Birthdays are a wonderful daily occurrence in our lives. It is rare to weave through one’s day without becoming privy to an announcement or celebration of a birthday or two, whether they belong to family, friends, or other eminent figures. Remembering those who have passed each day is, perhaps, just as noteworthy an endeavor, for if their memories are kept alive, one might argue, so too are their spirits.
Here is a sampling of June 23 honorees, which today features a plethora of bigger-than-life celebrities:
Jonas Salk – He is today revered as a hero, a man responsible for saving countless lives. Jonas Salk is best known for his discovery and development of the first safe and effective polio vaccine. He was born in New York City, where his parents were Russian-Jewish immigrants. Salk decided to take the medical research route early in his career rather than become a physician. That decision was life-changing for both him and millions of others.
Until 1955, when the Salk vaccine was introduced, polio was considered the most frightening public health problem of the postwar era. By 1952, polio was killing more children than any other communicable disease, with over 300,000 cases and 58,000 deaths, reported that year. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the world’s most recognized victim of the disease and founded the institute to fund and create a vaccine. Jonas Salk passed away on this day at the age of 80 in 1995.
Betty Shabazz – Ms. Shabazz was the wife of Malcolm X, and as such, led a tumultuous life and experienced an almost unfathomable death. She passed away at the age of 63 as the result of a fire in her home set by her grandson, Malcolm. She suffered burns over 80 percent of her body and remained in intensive care for three weeks, undergoing five skin-replacement operations as doctors unsuccessfully struggled to save her life. Police arrested Malcolm Shabazz, accused him of setting the blaze, and he was eventually sentenced to 18 months in juvenile detention for manslaughter. At the time, Ms. Shabazz was managing the Office of Institutional Advancement and Public Relations at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York.
Frances McDormand – she is the epitome of the character actress who had one huge break and took full advantage of it. Ms. McDormand, born on this day in 1957 in Chicago, she burst into film lovers’ consciousness as Marge Gunderson in “Fargo.” She has been married to director Joel Coen since 1984, and has appeared in six of the Coen Brothers films, including “Miller’s Crossing,” “Raising Arizona,” “Blood Simple,” “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” “Burn After Reading,” and “Fargo,” for which she won an Academy Award.