As a person ages the reality takes over that you need to focus on the important things in life and that your days on this earth are numbered.  It’s when you hit senior citizen status that you start to take notice of those people that have died and the first section of the newspaper that you read every morning is the obituaries.  There are two reasons that a person my age does this, the first is to check that no one submitted one for you and the second reason is to see who, unfortunately, has passed before you, that may have touched your life, in some small way.

Today, the world & I lost two people that had an impact on my life.  The first was Novelist & Minnesota native, Vince Flynn, who died yesterday as a result of stage three metastasized prostate cancer, at the age of 47.  The second one was Actor & New Jersey native, James Gandolfini, who died of an apparent heart attack, while on vacation in Rome, at the age of 51.

Now, many people are going to question why anyone like me would care about the passing of two individuals that I never really met, but both touched my life by countless hours of pure entertainment and a brief escape from the reality of my existence.  It is sad that they both passed way too soon and I will miss their company, both in movies, television, and on the written page.

Vince Flynn wrote 14 best-selling thrillers starred Mitch Rapp, a CIA counterterrorism operative who made him the darling of conservatives.  Three of his novels reached No. 2 on the list: Kill Shot and The Last Man (both in 2012) and American Assassin in 2010.

His 2004 Memorial Day describes a raid very similar to the one that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.  Often his books have been put on security review by the Pentagon before they are released, and they are even used by the Secret Service to identify possible lapses in their security.

Flynn was working in sales and commercial real estate 20 years ago when he began reading voraciously in an effort to conquer his childhood dyslexia.   In the process he fell in love with espionage novels and decided to try writing one himself.   His first book, Term Limits, was self-published in 1997 after Flynn received 60 rejection letters.

He was a guy that never gave up…no matter the odds.

James Gandolfini, rose to fame as a New Jersey mob boss, Tony Soprano, in the hit HBO drama series, “The Sopranos.”

A Westwood native, Gandolfini graduated from Rutgers University in 1983 (the school inducted him into its Hall of Distinguished Alumni in 2004.

Gandolfini had appeared in numerous films before landing the role of Soprano, but it was the panic attack-stricken mob boss who would forever define him. He won critical acclaim, three Emmy Awards and three Screen Actors Guild awards for the role, which he played from 1999-2007 on the groundbreaking show.

Gandolfini also went on a USO tour to Kuwait and Iraq in 2004, and found that he was unable to forget the soldiers and Marines he met there. The result was his 2008 HBO documentary, “Alive Day Memories,” in which he spoke with 10 men and women who survived the war. The program was nominated for an Emmy Award for outstanding nonfiction special, and NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams called it a “powerful and nonpolitical hour of television.”  He also produced the 2010 HBO documentary “Wartorn: 1861-2010”, which examined combat and post-traumatic stress, from the Civil War to modern day.

His most recent movie role was that of a clueless billionaire casino owner in Steve Carell’s “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” and he played a character based on former CIA director Leon Panetta in 2012’s “Zero Dark Thirty.”

He made you care about a mob boss who could order the murder of a family member one minute and turn around and tenderly feed the ducks that swam in his estate’s swimming pool the next.  It wasn’t just the violence and sex that got and held your attention; it was all about his character, Tony Soprano.  Every week you tuned in to watch to see what his motives were, what he was trying to accomplish, how he interacted with everyone around him, what worked and didn’t work, the failures and disappointments.  His character was the portrayal of a man trying to do his best, for his family and himself.

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