Celebrity’s death overshadows truly important lives

It was once said, “Famous people are just more interesting.” Sadly, it’s true.

News quickly spread on Feb. 9 that the infamous Anna Nicole Smith had died after collapsing in her hotel room. Television reports, newspaper articles and the Internet have been plastered with the story of her death.

While walking the halls on campus that day, it became impossible to get from one point to another without hearing someone mention the former Playmate.

While we all know and can recognize Smith, I question what she has really done for any of us. She was a former stripper and Playmate, a jeans model, the wife of a late oil tycoon (who was more than 50 years her senior) and a reality-show star. Also, no one could forget she was the spokeswoman for TrimSpa, which she claimed helped her lose almost 70 pounds.

Wow.

What people do not know is that on the day she died, a handful of other Americans died that should have sparked national recognition and interest. But I heard nothing about them. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of their deaths until I actually made it a point to research the topic.

Antonio Pierro, believed to be the oldest living man in the U.S., died Feb. 9. He was 110 years old, and his 111th birthday would have been this week. Pierro was also one of the few remaining World War I veterans in the country and the last remaining vet from that war in Massachusetts.

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Shelby Metcalf, former Texas A&M head basketball coach, also died Feb. 9. He was head coach for the school for 27 seasons. According to the Houston Chronicle, during his time of leading the team, “Metcalf won 438 games, more than any other men’s basketball coach in Southwest Conference history. His team won SWC championships six times, including his debut season in 1964.” He left behind a legacy at the university though his work with the team.

Also, Harriett Woods, Missouri’s former lieutenant governor, died Feb. 9. She was the first woman elected to a state office in Missouri. Her family was quoted as saying, “We are also incredibly proud of her life devoted to public service and her passionate and determined efforts to aid society’s most vulnerable.” Just as Sarah Palin is recognized as being the first female governor in Alaska, Woods should be remembered in the same way.

Did anyone hear of these deaths? No, because Smith’s death took over the headlines, as she had in the tabloids for most of her life.

Do not mistake my frustration with discrediting the life Smith had. Just recently, she lost a 20-year-old son, she was mixed up in paternity test battles for her 4-month-old daughter, and she had dealt with court issues over her late husband’s fortune. Her life was definitely not easy, but I do not think she did anything more or better than these others I have listed.

We are giving credit and recognition to people who have made themselves famous for drug use, posing naked and simply being rich. What about people who have actually done something to make a difference for others? Is this simply not news anymore?

Our role models should be people who have made a difference. Yet we are looking up to those who have led scandalous lives and have therefore gained the popular vote.

Smith does deserve the spotlight because she suffered a tragic and sudden death, but others who died that day deserved more credit than they were given. We should make it a point not to let one person’s story drown out other important news.