hours later today when it was reported that another celebrity death had occurred today.
David Joseph "Dave" Madden (December 17, 1931 - January 16, 2014) was a Canadian-born American actor. His most famous role came in the 1970s sitcom The Partridge Family, in which he played the group's manager, Reuben Kincaid. Madden later had a recurring role as diner customer Earl Hicks on the mid-1970s–mid-1980s sitcom, Alice.
I also watched this show as a kid, though not a fanatically as Gilligan's Island, Lost in Space or Star Trek. They did have a cool school bus though.
Finally, though it won't get much coverage, I also learned that John Dobson passed away yesterday.
John Lowry Dobson (September 14, 1915 – January 15, 2014) was a popularizer of amateur astronomy. He is most notable for being the promoter of a design for a large, portable, low-cost Newtonian reflector telescope that bears his name, the Dobsonian telescope. The design is considered revolutionary since it allowed amateur astronomers to build fairly large telescopes. He was less known for his efforts to promote awareness of astronomy (and his unorthodox views of cosmology) through public lectures including his performances of "sidewalk astronomy." John Dobson was also the co-founder of the amateur astronomical group, the San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers.
He was a personal hero of mine and someone I had the honor of knowing. I fabricated several larger telescopes using his own design, including my biggest one, an 18" model.
Overall, it's been a rough day as Death rears its ugly head across the globe.
James C. Wallace II
Royal Liaison of Oz.