Hail and farewell to those we lost in 2012

Astronaut Neil Armstrong - seen waving on July 16, 1969 as he prepares to board the rocket that would launch him to the moon - was one of the luminaries we lost in 2012.
AP Photo

(CBS News) This Sunday Morning, we remember those who left us in 2012. They made our hearts sing. They made our spirits soar. Some saved lives, some gave their lives, and all touched our lives in ways great and small.

For those of us who got our first taste of rock n roll from you, Dick Clark, it seemed as if you'd never grow old. And when we count-it-down tomorrow night, we'll be thinking of you.

And play on, Dave Brubeck. You topped the charts with "Take Five." Still, even in those complex rhythms you never lost count of that most essential beat:

"Maybe the thing that binds humanity together is the heartbeat," Brubeck told Walter Cronkite. "You know, it's the first thing you hear, even before you're born, is your mother's heartbeat. Steady pulse."

Bravo, Dave Brubeck. Bravo.

And still on the subject of counting, we say farewell to Jerry Nelson - the man behind the Muppet, Count von Count.

We don't have time to tally-up all of Ann Curtis' victories - she was one of America's all-time great swimmers. Her Olympic hopes had been put on hold by World War II, but when her chance finally came in 1948, she rocketed her way to two gold medals.

From countdown to touchdown to splashdown, we followed every moment of your journey, Neil Armstrong. Our collective sigh of relief echoes to this day. And so does our awe at the sight of you walking on the Moon.

Understated to the end, you downplayed that part of the trip, reminding us: "Pilots take no particular joy in walking. Pilots like flying." God speed, Neil Armstrong.

Andy Williams used to say that he never tired of singing the ballad that brought him such fame. To croon about the moon and make the ladies swoon - you have to admit, it wasn't a bad way to make a living.

It's been years since the Reverend Sun Myung Moon was in the spotlight, presiding over the mass weddings of his followers. The "Moonies," we called them. Perhaps if your name had both the sun and the moon in it, you might aspire to the heavenly, too.

You probably never heard of chemist Sherwood Rowland, but he worked a minor miracle here on Earth. His research lead to a phase-out of CFCs - chemicals that destroy the ozone layer. For literally saving our skins, we thank you, Sherwood Rowland.

And we say goodbye to three men who served our country, both in-war, and in-peace: Senators Daniel Inouye and George McGovern, and General H. Norman Schwarzkopf. Thank you.

There's no way we can adequately express our appreciation to the families of the more than 300 service men and women who gave their lives in the line of duty this year.

And then there were the lives cut short here at home: scores were killed in mass shootings, from Aurora, Colo., to Oak Creek, Wis., to Newtown, Conn.

All we ever wanted from you, Whitney Houston, was one more song. Born into a musical family, great things were expected - and my, how you delivered.

"I Will Always Love You" - that goes for us too, Whitney. Farewell.

For more than 40 years, we tuned in to "60 Minutes" to watch Mike Wallace ask questions that spoke volumes. There's an old joke that goes: The most feared words in the English language are "Mike Wallace is here." We, of course, wish you were still here.

We'll miss you too, Levon Helm. You made the most of your time on Earth. Your performance in the film "The Last Waltz" turned out to be anything but a swan song.

Elizabeth Catlett devoted her life to overturning a history of pain and discrimination against African-Americans, using art to open minds.

Back in 1973, Russell Means confronted the injustices done to his people by leading armed protests at Wounded Knee in South Dakota - a landmark moment for the American Indian movement.

When we launched "Sunday Morning" in 1979, Richard Threlkeld delivered our cover story, week in and week out. Richard reported the facts, yes, but what a way he had with words.

And what a way LeRoy Neiman had with a brush. An artist as colorful as his canvases, he painted the good life - and the sporting life.

In "The Odd Couple," Jack Klugman was everybody's image of the slovenly sportswriter. His Oscar was a lovable grouch.

If ever a fighter was deserving of his nickname, it was Hector "Macho" Camacho. He was famous for his speed - and his style.

Alex Karras showed both speed and style as tackle for the Detroit Lions, and he was a knockout in "Blazing Saddles."

Because of his looks, Ernest Borgnine was typecast as a "heavy." But as "Marty," Borgnine proved there was more to him - and perhaps to all of us - than meets the eye.

Vidal Sassoon proved the precise value of good looks. He went from sweeping up hair to overseeing an empire of salons.

Phyllis Diller used her looks to different effect. ("Most people consider a broken mirror bad luck - for me it's great!"). She set the stage for funny ladies to come. Phyllis Diller was, in a word, wild.

The heroes of author-illustrator Maurice Sendak's books often behaved in beastly ways - just like real little boys. "I don't care!" said Pierre. But WE did, and so did you, Maurice Sendak.

OK, now - time to shift tempos a bit. Beastie Boy Adam Yauch left us this year, but he left behind a few tracks to keep us on our toes.

Davy Jones is gone, too. The mop-topped Monkee had all the right moves.

So did Richard Dawson, and let's not forget Sherman Hemsley's fancy footwork.

Don Cornelius presided over a weekly dance party dedicated, as he put it, to "peace, love and soul."

Although Donna Summer learned to sing in church, she rose to fame as the Queen of Disco, with a sound more attuned to Saturday night than Sunday morning.

Long before there was "Sex in the City," Helen Gurley Brown penned "Sex and the Single Girl," suggesting that even good girls sometimes enjoyed being bad. She then took the reins at Cosmopolitan, finding success with covers promising - well - success under the covers.

Author, screenwriter and director Nora Ephron found success sending up the way sex can ruin relationships, and vice-versa.

Sex, money, power - that's the sort of stuff J.R. Ewing knew best. There was never a more charming scoundrel than J.R., thanks to you, Larry Hagman. Hats off to the man in the hat.

And a tip of the hat to you, Marvin Hamlisch, composer of Broadway and Hollywood hits beyond compare.

We also salute two incomparable men of medicine: Joseph Murray and E. Donnall Thomas. They shared the Nobel Prize for their pioneering work in organ and bone-marrow transplants. Although both died this year, countless others live on, thanks to them.

And we give thanks to Ray Bradbury, whose writings provide a sort of moral compass for a world in which science fiction is rapidly becoming science fact.

It took more than just rocket fuel to propel Sally Ride into orbit. As America's first woman in space, she was a role model for those who dream of shooting for the stars.

Earl Scruggs aimed high. His picking elevated the 5-string banjo from second-fiddle status to star of the show.

No doubt you remember the tuneful calling card of Mayberry. For so many, Andy Griffith's Mayberry recalled our own hometowns, as we remember them - or wish they could have been. And he was something of a friend. one we'll remember for a long time to come. Goodbye, Andy.

We leave it to you, the great Etta James, to close-out our tribute to those who left us in 2012.

We only wish we had a bit more time to recount all the ways your lives have touched ours. But at last the time has come - to bid you all hail and farewell.