Will Geer, Ellen Corby, and Ralph Waite & The Waltons
Okay, I am setting myself up ridicule now, but I have to admit that I love The Waltons. The show has an uncanny ability to make me well up, every single time I watch. I'm afraid that this story is very much about me, so please accept my apology for the self-indulgence. The Waltons was a regular television series from 1972 to 1981, and they've had about a thousand reunion shows since then.
Will Geer played Grandpa Walton. He was living in a small bungalow in Hollywood on Stanley.
His home was in an unusual place called the "Little Village,"
at number 1334.
Here's the house.
While the show was on hiatus, Will had suffered a stroke, and three weeks later, on April 22nd of 1978, Will "checked out," at Midway Hospital, on San Vicente, in LA.
He was 76 years old, was a confirmed bi-sexual, and was also married twice. Not that this has anything to do with being gay, but he took to mooning the cast on many occasions. Did you know that his daughter Ellen was "Sunshine Doray" in Harold and Maude? True.
They wrote his death into the next season of the show, and it was a gut wrencher. Mr. Geer was cremated, and his ashes are in the Will Geer Theatricam Botanicum (Whatevericum) in Topanga Canyon.
On the show, they buried him on the mountain.
Update, Nov 99 - Thanks to Findadeath friend Melanie Young for the following info on the Theatricam. "While Will Geer did go in to acting, he did finish college and also received a masters degree in Botany from Columbia University. During the McCarthy blacklisting era, he refused to testify before a congressional committee and was therefore blacklisted as well. He ended up supporting his family via gardening and such.
They have an amphitheater where they perform Shakespearian plays and he planted a formal Shakespearian garden there, and many of those plants are plants that are mentioned in various Shakespeare plays."
THAT'S why Will is planted in the garden. Thanks for the info, Melanie.
Since 1976, Ellen Corby lived in the home of her friend Stella Luchetta, on Harratt Street, in LA.
Their house was at 9026.
She also had a passion for lady bugs. This next story will haunt me till my death. A few years back, I was visiting LA, and paid a visit to Ms. Corby. I bought a huge bouquet of flowers and went to the front door. I knew where she lived, because she answered a fan letter that I sent her in the past. I got to the front door, and Mrs. Luchetta answered. Very suspiciously, I might add, but who could blame her? Anyway, through the peephole she asked what I wanted, and I told her I was an Ellen Corby fan, and wanted to give her flowers. After a few minutes of trying to convince her that I wasn't psychotic, she took the flowers, and told me to come back tomorrow, and I could meet Ellen. Cool. Grandma Walton in the flesh! Well, stupid me, I was heading back East the next day, and since I didn't know the cemeteries at ALL, a friend offered to show me around, so, I blew off Ellen. I KNOW! It was the worst thing I could do, but I wanted to go grave hunting SO bad. Anyway, upon my arrival home, I wrote off a note of apology to Ms. Corby, and this was the response I received from Mrs. Luchetta.
Feel guilty much? Gawd. Enough about that, here are the Ellen facts.
Ellen had a stroke in 1976, and it was written into the show. When the show ceased production, Ellen spent her time watching The Waltons reruns, and logging them diligently in a book. She waited around, and inevitably, they would wheel her in for reunion specials. It was great to see her, because it never could be the same without her, but she was reduced to cameos, and mumbling a few mono syllabic ET-esque lines.
A few weeks before she died, Ellen was moved into the Motion Picture Country Home, in Calabasis, CA.
According to new Findadeath friend and Walton fan Jason, on her last day, Stella bought Ellen a Cobb salad from Mirabelle's on Sunset. It was her favorite restaurant. Ellen at about 3/4 of it, and decided to rest, so she sent Stella on her way. Her last words to Stella were, "Love you." Ellen died later that evening, April 18th, 1999. She was 87.
Ellen was cremated, and is interred in the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Glendale. There was no funeral, but a small memorial service attended by Michael Learned, Lynn Hamilton (Verdie on the show), a few Walton's fans, and Earl Hamner. Earl wrote Ellen a Walton's scene, special for the occasion, and sealed it in her niche. I thought that was a very sweet gesture.
Tom and Carla Murrell, grave hunters extraordinaire, donated this shot of her grave. Thanks guys.
I hope they are happy, wherever they are.
Walton in 196 episodes of the television show The Waltons (1971 - 1981). He
also directed quite a few episodes. His character John Walton was voted
3rd in TV Guide's
He was also in the movies Cool Hand Luke, Five Easy Pieces, The Bodyguard and Cliffhanger.
He also attended the Yale School of Divinity and was a minister for 3 years.
He ran for congress twice, unsuccessfully. He attempted to take over the seat vacated by Sonny Bono when he bashed in his head, but lost to (Ugh) Sonny's widow. By most accounts, a monster.
He struggled with being a dipsomaniac. A friend said, "He was still boozing heavily when he took the job just for the money, but he ended up loving the role. He knew there was no way he could do the show while he was drinking. It wasn't easy, but he managed to kick his addiction and get sober."
the time of his death he was married to Linda East.
Ralph died in the Eisenhower Medical Center in Riverside.
He was 85.
Image taken from their website
Cause of death: Cardiac Arrhythmia, Ischemic Cardiomyopathy, Coronary Artery Disease. He also had prostate cancer and bladder cancer.
Death Certificate courtesy of Kevin Hassell
Ralph was cremated and sent back east to Westchester County, NY.
He is buried with Sharon Waite, his daughter who died of leukemia at the age of 9.
Ginny on the scene! My friend "cousins" Ginny and Phil Michaels were on the scene.
Wanna see his mailbox?
NOW, onto the others. No deaths, but some embarrassing situations, fer sher.
Judy Norton Taylor played Mary Ellen Walton. She posed nude for Playboy, in August of 1985.
I airbrushed out the bush, but lets just say, she could have used a clip. I wrote her a fan letter, and she wrote me back and signed an autograph - back when it was still fun to collect autographs, and you didn't have to throw 30 bucks at someone..
I did meet Michael Learned once. She was very sweet, but she had a yip yip dog named Paloma with her. Super super sweet lady. I love her.
Richard "John Boy" Thomas still acts. I loved him in IT. He comes back to do the reunions now, even though he quit the show after five years. He recently married again. He divorced the mother of his son, and triplet daughters.
Does anyone know what happened to Robert Wightman, who replaced Thomas in the show? I can't come up with anything, and someone told me he's dead. Anyone??
Update: Nov 99 - Findadeath friend Glen Ivory let me know that Robert Wightman was in the 1993 film Stepfather 3. He took over the role originated by Terry O'Quinn in the first two installments of that series of fine cinematic triumphs. Thanks for the info, Glen!
John Walmsley who portrayed Jason, played guitar with Richard Marx for awhile. Now he writes music with his wife (who he married on the show, though I don't remember her name, and I don't really care).
UPDATE December 2004, from Findadeath friend Jennifer:
John Walmsley, who portrayed Jason, was the voice of Christopher Robin in the original "Winnie the Pooh" shorts, that was strung together to become the movie, "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh." They needed a little English boy, Walmsley was it. THought that this would be a cheery bit of trivia to share.
Jenn (Who should be working! =) )
Mary McDonough played Erin. She shows up in more television than any of them, I think. She does occasional stints on Entertainment Tonight, whenever they do anything on The Waltons. Following in the footsteps of her television sister, she recently went topless in a film, One Of These Nights. We're guessing it's a straight to video flick.
Ben was played by Eric Scott. He lost his wife, shortly after she gave birth to their only child. Truly sad. He is now a vice president of a messenger service in LA.
Kami Cotler played Elizabeth. She teaches now. According to a Findadeath friend, Ms. Cotler is married and living in Nelson County, Virginia, the county in which the town of Schuyler is located (along with the Walton's Museum, directly up the road from Earl Hamner's boyhood home). She teaches drama at Nelson County High School, and recently gave birth to her first child, a daughter, at a hospital in Charlottesville (she does not live there, however). Ms. Cotler attributes her choice to live in the county where Hamner grew up to her visits there when she was on the show. She and her husband live on a rural farm.
David Harper played Jim Bob. He was a scenic painter for awhile, and I hear he went through some intense "Child Star" type of psychotherapy. Good on him. Don't need any more Dana Plato's, do we?
Trivia: Did you know that Walton's Mountain is actually the mountain range just across from Warner Bros. Studios? Here's what it really looks like.
More Trivia: I took the Warner Bros. Tour a few years ago, and they were redoing the Walton's house, for another film. Here's what it looked like.
Finally, here is my magnum opus. My cast photo of The Waltons, signed by them all ('cept for Mr. Geer, but I did acquire his), including Earl Hamner.
This information was sent in by Findadeath.com
friend Glen Ivory: "Here is some more info on The Waltons. Before the show finished, Ralph Waite directed, wrote and acted in
On the Nickel, a movie about scummers living on skid row. Since the show ended his most prominent appearances have been in
The Bodyguard and Cliffhanger.
Mary Beth McDonough had the lead female role in a stalk 'n slash horror film called
Mortuary. I'm sure you like that title.
Also, an update on Michael Wightman - His most recent roles have been in the movies Living in Oblivion, Box of Moonlight and Poodle Springs. Thanks Glen!
GREAT PHOTOGRAPHS from Findadeath.com friend Randy Clayton. He has achieved one of my life ambitions, to make it to Schuyler, VA to see the Walton's museum. Here is the real Walton/Hamner house, where the author and his family grew up.
Here is the local school, which houses the museum,
and here is the local gift shop, where you can buy all the Walton presents you are going to send me.
June 2006 - This is John from MS. About three years ago and friend and I took an impromptu road trip to Schuyler, VA, to the Walton's museum. It was a 20 hour drive from MS but well worth it. The picture is me with the original radio from the show.
If I remember correctly the museum guide told us the set for the show burned years ago and and they are not many items left. The radio, Erin's wedding dress and the Baldwin sisters still are in the museum. If you have not been there it is a great museum. It is in the old school the Hamner family attended. Only about 1/2 a mile from the Hamner home. One of the brothers of Earl Hamner was on the porch and waved to us as we left. I would love to go back one day and spend more time Thanks John, that is really neat.
That's it. I hope that I don't come off as boastful, I honestly don't mean to. It's more like, "Isn't this stuff cool?!" I adored this show.
Added January 2015: The most recent incarnation of the Walton home is on the Warner Ranch in Burbank.