We remember them when they were young _ or at least younger. Sometimes they fade from memory, to be recalled long after the pinnacle of successful careers. Sometimes they are snatched from us in an instant, their dreams unfulfilled or incomplete.
Derrick Thomas died this year. So did Tom Landry and Maurice "Rocket" Richard. And Lee and Adam Petty, the first and fourth generations of NASCAR's signature family. As the new year begins, it is worth a brief look back at what we lost in the one almost gone:
JAN. 5: Tom Fears, 77, Rams Hall of Famer whose record 18 catches in a game still stands, of complications from Alzheimer's disease.
JAN. 7: Teddy Brenner, 82, one of boxing's top matchmakers, first for Madison Square Garden and then for Top Rank Inc., of Parkinson's disease.
JAN. 11: Bob Lemon, 79, Hall-of-Famer, seven-time 20-game winner with the Cleveland Indians and manager of the New York Yankees during their 1978 World Series title run, after a series of strokes.
JAN. 12: Bobby Phills, 30, Charlotte Hornets guard, in a crash when he lost control of his speeding Porsche.
JAN. 21: Raymond Watson, 80, father of golfer Tom Watson, of a heart attack.
JAN. 24: John Gaherin, 85, who helped write Major League Baseball's first labor contracts (when club owners rejected his proposal to negotiate, an arbitrator threw out the reserve clause, giving rise to free agency), of Parkinson's disease.
JAN. 26: Don Budge, 84, who swept all four major tennis tournaments in 1938 to become the sport's first Grand Slam winner, of cardiac arrest.
FEB. 8: Derrick Thomas, 33, of cardiac arrest less than a month after being paralyzed in a car crash on an icy road in Kansas City. Thomas, a linebacker with the Kansas City Chiefs, was one of the most feared defenders in the NFL and a nine-time Pro Bowl player who set the league record of seven sacks in a game.
FEB. 8: Sid Abel, 81, Hall-of-Fame center on the Detroit's high-scoring "Production Line" Howe and Ted Lindsay, and later coach of the Red Wings, after a long illness.
FEB. 9: Steve Furness, 49, defensive lineman with the four-time Super Bowl-champion Pittsburgh Steelers, of a heart attack.
FEB. 12: Tom Landry, 75, of leukemia. The Dallas Cowboys coach who led America's Team to five Super Bowls and was famous for pacing the sideline for three decades wearing a stone face, business suit and felt hat. He coached the Cowboys for their first 29 years, winning two Super Bowls with quarterback Roger Staubach. His 270 victories are more than any NFL coach except Don Shula and George Halas.
FEB. 12: Charles Schulz, 77, the creator of Peanuts, the comic strip starring Charlie Brown, who never kicked a football or pitched a winning game, of colon cancer.
FEB. 14: Tony Bettenhausen, 48, in a plane crash near Lexington, Ky. He was the youngest son of a famous auto racing family who drove Indy cars before becoming a team owner. His wife, Shirley, and two businessmen also died in the crash.
FEB. 16: Karsten Solheim, 88, who invented a putter with a "ping" that led him to establish one of the most successful golf equipment companies, of complications from Parkinson's disease.
MARCH 8: Joe Mullaney, 75, longtime Providence basketball coach, of cancer.
MARCH 10: Elaine Pedersen, 63, who helped smash the men-only barrier in long-distance running by participating in the 1972 Boston Marathon, of bone marrow cancer.
MARCH 19: Giovanni Linscheer, 27, two-time Olympic swimmer and former Florida All-American, in a two-car crash on Interstate 95 in Boca Raton.
APRIL 3: The Rev. Graham Spurrier, 85, father of Florida football coach Steve Spurrier.
APRIL 5: Lee Petty, 86, three-time champion in what evolved into NASCAR's Winston Cup circuit, and a winner of 55 races. He died eight weeks after surgery for a stomach aneurysm and three days after Adam Petty became the series' first fourth-generation driver.
APRIL 7: Larry Parks, 60, longtime basketball assistant coach at Clearwater and a volunteer for Clearwater for Youth, of prostate cancer.
MAY 12: Adam Petty, 19, when he crashed in practice at New Hampshire International Speedway. He was the great-grandson of Lee Petty, a three-time Winston Cup champion who started one of the greatest dynasties in American sports history in a shed at his house in Level Cross, N.C. He was the grandson of Richard Petty, who with 200 victories is the NASCAR driver with the most career wins. And he was the son of Kyle Petty, a Winston Cup driver with eight career victories.
MAY 5: Bill Musselman, 59, former coach at the University of Minnesota, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the CBA's Tampa Bay Thrillers and first coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, of heart and kidney failure.
MAY 20: Malik Sealy, 30, Minnesota Timberwolves swingman, of head and chest injuries when his sport utility vehicle was hit head-on by a pickup truck traveling the wrong way on a divided highway.
MAY 27: Maurice "Rocket" Richard, 78, whose explosive speed and scoring heroics made him the cornerstone of the Montreal Canadiens' dynasty that won five straight Stanley Cups, of respiratory failure after a long battle with abdominal cancer.
MAY 28: Eric Turner, 31, Oakland Raiders defensive back, of complications from abbdominal cancer.
JUNE 5: Don Liddle, 75, who threw the 1954 World Series pitch that Cleveland's Vic Wertz hit and Willie Mays made famous with his over-the-shoulder catch.
JUNE 7: Don Klosterman, 70, one of pro football's most prominent executives, building teams in three leagues after a skiing accident ended his career as a quarterback, of a heart attack.
JUNE 14: Robert Trent Jones, 93, known as the "father of modern golf course architecture," of a stroke.
JUNE 26: Lucien Laurin, 88, Hall of Fame Trainer who saddled Secretariat to the Triple Crown in 1973, of complications from hip surgery.
JUNE 27: Doug Walker, 48, Armwood High School basketball coach, of cancer.
JUNE 27: Tobin Rote, 72, who quarterbacked the Detroit Lions to their last NFL championship in 1957 while filling in for injured Hall of Famer Bobby Layne, of a heart attack.
JUNE 27: Larry Kelley, 85, the second Heisman Trophy winner, of a self-inflicted gunshot.
JULY 6: Fred Lane, 24, Indianapolis Colts running back, shot by his wife.
JULY 6: Cory Erving, 19, son of NBA Hall of Famer Julius Erving, in his car in a Sanford retention pond. He had a history of drug problems and had been missing since May 28.
JULY 7: Kenny Irwin, 30, 1998 NASCAR rookie of the year, in a crash during practice at New Hampshire International Speedway, at almost the same spot where Adam Petty was killed.
JULY 9: Karl Sweetan, 57, 18th-round draft choice and starting quarterback for the Detroit Lion and co-holder of the NFL record of 99 yards, longest touchdown pass from scrimmage, of complications from vascular surgery.
JULY 10: Bill Munson, 58, 16-year NFL quarterback with the Detroit Lions, Los Angeles Rams, Seattle Seahawks, San Diego Chargers and Buffalo Bills, drowned in his swimming pool.
AUG. 9: Bold Forbes, 27, winner of the 1976 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, humanely destroyed.
AUG. 16: Helen Nicklaus, 90, mother of golfer Jack Nicklaus.
SEPT. 3: Clyde Sukeforth, 98, the Brooklyn Dodgers scout who helped bring Jackie Robinson to the major leagues.
SEPT. 24: Jerry Claiborne, 72, former Kentucky football coach who guided the Wildcats to their last bowl win (Hall of Fame, 20-19 vs. Wisconsin, 1984), of a heart attack.
SEPT. 26: Nat Fein, 86, who won the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for news photography for his famous photograph of a dying Babe Ruth at Yankee Stadium.
OCT. 17: Leo Nomellini, 76, a Hall of Fame two-way tackle who played 174 consecutive games in a 14-year career with the San Francisco 49ers, of a stroke.
OCT. 17: Harry "Lighthorse" Cooper, 96, who won the first Vardon Trophy for the lowest average score and had 32 victories on the PGA Tour.
NOV. 21: Emil Zatopek, 78, a four-time Olympic track champion for Czechoslovakia in 1948 and '52, a month after suffering a mild stroke.
NOV. 29: Lou Groza, 76, Hall-of-Fame offensive lineman and kicker for the Cleveland Browns from 1946-67, of a heart attack.
DEC. 2: Chris Antley, 34, who rode Charismatic to victory in the 1999 Kentucky %% WARNING %%Derby and just missed winning the Triple Crown, of what police called "severe head trauma" in his Pasadena, Calif., home. Antley battled weight and drug problems but won 3,480 races and earned more than $9.2-million. The death was being investigated as a homicide.
DEC. 8: Gary Bergman, former Detroit Red Wings defenseman, of cancer.
DEC. 9: Tyrone McGriff, 41, one of Florida A&M's three-time Division I-AA All-American guard and a key player in FAMU national championship teams in 1977-78.
DEC 18: Stan Fox, 48, whose auto racing career was ended five years ago by a crash at the Indianapolis 500, in an auto accident in New Zealand.
DEC. 23: Dan Turk, 38, former Bucs center, of cancer.
DEC. 25: Joe Gilliam Jr., 49, starting quarterback for the Pittsaburgh Steelers in the 1970s whose life was ravaged by drugs and alcohol, of an apparent heart attack.
_ Information from Times files was used in this report.