Losing a loved author is truly like losing a friend. Many great authors seem to put a bit of their own soul into their books, so any fan can gain an understanding of who that author is as a person, possibly more than they know many of their own friends or relatives. Of course the depth of the soul-leaving is heightened when a memoir writer like Frank McCourt passes away.
J.D. Salinger passed away a few days ago at the age of 91, and although he was not one of my favorite authors, I respected his work and point of view. So losing J.D. Salinger was like losing a wise professor who probably didn't know my name, wouldn't recognize me if we passed on the street, but whose lectures made an impact on my point of view and flavored the lecture style of all my other professors.