2007 Departures: Helen Walton, Roger Smith, Dick Wilson, and Merv Griffin


The following are a few of the notable figures that passed away in 2007:

Helen Walton, the widow of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, died in April at the age of 87. The first Wal-Mart was opened in Rogers, Arkansas in 1962. At the time of her death, the Wal-Mart empire had over 6,500 stores around the world. Helen died with a net worth estimated in the $16 billion range, which was expected to go to the Walton Family Foundation, an organization known for its significant gifts to educational programs.

Roger B. Smith, former chairman and CEO of General Motors, died in late November. During his tenure at GM in the 1980s, Roger tried to modernize the company. Unfortunately, the legacy he left instead was one of the demise of the company. In the early 1980s, the company had 46% of the U.S. automobile market. By the time Roger retired in 1990, the company fell to only 35% of the U.S market.

Dick Wilson, most widely known for his portrayal of Charmin's Mr. Whipple, died in November. He portrayed the supermarket manager from 1964 to 1985, and was known to tell the store's customers, "Please don't squeeze the Charmin." His last hurrah as Mr. Whipple came in 1999, when Charmin commercials featured him "coming out of retirement."

Merv Griffin, the creator of some of the most popular game shows on television, died in August. He started his career in show business as a singer with the Freddy Martin band. From there he became an actor, a game show host, and host of the syndicated talk show The Merv Griffin Show. Merv is most often remembered for creating game shows, with Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune as the longest-running and the most recognizable.

This post was written as part of a series on on 2007 departures. Read about more products, companies and people you won't see in 2007.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.